Weekly Freebies: R Chaim Heller

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R. Chaim Heller was a unique genius, combining mastery of Torah and ancient Semitic languages. His biography on the YU website is as follows (link):

HARAV HAGAON R. CHAIM HELLER ZT”L
1880-1960

Rabbi Heller was born in Bialystok, Poland. A young prodigy, he became known throughout Russia and Poland as the Illui of Warsaw. He advanced so rapidly that, after age 10, he no longer studied under a teacher or rosh yeshiva. With his keen mind and extraordinary memory he acquired a rare, comprehensive knowledge of the entire Torah.

In 1912, he was appointed as rabbi and Av Beit Din in Lomza. In 1922, he moved to Berlin and founded Beit Midrash HaElyon, which attracted many rabbonim and gaonim, but the Nazi persecutions compelled him to come to America.

He published the classic edition of Sefer HaMitzvot L’Rambam and a two-volume work on Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat entitled LeChikrei Halachot. He also published writings in the various Torah journals. Rabbi Heller authored the sefer Nusach HaShomroni, as well as other works. He gave shiurim at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary for a number of years covering all facets of Torah knowledge.

The following of his writings can be found on HebrewBooks.org:

See prior freebies here: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

23 comments

  1. He was born in 1878

    • In Rav Kook’s letter to Rav Chaim Heller he uses the term “maritzo” (=his admirer) a term Rav Kook doesn’t use for any other Rav!

      • My mother told me the following story.

        As a young girl her mother asked her to deliver a package to R Heller’s wife at their home. While at the residence, R Heller asked to see her. Apparently he loved Jewish children and was always asking about them and what they were learning.

        When she finished speaking with him she mentioned to his wife that she was curious because there was a lot of light in his room but no visible source for the light. His wife told her that frequently a light seemed to come to that room because that is where he learned Torah (which she guessed was the reason was why he didn’t need a window or electric light).

        My mother is not known to exaggerate or make up stories.

  2. strange that YU bio doesn’t mention that the rav was his student in berlin.

    gil, thanks for those links. i had some r. heller books that were destroyed last week by sandy. one work i see missing in the links is his masoret ha-tanakh (4 vols.), probbaly not on hebrew books

  3. moshe shoshan

    the rav was very close woth rch. he thoughr rch was the gadol hador and felt he never got the kavodd he deserved.

  4. Lawrence Kaplan

    The Rav once described to me Rav Hayyim Heller’s Beit Midrash ha-Elyon as a type of “think tank.”

  5. Did Rav Heller have a family?

  6. Joseph Kaplan

    Didn’t the Rav give a famous hesped of Rav Heller? Does anyone know if it’s been translated into English?

  7. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Rabbi Rakeffet likes to mention how after the Moriah lectures, Rabbi Soloveichik would go visit R’ Heller’s widow.

    The biographers say R’ Heller as a major influence on RYBS; just curious — is that visible from studying their writings?

  8. James:

    he had at least a daughter, whose husband was a pulpit rabbi for many years in manhattan beach.

  9. Superintendant Chalmers

    The Rav’s hesped for Rav Chaim Heller was titled “Pleitas Sofreihem” and is included in the Divrei Hagut volume.

    Rabbi Charlop told me that Rav Heller’s daughter had an entire closet full of his unpublished writings, but unfortunately she never allowed anyone access to them, and they were eventually lost when she passed away. Chaval al deavdin…

  10. ” Rav Heller’s daughter had an entire closet full of his unpublished writings”

    his son-in-law published a tanach that reproduced the marginal cross-references that r. heller wrote in his own tanach. unfortunately there is no annotation or commentary and one can only guess what r. heller alluded to.

  11. Joseph Kaplan – it was translated and available in shiurei harav edited by joseph epstein titled: A eulogy for R. hayyim heller.

  12. One of the underappreciated greats of YU, R’ Meir Fulda, Shlita, was a talmid of both R’ Chaim Heller and R’ Soloveitchik. (Because he’s spent his entire life modestly teaching in the TI/JSS/Mechina programs, he’s never attained the public acclaim of other YU Roshei Yeshiva). In his wonderful Kollel Yom Rishon Pesach shiur, he gives some fascinating insight into R’ Heller’s derech halimud.

  13. Lawrence Kaplan

    Ruvie and Joseph: IIRC, only part of the hesped was translated by Rabbi Carmy. I don’t have the volume with me right now.

  14. Lawrence Kaplan – i am sure you are correct. However, in the acknowledgements of the book – on this article states: adapted translation by shalom carmy from shanah b’shanah, heichel shlomo, jerusalem, 5730(1970) pp.197-221. there is no indication that its a summary or a synopsis or a partial translation. in the short intro on p.46 it does note that ” several footnotes of halakhic interest can be found in the original hebrew version, published in Divrei Hagut veHa’arkha.”

  15. Lawrence Kaplan

    Ruvie: In the Rav sometimes the footnotes are the the most interesting part! For example, the “monster” footnote 4 in Halakhic Man. I also seem to remember that certain parts of the hesped proper were left out as well. But I do believe that R. Carmy translated most of it. What really needs to be translated is the Rav’s very important essay ” Al Ahavat ha-Torah u-Geulat Nefesh ha-Dor.”

  16. R Fulda, who was a rebbe of mine in JSS and our Msader Kiddushin, truly was one of the unappreciated greats of YU. See my article in the YU Judaica book re R Fulda.

  17. Saul Mashbaum

    I was very happy to see R. Meir Fulda mentioned here. A brilliant and inspiring teacher, R. Fulda was indeed, as written above,
    tuly one of the unappreciated greats of YU. I consider myself fortunate to have been his student.

  18. does anyone know how R. Fulda is doing these days?

  19. Moshe-The last that I heard was that R Fulda needed a Refuah Shlemah of no small proportions.

  20. The last number of posts about Rav M. Fulda brought back fond memories as well as sadness at the report of his health situation. He was a mentor as well as teacher for my wife when she attend TI many years ago. His involvement in our life continued for a while after we married. Unfortunately, we lost contact after we moved out of NYC. I fervently hope for his recovery (what is his full name?)

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