Mordechai Gifter

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Mordechai Gifter
Position Rosh Yeshiva
Yeshiva Telz Yeshiva
Began 1964
Ended January 18, 2001
Predecessor Chaim Mordechai Katz
Personal details
Born October 15, 1915
Portsmouth, Virginia
Died January 18, 2001
Nationality American
Denomination Haredi Orthodox Judaism
Parents Yisroel Gifter
Children 6
Binyomin Gifter
Zalman Gifter
Yisroel Gifter
Daughter Eisenberg
Shetichye Reisman
Daughter Feuer

Rabbi Mordechai Gifter (October 15, 1915 - January 18, 2001) was the rosh yeshiva of the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland and among the foremost religious leaders of Orthodox Jewry in the late 20th century. He studied in yeshivas in Lithuania and held several rabbinical positions in the United States of America.

Biography[edit]

Mordechai Gifter was born in 1915, in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was raised in Baltimore, Maryland where his father Reb Yisroel owned a grocery. He attended the Baltimore City Public Schools and received his religious education in after-school programs. He had a younger brother and sister, both who predeceased him.

As a young man Gifter studied in the Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University in New York, New York, under the tutelage of Rabbi Moshe Aaron Poleyeff and Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik. His uncle, Dr. Samuel Saar, was the Dean of the Seminary. In 1932 at Saar's advice, Gifter traveled to Lithuania to study in the Telshe Yeshiva.

Gifter was immediately accepted for admission and placed in advanced classes. He developed a strong bond with Rabbi Zalman Bloch, the Dean of Students at the yeshiva. He eventually became engaged to Bloch's daughter. In 1937, prior to his wedding, Gifter returned home to the United States to visit his parents in Baltimore. He planned on returning to Lithuania for his wedding and to resume his studies.

When it became obvious that he would be unable to return due to the political climate of the late 1930s, he arranged for his bride's family to join him in the United States. Only his bride came; the family chose not to abandon their community in its time of greatest need. The Gifters married in Baltimore, with Mrs. Gifter's family still in war-torn Lithuania.

Shortly thereafter, Gifter was appointed to the pulpit of the Nusach Ari Synagogue in northwest Baltimore. He soon became well known as an invigorating speaker and refined orator. His lectures and addresses became popular throughout the Baltimore area, and his national reputation began to grow as well. In addition to his rabbinic position Gifter was appointed an adjunct lecturer at the expanding Ner Israel Rabbinical College headed by Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman. He was the first native Baltimorean to lead a congregation in the city.

In 1941 Rabbi moved to Waterbury, Connecticut and assumed a rabbinic pulpit in that community. In 1944 Rabbi Gifter was called to moved to Cleveland, Ohio to join the faculty of his alma mater, the newly re-established Rabbinical College of Telshe, which was moved from Telshe, Lithuania to Cleveland. The original school and Telshe community were almost completely destroyed by the Nazis and Lithuanian militia. In 1964 he was appointed assistant Dean to Rabbi Boruch Sorotzkin.

In 1977, Rabbi Gifter brought 20 students from Cleveland to Israel and opened a branch of the college in the town of Kiryat Ye'arim (Telz-Stone) near Jerusalem, leaving Rabbi Sorotzkin in charge of the Cleveland campus. In addition to teaching his students, Rabbi Gifter delivered a shiur (Torah lecture) on the Minchas Chinuch on Fridays in Jerusalem, attracting many Torah scholars. Notes from that shiur were eventually compiled in a sefer called Pitei Mincha. When Rabbi Sorotzkin died in 1979, Rabbi Gifter was sent back to the United States to lead the Cleveland campus and the Israeli branch closed. Rabbi Gifter never recovered from the tremendous loss that he felt for his first love, Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), and did not return to his on-campus residence, but moved into small quarters in the students' dormitory to accentuate his feeling of being in "golus" (exile).[1]

For many years he led the presidium and leadership council (Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah) of Agudath Israel of America. He was one of the electrifying speakers in the Jewish world. Rabbi Gifter maintained a relationship with his first faculty position at Ner Israel Rabbinical College, returning to Baltimore annually to visit his daughter and son-in-law and friends.

Gifter died in 2001, having suffered numerous ailments (Alzheimer's Disease) for many years prior to his death.

He was eulogized by Rabbi Dovid Barkin amongst others.

He was survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters. His eldest son Rabbi Binyomin Gifter who together with his brothers are working on publishing the works of his father; His son-in-law Rabbi Ephraim Eisenberg served as Lecturer and Associate Dean of Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore prior to his death in 2002. His grandson, Avraham Yitzchok 'Yitz' Eisenberg, owns Creative Kids, a parent/teacher store in Lakewood, NJ.

Other survivors are his son Rabbi Yisroel Gifter of Lakewood, New Jersey. and his sons in law Rabbi Yaakov Reisman, Rav of Congregation Agudath Yisroel of Long Island in Far Rockaway, New York and Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, writer, author and lecturer and former rav of Kehillas Beis Avrohom of Monsey, New York, presently Shaarei Chessed, Jerusalem.

Works[edit]

Rabbi Gifter was a prolific writer. As a young man he authored articles on some of the most complicated issues in Jewish Law. They were published in the Talmudic law Journal of Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, Jerusalem, Israel.

He published numerous many books on Jewish Law, philosophy, theology and bible. He was a frequent contributor to many scholarly journals including the Western Reserve University Law Review.

Among his books are:

Hebrew:

  • Pirkei Torah - Commentary on the Bible.
  • Hirhurei Teshuva - Commentary on Maimonides' Laws of Repentance.
  • Pitei Mincha - Commentary on the Minchas Chinuch.
  • Pirkei Iyun - Commentary on the Talmudic Tractate Makkos.
  • Pirkei Moed - Commentary on the Festivals.

English:

  • Torah Perspectives - Essay on a variety of topics.
  • Pirkei Torah - Commentary on the Bible.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rose, Binyamin. "The Prince of America's Torah Renaissance: An appreciation of Rav Mordechai Gifter, ztz"l, on his tenth yahrtzeit". Mishpacha, 29 December 2010, pp. 33–34.