The Wonders of Asher
I am naming this chapter The Wonders of Asher, since in the chapter which speaks about the Rabbis of the kehilla, certain characteristics of our righteous Rov's radiant personality, the Menuchas Osher were mentioned. He was known far and wide as the Tzaddik of Csenger. After receiving requests from people to write more about his wondrous ways, we will relate just a small part of the wonders that he performed.
I cannot be so conceited as to claim that I will be successful in uncovering the whole curtain that hides his illuminating personality, but I will start with love and with fear to describe some parts of his greatness.
People say that the Menuchas Osher was very tall and very good-looking, and his appearance commanded respect, together with his great influence on the places where he came and lived.
Once when he was visiting his grandfather who lived in Prague, he was out in the street, and the queen (Maria Theresa, the Austrian Empress) rode by .She saw the Menuchas Osher who was then a beautiful young man, and ordered her officer to tell him to visit her in her palace. Upon hearing this, Rav Yungreis was very frightened and asked his grandfather what to do. The grandfather told him that this was the test that Yosaif, the son of Yaakov Oveenu was put through. He told him that the queen is a reincarnation of Potifar's wife, and that he has to escape to Hungary. He came to Hungary and visited one of the Gedolim who advised him to change his name to Yungreis which means a young rose. It is a connotation of a person who despite his young years, is great in wisdom.
Aside from being great in Torah and wisdom, his knowledge of medicine was sought by both Jews and non-Jews. He was able to help sick people with yeshuos (salvations), and it was obvious to all that as soon as the sick people came to him, they were cured.
I myself who spent some years of my youth in the house of the Old Rov Rav Osher Anshel Halevi Yungreis Ztl, who was a grandson of the Menuchas Osher heard from the Rebbetzin Soroh, many stories about the miracles that the Menuchas Osher performed, and I will relate some of them as I have heard them from her. I also found these stories written in the Sefer Menuchas Osher (which was written by the young Rov, Rav Aryeh Yungreis mentioned previously).
When people who suffered from paralysis or fractures were brought to the Menuchas Osher he would feel them with his hands and pray quietly, and the afflicted person would immediately be healed. When he wrote a prescription for a sick person, he would take the prescription and feel it with his hands. After the prescription was filled by the drugstore, the sick person would completely recover.
One time a messenger arrived to the Rov from a nobleman that was famous in the city, and in the whole district, by the name of Sohani, and he notified the Rov that the nobleman wants to come to him to seek his advice about an important matter. The nobleman came, and people were frightened because it was very unusual that a person of his status should visit a Rov. The nobleman told the Rov that two weeks ago a whole herd of horses from his farm got lost and no one, not even the police can find them. Since he heard about the Rov's wisdom, he's wondering if he could advise him how to find out about the whereabouts of the horses. He knows that the Rov is too busy to be bothered with something like his, but he would like his advice about how to guard his farm in order to prevent something like this from happening.
The Rov asked him if there were any horses left on the farm from that herd that had been stolen. He answered that there were. So he advised him to take two horses from that herd and tie them up to the wagon, and send one of his caretakers of the horses with them, and that he should lead them on the main roads of the country. He also should take with him provisions for a week's time. He should not travel to any specific destination, but wherever the horses lead him. He should not direct the horses at all. This way, the missing ones will be discovered. The Rov's advice was followed, and the horses kept going for a few days. On the third day they reached an area where horses were grazing near the city of Debrecyn, named Hortovetg Posta. It was here that the horses themselves turned to go to the fields with the pasture, without anyone leading them, and they drank from the water troughs. After they finished drinking they didn't want to leave the water trough, and started to let their voices be heard. Their voices were heard by a herd hundreds of horses, and a few of them went away from the herd, and walked straight to the horses of the nobleman. The caretaker of the horses recognized them as those that had been stolen.
Once a woman who was an Aguna (who doesn't know the whereabouts of her husband) came to him and told him that her husband disappeared suddenly and she doesn't know his whereabouts. She hasn't heard from him for a few years. As it is known, a woman like this cannot remarry unless her husband gives her a divorce, or unless she finds out what happened to him (whether he died). The Rov asked her to stay in his house and wait. She did as he asked her to, and she settled in the Rov's house waiting to see what the future will bring.
One day when the time of the marketing day arrived, the Rov asked the boy who took care of his house, to go to the market of the lumber merchants. He asked him that when he sees the first wagon loaded with wood, he should immediately buy all the wood. If someone else comes and offers a higher price, he should keep raising his offer. He told him that under no circumstances should he let the other person who will want to buy the wood do so. After that he was to come with the wagon and the wood to the Rov's house.
