Yaakov Dovid Wilovsky

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Not to be confused with Rabbi David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra, known as the Radvaz.
Yaakov Dovid Wilovsky
Personal details
Born (1845-02-07)February 7, 1845
Kobrin, Russia
Died 1913

Rabbi Yaakov Dovid Wilovsky (February 7, 1845 – 1913), known by the acronym Ridvaz or Ridbaz, was a renowned rabbi, Talmudic commentator and educator.


Wilovsky was born in Kobrin, Russia. He was father-in-law of Rabbi Joseph Konvitz, who was president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America in the 1930s and played an instrumental role in ending a kosher butcher strike, and Rabbi Yisroel Yehonasan Yerushamski, the rabbi of Iehumen and father-in-law of Rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky.

Wilovsky held Rabbinic posts in Izabelin (other languages) (1874), Bobruisk (1876), Vilna (1881). Finding that the Vilna position distracted him from his studies, he resigned, and chose to serve as rabbi in a smaller community such as Polotsk (1883), Vilkomir (1887). In 1890 he became chief rabbi of Slutsk, where he established a noted yeshiva in 1896. He took general supervision, appointing Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer as principal.

Wilovsky freely used a copy of the Talmud Yerushalmi which the Vilna Gaon had annotated. After studying the Talmud Yerushalmi for thirty years and working steadily on his commentaries for seventeen years, Wilovsky began the publication of an edition of the Talmud Yerushalmi which included, besides his own, all the commentaries incorporated in former editions.

Since the subscription fund for his publication was exhausted before the fourth order Nezikin, was completed, Wilovsky travelled to the United States in 1900, where he succeeded in securing subscriptions for many sets of the work. Returning to Russia, he dedicated the Nezikin order to his American patrons.

From 1903 to 1905, Wilovsky returned to the United States. This time, he dropped his former name of Willowsky/Willovsky and assumed the name "Ridvaz" (Rabbi Yaakov David ben Ze'ev").

The United Orthodox Rabbis of America, at their annual meeting in Philadelphia in August 1903, elected Ridvaz as their zekan haRabbanim (elder rabbi), and on September 8, 1903, Ridvaz was elected chief rabbi of the Russian-American congregations in Chicago.

He tried to introduce order into the religious services of his congregations, but met obstruction and opposition on the part of a former rabbi and his followers. Unable to withstand the persistent opposition, Ridvaz resigned his position ten months later. Thereafter, he traveled extensively throughout the United States, lecturing and preaching. On returning to New York, he endeavored to establish a yeshiva based on the European model, but found little encouragement.

In 1905, Ridvaz left America and moved to Safed, where he established a yeshiva, Toras Eretz Yisrael, and entered into controversy with Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook over the proper observance of the Shemittah year.

Title page from Teshuvos haRidvaz


Ridvaz's most notable works were two commentaries on the Talmud Yerushalmi:

  • Chiddushei Ridvaz, modelled on Rashi's commentaries to the Talmud Bavli, explained the literal meaning of the text;
  • Tosfoth haRid (Piotrków, 1899–1900), modeled on the Tosafot. It compared and contrasted the significance of the text in question with other Talmudic and Halachic texts.

Ridvaz's other works include:

  • Migdal Oz (1874)
  • Migdal David (1874), novellae on both Talmuds;
  • Chana David (1876), commentary on Tractate Challah;
  • Teshuvoth haRidvaz (1881), responsa;
  • Nimmuké Ridvaz (1904), commentary on the Torah;
  • Beth Ridvaz, explanation of Rabbi Yisrael of Shklov's work Pe'ath Hashulchan.


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