Living Legacy: Rav Zelmale of Volozyn

Living Legacy: Rav Zelmale of Volozyn

Yehuda Alter 

13 Adar marks the yohrtzeit of Rav Shlomo Zalman Itzkowitz of Vilna, who was known as Rav Zelmale Volozyner, a great ga’on and tzaddik who was a younger brother of Rav Chaim Volozyner and Rav Simcha Volozyner, and a prime talmid of the Vilna Ga’on. 

He was born in Volozyn in the year 1756. His father was Reb Yitzchok, a great philanthropist in the city. On his mother’s side, he was descended from the famed Rapaport family of kohanim. 

From his earliest age, his greatness was apparent. He was a boki in all areas of Torah, the hidden and as well as the revealed. And the Gedolim of his generation—including his rebbi, the Vilna Ga’on—attested to the fact that he was singular in his generation in Torah greatness.

At the tender age of six, he had already mastered the entirety of Shisha Sidrei Mishna as well as other areas of Torah. It is said that he would routinely give away the food that his mother had prepared for him so that he could acquire a desired sefer. 

He married Rebbetzin Gita, the daughter of a wealthy and distinguished talmid chochom from Vilna. Despite hailing from a wealthy home, the Rebbetzin is said to have supported her husband’s incredible hasmodoh with exceptional devotion. 

On Friday nights, when it is not permitted to read by the candlelight (for fear that one will enhance the flame when it becomes dim) unless another person is present, the Rebbetzin would stay up with him the entire night as he delved into his Torah learning. 

Settling in Vilna after his wedding, Rav Zelmale continued learning by his great Rebbe, the Vilna Ga’on. 

So great was his mastery of Torah that his brother, Rav Chaim, once remarked: “My brother Rav Zalman knows the entirety of Torah sheb’al peh as well as every Yid knows ahsrei, because he has reviewed all of it more than one hundred times.” 

As great as his Torah master was, so was his humility and his pursuit of the truth; he simply could not stand to hear his own praise. He was also exceptionally careful in guarding his eyes. He would not walk in the regular pathways for fear of seeing an improper sight. 

He rarely spoke words other than Torah; his entire life was dedicated to Torah and avodas Hashem. 

His brilliant chiddushim are printed in the sefer Toldos Odom. 

He was nifar at the untimely age of thirty-three and was interred in the beis hachaim in Vilna. 

VIDEO: The Bobover Rebbe visiting Rav Moshe Wolfson, Rov of Emunas Yisroel, in Florida
  • Feb 22 2024
  • |
  • 5:31 PM

NYPD Sees Uptick in Vehicle Thefts in 66th Precinct
  • Feb 22 2024
  • |
  • 4:02 PM

Be in the know

receive BoroPark24’s news & updates on whatsapp

 Start Now