The boy did as he was told, and as soon as he went to the first wagon that arrived with wood to offer to buy it, someone else came and began bidding a higher price. The boy kept bidding higher prices, until he eventually got the lumber, and he came with the wagon and the lumber, and the driver of the wagon to the Rov's house. The man that wanted to buy the wood kept following the Rov's messenger and kept cursing him until they entered the yard of the Rov's house, and the man kept on going with them. The Rov then called over the Aguna and asked her to identify the man that was behaving in such a disgraceful manner. She recognized him as her lost husband. The Rov asked that the man be brought to his room, and started yelling at him. He asked him: Why did he leave his wife, who is so unfortunate? The man got frightened, and realized that the whole event with buying the lumber didn't happen for nothing. It was directed from Heaven so that he should be found. He promised to give his wife a divorce.
One time a man came to the Rov and complained of suffering from very severe pains in his back for a year's time. He had ten children, one of them being a daughter of marriageable age, and was unable to support his family because of this. He didn't have the strength to bear the pain any more. The Rov got up from his high chair (which remained in his grandson's house until the year 1944) and asked him where the pain in his back was. The Rov felt his back as the man spoke to him, and even before he had a chance to show him where the pain was the pains disappeared. The man got scared because the pains disappeared as if they had never been there. The Rov wished him a Refua Shleima (complete recovery), and he was completely cured.
Near Csenger, within a radius of four miles, there is a village called Andyalush. There was a rich man by the name of Lichtman who owned a tavern, and made a good living. There was a young Gentile who was a famous robber. Every time he drank the liquor he refused to pay. Mr. Lichtman was afraid to ask him for the money he owed him, which was quite a substantial sum, and the man kept coming in and drinking until he became drunk. Mr. Lichtman was afraid to say anything to him because when he got drunk it was very dangerous for him.
At times this robber would invite his friends and order Mr. Lichtman to give all of them drinks. They didn't pay at all. Mr. Lichtman decided to leave the village because he was afraid that the robber would try to kill him. He decided to ask the Rov for his advice. The Rov told him not to leave the village and to stay in his house and not be afraid.
After Mr. Lichtman returned to his home a few weeks passed and the robber hadn't appeared in the tavern. A few days later he came with his friends and asked Mr. Lichtman to pour them all drinks. They all became drunk. While the robber and his friends were still in the tavern, a shepherd came and asked Mr. Lichtman to pour him a drink. He tied his horse in the yard of the tavern. When he came into the tavern he didn't notice the robber and his friends who were sitting at the table nearby. The robber said to the shepherd in a loud voice Where do you get the nerve to enter a place where I am without asking me how I am ? Why didn't you say Good morning? The shepherd didn't answer him and continued to drink calmly. When the robber saw that he is ignoring him, he went over to him and grabbed the end of his coat and said to him Don't you know who I am? How come you are not answering me when I speak to you? The shepherd had a long stick with an iron top, and when he realized that the robber was holding his coat with one hand and wanted to choke him with the other, he picked up his stick and hit him over the head. The robber immediately fell to his death. After that the robber's friends stopped coming to the tavern, since they were afraid to be in the place that their leader was killed, and Mr. Lichtman continued to live peacefully. His children also lived there until the year 1944, when they were taken to the Ghetto of Mátészalka.
Once a man from the village of Porcsalma came to the Rov. The man made his living by delivering materials that were used for dresses. He would load the materials on his horse and wagon. He was a very poor man and his horse was stolen. The Rov told him to wait until Friday, the day of the big market in Csenger, and then to go to the place where they were selling horses during the marketing day between one and three in the afternoon. The thief himself will offer him to buy the horse. The man did as the Rov told him to and he came in the designated hour to the market of the horses. He recognized his horse, and when a boy asked him to buy the horse, he called over a policeman, and the horse was returned to him. He went back to the Rov's house to thank him, and asked him why he told him to go to the market during the afternoon hours. The Rov told him that the thieves who steal horses know that the owner of a stolen horse will go look for it in the market place. They figure that the owner will probably come in the morning and stay till the afternoon and get tired of looking for it. In the afternoon he'll probably want to eat and drink and go home. Then the thief figures he has nothing to be afraid of and will try to sell the horse, for a cheap price, just to get rid of it. The Rov asked the man if the thief didn't try to sell it for a cheap price, and the man answered that he did.
