Rabbi Dov B. WarshavskyTHE LAST RABBI OF THE LAST COMMUNITY
As always, the sun shone brightly, and the whole town bathed in the sunlight. I walked through the streets of Drohitchin and noticed how nothing had changed. People were going and hurrying in various directions. I recognized faces with smiling eyes as they passed by and disappeared from view.
I turned in the direction of the rebbe's house. I opened the door of the house, and saw how nothing had changed there either. Everything was just where it was before. In the living room of the rabbinical court the gray-haired rabbi sat at the large table and swayed while he studied a book. He didn't see me; I looked around in all the rooms; it was deathly quiet. It was weird, and then realized I was dreaming.
This was the same dream I had every day and night ever since I left home, my parents, the rabbi, friends and the town with its Jews. It was a dream, and it was hard to believe that they were all dead. No! It couldn't be! It was impossible; it was unbelievable!
It was just a dream. The sunlight disappeared, as did the bright images, while around me was a dark vacuum. The feeling was very bad, and my longing for them all broke my heart.
Just as how I saw him in this recent dream, I had seen R. Isaac Yaakov Kalenkovich ten years earlier that very month when I came to meet him. At that same time I had left the rabbi swaying over a Talmudic tractate; his eyes showed deeply hidden suffering behind his thick glasses.
I had the privilege from my earliest youth to be virtually a member of the rabbi's family. His house was a second home to me, and I had great pleasure from sitting in his house, because aside from Torah study, visitors were able to discuss worldly issues with the rabbi. Even though his external appearance was gray and old (he aged prematurely), his heart was young and fresh. People were able to consult him as they would their own father or intimate friend, and made a person feel young again.
R. Isaac Kalenkovich, may G-d avenge his blood, was truly a hidden talent. He fled from honor and eschewed fame. Actually, he didn't know what honor was because his entire life studying Torah intensively.
Rabbi Kalenkovich rarely left Drohitchin at any time. I don't remember that he ever left town on vacation in the country for a few months as others did, even though his weak health demanded it. He was always available to answer halachic questions, listen to someone with a broken heart and offer advice and consolation. He served his community like a trustworthy guard.
When there were no halachic issues to be clarified, Rabbi Kalenkovich dove into his Talmudic studies. His health caused him to move slowly, but from time to time he would let out a deep sigh together with a soft melody, chanting Talmudic passages.
Rabbi Kalenkovich never belonged to any party, and stayed away from politics. Only now, as I realize the true face of parties and politics, am I able to value the rabbi's great trait. For this reason, Rabbi Kalenkovich attained a high level of truth and Torah, remaining undisturbed by party jealousies and hatreds.
Rabbi Kalenkovich was typical of rabbis of the previous generation, and was a thoughtful and logical scholar, acquainted with the entire body of Torah literature, and
G-d-fearing. He was friendly with everyone, maintained a good appearance and was extremely hygienic. He hated watery empty speeches, and rarely gave moralizing speeches. When he spoke, his words included some Torah teaching and his listeners had to pay close attention to understand his words. R. Isaac Yaakov Hakohen Kalenkovich, may G-d avenge his blood, was the last rabbi of the last Jewish community in Drohitchin!
He lived together with his flock for more than 50 years, suffered with them, and departed this world together with them. They were together in life and in death.
I am writing these lines for the 6th anniversary, 5 Cheshvan [Nov. 7], 1948 of the death of our murdered martyrs. It should be mentioned that in addition to being the rabbi of the community and intellectual guide, Rabbi Kalenkovich was the father of children and grandchildren. Who can express in writing the suffering of a child who watches his own parents being murdered? Who can describe that suffering of parents who watch their own children being killed.
What should be the result of our eulogies and commemorations of our martyrs? I strongly believe that it should not be lighting candles and praying for the souls of the martyrs, because the martyrs are so holy and great that even holy men cannot stand next to them. The martyrs stand even higher than others. We should plead for our own souls since we didn't do anything to save the martyrs from death. We still aren't doing anything to take revenge on their murderers, the Germans!
The commemoration anniversary for our martyrs will only achieve its purpose when we also remember their murderers, the Germans! We need to remember them at home, on the street, at work, etc. Anything connected to the Germans and Germany should disgust us and be considered unkosher and in excommunication eternal excommunication of German!
London, 5 Cheshvan, 1948.
[Photo caption:] A group of Jews in Liekeva, near Shedlitz, that the Germans surrounded before they killed them. One Jew wears an undershirt tallith, and another wears a tallith. The Jew with the white beard standing behind the other Jew wearing the undershirt tallith was recognized by Mrs. Rubinschneider as her father. She received the photo by accident.
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