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Bidding Information
Lot #    21113
Auction End Date    8/12/2008 10:05:30 AM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Letter by R. Meir Simhah ha-Kohen of Dvinsk
Title (Hebrew)    כתב מה'ר מאיר שמחה הכהן מדווינסק
Author    [Ms.]
City    Dvinsk
Publication Date    1908
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   [1] p., 213:134 mm., ink on paper, Ashkenazic script, signed and dated, includes original envelope and [2] pp. of related documents.
   Letter regarding the distribution of an estate by R. Meir Simhah ha-Kohen of Dvinsk (1843–1926), talmudic scholar. His brilliance was such that he is said to have annotated the halakhic work of a distinguished rabbi when only 13 years old. At the age of 17 he went to Eishishok where he studied under R. Moses Danishevsky. R. Meir Simḥah married the daughter of R. Ẓevi Paltiel, a wealthy man from Bialystok who supported him while he continued his studies under the local rabbi, R. Yom Tov Lipman Halpern, the author of Oneg Yom Tov (1880). With the publication of his work, Or Same'ah on Maimonides (1902–26), R. Meir Simḥah became widely renowned as an outstanding talmudic scholar and commentator. His novellae Or Same'ah to Bava Kamma and Bava Mezia were published in Jerusalem (1948), and his novellae to most of the tractates of the orders Nashim and Nezikin, together with some responsa and occasional notes, were printed in 1967 from a manuscript identified as his in the Jewish National and University Library. In these fundamental and classic works of rabbinic literature, he shed new light on the Talmud and codifiers, displaying vast erudition, great depth, and profound logic. On the advice of R. Jacob Harif of Zagare and R. Joseph B. Soloveichik of Brest-Litovsk, he was invited to become rabbi of Dvinsk, a position he occupied for 40 years. R. Meir Simḥah earned the high esteem of all communal circles, not only in Dvinsk, but far beyond its borders. In 1906 he declined the offer of a rabbinical position in Jerusalem, as a result of the entreaties of the community of Dvinsk who wrote to the leaders in Jerusalem that were he to leave, "not only would we, God forfend, be destroyed, but also the entire Diaspora. For he is the authority able to answer anyone who enquires concerning the word of the Lord. It is not for you, people of Jerusalem, to do such a thing." In 1911 he presided jointly with R. Isaac Jacob Rabinovitz, the rabbi of Ponevezh, over the Central Committee of Rabbis, the representative body of Russian Jewry in its relations with the government. During World War I most of the Dvinsk community fled, and only a few of the poorest inhabitants remained. R. Meir Simhah stayed with them, declaring that as long as there were nine Jews in the city, he would be the tenth.

In his work on the Pentateuch, Meshekh Hokhmah (1927), he drew freely on his vast knowledge of the two Talmuds and of the halakhic and aggadic Midrashim, giving new and profound interpretations. The book, which contains original reflections, attained wide popularity. Zera Avraham (1929) by R. Abraham Luftvir consists of an exchange of correspondence between R. Luftvir and R. Menahem Zemba , and also includes some fine specimens of R. Meir Simhah's responsa to him.

   Yahadut Lita, 3 (1967), 65f.; S.Y. Zevin, Ishim ve-Shitot (1966), 155–87, EJ
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Listing Classification
20th Century:    Checked
Russia-Poland:    Checked
Halacha:    Checked
Language:    Hebrew
Manuscript Type
Letters:    Checked
Kind of Judaica