Near Csenger there was a city of N.Karol, which was the residence of a squire by the name of Naga Karol. He suffered from a malignant type of tumor in his feet and no doctor could cure him. He was always transported in a wheel chair, because he couldn't take one step on his own. Every squire in those days had a Jewish man who served as his adviser and even lent him money in times of trouble. One time the squire asked the Jewish man that helped him, how come he had given him so much advice and he couldn't help him find a cure for his sickness? Where was his Jewish wisdom, he demanded to know.
The Jewish man answered him that life and death is in the hands of Hashem and in his case, no human wisdom could help. He advised him to seek help from the Rov of Csenger to whom all the Jews travel and ask for his blessings for the coming year. He offered to go with him to the Rov. The squire answered that he couldn't make the trip being that he was confined to a wheel chair. However, he asked him to speak to the Rov about him, and ask that the Rov should pray for him. The man went to the Rov and gave him over the squire's sickness. The Rov wrote a prescription for the squire to take to the pharmacy. The Rov, however, warned that as soon as he starts taking this medicine the Jewish man should leave the squire's house and not return until a week later, because it would be too dangerous for him to be there before the week was over. The Jewish man returned to the squire, thereby giving him the medicine. He told him that the Rov promised that the medicine would cure his feet. Then the Jewish man hid in the home of relatives in a different city and didn't return home for a week.
The squire drank the medicine and began to feel severe pains in his legs. The second day he again drank the medicine and his pains became stronger, and he began to curse and ask for the Jewish man. He prepared his gun to kill him whenever he would see him, and sent his servants to the Jewish man's house to bring him. But they couldn't find him. Another few days passed and the squire started to feel better. On the fifth day he started to move one leg, and the next day he could move both legs. On Shabbos he stood up and started walking around like everyone else.
On Sunday the Jewish man came to the squire and he asked him where he had been a whole week. He was very happy to see him. The Jewish man told him that the righteous Rov of Csenger told him to go into hiding for a week. The squire remarked that he never saw such a person who was so righteous, and a prophet and miracle worker at the same time. He made sure that all the Gentiles in the area find out about this miracle. They all said that if the Rov of the Jews could perform such miracles, how much more miracles could the G-d of the Jews perform!
The young Rov of Csenger, Rav Eliezer Aryeh Yungreis writes in his sefer Menuchas Osher that the Menuchas Osher became the Rov of Csenger, and it's surrounding cities in the year l834. It says there that our holy Rabbi didn't have enough lumber to heat the house in the winter, and he had to learn with his son while they were covered up with blankets in a bed. The son didn't cover himself well enough, because of his father's honor. (He wanted his father to have the larger part of the blanket). Because of this, one of his toes became frost bitten. Even then he didn't stop learning.
The trait of being satisfied with very little and the learning of Torah while living a life of great poverty formed the cornerstone and foundation of his life, as it says in Pirkei Ovos (6:4) This is the way of learning Torah. You should eat a piece of bread with salt, and drink a measured amount of water. It is also mentioned there that our Rabbi lived a very frugal life. He would send the money that people gave him for all the help he extended to them to Eretz Yisroel and to those who were sitting and learning there.
The young Rov writes about the passing of the righteous Rov of Csenger as follows:
After our Rabbi had led his flock in Csenger for forty years (l834-l874), he was summoned to go up to Heaven in order to partake of the Eternal Light of the Heavenly Treasures. On the night of the fourth of Kislev, on the Tuesday of Parshas Toldos, after davening Maariv, he learned with his students the tractate Shabbos (89:1) in which it says Rav Yehoshua ben Levi said that when Moshe Rabbenu went up to Heaven he saw Hashem putting crowns on the letters etc... Our Rabbi explained this to mean that this is alludes to the World to Come where the righteous will be sitting with crowns, as it says (Brochos l7:1) The righteous sit and their crowns are on their heads and they bask in the light of Hashem's Holy Presence.
After learning with his students, he said Krias Shema and went to sleep. After midnight the sun stood still (as it says in Yehoshua l0:12) and his pure soul departed without pain. The whole community cried because the Holy Ark was taken away from its midst. The great Rabbis of the generation gathered to give powerful eulogies and greatly mourned him, as it says And the entire House of Israel mourned him (Devorim 20:29 ) (The Torah says this when Aaron Hakohen passed away).
