[Page 167]

Prominent People of Lizhensk

 

Rebbes and Rabbis of Lizhensk

by Dovid Steinbach


Lizhensk was one of the thousands of Jewish communities that were destroyed during the time of the Holocaust. I do not pretend to be a historian, and to write an analysis of the beginning of the establishment of the Jewish community in Lizhensk. As is known, there is not sufficient material to determine the story in its entirety, and to collect facts on this topic. Even a professional historian would have difficulty in establishing the exact year that the Jewish settlement of Lizhensk began. However there are signs and documents that prove that the roots of the Jewish community go back to the 16th century.

The old cemetery, which we still remember, was first established in the beginning of the 17th century. It still had gravestones and remnants of monuments upon which the years 5400 (1600) and 5500 (1700) were clearly engraved.

Every Jewish community in Poland was associated with a well-known event or personality for which that community was known among the Jewish population. The name of Lizhensk was well known primarily due to the wonderful personality of the Tzadik Rebbe Elimelech, who lived there during the 18th century. This is not the place to elaborate on his widespread work in the Jewish world. Nor is it the place to elaborate on his position in the relatively new Hassidic movement, which had been founded by the Baal Shem Tov of holy blessed memory, and of which Rebbe Elimelech of holy blessed memory was one of the pillars as the follower and the student of the Magid of Mezeritch. I shall only point out the influence of the Rebbe, as a member of the Lizhensk community, upon the local Jewish community in his generation and in the generations that followed, in times that are remembered by us from the days of our youth.

Each one of us, either consciously or subconsciously, absorbed into his soul the aura that surrounded the personality of Rebbe Elimelech. We were all influenced by the stories and legends that were passed on from generation to generation and were widespread in the midst of the Jewish community about the life and activities of Rebbe Elimelech.

The day of the Yahrzeit, the 21st of Adar, was a one-of-a-kind experience. The town, which was dark to its inhabitants who had to struggle for their sustenance and their daily existence, all of a sudden awoke from its slumber and routine. Its snowy streets turned into giant pathways that brought crowds proudly to the grave of the Rebbe. Prior to the Sabbath preceding the Yahrzeit, dozens of Hassidim of Uman and Bratslav[1] arrived, as the first sign of the approaching great day. Their presence was felt in every corner of the town, particularly among our fellow Jews. The endless singing and dancing caused an awakening in the souls of the Jews. It added reason to their Jewish existence, and meaning to their dwelling in Lizhensk, the honorable resting-place of the great Tzadik.

Their hallmark was 'worship G-d in joy', and they fulfilled this adage literally. Most of them were poor, and in contrast to their material poverty and their disheveled appearance, they were rich in spirit and deep Hassidic enthusiasm. For that day Jews from all parts of Poland and from outside the country streamed in to the town, some by train and some by carriage, some on foot and some by bus, in order to prostrate themselves at the grave of the Tzadik. Thousands of candles were lit, rivers of tears were shed, and the depths of hearts were exposed. Troubles in the Jewish people as well as personal tribulations, heartrending cries and prayers filled the area. This holy gravesite was too small to contain the crowds of people and all of their tribulations. A deep faith pervaded the hearts of all the petitioners, all of them believed that on that day, the gates of tears were open for the good, and the holy Rebbe would intercede for his flock in front of the Judge of the World.

An eternal flame burned without end at the gravesite every day of the year. The elders of the city would relate that the great fire, which consumed most of the houses of the city, including the property and furnishings, broke out due to someone forgetting to kindle the eternal flame. Only once it was rekindled did the great fire stop.

The cemetery of Lizhensk no longer exists. It is all destroyed, and upon the high hill which was once the resting place of thousands of good Jews, there is now only one lone and silent grave (which was restored and rebuilt by Rabbi Friedman of Vienna in 1960) as a living testimony to the Jewish community, which was cut off and never returned. Petitions, cries of the broken hearted, and verses of Psalms no longer disturb the repose of the Rebbe, not even on the 21st of Adar. Everything is silent. Only the survivors of the Holocaust in our independent land gather on this day to remember, to remind, and to come together with their dear martyrs who were burnt, murdered, and buried alive by the murderers.

Who from among us, Lizhensk natives, does not remember with trembling the mystery which surrounded the “small forest”, which was also connected with legends of Rebbe Elimelech. Young and old could point out to you the tallest hill in this forest, which has a path forged by hundreds of thousands of footprints of Jewish children over the course of many generations. The summit has the form of a table and chair, upon which Rebbe Elimelech would conduct his famous wanderings in the snow.

