Reb Chaim and Sholem Aleichem

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imageR. Chaim Soloveitchik, the “Halakhic Man,” apparently was a fan of Yiddish literature. Perhaps he read it himself, although that seems unlikely given his negative attitude toward literature as described by his grandchildren. More likely, he recognized that other people enjoyed reading it as a pleasurable pastime, which in itself is valuable when taken in moderation.

In the recently published biography of Sholem Aleichem (Rabinovich), The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye, Prof. Jeremy Dauber describes Sholem’s falling ill while visiting Baranovitch in 1908 for a public reading (p. 212):

They [the Baranovitch citizenry] organized volunteers to serve as round-the-clock nurses and helpers and even scattered straw on the stone pavement in front of his hotel so he would sleep undisturbed…. Prayers and psalms were recited for his health in synagogues and at gravesides throughout the Pale, and he received a personal blessing from none other than the great Talmudic scholar Reb Chaim Brisker [Soloveitchik], who wrote him he must recuperate; he was needed by the Jews.

Note that R. Soloveitchik’s student R. Elchanan Wasserman would establish a yeshiva high school in Baranovitch, but not until 1921.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, 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 currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four 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.

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