Rav Matisyahu Chaim Salomon, zt”l // The Life and Lessons of the Revered Mashgiach of Beth Medrash Govoha

For over 50 years, Rav Matisyahu Salomon inspired thousands of Yidden around the world through his many shmuessen and vaadim, his personal guidance, and as a role model for the heights one can reach through Torah and mussar. In addition to serving as mashgiach of Gateshead and BMG, he was a guiding force for world Jewry through his unwavering hashkafos and leadership in dealing with every thorny issue that arose in klal Yisrael, ranging from the inherent dangers of technology to the issue of ensuring that all children have a school to attend, to the kids at risk phenomenon, and so much more.
He inspired masses of Yidden through his powerful speaking style and his mastery of both English and Yiddish, as well as through his sefarim, which cover many areas of chinuch and hashkafah. As one talmid put it, “Rav Matisyahu was not just a ‘Litvishe gadol’ or a ‘yeshivish mashgiach’; rather, he was a gadol for all of klal Yisrael. He had an uncanny ability to connect to any Jew, no matter his background or level of observance, and he brought out the best in everyone.”

Early Years
Rav Matisyahu was born in London in 1936 to his parents Reb Yaakov and Mrs. Ettil Salomon. He came from a Yekkish family, with his parents moving to England from Germany shortly after Hitler’s rise to power. As a young boy, his parents relocated to Gateshead, where he was raised and educated.
As a talmid in Gateshead Yeshivah, he became exceptionally close to Rav Chaim Kaufman, whom he would often quote in his shmuessen. He excelled in his studies and gained a mastery in Shas, something that was evident from his shmuessen and speeches, in which he would quote extensively from maamarei Chazal, midrashim and mussar works. It was related that people would quip that Rav Matisyahu was destined to become a great rosh yeshivah and Rav Kaufman, who had a predisposition towards mussar, would become a great mashgiach. As hashgachah would have it, the opposite occurred, with Rav Matisyahu becoming a world-famous mashgiach and Rav Kaufman becoming a rosh yeshivah in Gateshead.
It is also related that people would predict that Rav Matisyahu would become a great rav, while his brother-in-law, Rav Pesach Eliyahu Falk, with whom he learned in Gateshead, would become a great mashgiach. Again, Rav Falk ultimately became a world-renowned rav and posek, with Rav Matisyahu becoming a mashgiach. A student of Rav Matisyahu’s relates that he asked Rav Matisyahu if this story is true, and the Mashgiach just smiled. The student took his silence and lack of denial as confirmation that it was, in fact, true.
Rav Matisyahu subsequently learned for a period in Kfar Chasidim, under the mashgiach Rav Elya Lopian, zt”l. He became a lifelong talmid of Rav Elya’s and would quote the mussar lessons he learned from him for the rest of his life.
In the late 1960s, Rav Matisyahu began serving as an assistant mashgiach under Rav Moshe Schwab, zt”l, and he later took over as mashgiach of Gateshead Yeshivah, a position he held for about 30 years, until moving to Lakewood in 1997 to assume the role of mashgiach of BMG.
Rav Matisyahu was appointed mashgiach by the rosh yeshivah, Rav Leib Gurwicz, although he was very hesitant to accept the position. For his first few years as mashgiach, he would travel to the Steipler Gaon every year to ask if he could leave his leadership role and return to full-time learning in kollel, which is what he truly desired to do. However, the Steipler told him that he must accept the position and continue to positively influence the bachurim. He would later relate that after a number of years, he accepted that this was his purpose in life, even if it was not what he ideally wanted to do. He later explained, “All of my success in life has been as a result of stepping up and doing things that I did not want to do.”
While still in Gateshead, as a young man in his 30s, he was very much involved in leading the community at large and was accepted as a manhig. The Gateshead Rav, Rav Bezalel Rakow, worked closely with him on all communal matters, and he would travel around the country to deliver words of chizzuk and offer guidance to the klal and to individuals in need of help.
Rav Matisyahu began coming to America to speak at the Agudah Conventions and other venues in the mid-1980s, which is when he caught the attention of the Lakewood Mashgiach, Rav Nosson Meir Wachtfogel, who was very impressed by the brilliant orator and baal mussar and concluded that he was needed in the growing yeshivah town of Lakewood. In fact, in 1987, Rav Matisyahu was offered the positions of mashgiach in Lakewood and in Yeshivas Ponevezh in Bnei Brak. He consulted with Rav Elazar Menachem Mann Shach, the rosh yeshivah of Ponevezh, who told him that the Gateshead community still needed him and he should stay for another ten years. He also told him that while he would love to have him as mashgiach in Ponevezh, he felt that Rav Matisyahu’s specific kochos were better suited for America and would be a perfect fit for Lakewood.
At that time, rumors had begun circulating that the revered mashgiach was thinking of leaving Gateshead after 20 years at the helm of the community, which caused a great tumult. The Manchester rosh yeshivah, Rav Yehuda Zev Segal, called a public gathering to announce Rav Shach’s decision that Rav Matisyahu would be staying for the time being.

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