It is a great wonder that the residents of Lizhensk did not belong to the stream of Hassidism, and the town was not particularly noted. Great and famous sages did not come from there, and even though this was the place of residence of Rebbe Elimelech, its inhabitants were simple working folk, who did not rise above their stature. They took pride in Rebbe Elimelech and the fame of his name, however they did not leave a place for his children to become established there. The center of Hassidism moved from there to Lublin, the city of the Chozeh. The children of the Tzadik continued the tradition of their father, but without a special spark. They did not establish courts such as existed in Ropcyze, Tzans (Nowy Sacz), Belz, Rizhin, etc. The legend is told that the author of the Noam Elimelech bequeathed modesty and poverty to his heirs, and apparently that was the lot of his grandchildren.

There were also well known rabbis in Lizhensk. The most prominent of them was Rabbi Zeev the possessor of the golden tongue, who served as rabbi during the days of Rebbe Elimelech. There was also Rabbi Yoel Moshe Landau and Rabbi Moshe,[2] who was known to everyone as Reb Moshele the son of Zaf. After his death the rabbinic seat was vacant for a long time, and there a great dispute began over the appointing of a new rabbi. There were two serious candidates for the position of rabbi, and there were two disputing sides. The dispute was very fiery. There was causeless hatred, resounding embarrassment, and provocation; all was considered valid so long as it would help them win the dispute.



{Photo page 169 – a large monument, apparently the lone monument in the Lizhensk cemetery, erected in 1960 as described above. The upper inscription cannot be made out, but the lower inscription says “Here is buried our holy master and rabbi, the man of G-d, Rabbi Elimelech the son of Rabbi Elazar Lipman, the author of Noam Elimelech, died on the 21st of Adar 5546. May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.”}


The candidate of the Hassidim of Sieniawa and Belz included Rabbi Simcha of Ciecznow the son of Rabbi Yechezkel of Sieniawa and the son-in-law of Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz. His prime supporters were the Rothman, Stulbach, Hollander, Steinbok, Miller, and Eisenberg families. His competition was Rabbi Yitzchak of Szuczin, the son of Rabbi Moshele of Rozwadow. His prime supporters included the Feit, Shpatz, Englander families, and others.

Close to the time of the First World War, these selected candidates gave up on account of the battles for their sake, and left the city to its own designs. Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, the grandson of Rabbi Yoel Moshe Landau, then occupied the rabbinic seat, and he was the last of the rabbis of Lizhensk.

The portrait of the Jews of Lizhensk would not have been painted sufficiently, if I skipped over one noble personality who is well known to all of us, that is Reb Shmuel Dayan, who was known to all as Reb Shmuel Tzitzer. He was so attached and connected to the Jewish landscape of Lizhensk that it is impossible to describe Jewish life and the large Beis Midrash without him. Reb Shmuel was a tall man with a white beard that flowed over his cloak, and he wore a spodek on his baldhead. He was intelligent, wise and pleasant to his fellowman. He brought three generations from Lizhensk and environs into the covenant of Abraham our father. He was filled with Torah, wisdom, modesty, and love of his fellow Jew. He knew how to argue over the tip of a yud (a small matter), while at the same time not being too extreme. He was able to shout “sheketz” at the Yungatshes[3], while at the same time he was able to have a wide smile pasted on his lips, a smile that brought hearts near, for he would push away with his right and draw near with his left. He died at a ripe old age on Passover 1936, and the entire city mourned for a long time over the loss of one of one of its most honored sons.



{Photo page 171 – a photo of the tombstone of Shmuel Dayan. The inscription is as follows: Here is buried Rabbi Shmuel Yeshaya, a judge and teacher of our community the son of Shlomo of blessed memory. Died at an old age on Sunday the second day of Passover, 5688. He name was great in Israel; he was our crown of glory, a righteous teacher in our community for over sixty years. Everyone in our community mourns, for the crown of our head was taken from us. He reached the age of 84. His soul went out in purity and he was separated from us. His merit should forever protect his descendents and us. May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.”}




[Page 172]

Rabbi Yechezkel Landau of holy blessed memory


The rabbi Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, or as he was known later as simply the Rav of Lizhensk (Der Lizhensker Rov), was descended from Rabbi Chaim Yechezkel Landau, who was known by the name “Noda Biyehuda”, from whose mouth many generations of halachic decisors drew out their halachic decisions regarding communal matters and the conduct of the Jewish people.

His father Rabbi Naftali Hertz was well known in his own right. He was the author of the book “Cheker Halacha” which covered 110 laws on various topics that were at the forefront of the Jewish world at that time. He was the Rabbi of Strolisk, the city of the fiery Admor of Strolisk, and his son Rabbi Yechezkel inherited his rabbinic seat. In 1910 Rabbi Yechezkel moved to Lizhensk, where he served as the rabbi for nearly 29 years.

The elders of the generation used to relate that from the first day, he became involved in the life of the city and saw himself as an inseparable part of the city. During his days, Jews used to come to him for adjudication of Jewish law regarding monetary matters, loans, and business, and they avoided going to the secular courts of the kingdom.

