He entered the Volozhin yeshiva when he was only twelve years old, and remained there until its close in the winter of 1892. He then went to learn with his mentor, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, in Brisk for the next four years. It was Rav Chaim that referred to him as the "Meitscheter Illui" ("[Talmudic] genius [from] Meitchet"). Chaim Soloveitchik commented that in all his life, he had never come upon a genius of the measure of the Meitscheter.
Polachek went on to become the rosh yeshiva in yeshivos in Lida and Białystok. At the invitation of Rabbi Dr. Dov Revel, Polachek arrived in America in 1922 to become a rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) the rabbinical school of Yeshiva University and its Yeshiva College, America's first yeshiva. He taught at RIETS for six years until his sudden passing in 1928.
Polachek held some broad-minded views relative to some of his contemporaries. For example, in Jeffrey S. Gurock's Judaism's Encounter with American Sports (Indiana University Press), Polachek is described as:
- ...Polachek was silent on the importance of gyms and teams within the school [Yeshiva University]. But reportedly he did harbor a positive view of yeshivas encouraging students physical fitness. It was a Maimonidean-style point of view that [Bernard] Revel could have counted upon if he were ever challenged about what was going on in his Torah school..."
Following the sudden passing of Polachek in 1928, Shimon Shkop was persuaded to replace him for a short period of time. His children, such as his daughter Rebbetzin Libby Moshowitz, married to Rabbi Dr. Israel Mowshowitz, and two sons, one who received a PHd and one who became a doctor were notable in their own right.
- Brisk yeshivas and methods
- Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor (Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spector, for whom RIETS is named)
- yutorah.org: "Rabbi Shlomo Polachek"
- bklyn-genealogy-info.com "Yeshiva College pre-1934"
- Jeffrey S. Gurock (2005). Judaism's Encounter with American Sports. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34700-9.
- Levine, Yitzchok: "Time In A Bottle: RIETS, Circa 1928" Jewish Press, December 29, 2004
- "Paid Notice: Deaths
MOWSHOWITZ, LIBBY". New York Times. 1998-06-17. Retrieved 2008-08-09.
- W. Helmreich. The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portrait of Orthodox Judaism. Yale University Press, 1986 (Revised Edition, 2000).
- M. Sherman. Orthodox Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook. Greenwood Press, 1996.
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