Rabbi Aryeh Leib was born to a distinguished but
impoverished Rabbi Yosef zt"l who, his son states, was
one of the bnei aliya of his generation.
It is unclear what surname the family was called by. Some
say that it was "Shain." However, HaRav Avrohom Gurwitz,
rosh yeshiva of Gateshead, refutes this claim since the
Ketzos Hachoshen mentions his brother several times,
referring to him as Ochi Rav Yehuda sh"n. R' Avrohom
explains that when mentioning a brother's name, one does not
bring his surname but the letters "shin, nun" which
are the acronym for "sheyichye netzach."
The Chofetz Chaim would relate an interesting fact
concerning the marriage of the parents of the Ketzos
Hachoshen. Rabbi Yechiel Michel zt"l, a descendant of
the Tosafos Yom Tov, was forced to flee Russia and arrived
in Stanislow, Galicia. There a shidduch was proposed
for his brilliant son, Yosef — a poor girl from a reputable
family. Reb Yechiel Michel agreed to the match, as did the
girl's parents. However, both parties were worried as to how
the couple would be supported.
With heavy hearts they poured out their woes to R' Chaim
Zanzer, asking whether the shidduch should take place
or not, considering that there was no financial backing from
"It seems that the match is heaven-sent," replied the
Zanzer. "And if you're worried, let each one do as they did
until now — the father of the chosson will support
his son and the kallah will be fed and provided for by
This arrangement continued for a number of years even when
children were born. They also divided the support of the
children. As a child, Rabbeinu the Ketzos Hachoshen ate with
his father in his paternal grandfather's home, and his
brother R' Yehuda ate with his mother with her parents. It
was only in later years that the family was reunited
Rabbi Aryeh Leib zt"l, was first rov in Rozintow and
then in Staria. Many and distinguished were his
talmidim such as the author of Aryeh Dvei Iloi
and HaRav Osher Enzhil Zumir.
His great seforim were accepted and particularly
beloved by all Jewry. The first one was Shev Shmaatso,
the next Ketzos Hachoshen and the third Avnei
Today these seforim form the basis of most of the
sevoros of those who learn these inyonim.
The Grach of Brisk was once asked by Reb Boruch Ber
Leibowitz zt"l why he doesn't give shiurim on
Noshim and Nezikim, but prefers to learn and
teach chiddushim on Kodshim and Taharos.
"I am afraid to say chiddushim on the sugyos
about which the Ketzos Hachoshen wrote," replied R' Chaim,
"for fear that perhaps my sevoro won't exactly match
with that of the Ketzos Hachoshen!"
Although Rabbi Aryeh Leib knew only poverty and want all his
days, this did not deter or detract him from his Torah
learning in the least. His house did not even boast a
regular table; a board set up on a stand served that purpose
During the cold winter months, the temperatures in his house
were so low that Rabbeinu had to sit all day in his bed with
a blanket. There he wrote his famous sefer Ketzos
Hachoshen. He had to keep putting the ink under his
cushion so it would not freeze over!
HaRav Yaakov Loberboim zt"l, author of Nesivos
Hamishpot, once asked Rabbi Aryeh Leib why his own
sefer, which was probably no less notable than that of
Rabbeinu, did not receive as wide acclaim in the Torah world
as the Ketzos Hachoshen.
Rabbeinu answered with a question, "When do you write the
chiddushim that occur to you during learning?"
"When I get up, before sunrise," replied the Nesivos. "The
whole world is still fast asleep, and my head is clear and
lucid without the worries of the day. That is when I take
pen to paper and put down my thoughts into words, so that
they should be precise and correct."
"My method is different. When I get up early in the morning,
I don't write new thoughts, rather I check over once again
the work I did the day before. Perhaps yesterday I was tired
and didn't clarify the inyan sufficiently. So I check,
correct and clarify, ensuring my work is perfect."
When the Ketzos Hachoshen went to receive approbations for
his sefer, he traveled to Reb Zvi Hirsch Bushka,
zt"l and presented his sefer to him..
"What chiddushim are there to add after the sefer
Urim Vetumim of R' Yonoson Eibeshitz on Choshen
Mishpat?" R' Zvi Hirsch asked him, rhetorically.
"Nevertheless, come to me tomorrow evening. By then I will
have read your sefer and will decide what to do."
Rabbeinu returned to his lodgings for the night, to learn
Torah and await the rov's decision on the morrow.
Before Minchah the following day, the shamash
had a surprising piece of news to announce. With a bang on
the bimah, he invited all the community to participate
in the hachnosas Sefer Torah that would leave that
evening from the house of the rov, Reb Zvi Hirsch.
Reb Aryeh Leib joined the throngs gathered at the entrance
to the rov's house and together they all waited to honor the
Finally, the chuppah was seen in the doorway. The
venerable rov stood underneath it, his face aglow with
excitement, clutching a sefer in his hands. Reb Aryeh
Leib allowed himself to be pushed with the crowd, everyone
wanting to reach out and kiss the sefer Torah. As he
reached the side of R' Zvi Hirsch, the latter lifted the
me'il to reveal its contents. Reverently he held out
and showed R' Aryeh Leib the handwritten pages of his own
sefer Ketzos Hachoshen!
The gedolim of every generation showed great yiras
hakovod to Reb Aryeh Leib and his seforim.
A talmid chochom once wanted to publish the
sefer of R' Aryeh Leib, Shev Shmaatso with
commentaries and he'oros.
When he requested a haskomoh from his teacher, HaRav
Boruch Ber Leibowitz zt"l, the letter from his rebbi
took very long to arrive. Meanwhile, the talmid
decided the haskomos he had from the other gedolei
hador were sufficient and he went ahead with the printing
In the middle of his work, the long-awaited letter from his
mentor Reb Boruch Ber was delivered. In it the Rosh Yeshiva
wrote that the delay was due to his doubts.
"Out of fear of the great honor of Rabbeinu the Ketzos
Hachoshen, I myself would never dare to publish a
sefer with he'oros on his works. Therefore the
mitzvah of ve'ohavto lerei'acho komocho bids that I
tell you to do as I would do, and not print this