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[Page 83]

Shepherds of the Community
Parnassim and Public Servants

 

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Rabbis & Dayanim in the last century in Sanok

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Introduction

From the title above, the reader will realize that we are only talking here about rabbis, judges, etc. who served in our city throughout the latter three generations. That is to say: those whom members of the generation previous to ours would have been able, or actually did, know personally. The words of this chapter were written by natives of our town, based on their own personal knowledge. Of course, there were rabbis in Sanok prior to those that will be discussed here. Some of them were men of renown and famous Torah giants, but we know nothing more about them other than their names and general information about their residency in our city. We do not know details about the character or style of their rabbinical tenure for there was no set, crystallized form with respect to the bounds of the use of the title of “rabbi”, or the connection of this term to an actual tenure of service in this role.

On the other hand, very reliable sources exist stating that there were rabbis in various cities throughout Galicia and Poland who served in specific rabbinical roles in our city prior to this period. For example, we can read on the title page of the book “Commentary on the Scroll of Ruth” by Rabbi Ovadia Bartenura, the Bone Yerushalayim edition (5649 / 1889), that is exactly 80 yeas ago: “… And I brought it to publication for a second time, I the young one, Zeev Wolf the son of Rabbi Yissachar Berish Heller of holy blessed memory who sat on the seat of judgment in the holy community of Dobromyl and the holy community of Sanok, and is buried in honor in the holy city of Tzefat may it be built up.” This is referring to an actual rabbinical tenure (“sitting on the seat of judgment”) of a rabbi in Sanok who was active more than 100 years ago, at least.

Here is a more concrete example: The writer of the book “Doresh Chamorot” writes in the title page of his book, after describing the benefits of the book: “This book was written by me, the young Yitzchak Hebenstreit… the descendent of Rabbi Hai Gaon, and the Gaonim Rabashkav”a Kekeshe”t[1] the Admor Rabbi Yisrael Hebenstreit of holy blessed memory, the head of the rabbinical court of Sanok, who was called by everyone Rabbi Yisrael Charif, may his merit protect us, aki”a.

There is no shortage of sources such as these, or similar to these, without any details about these personalities. Therefore, we will open our chapter with a rabbi about whom our knowledge comes from a more detailed source, and whose time of tenure in Sanok was closer to ours. He is:

 

Rabbi Yechiel Kuehl

Prior to coming to Sanok, he served as the rabbi of Nowotanice, today a suburb of Sanok but then a town with a Jewish population that maintained a rabbi. We do not know if he was accepted as an official rabbi in Sanok, but we can establish beyond any doubt that the era of his life in Sanok was a continuation of those manifestations and influences that flowed forth from his rabbinic personality, as a rabbi and teacher of Jewish law for those Jews of Sanok who came to consult with him, as well as a leader of the religious community. We find conclusive evidence for our hypothesis in the words of Reb Avraham Arom, the publisher and editor of the composition of Rabbi Yechiel “Zichron Yechiel” in his introduction to that book. The words, which he certainly heard from the mouths of people who personally knew Rabbi Yechiel, and perhaps even his great rabbi Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Schapira of Dynow, are reliable to us, since they are not too distant – for the time between the death of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Schapira (who died in 5601 / 1941) and the publishing of the Zichron Yechiel book was not more than 53 years. (It is unfortunate that despite this, we were not able to obtain from his descendents, either in the Diaspora or those with us in the Land – the family of Reb Menachem Mani Kuehl – any

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additional details about him from the time he lived in Nowotanice or later after he moved to Sanok.) Reb Avraham Arom wrote on the page opposite the title page of “Zichron Yechiel”, the photocopy of which we include here:

“… Behold I bring before you today a blessing, a book small in size and large in quality. For his words are pleasant and sweet. He was the veteran student, both in the hidden and revealed Torah[2], of our holy Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Schapira of Dynow of holy blessed memory. When he was still a lad (it seems to be he was about 20), our holy rabbi stated the following about him: 'My Yechiel is permitted to discuss Torah in front of 500 people of Israel.' He wrote great compositions of significant value. However some of them were lost in the large flood that took place when he was the head of the rabbinical court of Terjiwa, and others were burnt during the great fire in Sanok. All that is left are those booklets that were copied from the great compositions of his youth. Since this rabbi and author was a relative on my father's side, I took it upon myself to correct the errors in transcription, to fill in what was missing, and to bring it to print, so that he would have a remnant on earth and so his lips can move in the grave. It was not necessary to obtain approbations for this book, for everyone knows that this rabbi, aside from pouring water on the hands of the aforementioned holy Gaon, also served all of the great Tzadikim during his days. All of them drew him nigh with their right hands and bestowed of their grace upon him…”

san086.gif [17 KB] - Title page of Zichron Yechiel
 

The book

Zichron Yechiel

Of the rabbi, Tzadik and Kabbalist, our rabbi Yechiel of blessed memory who was
The head of the rabbinical court of the communities of Terjiwa and Nowotanice
And who was accepted as the rabbi of Sanok in his old age
With great honor for those living there. There he rests in honor
Under his canopy. May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life


Brought to print by the great Hassid Avraham Arom, may his light shine,
Of the community of Przemysl


Zupnik Knoller Printers and Hamerschmid, in Przemysl 5654 (1894)

The prohibition of copying is known
And the laws of the earth are like the laws of the heavens


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Translator's Footnotes
  1. Raban Shel Kol Bnei Hagolah (The Rabbi of the entire Diaspora), and the second stands for Kvod Kedushat Shem Tifarto (the Honor of His Holy Name) – acronyms used in reference to great Tzadkim. Return

  2. The hidden Torah refers to mysticism and Kabbalah. Return


[Page 87]

Rabbi Arye Leibusch Frankel of blessed memory

by Rabbi Alter Maier (of blessed memory), Rabbi and Rabbinical Judge
, one of the heads of the Sanok rabbinate in our generation

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Introduction

Rabbi Arye Leibusch Frankel served as the rabbi of Sanok for approximately 35 years, from the 50s to the 80s of the 19th century. During his time, the problems of the Jewish community were not complex and were not many. The tasks expected of the rabbis in Jewish communities, such as the study of Torah with the residents of the city, supervising kashruth and mikvas (ritual baths), adjudications and rabbinical decisions regarding interpersonal disputes, etc. did not trouble him greatly. This was because virtually all the Jewish residents of the city were Torah observant Hassidim, the butchers were all G-d fearing people who behaved as veteran Hassidim, and there was no suspicion regarding anything that required supervision. Life in the city was quiet, and there were no interpersonal disputes. The residents of the city were like one family, and there were very few people who broke the communal strictures. During the day, the rabbi dedicated himself to studying and teaching Torah. The dissemination of Torah knowledge to the residents of the city was the main expression of the role of the rabbi in the city. He was accepted by all the residents of the city. They would speak about him with reverence, and his name was considered to be a standard of righteousness, piety, and greatness in Torah and rabbinic teaching.

