prior to my departure, thanks to my friend Miroslava Dulová, we met the
President of the Jewish Community of Bratislava PhDr. Peter Salner in his
office at Kozia 18, in Bratislava. I wanted to find out from first
hand all I could about the recently reconstructed and newly opened
Mausoleum of Chatam Sofer, located under Bratislava’s castle and the
entrance to the old tunnel for street cars and the left bank of Danube. It
was designed by architect MARTIN KVASNICA and the construction was realized
by local construction company RAFT. This project took several years to
complete due to the religious laws that had to be respected during the
construction, then some financial problems, as for instance in 2001 there
was 6 million crowns outstanding to the Raft company. But they believed
that the bills will eventually be paid off and continued working using
their own resources.
project was a massive cooperative effort on all levels, the city of
Bratislava, Slovak government, the Jewish Community, Jews and members of
other religions and atheists from Slovakia and abroad. Everybody involved
showed great amount of tolerance and solidarity. The Jewish Community of
Bratislava manages the mausoleum and at the present time it is open by
appointment only. The entrance fees from 10AM to 5PM are US$2.00 per
person and after 5PM there is a fee of US$10.00 for special opening
and US$ 2.00 per person. To arrange viewing please call
The mausoleum of Chatam Sofer and other important rabbis is becoming a pilgrimage
site of Jews from around the world.
The Jewish Community of Bratislava has about 600 members. At the last
census in 1991 there are 728 persons of Jewish religion in Bratislava.
There are 11 Jewish communities in Slovakia. Total number of Jews in
Slovakia is around 3000 with 60% being over 70 years old and 38% being
under 50 years old.
Following is reprinted from a
brochure: Mauzóleum Chatama Sofera, published by: SNM-Múzeum Židovskej
Kultúry, Bratislava 1996. ISBN-80-85753-68-5
Sofer, with his real name Moshe Schreiber was born in Frankfurt, Germany
on September 26, 1762. After his profound study of Hebrew, the Torah and
Talmud, he worked at several places-Boskovice, Prostějov and Nagymárton.
Already during his studies he has attracted his teachers and masters’
attention because of his deep exegetic knowledge. Out of the numerous
positions offered to him to become spiritual leader of a Jewish
congregation he decided to accept the offer of Bratislava Jewish
congregation and took up the post of Chief Rabbi on October 13th 1806. He
founded the rabbinical seminary whose excellent reputation and high
educational standard spread very quickly all over Europe.
trained hundreds of rabbis who became Jewish spiritual leaders all over
the world. He was outstanding scholar and noted expert of the Talmud, and
rabbis all over Europe used to visit him in Bratislava seeking advice and
asking for decisions regarding the Talmud. In addition to his educational
duties and religious functions, he devoted his life to juridical matters
in the congregation and was a “bal din,” i.e. “chief judge,”
according to orthodox rule. The believers accepted his decisions with
finality and without doubt. In 1809, when Bratislava was besieged by the
Napoleonic troops, Chatam Sofer took refuge in the nearby village of Saint
Jur from where he managed to organize charitable activity in order to help
his fellow citizens who were impoverished and affected by the war. Chatam
Sofer was known as a man of letters. Seven volumes appeared in print-Responsi
Chatam Sofer, Exegeses of Talmud Tracts, Exegeses of Selected Passages of
Talmud, Torah Moshe-Exegeses of the five books of Moses, Memoirs from the
Time of the Besiege of Bratislava by the Napoleonic Troops and Sacred
1839 he fell seriously ill and died on October 3rd. His coffin was made
out of the planks of his lecturer’s desk. His burial was attended by his
numerous former students end the entire religious congregation of
Bratislava. The Chatam Sofer Mausoleum is a rarity among the sights of
Slovakia. It is part of a former Jewish cemetery dating back to the years
1670-1847. It is situated at the foothills of the Small Carpathian
Mountains between the Danube and the Bratislava’s castle and has been
the property of the Bratislava Jewish congregation up to this day. There
are 23 graves and 41 separate tombstones in the Mausoleum. It is
frequently visited by the believers from all over the world who come here
to say their prayers and pay tribute to Chatam Sofer, the greatest Jewish
scholar of the nineteenth century.
ON THE TOMB OF CHATAM SOFER
at the bottom)
keep eternal remembrance, the righteous man of God shall rest in
peace in this house;
is the crowning glory of Pressburg’s splendor and the pride of her
crown of rabbis. Father of scholars, a true genius, bright and
and efficient in Babylon’s and Jerusalem’s Talmuds, the pride of
our kin-peace to him,
teacher and master, Moshe Sofer, hallowed be his memory to all
has forsaken Israel. Her splendor, Moshe, chosen by the Lord God,
has entered the grave.
people seem to be straying through the dark, all souls seem to be
thrashed to the ground,
the sun has set and the light gone. The youngsters, Yeshurun’s
children, cry out:
is our shepherd?” The orphan and widow groan: “Where is our
rich and the poor call and morn jointly-they have lost their adviser
that counseled them so well.
righteous realm has spread, in the West and the South, like water,
to the Holy City of Jerusalem.
disdained profit and wealth, gained wrongfully; his riches was the
power of the Lord God,
gathered strength by his faith; his only endeavor was to fortify the
Law in Jacob.
