Rabbi Meir Leibush Zatzal • “The Malbim”

Rav Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel (the Malbim) is universally known in all Jewish communities as one of the great commentators of the Bible. Almost all Jewish homes possess his commentary. He was a genius, an extraordinary man who knew every field of Torah perfectly well. He was 20 years old when he was given the title “The Prince of Torah,” and all the great of his era regarded him with great esteem.

Rabbi Yossef Dov Soloveitchik, the Rav of Brisk, once said that the Malbim’s explanation of the verse that states, “When I shall seize the appointed time, I shall judge with fairness. The earth and all its inhabitants are melted. I have firmly established its pillars” (Psalms 75:3-4) would have been impossible for a man to formulate unless Ruach Hakodesh rested on him.

The Malbim began to write his commentaries and explanations on the Bible and Talmud at the age of 13. In the introduction to his book Artsot HaHaim he wrote, “When I was 13 years old, as a solitary bird in the nest of wisdom, my soul was awakened to the enchanting voice of the love of study, a voice that sang in my ear. The spirit of Torah that had always accompanied my fathers had awoken my mind from its sleep, and thus the rapid plume of a scribe was in my right hand. I wrote and brought forth new explanations, and the hand of G-d gave me strength.”

Due to his great reputation in Torah and the strength yet gentleness of his words, he was accepted as the Rabbi of Warsaw in 1839, He stayed there seven years, during which time he established numerous organizations aimed at strengthening religious life.

During the course of his life, he was appointed as Rabbi of different communities: Kempen, Prussia (for his contemporaries, he was known as “the Kempener”); Bucharest, the capital of Romania; Koenigsberg, Germany; and Mohilev, Russia. His many travels from town to town and from country to country testified to the fact that he found no satisfaction in the rabbinate, for by his nature he was courageous. He was a man of truth, a man with firm opinions, and a man who never flattered those who could help him. He fought against the atheists who introduced “reform” into religion, as well as against the rich who did not give enough for the poor. All this brought him many enemies, men who pursued him without giving him rest. He was also denounced as an “enemy of the state,” however Rabbi Meir Leibush did not let himself be distressed by this, and he continued to lead the fight for truth and honesty. Those people who understood the purity of his heart and his way of life loved him enormously. They came to see him in droves in order to hear his talks and to take advantage of his holy words.

The Malbim lived 69 years, and his name is forever enshrined among the great commentators of the Bible.




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