Rabbi Yechiel Michl Schlessinger

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Rabbi Yechiel Michl Schlessinger

Hebrew: הרב יחיאל מיכל שלזינגר
Birthplace: Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Death: March 10, 1949 (50)
Jerusalem, Israel
Place of Burial: Shaarei Zadek cemetery (next to old hospital), Jerusalem
Immediate Family:

Son of Eliezer Lippmann Schlessinger and Sarah Schlesinger
Husband of Rebbetzin Meta Mattel Schlesinger
Father of Private; Private; Yacov Schlesinger; Private; Eliezer Lippman Schlesinger and 4 others
Brother of David Schlesinger; Dr. Falk Schlesinger and Betty Chava Beile Guggenheim

Occupation: Rabbi, Dayan (in Frankfurt, Rosh Yeshivas Kol Torah (in Israel)
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Rabbi Yechiel Michl Schlessinger


His daughter; Lea Shulman writes;

Harav Schlesinger was a very special Yeshiva leader. He never had an enemy. Yeshiva bachurs, who studied with him more then sixty years ago, are still unable to forget him. Even today they continue to adore him and speak of him often, . .

One of his students explained to me that part of his appeal was that he was such a mench!

He performed his duties in a kind, simple and unassuming manner. Hi did it, because the work had to be done. Although he did his task diligently he avoided any disputes. Example of his shying away from any arguments could be seen by his decision to name the Yeshiva in Jerusalem "kol Torah"

Originally my father wanted to call the Yeshiva; "Kol Yaakov"

"Hakol kol Yaakov v'hayadaim yedai Eisav."

During those days in Jerusalem another group chose the name Kol Yaakov. In order to avoid any bickering or mix up with this group he gave up his wish and changed the name to "Kol Torah". His brother in law told this information to us.

Rebbetzin Mattel Schlesinger o"h

By Betzalel Kahn

Last Friday thousands of people tearfully accompanied the distinguished Rebbetzin Mattel Schlesinger o"h on her last journey in this world. She was the widow of the late HaRav Yechiel Michel Schlesinger zt"l, rosh yeshiva and founder of Kol Torah Yeshiva. She was over 96 years old.

The Rebbetzin was born in Biel, Germany on 29th Elul 5604 (1904) to HaRav Moshe Yehuda Jacobson, an active member of the local community, and to her mother Channah, who was known for her chesed activities within the community. Her father, a descendant of some of the most illustrious families of German Jewry, was known for his fierce adherence to pure halochoh and original undiluted Judaism. The story goes that because of worries about the kashrus of the local mikveh, his family would travel for an hour to the mikveh in the neighboring town. In order not to insult the rov of his town, who supervised the kashrus of the local mikveh, they would also dip in this local mikveh the following day.

In this house Rebbetzin Mattel absorbed an intense Jewish education of Torah and yir'oh. She excelled in her studies at the local school, her intellectual qualities merging with her wonderful character traits into a personality of exceptional nobility.

She was orphaned from her father zt"l when she was ten years old. This event strengthened her personality and made her twice as mature as other girls her age. Due to her outstanding capabilities, as well as her dedication to her tasks, she was appointed the head of a kindergarten in the Karlsruhe community for a period of three years, amazing everybody with her devotion to the education of Jewish children. When she left this position, the community awarded her a special certificate, which extolled her amazing devotion, the special attention she paid to every child and his problems, and her efforts to inculcate the spirit of original Judaism into tender young souls.

When she reached a marriageable age she made it clear that she wanted to marry "the biggest talmid chochom in Germany," and in 5690 (1930) she married the great iluy and masmid, HaRav Yechiel Michel Schlesinger, one of the top bochurim of Slobodke and Mir Yeshivos, who had acquired a reputation of toiling in Torah with depth and acuity.

He absorbed the Torah of the great rabbonim of prewar Europe. In both his Torah studies and his yiras Shomayim he followed in the footsteps of the "chassidei Ashkenaz" of the previous generation, his father Rav Eliezer zt"l and his grandfather Rav Eliakim Getshick zt"l, who disseminated Torah and yir'oh in the Hamburg kloiz for many decades.