Rabbi Yechezkel led his flock in an uncommon manner, somewhat contradictory, but filled with peace. His personality was full. He was pleasant in his ways, and greeted everyone whom he met on the way. He was sincere in all of his interpersonal relations, however when it came to Jewish law (halacha), he was extremely stringent and did not show favoritism even to those closest to him. He was understanding and forgiving to the youth, and did not impose his fear and the fear of halacha on them. However, with regard to adults who were committed to Jewish law, he was extremely exacting, fulfilling the adage “you shall live by them (by the laws)”, that is to say that you should live by them at all times, and this time, now, immediately, is the right time.

He embodied the personality of the “Noda Biyehuda”, who was a personable man and of pleasant manner, however he was stringent and exacting with regard to the fulfillment of the commandments. The matters were well known, in particular when he expounded that “where there are 100 rabbis there should be 100 scholars”, and he did not rest until his lecture was fulfilled.

Many people of Lizhensk heard his well-known story of a communal leader who was a rich man and owned much property, whose wealth came from tanning. He was frequently involved with Rabbi Yechezkel Landau in clarifying matters regarding his debate with the butchers, and he often lost out. When the rabbinic judgment concluded, he went home distraught, for he was hurt by the rabbi who judged him guilty for the most part and did not take cognizance of the honor due to him as a communal leader. However when he awoke the next morning, with his clear mind and customary calm disposition restored, he said that even though he lost out due to the rabbinic judgment of the rabbi, he learned to respect him all the more and his friendship with him deepened.

The remarkable thing about this was that this man was the one through whose help and merit Rabbi Yechezkel was accepted as the rabbi of Lizhensk over the other candidates who competed with him and vied for this position.

The Rebbetzin, the wife of Rabbi Yechezkel was from the well-known Wachs family, which was renowned for its riches and piety. They were landowners in Brody and Lemberg, and they enabled the rabbi to turn his home into a place where guests could be received on a constant basis. As is known, Lizhensk attracted many guests from all parts of Poland, who came to prostrate themselves at the grave of Rabbi Elimelech of holy blessed memory. Among them were needy people who lacked money for food. Such people knew the address of the rabbi of Lizhensk, and approximately twenty people would eat at his table every day, receiving their meals as if they were members of the household. It is said that it once occurred that a guest arrived late after everyone had finished eating, and was turned away by the Rebbetzin with the comment:

“There is nothing to eat, Mr. tardy Jew.”

However, as he left, she changed her mind:

“Why is he guilty in that twenty people came before him.”

She immediately asked him to return, and told him that she did not have any meat left, but that nobody starves in Lizhensk, and she gave him other food to eat. When he left, he said to her:

“Rebbetzin, you should know that I have eaten a Simchat Torah feast here.”

The home of Rabbi Yechezkel excelled in two areas: in the commandment of entertaining guests, which was in the merit of the Rebbetzin; and in the spiritual life and atmosphere in the home, which was in his own merit. He did not act as an Admor (Hassidic leader), however nevertheless there was an element of Admorut in him, for his table was filled with guests, and his door was open to anyone who needed him. On each Sabbath, the third Sabbath meal (Shalosh Seudot) took place at his home, and on festivals, there was a public meal after the main meal. During those meals, many of the orthodox townspeople came to join together in friendship.

The traditional “Purim Spiel”[4], took place in his house on Purim. Even all the rehearsals for that performance took place in his house. On Simchat Torah, the Rebbetzin remembered to prepare apples for him, which he took to the synagogue to throw at the children, in order to help them rejoice.

With his passing, these events, which added spirit to the festivals, ceased. Their lack was felt for a long time in Lizhensk.

After his death, it became known that he had busied himself with writing, and he left behind a lengthy manuscript of Torah commentaries, of high quality.

Rabbi Yechezkel was also active outside of his town, and he was known throughout Galicia as an erudite rabbi, well versed in halacha (Jewish law). This renown brought him to be active in the rabbinical organizations of Poland, and he was an active member in their deliberations.

His died suddenly at age 61, still in the prime of his strength and at the height of his activities.

Close to the time of his death, he was invited to Lemberg for a complicated rabbinic adjudication, which was conducted by other rabbis. He was invited there at the request of these other rabbis, and he remained in Lemberg at their request until the conclusion of the judgment. He returned home close to the Sabbath, and he did not find any rest at all that Friday, for his heart was pounding over the deliberations, which were tortuous and complex, and did not fit the way he was used to doing things. He turned over in his bed that entire Sabbath eve, and his soul was melancholy. On the morning of the Sabbath, he served as prayer leader, as he was accustomed, in a holy manner. He groaned throughout the entire Shacharit[5], service, and he stumbled, fell down, and did not get up. His son Rabbi Yoel Moshe Landau, who worshiped in the Agudas Yisrael synagogue, was immediately called to the central synagogue, which was simply known as the “Beis Midrash”. Physicians were also called, and he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage.