When Rav Shmuel Shmelke Ztl, the Rov of Selish, Hungary, and the author of Tzror Hachaim eulogized him, he said that the day of his passing is just like Yom Kippur. He said Our Kohain Godol is wrapped in his white clothing, but who will pray for us? Eveyone burst out crying.
Our holy Rabbi, the Menuchas Osher was laid to rest in the old cemetery in Csenger and the kehilla built a tent (a room on top which is enclosed either with bricks or concrete). I remember that all the people of the kehilla, even when I was there, would come to pray there during times of trouble experienced by an individual or many people. People would go pray there when they reached a turning point in their lives . Many people would put forth their different requests when standing at the grave, and I know of many instances that people received the salvations they needed, and their requests were fulfilled.
The following is written on the grave:
This is the monument of our Rabbi, who was righteous and humble, the
Glory of the wise ones, who helped out KIal Yisrael greatly.
And who was extremely diligent.
He passed away at a ripe old age on
Let the earth not think that she can enclose
Overthere his light shines as the sun shines
His spirit and soul derive pleasure among
The one who was laid to rest will arise
His body will rest in peace, and his soul
May His Soul Be Tied Up to the Bond of the Living.
Our holy Rabbi merited to have a great dynasty of holy and learned Rabbis
descend from him. Of his five sons and three son-in-laws, and their
descendants, most of them were Rabbonim and leaders among Klal Yisroel. More
than sixty people of his family, who were very learned, among whom there were
famous Rabbonim, were killed sanctifying Hashem's name in the year 1944.
The life and passing of our righteous Rabbi, the Old Rabbi
As it is written in the chapter entitled The Rabbis of the Community, our old Rabbi was the Rov of Csenger for forty years until he was forced out of the city together with his community, and made to go to the Ghetto of Mátészalka. For forty years he led his community peacefully in the path of Torah and Yiras Shomayim (fear of Heaven). He always influenced them to repent and to have fear of Heaven. I will relate here some of my memories:
My father, Rav Yosaif Freedman, May Hashem avenge his blood, was the Gabbai in Csenger for fifteen years. He had a direct connection with the Rov in matters concerning the community. Many times I accompanied my father when he went to see the Rov, and I also carried out many missions as a result of these connections. I learned in the Yeshiva that was supervised by him for two years, even though it was under the direction of the young Rabbi, his son Aryeh, who is now the Rov of the shul Menuchas Osher in Brooklyn, New York. Some memories of the Rov's wondrous deeds remain in my mind from the time that I was acquainted with him.
Our Rabbi learned day and night, during the time of the daylight, and when darkness reigned, and he slept very little. When we came to learn at five o'clock in the morning the light was already on in his room, or in the study hall near his house where he was engrossed in his studies. Sometimes he would be sitting with his son, the young Rov and they would be delving into a Medrash, or a topic in the Talmud, or Mishnayos.
On Shabbos he wouldn't speak with anyone, whether with his family or anyone else, and if it was real necessary to speak, he spoke in Hebrew. He made do with very little, as far as materialistic needs were, and he ate meat and fish only on Shabbos. He ate very little because of a stomach ailment that he suffered from in his youth from eating fish that was spoiled. He drank a lot of black coffee. The Rebbetzin made sure that in the kitchen there should always be four or five thermoses filled with black coffee, ready to drink. This helped him overcome his steady pains .Despite the fact that he was always afflicted with pain, he never stopped learning and always davened with enthusiasm.
Even though he himself was content with very little, his concern for other people's welfare knew no bounds, and he especially extended great help to widows and orphans. In his old age he suffered from severe pains in his legs, and it was difficult for him to walk. This did not stop him from walking to our house many times, which was considerably far from his, to ask my father to suggest to the leaders of the community to obtain a loan or donation for a poor person, or to obtain financial help for a poor widow who had to marry off her orphaned daughter.
His efforts to help others and extend aid to poor people knew no limits. He never spared his strength for this important purpose. However, he never asked for anything for himself or his family.
Since he suffered from severe pains in his legs, the doctor he used felt that it was a medical necessity for him to travel to the mineral baths. My father once discovered by coincidence that after the Rov had received a special grant from the kehilla to travel to the mineral baths (probably in Marienbad, Czechoslovakia), he was home for the last two weeks. My father asked the Rov why he was delaying his trip. A few weeks had already passed since the time he was scheduled to go, which usually was around the nine days before Tisha B'Av. The Rov answered that this year he would not be travelling to the mineral baths and he hopes to return the money to the treasury of the kehilla.
