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3 Teves 5772 - December 29, 2011 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Ketzos Hachoshen HaGaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib, ztvk"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit

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 either side.

"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 her parents."

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 completely.

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 Miluim.

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 instead.

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 Torah.

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 stages.

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 sefer."


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