Avraham Yitzchak Bloch

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Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Bloch (Hebrew: אברהם יצחק בלוך‎; 1891 – 1941) was the Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of the Telz Yeshiva in Lithuania, and one of the greatest pre-Holocaust Rabbinic figures.

Rabbi Bloch was born in 1891 and was the second son of Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch, the Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of Telz. He represented the third generation of family leadership in Telz, as his grandfather Rabbi Eliezer Gordon was also Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Telz.

Rabbi Bloch was educated by both his father and grandfather and on account of his brilliance and intellectual ability, was appointed to the faculty of the Telz Yeshiva when he was only thirty five years old.

Telzer Rav and Rosh Yeshiva[edit]

Upon the death of Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch in 1929, it was widely assumed that Rabbi Yosef Leib's oldest son, Rabbi Zalman Bloch would succeed his father as Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of Telz, as was the custom in many communities. At the funeral of Rabbi Yosef Leib, however, Rabbi Zalman Bloch announced that the positions should be filled by his younger brother, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak.

At the young age of 38, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Bloch succeeded his father in the dual role of Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of Telz, which was one of the largest and most prestigious yeshivas in Europe.

Serving in these capacities, Rabbi Bloch understood the diverse points of view of community members, while, simultaneously, upholding the Torah perspective. Sensitive to the material as well as the spiritual needs of his students, he traveled to the United States in 1928 on a successful fundraising campaign.

Rabbi Bloch continued to develop the educational methodology pioneered by his father. This method is known as the Telzer Derekh, a unique analytical approach to Torah study.

Rabbi Bloch was also a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the Agudath Israel and participated at the third Knessia Gedolah of the Agudath Israel at Marienbad, Austria in 1937.

World War II[edit]

In 1940, the town of Telz was invaded by Soviet forces. Shortly thereafter, the yeshiva was forced to surrender its main building for use as a Red Army barracks. The yeshiva students, however, remained in Telz, where they rented accommodation from local townsfolk. This, however, also changed, when the Soviets forbade the renting out of rooms to yeshiva students. Rabbi Bloch responded by dispersing the yeshiva to five surrounding towns and arranging for members of the faculty to travel from town to town and deliver classes to the students.

On Tuesday July 15, 1941 (20th Tammuz), Nazi forces and local Lithuanian sympathizers massacred the male population of Telz, including Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Bloch and the faculty of the yeshiva.[1]

Three of Rabbi Bloch's daughters survived the Holocaust. One married Rabbi Baruch Sorotzkin who joined the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland and later served as the Rosh Yeshiva. Another married Rabbi Aizik Ausband, a student of Telz in Lithuania who is also a Rosh Yeshiva at the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland. The third daughter married Yosef Yehudah Leib Kleiner, together they escaped Europe during World War II and fled to Israel.

Published works[edit]

Rabbi Bloch was both a prolific writer and speaker, however, many of his writings were lost during the Holocaust. Some writings, however, were saved and some of Rabbi Bloch's students who escaped the Holocaust had notes of his lectures. Subsequently, Rabbi Bloch's family published:

  • Shiurei HaGrai Bloch on the Talmudic Tractates of Chullin and Yevamos.
  • Shiurei Daas - A collection of essays on a variety of topics viewed from the unique Telz method of analysis.