Harav Hagaon R. Sholom Rackovsky
Harav Reb Sholom Rackovsky was born in Minsk, Russia. At the renowned Yeshiva of Volozhin, he was a younger contemporary of Harav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, who subsequently gave him semicha, and was highly successful in his torah studies, becoming known as “der Minsker Iluy”- the prodigy from Minsk. He became strongly interested in the Haskalah movement and in Zionist causes. At the age of 19 he decided to travel to Palestine, in order to participate in the rebuilding of the Jewish homeland. In keeping with his desire to help build the yishuv (Jewish settlement), Reb Sholom joined the pioneers developing the agricultural settlement of Petach Tikvah. However, the environment was not conducive to religious observance and Torah study. Therefore, at the suggestion of the Brisker Rov, he moved to Jerusalem, eventually becoming a rosh yeshiva at Yeshivas Toras Chaim.
The outbreak of World War I found him in America, unable to return to Jerusalem. He then became a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, where he remained to the end of his life. Reb Sholom was renowned for two qualities- encylopedic torah knowledge and a kind and sincere concern for the progress and well-being of his talmidim. He was frequently consulted as a last authority following enthusiastic discussions in the beis medrash, and his rare public divrei torah were considered to be occasions not to be missed, and sources of material to be treasured.
Reb Sholom’s legacy at Yeshiva University continues to this day: three of his sons were students at RIETS; three of his grandsons, four great-grandsons and five great-great-grandchildren attended Yeshiva College or Stern College for Women. Seven became RIETS musmakhim, and one is a student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Many of his descendants in Israel have also held leading positions as rabbis, dayanim and teachers.