He did not regain consciousness, and he remained on his sickbed until his last moment. The people of the town tried everything to save him. They summoned physicians from various places, and the students of the Yeshivot stopped their studies and busied themselves with the recital of Psalms, however nothing helped. On Tuesday, the eve of Rosh Chodesh (the New Moon) of Tammuz 5697 (1937), Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, the “Rabbi of Lizhensk”, returned his soul to the creator, and he was only 61 years old.





[Page 175]

Reb Kopel

by Yechiel Schneid


Already on the day of my wedding he captivated my heart. He sat with a glorious countenance among the in-laws and invited guests around the table that was reserved for the men. He stood out from all those gathered due to his handsome white beard. His smiling face and high forehead were of a scholar. He dazzled my eyes and won my favor, as I have stated, from the first moment.

When I remember back to those days, I see him standing in the middle of the street, surrounded by a fitting group of neighbors listening to his every word, enjoying his stories filled with joviality and words of sarcasm, and laughing heartily. I see him as well walking quickly, with large steps, on his way home from the synagogue after the morning prayers.

I recall my sins today.[6] As I remember him, I recall that I tricked Reb Kopel during the course of many years, but I nevertheless was his good friend and I lived with him in peace, without harm.

Reb Kopel (the elder generation used to call him Kopesh, alluding to his stubbornness) was very tall, of strong stature, with wide shoulders, with his face constantly aglow, and he had a heavy belly. His distinguished beard graced him with the countenance of an elderly scholar. If it weren't for the fact that he did not have a wide hat, he may have looked like a leading scholar of the generation or an Admor, the rabbi of thousands of Hassidim who would be knocking at his door to bring him requests.

When I came to live in Lizhensk, he was already elderly, certainly older than sixty years. However his gait was light and strong, like that of a young man. His cronies always related that he never became ill, never complained about feeling unwell, and he never needed a doctor. He never even purchased the “grandmother's remedies” which were obtainable from a pharmacy for mere pennies.

He would always mock those Jews who enjoyed their own stories about their illnesses and various doctors, coniosis, spas, etc. According to him, all of these people were only maneuvering for acceptance, benefiting themselves, people who like themselves too much and enjoy talking about themselves. It is said that this type of preoccupation with oneself is worse than an actual disease.

The entire year, during the summer and winter, with the exception of Sabbaths and festivals, Reb Kopel would wear the same clothes, the same bekishe,[7] which was worn out from age and had become shiny from age like silken material, similar to an actual kapote, however without the buttons so the thick belt would have to hold it in place. Under the thick bekishe, which never really warmed his body, one could see his old vest, whose color was a cross between brown and blue. On his head he would always wear his small velvet kippa, which was worn out from age. Apparently it was a gift that he received on his wedding day, and due to its great age it had lost both its color and shape. It shrank with the passage of time, and now could not cover his large, wide head, with his high forehead.

Reb Kopel was not a man who was particular about his style of dress. Therefore he appeared disheveled and negligent. This was due to the fact that he had lost his wife many years previously. He remained with his two daughters, maidens who looked after his household and his affairs. They cleaned the house, cooked for him, and did everything necessary for him. However, they did not have enough time to look after him personally and to worry about his personal appearance. All of his pockets were torn. None of his clothes had buttons; even his coat was tied by strings, as was the custom of the Belz students at that time. In the summer as well as the winter, Reb Kopel wore heavy boots, as did the wagon drivers of the vicinity and the Jews of the villages.

Reb Kopel woke up early in the morning, and hurried to the Beis Midrash to pray with the first prayer group. As he entered, he would always sit in his customary spot and open up a book and look into it without exchanging conversation with anybody, until the first prayer quorum arrived, and the service began.

He would walk quickly home from the Beis Midrash, without stopping to chat with anyone. He barely returned greetings of “good morning”. It was no secret that Reb Kopel enjoyed very much his morning meal, very early and according to his idiosyncrasies, from a deep bowl. The scoffers would exaggerate about the eating habits of Reb Kopel. I did not believe them all, however he himself would say that his table was his altar, and his meal was his holy service.

His neighbors would testify that when he ate, he ate with full concentration. They related further that when a fire once broke out in the vicinity of his house, he did not interrupt his meal, so as not to embarrass his table-altar.

Reb Kopel lived in his own house, which was next to the excise store of Naftali Chaim. He would always complain about the bad odors in the neighborhood, which were caused by the aroma of the liquor and other alcoholic drinks which were sold in the excise store, as well as by the drunks who would drink profusely and wallow in their vomit, and then lie on the benches near the excise store in order to sober up and begin their drinking again.

In the middle of his house there stood a large machine, with a gigantic wheel that was turned by hand. Around the machine, on the floor and on the many shelves were many bottles, green, blue, and white, with tin spouts that would attach to siphons. This was Reb Kopel's factory, a soda factory, which earned him his livelihood.

