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Men learning in the Brisk Yeshiva in Jerusalem of Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik.

The Soloveitchik dynasty of rabbinic scholars and their students originated the Brisker method of Talmudic study, which is embraced by their followers in the Brisk yeshivas. It is so called because of the Soloveitchiks' origin in the town of Brisk, or Brest-Litovsk, located in what is now Belarus. Many of the first Soloveitchik rabbis were the official rabbis of Brisk, and each in turn was known as "the Brisker Rov." Today, Brisk refers to several yeshivas in Israel and the United States founded by members of the Soloveitchik family.


The Soloveitchik dynasty

The Soloveitchik family includes many significant rabbinical forebears, most notably Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner, famed Talmudist and founder of the Volozhin yeshiva. Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner was a student of the Vilna Gaon, and thus some students of Brisk talk of a line of tradition extending "from Moses at Sinai, to Joshua, to the Elders ... to the Vilna Gaon, to Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner, and then to the Soloveitchik dynasty."

Some scholars, however, begin the Soloveitchik dynasty with Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik known as the Beis HaLevi, as he was the first rabbi of Brisk surnamed Soloveitchik. More significantly, the "Brisker style" described below can already be found to some degree in the Beis HaLevi's works, which is not the case for earlier ancestors.

All members of the Soloveitchik family are descended from the Tribe of Levi and thus sometimes go by the descriptor HaLevi. The surname "Soloveitchik" is Polish for nightingale; it was chosen by the family because the primary duty of the Levites in the Temple in Jerusalem was singing. (Note that the surname "Soloveitchik" can be spelled either as presented, or as "Soloveichik", without the "t". Throughout this article, "Soloveitchik" is used as the default, with the alternate spelling used for those rabbis—such as Moshe and Ahron Soloveichik—who spelled their names that way in English.)


The Beis HaLevi

Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (1820-1892), who is known by the title of his work, Beis HaLevi, served as rabbi of Brisk for much of his life. The works on the Mishneh Torah and first five books of the Hebrew Bible which Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik authored were titled Beis HaLevi (Hebrew for "House of the Levites"). Many people therefore refer to him simply as the Beis HaLevi, which also avoids the confusion with his two great-grandsons of the same name: (1) the son of Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik (1903-1993) who moved to the United States; and (2) the son of Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, Rabbi Berel Soloveitchik, who lived in Israel.

The Beis HaLevi succeeded Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin as rabbi of Brisk when the latter moved to Jerusalem in 1876. The Beis HaLevi had previously served as the rabbi of Slutzk, and before that, on the faculty of the Volozhin yeshiva.

Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik

The Beis HaLevi, was succeeded as rabbi of Brisk by his son, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik (1853-1918). He is most commonly known as "Reb Chaim Brisker" (Rabbi Chaim from Brisk). His primary work was Chidushei Rav Chaim HaLevi, a volume of insights on the Mishneh Torah which often would suggest novel understandings of the Talmud as well. He had two sons, Yitzchak Zev and Moshe.

Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik

Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik became known as The Brisker Rov when he succeeded his father as rabbi of Brisk. He was often known by the name Velvel', a Yiddish nickname for "little wolf". (Zev is Hebrew for "wolf".) He is also commonly known as the "GRYZ", an acronym for Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Zev ("genius rabbi Isaac Wolf"). He became famous enough that many people, however, refer to him simply as der Brisker Rov ("the rabbi of Brisk"). In fact, many in the Brisker yeshiva world in Israel refer to him simply as "The Rov". (In the Centrist Orthodox community, his nephew, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, is referred to as "the Rav" or "the Rov".)