During his day, the Hassidim divided into separate houses of worship. At first, all the Hassidim of the various sects, such as Sadagora, Sanz, Dynów, and Żydaczów, worshipped together in one kloiz. When the dispute between Sanz and Sadagora broke out, the Sanz Hassidim formed their own kloiz in the building donated for this purpose by Reb Abisch Kanner, a renowned wealthy man who was a fervent Hassidic resident of Sanok. This was the first schism between various groups of Hassidim. To the praise of the rabbi, he remained in the old kloiz and did not go with the breakaway group, even though he was a Hassid of Sanz. Later, when the kloiz was destroyed and the building of the large Beis Midrash was erected in its place, he continued to worship in the Beis Midrash in order to remain neutral. His custom was also to go to the Sadagora Kloiz on occasion for “kedusha and barchu[1] and not to separate himself from them, as did the rest of the Hassidim who would not set foot over the threshold of the Sadagora Kloiz.

If we come to evaluate the greatness of Rabbi Leibusch Frankel in Torah in accordance with the standards of the Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Lampronti of blessed memory, who used to say, “the greatness of a person only reaches the level that his books reach,” Rabbi Frankel was one of the giants of the generation for his books were among the most famous. Aside from his deep diligence in Torah, Rabbi Frankel was very active with charitable and benevolent deeds. His house was literally a guesthouse at all hours of the day and night. His house was next to the synagogue and Beis Midrash, as well as the house of worship of the Hassidim. Of course, poor people and guests passing through Sanok gathered around him. The Rebbetzin was not skimpy with guests, but rather welcomed them pleasantly. Almost all of the householders were considered as his students, including some significant scholars.

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Translator's Footnote
  1. Portions of the morning service. return


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The Rabbinical Judge (Dayan) Schimshon Michel Feller
of blessed memory

by Rabbi Alter Maier (of blessed memory), Rabbi and Rabbinical Judge,
one of the heads of the Sanok rabbinate in our generation

Translated by Jerrold Landau

He had a thin build, small eyes peered downward, a wrinkled forehead with prominent veins, a moustache that covered his entire mouth, and a long, wide beard that covered his entire chest - thus was the appearance of Rabbi Schimshon Michel.

Nobody ever saw him outside. His house was near the synagogue, on an alleyway that had few people. He never talked to anyone on his way to the synagogue, and he never peered beyond his four ells[1]. His place in the synagogue was

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behind the oven, and nobody dared to venture into his small area, for his face looked angry even though he was never angry at anyone.

His home consisted of only one room in a dilapidated house. The room had no floor. The furniture in the room consisted of a bookcase, a bed, a chair, a table, and a lectern upon which he would study while standing up. His clothes hung on the wall. Two nails stuck out from the ceiling of the wall. On one hung the brass candlesticks that were used for the Sabbath candles, and on the other hung a small sack with the wheat preserved for Passover.

He only ate meat on the Sabbath. Throughout the week, his meals consisted of leftover challa dipped in milk that he boiled himself. No other delicacy entered his mouth. His livelihood came from his communal stipend of 100 crowns per year as a salary for answering questions on what was permitted and what was not to those who asked. When his students asked him to move into a larger and nicer home, he responded with a verse from the Bible, “Is it not small, and my soul will live”[2] - and that love knows no hardship.

Even though he was liked by most people, he also had many opponents from among the scholars since he gave decisions on questions without having received ordination from anyone; and from the Hassidim since he left their teacher and rabbi without accepting his authority. He forged a unique path for himself and did not wish to be dependent on anyone. His position did have some strength, for he was still among the Hassidim of Reb Shalom of blessed memory of Belz. He was a friend of his son Reb Yissachar-Dov, the second Belzer Rebbe. He studied together with him, and also taught Torah to the grandchildren of the Admor. In the court of the Admor, they relied on his decisions.

He knew the book of the Zohar[3] by heart. He would say that its language is sanctified, and anyone expert in it can accomplish a great deal. When they would sit down and discuss words of Torah and spice their words with statements from the Talmud and Midrash, he would cite entire pages from the Zohar. His melody when reciting the Zohar attracted the hearts. Once, a freethinker passed by the open window of his room, and when he heard his voice, he did not move from the place until his voice became silent. From that time, he turned into one his admirers.

He did not want to become involved in administering divorces and arranging the Get[4]. “I desire the unity of Israel,” he would say, “And not their separation.” He refrained from becoming involved in communal affairs, for all the people of Israel were equal in his eyes, and he did not show preference to one person over another. When a Chovevei Zion group was founded in the city and the youth joined it and spent their time there, the city went into ferment. The powerful people would threaten the Chovevim[5], and there was no shortage of incidents of slander. When Reb Schimon was informed of this, he retorted innocently, “I cannot understand how one can threaten a Jewish person. Go forth and see: it is known that Esau hates Jacob, and every time that his name is mentioned, it is with the adjective 'the evil Esau'. Nevertheless, Jacob went through several gyrations when he met him and bowed down several times when he approached him so that he would not have to engage in war and hand-to-hand conflict. And here, you are not even attempting to approach them in a pleasant manner.”

He would recite the “Tikun Chatzot” service in the middle of the night[6], and would moan as he poured out his heart and soul. The manner of his Tikun Chatzot service was known in the city. It source was his love and strong desire for the Land of Israel. Whenever emissaries came from the Land of Israel, he would invite them to his house, even though he was usually very retiring. He would talk with them for many hours. Eventually, he reached the decision to leave the Diaspora and make aliya to the Holy Land.

He was assisted in this matter by Reb Moshele Kanner, who served as the gabbai [trustee] of the Kolel in Sanok. Through Reb Kanner's recommendation, he received a stipend from the president Schreiber that would enable him to sustain himself in Safed, where he set up his residence. His journey from Sanok to the Land of Israel was an unusual event. Almost the entire city accompanied him with song. All the vehicles on the roads of the city on the way to the train station, even those of gentiles, stopped and gave honor to the person making aliya and those accompanying him, letting them go first. During his farewell speech at the railway station, he said,

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“Parting from you is difficult. It is hard for me if you think that you have separated from me, for indeed, I am not parting from you. I will always live with you in my heart, and I will not turn my attention from you. It is very difficult to understand the secrets of Torah in the Diaspora. That is not the situation in the Land of Israel, where the atmosphere revives souls, raises the spirit, sustains the soul, and even the hidden things are revealed there. It is not for naught that they said, 'the atmosphere of the Land of Israel generates wisdom.' Even simple people raise their level, and their Torah is renewed with every moment, as it is said, 'it shall be to you every day as new'.”

