What was Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Ferber of London reading? Sefer Ohr Hatzvi by Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Barlas, Lublin, 1875.

BerelsFerber01My copy of this book has very worn covers.  It has been well read and has little scraps of paper as bookmarks.  It is stamped a number of times with the stamp of its previous owner, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Ferber.

Rabbi Ferber was born in Kovno in 1879. He was a renowned Torah and Talmudic scholar who emigrated to Manchester, England in 1911 and then in 1913 became the Rabbi and leader of the West End Talmud Torah Synagogue (Kehilas Yeshurun) in Soho, London. Much has been written about him, including his memoirs of his early life edited by Rabbi Pini Dunner – click on a sample here

BerelsFerber02Rabbi Ferber was a prolific author and was renowned as a riveting orator who gave his sermons in Yiddish. He was active in communal affairs, and established the Chesed V’emeth Burial Society in 1915. He was for many years the honorary secretary of the London “Vaad Harabonim” (rabbinical council of the Federation of Synagogues) and chairman of the Association of London Rabbis (“Hisachdus Harabonim”). he was a member of the World Rabbinical council of Agudas Yisroel. He died in London in 1966.


The book itself was written by Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Barlas of Brisk (Brest-Litovsk), son of Mordechai Barlas, born in 1804, died 1882.

He was a giant of Torah, and a very wealthy man. He was the grandson of Rabbi Tzvi-Hirsh Freiluker and a descendant of the “Tosephes Yom Tov” – Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller.  He studied the Torah and researched the Talmud and Kabbalah, and was known as Reb Hirsh the Researcher. 

His surname Barlas – was from the initials Ben Reb Leib Sofer (The son of rabbi Sofer). His daughter married Rabbi Avraham Moshe Grosleit, the son of Rabbi Pinchas Michael Grosleit, the author of ‘Leket Hakotzrim’, and ‘Divrei Pinchas’ (Warsaw 1860), and who was the Rabbi of Antopol near Brest. The two families, Barlas and Grosleit, took a great part in the economic development of Brest-Litovsk, and owned large stores and buildings in the center of the new city.

The contents of the book show Rabbi Barlas’ erudition and knowledge of philosophical literature from the middle Ages. 500 copies of the book were printed and sent free of charge to libraries and synagogues and to the great rabbis of that generation.  In his will the author requested that the book should be reprinted in fifty years time.  (Thanks to Samuel Royde for providing biographical details of Rabbi Barlas).

If you would like your own copy, you can download it here.  Rabbi Ferber stamped it with his name on multiple pages, there is much wear, demonstrating that it was read a lot, there are the bookmarks – and then there are these numbers (and more – see above) showing calculations of the numerical value of Hebrew letters (gematria).


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