Tuesday, July 30, 2013

the Stamp of Rachel Citron, daughter of the Rogatchover Gaon

I just came across what for me was a first, a stamp of a Rebbetzin in a book. The stamp is that of the famed Rachel Citron, the daughter of the Rogatchover. Note the English portion of the stamp, Rev. Mrs Rachel Citron. Much has been written about Rev. Mrs Citron, and her devotion to publishing her father's writings. Below is a photo of a book of her husband she published, Rabbi Yisrael Aba Citron's chiddushim. The introduction is signed by Rachel Citron, "in a pained and broken heart" בלב כואב ונשבר.

Her husband's death, childless, left her in a complicated halachik position regarding her halitzah. One of the deceased's two brothers was an apostate in Germany, the second was a communist, inaccessible in Soviet Russia. You can read about the ensuing debate about how to get the halitzah done, in Marc B. Shapiro's Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy, pages 95-96. She never ended up remarrying, and was murdered in the Holocaust.

When the Rogatchover Gaon passed away in 1936, his daughter Rachel Citron left the safety of her home in Petach Tikva (Israel) to return to Dvinsk, Latvia for the purpose of assembling the Rogatchover's many unpublished manuscripts and make them available to future generations of Talmud students. She worked with Rabbi Yisroel Alter Safern-Fuchs (her father's devoted student and successor). They published two volumes before the Nazi onslaught prevented further publication in Europe. With utter destruction approaching, they hurriedly photographed (into microphotos ) thousands of pages of the Rogatchover's Talmud and Rambam (containing the Rogatchover’s notes and comments on the sides of pages) and his correspondence files, and mailed them weekly in manila envelopes to Rav Alter's granduncle, R. Zvi Hirsch Safern, in New York from 1940-1941. They begged him to be sure to deliver everything to the rabbinic authorities for publication.

Shortly after the last envelope was mailed, the Nazis deported the Jews from Dvinsk to Breslau where they were all murdered on June 3rd 1942 and lie together in a mass grave. Rebbetzin Rachel Citron was a childless widow, and Rabbi Yisroel Alter Safern-Fuchs was only thirty years old and unmarried at the time they were murdered. They spent the last five years of their lives (1936-1941) working feverishly to publish the invaluable writings of the Rogatchover and his correspondences from rabbis in all continents[1]

[1] http://www.tzafnat.com/mission--history.html

Monday, July 8, 2013

A bencher from the wedding of Rabbi Nosson Slifkin

A bentcher from the humble wedding of the famed Rabbi Natan Slifkin.
If you dig through geniza enough, some interesting things eventually show up.

hat tip: Rabbi Yehuda Ariel Ovadia

Saturday, July 6, 2013

On a descendant of the Chatam Sofer

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Prof. Moshe Schreiber, a descendant of the Chatam Sofer (and depriving him of his books). In his home, he had Portraits of his illustrous ancestors, the Chatam Sofer, the Ktav Sofer, the Shevet Sofer, followed by a photo of himself with the caption טעות סופר. I got enjoyment out of it, I figured I'd share.
The source for the quip is said to have originated with Rabbi Yehuda Leib Fishman Maimon in reference to Avraham Sofer, the editor of several volumes of the Meiri, from manuscript.