In the year 5325 (1565), in Posen, Reb Shmuel Eliezer was born. His
father, Reb Yehudah z"l, was a descendant of Reb Yehudah
Hachosid and his mother, Gittel o"h, could trace her lineage
back to the Maharal Hazoken.
He married the daughter of Reb Moshe Ashkenazi zt"l author of
the sefer Zichron Moshe. His mother-in-law Eidel, o"h,
took care of all his financial worries, supporting him and setting up
his yeshiva in Posen, which Reb Shmuel led from 5345 (1585) until 5365
Some say that the name Maharsho is an acronym for Reb Shmuel Eidel's,
alluding to the merit of his mother-in-law, Eidel. However, R' Pinchos
of Koritz said the "alef" refers to his middle name,
In 5375 (1615), the Maharsho became rov in Lublin, replacing the
Maharam. From there he went on to become rov in Tiktin and
subsequently in Ostroa.
The Maharsho was one of the leading rabbonim of the Vaad Arba Arotzos,
a committee comprised of rabbonim representing Poland, Russia,
Lithuania and Volhynia. The Vaad saw to all the Jewish affairs of
these four countries, including appointing rabbonim, making
takonos and checking a sefer before it was published.
The Maharsho wrote some great works. His sefer Maharsho al
HaShas, is one of the basic seforim on Shas which
became accepted throughout the world and is now printed at the end of
each volume in the standard Shas.
It is brought in the name of the Baal Shem Tov that the Torah of the
Maharsho was written with ruach hakodesh.
The Chasam Sofer in his chiddushim on maseches Avodoh
Zorah explains the words of the Maharsho and ends with, "And it is
enough that I merited to understand his words!"
Maran the Chazon Ish in Igros Chazon Ish complains that the
yeridas hadoros in the level of Torah is due to the fact that
people stopped learning the Maharsho and that since then we have
completely lost the knowledge of pshat.
Over the years several seforim explaining the Maharsho have
been printed. Among them Maharsho Ha'aroch of R' Dovid Zvi
Peteni Hy"d of Pressburg.
On motzei Shabbos 5th Kislev, 5392 (1632), the Maharsho was
niftar. He was buried in Ostroa.
In the year 5611 (1851), a new headstone was set up over his grave
with a fitting description honoring the Maharsho.
During the time that the Maharsho was rov in Ostroa he also stood at
the helm of the great yeshiva where hundreds of talmidim
learned day and night together with their great rosh yeshiva.
It is said of Reb Shmuel Eidel's that he grew part of his hair so that
it could be tied up. During the long nights when the Maharsho was
afraid he would be overcome by sleep, he would tie his hair to
something above his head so that in case his head dropped with
fatigue, the pull would immediately awaken him and he would continue
The reputation of the yeshiva spread and with it the enrollment of
students from all over the country, so much so that the premises
became much too small and the kehilla decided to build a new,
purpose-built yeshiva building to accommodate its many students.
A vast amount of money was needed for such a project and the roshei
hakehilloh came up with a novel idea of how to raise it. The honor
of laying the cornerstone of the new building would be auctioned off
to the highest bidder.
The auction was announced and all the town was there to participate.
During the proceedings, a poor quiet Jew approached the shamash
quietly. This tzaddik had a burning desire to merit the mitzvah
of laying the cornerstone to such a holy building. Somehow he would
make the money. He requested of the shamash to bid instead of
him so that no one would know it was the poor man. The shamash
raised the price until no one could afford any higher, the hammer went
down and the poor man rejoiced secretly. Curious, the townspeople
begged the shamash to reveal who the highest bidder was, but
true to his promise, he kept the poor man's secret.
When the day of the ceremony arrived, the poor man told the
shamash he would like to honor the Rov and Rosh Yeshiva the
Maharsho with laying the cornerstone, but once again he wished to
However, once the crowd had dispersed, the Maharsho himself pressed
the shamash to reveal to him who this philanthropist was who
was ready to give out enormous sums of money for the sake of Torah and
The shamash had no choice but to bring the poor man to the
"I am not rich at all," explained the Jew. "However, I have not been
blessed with children and decided that perhaps in the zechus of
building the yeshiva, Hashem will hear my prayers."
The Maharsho emotionally blessed him, "In the merit of this great
mitzvah you'll have a son who will study and rise to great heights in
this very yeshiva."
A year later joy permeated the household of the oni with the
birth of his son. When the boy became bar mitzvah, his father took him
to enroll him in the yeshiva. However, since he was so young they
refused to accept him until the Maharsho personally instructed the
hanholas hayeshiva to accept the boy, revealing the story of
his background. Finally, after 14 years the secret of the anonymous
donor was out.
The house of the Maharsho, like that of Avrohom Ovinu, was open to one
and all. Guests of all sorts were welcome without question and the
rabbi himself would personally serve them food and show them to their
lodgings. It is told that over the doorway of his house was written in
big letters an inscription from a posuk in Iyov: "Bachutz lo
yolin ger, dalsi le'orach eftach" — "no stranger should
sleep outside, I shall open my door for guests."
Once at the end of market day, the city's baker arrived at shul
as usual to daven mincha and ma'ariv and the Maharsho
noticed his face looked particularly troubled. The man sighed at the
Rabbi's gentle inquiry and poured out his woes. He had baked all sorts
of delicacies for market day but now the day was over and almost all
his stuff had not been sold, incurring him a great loss.
Immediately, Reb Shmuel told him to deliver all his baked goods to the
Rabbi's house. There the Maharsho paid him their full price and then
distributed the food to the town's poor people.