Living Legacy: Rav Shimshon Aaron Polonsky, Tepliker Rov, zt”l
By: Yehuda Alter
The Tepliker Rov (1876-1948) was known as a legendary ga’on, admired by Tzaddikim throughout the world, a teacher to many of the gedolim of Eretz Yisroel of the next generation, and an address for anyone in need. His 74th yohrtzeit falls 28 Sivan.
He was born in Kalinblat, a town near Kiev. His father was Rav Avrohom Yitzchok, a great gadol, and he was descended from many of the great tzaddikim of the chassidic world, including Rebbe Pinchos of Koretz, Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev, and the Me’or Einayim.
In his youth, he learned under some of the greatest ge’onim in Russia, and his fame grew as a tremendous ga’on. Once, he visited with one of the grandchildren of the Chasam Sofer, and they discussed a certain Torah topic, when the Tepliker Rov remarked: “This matter is discussed in the teshuvos of the Chasam Sofer seventeen times!”
At the tender age of twenty, he became the Rov of Medvin, near Kiev. In 1901, he became the rov of Teplik, where he would serve for twenty-one years. In 1922, he came to Kishinev to head a yeshiva, and in 1925, he left for Eretz Yisroel, where he would go on to become one of the greatest leaders of the yishuv.
He began to work on behalf of the Klal and to spread Torah among the Yidden of the holy land. All the gedolim of Eretz Yisroel respected him immensely, and from his small apartment in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood—of which he was the rov—so much Torah and hora’ah would come forth.
All the Torah scholars would come to learn from him, and the Rabbonim and Admorim of Eretz Yisroel revered him. In 1942, he established a yeshiva where dozens of bachurim and avreichim learned to become rabbonim.
In 1948, he published his Sefer Divrei Aaron which became widely accepted. In the introduction, he wrote: “I never intended to publish my chiddushim, and so there are many which I never wrote down. Now that I’m older, I acquiesce to the demands of my loved ones.”
His ahavas Hatorah was legendary. One time he came running into the home of a fellow Yerushalmi Rov brimming with excitement, and exclaimed: “twenty years ago you asked me a kushya in a certain matter. At the time I answered you from my own logic. But now I found it in a Sefer. And I immediately came running to share it with you.”
At the same time, he was filled with compassion for all. Once he came to shul and saw men sitting there whom he felt needed to be at home helping their families. He immediately called out; “I have a number of orphans and widows in need of help.” Understandably they all came running—at which time he sent them straight to their own homes!
The Tepliker Rov was niftar on 28 Kislev 1948 and is interred in yerushalayim.