He continued with his holy work in the Land and never moved from the Western Wall, which was the desire of his soul. He lived a life of happiness, for he was always satisfied with little. He did not want to wear the colored garments of the Old Settlement[7], for he said, “I do not want to look like Arabs in my dress.”

{Photo page 89: The gravestone of Reb Shimshon-Michael, the rabbinical judge of the city who died in the Land of Israel and was buried on the Mount of Olives. The gravestone currently exists almost intact. Translator's note: the text of the gravestone is as follows:

Here is buried
The rabbi, Gaon and Tzadik
Rabbi Schimshon Michel the son of
Moshe Daniel Segal of holy blessed memory[8]
The righteous rabbinical judge of Sanok
Died on the 26 Adar 5677 (1907)
May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.}

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Translator's Footnotes
  1. An “ell” is an archaic term for a cubit. Living within the four ells of halacha is a traditional colloquial phrase for a person whose interests in life are focused solely toward the observance and study of Torah. return
  2. Genesis 19:20. return
  3. The Zohar is the primary book of Kabbalah. return
  4. The Jewish bill of divorce. return
  5. Members of Chovevei Zion - an early Zionist oriented organization that predated the formal Zionist movement. return
  6. A non-obligatory prayer services, recited in the middle of the night by particularly pious individuals. This service laments the destruction of the Temple. return
  7. Yishuv Hayashan” - the term for the old Jewish Ashkenazic community of the Land of Israel. return
  8. Segal is a term for a Levite - and is not necessarily used here as the surname. return


[Page 90]

Rabbi Yehuda Katz,
Rabbi and Head of the Rabbinic Court of Sanok

by Ascher Bit

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Rabbi Yehuda Katz was the rabbinical judge and teacher, and finally the head of the rabbinical court in Sanok for almost fifty years. He was a great scholar, with fine intelligence. He was ordained by the Gaon of that generation, the Tzadik Rabbi Chaim of Sanz. His intelligence stood for him well in adjudicating difficult and complex cases to the satisfaction of all the sides. His name as a high level arbitrator spread throughout the entire country, and many people turned to him. His home constantly bustled with disputants and arbitrators. The Gaon Rabbi Tavli of blessed memory, the Rabbi of Dulka, one of the renowned arbitrators, came to Sanok almost every week and conducted judgments and arbitrations together with Rabbi Katz for the Jews of the city and the area.

Rabbi Katz was very diligent in the study of Torah. All of the scholarly youths and young men of the city were attracted to him and brought their study notes to him to receive his confirmation. His response book Kol Yehuda[1], dealing with actual cases of Jewish law that were relevant for the current time as well as for generations to come, is filled with sharpness and expertise. With all this, it should be noted that his concerns for civic matters and the areas of his responsibility were very great, and disturbed his diligence in study. He felt bad about this, and often expressed this in various forms, both orally and in writing. For example, we read the following in one of his responses, “… Believe me, my friend, that I have many things to state on this subject, but I am forced to stop in the middle for I do not have time to delve deeply, as I am writing between day and night[2].” (Kol Yehuda, section 10). Such words of apology are found several times in the book.

With his great modesty and his pleasant mannerisms, he was able to forge paths in to the hearts and earn the esteem of those with whom he conversed, whether in halachic discussions or any other topic. Along with this, he often displayed a wonderful talent in finding appropriate words of expression and response for any opportunity that arose and required such. In a long response in one of his responsa in Kol Yehuda, he writes, “This requires a great deal of delving into the Light of our Eyes, the Pri Megadim of blessed memory, whose eyes are like crystals for every opinion in the Talmud and for early commentators that are hidden from the eye at this moment…”

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Translator's Footnotes
  1. There is a text footnote here: See the appendix. return
  2. An expression meaning that he is snatching little bits of time to do the writing. return


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Rabbi Natan Nota Yacov Dym
of blessed memory

by Rabbi Alter Maier (of blessed memory)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

His greatness in Torah was well known when he was still a rabbi in the city of Zborow in Eastern Galicia. Before he came to our town, a dispute broke out between his supporters and the Hassidim of Dynow who were close to Reb Moshele Kanner. The latter, a Hassid, great scholar and well–known wealthy man, was an in–law of the Admor Rabbi Meier Yehuda Schapira of Bukowsk, the author of Or Lameir, the elder son of Rabbi David Schapira of blessed memory and the first grandson of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Schapira of blessed memory the author of Bnei Yissachar, one of the students of the Chozeh of Lublin, a great Gaon and Tzadik, and the founder of Dynow Hassidism. Rabbi Meier Yehuda Schapira lived in Bukowsk, a town close to Sanok, and founded Bukowsk Hassidism there – the most important branch of the Dynow Hassidic tree at that time. When the rabbinical position opened up in the city after the death of Rabbi A. L. Frankel of blessed memory, the Hassidim of Bukowsk wanted their rabbi to take hold of this rabbinical position and move from Bukowsk to Sanok as the rabbi of the city. Of course, all of the Dynow Hassidim in Sanok supported him, as did the family of Rabbi Moshe Kanner, one of the most important and largest families of the city. A great dispute broke out. The Hassidim of Tzanz of the city joined them for they were concerned with a rabbi who tended toward Sadagora Hassidism, and Rabbi Dym of blessed memory was suspected of leaning toward the Hassidism of the Rebbe of Czortkow[1]. Despite all this, Rabbi Dym was selected in the year 5654 – 1894. The dispute between those faithful to Rabbi Dym and the Hassidim of Dynow became very sharp; but, with his great wisdom, Rabbi Dym was able to conduct his activities so that with time all of his opponents drew near to him. His influence upon all strata in the city was very great. He was a pleasant conversationalist with a polite demeanor, and he became known as an exceptional rabbinic figure. His splendid countenance, neat beard and peyos, and fine clothing imparted in him a charming appearance, evoking honor and reverence.

Rabbi Dym was also elected to the city council. He was not fluent in the Polish Language, but he was familiar with German as he was part of the intelligentsia. He loved his students with all his soul. He was dedicated to them and stood to their right at all opportunities. Rabbi Dym's financial situation was not particularly good, for the Sanok rabbinate was not a good source of income. Nevertheless, Rabbi Dym spent most of his money on purchasing books of value – old books including incunabula, first editions, and the like.

