RABBI YECHIEL MICHEL HALEVI EPSTEIN (1829-1908)
Rabbi Yechiel Michel Halevi Epstein (1829-1908) is the celebrated author of the Aruch HaShulchan. He was a great Rabbi and authority of Jewish law in Lithuania.
Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein was born into a family of wealthy army contractors for the Czarist Russian army in Babruysk (presently in Belarus). His wife was the sister of Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (the Netziv), who would become the famed Rosh Yeshiva of the Volozhin Yeshiva. (Rabbi Berlin would later marry a daughter of Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein after being widowed of his first wife.)
After receiving Rabbinical ordination, Rabbi Epstein became the chief rabbi of Novozypkov, a town near Minsk. While living in Novozypkov he developed a close relationship to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (the Tzemach Tzedek). In 1863, Rabbi Epstein was appointed as chief rabbi of Navahrudak, where he would serve for 34 years, until his death. He soon became renowned as a great author and Posek (decider) of Jewish law.
Rabbi Yechiel Mechel was a prolific writer whose works include: Aruch HaShulchan, a work of Halacha; Aruch HaShulchan Ha'Asid, a parallel work to Aruch HaShulchan, summarising and analysing the laws that will apply in Messianic times; this work became more relevant when Jewish farming communities were re-established in Israel, since many agricultural laws which apply only in Israel are covered in this work.
Or La'Yesharim, a commentary on the classic work Sefer Ha'Yashar, attributed to the Tosafist Rabbi Yaakov ben Meir, Rabbeinu Tam.
Mical Ha'Mayim - a commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud.
Leil Shimurim - a commentary on the Haggada.
Rabbi Epstein was involved in many charitable endeavors. He was particularly close to Rabbi Shmuel Salant, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein wrote many letters extolling the virtues of supporting the Jewish settlement of Palestine and the obligation of all Jews to support the Rabbi Meir Baal Haneis Salant charity that Rabbi Salant founded in Israel in 1860.
Rabbi Yechiel Michel Halevi Epstein passed away on 22 Adar II 5668 (1908), one year prior to the passing of his dear friend and colleague Rabbi Shmuel Salant. He is buried in Navahrudak. May his memory be a blessing.