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Section: Stories   Category: Gedolim Biographies
The Pnei Yehoshua - An Explosive Sefer With An Explosive Backdrop

"From the time the Chiddushei HaRashba was printed no sefer was a great as that as the Pnei Yehoshua." This was quoted by the Avnei Tzedek in the name of the Chasam Sofer whose every word was measured and precise without exaggeration. Revered in the Yeshiva world, the Sefer Pnei Yehoshua has earned itself a special place on the Shtender as a symbol of excellence.

This sefer came to be when there was a terrible catastrophe in the town of Rav Yaakov Yehoshua Falk, the author of the Pnei Yehoshua, who was then 22 years old. A fire ignited a barrel of gun fire which caused a tremendous explosion killing 36 people including the Pnei Yehoshua's wife and daughter. The Pnei Yehoshua himself was caught in the wreckage and made a promise to learn the depths of Torah day and night if he managed to survive. Survive he did and shortly thereafter he began writing his famed work. Rav Menachem Mendel MiKotzk testified that the Pnei Yehoshua finished Shas 36 times before he began writing his sefer.

His learning was so intense that he would sit in the cold without noticing. One bitter cold day the talmidim could not leave their homes until the sun came out in the afternoon. There they found the Pnei Yehoshua still wrapped in Talis and Tefilin learning with icicles hanging from his beard.

The Pnei Yehoshua was born in 5441/1681 the town of Reisha. He was named after his illustrious grandfather who authored Shu"T Pnei Yehoshua and the classic Maginei Shlomo which defended Rashi from the attacks of Tosfos. The Pnei Yehoshua served as Rav in a number of cities including Lvov, Berlin, Metz, and Frankfurt. He lived in the same era as the Vilna Gaon, Noda BiYehuda, The Chacham Tzvi, Rav Yaakov Emden, and the Pri Megadim and was respected by all. Along with Rav Yaakov Emden he was a great antagonist of Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz.

Although he was less successful as Rav due to his unwillingness to bow to the whims of the local wealthy Baalei Batim, among the Torah giants he was an icon. His word was regarded as law by his peers. He was made famous by the Chacham Tzvi who eventually suggested him as his replacement in Lvov. He was visited by the Chida when the latter traveled through Europe. In his sefer Shem HaGedolim the Chida writes about his visit, "I was zocheh to be Mikabel Pnei Hashechina for a number of days. His appearance is like that of a Malach Elokim".

He was niftar in 5516/1756 but his legacy will last forever as we will continue to aspire to ask the Pnei Yehoshua'a Kushios. Yehi Zichro Boruch!

RELATED ARTICLES:biography  Pnei Yehoshua

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Visitor Comments: 1

rs, 2008-01-27 10:53:07
very inspiring. thank you.

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