Shimon Sofer (Hungarian rabbi)

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Shimon Sofer
Shimon Sofer of Erlau.jpg
TitleRabbi of Erlau
Shimon Sofer

Died12 June 1944 (21 Sivan 5704)
  • Esther Fried
  • Glikle Birnbaum
  • Malka Esther Spitzer
ParentsRabbi Samuel Benjamin Sofer and Chava Leah Weiss
DenominationOrthodox Judaism
OccupationRabbi, rosh yeshiva
Jewish leader
SuccessorRabbi Moshe Sofer II
Not to be confused with Rabbi Shimon Sofer, known as the Michtav Sofer.

Shimon Sofer (II) (1850 – 2 June 1944)[1] was the Rav of the Hungarian city of Eger (Erlau) and the progenitor of the Erlauer Hasidic dynasty. His grandson, Rabbi Yochanan Sofer, was the Erlauer Rebbe in Israel.

Early life and family[edit]

Sofer was one of 10 children born to Rabbi Samuel Benjamin Sofer (1815 – 1872), known as the Ksav Sofer. The Ksav Sofer was the son of Rabbi Moses Sofer (1762 – 1839), known as the Chasam Sofer, the rabbi of Pressburg (present-day Bratislava) and the leading rabbinical figure of Orthodox Judaism in the Austrian Empire, as well as one of the greatest Talmudic scholars of his day.

Shimon Sofer studied and lived the early part of his life in Kleinwardein (today Kisvárda, Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county, Northern Great Plain region of eastern Hungary), a town boasting a large Jewish community. He was a diligent student, completing the Talmudic tractate of Beitzah six times before his bar mitzvah.[1]

In 1870 he married Esther Fried, daughter of Rabbi Yitzchak Fried of Kleinwardein. The couple had a daughter. Esther died after two years of marriage. In 1874 Sofer married his cousin, Glikle Birnbaum, the daughter of Rabbi Chaim Shmuel Birnbaum of the town of Dubno in western Ukraine. Rabbi Birnbaum was the son-in-law of Rabbi Akiva Eiger, Sofer's great-grandfather. The couple had a son, Akiva, but divorced soon after his birth.[1]

During this period, Sofer lived both in Uman and Kiev, where he became known as a brilliant Torah scholar. Despite his young age, he was offered the position of Chief Rabbi of Kiev, an offer he turned down.

Thereafter, he lived some two years in the Polish city of Krakow, in the company of his uncle, also named Rabbi Shimon Sofer (author of Michtav Sofer).[2]

In approximately 1875, Sofer returned to Pressburg and married another cousin, Malka Esther Spitzer, the daughter of Rabbi Zalman Spitzer of Vienna. With Malka, he had 13 children.[1]

Rabbi of Erlau[edit]

In 1881, Sofer was appointed rabbi of the Hungarian city of Eger (Erlau).[1][3] There he founded a large yeshiva which was attended by elite Torah scholars from throughout Hungary. This yeshiva became a foundation of the Erlau dynasty, a branch and direct link to the philosophy and teachings of Sofer's grandfather, the Chasam Sofer. Sofer delivered a daily shiur (Torah lecture) in the yeshiva and provided for his students' physical and spiritual needs. He also became a spokesman for Torah Judaism and fought to protect his community from the proponents of Neolog Judaism, a Hungarian reform movement. His fame spread throughout Hungary and he was offered prestigious rabbinical posts in other cities, but he chose to remain in the small community of Erlau, saying that he wished to raise his children away from a "big city atmosphere".[1]

As Sofer aged, one of his sons, Rabbi Moses Sofer (author of Yad Sofer), took on the role of Rav and dayan (rabbinical judge) of the town of Erlau. Rabbi Shimon Sofer was referred to by his congregation with the revered and affectionate title of "Rebbe".

In his old age, Sofer lost his eyesight, and one of his students would read aloud the Talmud with the commentaries of Rashi and Tosafos to him. Sofer would correct the boy whenever he made a mistake, as he possessed a phenomenal memory.[1]

Death and legacy[edit]

Ohel Shimon-Erlau Yeshiva in Katamon, Jerusalem, named after Rabbi Shimon Sofer.

Sofer led the Jewish community in Erlau for some 64 years. Shortly after the Germans occupied Hungary in May 1944, they placed the Jewish population in ghettos. In June, the Germans deported Sofer and his entire community – some 3,000 Jews[4] – to Auschwitz. They arrived on 21 Sivan (June 2), and were gassed a few hours later.[1] Sofer was 94 at the time of his death. His son, Rabbi Moshe Sofer, was murdered at the same time.[5]

Sofer authored a book of responsa, Hisorerus Teshuva (hence he is known as "The Hisorerus Teshuva"), and Shir Maon on the Torah. He was able to pay for the publication of these works only with the help of his wife, who sold all her jewelry to cover the printing costs. He also edited the works of his father and grandfather and prepared them for publication.[1]

Sofer's grandson, the late Rabbi Yochanan Sofer, re-founded the Erlau community in Israel in 1953. Rabbi Yochanan printed his grandfather's sefarim at the Institute for Research of the Teachings of the Chasam Sofer (Hebrew: מכון חת"ם סופר‎), which he established. Rabbi Yochanan also presided over the Ohel Shimon-Erlau Yeshiva, named in memory of Rabbi Shimon Sofer.


Sofer had 15 children from his three wives:

  • Mrs Gitel Frankel (Budapest)
  • Rabbi Akiva Sofer (Lvov)
  • Mrs Sara Deutch (died in the Holocaust)
  • Rabbi Shmuel Chaim Sofer (Rabbi of Zagreb, Croatia; died in Holocaust)
  • Rabbi Moshe Sofer (II) (Rabbi & Dayan of Eger (Erlau), Hungary; died in Holocaust)
  • Rabbi Yaakov Biyamin Sofer (Sátoraljaújhely, Hungary; died in Holocaust)
  • Mrs Rivka Pashkus
  • Rabbi Zalman Sofer (Bnei Brak, Israel)
  • Serach Pollack (died in Holocaust)
  • Rabbi Avraham Sofer (Jerusalem, Israel)
  • Mrs Chava Leah Weiss (died in Holocaust)
  • Mrs Rachel Rosenblatt (died in Holocaust)
  • Mrs Reiza Klein (died in Holocaust)
  • Rosa (died at early age)
  • Shlomo (died at early age)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Shdeour, E. Harav Shimon Sofer of Erlau, Hy"d. Hamodia, 23 June 2011, p. C2.
  2. ^ מוסרי הרמב"ם (in Hebrew) (2nd expanded ed.). ירושלים: מכון להוצאת ספרים וחקר כתבי יד ע"ש החתם סופר ז"ל. 1958. p. 9.
  3. ^ "Bidding Information". Virtual Judaica. 12 August 2008. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
  4. ^ Kaliv World Center (2002). Shema Yisrael: Testimonies of devotion, courage, and self-sacrifice, 1939 – 1945. Targum Press. p. 319. ISBN 1-56871-271-5.
  5. ^ Saltiel, Manny (2011). "Gedolim Yahrtzeits". Retrieved 7 July 2011.

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