Living Legacy: Rav Yosef Shaul Natensohn, Author of Sho’el Umeishiv

Living Legacy: Rav Yosef Shaul Natensohn, Author of Sho’el Umeishiv

Yehuda Alter 

The 27th of Adar marks the hillula of one of the greatest luminaries of prewar Poland, Rav Yosef Shaul Natensohn. 

He was born in Brezan in 1808 to Rav Leibish, author of Beis-Keil. His mother was Rebbetzin Chanah, the daughter of Rav Dov Ber Halpern of Brezan.  He was one of the greatest ge’onim of his time, a gadol hador, and a tremendous lamdan with a memory of steel, He was a man of great holiness, and a ba’al mofes. His entire life was spent in the toil of Torah and avodah, and he taught thousands of talmidim, many of whom became the luminaries of the next generation (some of his talmidim even made it to America to spread Torah and Yiddishkeit there). By the age of twelve, he had already begun to write his own original Torah thoughts. 

After his marriage, he settled in the great city of Lemberg, and continued to toil in Torah, learning b’chavrusa for most of the day and night with his brother-in-law Rav Mordechai Zev Itinga. Together, they authored the sefer Meforshei Hayam, and a sefer of responsa, comprised of the teshuvos that they corresponded to the four luminaries of their time. They were: Rav Akiva Eiger, the Chasam Sofer, Rav Mordechai Binet, and Rav Hirsch Charif of Bonnihad. This was in addition to the seforim that he authored on his own. 

When his uncle, the previous Rov of Lemberg, was niftar, he was appointed in his place. He did not take a salary, for he was extremely wealthy, true Torah ugedulah b’mokom echod. It is said that he and his brother-in-law were wealthy, but they could not be bothered to take care of their investments due to their learning, so they gave a portion of it to another wealthy person to invest. Unfortunately, that investment was lost. 

In his capacity as the rov of Lemberg, he effected much change for the people of the city and gave generously to its poor and people from the surrounding towns and villages. 

Despite being a misnaged, he was close to many of the tzaddikim from the Chassidic world, including the Divrei Chaim of Sanz, the Imrei No’am of Dzikov, as well as the Chidushei Harim of Ger.     

He was one of the primary matirim of machine matzos, and in this matter, he was at odds with his brother-in-law Rav Mordechai Zev who sided with the Divrei Chaim. 

Sadly, the Sho’el Umeishiv did not merit children. 

He was niftar in 1875, and was interred in the Lemberg Beis Hachaim, alongside other tremendous gedolim. Sadly, the entire cemetery was razed, and only a monument to these tzaddikim remains. 

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