Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik

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Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik : biography

19 October 1886 – 11 October 1959

Yitzchok Zev Halevi Soloveitchik (Hebrew: יצחק זאב הלוי סולובייצ’יק), also known as Velvel Soloveitchik ("Zev" means "wolf" in Hebrew, and "Velvel" is the diminutive of "wolf" in Yiddish) or as the Brisker Rov ("rabbi of/from Brisk", (19 October 1886, Valozhyn – 11 October 1959, Jerusalem), was an Orthodox rabbi and rosh yeshiva of the Brisk yeshiva in Jerusalem, Israel. He was a son of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk. He is also commonly referred to as the GRYZ, an acronym for Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Zev ("sage Rabbi Isaac Wolf") and "The Rov".

Halakhic approach

Soloveitchik was known for his stringency in halakha. This partly stems from his use of the Brisker method of study, in which laws are broken down into precise components, which can then be assembled into new combinations, creating novel halachic possibilities which perhaps a person should be strict to follow or avoid. This, however, does not explain all of his stringencies.

For example, he is reputed to have observed a "second day" of Yom Tov in his home in Jerusalem. Normally, this second day is observed outside the Holy Land, in memory of ancient times, when people far from Jerusalem would not hear about the declaration of the new month and would not know on which day to celebrate holidays. However, the Brisker Rov worried that while the messengers announcing the new month traveled from Jerusalem to the outskirts of the Holy Land, they may not have passed by the exact place where he lived. Taking this possibility into account, he observed a second day of Yom Tov, just to be safe.

However, in one case the Brisker Rov surprised observers by not following a well-known stringency. Halakha says that on Sukkot, one is required to eat certain foods in a sukkah, and it is praiseworthy but not required that all eating and drinking to take place in the sukkah. However, the Brisker Rov was willing to eat and drink these foods outside the sukkah, explaining that he is only stringent in areas where there is a chance that the stringency might be required by the halakha, whereas in this case, the halakhic permissiveness is unquestionable.

Early life and biography

He served as the town rabbi of the Jewish community in Brisk and was the rosh yeshiva ("dean") of its yeshiva. He fled the Holocaust and moved to Palestine, where he re-established the Brisk Yeshiva in Jerusalem and continued educating students as his father did, in what would come to be known as the Brisker derech (Yiddish: the "Brisk method" or "Brisk approach") of analyzing the Talmud. This form of analysis stressed conceptual understanding combined with strict adherence to the text; it is also characterized by its emphasis on Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah. After his death, the yeshiva split, each son taking part of the following of the yeshiva.

Soloveitchik was a leader of the Haredi community in Israel and advocated complete withdrawal of participation with the Israeli government, the secular ideals and values of which were, in his view, antithetical to the principles of Orthodox Judaism. He went as far as opposing the reliance on government funding in support of yeshivas and other Torah institutions. This viewpoint was supported by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum and disputed by Rabbi Elazar Shach.

Before Soloveitchik died, he called his son (Berel Soloveitchik) and Elazar Shach and reviewed the decisions and positions he had taken during his lifetime, so that they could scrutinize them and tell them if in their opinion, he had acted properly.Mishlei, Volume 1, by Eliezer Ginsburg and Nosson Scherman. pg. 254

Brisker rabbinic dynasty