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Brisk It Is

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Topic: Brest, City of

Richard Brisk from Boston, MA wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

In your wonderful "Torah Weekly" commentary on Parshat Vayeshev, you wrote: "Rabbi Chaim of Brisk once asked..." This caught my attention because, throughout my childhood, my father told me the story of how his father's birthplace became our family name during his passage through Ellis Island, New York. Although I never doubted my father's story, I was never able to objectively verify it by either locating Brisk on a map or talking to someone who knew of such a town.

Your reference to Rabbi Chaim of Brisk changed that. I would greatly appreciate it if you would tell me something about where the city of Brisk is located, and something about the city itself. I am sorry to bother you about this trivial detail, but your reference to Rabbi Chaim of Brisk is a concrete information that lends credence to that dream-like story my father used to tell me. With great respect from Boston, Mass,

Richard A. Brisk

Dear Richard A. Brisk,

Yes, Brisk in Lithuania was a famous Torah center, and home of the illustrious family of Talmudic scholars, the Soleveitchik family. Perhaps the best known of this family was Rabbi Chaim Soleveitchik, renowned for his novel and penetrating analysis of the Talmud. Today, there are several "Brisk" yeshivot in Israel and abroad.

I have been told that what we refer to as Brisk is today known as the city of Brest.

And did you say you are from Boston? Boston was home to the renowned Torah Scholar Rabbi Yosef Ber Soleveitchik who recently passed away. He was a grandson of the Rabbi Chaim of Brisk mentioned in our article.

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