Rabbi Joseph Baer Soloveitchik was born on February 27, 1903 (Judaica). He was born in Pruzhany, Poland. Poland was controlled by the Russian Empire during the time of Rav Soloveitchik (Wikipedia1). The rulers of Russia were the Czars. There was a lot of antisemitism in Russia at the time (Wikipedia1). From 1903-1906 there were many pogroms in Russia, 2000 were Jews killed and many more were wounded (Wikipedia1). There is evidence that the government actually stirred up these pogroms, and the police did nothing to stop them (Wikipedia1). Even though this was going on in certain cities in Russia, these pogroms did not affect the Soloveitchik family.
Soloveitchik came from rabbinical ancestry, dating back about 200 years (Judaica). His father, Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik, was a descendant of a rabbinical family that traced back to Reb Chaim Volozhin, who was the leading disciple of the Vilna Gaon (Rothkoff). Reb Chaim Volozhin opened created the Ez Chaim Yeshiva in Volozhin in 1802 (Rothkoff). This school was the talmudic academy of the 19th century, until it was forced to be closed by the Russian government in 1892 (Rothkoff). This yeshiva is still a model for Lithuanian style yeshivas. Soloveitchik’s grandfather, Reb Chaim Soloveitchik was known as Reb Chaim Brisker because he was the rabbi of Brisk (Brest-Litovsk) (Rothkoff). He changed talmudic study with his introduction known as the “Brisker method” which emphasized on Rambam’s Mishneh Torah (Rothkoff). His great-grandfather was Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, otherwise known as the Beis HaLevi (Wikipedia2). Rabbi Soloveitchik’s mother, Pesia Feinstein, was the daughter of Rabbi Elijah Feinstein, who was the spiritual leader of Pruzhany and wrote “Halikhot Eliyahu” (Rothkoff). He was known as Reb Elyah Pruzhaner, and was the uncle of the famous Reb Moshe Feinstein (Rothkoff).
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik spent his earlier years in Khaslavichy, Russia (Rothkoff). He moved he because his father became the the rabbi of this community in 1913 (Rothkoff). Khaslavichy was a shtetl that was located on the river of Sozh (Rothkoff). The river separated the Pale of Settlement from the rest of Russia. The Jews were suffering economically and struggled to make a living. There were 9,000 people in this community, who worked hard to provide the necessities for their families (Rothkoff). The Soloveitchik family endured the hardships of World War I in this city, and Rav Soloveitchik’s father helped support the community during this time (Rothkoff). There were a lot of Lubavitcher hasidim in the community who influenced young Soloveitchik. Reb Baruch Reisberg taught him about the Tanya, which was Habad hasidic literature (Rothkoff). The study of the Tanya and the influence of this rabbi remained with Soloveitchik for the rest of his life.
Soloveitchik studied Talmud with his father (Judaica). He developed approaches to explain difficult talmudic approaches (Judaica). His father sent over Soloveitchik’s notebook to his...