Moshe was an upright shepherd of his flock, for thirty-three years
he has led it through
way of God and piety, he was a servant of God’s crowd and amazed
it by his precious teaching until the
of his life. In hundreds and thousands he called forth a longing for
the teaching of God
he has led the eager into the chambers of his doctrine.
were raised onto the throne of Yehuda’s house and,
moment God’s herald arrived to carry him to the cherubs, there
were many adherents gathering
his bedside because he was just elucidating the Ve-zot ha-bracha
then blessed the entire community and abandoned this vale of tears:
his magnificent deeds
divine acts will never be forgotten, this is his name, this is his
memory- Beauty of Israel.
Moshe proceeded to the Lord God, passed away and died in the year
5600 after the Creation,
25th of the month Tishri, and was placed here into the grave and
buried in this tomb the following day,
26th of the same month, but his memory will not become extinct in
his soul shall be received within the bond of the living.
at the top)
stone proclaims to Jacob’s house that the glory of this tomb is
great, Israel’s glory in this tomb.
inside there is the grave of a man of the Lord God. This is great
resting-place and his name is greater
any other, it is the crown of Pressburg’s beauty and magnificence
of the kindred.
when he has fulfilled his creator’s will and learned the paths of
his grace, the Lord God bid Moshe,
the month of Tishri, to come to him to heaven and prepared him an
eternal abode there and placed him among the mighty founders and
supporters of the Torah and the eternal service to God,
now he abides in heaven, and the city of Pressburg is the place
where his stone has been put up
this is a memorial stone for the sons of Israel, and it is here to
make known also to the last
which will rise and pass along, that the place where they are
standing is sacred ground.
glory shall be his rest. He was God’s favorite; at one time he has
lived at the place of his rest
seventy-eight years and used to go with Lord and do what is good and
straightforward in the eyes
the Lord God. From birth throughout his life he accomplished good
deeds and met the commands of God.
when the light of his creed appeared in all dwellings of the
shepherds who tented in the field of the Torah, the Lord God had him
called to heaven and the candle of Israel went out and, lo,
sun clouded, the shepherds’ laments were heard in Yehuda’s
towns’ because the splendor
taken away from them, for Jacob’s genius has died. And when he
died, a great honor was bestowed
him, the city’s wailing ascended to heaven and all people, young
and old, followed his coffin weeping.
from his 300 dear disciples who had daily listened to his voice, out
of whom 50 had commented
his still handwritten creeds, further disciples came in crowds from
the neighborhood, where they carried
the function of rabbi, to hold orations and mourn over their
teacher. There has never been
day before when the Lord God has called forth so much grief and
lamentations, when all hearts
broken, all faces full of sorrow and tears pouring down their
cheeks. All who write Bikurej-ha-itim,
historians and even those who are not descended from the sons of
Israel, announced to the public
a man known for the greatness of his deeds has passed away and been
called to his fathers.
in all lands where the sad tidings were received the Jews mourned
and urged all to grieve and lament.
Israel mentioned him in prayers and orations-Woe, O Lord! Woe our
master! His justness is eternal!
will guard the people of Moses? And the Lord God wiped the tears off
the tears off all faces, because death
be blotted out forever.
the tomb’s right side)
is a house of splendor, prepared for Moshe, for his rest. It is to
tell about the glory of his magnitude,
the greatness of his teaching and of his justness. All parts of the
tomb are a record of his praiseworthy
which are innumerable and cannot all b e listed.
was a light in his kin for all Israel. Woe to you, Yeshurun! Your
torch has gone out and its flame
the tomb’s left side)
house is a guard-room of holiness, in it there is hidden the dust of
the lawmaker, the protector
the Torah who has set out in fervor to subdue all those who rose
armed himself with strength to remove all obstacles out of his way,
and if it were not for him,
would be covered with thorns and brambles.
of Pressburg, wail, lament and mourn, because your beloved one-crown
wisdom-has left you, his face covered with dust. He who was famed
throughout the world,
was a leader of the diaspora, has left this earth and entered the
house of the Lord God.
Israel was weakened, and his sublimity was covered by the dust of
the earth, and your joy,
was changed into sorrow.
GO TO PEOPLE STORIES
Published in the
Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 10, No. 3, Fall 2002
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 2002-2003
Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced,
republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without
the express written permission of Vladimir
Linder. All rights reserved.