Living Legacy: The Bach

Living Legacy: The Bach

Yehuda Alter 

The 20th or Adar marks the yohrtzeit of Rav Yoel Sirkis, author of the Bayis Chodosh, known as the Bach—a great light in Klal Yisroel during his time and beyond. He was born in the year 1561 in the city of Lublin. His father was Rav Shmuel Yaffe Chossid, and his mother was Rebbetzin Sarah.  

He was renowned as a tremendous ga’on, a master of the revealed and hidden Torah, a wondrous lamdan who toiled in Torah day and night with superhuman hamodoh. He was a marbitz Torah for hundreds of talmidim, many of whom were ga’onim in their own right, and he dedicated himself to their growth with extraordinary dedication. Despite being wealthy, he had very little pleasure in this world other than Torah and avodah. 

He was a talmid of his illustrious father, Rav Shmuel, from whom he learned much Torah. Later, he learned in the yeshiva of Rav Shlomo of Lublin, who was also the Rebbe of the Sheloh Hakodosh, as well as other gedolim of the generation. 

He married Rebbetzin Baila, the daughter of Haga’on Rav Avrohom of Lvov. 

Following his wedding, the Bach was appointed as the rov of a number of communities around Poland. But since he would not bend from halacha one iota, and he fought mightily to preserve Jewish observance, he suffered persecution in these positions. Among these were the rabbonus of Mezibuz and Belz, from where he was forced to run away due to the persecution. 

Despite the mistreatment, he nevertheless continued learning non-stop. 

Following his rabbonus in Belz, he moved to Brisk, and later in Krakow, where he assumed the pulpit of his rebbe, Rav Meshulam Feivish of Krakow. Here, in Krakow, he found peace at last, and became known far and wide for his ga’onus b’Torah and his great hasmodoh. 

While in Krakow, he became very wealthy, and generously supported the bnei Yeshiva of the city. He ensured that his talmidim lacked for nothing, so they could sit and learn undisturbed. Dozens of Rabbonim of his generations would send him their halachic queries from all over. 

As noted, a number of his talmidim went on to become great Torah leaders in their own right. 

The Bach likewise had illustrious children: Rav Yehuda Leib ABD Chenchin, Rav Shmuel Tzvi Hirsch ABD Pinchov who was the father of the Shaagas Aryeh, his son-in-law, Rav Dovid Halevi, author of the Taz, and his son in law Rav Yehuda Ashkenazi of Krakow. 

He authored the Bayis Chodosh on the Tur, Haga’os Habach on Talmud Bavli, a sefer of halachic responsa, Chidushim on Shas, as well as other seforim. 

The Bach is interred on the old Jewish cemetery in Krakow, and his kever draws crowds throughout the year.  

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