When the “sheketz” who worked with him became drunk and did not show up for work, Reb Kopel was not embarrassed. He rolled up his sleeves and turned the gigantic wheel himself, filling up the soda bottles with the siphons.

During the bright summer days, his products would be snatched up shortly after they were produced. The work became plentiful, and his livelihood came easily. However after Sukkot, when the autumn winds began to blow and the trees changed colors, people would prefer a hot drink instead of the cold soda. His work diminished at that time, and Reb Kopel was forced to live off the modest savings that he accumulated during his bountiful summer.

He was learned, and he studied a page of Gemara every day. Learned lay people would often willingly guide him into discussions and debates about matters of Torah. His responses were intermingled with jokes. His witticisms and aphorisms had value, and people would often quote them in his name. His tongue was as sharp as a sword, and everyone was afraid to start up with him. Woe unto him who was the topic of his wit, for it did not take much until he burnt his sacrifice into dust.

His greatest pleasure was to stand in the middle of the street, surrounded by a large audience who listened to his expositions, sarcasm, wit, and mocking. He enjoyed himself, and his mouth was full of laughter.

He was not lacking for material. He always had something to discuss. One occasion he would discuss “grandchildren”, that is the descendents of Tzadikim who “conduct” their table gatherings and receive gifts, just as did their grandfathers the Admorim, who behaved to their Hassidim as obscure “Zoharists” (his term for those who studied Zohar[8] without understanding it). He reached the height of his sarcasm when he described the “wonders” which they performed.

On another occasion he dealt with the simple folk who push themselves to the head of the line, to the eastern wall,[9] and request for themselves the honor of aliyot to the Torah, etc. He did not withhold his stick from anyone, he was not afraid of anyone. He was not even afraid of the mighty people of the community, whom he would denigrate and treat them as the dust of the earth.

If an unknown young man appeared in the town, a new face, who came to visit his new in-laws, Reb Kopel would immediately concern himself with him and administer a test to him, as if to a schoolchild. He would ask him questions regarding “Tosafot”[10] or a strange Midrash[11] with wondrous innocence. When the person asked the question became confused and did not know what to answer, Reb Kopel beamed with mirth as the sun at noon, and the glittering of his face added to the perplexity of the young man.

My esteemed father-in-law Shabtai promised me at the time of my wedding three years of support, so that I would remain in town and continue to study constantly at the Beis Midrash. I was barely twenty years old at the time of my wedding, and I remained the same good-for-nothing who did not recognize the importance of a seat in the Beis Midrash or the study of Torah. I was not interested in business or in the happenings of this world, and I did not understand anything about these things. They were too mundane for me. The Beis Midrash, with its shelves loaded with books, attracted me, and I was also attracted to the refined young scholars. I was fascinated to listen to their words of Torah, as well as their mundane speech.

However… At the exact conclusion of two years of support according to the conditions set at my wedding, I stumbled, these type of things should not happen to you, because of a strange young man who removed me from my pure world and inspired me to jump over many fences until I reached an entirely different world. I jumped from Belz Hassidism to
Hisnagdut[12] and from there farther and farther to “The Guide for the Perplexed”[13] and further to “improper and treif” books. From the “Eight Chapters” of Maimonides I made giant steps to “Stumbling in the Path of Life”.

It is obvious that in those days I had to hide these things and keep them secret, so that nobody would know.

I continued to study all day in the Beis Midrash with my fellows, however in the evening I would take out “those” books from my secret hiding place. Those books opened up new vistas for me, and I read them with great interest.

I could not borrow such books from anyone. I purchased them one at a time. Over time, I accumulated many Haskala books, which I brought into my marriage along with my personal possessions. My first worry was to keep them hidden and concealed from anyone else. I particularly kept them hidden from my new relatives. I was afraid that they would see “an evil eye” in them, for my wife's family was completely Orthodox, G-d fearing, and enthusiastic Hassidim.

One day, on a regular week day, a few years after I had come to town, Reb Kopel met me in the street, came near to me, and said in his usual simple manner:

Listen, oh young man, do you have any small book for me? Please lend me something to read.

His question shook me up so much that I was unable to answer him. My tongue fled from me, and apparently my face changed color, showing confusion and shame. I wondered how he knew. After some time, I regained my composure somewhat and began to say a few words to him. I attempted to claim that I did not own any books at all.

Reb Kopel enjoyed very much my perplexity, and examined me with his wily penetrating eyes. He smiled widely, and suddenly started to say:

Don't show the face of innocence; with me it is better to speak clearly, for you have nothing to fear from me. Why do you claim otherwise, for I know clearly that you possess books of Haskala. Please give me something to read, do not forget to bring it to me.

He went on his way.

I remained there perplexed and crushed. My terrible secret had been revealed. My denial did not help me. What I could not do would not help me. What could I do?

