For the week ending 13 May 2017 / 17 Iyyar 5777

Rabbi Nisson Wolpin, zatzal

by Rabbi Ze'ev Kraines
Library Library Library

Ohr Somayach, together with the rest of Klal Yisrael, mourns the loss of Rabbi Nisson Wolpin, zatzal, who was one of the special individuals who worked tirelessly to build the Torah community in America, Israel and the world over many decades with his “pen that was mightier than the sword.”

As a close friend of our one of our Roshei Yeshiva, Rabbi Mendel Weinbach, zatzal, Rabbi Wolpin took a personal interest in the growth of Ohr Somayach and in the development of the fledgling “Teshuvah Movement” in general. In article after article Rabbi Wolpin publicized and promoted the new “teshuvah” phenomenon to a skeptical world.

Especially when the Yeshiva opened its first American branch in Yonkers back in 1977, Rabbi Wolpin took time off to come and give classes, as his schedule permitted. Perhaps more importantly, when bachurim who had just recently returned to Torah while in Israel came to New York, Rabbi Wolpin opened his home and heart to them, especially on Shabbat and Yom Tov, in order to make sure that their fragile commitment should not be lost. Even in his later years, when he moved to Jerusalem, across the street from Ohr Somayach, he gave a series of shiurim at the Yeshivah.

But it was as a pioneer of Torah journalism and literature that he made his mark and has left a legacy with the “Jewish Observer” magazine. For me, Rabbi Wolpin will always be a symbol of what one can accomplish for G-d and his Torah by articulating intelligently the Torah worldview for the English reading public. For over two generations, the authentic voice of our Torah leaders, past and present, rang out boldly, coherently, and unapologetically from its pages. Moreover, its translations of classic texts made their brilliant insights accessible to hundreds of men and women who lacked the skills to delve into the original Hebrew. Its biographies of major historical and contemporary leaders, later anthologized by Rabbi Wolpin in “The Torah Personality” and other volumes, inspired both yeshivah students and laymen to reach for greatness.

Surrounded as we are nowadays by Torah literature of high quality on every imaginable subject, it is hard for us to recall or imagine how dark and desolate our bookshelves were just a few decades ago. By his constant encouragement of young Torah scholars and eloquent women authors to hone their skills by contributing articles to the magazine, Rabbi Wolpin played a major part in the creation of the Torah revolution we all enjoy today. This author is honored to acknowledge Rabbi Wolpin’s guidance in enabling him to publish his first two articles in the Jewish Observer almost three decades ago.

The late Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, zatzal, once said, “The world is waiting for the individual.” Contrary to Marxist historical theory, it is not movements that produce great people, but great people who create movements. Rabbi Nisson Wolpin was one of those special individuals. May his memory — and legacy — be for a blessing!

  • Rabbi Ze’ev Kraines is the Rav of Ohr Somayach Sandton in Johannesburg, South Africa and one of the founding students of Ohr Somayach Yeshiva Jerusalem in 1973.

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