Dei'ah veDibur - Information &

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Adar 5773 - February 21, 2013 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by











The Mogen Avrohom: HaRav Avrohom (Abele) Gombiner, zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 15th Adar

Sometime, in the lull between one turbulent era and the next, in the small town of Gombin, Avrohom was born to Rabbi Chaim, zt"l of Gombin and his wife. The innocence of his youth was brutally shattered by the pogroms of Charnetzcki in 5415 (1655) in the wake of Chmielnicki and his Cossack hordes who pillaged in 5408- 9 (1648-9). Avrohom's parents were among those murdered in cold blood al Kiddush Hashem.

Young Avrohom, a teenage orphan left to fend for himself, escaped together with some other villagers. After wandering homeless from place to place, he came to the city of Kalish which, though it too had suffered pogroms, had already rebuilt somewhat anew.

There in Kalish he grew in Torah but managed to remain unobtrusive and unrecognized — just another refugee.

Eventually he married and, though his wife appreciated his madreigoh, she too kept it private. For a living, R' Avrohom became a melamed. This took up most of his daytime hours, while the nights were dedicated to his studies.

The chiddushei Torah of the Mogen Avrohom, a major commentary on the Shulchan Oruch, are written in extremely concise form, so that various works have been written about them. Noteworthy among others are the sefer Machatzis Hashekel and Eishel Avrohom of the Pri Megodim.

Perhaps R' Avrohom had originally intended to write a revised edition of his chiddushim, but such was his poverty that he could not afford to buy more paper on which to write. He would approach the local bookbinder at the end of a day's work and ask if he could spare a few pages for which he would pay a minimal amount. When he hadn't earned even those few coins, he wrote on the table so that his chiddushim would not be forgotten.

Due to his great humility, it did not occur to him to publish his works even though his greatness was already known by then. However, after much pressure from the gedolei hador, he yielded. His first sefer came out in print before he was thirty years old!


Much as he tried to conceal his greatness and remain anonymous when he was young, it was only a matter of time before his true nature was revealed. When R' Avrohom was twenty-three years old, a famous and distinguished guest arrived in Kalish. The Shach came to town for the wedding of his son to the daughter of R' Shmuel Kalisher, zt"l, and it was he who uncovered Rabbeinu's secret. The story has a few variations, all with a similar twist.

Upon his visit to Kalish, the Shach was honored with giving a droshoh. The great talmidei chachomim and lomdim, who had prepared themselves well according to the references the Shach had given them in advance, sat in the front row, ready and eager to hear, understand, ask and argue. In a far corner of the back row sat the Mogen Avrohom, unobtrusively listening in.

In the course of the droshoh, the Shach posed a difficult kushya. Having waited for this moment, the learned men in the front immediately tried to answer. Each solution, however, was rebutted by another question from the Shach, whose point became steadily strengthened and reinforced. After a while, the lively discussion subsided, as each one found himself at a loss to answer. In the ensuing perplexed silence, a clear voice from the corner in the back row presented a crystal clear solution. The Mogen Avrohom had been revealed.

According to a different version, the Mogen Avrohom, being one of the simple folk and "only" a melamed in cheder, couldn't even attend the Shach's drosho. However, one of his pupils attended and was able to present the answer to the Shach, as he had learned it from his Rebbe.

A third girso relates that while the Shach was in Kalish, a father brought his young son to him to be tested by the world-renowned Torah scholar. Upon hearing the profound and clear knowledge of the boy, the Shach immediately asked who his teacher was. He then sent for the melamed and, after talking with him at length, revealed to the elders of Kalish that this was no simple melamed but an extraordinary gem.

Subsequently, when the Mogen Avrohom returned to his poor home in the basement of an apartment building, the Shach followed him there and together they spent many hours talking divrei Torah. Word soon spread that the Shach was learning with the melamed and so his fame grew.

The elders of Kalish note that the story continues further. During their intense discussion, the Shach was informed that in the same building there was a gentile who was a goses and could die at any moment, posing a problem for the Shach who was a Kohen. He was advised to hurry out so he that would not be defiled by the tumah of the dead body.

The Shach, who was enjoying himself immensely, delighted to find such a rare talmid chochom of this caliber, calmed those present. "The Torah we are now talking is very dear to me. The goy goses can wait a while to die." So saying, he resumed the discussion he had begun. Only when he had finished and had left the building did the man die.

Close to Pesach, a difficult practical sheiloh arose in Kalish, to which none of the dayonim had a solution. When the melamed, R' Avrohom, solved the problem with ease, the Jewish community of Kalish knew they had a unique dayan. His efforts at refusal were not accepted and the Mogen Avrohom became a dayan in Kalish for matters pertaining to Orach Chaim.


The Apter Rov zt"l, author of Ohev Yisroel, once said that he heard from his Rebbe, Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, that the Mogen Avrohom was one of the greatest authors, who wrote with ruach hakodesh and merited to see Eliyohu Hanovi.


Reb Leib Sarah's last words before his passing were reported to have been concerning the Mogen Avrohom. He was heard to say that Reb Abele Kalisher was a true gaon, a true tzaddik and a true mekubal — and with that Reb Leib closed his eyes and was niftar.


In the sefer Toldos Odom, it is brought that Reb Zelmale of Volozhin used to comment, "His honor the Mogen Avrohom, although one of the Acharonim, is as great in my opinion as one of the Rishonim.


In addition to his sefer Mogen Avrohom on Shulchan Oruch Orach Chaim, Rabbeinu wrote six other seforim, of which only some remained whole. Others were burned or stolen, and only small parts of them survived. In Kalish one of his works, a kinoh — lament — of 92 verses yearning for the return of Yerushalayim and the Beis Hamikdosh, was recited every year on Tisha B'Av.


Tragically, Rabbeinu never reached the age of fifty. In his 46th (some say 49th) year, he passed on from his short but fulfilled life.

In a sefer that was written two hundred and fifty years later, a resident of Kalish writes that on Shushan Purim each year a throng would go to the tziyun of R' Avrohom (Abele) Gombiner to daven on the Yom Hilulah.

In his humility the Mogen Avrohom bade that no praises be inscribed on his matzeivoh. In fact, he instructed that a simple stone be set up with the words, "Here lies R' Avrohom Abele Ben R' Chaim Halevi, Mogen Avrohom."

Zechuso Yogen Oleinu!


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.