One of the leading halachic authorities of the 19th century, Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein (1829-1908) achieved immortality through his indispensable magnum opus Aruch Hashulchan. He grew up in Bobruisk in the Russian Pale of Settlement, and served for a decade as rabbi of Novozybkov, before assuming the helm of the prestigious Novardok community, where he’d serve as rabbi for the remaining 34 years of his life.
Known far and wide as a decisive posek in all realms of halacha, many aspiring Torah scholars would come to him to request rabbinical ordination. Among his many projects was overseeing the development of the local Novardok yeshiva of Rav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz, the Alter of Novardok. The seminal work, the Aruch Hashulchan, was a bold endeavor to encompass all of halacha in a clear summary fashion. Undaunted by the daunting financial liabilities he’d ultimately encounter in order to facilitate the printing of the multi volume set, and despite the heavy hand of the Czarist Russian censors, he successfully published multiple volumes in his lifetime, and reaped the fruits of his labor as it became popular across the Jewish world. His legacy of leadership, as well as his enduring influence on the world of halacha remains until this very day.
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