The Chofetz Chaim
Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohenKagan is commonly known as the “Chofetz Chaim,” the name of his famous work on guarding one’s tongue. Born in Zhetel, Poland on February 6, 1838, he was taught untill age 10 by his parents and then moved to Vilna to further his Jewish studies. Refusing the pulpit rabbinate, the Chofetz Chaim settled in Radin (Poland) and subsisted on a small grocery store, which his wife managed and he did the bookkeeping watching every penny to make sure that no one was cheated. He spent his days learning Torah and disseminating his knowledge to the common people.
As his reputation grew, students from all over Europe flocked to him and by 1869 his house became known as the Radin Yeshiva.
In addition to his Yeshiva, the Chofetz Chaim was very active in Jewish causes. He traveled extensively to encourage the observance of mitzvos amongst Jews. One of the founders of Agudas Yisrael, the religious Jewish organization of Europe and later the world, the Chofetz Chaim was very involved in Jewish affairs and helped many yeshivos survive the financial problems of the interwar period.
The Chofetz Chaim’s greatest legacy is the 21 sefarim, which he published. His first work,SeferChofetz Chaim in 1873, is the first attempt to organize and clarify the laws regarding evil talk and gossip. He later wrote other works, including ShmiratHaLashon, which emphasized the importance of guarding one’s tongue by quoting our Sages. The Mishnah Brurah (1894-1907), his commentary on the Daily Laws of a Jew (his first series in the ShulchanAruch), is found in many Jewish homes and is accepted universally to decide Halacha.Firmly believing that he was living right before the time of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the Chofetz Chaim wrote a work that stressed the learning of laws concerning sacrifices, the Holy Temple, and related topics. He also published seforim to strengthen certain aspects of Jewish life including kashrus, family purity, and Torah study.
The Chofetz Chaim passed away in 1933 at the ripe age of 95.