Living Legacy: Rav Shlomo of Vilna, the Cheshek Shlomo

Living Legacy: Rav Shlomo of Vilna, the Cheshek Shlomo

Vilna was the center of Lithuanian Torah Jewry, and its Torah leaders were men of holiness and learnedness. Rav Shloimele of Vilna was the Rov and the head of the dayonim of Vilna for more than forty years. His one hundred and sixteenth yohrtzeit is marked 29 Kislev. His commentary, Cheshek Shlomo, on the entire Shas, continues to appear on the margins of all Shas Bavli’s, and is studied by multitudes. 

He was born in 1828 to his father, Rav Yisroel Moshe, who was a dayan in Vilna, and a descendant of generations of Rabbonim. His genius was apparent from a young age, and he would be known for his brilliance throughout his life. He learned without letup—spending his formative years learning under his illustrious father, and later under his illustrious brother, Rav Bezalel, who was ten years his senior, and whom he refers to as “my brother, my rebbi, my mentor.”  He also learned in the “Beis Medrash Hagro.” 

When he was sixteen, he became ill, and his doctors recommended that he relax his intense Torah learning—but he would not hear of it—and by the time he was seventeen, he completed the entire Shas. Following this, he spent years learning hora’ah under the Gedolim of Lita. 

In the 1850s, he began a long tenure of committing his chiddushim to write. The fruits of these manuscripts continue to transform the learning of Klal Yisroel to this day. When the Rom family printed the Shas in Vilna, they printed the Cheshek Shlomo on its margins—where it remains to this day. 

In 1865, while still in his 30’s, he was appointed to serve on the Vilna Beis Din—and would continue to serve in major leadership positions in the city for the ensuing half-century. When the Chofetz Chaim was concluding his sefer Mishna Brurah, the Cheshek Shlomo was one of the Rabbonim from whom he sought an approbation—a testament to the esteem in which he held him. 

His entire life, he lived in intense poverty—content with his beloved Torah to which he dedicated himself for all of his days. He merited generations of prominent Rabbonim among his progeny to this day. His literary legacy—numerous volumes which he wrote, on many areas of Torah—are learned to this very day. 

he was niftar on a Tuesday, 29 Kislev, and was buried on Thursday, the first day of Rosh Chodesh Teves—following an enormous levaya in the city of Vilna who escorted their revered leader to his final resting place. 

Living Legacy explores the lives and legacies of tzaddikim of yore whose aura is felt to this day. It is a special project of Comments or suggestions may be emailed to [email protected]

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