"And you shall see it and you shall remember…" – the Radziner Rebbe,
The Radziner Rabbi was both knowledgeable in the revealed and hidden Torah and in many scientific studies, such as...
The holy Rabbi Gershon Heinich Leiner of Radzin – also referred to as the "Orchos Chaim" – was born in 5689 to his father Rabbi Ya'akov, the Admor of Izbitze and composer of the sefer "Beis Ya'akov". His grandfather was Rabbi Mordechai Yosef of Izbitze, the "Mei Hashilo'ach". Rabbi Gershon Heinich was the third Rebbe in the Izbitze – Radzin dynasty, and took on the leadership of the followers upon his father's passing on the 15th of Av, 5638.
The Rebbe was brilliant in both the revealed and the hidden Torah. He was also extremely knowledgeable in several scientific fields, like chemistry, engineering and medicine. He spoke several languages fluently, and used them frequently while prescribing medicines in Latin to the countless people who turned to him for help. The Rebbe's prescriptions were always honored at the local pharmacy.
At the tender age of sixteen, the Rebbe had already formulated a spectacular idea: he would compose a "gemarah" of a sort on the mishnayos of Taharos, as there is no Talmud Bavli on that tractate. In order to accomplish this, he gathered all the relevant material from the whole Bavli shas, and presented them in chronological order in a sefer he called "Sidrei Taharos". He later did the same with tractates Kelim and Ohalos. The task took him ten years to complete.
The Rebbe traveled with his masterwork to one of the Gedolim of his time – Rabbi Shaul Yosef Nathanson, the "Sho'el Umeishiv" of Levov. Rabbi Nathanson had a long conversation with the Rebbe and was extremely impressed by the youngster's sharp mind. Astonished, he asked the Rebbe where he was from and to which court he belonged. The lad replied: "I'm a chassid from Poland." Rabbi Nathanson smiled and stated: "King David has already said 'hoshiah ki gamar chassid' – a chassid can also learn!" (Lemigmar is Aramaic for 'to learn')
The Rebbe stayed at Rabbi Nathanson's house for a few days and received a haskamah on his sefer. From there, he traveled to the "Cheshek Shlomo", Rabbi Shlomo HaCohen of Vilna, who willingly added his haskamah to the sefer. The Rebbe eventually received additional haskamos from his father, the Izbitzer Rebbe, the Natziv of Volozhin, Rabbi Shimon Sofer of Krakow, the Kutna Rav – the "Yeshuos Malko", Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan of Kubno, the "Machane Chaim", the Malbim, the Sedei Chemed, and many more.
However, his composition also caused controversy in certain communities. Some were of the opinion that this kind of sefer might cause people to think that it is one of the original tractates of the Talmud. These voices led the Rabbonim of Vilna to withdraw their haskamos.
In the general public, the Rebbe was referred to as the "Ba'al HaTecheiles", as he worked tirelessly for the restoration of the Techeiles of the Tzitzis. He made use of his vast knowledge to research the topic, and traveled to Italy four times to conduct his study. While there he visited what was then the largest aquarium in the world, and upon studying the different sea creatures, he came to the conclusion that the original Techeiles was extracted from the secretion of a snail called Dionon. Rumors have it that on one of the Rebbe's visits to Rome; he succeeded in persuading the Vatican to allow him a quick glimpse of the Holy Vessels of the Beis Hamikdash.
The Rebbe brought along his son on his last visit to the aquarium to ensure that the mitzvah of Techeiles would not be forgotten.
The Rebbe proved his theory through extensive and thorough research, and was positive that he had found the snail of the Techeiles, the "chilazon".
He published several books on the topic, such as "Pesil HaTecheiles", "Ein HaTecheiles" and "Shefunei Temunei Chol", and succeeded in influencing many Gedolim with his work. At the same time, there were Gedolim who opposed to the Rebbe's discovery and did not agree with his findings. Either way, even those who did support the Rebbe's theory did not take on the minhag of Techeiles as a practical custom. "That what is new, is prohibited by the Torah", they would say, though the Radziner Rebbe interpreted that as meaning: When there is something 'new' that is discovered from within the 'Torah', it is 'prohibited' to forsake it…
There was, however, a small number of Gedolei Yisrael who would practice the rediscovered custom of Techeiles, like the Maharsham of Berzan who possessed a tallis with Techeiles fringes. All his chassidim and followers wear them, as do Breslov chassidim to this day.
The Rebbe was also known for his standpoint on machine matzos, and after extensive research he found several serious problems in the process of making them. He then distributed an announcement by which he required the Rabbonim to address those problems and to note it on the hechsher that they provide.
The Rebbe composed several sefarim in all fields of the Torah.
After his passing on the 4th of Teves, 5651, his followers took upon themselves the leadership of his only son, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Elazar, the "Tiferes Yosef", who passed away on the 26th of Shevat, 5686.