But it was quite obvious that the Rov was limping more than usual. When people inquired as to why the Rov didn't go to the mineral baths, they found out that someone who had lost all his money suddenly, had been given the money that the kehilla gave the Rov for the purpose of travelling to the mineral baths.. With this money he would have the only chance of acquiring back some of his possessions which were taken as collateral. The Rov gave him the money that the kehilla had granted him for his own health. He promised that he would return the money to the kehilla's treasury as the man he helped did not want to accept loans from other people. The Rov found out about this man's problems by a coincidence, and rushed to come to his aid. Of course, this whole occurrence was kept a secret, and my father found someone who was willing to finance the Rov's trip.
The Rov did not burden the people of the community with his needs, with the exception of the fact that in the year 1932, he asked them to crown Rav Elozor Aryeh, his son with the crown of the Rabbinate of Csenger since he was aging and weak. He knew that this request would have to be approved by a general meeting of Csenger and the surrounding cities. Therefore, he convinced the father of my mother, Rav Yehuda Ringvortz Ztl to influence my father to persuade the majority of the kehilla's leaders to realize that he was right in asking for this, and that it was beneficial to choose another Rov while the present Rov was still alive (especially since his strength was failing).
This is exactly what happened. When the representatives of the kehilla and the surrounding cities got together for their conference, they chose the Rov's son to serve as Rov alongside his father, and gave him the title the young Rov. This young Rov sat on the throne of the Rabbinate of Csenger until the Holocaust. After the war he returned to Csenger, and realized that there were very few people left from the kehilla where he and his ancestors had served as Rabbonim.
Everyone was filled with sorrow on the loss of his dear ones. They didn't have the stamina to leave Csenger and to get married and set up families. The young Rov encouraged them to start their lives anew, and he renewed the life of the kehilla. Thus, the kehilla of Csenger was again set up on the ruins of the former kehilla. It's members got married, and have families of their own, and the young Rov continued to uphold the ways of his forefathers; which are the paths of kindness and peace.
The image of the old Rov stands before me as he did in his life time. I can visualize him standing before the Aron Kodesh in the big shul in Csenger, as he was wearing a long, white kittel, wrapped with a large tallis that had a silver trimming on it, and wearing a special high hat which he wore on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Around this hat was a silver line. With his long flowing white beard and his eyes closed, he faced the congregation, and delivered with his powerful voice the sermon before Kol Nidrei . From all my memories the one about Kol Nidrei eve remains mostly engraved in my heart.
No vehicles or people were seen in the streets of the city. You could only see Jews walking in the streets toward the direction of the shul, either alone or with their wives, as they were dressed in black and holding their kittel and tallis. They quickly ran to shul before the Rov started speaking, for it was for this drasha (speech) that they were willing to come earlier than usual. There were no people standing in front of the shul talking to each other, as one would normally see on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Every minute was precious. People were arriving from all the main streets and side streets, and wishing each other well. Everyone's eyes were focused on finding out whether the Rov had already begun speaking.
The shul was packed from corner to corner and didn't have enough space for everyone. The benches were full of people sitting and standing. More chairs were set up in the rows between the lines of benches, and they were also filled. In the women's gallery, it's quiet, even though it was packed, as you could see behind the curtains that covered it. Everyone was trembling as they said the Tefilla Zakka which is said before Kol Nidrei. The Rov ascended the steps in front of the Aron Kodesh and stood before it as his lips were quietly moving. Then he turned to the congregation and didn't open his fiery black eyes. He spoke in a weak voice. Today he doesn't thunder in a strong voice, and doesn't rebuke people. Only a low, quiet voice is heard and the angels hurry (as we say in the prayer of U'Nesaneh Tokef.) The congregation was filled with awe and fear. They were ashamed to face the Rov. They thought that maybe he would tell them that he rebukes them a whole year, and they are not bettering their ways.
I look at the Rov's face, and he doesn't look like the type of person that we are. With his holy image, white clothing and closed eyes, he is a messenger of Hashem. Maybe he is really the mediator between us and Hashem? Today the Rov is not yelling or scolding us, but talking to Hashem, He is praising the kehilla and describing their good qualities and noble deeds. Therefore the mitzvos that they do will tip the Heavenly scales in their favor and they will be inscribed for a good year, as the Rov is demanding. The Rov is speaking with Hashem and proving his integrity and the righteousness of the kehilla.
