Friday, October 22, 2010

Another "Shas Pollack" . . . sort of.

With regard to "Shas Pollacks," or people with unusual memories who seemed to have visually memorized the entire Talmud and were able to pass a "pin test" (see here) I had the impression that such people were always marginal. I came across a grave stone inscription from 1802, recorded in Rabbi Marcus Horvitz's Avnei Zikaron, his collection of headstone inscriptions from the Frankfurt A.M. cemetery:

Evidently this Rabbi Yehoshua Heschel ben Avraham of Shklov was a Shas Pollack (מפורסם בשמו בשם ש"ס פאלק). Judging by the description ("great rabbi" "expert in Shas, Posekim and the whole Torah") he was far from marginal or a חמור נושא ספרים (link).

Actually, I have a suspicion that this isn't saying he was a Shas Pollack (pin-test guy) at all. Falk (פאלק) is a Yiddish nickname for Yehoshua, and given that he lived in Frankfurt but was from Poland and such an accomplished talmid chochom perhaps his nickname was ש"ס פאלק, a sort of pun.


  1. I see a Snippet View of רבני פרנקפורט
    where R' Mendel Fas a Dayan of Frankfurt was also known as Shas Pollak:

  2. That's the problem with the snippet view - it can be misleading. It's the same R Yehoshua Heschele in this post. The full entry reads entry in רבני פרנקפורט reads that this same R Yehoshua Heshel is buriedסמוך לחומה צפונית ימין ראש ב"מ עומדת מצבת הגאון מוה"רר מענדלי פס אב"ד דקהלתנו . The next sentence refers again to R YH. I haven't been able to look it up in the original Frankfurter Rabbinen, since as far as I can tell it's not yet online, but when it is I will. Maybe then it will become clear if I'm right and it was a nickname or not.

  3. Definitely Falk (פאלק) and not Pollack (פולק).

  4. Though not a Pollak, it's been said about David Weiss Halivni that he took and passed the "pin test" as a youth and when I asked him personally he (sufficiently sotto voce) confirmed it.

    Moshe Rudner

  5. >Definitely Falk (פאלק) and not Pollack (פולק).

    Obviously, but my conjecture is that it was a pun.



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