Living Legacy: The Ridvaz on His 110th Yohrtzeit

Living Legacy: The Ridvaz on His 110th Yohrtzeit

Yehuda Alter 

This Rosh Hashanah will mark the 110th yahrtzeit of Rav Yaakov Dovid Wilowsky, one of the greatest ga’onim of his time, a prominent Rov in multiple locales around two world, and the famed author of brilliant seforim. 

He was born in Kobrin, Belarus, in the year 1845. Even as a young boy, his reputation spread as an unbridled genius in Torah. 

In 1868, when he was but 23 years old, he became the Rov of Zabeln, and by 1871, he was already a Dayan and maggid in Vilna. A few years later, he became the Rov of Babroisk. He then moved around to a couple of other cities, settling in Slutzk for fifteen years, leading a yeshiva which was comprised of Slabodka talmidim. The yeshiva was later taken over by the future Rov of Slutzk, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer. The Ridvaz remains known as the Slutzker Rov on account of this tenure. 

He published a number of brilliant seforim, including on Yerushalmi. 

In the year 1900, he set out for America to raise funds to publish his seforim, and to sell his existing ones. Here, he was welcomed with great honor, and Yidden of all stripes came to greet him. It’s notable that the seforim that he published at that time are dedicated to the donors from America. 

In 1903, he returned to America and this time he was appointed as Rov in Chicago, where he began to institute positive changes for Yiddishkeit. Sadly, after a year, he realized that he would not get very far due to the circumstances in America at that time, and he moved to Eretz Yisroel, to the mystical city of Tzfas. 

There, he established a yeshiva called Toras Eretz Yisroel, which also became known as Yeshivas Haridvaz. Hundreds of talmidim learned in the yeshiva, and the ga’on had a plan to import many more talmidim from yeshivos in Lita, but this did not come to fruition. 

In Eretz Yisroel, he convinced many farmers to keep shmita, and established Keren Hashviis to support them in this mitzvah. 

The Ridvaz was niftar on Rosh Hashanah of the year 1913 and was interred in the old cemetery in Tzfas, leaving behind numerous chashuve children and grandchildren, and a legacy of spreading and disseminating Torah and mitzvos throughout the world. 

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