Rabbi Dym lived a life of calm and honor for most of the years that he served as the rabbi of Sanok. The best of the youths of the city would frequent his home and study with him in an organized classes, whether Gemara, Choshen Mishpat, or Yoreh Deah[2]. His prime students included Leibusch Dominik of blessed memory, a well–known scholar and fearer of Heaven, and Yisrael Ginzberg, who was known as an expert scholar, an assistant of Rabbi Dym of blessed memory, and the person who reviewed his words of Torah[3].

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Translator's Footnotes
  1. An offshoot of Dynow Hassidism. return
  2. Choshen Mishpat and Yoreh Deah are two of the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law). return
  3. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: Editor's note: from the front page of the book Zichron Olam, Lublin 5694 – 1934, the photocopy of which is included on page 65 of our book, it appears that Rabbi Dym of blessed memory headed a very high level Yeshiva, and was even one of its prime founders. return


[Page 92]

Rabbi Elazar Brumer of blessed memory,
the Final Head of the Rabbinical Court of Sanok

by E. Sharbit

Translated by Jerrold Landau

(Descriptions of his personal character)

Photo page 92: Rabbi Elazar Brumer, the final head of the rabbinical court of Sanok.

He occupied the rabbinical court of our city of Sanok for thirty consecutive years. In the latter half of that era, he served as the head of the rabbinical court of the city. He was accepted and admired by all the residents of the city, for they all regarded him as the rabbi (with the definitive article), who was the official authority on Jewish law. Even during the times when there were other rabbis and judges in the city, everyone would come to him with questions and problems of Jewish law and actions.

Rabbi Elazar Brumer excelled in those traits and qualities with which one usually describes the personalities of our early splendid rabbis and leaders, who were great in Torah and fear of Heaven – rabbis of splendor and fine deeds. We, the residents of the city, regarded him as a noble character with a fine soul, full of purity and refinement. He also had a well–developed sense of honesty, which was expressed in all of his conversations, dealings, and contact with his fellow, whomever the person was. This honesty never brought him to high–handedness or to neglecting any of the sublime qualities in which he excelled, just as this honesty did not cancel out his trait of modesty with which he conducted himself with his fellow, without differentiation between level and class.

It seems that this nobility of spirit that we have seen and recognized in Rabbi Elazar Brumer was rooted in a refined sense of self definition and an internal clarity of spirit as a result of “cleaving of spirit to spirit” in Torah and service – which is prayer. I will note here that even though Rabbi Elazar Brumer was known as a Hassid, and he would even travel to the Admor of Belz on occasion (albeit infrequently as he was busy with issues of the city), his Hassidism did not stand out in his external behavior and was not expressed through any external sign. His methodology of study was calm, even when delving into the clarification of scholarly didactics. His prayer was also performed with a calm spirit resting on his face – seemingly quiet but with a strong internal pulsation, as if a flame was bound up in his bones and heart. I remember that I once entered into his house during the days of Selichot and mercy[1]. This was during the morning hours, the usual time for

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mundane, practical life. I found him sitting bent over on a sofa with a Book of Psalms in his hand, from which he was reading. In the first moments after I entered it sounded to me like regular reading, in accordance with his usual custom, with his exacting pronunciation, as if reading from the Torah in order to fulfil the commandment of “delving into the Torah.” Within a few minutes, however, I noticed the spirit of devotion that had overtaken him, and the greatness of his enthusiasm and actions in the Hassidic style. This was all performed with the same quiet and calm with which he was known in his external demeanor.

This was also his character during his activities in issues of Torah and religion in the city. He was quiet on the exterior and vibrant on the inside when disseminating Torah knowledge through various means, starting with fruitful activity in issues of the Talmud Torah, continuing on to teaching classes to the youth studying in the Beis Midrash, and including providing assistance in the founding of the Beis Yaakov Girl's School, and other such activities. Once again, he displayed external calm along with a hidden enthusiasm in his care for issues of kashruth, deciding on what is forbidden and what is permitted, extending the bounds of the eruv[2], etc.

In his daily conduct he demonstrated that his love of Torah was above everything. He did not merely designate set times for Torah, for his study and occupation with Torah were constants with him, unless he had to take a break for some action on behalf of the Torah or the fulfilment of the commandments of the Torah.

It is clear that he reached a high level of love for the students of Torah through his own love of the study of Torah. The Torah was only given to the Jewish people so that they could occupy themselves with it. He did not differentiate, and did not want to differentiate, among the importance of Torah studiers of high rank, Yeshiva students, scholarly young adults, and great scholars; and regular householders who set time for Torah study, and even regular people who snatched a few moments or seconds, elementary school students and teachers of young children. The study of Torah by Torah studiers was held in esteem and love by him. His glances of respect that he cast from time to time to those around him in the Beis Midrash during prayer services or in his home during the class in Talmud and commentaries that he gave to his son Yehuda and me are still remembered by me. Yehuda and I were good friends during our youth, and I would visit his house daily for a long period of time to listen to the daily class from his illustrious father – first in Gemara and then in halachic decisions. The feeling of spiritual satisfaction that I derived from these intensive classes and from the notes that he added between topics and paragraphs on the topic of the issue in the text or the issue being studied, a novel idea that he had just thought of, a side issue in the topic of study, or a grammatical flash that had nothing to do with the topic at hand has not departed from me. Even if it was a side point with nothing to do with the topic, we lads strove to take heed and pay attention to the Bible, the language and its grammar, or literary research. Of course, these side points did not disturb the class and the studying. On the contrary, they changed the atmosphere for a small moment, and gave us a chance to catch our breath and enjoy a pleasant diversion for a few minutes.

Aside from his greatness in Torah and his broad knowledge in all its aspects, including the Talmud, and its early and late commentaries, Rabbi Elazar Brumer excelled in his broad expertise in Bible and deep knowledge of Hebrew language and grammar. This was a rare phenomenon, almost an exception, that such a rabbinic scholar who was fully immersed in halachic discussions, and engaged in questions of what was permitted and forbidden at all hours of the day, constantly involved in monetary issues between people – would have the interest and capability of delving into the Bible to the point of gaining such broad expertise, where he had deep knowledge of all the

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complexities of the early biblical commentaries, their approach to explaining the Bible, and their general outlook in all areas of thought, ideas and logic.

The uncommon, wondrous thing – he was not concerned about his detractors and was not embarrassed because of his mockers. A rabbinic–Hassidic personality in a zealous Hassidic environment, involved in the study of Bible, grammar, and the Holy Language, how much strength and firmness were needed for this, and how much of the firmness was demonstrated in his openness about his interests. Rather, he expressed them openly, without fear or hesitation. We cannot find any other reason for this other than his great love for Bible and the language of the Bible, a sublime love with holiness, devotion and wonder. From here – we can see the feelings of pleasure and satisfaction that he derived at any opportunity that he had to exchange words about one of these topics and to demonstrate to the person that he was talking to – who knew him as someone who was able to talk about these topics, listen to him, and understand him – as he gave over his novel ideas that he had recently developed.

