Living Legacy: Rav Uri Hakohen Yolles of Sambor
By: Yehuda Alter
The Yolles family is a prominent Rabbinic family hailing from Galicia, descended from great tzaddikim, and ardent talmidim of the Stretin and Strelisk dynasties.
Bridging the worlds of Galicia and America was Rav Ephraim Yolles, a legendary Rov who was prominent in Philadelphia begginning in the 1920’s. His descendants, and those of his illustrious ancestors, are talmidei chachomim and marbitzei Torah throughout the world.
The second of Adar marks the 112th Yohrtzeit of Rav Uri Hakohen Yolles of Sambor, the founder of the dynasty.
He was born in Lemberg (Lvov) to his father, Rav Ephraim Tzvi Yolles, an ardent to folllower of Rav Uri MiStrelisk (a talmid of Rav Shloime of Karlin, known as the ‘Saraf), and of Rav Yehuda Tzvi MiStretin.
The big city of Lvov teemed with Gedolei Torah, chassidim and yerei Shomayim, and Rav Uri learned under the famed Rav Yosef Shaul Nathanson, known as the “Shoel Umeishiv.”
Simultaneously, he began journeying to the Sar Sholom of Belz. When he married the daughter of the Rov of Komarno, the Shoel Umeishiv wanted to install him as the Rov of a certain large city. But the Belzer Rov declared; “you were destined for different things.”
But he continued his ardent Torah relationship with his rebbi, and is quoted in the latters’ seforim. Following the petirah of the Sar Sholom, he connected with Rav Avrohom MiStretin. Prior to his passing, the Stretiner Rebbe summoned Rav Uri, and placed his hands upon his head, declaring him a Rebbe—a title that he would carry for the rest of his life.
But although he was himself a great Rebbe, he became a chosid of Rebbe Avrohom Yaakov of Sadigura. Asked why he needs a Rebbe, when he is himself a Rebbe, he replied, quoting the Gemoro: “a person must learn from three teachers.” For me, these are the [Belzer] Ruv, the Stretiner Rebbe, and the Sadigerer Rebbe.”
In 1878, he moved to Sambor, near Lvov, where he continued to serve as a rebbe. In his last years, he lost his eyesight—but this did not deter him from his superhuman avodas Hashem. He completed Shas seven times.
Throughout his life, the rebbe suffered from great poverty—but he was only propelled by this to greater spiritual heights, leading his chassidim with great holiness.
The rebbe was niftar on shabbbos, the second day of Rosh Chodesh Adar, as his matzeiva attests,, “during the hours of tefillas mussaf.
As noted, the rebbes great legacy is continued by generations around the world.