When I came home in a state of confusion, I began to dissect the “event”, to find a way to escape from the embarrassing situation and to save myself from this disaster. All of my family would find out, Heaven forbid, my embarrassment, and it would all be my fault.

I deliberated on the matter for a complete day. Should I decide to confess to him, and to lend him a book, or should I continue with my denial? I decided to bring him a book.

At the time of Mincha (the afternoon prayer), I brought him “Eit Tzavua” (“The Colored Pen”) by Mapu, well covered and camouflaged. I figured that it would take him at least a week to finish these five volumes. In the meantime, I would be able to find an explanation, which would save me and extract me from my terrible situation.

Reb Kopel astounded and surprised me. The next day at Mincha time, he returned me the packet, and said in his usual emphatic manner: “Don't forget to bring me something else tomorrow”.

I did not answer him. I could not grasp the matter. It was beyond my comprehension how he could have read such a long, five-volume novel so quickly. I calmed down a little later. I thought that perhaps he did not like Mapu, and therefore he returned the books to me without reading them.

The next day I brought him “Stumbling in the Path of Life” by Smolniskin. I thought that for sure he would require at least a week to finish this book. For even if he reads fast, he doesn't have much free time since he is so busy with his business, and I would be able to relax in the meantime.

After two days I received “Stumbling” back from him without any comment. It was wondrous to me how this could be. Is it possible that such a man who is as busy as he is could read hundreds of printed pages in two days? I could not contain my curiosity and asked him if he read the book and if he enjoyed it.

“Fool”, he answered me, “of course I read it. Don't be an inquisitive fool. Bring me something else.”

I do not have to add anything. The regular bringing and returning commenced. I no longer wondered about his speedy reading. My curiosity was more centered on the fact that he conducted this matter discreetly, and did not comment on which book he preferred, or whether he liked the books at all. I was most interested in how he judged literary matters, what was his philosophy, and what was his relationship to these topics. However, out of spite, he did not comment at all.

When I realized that very shortly Reb Kopel would finish all of my books and conduct a “Siyum Hashas”[14], I worried again. What would be? What should I tell him, and would he believe me? Would he back off from me and not bother me, or – without opening up a mouth to the Satan[15] – would he bring me further perplexity, as is his manner.

I did not have much time, so I though about the matter at length. I thought about how to extract myself from the situation. I thought about it so much until I though of an excellent idea. I though of a simple plan that would get me out of this leprous plague.

Since Reb Kopel read my books very quickly, it can be imagined that he did not read them thoroughly and forgot their contents. It was clear that he would not remember their titles. Therefore, I was not required to tell the truth, and I would give him the same books again. If he remembered that I gave him the book already, I would apologize, and claim that the error was mine.

That was the way it was; I gave him the same books over and over again. He did not remember that he had already read them. Our friendship in this manner lasted for several years. We got along with each other, and there was no stumbling block in our path. If it were not for the terrible disaster, Reb Kopel would certainly have read my books over and over again.

It was in the three-week period between the straits[16], a few days prior to Tisha B'Av, in 1906 of the Common Era. It was a hot summer day, and the sun was out in full force for several weeks and dried up all the wooden shingles on the poor huts of Lizhensk. Everything was as dry as a match.

In the morning, immediately after the conclusion of the morning service, the cry of “Woe, a fire broke out in the city” was heard. Before people could get out onto the streets, the fire overtook several houses, and the flames passed from roof to roof, from wall to wall. In no time the entire city was in flames. The lone well, which stood in the center of the marketplace, could not provide enough water to put out the file. The firefighters stood as statues, and could not help…

The fire burned for close to 24 hours, and the entire town was destroyed. The only street that was saved was the street on the other side of the Sabbath enclosure (Eruv).

Here our story ends. Just as the house of Reb Kopel went up in flames, my house also went up in flames, along with my books and all my belongings.

We both had other more important worries on our minds, in the wanderings of our lives. We lost touch with each other, and we never met again.



[Page 181]
Ask Your Father and He Will Tell You[17]

by Avraham Moshe Silberberg


An article about the personality and memory of my father of blessed memory
[18]


It is known to everyone that the deeds of the fathers are a portent for the children! The Torah tells us that: Rachel died and was buried on the way to Efrata, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob erected a monument on her grave, which is known as the monument of the grave of Rachel until this day (Genesis 35).

Our sages related that Jacob's burial of Rachel along the way was according to the Divine decree, that she should be there to help her descendents as they were taken into exile by Nevuzaradan. As they passed by, Rachel came out of her grave, and wept and asked for mercy for them[19]. Why did Jacob erect a monument in a manner unlike the previous fathers? Our story relates to us that this was because the grave was along the way, and there was concern that the grave would be dug up. That is to say, he worried that the grave might be destroyed and lost.