His activities and results in areas of practical communal efforts, as well as in the realm of study and dissemination of Torah and presenting novel ideas in all areas of Torah, were all stamped with the seal of modesty and discreteness that were unique to him, and that were appropriate for him. For example, he possessed deep and broad knowledge in the science of determining the calendar, Sabbath candle lighting times and the time for the recital of the Shema prayer; he authored and published calendars for the times of the recital of the Shema and candle lighting, to disseminate in Sanok and nearby town, however he did not put his name on them. Here is a more convincing example: In the year 5688 / 1928, he published one of his many compositions on Torah commentary (Mishpat Hakatuv – a commentary on the written and read versions according to the basic understanding[3]) but he did not list his name as the author of the book, but rather as the publisher.

Even though his traits of modesty and discreetness were extreme, and he conducted his entire life in accordance with these traits, at a time of need he knew very well the secret of how to stand to his full height and remain on guard as the guardian of Torah and faith, for its truth – the truth of Torah and the observance of the Torah commandments – were like a candle at his feet.

Those who knew him and appreciated him during his lifetime and were amazed at his level of self–effacement and anonymity knew how to guard his pure memory in their hearts forever.

*

Here ae several biographical details of his life, as given to us by his son, may he live, Rabbi Judah Brumer, who works in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of New York:

Rabbi Elazar Brumer was born in Sanok (!) to his father Reb Moshe Brumer and his mother Sara–Breindel, both from well pedigreed, rabbinical families. He was orphaned from his father when he was a child, and was brought to Brody along with his mother, where he was educated by his paternal grandfather. He studied Torah especially from the Gaon Rabbi Zeev Wolf Papersz, the author of the book Zeved Tov on the Talmud, and also his relative. He was ordained as a rabbi by the great rabbis of that time, including Rabb Shalom HaKohen of blessed memory the Gaon of Berezany, Rabbi Avraham Binyamin Kluger of blessed memory, and others. He married Chaya, the daughter of Rabbi Yehuda Katz, the head of the rabbinical court of our city of Sanok, about whom we discuss later on in this chapter. He was occupied in business for a brief period. When his father–in–law died in the year 5669 (1909), he was invited by the community of Sanok to take the place of his father–in–law in serving as the rabbi of the city. The city of Sanok gave him the title of Head of the rabbinical court in the year 5687 (1927). He remained on this high seat until the outbreak of the Second World War

[Page 95]

At the end of the year 5699 (1939), he fled to Russia in the wake of the war, where he wandered around in deep Russia, Siberia, and Uzbekistan. He died on Adar 10, 5704 (1944).

As in all his years in Sanok, as well as in his wanderings during his life of exile and persecution in Russia, he never stopped learning Torah, and he never ceased to come up with novel Torah ideas and write them down. His novellae written until the outbreak of the war remained in Sanok, where they were hidden from the Nazis before his escape at the time they conquered the city. Their existence is not known until this day. During his wanderings in Russia, he was forced to write his novellae on pages of printed Russian or Uzbek books, and the like, since he did not have writing paper – but the writing did not stop.

In the year 5688 (1928), at the age of 62, he wrote his will to his family. Sections of it can be found in the appendix at the end of our book.

Photocopy page 95: Due to his modesty, Rabbi Elazar Brumer did not record his name as the author of the book, but rather as the publisher.

The Book
Mishpat Katuv

On the early prophets. It is a complete commentary on the differences between the written text and pronounced text, explaining the intention of the written word, and the difference between it and the pronounced version, in a simple form that is true, or close to truth with the best of logic. This book is like a new revelation, for, to this date, another commentary such as this has not been seen.

The author does not wish to publicize his name. His reasons are with him.

Brought to publication by Rabbi Elazar Brumer the Levite, may his light shine, the head of the rabbinical court of Sanok .

Bilgoraj

Published by Reb Nota Kronenberg
5688 / 1928.

Szefer Miszpa Kosow
Wydawca:
Rabin Lazar Brumer
Sanok, Malopolska (Poland)

Druk N. Krronenbergs, Bilgoraj, Wojew. Lub. (Poland) 1937

__________

Translator's Footnotes
  1. Referring to the High Holy Day period when Selichot prayers are recited. return
  2. The Sabbath boundary inside which one is allowed to carry. return
  3. There are some words of the Torah and Bible that are written differently than they are read. return


[Page 96]

Rabbi Yossele Horowitz

by Hanoch Katz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

His teachers recognized his wonderful talents, sharp intellect, and intelligence already in his early youth, when he was still sitting on the school bench, and they prophesied a bright future for him in the realm of scholarship. He was ordained as a rabbi by the famous Gaon Rabbi Yitzchok Schmelkes, the head of the rabbinical court of Lwow. Rabbi Yossele married the daughter of a wealthy person from Zarszyn. During the time he was supported by him, he dedicated all his time to study and master Talmud and rabbinical decisors until he became known as a great scholar, to an unusual extent throughout the entire region.

With the death of the rabbi of Sanok, the Gaon Rabbi Natan–Nota Dym of blessed memory, a vacuum was created in the Sanok rabbinate, and the members of the community decided to select Rabbi Yossele Horowitz as the rabbinical judge of the city. When he arrived in Sanok, his excellent talents and great knowledge of Torah became fully known. His intelligence astounded all those with whom he came in contact, whether within the circles of the scholars and rabbis in which he operated, or, primarily among the Hassidim of Boyan with whom he was so closely connected. He was “a mouth that exudes diamonds.” He was full of novel Torah ideas, Hassidic thoughts, nice statements and stories, from him or from others. His words were organized, deliberate, carefully considered, and expressed with clarity. It seems that I will never forget his sublime image as he sat at the yahrzeit observance of the righteous Admor of Boyan on the 17th of Iyar, and when he spoke words of Torah to the congregation of worshippers at the Sadagora Kloiz. In Rabbi Yossele, one could see the variegated personality that included a fine blend of Torah and Hassidism, sublime traits and fine character, good morals and refinement, politeness and nobility. Above all, he displayed a fiery love for Hassidism and Hassidim. Those who related to him with esteem and reverence will remember this and will guard these feelings forever.


