Yehezkel Abramsky (Hebrew: יחזקאל
7, 1886 – September 19, 1976), known affectionately as Reb Chatzkel
Abramsky, was one of the most eminent Orthodox rabbis of the 20th
century who headed the London Beth Din for 17 years.
Rabbinate and scholarship
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Yehezkel Abramsky was born near Most and Grodno (Hrodna) in Belarus,
the third child and eldest son of Mordechai Zalman Abramsky, a local
timber merchant, and his wife, Freydel Goldin of Grodno, and studied
at the yeshivas of Telz, Mir, Slabodka and particularly Brisk under
Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik. At the age of 17 he became a rabbi, serving,
in turn, the communities of Smolyan, Smolevich and Slutsk. In 1909
he married Reizel, daughter of Rabbi Moshe Nahum Jerusalimsky, the
rabbi of Iehumen, Russia.
Following the Russian Revolution, he was at the forefront of opposition
to Communist attempts to repress the Jewish religion and culture.
As a result the Russian government refused Abramsky permission to
take up the rabbinate of Petah Tikva in the land of Israel in both
1926 and 1928.
In 1928, he started a Hebrew magazine, Yagdil Torah (lit. "Make
[the] Torah Great"), but the authorities closed it after two
issues appeared. In 1929, he was arrested and sentenced to five
years hard labor in Siberia. However, in 1931 he was rescued by
the German government under Chancellor Brüning, who exchanged him
for six communists they held.
London Beth Din
He emigrated to London in 1932, where he was appointed rabbi of
the Machzike Hadath community in London's East End. In 1934, Chief
Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz persuaded him to become the senior dayan of
the London Beth Din, holding the post until he retired to Jerusalem
in 1951. The appointment of an East European chareidi rabbi to the
London Beth Din was a departure for the United Synagogue, and started
a tradition which continues to the present day. The prestige of
the London Beth Din as a world-ranking halachic authority was greatly
enhanced with the appointment of Rabbi Abramsky as Rosh Beth Din.
Although other renowned talmidei chachamim served both during and
since his time—such as Dayan Aryeh Leib Grosnass (Lev Aryeh) and
Dayan Rapaport (Be'er Avrohom), it was Dayan Abramsky above all
who established the policies and customs that are followed by the
London Beth Din to this day.
Following his retirement from the London Beth Din, he settled in
Jerusalem. While living there he also served as a rosh yeshiva of
Slabodka yeshiva in Bnei Brak.
Rabbi Abramsky died in Jerusalem on September 19, 1976 (24 Elul
5736). His funeral was attended by over 40,000 people, making it
one of the largest ever seen in the city.
He had four sons including Professor Chimen Abramsky, and was the
grandfather of Professor Samson Abramsky and Jenny Abramsky.
* In 1956, Rabbi Abramsky was awarded the Israel Prize, for Rabbinical
* Hazon Yehezkel ("The Vision of Yehezkel"), a 24 volume
commentary on the Tosefta, written between 1925–1975, acclaimed
by both rabbis and academic scholars.