||First edition of this popular biography of R. Moses Sofer (Hatam Sofer), R. Akiva Eger, and R. Abraham Samuel Benjamin Sofer (Ketav Sofer), R. Simeon Sofer, and R. Simhah Bunim Sofer by R. Solomon ben Abraham Samuel Benjamin Sofer (1853-1930) rabbi of Beregszasz.
R. Moses Sofer (Hatam Sofer, Moses Schreiber) was one of the leading rabbis of European Jewry in the first half of the nineteenth century. oremost Hungarian Rabbi, Halakhic authority, and champion of Orthodoxy (1762-1839), known, after the title of his Responsa collection, as Hatam Sofer ("Seal of the Scribe"). He was born in Frankfurt where he studied under R. Phineas Horowitz, the Rabbi of the town, and R. Nathan Adler, a Talmudist and Kabbalist whose esoteric leanings were not to the taste of the staid Frankfurt community, which he was forced to leave, taking his disciple, R. Sofer, with him. After occupying Rabbinic positions in Dresnitz and Mattersdof, R. Sofer was appointed Rabbi of Pressburg (Bratislava) where he served until his death. He was succeeded in this position by his son, R. Abraham Samuel Benjamin Wolf (1815- 71), known as the Ketav Sofer ("Writing of the Scribe"), who, in turn, was succeeded by his son, Simhah Bunen (1842-1906), known as the Shevet Sofer ("Pen of the Scribe"). It is a curious fact that each of the three Sofers served as the Rabbi of Pressburg for thirty-three years and both the last two were appointed at the age of 29. R. Sofer saw danger to traditional Judaism in the Haskalah movement and he had a largely negative attitude towards Moses Mendelssohn and his followers. R. Sofer's application of a Talmudic ruling became the slogan of Hungarian Orthodoxy. The Talmud, discussing the law of Hadash ("New"), the corn harvested before the Omer (Leviticus 23: 14), rules that "Hadash is forbidden by the Torah," meaning, it is a biblical, not only a Rabbinic, law that the prohibition of Hadash stands even after the destruction of the Temple and, even outside the land of Israel. Sofer's pun on this ruling is that anything new (hadash), any innovation in Jewish life, is forbidden by the Torah. R. Sofer, more than any other authority of his day, placed the Rabbinate on a proper professional footing, giving details of Rabbinic contracts and saying that these should be drawn up to be as binding as any other business contract, even though the Talmud frowns on a scholar receiving any payment for his services. Sofer writes (Responsa, Yoreh Deah, no, 230): "Nowadays, where a Rabbi is appointed and he moves residence to settle in the town and they fix his salary, just like any other employee, and included in his stipend are the fees for officiating a weddings and divorces and so forth, he does not act in anyway unlawfully by receiving his salary."
Rabbi Akiva Eger or Eiger (1761-1837) (b. 11 Cheshvan 5522, d. 13 Tishei 5598 on the Hebrew Calendar), was a Jewish Talmudic scholar and influential halakhic decisor (posek). While his name is commonly spelled Eiger, his official name was Eger. He was born as Akiva Güns (another variant being Akiba ben Moses Guens) in Eisenstadt; the most important town of the Sheva Kehillos (seven Jewish communities) of Burgenland, Hungary (now Austria). He was a child prodigy and was educated first at the Mattersdorf yeshiva and later by his uncle, Rabbi Wolf Eger (1756-1795) (b. 5516, d. 6 Tishrei 5556), at the Breslau (Wrocław) yeshiva, who later became Rabbi of Tziltz and Leipnik. Out of respect for his uncle he changed his surname to Eiger. He therefore shared the full name Akiva Eiger with his maternal grandfather, the first Rabbi Akiva Eiger (1722-1758) (b. 5482, d. 15 Elul 5518) the Mishnas Derebbi Akiva who was Rabbi of Tziltz, Silesia from 1749 and Pressburg from 1756.
He was the rabbi of Markisch Friedland, Poland from 1791 until 1815; then for the last twenty two years of his life, he was the rabbi of the city of Posen (Poznań). He was a rigorous casuist of the old school, and his chief works were legal notes and responsa on the Talmud and the Shulkhan Arukh. He believed that religious education was enough, and thus opposed the party which favored secular schools. He was a determined foe of the Reform movement, which began to make itself felt in his time. His daughter Sarel (1790-1832) (b. 5550, d. 18 Adar II 5592), was the second wife of the Hatam Sofer.