Rabbi Yossele Horwitz of blessed memory,
one of the Final Rabbinical Judges of Sanok

by Rabbi Alter Meir of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

He lived in Zarszyn for most of his life, until old age. Zarszyn was a small city near Sanok, and he would come to Sanok during the course of the small–scale business he conducted in the town. In his house, he would toil in Torah with great diligence. Whenever he came to Sanok, his first stop was the Sadagora Kloiz, where he spent several hours discussing Torah and didactics with the lads of the Kloiz. After the final minyan concluded the shacharit service, already close to noon, the elder Hassidim sat around the table with Rabbi Yosef Horowitz at the head, enjoying the Hassidic statements that Rabbi Horowitz knew how to present so well to them. As he gave over the discussions of his rebbes, he did not omit one word from the language of the rebbe. He gave over the ideas with unique expertise as they had been said by the rebbe; and the Hassidim enjoyed hearing these words, which they felt were emanating from the mouth of the rebbe himself. He did not want to remain in Zarszyn after the First World War due to the fear of the hatred of the gentiles of the region. He settled in Sanok and became an arbitrator acceptable to all citizens of the city and the region. After some time, he joined the rabbinate of the city.

Rabbi Horowitz was a gentleman with a broad heart and open hand. His home was open to everyone. Despite all his greatness in Torah and Hassidism, he remained a man of the people. He did not act with splendor or lordship. He knew how to draw near and win over the hearts. He was an example of Hassidic doctrine and Jewish morality in every situation. He was expert in the literature of Jewish research. The books of Rabbi Menahem Zariah da Fano[1], Abravanel, and Rabbi Yehuda Moscato[2] of blessed memory were known by heart. He was very pious regarding his rebbes, the Admorim of Sadagora and Boyan, but he related with honor and reverence to any descendent of the Ruzhin dynasty.

__________

Translator's Footnotes
  1. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/menahem_azariah_da_fano return
  2. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judah_Moscato return


[Page 97]

Rabbi Meir Shapira
of holy blessed memory

by Avraham Dank

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Photo page 97: Uncaptioned. Rabbi Meir Shapira.
To the memory of my dear brother, modest and with a refined soul, Meir Yehuda of blessed memory.

“As I passed through Bukovina, I saw a wonderful lad named Reb Meier who was destined for greatness. He sat in his Beis Midrash, uprooting mountains and grinding them together with logic, and I recited the blessing: Blessed is He who creates luminaries.”

(The Gaon Maharsha”v of Brzezyn, of holy blessed memory, about our rabbi when he was a 15 year old lad.)

Our great rabbi, Rabbi Meir Shapira of blessed memory, the chief rabbi of our city Sanok, was without doubt the greatest personality in the rabbinical world of the Polish Diaspora, and the sublime leader of world Orthodox Jewry during his era.

Within a brief period, Rabbi Meir Shapira rose sharply on the ladder of greatness. He came

[Page 98]

to our city from the town of Glina, where he was chosen as a rabbi at the age of 22 and he served for approximately a decade as the rabbi of the city and also as a disseminator of Torah in the Yeshiva that he established, and from where Torah greats and famous rabbis emanated. He was chosen as the rabbi of Piotrkow, a large city in Congress Poland full of scholars and Hassidim, after serving in our city for three years. He quickly became known throughout Poland and in the entire Jewish Diaspora as a Gaon and a leader of Orthodox Judaism.

With the opening of the Yeshiva of Lublin, for which he toiled and worked for six years until he succeeded in establishing the splendid building of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, he was appointed as a rabbi and Yeshiva head in the historical city of Lublin, the city of the Mahara'm and Maharsha'l of holy blessed memory.

There is no doubt that he merited the crown of a good name to the extent that very few rabbis of his generation, and not only of his generation, had earned. He was greatly beloved by all the Torah giants of the Jewish people, headed by the Chofetz Chaim and the Admor of Czortkow, of whom he was one of his enthusiastic Hassidim. He was also revered by all the strata of the masses of the Jewish people, and by the Orthodox Jewish youth in particular.

The great, deep love of the entire nation toward the Torah giant of the generation was especially seen at the time of his sudden death, when the entire Jewish population of Poland, consisting of 3,000,000 people, was immersed in mourning and deep sorrow. The entire population – men, women, and children from all circles – observant and non–observant, wept in the street and were overtaken by sorrow. Myriads and hundreds of thousands of Jews participated in the eulogies that took place during the month of mourning in every city and town, expressing the great reverence for this prominent personality and the great agony on the irreparable loss.

Even today, 35 years after his passing, we are witnesses to the fact that his memory remains alive and is preserved among the masses who merited to know him and to hear his speeches – especially among his students, in a manner that we have not seen with regard to any other Torah luminary of the latter generations. Every year on the 7th of Cheshvan, the anniversary of his death, masses of his students and people who revere him gather at memorial gatherings in Israel and in every other large Jewish community, and reunite with his memory.

*

Many ask: what is the basis of the crown of the good name that Rabbi Meir Shapira had earned, that almost has no precedent? How did he succeed in endearing himself to all the masses of the people, to the scholars as well as the youth? What was the secret of his influence on all circles, both Hassidic and non–Hassidic, as well as on the Jewish of Western Europe? How could it be that in his brief lifespan, he became the revered leader of all Orthodox Judaism?

His variegated talents, reaching the point of genius, certainly contributed to this, as well as his intelligence and personal charm. It is appropriate to note that the decisive factor in this was his high level of oratory skill and his mouth that emitted pearls. I recall the deep impression that his Shabbat HaGadol sermon had upon the people of Sanok during his first year serving as our rabbi. At that time he stood in the Great Synagogue, filled to the brim, for more than four hours as he enthralled his entire audience with words of Jewish law and lore. In some of the legal portion of the sermon, we saw the genius of the “uprooter of mountains,” with his bright novel ideas with his unique style of didactics, flowing through the Sea of Talmud as an experienced diver, bringing forth pearls, connecting brick to brick in accordance with his methodology, and building a large structure that brought joy to the hearts of the Torah studiers, and even surprised the scholars with his flashes of lightning. In the lore section, we saw the exalted speaker who enchanted his audience with his power of expression, his Hassidic mannerisms, and words of Torah and wisdom that sprouted forth like live, flowing fountain.

[Page 99]

Such a blend of a mighty genius and an exalted orator, who enthused the masses and ignited a holy fire in this – was a unique thing on the Jewish street, which was not lacking in all types of orators and lecturers. It is no wonder that he was exposed as a bright star in the skies of Judaism and rabbinics already during his first appearances at the pulpit.

It is clear, however, that the merit of his many deeds and actions were even more important than his great talents in turning into the leader of the generation.