Before the sheva brochos week was over, the young couple said farewell to their family in Hamburg and set off for Ponevezh, Lithuania. The chosson wanted to join the ranks of the famous Yeshiva there. The fact that Mattel agreed to leave her place of birth and the home of her wealthy family in order to settle in far-off Lithuania, to lead a life of pure Torah and absolute devotion to her young husband's spiritual needs, was a source of much astonishment to all her acquaintances.

The Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Y. Sh. Kahaneman zt"l recounted in later years the extent of the Rebbetzin's love for Torah: She gave birth in Ponevezh to her oldest son, Rav Moshe Yehuda, and would take him for a walk next to the windows of the Yeshiva. When he asked why she was doing this she said that because of her husband's great hasmodoh she did not see him very much, and so she at least wanted to enjoy the sound of Torah emanating from him. In addition, she also wanted to get her son used to the voice of Torah from an early age.

During his time in Ponevezh, Rav Yechiel Michel also trained to become a dayan, doing shimush in the beis din of the Ponevezher Rov. He acquired a magnificent reputation, and was called to serve as a dayan on the Frankfurt beis din, and as the head of Rav Breuer's Yeshiva there. As soon as he arrived he managed to instill a new spirit into the community and the Yeshiva, and his talent for leadership of the generation in the path of Torah and yir'oh and for maintaining high religious standards within the community very quickly manifested themselves. Rebbetzin Mattel during this period gave her husband complete moral support, taking care of the household, and ensuring that he would be able to fulfill his duties undisturbed.

In 5697 (1937), the Nazis were in power and were making the life of the Jews a misery by means of officially enacted legislation and unbridled incitement. The persecutions became even worse during 5698 (1938-39), and Rav Yechiel Michel reached the conclusion that the end of German Jewry was fast approaching. In accordance with a ruling of HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky zt"l Rav Yechiel Michel remained in his position, but when the situation deteriorated, and it became almost impossible for him to engage in spiritual activities and his own life was in danger, HaRav Chaim Ozer permitted him to escape and to make use of his abilities in other places.

Although he was offered the prestigious position of rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaas Yeshiva in New York, he preferred to move to Eretz Yisroel, because there it was not compulsory to teach children secular studies and because in Eretz Yisroel -- unlike in the Diaspora -- there was no concept of "Sunday," which has idolatrous connotations to it. His rov from Galanta Yeshiva, Rav Y. Z. Dushinsky zt"l, who had already settled in Eretz Yisroel, also ruled that he should move there. Rav Schlesinger's aspiration was to establish a yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel for German bochurim who had moved to Eretz Yisroel.

With obvious hashgocho protis Rav Schlesinger managed to escape the German inferno together with his wife and children on the morning after Kristallnacht, the 11th of Cheshvan 5699 (1938). A chain of miraculous events, during which Rav Yechiel Michel hid in the floor of a rented taxi, led them to the Switzerland, where the rov's brother-in-law, Rav (per his niece- he was an ambassador, not a Rav Yugoslavian Consul in Switzerland) Yechiel Guggenheim z"l, was waiting for him. Rav Guggenheim did everything in his power to help the rov and his family.

During his stay in Switzerland Rav Schlesinger looked for donors willing to help him in his ambition of opening a yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel. Although his efforts were not met with success, he was not deterred and as soon as he reached Yerushalayim, a few days after Pesach 5699 (1939), at the beginning of the summer zman he founded Kol Torah Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, setting a clear Torah path for German Jewry in particular, and for immigrants from western Europe and members of the new yishuv in general, to show them the joys of omol haTorah mixed with pure yiras Shomayim along the lines of Lithuanian Yeshivos, nurturing and educating them with his in-depth shiurim and electrifying mussar talks.

Rav Yechiel Michel ran the Yeshiva's spiritual and material affairs with incredible devotion, with Rebbetzin Mattel at his side, with her love of Torah, her wisdom, and her disdain of materialism. She had agreed to accompany him to Eretz Yisroel for the sake of Hashem and His Torah, despite all the difficulties which she knew would be her lot. She gave her husband the remainder of her father's dowry to use for the bochurim in the Yeshiva, and helped him with the day-to-day needs of the bochurim, many of whom were refugees from war-torn Europe. She also helped him by recruiting funds for the establishment and continued existence of the Yeshiva. Her brother Rav Moshe Jacobson zt"l also offered assistance to this new Yeshiva, his brother-in-law's life's mission.