I am turning to look around. On my right is my grandfather, Rav Yehuda Reingvirtz, as he is wrapped up in his tallis, May Hashem avenge his blood, and on my left is my father, May Hashem avenge his blood. They are crying into the open machzor before them which is opened to the page of Kol Nidrei. Opposite us in the benches of the eastern wall is the Rosh Hakohol (head of the kehilla). This learned man, Rav Moshe Yosaif Greenfeld is standing quietly, and next to him is a man who is short, but radiating glory by the name of Rav Moshe Weiss May Hashem avenge his blood. In another corner, Rav Yitzchok Shatun Hakohen, who is the Rov's brother-in-law is standing quietly, with closed eyes, and he is the Maggid (one who gives speeches) in Csenger. At every bench and every corner stood the holy and pure images of the city who listened with rapt attention to the speech of the Rov.
Suddenly the powerful voice of the Rov as he is saying Or zorua la'tzaddik is heard. The Rov quickly opened the doors of the Aron Kodesh, and removed one Sefer Torah and walked down to the congregation. He began to circle the benches and bimah (stand on which the Torah is read) as he was holding the Sefer Torah. It seemed that he was telling everyone not to be afraid as he would be an advocate on their behalf. He walked with heavy steps as the burden he took upon himself was very heavy. He knew that his people sinned, but today he will only recall their good deeds. He walks slowly forward and cries out again Or zorua la'tzaddik. He is quiet again and his eyes are closed, even though he is wearing glasses. People are trying to help him, but he pushes them away. He feels that it's not necessary. He returns the Sefer Torah to the Aron Kodesh, and the Aron Kodesh remains open for Kol Nidrei. He descends and returns slowly to his place. He is standing with his back toward the congregation and his face towards the mizrach (eastern direction). All the people are waiting quietly, and suddenly the Rov turns his face toward the kehilla and gives a signal. It is then that the chazzan, Rav Chaim Peketeh, May Hashem avenge his blood starts to lead the davening. He has a pleasant voice and a long black beard, and he begins to say the ancient tefilla of Kol Nidrei. As he brings the prayers of the kehilla toward the Heavenly Throne, everyone knows that the gates of Heaven are opening up to receive their prayers.
Our Rov, Rav Osher Anshel Halevi Yungreis was killed in Auschwitz on the
fifteenth of Sivan in the year 1944 with most of the people of his kehilla.
They have no grave or marker. May Hashem avenge their pure and innocent blood.
The Past, the Present and the Future
by Avrohom Yungreis, Jerusalem
There are four types of characteristics found among people who give charity (in addition to those mentioned in Pirkei Ovos) (See Pirkei Ovos 5:15).
Just like these, there are four different categories of people among the refugees who were saved from the inferno. They have different opinions about the Holocaust, the destruction of the European Jewish communities, the annihilation of the European Jews, and the rebuilding of the lives and communities of the refugees whose lives were spared. Among all these, figure the past, the present and the future. The time that elapsed will not return.
The most praiseworthy characteristic and one that is on the highest level, is having pity on a poor man, not because of our pity that is aroused, but because of the obligation which the Torah puts on us (Devorim 15:10) You should give him time after time (The Torah mentions the word giving twice Noson teetane, which our Sages say that it means even a hundred times, as Rashi comments on the possuk). This speaks about a person who supports the needy with a radiant countenance, and receives the poor who knock on people's doors with a pleasant manner. On the doors of his home you will not see the lit up signs that read: It is forbidden to come in during our rest period. His dwelling is widely open for all those who need help during all hours of the day, and he fulfills the mitzvah of giving charity when he is walking on the road, or when he is sleeping or getting up. (See Devorim 6:7) He is such a charitable person that this middah (trait) of giving tzedakah has been made like a symbol on his hand which is forever outstretched to all the needy that approach him.
One mitzvah brings along another with it, and this good-hearted person joins the category of those who do kind deeds for the living, and he also reaches the high peak of those who do kindness with the deceased people. The love and devotion that he has for the living, and the kind deeds that he does with those who are no longer living, take hold in his heart.
A person who is endowed with these qualities is tied with every bond of his soul and every fiber of his being to the memory of his parents with an eternal bond, and he binds their souls together with those who will be born in the future.