Like his father and grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik published works based on the Mishneh Torah, often suggesting novel insights on the Talmud in the process. He fled the Holocaust and moved to the British Mandate of Palestine. His children and grandchildren live in Israel today, and have founded several yeshivas there, all known as "Brisk", based in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik

Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik's other famous son was Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik. His works on the Rambam are known as the Chiddushei haGram haLevi and "Chiddushei haGram ve'haGrid." He served as the Rabbi of Rasseyn and then of Chaslavich. He then moved to Warsaw where he served as rosh yeshiva of Tachkemoni. He moved to America in 1929 and was appointed as a rosh yeshiva at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). (While RIETS has at no point ever called itself a "Brisk yeshiva" per se, it was home for many decades to Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik and later his sons.) His sons were the famous Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, who lived in Boston and commuted to teach Talmud at Yeshiva University in Manhattan; Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Soloveichik, a chemist as well as a Talmudic scholar; and Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, who taught at Mesivta Rabbi Chaim Berlin and then at Yeshiva University. Rav Ahron founded and was the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Brisk in Chicago, Illinois.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was a son of Moshe Soloveichik. He succeeded his father as the senior Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS in New York. As rosh yeshiva of RIETS at Yeshiva University, he was affectionately renamed "The Rav", and ordained close to 2,000 rabbis over the course of almost half a century. He served as an advisor, guide, mentor and role-model for tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews as their Talmudical scholar and religious leader. He founded Maimonides School as the first Jewish day school outside the New York area in 1939; it continues to flourish today. He is often accredited with being the sole founder of Modern Orthodoxy, a denomination of American Jewry which believes that Jews must continue to practice Halakhic life while embracing modernity.

Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik

Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik was a son of Moshe Soloveitchik. He taught at Mesivta Rabbi Chaim Berlin and then at Yeshiva University. He eventually moved to Chicago and became rosh yeshiva at the Hebrew Theological College and later founded his own Brisk yeshiva in Chicago. After his brother Joseph became ill, beginning in 1986 he began to commute to New York City to lecture at RIETS as well. Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik died in 2001, and the Chicago Brisk Yeshiva became defunct a few years later as a Mesivta but remains active today as a Beth Medrash under Rabbi Ahron's eldest son, Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik. His grandsons include Rabbi Meir Soloveichik.

Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik

Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik (known as Reb Dovid) is the son of Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik. He is rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Brisk in the Gush Shemonim section of Jerusalem. He has yet to publish any works on the Talmud, but many of his works have been published by his students, especially in the latest Mishor prints of his father's works. He is considered by Briskers to be one of the last authentic remnants of a pre-WWII Jewish Lithuania.

Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik

Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik is the son of Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik and heads one of the Brisker Yeshivas in Jerusalem, which was attended by many Torah scholars, including the current Radziner Rebbe, Grand Rabbi Moshe Leiner. He should not be confused with Meir Soloveichik, the son of Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik.

Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik

Facade of Yeshivas Brisk in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik is the grandson of Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik. He succeeded his father, Rabbi Berel Soloveitchik, as the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Brisk in Jerusalem. This is the most prestigious of the yeshivas which bear the Brisk name and has even been called the "Harvard" of the yeshiva world.[1] Rabbi A. Y. Soloveitchik is a somewhat controversial figure as he has criticized some of the more "modern" right-wing Jewish organizations and figures.[citation needed]

Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik
Rabbi Berel Soloveitchik
Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik
Rabbi Yosef Dov (HaLevi) Soloveitchik
author of Beis HaLevi
Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik
"Reb Chaim Brisker"
Rabbi Yitzchak Zev (Reb Velvel) Soloveitchik
"The GRIZ"
The Rov
Lifsha Soloveitchik Feinstein
Dr. Tovah Soloveitchik Lichtenstein
Lifsha Shapiro
daughter of Rav Refoel Shapiro
Rabbi Refoel Soloveitchik
Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein
Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik
Dr. Atarah Soloveitchik Twersky
Rabbi Mosheh Twersky
Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. (Yosef Dov) Soloveitchik
"The Rav"
Rabbi Dr. Isadore Twersky
Rabbi Mayer Twersky
Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik
Rabbi Dr. Ahron Soloveichik
Rabbi Dr. Haym Soloveitchik
Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik
Peshka Feinstein Soloveichik
Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Soloveitchik
Rabbi Eliyahu Soloveichik
Shulamit Soloveitchik Meiselman
Rabbi Moshe Meiselman
Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik
Anne Soloveitchik Gerber
Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik
Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik
Rabbi Shmuel Chaim Soloveitchik
Rabbi Yitzchok Soloveitchik
Rabbi Yisroel Soloveitchik
Rabbi Yisroel Gershon Soloveitchik
Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik
Rabbi Boruch Soloveitchik
Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Soloveitchik
Daughter Soloveitchik, Wife of Rabbi Shlomo Zev Karlibach