In addition to the financial aspect, the work involved in founding and maintaining the Yeshiva also took a toll on the Rosh Yeshiva's health, and after many years of absolute devotion to the Yeshiva and its bochurim Rav Yechiel Michel developed a sickness from which he never recovered. Despite his poor health, Rav Schlesinger gathered his strength for the sake of the Torah, and in order to facilitate his continued position as rosh yeshiva he moved with his family into the Yeshiva building. The family made do with a room inside the dormitory building, and the Rebbetzin's determination and purity of spirit helped the family overcome all the difficulties.

Demonstrating characteristic care and devotion, the Rebbetzin accompanied the rov on his trip to England to recruit finances for the Yeshiva's Building Fund. ( Per he daughter; she did not join him on the trip to England- She wished he would not go but he was needed in England to secure finances for the Yeshiva) She was very worried about his fragile state of health. About a year later, on the 9th of Adar 5708 (1948) the Rosh Yeshiva passed away, aged 50.

After his petiroh, the Rebbetzin felt a duty to continue her husband's great labor and, after consulting with the Chazon Ish zt"l she traveled to chutz lo'oretz to recruit funds for maintaining the Yeshiva without taking any remuneration for herself, thus following her husband's example during his lifetime.

She also devoted herself to raising her eight children on her own to Torah and yiras Shomayim, the youngest of the orphans being just six weeks old. Her sole concern was to raise her children along the path laid down by her late husband. Living in terrible conditions of poverty (her daughter, Lea Shulman , felt that they never lived under "terrible conditions of poverty", their uncle supported the family greatly) the Rebbetzin brought up her children in the Torah path, taking care of their spiritual development with warmth and love, using her resources of wisdom, and her spiritual and emotional strength, despite her widowhood and loneliness, the day-to-day difficulties, and the trials of the period, both spiritual and material.

Hashem rewarded her efforts to raise her sons and daughters in the spirit of their great father. Before she did anything, she would always ask herself first what her husband would have done, at the same time consulting with the Chazon Ish and other gedolim about various matters. The gedolim were amazed by her greatness and insight and honored her greatly, as was befitting for an eishes chover who was conspicuous in her great love of Torah.

Whenever she went to consult with HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l -- her husband's chavrusa whom he appointed as his successor as rosh yeshiva -- he would stand up for her as an eishes chover.

The Rebbetzin was a role model for all her acquaintances. She always had the right word for each occasion, showing her family and acquaintances the correct path in life, and teaching them how to stand up to life's trials and temptations. She herself was a living example of what she preached. Her prayers, which were recited slowly and with great feeling whilst ignoring her surroundings, were a wonderful example to onlookers as to how to communicate with Hashem with one's entire inner being.

The Rebbetzin had the merit of seeing her efforts bear fruit. Her sons and sons-in-law are outstanding talmidei chachomim, and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren are worthy of their great ancestry. She was constantly involved in all her descendants' development and education, both young and old. She had an insight into the specific nature and character of each one of her dozens of descendants, and approached each one accordingly. Even in her very advanced years, until the very end, she expressed a constant interest in the development of each one of them. Her mind was totally lucid until the end.

On erev Shabbos parshas Behaalosecha she felt unwell and was taken to Shaarei Zedek hospital. During the week she became weaker and her condition deteriorated, but she remained aware of her situation. When her son asked her why she was sighing, she replied, "I'm not sighing because of the pain, it's because of my sins."

Last Thursday there was a further deterioration in her condition, but she encouraged her family to travel to Bnei Brak for her granddaughter's wedding. At the same time she turned to one of daughters-in-law standing at her bedside and said to her, "In a few hours I shall encounter the divine presence!" In the late evening hours she went into a restful sleep, in the course of which her soul left its earthly abode.

