Living Legacy: Chasam Sofer on his Yohrtzeit, 260 Years Since his Birth
By: Yehuda Alter
25 Tishrei marks the 182nd yohrtzeit of the holy Chasam Sofer, one of the most important figures in modern history, for his brilliant Torah, his unique and illuminating Torah outlook, his incredible leadership, and the tens of thousands of descendants and Talmidim who continue to follow his path, illuminating the world through it.
The story of his birth in Frankfurt, and the foretelling of his future greatness, is told poignantly by Rabbi Yisroel Besser in his Artscroll Biography of the gadol:
“Kehilla members looked on with interest as a messenger hurried in and made his way to the rov. Frankfurt’s revered rov, Reb Abish'l, listened intently to the request sent by Raizel Sofer. The rov was familiar with the woman: she was known in Frankfurt as 'Raizel Tzaddekes' because of her commitment to helping talmidei chachamim and impoverished families through collecting and distributing funds. And now Raizel, who had given so much to the people of Frankfurt, was asking a favor of her own: she wanted the kehilla to wait a bit longer before accepting Shabbos so that the birth of her child might take place without desecrating the holy day.
“The rov agreed. They would wait a bit longer.
“Some of the kehilla members were surprised: why would the rov hold off on accepting Shabbos because of the request of a lone woman?
“Reb Abish’l turned to the people. The child who would be born, he exclaimed, would be worthy of the wait, a person who would illuminate the eyes of scholars with his Torah and bring relief to his nation through his tefillos.
“Moments later, the good news arrived and Shabbos was ushered in by the people of Frankfurt.
“On the 7th of Tishrei, 5523, the distinguished Sofer family- Reb Shmuel, a grandson of the revered Rav Shmuel Schotten, and his wife Raizel, the daughter of the sainted Reb Elchonon had been blessed with a son, a new link in this glorious chain.”
The child was named Moshe, and he would become known as Rav Moshe Sofer, the Chasam Sofer.
His incredible brilliance was apparent from a very young age. It is known that he wrote chidushei Torah at the tender young age of seven. At nine years old, he began learning with his famed rebbe, Rav Nosson Adler. In addition to his incredible mastery of Torah, he also familiarized himself with mathematics, astronomy, and history.
In 1786, he married Rebbetzin Sarah Malka Yurowitz of Prosnitz, and became the Rosh Yeshiva in the city. In 1812, his Rebbetzin passed away, and he married Serl, the daughter of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. All his children were born from this second marriage.
In 1807, he became the Rov of Pressburg, where he opened a yeshiva. The yeshiva drew thousands of talmidim from various lands, and could number 500 talmidim enrolled at one time. In this way, his fame grew throughout the entire region.
He was respected and revered by his countless talmidim who carried on his legacy, and by the greatest rabbonim of his time. Especially his Hungary, his word was the last word on every matter of Torah, halacha, and hashkafah. Even gentile noblemen would seek out his wisdom.
The Chasam Sofer was ardently opposed to Zionism, Reform, Enlightenments, Emancipatiojnn, and the general freedoms that governments were granting Jews in his time, enabling them to integrate into secular society. As he wisely foretrold, these influences brought about a spiritual Holocaust.
Upon his passing in 1839, he was laid to rest in the Jewish cemetery in Bratislava/Pressburg, and his kever continues to serve as a place for yeshuo’s for Yidden throughout the world.