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16 Ellul 5771 - September 15, 2011 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Gaon R' Yonoson Eibeshitz, zt"l, The Yaaros Devash

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 21st Elul

The Gaon R' Yonoson was born around the year 5454 (1694) in the city of Pintchov. His father was Reb Nosson Nota who later became rov of Eibeshitz, and his mother was the Rabbonis Sheindel, daughter of HaRav Yehudah Leib Tzintz, zt"l, rov of Pintshov.

Reb Yonoson learned from the Ponim Meiros, HaRav Meir Eisenshtat, zt"l, who was then rov in Prostitz, and from his relative HaRav Eliezer HaLevi Ettinga, rov of Helishau.

In the year 5470 (1710) he married Elka, the daughter of R' Moishe Yitzchok Shapira, zt"l, rov of Bumsleh. He stayed with his father-in-law and became dayan in town. A short while later he moved to Prague where he studied together with the talmidim of the famous gaon HaRav Avrohom Broide, zt"l.

In the year 5473 (1713) he traveled to Hamburg, staying approximately two years and then returning to Prague. There he was chosen to serve as rosh yeshiva and darshan of the city. Subsequently, when the rov of Prague, Reb Dovid Oppenheim, was niftar in 5497 (1737), Reb Yonoson was appointed in his stead.

The talmidim Reb Yonoson taught numbered in the thousands. Already during his lifetime writers of Reb Yonoson's biography recorded more than twenty thousand talmidim.

Towards the end of 5501 (1741) he was chosen to fill the place of the Pnei Yehoshua in Metz and in the winter of the next year, he arrived in the city. There he had more spare time to write his chiddushei Torah and many seforim, such as Kreisi Upleisi on Yoreh Deioh, Bnei Ahuvoh on the Rambam, Ya'aros Devash, Urim Vetumin on Choshen Mishpot, and Ahavas Yonoson on the Haftoros.

In the year 5510 (1750), he was accepted as av beis din of the three communities of Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbek ("AHU") in place of HaRav Yechezkel Katzenellenbogen, the Knesses Yechezkel, zt"l.

On Tuesday the 21st of Elul, HaRav Yonoson Eibeshitz departed from this world and a huge levayah accompanied him to his resting place in the cemetery of Altona.


The era during which Reb Yonoson Eibeshitz was rov of the three kehillos of Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbek was a very difficult period. Many women had been dying during childbirth, causing fear and panic amongst the people. They thronged to Reb Yonoson, begging him to give a kemayo as a segulah to save them from death.

After much pressure, Reb Yonoson acceded to their requests and gave the daughter of one of the roshei hakehilloh an amulet. Indeed she passed through childbirth safely and from then Reb Yonoson distributed amulets to every woman who was to give birth. The babies were born without mishap to their mothers, and peace and calm was restored.

However, as the holy Chasam Sofer later revealed to us, that generation lived in a time of strong chances that Moshiach would come and bring the final Redemption. In order to prevent this, the Evil Inclination came to ensnare the multitudes in the trap of loshon hora and machlokes, whipping up baseless hatred among Jews.

Somewhere, the suspicion was raised that Reb Yonoson was using kemayos connected with the cult of Shabsai Zvi, y"msh, who had misled so many unfortunate souls only a short while earlier.

As in every feud, more and more people took sides, each claiming to be correct and all the others wrong, and the friction was blown up way out of proportion.

One spring day, Reb Yonoson Eibeshitz was traveling and as evening approached he settled into an inn. There he heard a group of empty- headed people chatting. Their conversation eventually led to the case of Reb Yonoson, whom they had no idea was sitting close by.

Reb Yonoson was not one to be concerned for his own honor. In fact, when the Nodah Biyehudah and his beis din excommunicated a Jew who spoke against R' Yonoson in public until he would go personally to request forgiveness, Reb Yonoson received the man warmly. With a broken and humble demeanor the Jew begged Reb Yonoson's forgiveness. Softly Reb Yonoson replied, "There is no need to be so worked up. I have nothing against you."

However, seeing here a group of ignorant boors denigrating the gedolei hador and giving opinions on a feud they knew nothing about hurt Reb Yonoson.

He turned to the group with a question, "Do you say the poem of Chad Gadya on Pesach?"

The reply was in the affirmative, and Reb Yonoson continued, "Perhaps you can explain to me what's going on here. I don't understand. It seems as though the whole case is not judged fairly. The cat devoured the goat that the Father bought for two zuz. If so, the dog was correct in punishing the cat with a bite. It follows that the stick was wrong to hit the dog and the fire justly burned the stick. The water had no right to extinguish the fire and so the ox did well to finish it off. The shochet had no reason to slaughter the ox and so the Angel of Death must have killed him in the name of justice. If so, why does Hakodosh Boruch Hu come to slaughter the Mal'och Hamoves?"

The babble of general chat and laughter subsided as the men realized this was an unusual person, and they pressed him to reveal the answer to his own question.

Reb Yonoson explained, "The goat and the cat were in a fight. Somehow or another they would settle the matter themselves. But you, dog, why do you have to mix in, involving yourself in a quarrel that is no business of yours? Now, if the dog was wrong to mix in, the stick hit him fairly. The fire that burnt the stick was incorrect and deserved to be extinguished by the waters. The ox should not have drunk the water, and so the shochet was right to kill it. The Angel of Death unjustly killed the shochet and therefore in the future Hakodosh Boruch Hu will come to slaughter the Mal'och Hamoves, who is in essence the yetzer hora, the very same one that fans the flames of machlokes."

Reb Yonoson concluded on a note of gentle rebuke. "Listen here, if you see talmidei chachomim, leaders of the generation, involved in machlokes lesheim Shomayim, leave them to settle the matter themselves. Don't be like the dog who mixes into a fight that is none of his business and then meets a bitter end. Eventually Hakodosh Boruch Hu will bring forth the light of justice and all those who involved themselves needlessly, only causing strife, will be left to pay for their sins."

His listeners saw the truth in Reb Yonoson's words and refrained from discussing the matter further.

Reb Nosson Adler zt"l, and his pupil, the holy Chasam Sofer zt"l, would tell this story annually at the seder, when they reached the song of Chad Gadya, to impress upon their families and students the importance of keeping far from strife.


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