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Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor

The gaon, Rav Yitzchak Elchanan, was always full of ompassion and sympathy. He projected himself into every situation and always considered the effect of a response on the individual.

In 1869, because of a famine, he permitted the eating of peas and beans during Pesach. He then served that food in his own home to the most respected citizens of the community, who visited him on the first day of Pesach.

When asked why he displayed this so openly, he remarked: "I know that many poor people will eat the peas and beans with great trepidation, because of the fear of chametz (leaven). Let it therefore be known that the Rav of Kovno and the leading citizens of the city ate that food on the first day of Pesach."

Helping The Poor Woman

Once, a woman came to Rav Yitzchak Elchanan with a difficult sheilah (question pertaining to Jewish ritual) during Pesach. Rav Yitzchak Elchanan paced the floor of his room, absorbed in deep thought. He then turned to the woman and said, "All is kosher."

When the woman left, the gaon told those in the room that the woman's husband was a poor melamed (teacher) in a small town. He sent her only four rubles for the upkeep of the family. The poor woman had to pay one ruble for her son's Hebrew tuition, leaving her only three rubles for all her Pesach needs. Then this sheilah arose. No heter could be found.

"This disturbed me," said Rav Spektor. "I then realized that the Chacham Zevi (Rabbi Zevi Hirsh Ashkenazi, an eminent Talmudist, who was born in Moravia about 1660 and died in Lemberg in 1718) was the only one who was lenient in such a case and I decided accordingly, because of the dilemma of the poor woman."

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