Loving a person is comparable to loving Hashem. (Devorim 6:5) And you should love Hashem Your G-d, adds up to the numerical value of 907, the same as (Vayikrah 19:18) And you should love your friend like yourself I Am Hashem (who is commanding you to). We are wondering how come the Torah doesn't command us to love our parents whose devotion to us is unconditional. They are our most devoted friends. Our Sages tell us that there are three partners in the creation of a person which are Hashem, his father, and his mother. (Tractate Niddah 31:1) In the ten commandments, on the tablets which Moshe Rabbeinu carried down from Heaven it says (Shemos 20:19) (Devorim 5:l6) Honor your father and mother. It doesn't say to love them.
The answer is that the love of a child to his parents is something that comes naturally. It stems from motivations that you can't describe. This creates a bond between them until they are no longer alive, and a person doesn't have to be told to love his parents. The honor he has for them is eternal, and obligates him even when they are no longer alive. When a person dies, his friends accompany him in order to give him his final honor. However in regard to one's parents, the obligation of honoring them is everlasting.
The son who has cultivated in him the trait of chessed (kindness) with all its aspects, moves the past to the present, and carries it on to the future generations, as it says (Shemos 20:6) Hashem repays the good deeds that a person does for the next two thousand generations . (See Rashi on the possuk). Likewise a person, who cherishes the memory of his parents and does good deeds to perpetuate their memory, has the merit of having his kindness eternalized, and repaid by Hashem for all the years to come.
The level which is lower than the above one is of the person who really has no sympathy for the poor man, but sometimes when he encounters a needy person the trait of pity becomes aroused in him, and he gives him a small donation, not because he has any feelings of sympathy toward him. He thinks he has already fulfilled his obligation of giving charity, and he continues with his daily schedule.
The people who don't want to think about the bitter past all year round, and just remember their dear ones only on the day they were killed, fall into this category. On this day the wellsprings from the depth of the soul open up, and the tears pour forth freely. They flow into the sack that has dried up years ago. They justify this behavior since it is mentioned in the Tractate Brachos (58:2) that it was decreed that a deceased person should be forgotten from the heart. (So these people forget about their dear ones for a whole year). Nothing is motivating them to prefer remembering over forgetting. (The above mentioned Gemara does not mean that a person should forget the deceased altogether. If people would always have the departed ones in mind, it could cause depression. Also sometimes a person disappears and people keep thinking about him, and he reappears alive and well years later. Many people have met long lost relatives who disappeared in the Holocaust and who were believed to be dead. These people many times had a feeling that they were alive, and were fortunate enough to be reunited. The Gemara, however, tells us that if a person is really gone, he becomes forgotten to the extent that people won't have him in mind that much as if he would be alive. Yaakov Oveenu didn't know that Yosaif was in Mitzrayim all the years he mourned him. If he would really be deceased, Yaakov wouldn't have mourned him so much.) These people are not linking the future with the past.
There are people who are hard hearted like stone. They don't feel the pain of a poor person, but they realize that the wheel of fortune always turns round and round, and one day in the future the donor can become a recipient, and the recipient can become a donor. He is worried that in the future no one will pity him just as he didn't pity others. Therefore, when he donates charity he is doing it as a loan to himself that he might need if he ever should be in the same position of the poor people.
These people in the third category are embers who were saved from the fire of the Holocaust, who ignore the past and don't want to think about the future, but only about their own future. They are afraid that they will also be forgotten when they leave this world, so they just bring up the memory of their martyred relatives, so their children should remember them. They feel that since Hashem remembers to punish the sons for the sins of the fathers (only if the sons continued their sinful path) they will also be punished in kind since they are not doing enough to perpetuate the memory of their parents.
The fourth category of a person we are describing, is one who meets a person who is unfortunate and suffering from a physical defect He can't bear to see their suffering, and in order to free himself of the feelings of pity that have been aroused in him, he closes his eyes and disappears thereby taking giant steps. He can't bear to see the suffering of this afflicted person, and therefore he runs away.
For this person, the pain of the past, of the horrifying Holocaust, is too great to bear. His heart of flesh has turned into a heart of stone. He is cold and indifferent because of reasons that only he knows. That period in history is gone and will never return.
Hashem, who is the One Who Possesses Pity, should bestow His Kindness upon
them, and take them out from the dark to the light, and illuminate their road
in life, so that they walk on the right path.
by Avigdor Hershfeld
I was still a young boy when the events I am about to describe in the following chapters took place. I am writing mainly about the period of my youth, and dwelling briefly on other topics. I don't want to write about the history of the Jews of Porcsalma. I didn't research it, and I don't have the information or data concerning them. I am only relating the memories of my childhood in the village of Porcsalma.