We learn from this that if we wish to preserve an impression from the generation of parents, so that we would have an opportunity to unify ourselves with their memory and to cry out and pour out our hearts in the merit of their righteousness and holiness, so that their souls should intercede for us in times of tribulation; the proper course of action would be to erect a memorial in the form of a monument that would last forever. That is to say that this would cause influence, both in a direct and indirect manner, so that the well would not dry up, the tree would not be uprooted, that there would be a continuation for the generations to come, that they should walk in the paths of their holy mothers and fathers.

There is a wonderful custom among the scattered remnants of Israel, those who escaped the sword and flames, and who live in the countries of the Diaspora, and especially in the Holy Land, to perpetuate the holy communities upon which destruction came, in order to insure that they would have a proper memorial, and that their memory and glory will be given over to future generations. We must bless them for this.

I have therefore decided to answer the request of the honorable, active committee of our famous town Lizhensk, and to take part in some manner in this Yizkor Book, which is about to be published to perpetuate our holy community.

In truth I should confess that this is a very difficult task, for whenever the name Lizhensk comes to my lips, I am overtaken by trembling and fright, for our brethren of the House of Israel remember with holy trembling and honorable awe as they recall the rabbi and leader of the entire House of Israel, the teacher and rabbi of all the Tzadikim of Poland, Galicia and Ukraine, the author of “Noam Elimelech” of holy blessed memory, may his merit protect us. As well, I remember how the myriads of Jews drew their hearts close, like a flaming flame, and with a great voice as if from the firmament, to the resting place of the Tzadik of generations, whether on the yahrzeit day of the holy Tzadik on the 21st of Adar, or in the months of repentance and mercy of Elul and Tishrei, or even on any other day of the year. Myriads came to pour out the bitterness of their heart before the Merciful Father, as children make pleas to their parents, and everyone returned from the holy grave with a feeling of salvation, as one who had a burden lifted from his hart. It is permissible to note that as these thoughts and memories come into our minds on the great day of the 21st of Adar, we, the natives of Lizhensk can almost feel with out own hands the festivity and atmosphere of holiness and glory that overtook our city, its residents, and all who came for the occasion.

It is worthwhile to make mention of a peculiar event which took place to me in connection to this great day: during the time of the holocaust, when I was in Shanghai, China, I visited with the Admor Reb Shimon of Amshinov of holy blessed memory. He was one of the important Admorim of pre-war Poland. By coincidence, this visit took place on the 21st of Adar. During the conversation I mentioned that the day was the Yahrzeit of our rabbi Rabbi Elimelech, may his merit protect us. He immediately arose from his chare, went into another room, and brought out liquor and cake, and drank Lechaim with me so that his merit should protect us. He added that it was amazing that a similar incident happened to him. When he was in Vienna, he visited the holy rabbi Reb Yisrael of Czortkow of holy blessed memory, and reminded him that the day was the 21st of Adar, the Yahrzeit of the Noam Elimelech, may his merit protect us. He then arose from his seat in his full glory and said “The great Rebbe Elimelech”. It is said with regard to the earlier Hassidim that if the only mention the name Lizhensk is merely mentioned, it opens up mercy and kindness in all worlds. He then brought out a drink, and drank Lechaim with me. Up to this point is his story. This fact is sufficient, that we should know how great this day is, and how established it is in the entire Jewish world as a holy day for arousal, repentance, and pouring out of the heart on the one hand, and for joy and exaltation on the other hand. This is all due to the sublime mediation of the holy Tzadik may his merit protect us. The heart is pained that now, due to our many sins, the holy place has been destroyed and laid waste, so that we can no longer come near to the holiness. The ways of Zion are desolate, with none coming at the appointed
times[20].

Due to this, it is very difficult for me to write about the celestial Lizhensk[21], however on the other hand, it is necessary and required. I will not withhold my hands from participating in this effort, and I will try as much as possible to put onto paper what remains of my memories about the Lizhensk of below, which is a reflection of the celestial Lizhensk, even with all the obstacles facing me.

Before I begin, I am forced to admit that since I reached the age of maturity, I did not spend much time in our city of Lizhensk, as I went to various Yeshivot to study Torah. Therefore, I do not know much about Lizhensk, its people, its honorable citizens, it happenings and events. I will therefore suffice myself with describing matters related to the personality of my revered father of blessed memory, who was without doubt one of the special personalities of the city and its surroundings. It is permitted for me to believe that if I were not to describe some details about his personality, this Yizkor book would be lacking. Therefore, I am forced to describe some details about his personality and activities in the private realm, even those details, that were unknown to his fellow man, will only present a small part of the his greatness.

