Living Legacy: Rav Shabsi Yogel
By: Yehuda Alter
Asoroh b’Teves marks the yohrtzeit of Rav Shabsi Yogel, the Rosh Yeshiva in the town of Slonim, Poland, who was as great in Torah as he was in avodah and mussar.
He was born in 1875 in the town of Piesk, bear Slonim, and learned in the local yeshiva, and later in the “kibbutz” in Aishishok. From there, he transferred to the great yeshiva in Volozyn. His reputation preceded him for his lomdus and his holiness, and he was chosen as a son-in-law by Mr. Pomerantz, a wealthy Yid from the town of Slonim.
In 1906, he was appointed Rosh Yeshiva in the venerated Slonimer yeshiva which had been founded decades earlier. His Rebbetzin was likewise a tzaddekes, known in the town for her great chessed work.
One episode that occurred in the 1920’s gives us a glimpse into the great caliber of Rav Shabsi, and the esteem in which he was held. The great Rav Mordechai Oshminer, the Rov of Slonim, had passed away in 1916, and the position had been vacant for a number of years due to politics. During the 1920’s, while Rab Shabsi was serving as Rosh Yeshiva, there developed a split in the Slonimer community, wherein one faction wanted to hire another rov, and a second group sought to hire the Rosh Yeshiva as the rov of Slonim.
One Shabbos, the third Slonimer Rebbe, Rav Yisochor Leib Weinberg, walked into the main Shul of town and “klapped ois” on the bimah in protest, “how can it be that a town should remain without a rov for so long!” He then went on to extoll the virtues of Rav Shabsi, encouraging them to appoint him as their leader.
But Rav Shabsi declined the position because where there was a machlokes involved, he did not want any part of it.
In the year 1929, he visited Eretz Yisroel for about three months. He would later say that those days were the most pleasant of his entire life.
When WWII broke out, Rab Shabsi escaped to Vilna and ultimately made it to Eretz Yisroel. He established a yeshiva in Ramat Gan, where he taught Torah for 17 years. Some of his sons and sons-in-law were great marbitzei Torah of the next generation in Eretz Yisroel and in America. His son, Rav Peretz Yogel, taught thousands of talmidim in Brooklyn Talmudical Academy, an offshoot of Yeshiva Eitz Chaim of Boro Park.
Rav Shabsi was niftar on asarah b’teves in the year 1958.