Rabbi Isaac Jacob ben Salomon Naphtali Reines

Article on the 100th Yarzeit of Rabbi Reines

From:  The Jewish Encyclopedia, page 368 of the R volume

REINES, ISAAC JACOB B. SOLOMON NAPHTALI:  Russian rabbi, and founder of the “Mrizrahi” or Orthodox branch of the Zionist organization;  a descendant of Saul Wahl; born in Karlin, government of Minsk, Oct. 27, 1889.  His father, a native of Wilna, who lived several years in Palestine before Isaac was born, gave his son a thorough rabbinical education.  Isaac made rapid progress in his Talmudical studies, and devoted part of his time to the study of Hebrew works on logic and mathematics.  He also read the medieval Jewish philosophers and acquired the Russian and German languages – an uncommon accomplishment among Russian rabbis of the older generation.

In 1855 young Reines went to the yeshibah of Volozhin, where he remained about two years.  After spending some time in Eishishok [= Eisiskes] he returned home (1857). In 1859 he married the daughter of Joseph Reisen, rabbi of Horodok, settled there, and continued his studies under the roof of his father-in-law; and when Reisen became rabbi of Telsh (1862) Reines moved with him to that city.  In 1867 Reines became rabbi of Shukian [=Sakyna or Sakiniai, or one of several other sounds kind of like this now in Lithuania?], and in 1869 he was chosen rabbi of the more important town of Shwentsian [=Svencioniu  Rajonas], in the government of Wilna, where the remained for about sixteen years.

Reines began to attract attention when he developed in his “Hotem Toknit” (Mayence, [= Mainz] 1880; vol. ii, Presburg, 1881) a new plan for a modernized, logical method of studying the Talmud.  Some of the ultra-Orthodox condemned his plan as a radical innovation, and only his great learning and piety saved him from being openly charged with heresy.  He was one of the rabbis and representative Jews who assembled in St. Petersburg in 1882 to consider plans for the improvement of the moral and material condition of the Jews in Russia, and there he proposed the substitution of his method for the one prevalent in the yeshibot.  His proposition being rejected, he founded a new yeshibah in which his plans were to be carried out.  It provided a ten years’ course, during which the student was to acquire the rabbinical knowledge necessary for ordination as a rabbi, and at the same time secure the secular education required in a government rabbi.  But although the plan to supply Russian-speaking rabbis agreed in principle with the aims of the Russian government, there was so much Jewish opposition to his yeshibah that it was closed by the authorities after an existence of four eyars; all further attempts of Reines to reestablish it failed.

In 1885 Reines became rabbi of Lida, government of Wilna, of which rabbinate he is still the incumbent (1905).  His next undertaking was the establishment of a system popularly known as that of the Kovno’er Perushim, for the purpose of subsidizing young married men  (“perushim”) studying for the rabbinate outside of yeshibot (see BLASER, ISAAC B. SOLOMON: “Ozar ha-Sifrut”, iii. 21)  Later he joined the Zionist movement, and when, after the fifth Zionist congress, the Swiss and other students formed a radical faction and threatened to turn the movement in a direction which would lead away from religion, Reines founded the Mizrahi branch, now probably the strongest branch of the Zionist organization in Russia.  His personal influence helped to give the support of that powerful Orthodox body to the regular Zionist organization on the question of the East-African or Uganda project.

Besides the above-mentioned work Reines published:  notes on the “’Edut bi-Yehoshef” of his father-in-law (Wilna, 1866);  “’Edut be-Ya’akob on testimony (ib., 1872); “Sha’are Orah” on Haggadah and Midrash (ib. 1886); “Orim Gedolim” on Halakah (ib. 1887); “Nod shel Dema’ot”, eulogies or funeral sermons (ib. 1891); “Or Shib’at ha-Yamim” (ib, 1896); “Orah we-Shimhah” (with a preface explaining Zionism from the Orthodox point of view); “Or hadash ‘al Ziyyon” , a refutation of the arguments which are advanced by the ultra-Orthodox against Zionism (ib. 1902).

Bibliography:  Berdyczewsky in Ozar ha-Sifrut, ii 228-234;  Rubinstein in Jewish Morning Journal, Feb. 4 and 5, 1904; Sokolov, Sefer Zikkaron, pp 108-9, Warsaw 1890; Zeitlin, Bibl. Post-Mendels. P 304.

REINES, MOSES:  Russian scholar and author; born at Lida (where his father R. Isaac Jacob Reines, was rabbi) in 1870; died there March 7, 1891.  Moses Reines was the author of:  “Ruah ha-Zeman”, material for the history of Jewish culture in Russia (published in “Ozar ha-Sifrut”, volii): “Nezah Yizrael” on the persistence of the Jewish people, the colonization of Palestine, etc, (Cracow 1890); “Aksanyut shel Torah”, material for a history of the yeshibot in Russia (ib. 1890); “Dor wa-Hakamaw” part i, twelve biographies of modern Jewish scholars.

Bibliography:  Ha-Asif, vi. 143; Zeitlin, Bibl. Post-Mendels. P 304

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