The Rebbetzin's levaya, which was attended by many thousands, left Kol Torah Yeshiva last Friday. Eulogies were delivered by her eldest son, the Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Moshe Yehuda, HaRav Shmuel Auerbach rosh yeshiva of Maalos HaTorah, her son, Rav Eliezer, head of Kollel Volozhin in Bnei Brak, her son, Rav Avrohom, head of Kollel Beis Yechiel in Bnei Brak, Rav Yisroel Bondheim, a ram at Kol Torah Yeshiva, Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth rosh yeshiva of Chochmas Shlomo, Yerushalayim, her son, Rav Eliakim, author of Pnei Moshe, and her son Rav Yaakov, all of whom stressed her greatness as an eishes chayil, the crown of her husband and "Mother of the Yeshiva" who supported her husband in founding and maintaining the Yeshiva. They talked about her strength of spirit over fifty-two years of widowhood, during which she ran a household and raised her descendants to Torah and yir'oh.

At midday the Rebbetzin was laid to rest in the family plot at Har Hazeisim. She leaves behind her an extended and wonderfully blessed family, headed by her oldest son, HaRav Moshe Yehuda, who replaced his father as rosh yeshiva and her sons and sons-in-law: Rav Nosson Zvi Shulman, Rav Ben- Zion Bordiansky, ram at Kol Torah and Rav Shimon Shreiber, author of Vezos Liyehudo and head of a kollel in Tel Aviv.

Schlesinger family

Chassidus Ashkenaz Restored: HaRav Yechiel Schlesinger zt l -- 9th

Adar 5759, His Fiftieth Yahrtzeit

By Moshe Musman, based on the writings of Rabbi Aharon Surasky and

Rabbi Sholom Meir Wallach

Part I


HaRav Yechiel Schlesinger zt l, rosh yeshiva and founder of Yeshivas

Kol Torah, Yerushalayim, lived - almost - in our own times. His

yeshiva, one of the largest and best known in Eretz Yisroel today, has

a major role in the growth of the Torah community there, and in other

countries. The most important and immediate lessons to be learned from

him are to be gained from studying his character: his love of Torah,

his brilliance, his human qualities, his zeal and alacrity, his

single-minded dedication to spreading Torah and above all, his fear of

Heaven and of sin, that are noticeable at every point in his life. Yet

our account starts long before HaRav Schlesinger was born, and it

includes much background material along the way, on the premise that

the more detailed the portrayal and the fuller the context, the

greater will be the impact of his story.

The spiritual and cultural tempest which beset German and Central

European Jewry over two centuries ago with the coming of the

"enlightenment," ravaged the spiritual glory of old and established

communities that had existed in those lands for many hundreds of

years. In the birthplace of the Reform movement, by the mid-nineteenth

century, there remained in the large cities, relatively speaking, just

a handful of families that remained steadfast in their faith and in

their commitment to Torah. Yet those few still exemplified the deep

yet simple faith, the Torah scholarship, the righteousness and piety

and the nobility of character that had once typified the Jews of their


From amongst them arose a number of valiant individuals, who led the

faithful remnant and voiced their protest over the grave damage that

had been and was being wreaked upon their brethren. However, even

though gedolei Yisroel of the stature of the Oruch Leneir, the

Wurtzburger Rav and HaRav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt l, were worthy

defenders of authentic Judaism, revered by all segments of world

Jewry, they could not reverse the clock. It was too late to repair the

damage caused by the tides that had passed over German Jewry and swept

its spiritual treasures away.

Besides these gedolim, whose names and work have remained well-known

to Torah Jews all over, there existed numerous other great

individuals, who lived, who taught and who led the faithful among the

German communities. Their spiritual stature too, recalled the

chassidei Ashkenaz in the period of the Rishonim and was a continuum

with the glory of German Jewry during the five centuries that

followed. It was to these men that the Seridei Eish was referring when

he wrote, "It ought to be recorded for posterity that amongst the

German rabbonim were tzaddikim, men of piety and holiness, to whom

multitudes would have flocked in other countries, to benefit from the

radiance of their Torah and [their] yirah" (ShuT Seridei Eish, chelek

II, siman 53).

