I heard a story in the name of Rav Shmuel Auerbach which is incredible, but I was hoping someone can confirm if it's true or not.

He says that during the times of the Shach (Sifsei Kohen commentary on Shulchan Aruch) there was a huge persecution going which Jews were getting killed in what was called the Chmielnicki massacre; tens of thousands of Jews. The Satan comes to 3 Gedolim of that generation and says if you are willing to die I will stop the gezeira against the Jewish people. 2 of them agreed and when he went to the Shach, the Shach said yes, but come back to me in 3.5 months. So the Satan says why in 3.5 months. He said because that’s about how long it will take for me to finish up the Shach.

The question is how can the Shach sacrifice so many Jews, and Jews who would be learning Torah, so he can write the Shach? The answer I heard is because he understood that the Jews could persevere through this and any persecution, but the Jewish nation needed the Shach to continue. He felt that it would help the Jews with the galus.

Rav Auerbach says that he can tell that in some pieces of the Shach he can see how it was rushed.

  • 2
    Note: In Hebrew this is called גזירות ת"ח ות"ט.
    – Harel13
    Dec 12, 2021 at 11:41
  • 6
    He died fourteen years after the massacres started
    – Joel K
    Dec 12, 2021 at 13:14
  • 2
    Maybe check out Shem HaGedolim?
    – robev
    Dec 12, 2021 at 21:47
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    There is a Shiur that was posted on YUTorah in the past week titled Rabbis on the Run: The Shach and the Chmielnicki Massacres. Haven't listened to it myself, but it sounds like it may be relevant to your question. (Of course, it's very possible that you listened to this shiur and that's what prompted your question... :) ) Dec 13, 2021 at 1:40
  • 1
    @robev It is not there.
    – N.T.
    Dec 14, 2021 at 16:54

1 Answer 1


This story is brought by Rabbi Moshe Scheinerman in his book Ohel Moshe on Beresheet, pp. 331-334, in the name of Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, as a continuation of a story brought by the Ramchal in his book Derech Etz Chaim about Rabbi Shimshon of Ostropol.

According to this version, Rabbi Shimshon heard there was a way to put an end to the massacres if three gedolim would give up their lives for the cause. He volunteered himself immediately and then asked the Shach to do so as well. The Shach asked for three months to complete his work, and then the two died.

In a footnote on the story, Rabbi Scheinerman brings Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach's response to this story, including his belief that perhaps Rabbi Meltzer heard the story from a Kabbalist he knew, Rabbi Lider. Rabbi Scheinerman then continues and writes that he found in the book Tuvcha Yabi'u by Rabbi Zilberstein, that Rabbi Zilberstein wrote that he once sat in Rabbi Eliyashiv's study, perusing the Shach's introduction to Yoreh Deah. When Rabbi Eliyashiv saw what he was reading, he told him that he has a tradition about the Shach, and proceeded to tell a slightly different version of this story.

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