It appears that the proper evaluation for his personality, and the most accurate answer to the secret of his success as a leader can be seen from the rabbi's own words, spoken by him at various occasions and in various modes of expression. We will now present their ideological content, in their most essential form, as were heard from him during his first speech in Lublin, in the synagogue of the Maharsha'l, during the ceremony of his confirmation as rabbi of the city. As he spoke about the tasks that stand before the rabbi of a city and leaders of the congregation, he mentions that in the Torah (Exodus 33, 21–22), it says, “G–d said unto Moses, there is a place with Me, and you will stand on a rock. And it will be as My presence passes by, I will place you in the cleft of a rock.” He explained the verses as follows: G–d showed Moses our Teacher the ways of a Jewish leader, the manner in which he is supposed to lead the nation and what qualities he must have in order to be fitting for the rank of leader of the generation. There are two primary traits that apparently contradict each other, but he must use both of them to demonstrate his talents and bring things to a sense of completeness, and reach a sense of sublime spiritual fulfilment. He must be strong and firm as a flint stone, not give in to the pressure of the masses, and not letting himself be swept up in the stream of a specific side, but rather to stand strong against the stream. However, he must also go down to the people, to see their suffering, to feel their problems – problem of a general or individual nature – and to offer his help. This is what G–d said to Moses, and taught him when to use each of the these two characteristics: “there is a place with Me, and you will stand on the rock.” at a time when the matter relates to Me, regarding the observance of Torah and commandments, you must “Stand on the rock,” you must be strong and mighty like a rock, not going after compromises or giving in. However, “when My glory passes by – I will place you in a cleft of the rock.” When the matter does not relate to issues of Heaven, then you must get down from the rock and place yourself in the cleft. You must descend from the greatness and go down to the people. You must be tolerant and modest, listen to a person's request in order to save him. These two traits contradict each other, as has been stated. The source of the first one is in the mind and brain, and the second is in the feelings and the heart. Frequently, they come into conflict in the soul of a person, and especially in the soul of a leader. Indeed, special people can blend these two traits together, know exactly when to use each of them, not to go over the thin line that separates them – they, and only they are fit to be the leaders of the community.

Those who knew our rabbi of blessed memory from up close know that he united these two necessary traits in his soul, and exhibited with his personality these desired traits of a faithful shepherd, as he saw it and explained it to us. Here, we should note that despite the fact that he had the mind of a genius, he also had a poetic soul filled with feelings and song. These two traits blended in him with wonderful harmony, and created the splendid personality.

He loved Torah, the study of Torah and the students of Torah with a fierce love. This love was recognizable on his face that beamed with joy and happiness when he stood on the terraces of the large hall of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin and looked down upon the 200 students who were delving into Torah. Anyone who saw him in that usual stance, or, for example, in the unusual stance when he returned to the Yeshiva from a difficult fundraising journey, where he was sated with bitterness and disappointment – and when he heard the splendid “symphony” as he used to call it as he approached the Yeshiva – the voice of Torah, his face beamed with joy that dispersed all the clouds over his face. Only a person who saw him in that situation could understand the love of Torah that burned in his soul.

[Page 100]

However, he also loved all Jews with a strong love. His doors were always open to anyone coming to seek advice or help. He tried with all his heart to help everyone with money and advice. These two loves, the love of Torah and the love of his fellow Jew, filled his heart with joy and sublime spiritual pleasure, as he instilled this joy to anyone around him.

*

He was the leader “who was standing on the rock.” In his battle to raise the glory of Torah and religion, he did not play favoritism to any individual when the issue related to fundamentals of Torah and Judaism. Already in his first steps in the rabbinate and leadership position in Glina, when he was young in years and inexperienced in the battles of life, he was “brazen” enough to ban Kohanim who violated the Sabbath, even if they were honorable citizens of the city, to ascend the podium to recite the Priestly Blessing in the synagogue. During all his years of service in the communities of Sanok, Piotrkow and Lublin, he fulfilled the verse “do not tremble before any person”[1], and he excelled with his staunch heart in his battle against all sorts of “strongmen” and “honorable people” who attempted to disrupt him from his activities in strengthening the walls of religion and the dissemination of Torah.

He reached the pinnacle as a leader and spiritual guide when he began to weave his vision of establishing Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin. He understood the dismal state of the Yeshivas and Torah students in Poland during that time, when the Yeshiva students were forced to eat on a rotation basis, meaning that they would eat at the table of a different householder each day and be supported by their generosity. This system often lead to incidents of disparagement by the family members, which was considered normal even amongst the Torah observant and Hassidism. His heart rose up against this disgrace, for he believed that they were thereby disgracing the Torah and its students. He decided to do everything he could to change this lowly situation, and to dedicate all his energy to establish a splendid sanctuary for Torah where the students who would later serve as leaders of communities and rabbinical teachers could study in comfort.

Then he began a constant, stubborn battle throughout the Jewish world in order to create the “revolution” in the hearts of the masses of Jews to completely change their relationship with Torah students. This was indeed a very difficult battle with many disappointments – even for the “friends” who placed many obstacles in his path. To our great sorrow, he was forced to invest all his energy and efforts to reach the desired goal.

He wandered from city to city throughout Poland and the Jewish Diaspora for six years to collect the require money to build the Yeshiva building.

These journeys, with many fiery speeches delivered in ever place – sometimes two or three a day – themselves turned into a powerful educational journey. He aroused the hearts to Torah, and infused a holy awakening within the youth, the adults, the scholars, and the regular people. The great light was then exposed in all its brightness. Just like his great–grandfather Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, one of the early fathers of Hassidim, he warmed frozen hearts. His arrival in the city turned into a festival for all the city residents who were anxious for his words.

He was greatly revered by the masses of Jewish people. The people recognized their leader, who was bound to them with strong bonds of love.

To our sorrow, he did not succeed to the same degree in opening up the “pockets” of the very wealthy people who would have easily been able to save him from the black task of organizing campaigns, and who could have enabled him to dedicate himself completely to educational work. The money that he collected, especially from the poorer people and the middle class, was not sufficient

[Page 101]

to finish the task that he took upon himself. More and more, he felt the heavy burden pressing upon his shoulders. In intimate discussions with individuals and students who were close to him, he unburdened his heart and complained about his great personal tragedy. Indeed, the time came, and on the 28th of Sivan 5690 (1930), the doors of the Yeshiva opened wide in a splendid ceremony of Torah greats and myriads of Jews. Only few knew that this was only possible with the help of very large loans. The Yeshiva opened, and 200 choice Torah students from all over Poland and outside of Poland sat and studied Torah with deep diligence, with uplifted souls and joy exuding from the great teacher. The Yeshiva served as the Holy Temple for every talented youth who desired to enter the halls of Torah.

