ḤAYYIM BEN ISAAC OF VOLOZHIN (ḤAYYIM VOLOZHINER):
Russian rabbi and educator; born at Volozhin, government of Wilna, Jan. 21, 1749; died there June 14, 1821. Both he and his elder brother Simḥah (d. 1812) studied under R. Aryeh Löb Ginzberg, who was then rabbi of Volozhin, afterward under R. Raphael ha-Kohen, later of Hamburg. Ḥayyim ben Isaac was a distinguished Talmudist and also a prosperous cloth-manufacturer. At the age of twenty-five he was attracted by the fame of Elijah Gaon of Wilna, whose disciple he became. Submitting to his new teacher's method, he began his studies anew, taking up again Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, and even Hebrew grammar. His admiration for the gaon was boundless, and after his death R. Ḥayyim virtually acknowledged no superior (see Heschel Levin's "'Aliyyot Eliyahu," pp. 55-56, Wilna, 1889).
It was with the view of applying the methods of his teacher that Ḥayyim founded, in 1803, the yeshibah of Volozhin, which became the most important of its kind in the nineteenth century. He began with ten pupils, young residents of Volozhin, whom Ḥayyim maintained at his own expense. Itis related that his wife sold her jewelry to contribute to their maintenance. The fame of the institution spread, and the number of its students increased, necessitating an appeal to which the Jews of Russia generously responded. Ḥayyim lived to see his academy housed in its own building, and to preside over a hundred disciples ("Ḥuṭ ha-Meshullash," responsum No. 5).
Ḥayyim's chief work is "Nefesh ha-Ḥayyim," edited by his son (Wilna, 1824; 2d ed., 1837); it is an ethico-cabalistic work, with a distinct anti-Ḥasidic tendency; for, like his master, he was an uncompromising opponent of the Ḥasidim. It lays great stress on the necessity of conforming to all recognized religious practises and on the value of the study of the Torah, deprecating the antinominian tendencies of the Ḥasidim and the mysticism and affected ecstasy which some consider a good substitute for piety and learning. His "Ruaḥ Ḥayyim" is a commentary on Pirḳe Abot, published by Joshua Heschel Levin; it includes additions by his son R. Isaac. Many of his responsa on halakic subjects were lost by fire in 1815. His great-grandson, however, had incorporated some of them in the collection entitled "Ḥuṭ ha-Meshullash" (Wilna, 1882); the first twenty-five numbers belong to Ḥayyim, the remainder to R. Hillel of Grodno and to his son R. Eliezer Isaac. Some of his responsa are found in other works, notably in "Ḳedushat Yom-Ṭob" by R. Yom-Ṭob Lipman of Kapulie (ib. 1868).
Ḥayyim's family, which is related to the Rapoport family, has assumed the name of Fried, and some of his descendants, bearing that name, now reside in America. See Volozhin.
- Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, pp. 347-349;
- idem, Ḳiryah Ne'emanah, pp. 156-158;
- Lewin, 'Aliyyot Eliyahu (ed. Stettin), p. 70;
- Schechter, Studies in Judaism, p. 85, Philadelphia, 1896;
- Jatzkan, Rabbenu Eliyah mi-Wilna, pp. 100-106, St. Petersburg, 1901;
- Ha-Shaḥar, vi. 96;
- Eliezer of Botoshan, Ḳin'at Soferim, p. 796;
- Aḥiasaf, 5654, p. 260, and 5699, p. 81;
- Reines, Oẓar ha-Sifrut, iii.;
- Ha-Kerem, 1887, pp. 179-181;
- David Tebele, Bet Dawid, Preface, Warsaw, 1854;
- Maginne Ereẓ, Preface, Shklov, 1803;
- Zedner, Cat. Hebr. Books Brit. Mus. pp. 179, 555.