Many of these great men are not better-known today both because of

their own deep humility and also because owing to what had happened --

and the fear of it happening elsewhere -- it unfortunately became

common to regard German Jewry in its entirety as being somehow

tarnished. And indeed, despite the presence of such truly illustrious

individuals, there was no way back for the multitudes. It was only

along HaRav Hirsch's path of Torah im Derech Eretz that sizable

numbers of Yidden were able to remain within or to rejoin, the ranks

of Orthodoxy.

In the following articles, we survey the ancestry, the life story and

the work of one of the contemporary chassidei Ashkenaz: HaRav Yechiel

Schlesinger zt'l.

Although HaRav Schlesinger only attained his full stature by drinking

from the Torah wellsprings of the Hungarian and Eastern European

yeshivos of his time, he represented a type of greatness that is

associated with earlier generations of German tzaddikim. He blended

Torah greatness with exceptional piety, absolute integrity and intense

holiness. A scion of a long and noble line of German Jewish ancestors,

HaRav Schlesinger was a key figure in the transplantation of one of

the withered branches of German Jewry to the holy soil of Eretz

Yisroel, where it flourished anew, in healthy spiritual surroundings.

HaRav Schlesinger's immediate goal upon arriving in Eretz Yisroel in

mid 5699 (1939), was to establish a yeshiva for the sons of the olim

and refugees from the German lands. Although the number of such

families among the Torah faithful members of the new yishuv was

continually increasing, there was no Torah institution to cater to

their own distinctive character and orientation. The need for such an

institution was urgent, for the result of them not finding their place

in the Torah community would likely be their absorption into

institutions that belonged to other, less committed ideologies. HaRav

Schlesinger also envisioned the establishment of a Torah community

grouped around the yeshiva, that would work to recapture some of the

spiritual glory of German Jewry in its heyday.

Heaven willed otherwise however, and the vision was not realized in

its entirety. After literally giving his entire life to his talmidim

and to the yeshiva which he built for them, HaRav Schlesinger was

called to the yeshiva shel ma'aloh at the early age of fifty, just

under ten years after the yeshiva's opening. In the half century that

has passed since then, the institution which he founded in

Yerushalayim with such purity of intention and self- sacrifice, has

flourished. Yeshivas Kol Torah gradually became, and today remains,

one of the largest and foremost yeshivos gedolos in Eretz Yisroel,

where some of the finest students in Eretz Yisroel's yeshiva community

learn alongside many bochurim from communities all around the world

whom the yeshiva attracts. In many respects, the indelible impression

of HaRav Schlesinger's ideals and ambitions has always shaped the

yeshiva and the education it has provided, as the thousands of alumni

in Eretz Yisroel and around the Jewish world attest.

Our survey of the rosh yeshiva's family background -- peopled by

eminent personalities who are worthy of study in their own right -- is

followed by the story of his yeshiva years in some of the prewar Torah

centers of Hungary, Germany and Lithuania, and the period of his

rabbonus in Frankfurt which culminates in the riveting account of his

and his family's last minute escape from Nazi Germany.

With HaRav Schlesinger's arrival in Eretz Yisroel, the focus of story

shifts to the painstaking work of establishing a yeshiva tailored for

the needs of a particular group, while remaining dedicated to the

highest ideals of the yeshiva world, and the ongoing, sober yet

impassioned presentation of age-old truths to the wider community,

upon which the success of such an endeavor depends. Above and beyond

the fascinating interaction of differing traditions and approaches

which was played out in HaRav Schlesinger's experiences, and most

important for us, is the portrait which emerges of a great marbitz

Torah who dedicated every fiber of his being to drawing his fellow

Jews closer to Torah and to raising new generations of bnei Torah, who

would always remain firmly bound to the strong roots he enabled them

to sink in the beis hamedrash.

@SUB TITLE = Reb Getschlik Schlesinger: Talmid of the Oruch Leneir

In 5596 (1836), HaRav Yaakov Ettlinger zt'l, the author of the Oruch

Leneir, set out from Mannheim, where he had headed his own yeshiva in

the town's kloiz for ten years, on his way to Altona in response to

that community's invitation that he serve as their rov. He was

accompanied in this move by two of his greatest and closest talmidim,

who were to assist him in opening a yeshiva in his new domain.

