Living Legacy: Rav Shimon Sofer of Erlau
Rav Shimon Sofer was the grandson of the holy Chasam Sofer and was a great leader in prewar Hungary. He was murdered in the Holocaust along with millions of his brethren on 21 Sivan, 1944.
Rav Shimon was born in the spring of 1850 in Pressburg to his father, Rav Avrohom Shmuel Binyomin Sofer, known as the K’sav Sofer.
From the earliest age, he was known for his greatness, his kedushah and taharah. His father would often remark about his youngest son, “Shimon my son is a chassid, a pious one.” The Divrei Chaim of Sanz met the young Shimon around the time of his bar mitzvah and said, “so much yiras Shomayim is evident on his face.” Similar remarks were made by other gedolim whom he encountered.
In 1870, he married Rebbetzin Esther, formerly Fried, of Kleinwardein, and they had one daughter. The couple settled in Kleinwardein, and Rav Shimon kept on learning and corresponding in Torah with his father and others. Tragedy struck when the Rebbetzin was nifteres at a young age.
He remarried his cousin, the daughter of Rav Shmuel Chaim Birnbaum of Dubno, a son-in-law of Rav Akiva Eiger. They settled in Uman, Ukraine, and later in Kiev. Despite the pleas of the local community, he refused to become the rov of Kiev, moving to Krakow.
There, he reunited with his uncle, Rav Shimon Sofer, known as the Michtav Sofer, and spent time learning under him. Finally, in 1881, he was called to serve as the rov of Erlau, in Hungary.
Immediately upon his arrival, a group of talmidim coalesced around him, seeking to learn Torah from him. In Erlau, he continued to publish the seforim of his great ancestors, as well as his own sefer Hisorerus Hateshuvah, comprising four volumes. IN the sefer his true depth, breadth, and erudition is clear to see.
He also published the sefer Musarei Harambam, a compendium of the Rambam’s mussar teachings, culled from all of his volumes. The concept to him on one occasion when he was unwell and confined to bed.
Rav Shimon was known for his exceptional piety and fear of an aveirah. All of his life, he endeavored to move to Eretz Yisroel. Alas, he was prevented from doing so, although he did purchase a plot of land, and was thus able to carry out the mitzvos unique to the land of Eretz Yisroel.
Of his fourteen children, two were niftar in childhood, and six were murdered in the Holocaust, along with their illustrious father. The remainder survived, and through his grandson, Rav Yochanan (whose father, Rav Moshe, was also killed, Hy”d), the court of Erelau was reestablished in Eretz Yisroel where it continues to thrive until this very day.