Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman
The Chazon Ish once testified that Reb Elchanan totally fulfilled the principle I placed G-d before me at all times. In a generation renowned for its many great Roshei Yeshivot, he was distinguished not only for his great learning but for the impact his personality made on his students.
Elchanan was born in Birz, Lithuania.
He studied in the Telshe Yeshiva under R. Shimon Shkop.
In 1897 he met R. Chaim Brisker and became his disciple. Whereas R.
Shimon was concerned with the why R. Chaim said One has to know
what is stated, not why.
Reb Elchanan was deeply influenced by both but eventually developed
his own approach.
new era began for Reb Elchanan when he met the Chofetz Chaim in 1907.
Though he had already served with noted success as Yeshiva head of
Amtchislav and was now a mature man of 32, he joined the Kodoshim Kollel of
the Chofetz Chaim.
Reb Elchanan viewed the Chofetz Chaim as a living Torah and trembled
in his presence.
The Chofetz Chaim became Reb Elchanans lifetime role model.
In 1910 he became a Rosh Yeshiva in Brisk until the outbreak of the
war in 1914.
In 1921, he became head of the Yeshiva Ohel Torah in Baranovitch,
where he remained for the rest of his life.
Because of his great influence the Yeshiva grew and, in spite of its
abysmal poverty, attracted many hundreds of disciples.
his role as yeshiva head, Reb Elchanan was deeply involved in communal
matters, and was active in Agudas Israel.
In addition to his lectures and Talmudic writings, he was also a
thinker and interpreter of contemporary events and his ideas were published
in a book of essays (Kovetz Maamorim).
He maintained that just as the Torah provides guidance in strictly
halachic matters, it also provides illumination of the era in which we live.
Thus, for example, his essay, The Footprints of the Messiah,
presented a sweeping view of modern life.
Two of his main points are the rapid pace with which the world is
developing in contrast to previous generations and the idol of nationalism
which he saw as striving to replace Torah as the central factor of Jewish
visited America in 1939 and though, he could have remained and avoided the
imminent catastrophe, he never considered it as a possibility. He felt that
he must return to his Yeshiva and be with his students.
on a visit to Kovno the Germans declared war on Russia and Reb Elchanan was
unable to return to the yeshiva. On July 6, 1941 Reb Elchanan was studying
in the house of R. Avrohom Grodzensky, in the company of a group of
scholars, when four armed Lithuanians came in shouting and taunting.
It was obvious that the end was near and Reb Elchanan spoke his last
Heaven apparently considers us righteous people, for it wants us to atone with our bodies for Jewry as a whole. So we must repent now...if we repent, we will thereby save the remaining Jews, our brothers and sisters, so that they will be able to carry on as the remnant of Jewry.
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.