Moshe Sofer (The Chasam Sofer)
mention the Chasam Sofer is to evoke an aura of unique awe.
He was a towering figure sent by the Almighty to lead his people
during a period of great turbulence and transition.
The gates of the ghetto had been ruptured and unprecedented
opportunities beckoned Jews to take advantage of the new situation. In one
generation the Jewishness of the Chasam Sofers native Frankfort was
devastated. Reform was making inroads. The Chasam Sofer became Rabbi of
Pressburg in 1806, where he remained for thirty-three years. From there he
showed the way to maintain authentic Jewish life through strong communal
life, first class education and uncompromising opposition to Reform and
the eve of WWII Rabbi Meir Shapiro visited Prague and Pressburg and found
that Pragues Judaism lay in its famous cemetery, while Pressburgs
Judaism was very much alive. Rabbi Shapiro attributed the contrast to the
firm approach of the Chasam Sofer in Pressburg as compared with the
conciliatory, compromising approach of the leaders of Prague.
was the power of the Chasam Sofer? It was his sense that he represented the
Jewish people of his generation. This historic sense manifested itself in
many ways. For example, his son, Rabbi Shimon Sofer once asked him how he
could respond to complex halachic
questions so rapidly? To which the Chasam Sofer replied that in each
generation G-d sends an individual to guide his people. Since most questions
come to him he must be that person in this generation. Therefore, even if
the rationale he gave for a ruling could be refuted, the ruling itself was
correct since it was divinely directed. On another occasion he wrote that in
40 years of deciding halachic questions he changed his mind only twice and
even in those two instances he should not have reversed himself.
was a great teacher and had thousands of disciples. His son, Shimon quotes
his father as saying, that from the day he began teaching no day-except the
ninth of Av passed when he failed to teach Torah to a large group. Those who
knew him sensed a divine spirit within him. His illustrious father-in-law,
Rabbi Akiva Eger, referred to an aguna case in which the Chasam Sofer
uncovered the truth by questioning the witnesses in an unexpected manner and
commented, I saw how great is the power of Zaddikim
the spirit of G-d
spoke within him. It was the Chasam Sofers custom to record his
daughters birth with the remark,
and with G-ds help I will lead
her to the Chupah.
When his younger daughter, Simcha was born, he omitted that statement. As it
turned out he died shortly before her wedding.
was devoted to the Land of Israel and encouraged settlement. At the same
time he was a loyal citizen and saw no contradiction.
he was a forceful and regal leader, he was gentle, caring shepherd of his
flock. He prayed with great fervor. Though a halachic decisor of the first
caliber, he was possessed of a remarkably poetic soul who composed divine
poetry between Yom
Kippur and Sukkot every
writings are voluminous. Some of his more popular works are the Responsa,
the Derashot, and the Toras Moshe. He even wrote a remarkable description
(Sefer HaZikaron) of Napoleons siege of Pressburg in 1809, describing the
miraculous fate of the Jewish population of Pressburg.
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.