One of the two was HaRav Elyokim Getzel Schlesinger zt'l (who was also

known as Reb Getschlik), to whom several teshuvos in Binyan Tzion and

in Oruch Leneir on Yevomos are addressed. Some of the details of that

trip, which have been handed down by family members, give an idea of

the complete dedication to Torah and the degree of immersion in its

study which typified those generations.

As the two talmidim did not possess sufficient means to hire a coach,

they made their way from Mannheim to Altona on foot -- a distance of

some five hundred kilometers. At night, they lodged at inns along the

way and spent most of the dark hours immersed in Torah discussions.

HaRav Schlesinger was eventually called to Hamburg to head the local

kloiz, where the sound of Torah study could be heard virtually around

the clock. Despite his sharp mind, his piercing intellect and his

broad Torah knowledge, Reb Getschlik did not adopt the title Moreinu,

since this honor was reserved for ordained rabbonim only. Since they

were not informed otherwise, it was assumed by everyone that the new

head of the kloiz never had semichah conferred upon him.

Five years after Reb Getschlik's arrival, an additional maggid shiur

was engaged to help teach the growing numbers of lomdim in the kloiz.

Although the new teacher had received semichah, and was perfectly

entitled to be called Moreinu, for the community to do so would be

awkward for it would give the misleading impression that Reb Getschlik

was somehow subordinate to him. The problem was solved when a letter

arrived in Hamburg from the Oruch Leneir himself, informing the

community that his talmid Reb Getschlik actually had received a

semichah from him years earlier, but out of modesty he had been

reluctant to have it known, and had even asked his rebbe to help him

keep it a secret. Now, however, in view of the circumstances, the

Oruch Leneir felt that it was correct to make it known that the

community's first teacher also fully deserved the title Moreinu.

It was not just his title that Reb Getschlik made efforts to conceal.

He also hid the true extent of his Torah greatness. One Purim, having

fulfilled the mitzvos of the day, a slightly inebriated Reb Getschlik

was asked if he would agree to be tested on his knowledge of

mishnayos. The retort was, "Do you imagine I'm drunk?" and it was

accompanied by Reb Getschlik's ready agreement to tackle questions on

any mishna anywhere in Shas. Whichever mishna his colleagues started

reading from, he continued by heart. After completing the text of the

mishna, he went on to repeat the comments of the Bartenura and ended

up with the Tosfos Yom Tov. Some hours later however, Reb Getschlik

deeply regretted his uncharacteristic behavior and he used it as an

example to his own talmidim of the dire consequence of indulging in

too much drink.

Reb Getschlik's greatness was recognized by the members of his

generation, both great and small. In a reply to someone who had

written asking him about repenting his sins, HaRav Ezriel Hildesheimer

zt'l, wrote, "As to giving advice about undertaking fasts and the like

-- I am not the man to consult. However, for this purpose, I know a

man of G-d, who is like very, very few others that I know, the rav and

gaon Rabbi Getz Schlesinger, an extraordinary talmid chochom, a holy

and a pure man. He may be able to make tikunim available to you."

Rav Binyomin Ze'ev Jacobson zt'l, relates that Reb Getschlik was the

only rov in Germany who was referred to by people as hakodosh. There

were many who travelled to Hamburg to seek a brocho from him, among

them a young R' Yaakov Rosenheim zt'l, who recalled in his memoirs

being taken by his father to Hamburg when he was eighteen years old to

see Reb Getschlik. The latter's grandson, HaRav Yechiel (he was

sometimes also known as "Michel" which is a diminuitive for the name

"Yechiel"), knew that stories circulated about how his grandfather's

prayers and blessings had been instrumental in various wondrous

occurrences and events.

For the rest go to: http://www.eilatgordinlevitan.com/kurenets/k_pages/schlesinger.html

view all 17

Rabbi Yechiel Michl Schlessinger's Timeline

July 31, 1898
Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
November 11, 1938
Age 40
emigrated from Frankfurt to Switzerland; April 1939, to Jerusalem
March 10, 1949
Age 50
Jerusalem, Israel
Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany