RABBI YITZCHAK ELCHANAN SPECTOR (1817-1896)
RENOWNED LEADER OF WORLD JEWRY.
CHIEF RABBI OF NOVOHRODOK & KOVNO.
Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spector was one of the most famous Rabbis and Talmudic sages of the 19th century. He was born in Resh, government of Grodno, then part of the Russian Empire. His father, Yisrael Issar, was the rabbi of Resh and Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan's first teacher. Young Yitzchak Elchanan made remarkable progress in his Talmudical studies, and was soon famous as a child prodigy. After his marriage he settled in the city of Vilkovisk where his in-laws lived. He received a large dowry from his father-in-law to invest and thereby be enabled to continue his studies. He briefly studied under Rabbi Elijah Schick and later under the Rabbi Binyamin Diskin Rabbi of Vilkovisk who was so impressed with him that he paired him up with his own cherished son, the prodigy Rabbi Yehoshuah Leib Diskin, who later became the much celebrated Chief Rabbi of Brisk and later in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spector received his Rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Binyamin Diskin and also from the great Gaon Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac Chaver, Rabbi of Tiktin and Suwalki. In 1937 when Rabbi Spector was a mere twenty year old, he was forced to seek means of employment as his dowry was lost due to the bankruptcy of his debtor. He became the rabbi of the town of Sabelin near Vilkovisk. After two years he traveled to the city of Karlin where he met the famous Rabbi Yaakov Bruchin, Chief Rabbi of the city of Karlin and author of "Mishkenos Yaakov" and "Kehilat Yaakov" who was considered one of the foremost rabbis of Russia. Rabbi Yaakov Bruchin was so favorably impressed by Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan that he recommended him to the community of Baresa (Biaroza) who engaged him as Chief Rabbi. His fame in community matters and Rabbinical decisions grew rapidly.
In 1846 Rabbi Spector was appointed Chief Rabbi of Nishvez, government of Minsk. In 1851 he accepted the position of Chief Rabbi of Novohrodok. In 1864 he was appointed chief rabbi of Kovno, the most prominent rabbinical position at the height of 19th century Lithuanian Jewry. Rabbi Spector held this position until his passing in 1896.
Rabbi Spector was an indefatigable worker, and in the last forty years of his life, when he was steadily becoming more recognized as the foremost rabbinical authority in Russia, he maintained a large correspondence with rabbis, communities, philanthropists, and representative men in many parts of the world, who sought his advice and instruction on all conceivable subjects relating to Jews and Judaism. His sound reasoning and love of peace established him as truly one of the great leaders of Russian Jewry. He left great Talmudic works published under the name Be'er Yitzchok, Ein Yitzchok, and Nachal Yitzchok.
Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan was in close touch with all developments of the Holy Land and the Jewish communities living there. He collaborated with Rabbi Shmuel Salant (1816-1909), the Chief Rabbi of Jersalem on all matters of concern which affected Palestine and the welfare of the Yishuv Hayashan. He assisted Rabbi salant in the Rabbi Meir Baal Haneis charity and corresponded profusely in matters relating to the charity.
Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan passed away in Kovno on March 6, 1896. He was mourned by Jews worldover. May his memory be a blessing.