In contrast to the Hasidic movement, all of the Soloveichik rabbis were a part of the Misnagdish Lithuanian yeshiva movement, and thus were strong believers in a traditional Talmudic education and, to a certain degree, intellect over emotion. However, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik made it clear that he was very much in touch with Hasidism, having lived for several years in Chaslavich, which was mostly Hasidic. Rabbi Soloveitchik once heard a certain Lubavitch Hasid who was a Kohen describing how torn he felt about his Kohen status prohibiting him from contact with the dead, when he so dearly wanted to visit the grave of the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn. Rabbi Soloveitchik replied in a letter which described his sympathy with the fellow's plight, stressing that he understood why visiting the rebbe's grave means so much to a Hasid.[citation needed]


The "Brisk dynasty" and their followers are known for a tendency towards strictness in the Halakha (Jewish law); if there is ever a doubt between two rabbinic opinions, the "Brisk way" is more likely to follow the more stringent one. For example, many yeshiva students will not only grow their payot as required by the Torah, but will also grow a sidelock of hair above, which they tuck behind their ears. These are known as "Brisker Peyos."


The innovative Brisk, or "conceptual" style of Talmudic analysis is described in the Brisker method article.


A great deal of controversy has erupted regarding the political sidings of the rabbis of Brisk. Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik and his descendants, who settled in Israel, have made their opinion clear that they oppose a secular Zionist state and thus show no support for the Israeli government. They are also opposed to yeshiva students having a secular college education.

In contrast, most of the Soloveitchiks who moved to the United States, including Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and his brother Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik, were generally warmly supportive of the State of Israel as well as what they perceive as a well-rounded college education.

Turning to their forbearers, Rabbi Chaim Brisker is quoted with some harsh statements against Zionism, though he lived in an era when Haredi anti-Zionism was far more prevalent.[2]

With regards to feminism, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik was proud to point out that on his parents' wedding invitation, his grandparents are listed as "Chaim & Lifsha" on one line, with "Soloveitchik" on the next line, centered between their names. This could be seen as more feminist than the "Rabbi & Mrs. So-And-So" (or in Hebrew, "Ploni BenPloni V'Rayaso") seen in many Haredi invitations today.

Today, however, most adherents of the Israeli Soloveitchiks follow the general Israeli Haredi, i.e. strongly right-wing, worldview regarding women's role in Jewish education and communal life. Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, and many of his students and descendants, on the other hand, have been guardedly more open to opportunities for women, Rabbi Soloveitchik himself delivering the opening Talmud lecture at Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women.

Thus, given how the world has changed in the twentieth century, and given the strong and varied views of their descendants, the views of Rabbi Chaim Brisker and the Beis HaLevi on Zionism, secular education, religious feminism, and modernism in general, are topics of current discussion.

The yeshivas

Acceptance into the Brisk yeshivas in Israel is usually dependent on two factors: a personal reference from someone known to the yeshiva's administration, most commonly the dean of the applicant's previous yeshiva, and meeting its (unpublished) criteria for entrance.

See also


  1. ^ Odenheimer, Micha (2005-01-28). "'Harvard' of the Haredim". Haaretz. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  2. ^ See the Anti-Zionism#Religious opposition page for more on historical trends of Haredi anti-Zionism.

External links


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