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The Modest Genius

  • The Modest Genius

Product Description

Rabbi Yehoshua Aisek ben Yehiel Shapira, (1801-1873), known as Aisel Harif – Aisel the Sharp Intellect – was a descendent of Rabbi Shlomo Luria, known as the Maharshal. He had a prodigious memory and a sharp tongue. His witticisms and clever retorts are legendary. "Do you want to swallow up the whole Torah?" he was asked while still a small boy.


"The Torah was quicker and has swallowed me up," he replied.


In 1853, Rabbi Aisel moved to Slonim, where, as the rabbi, he worked against the decrees of the Cantonists – the forced army service of Jewish boys in the Czar's Army. He also developed and strengthened the Slonim Yeshiva, working especially hard at fund raising. This was not always an easy task.


"A rich man would rather give to a cripple than to a scholar," he would say. "When he sees a cripple, he is afraid that he too might one day suffer the same injury or lose a limb. But he is never afraid that he'll become a scholar!"


Rabbi Aisel's eleven original works comprised his life's work. They reveal his basic rule of learning: To understand the arguments and reasoning behind the words of the Talmud. His works include “Emek Yehoshua” and “Nahlat Yehoshua” which encompass his responsa (questions and answers to problems of his day); “Noam Yerushalmi”, his commentary and glosses on the Jerusalem Talmud; and “Sefat HaNahal” and “Ibbei HaNahal” which contain many of his sermons.


He was one of the greatest Torah scholars of his time, yet he was modest about his achievements, considering his talent a divine gift.


Nearing the end of his life, Rabbi Aisel was asked his correct age.


"When a man is about to declare bankruptcy," he answered, "he does not reveal his balance sheet."

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