Porcsalma is the name of the village where our small community dwelled. Porcsalma is a small village in Hungary near the city of Csenger. Thanks to the fertility of the lands in this region, the farmers of Porcsalma were prosperous. The village had a population of three thousand, among them dwelled one hundred seventy Jews.
The Jews of the Village
What was their origin? When did they first settle there? This we will probably never know. According to the monuments in the cemetery they lived there for hundreds of years.
From what city did they come to Porcsalma? This we don't know. We heard from
our grandparents stories about Jews from Poland that settled in the villages
hundreds of years ago. There was a continuous immigration from Galicia to the
villages in the Carpathian Mountains on the Hungarian side of the mountains.
After a generation or two they came over to settle in the villages that were
near Porcsalma. Forty Jewish families lived in Porcsalma with a population of
170 people. The population was stable without any significant changes until the
The Livelihood of the Jews
This was a community that didn't have very rich people, and also not very poor ones. There were a number of rich Jews in the village who were landowners, and merchants, and the like. However, no one was supported by them, since they all earned their living honorably; some by pursuing their trades and some by doing business. The tailoring business was completely in Jewish hands. Four families were in the tailoring business and they were famous among the surrounding villages. They were always busy, and their livelihood was always with abundance. They also dealt with eggs and chickens. Many people had an income from that.
The most successful cattle dealers in the area came from Porcsalma.
A lot of the owners of the stores in the village were Jews.
The Jews also had an income from agriculture.
There were charitable organizations in the community, but the Jews of Porcsalma themselves didn't need them for their own purposes.
The Observance of Religion in Porcsalma All the Jews in Porcsalma were religious according to the way they would be categorized in Eretz Yisroel.
There was no person in our community who openly desecrated the Shabbos. They worked very hard to support themselves. Sometimes the man who sold eggs would walk for ten or fifteen kilometers carrying the basket of eggs on his head. At night, when he passed by the shul, he would come in to join the minyan.
|The Jews also worked in agriculture (1942)
From left to right: Salomon Himli, Sorai Hirshfeld, Yitzchak Weiss,
Yoel Hirshfeld, Malka Weiss, and Menashe Hirshfeld
On Shabbos all the Jews of the village went to shul, whether or not they were observant. Going to shul on Shabbos was done not only for the purpose of davening. It also served as a meeting point between the Jews of the city. The conversations people held with each other in the yard of the shul during the time that the Torah was being read were an inseparable part of the life of the kehilla.
The women were very strict in their observance of kashrus. On Shabbosim and Yomim Tovim they also went to shul.
The Rov of Csenger was also, at the same time, the Rov of Porcsalma. Once a year, either on the Shabbos preceding Yom Kippur or the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah he would come to our town to speak about the Yomim Tovim. He was very much liked by the people of Porcsalma due to his phenomenal wisdom and great honesty for which he was famous.
|Rav Hirsh Elimelech
The Shochet and Baal Korey of Porcsalma
We also had a shochet starting from the year 1880 until after the First World War whose name was Rav Shmuel Berger. We intend to write about him in this publication. After him the shochet was Rav Hirsh Elimelech Weiss. All the religious needs of the kehilla were under the supervision of Rav Hirsh Elimelech. He was the shochet and bodek (one who inspects the knives used in shechita and the meat that was slaughtered), and the chazzan and mohel. Whenever a child was born he circumcised him. When a couple got married he arranged the Chupa (canopy) and performed the kiddushin (marriage rites).
He was a very big Talmid Chochom. He was respected above all his qualities for his righteousness and honesty. His love for people and for Hashem were bound together in him. The people of his kehilla loved him very much. I remember once when a real lively argument erupted in shul as to who should be the one to lead the congregation for the Mussaf prayers during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rav Hirsh kept away and didn't say anything, as if it had no connection to him. In the end, he was the one who led the congregation during Shacharis and Mussaf. After the Yomim Tovim I heard my father tell one of his friends that when Rav Hirsh Elimelech says And You Hashem accept our prayers willingly and with pity, Hashem has to listen to him.
There was also a Cheder in the village. The boys learned Chumash and Rashi and
some Gemara. The girls learned how to read and write Hebrew and how to daven.
The teachers in the Cheder who were called melamdim were Yeshiva
students who came to the village from time to time for a short time to earn
some money. Sometimes a few months could pass without a melamed in town. The
classes in the Cheder took place in the afternoon after the classes in Public
school would be over.
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