Rabbi Moshe Rivkes – The Author of Be’er HaGolah

Rabbi Moshe Rivkes was the son of Rabbi Naphtali Hirsch Sofer of Vilna, a great Torah scholar, and was known as a gaon and a tzaddik. In 5415, when Cossack hordes descended upon Vilna and committed widespread massacres, Rabbi Moshe fled the city along with Rabbi Shabtai Hacohen (the author of the Shach), Rabbi Ephraim Hacohen (the author of Sha’ar Ephraim), and Rabbi Aaron Shemuel Kaidanover (the author of Birkat HaZevach). They eventually found refuge in Amsterdam, where Rabbi Moshe was shown great respect. In Amsterdam he published his great work on the Shulchan Aruch, entitled Be’er HaGolah. It indicated the various sources for Halachic decisions, along with brief explanations to resolve contradictions among Poskim with differing viewpoints. At the beginning of Be’er HaGolah, Rabbi Moshe describes how he was hounded during all those months, though he still forced himself to maintain his regular hours of Torah study.

Rabbi Moshe yearned to return to Vilna, his hometown, and he was finally able to do so. Though he became very wealthy at one point, he devoted all his money to tzeddakah, leaving absolutely nothing for himself. He wrote a great number of books during his lifetime, which we can see from his will. In it he states how his books were to be shared among his sons, in order that they should continue to spread the light of Torah.

Rabbi Moshe Rivkes passed away in Vilna on Sivan 9, 5432, and his soul ascended to the celestial academy. May the memory of the tzaddik be blessed.




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