Shneur Zalman Fradkin
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Shneur Zalman Fradkin of Lublin (1830-1902), also known as the Toras Chessed (after his main work) or The Liader (after his place of birth), was a famous Chabad posek and gaon. He was a disciple of the third Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (also known as the Tzemach Tzedek).
The sixth Chabad Rebbe, Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, recalled that the local book dealer in Lubavitch would not let Fradkin see the books before purchasing them, because after flipping through the pages he had already memorized the whole book.
After marrying, Fradkin traveled to study from Rabbi Eliyahu Yosef of Drivin, where he became a great scholar. He resolved not to be sustained from the position of rabbi, but after losing all his possessions, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn instructed him to apply for the position of rabbi in Polotzk, Poland, to which Fradkin was later appointed in 1855.
Rabbi Fradkin and the Rebbes of Chabad
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn gave Fradkin an honored position among his followers, calling him a gaon, and having him take part in matters of the Beth din. He said that Rabbi Fradkin was so knowledgeable that he knew how many times the letter vav appears in the Talmud.
The fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, also held Fradkin in high esteem, and said of him, “even in the earlier generations he would have been considered a gaon!”
After staying in Polotzk for thirteen years, in 1868 Fradkin was appointed as rabbi of Lublin. This was a great honor, for only very few were allowed to be appointed as rabbis there.
Fradkin was a great posek, as can be seen from the testimony of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn: “I am busy and unable to respond ... pose the question to Rabbi Zalman of Polotzk (i.e., Rabbi Fradkin); you can rely on him.” Fradkin gathered the thousands of his responsa into his monumental work, Toras Chessed, published in two volumes (Warsaw, 1883, Jerusalem, 1909).
In the month of Adar, 5662, he declared to the astonishment of his students: “I can no longer tolerate this world of falsehood!” He died soon after, on 5 Nissan 5662 (1902), and is buried in the Chabad section of the Mount of Olives.
- ”The Gaon of Lublin”, Chananel, Kollel Chabad of Jerusalem.
- Promoters of Torah in the World of Chassidus, vol. 2, Rabbi Aharon Soroski, Pe’er.
- Chassidim Ha’Rishonim vol. 1, Yisrael Alfenbein, Kfar Chabad.