*

It is possible to state that with the opening of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Meir Shapira achieved the greatest part of the goal that he had set out for himself. The honor of the Torah rose to great heights, and the relation to Torah students was completely changed. Thousands of visitors visited the Yeshiva, remained there for a brief period, and returned full of wonder from what they had seen with their eyes. They transmitted their impressions to myriads of people. The great joy of the rabbi, the pleasure and contentment that he enjoyed from the diligence of the students and their progress in Torah knowledge cannot be described with words. He found great personal satisfaction in this, and a reward for his great suffering during the backbreaking work that he conducted for six consecutive years. He expressed his great joy at every occasion with his enthusiastic dances on Sabbaths as well as weekdays.

However, as has been stated, he was not able to rest even with the opening of the Yeshiva. The debts that afflicted the Yeshiva forced him to frequently abandon the Yeshiva and students that he loved so much, to take up the wandering staff once again and make the rounds to the doors of the philanthropists. He only expressed to a small number of students the great agony he felt in parting from his children–students for several weeks in order to deal with the debts – and even so, he only expressed this for a few moments. He quickly recovered and returned to his mood of deep joy, thanking G–d that his lot was to suffer tribulations for the sake of Torah…

Our rabbi only merited to live with the Yeshiva for a few years. Just over three years after that great day of the 28th of Sivan 5690, the great light was extinguished and the crown was removed on the7th of Cheshvan 5694 (1933). However, he had succeeded in forging a unique image for the Yeshiva during this brief period.

The students of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin were slightly different from students of other Yeshivas. They had a unique style, so that anyone who saw their behavior, manners, and traits knew where they studied and who their Rosh Yeshiva was.

Along with their knowledge of Torah and development of good traits, they also received from their rabbi internal joy and recognition of the personal value of being a Torah scholar. The words, “Fortunate are we, how great is our portion, how fine is our lot, and how fine is our heritage,” echoed within the walls of the Yeshiva in the enthusiastic dances of the rabbi with his students, penetrated their bodies and were absorbed into their essences. This was expressed in all areas of life.

I believe that I am unable to express in writing the greatness of the love of the rabbi to his students. I will suffice myself with bringing to the fore one incident from my time at the Yeshiva that is etched in my memory, and left a great impression upon me that is impossible to forget.

[Page 102]

It took place on a winter night at 2:00 a.m. I was already sleeping deeply as were most of the students, except, of course, for a certain number of diligent students who made their nights like days. I woke up suddenly from the noise that emanated from the Yeshiva synagogue. I got dressed quickly, went down to the synagogue, and found the rabbi of blessed memory at the prayer leader's podium reciting verses of Psalms, weeping like a small child to the point where it was difficult to make out the words. I was told that he was praying for the wellbeing of one student who had become ill with a serious illness a few days earlier. The doctor who was summoned late that night said that there was no hope in saving him. I was moved to hear these things, and felt the weeping of our rabbi in all my limbs. Of course, I and all the other students who were present wept like children. It would be superfluous to describe the feelings of joy felt by all of us, especially by the rabbi, two days later when we were informed that the sick person was no longer in critical condition, and the doctor who was tending to him, a non–religious freethinker, said that he wanted to return to observant Judaism because he realized that it was only the prayers of our rabbi that saved this sick person. What our eyes literally saw at that time was the feeling of deep love of our rabbi of blessed memory to his students, and the level of dedication and faith in his love of them.

*

Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin no longer exists in Lublin. The wild ones came and desecrated it. However, the toil of our rabbi and the dedication that he imbued in it did not descend to oblivion[2].

If today we see splendid Yeshiva buildings in Israel, and if the appreciation has penetrated into the hearts of many that there is a need to enable young students to study Torah with a sense of comfort, and there is no Torah commandment for them to live a life of deprivation – this is to a very large extent due to the deep impression that was made by that sage and Tzadik in the hearts of the masses of Jewish people with great dedication throughout all the years of his life.

*

Our rabbi forged one other creation with which he earned his acclaim. This was the study of Daf Yomi (the daily page of Talmud) that was accepted and has spread throughout all Jewish communities, and has led to a large–scale dissemination of Torah.

This great mitzvah that our rabbi merited, to be among those who earn merit for the masses day after day with through the commandment of Torah study, was, in the words of the Chofetz Chaim of blessed memory, a reward from Heaven for his love of Torah and his dedication on behalf of Torah. We have seen that he felt himself very fortunate and always praised G–d for the great merit that fell in his lot, in that this great, deep idea entered his mind.

*

He was greatly distressed that he was unable to build the Yeshiva in the Land of Israel. He repeated the following words at various opportunities to the writer of these lines: “I cannot forgive myself for one mistake, that I did not build the Yeshiva in the Land of Israel.”

He desired very much to visit the Land during the last period of his life. He spoke a great deal about the Land of Israel, and he expressed great longing in his discussions on this topic. He began to learn relevant sections of Talmud and the commandments related to the Land of Israel with several of his students, and his intention was to visit the Land for the Passover holiday of the year 5634 (1934). He waited for the day to come, but to our great sorrow, he did not merit such, nor did we. He was summoned to the Heavenly Yeshiva on the 7th of Cheshvan 5634 (1933) when he was only 46 years old.

[Page 103]

People who stood at his sickbed during the final hours before his passing describe things that are a revelation of the greatness and sublime behavior of a holy Tzadik, on par with the Tzadikim of old.

As is known, he was ill for only a few days. The doctors did not realize the gravity of the illness. They thought that it was regular angina and did not treat it seriously. Indeed, on the last day, when they saw his condition grow more serious, it was too late to help. About two hours before his passing, he asked his students to drink lechayim, and then he wrote (he was no longer able to speak) the two words “Only in joy.” With a wave of his hand, he ordered his students to dance. The students, who already saw and knew what was about to take place, fulfilled the command of their beloved rabbi before their rabbi. He gave up his soul in purity in the middle of the dance.

The man, whose body and soul was always like a living violin playing and singing, whose entire life was one large chapter of song and joy to G–d and His Torah – recited a song and demanded joy even at the moment that he returned his soul to his Creator.

Our great rabbi, who regarded his life task as teaching his students faith in G–d, joy, and the study of Torah with an uplifted soul – gave over a final lesson during his final moments that served as a last will and testament in the laws of joy and trust in G–d.

His many students who merited to be protected under the shade of the great tree, who regarded it as a great merit to absorb and become imbued with the rays of the great light, will never forget everything that they saw, heard, and felt in his presence.

The image of enchanting harmony and heartwarming love of their great rabbi, the “Or Hameir” will always remain before them.

__________

Translator's Footnotes
  1. Deuteronomy 1:17. return
  2. In modern times, the Yeshiva has been returned to the Jewish community. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chachmei_Lublin_Yeshiva return

 

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