Rabbi Moshe Sofer, zt"l, was
born in Frankfurt. His parents were Reb Shmuel Sofer zt"l and
His exceptional talents were apparent even as a child, and at the age
of six he already gave public droshos.
The gaon Rabbi Nosson Adler, to whom he was sent, took him
under his wing just as a father would. The young boy followed his
rebbe on all his wanderings and their souls became entwined as one.
He also learned Torah with HaRav Pinchos Horowitz, author of the
Haflo'oh. The young Moshe would deliver chiddushei Torah
from one of his rebbis to the other. On the way, he thought up and
wrote his own chiddushim on those of the two Torah giants
— chiddushim that were printed many years later in his
At his first marriage he was promised that he would be supported for
several years. However, the Hand of Hashgacha caused his
brother- in-law, who had taken the responsibility upon himself, to
lose his business and R' Moshe was forced to go into rabbonus.
He started as rov in Dresnitz and later went on to Mattersdorf.
Subsequently, he became rov of the illustrious kehilloh of
Spreading Torah was his lifelong aim, as he himself once testified
that not a day passed without him being marbitz Torah berabim.
Whenever an appeal to take up a position in another town came, the
Chasam Sofer would always stress this condition — that he be
available to teach Torah to talmidim.
By his second marriage he became the son-in-law of the gaon
Rabbi Akiva Eiger, as he married his daughter Sorel. He was
zoche to have three sons and several daughters — each of
whom married distinguished talmidei chachomim.
Rabbeinu Moshe was the posek, not only of his own generation,
but also of those to follow.
His words were accepted throughout Klal Yisroel and already in
his lifetime HaRav Mordechai Banet said of the Chasam Sofer:
"Halocho keMoshe bechol mokom!"
His talmidim were the great leaders of the next generation,
among them personalities such as the Maharam Ash and the Maharam
In his time the Reform movement began to spread its "enlightened"
philosophy. The Chasam Sofer realized the urgency of quelling this
uprising against authentic Judaism and he went out to war against them
with his fire of holiness.
Coining his famous battle-cry: "Chodosh ossur min haTorah," he
used these words as the basis of the derech to be followed for
all times; to separate completely from the reformers and to form
independent kehillos. Thus he saved the rest of Austro-
Hungarian Jewry from being ensnared in the "enlightenment" trap, and
to this day we live according to the Chasam Sofer's holy ideals,
ensuring the continuity of Torah and mesorah.
His novellae were printed after his petiroh, covering
all subjects of the Torah. They are, among others, Chiddushei Shas,
Chiddushei Shulchan Oruch, Sheilos Uteshuvos, Chiddushim al HaTorah,
Droshos and Shiras Moshe.
On the yom tov of Succos in the year 5600 (1840), the Chasam
Sofer took ill. The people of Pressburg and, in fact, kehillos
far and wide, arranged a constant vigil of Tehillim, begging
for a refuah for the godol hador. However, the decree
had been sealed and on 25th Tishrei the Heavenly angels won the
struggle over this holy soul and the neshomoh of the Chasam
Sofer returned to its source.
At his huge levayah, fifty of his talmidim carried the
notebooks of his Chiddushei Torah. All the Yidden of the
surrounding areas and their rabbonim gathered to pay their last
respects to a giant of their time. To the sound of loud weeping, the
greatest rabbonim eulogized him and then crowned his son, the Ksav
Sofer, as his successor.
He is buried in the old cemetery in Pressburg, where to this day
thousands descend to the underground kever to pray for
Zechuso Yogen Oleinu.
* * *
So high was the standard of learning in the holy Pressburg yeshiva
that it was said to be equal to the yeshivos in the times of
Tanaim and Amoraim in Pumpedisa and Neharde'o.
Just as in those times the teachers had to lower their standard
artificially in order to be able to transmit Torah to their
talmidim, so too the Chasam Sofer, master and teacher, had to
conceal his true greatness so that his talmidim would be able
to receive and learn Torah from him. The Chasam Sofer once mentioned
that it took him much strength to hide his madreigoh so that
his pupils could look at his face!
He learned with his talmidim as though he were learning the
material for the first time, so that each one would be able to
comprehend. Rabbeinu always said that Hakodosh Boruch Hu
doesn't need mal'ochim in this world. Hashem wants human beings
who live al pi Torah.
His second son Reb Shimon Sofer, later rov in Cracow, recounted that
sometimes during his learning with talmidim, the mind of the
holy Chasam Sofer would be full of many new chiddushim and
pilpulim, disturbing his train of thought and teaching. At this
point, the Rebbe would burst into loud crying, saying the
tefilloh of Ahavoh Rabboh and begging Hashem to have
mercy on him and not to give him chiddushim now as it
interfered with his harbotzas haTorah on the level of his
Not always was the Chasam Sofer successful in hiding his greatness.
His older son, the Ksav Sofer zt"l, related an amazing
As a child, the Ksav Sofer was once ill in bed. Since his mother was
tired, she asked the Chasam Sofer to keep an eye on the child until he
His fever gave him no rest and the child kept jumping out of bed, and
tossing and turning in bed. At one point he lay watching his father.
The Chasam Sofer stood by the window, his shining countenance turned
towards the heavens, absorbed in his thoughts. Suddenly his face lit
up with an immense joy.
When the Ksav Sofer asked for an explanation the Chasam Sofer tried to
change the subject and distract his attention. But the sick boy
insisted that if his father didn't reveal the reason for his sudden
happiness he'd jump out of bed yet again.
The Chasam Sofer, wanting his son to rest and recover, decided to give
him the true answer. "My dear son, the holy angels were now changing
shifts in Shomayim. When they change their mishmoros,
they change too their song and praise of Hashem. It was this change of
singing that brought a smile to my face."
The Chasam Sofer added to his son, who was lying quaking in fear from
the awesome words of his father, "and let me bless you that when you
grow up, you too should merit to hear the shiroh of the
His second son, Reb Shimon Sofer, zt"l, as a little boy, once
came to his mother with a question. "We say in Kedusha: `Nekadeish
es Shimchoh bo'olom, kesheim shemakdishim Oso bishmei morom
— Let us sanctify Your name in the world just as they sanctify
Him in the heavenly spheres . . .' Do we know then how the
mal'ochim sanctify the name of Hashem up in Heaven?"
His mother was surprised by her son's clever query and sent him with
it to his great father. The Chasam Sofer listened to the question and
told his son that next time he was in shul at the time when they say
Kedushoh, he should stand near him. The next day the boy waited
with bated breath for the shliach tzibbur to reach,
"Nekadeish es Shimcho . . . " and stood close to his father.
The Chasam Sofer wrapped up his young son in his tallis.
When davening was over the boy went home and happily told his
mother that he now understood how the mal'ochim sanctify Hashem
in the Heavens!