HaRav Shmuel Yitzhak Churgin son of HaRav Eliahu Ben Haim Churgin, was born in 1865 in Karlin near Pinsk, Belarus, in the Polesia region of Russia. He was from a family of rabbis, biblical schloars- Torah and lovers of Zion. He was educated in the Cheder (alternatively, Cheider, in Hebrew חדר, meaning "room") which is a traditional elementary school teaching the basics of religious Judaism and the Hebrew language Shumel excelled in his studies. He had a love for the Torah and the Halachic rulings, Halakha (Hebrew: הֲלָכָה) also transliterated Halocho (Ashkenazic), the collective body of Jewish religious laws, based on the Written and Oral Torah, including the 613 mitzvot and later Talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions compiled today in the Shulchan Aruch, "the Code of Jewish Law." It was this great love for the Torah - the Bible, that he later taught to thousands of students at " Gates of Torah" and Mikveh Israel (Hebrew: מִקְוֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל; "Hope of Israel") the first Jewish agricultural school in Israel
|Jewish settlers ("Biluim") in Palestine, 1880's|
In 1889 he made Aliyah - immigrated to Israel. He went through some very exasperating experiences upon
"Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent. The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee sleep in the midst of a vast stretch of hill and plain wherein the eye rests upon no pleasant tint, no striking object, no soft picture dreaming in a purple haze or mottled with the shadows of the clouds. Every outline is harsh, every feature is distinct, there is no perspective--distance works no enchantment here. It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land.
Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full flush of spring, however, and all the more beautiful by contrast with the far-reaching desolation that surrounds them on every side. I would like much to see the fringes of the Jordan in spring-time, and Shechem, Esdraelon, Ajalon and the borders of Galilee--but even then these spots would seem mere toy gardens set at wide intervals in the waste of a limitless desolation.
Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies. Where Sodom and Gomorrah reared their domes and towers, that solemn sea now floods the plain, in whose bitter waters no living thing exists--over whose waveless surface the blistering air hangs motionless and dead-- about whose borders nothing grows but weeds, and scattering tufts of cane, and that treacherous fruit that promises refreshment to parching lips, but turns to ashes at the touch. Nazareth is forlorn; about that ford of Jordan where the hosts of Israel entered the Promised Land with songs of rejoicing, one finds only a squalid camp of fantastic Bedouins of the desert; Jericho the accursed, lies a moldering ruin, to-day, even as Joshua's miracle left it more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the Saviour's presence; the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their flocks by night, and where the angels sang Peace on earth, good will to men, is untenanted by any living creature, and unblessed by any feature that is pleasant to the eye. .... The noted Sea of Galilee, where Roman fleets once rode at anchor and the disciples of the Saviour sailed in their ships, was long ago deserted by the devotees of war and commerce, and its borders are a silent wilderness; Capernaum is a shapeless ruin; Magdala is the home of beggared Arabs; Bethsaida and Chorazin have vanished from the earth, and the "desert places" round about them where thousands of men once listened to the Saviour's voice and ate the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes." A section from Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad On the land of Palestine
HaRav Churgin who had once dreamed of becoming a farmer settling in one of the agricultural settlements, was forced to abandon his dream due to financial considerations and the severity of life in the Yishuv. To feed his family he returned with fervor to his first love as a teacher in the Talmud Torah -"Sharei Torah" or "Gates of Torah". "Sharei Torah" had just been founded and it was the only institution of it's kind for Jewish children in Jaffa. He remained a teacher there for decades eventually moving with them to it's new quarters in Neve Shalom. Thousands of students learned from him his passion for the Halachic rulings and especially the Torah / Bible. He was able to also inspire in them his love and passion for Torah as well as for the Land of Israel.
|Talmud Torah Sharei Torah 1912 -1938|
Despite all the hardships of eking out a living and having a large family. HaRav Churgin was able to participate in public affairs in the Yishuv. As the years moved on and his health began to fail him only than did he stop his love of writing and teaching but not before leaving his contribution to the re-establishment of the Jewish home land in Eretz Yisrael and his love for Torah and Zionism was passed on.
I include below a picture of his daughter Rachel Churgin.