Hatam Sofer

Hatam Sofer

One of the ideologists of modern Orthodox Judaism, the leader of Hungarian Jewry, a prominent rabbi and halakhist.
Country: Germany

  1. Biography of Hatam Sofer
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Marriage and Leadership
  4. Expansion and Influence
  5. Personal Life and Legacy

Biography of Hatam Sofer

Hatam Sofer, born in Frankfurt am Main, was a prominent figure in the contemporary Orthodox Judaism movement. He was a leader of Hungarian Jewry, a renowned rabbi, and a halachic authority.

Early Life and Education

Hatam Sofer displayed exceptional abilities from a young age, and by the age of 13, he had already given profound halachic lessons to respected rabbis. He studied under Rabbi Nathan Adler, Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz, and Rabbi Mordechai Banet, all of whom bestowed upon him the title of rabbi.

Marriage and Leadership

He married the daughter of Rabbi Prosnitz (Prostejov) and later became the rabbi of Dressnitz (Strazhnitsa) in 1794 and Mattersdorf (Mattersburg) in 1798 in Hungary, which is now modern-day Austria. In Mattersdorf, Hatam Sofer established a yeshiva that soon became one of the largest in Hungary. His most famous student was Rabbi Meir Ash, who would later become the rabbi of Uzhgorod.

Expansion and Influence

In 1806, Hatam Sofer was invited to serve as the rabbi of Pressburg (Bratislava), which was the Jewish center of Hungary at the time. He transferred his yeshiva to Pressburg, and it quickly gained worldwide acclaim, with over 500 students. Many of the leading rabbis of the next generation in Hungary passed through this yeshiva.

Personal Life and Legacy

Hatam Sofer was married twice. His first wife, Sarah, the daughter of Moshe from Prosnitz, passed away in 1812. Their marriage was childless. He then married Sarah, the daughter of Rabbi Akiva Eger, a renowned halachic authority and rabbi of Poznan. Hatam Sofer had four children with his second wife, all of whom inherited his positions.

He is considered one of the founders of modern Judaism, alongside Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov and the Vilna Gaon. Thanks to Hatam Sofer's efforts, the religious level of Hungarian Jews significantly improved. Towards the end of his life, Jews from all over Europe and Palestine sought his counsel. He vehemently opposed the reform movement, asserting that any innovations were forbidden by the Torah, though he supported the establishment of schools that taught professions.

Hatam Sofer emphasized the importance of the commandment to live in the Land of Israel, and many of his students settled in Palestine, creating new neighborhoods and settlements. The most famous of these are Petah Tikva and the Hungarian Quarter in Jerusalem. Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and the founder of the "Edah Haredit" community, was a disciple of Tzvi Manheimer, who himself was a student of Hatam Sofer. Sonnenfeld consistently followed the teachings and rulings of his teacher's teacher in his own activities.