My father Reb Yehuda Leib Silberberg of blessed memory was raised and educated in Krakow, a major Jewish center, and a city of Torah and Hassidism. He came from a family of Torah sages, Hassidim, people of worthy deeds, exalted people. In addition, he was forged and educated in the kiln of Hassidim of the renowned students of Ostrowiec. He had an honorable position among the young students of Krakow in the years prior to the First World War. He was fluent in the books of Hassidism and Jewish thought, and it was not in vain that the best of the youth from all Hassidic circles gathered around him, and he served as a guide and influence to them.

Even after his wedding, when he moved to Grodzisk near Lizhensk and he received his rabbinical ordination from the leaders of the city, he refused to make use of it and he preferred to distance himself from the rabbinate, so as not to Heaven forbid make it into a spade to dig with[22]. After some time he gave his letter of rabbinic ordination as a present to the Rabbi of Plantch of holy blessed memory, in order so that he could install his son the young Rabbi Elazar Horowitz, the Admor of Grodzisk, of holy blessed memory, may G-d avenge his blood.

He did not suffice himself with pursuing his livelihood as the owner of the flourmill of the city. He also concerned himself with raising the banner of Torah and Judaism in the town, and he gathered around him the best of the young men, and some older people, who cleaved to him with bonds of love, and regarded him as their guide and counselor.

After he decided to move to Lizhensk in the year 5683 (1923) on account of the education of his children, who had become older in the meantime, he found himself a wide space for his educational and Hassidic activities. He used his great knowledge and his unique charm to change the situation in the famous Lizhensk. This city, the cradle of Hassidism, from which Torah and Hassidism should be spreading to the world, was affected due to the First World War, and the situation of Torah and Judaism was almost completely destroyed, just as it was in other cities in Poland and Galicia of that time. Lizhensk was in a worse state than its neighboring cities, as is known “the more something is holy, the more it can be destroyed”. He arrived as a soldier in the battlefield, in the battlefield of the Living G-d, faithful to his calling, and the sprit that arose from the depths of his heart and soul, to raise up the horn of Torah and to return in some manner the glory of Lizhensk of old.

Despite the fact that he was different than other people in his private life, in his behavior, thought, speech, and deeds, he was immersed in Hassidic thought and its paths, and he lived by them. He went down to the people in order to transmit his thoughts to the masses. He spoke, spread, and influenced in knowledge, wisdom, Torah and Hassidism. He spent many hours transmitting to the masses, who enjoyed listening to him and learning from him. He used to recite his prayers rather late in the day, and he taught chapters of Genesis day and night.

An interesting incident happened to me. Once my mother, peace be upon her, came to me to complain about father of blessed memory to his rabbi and teacher the Admor of Markoszow of holy blessed memory, due to his behavior and the change of his regular order of life, since it was weakening his health. During my first trip that father took me on to visit the rabbi, father related to him the difficult economic situation that he found himself in at that time, I took the opportunity and told the rabbi of holy blessed memory about the complaints of my mother. The rabbi asked him: “Nu[23], what do you have to say about this? Are they not correct?”. The Rabbi continued: “I promise you that if you stop this behavior and act normally, your livelihood will come with greater ease! “ However, surprisingly, father's response was emphatic! “If that is the case, I accept the situation.”

Anyone who had a problem, whether related to finances, business, or relations with neighbors, would find his address and request his counsel. This was particularly the case with regard to family problems. He dedicated entire nights to this. Nothing was difficult for him, and nothing stood in his way of bringing peace to a family. Not infrequently, he would return home prior to dawn after such an evening.

His entire effort and desire was for the Torah, to spread Torah and fear of Heaven in the city. He took a leading role in the founding of educational and Torah institutions, such as the “Talmud Torah”, or “Beis Yaakov”, and he stood at their helm until the holocaust. Similarly, he was one of the founders of “Agudas Yisrael”, and “Agudas Yisrael Youth”, and stood at the helm for all the years.

For many years, he would deliver a class on Midrash on Sabbath afternoons, and on occasion, this class was delivered before his own morning prayers… He worked tirelessly for the fund for settlement of Israel in the city and vicinity, and he was also the representative of the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva in the city.

He was the right hand man and confidante of the rabbi of the city, Rabbi Yechezkel Segal Landau of holy blessed memory, who relied on him for counsel regarding the conducting of communal matters, and esteemed his wisdom and counsel. He assisted him with ascertaining the Kashruth of the ritual baths, Passover bakeries, etc.

All of this was because “his hands were clasped to the horns of the altar” [24], and his faithfulness to the version of Hassidism that was promoted by our rabbi – the Rabbi of all Israel, Rebbe Elimelech of holy blessed memory in his holy book “Noam Elimelech”, according to the adage: “I will thank G-d greatly with my mouth, and I will praise him publicly” [25]. It is explained there that whatever a great man can attain through his mouth which has its limits; he can attain so much more through his though which is without limit. Regarding this, King David may peace be upon him said: “I wish more so to worship and thank G-d with my mouth, even though I will not do great things according to my level, however it is worthwhile to praise G-d in public, that is to influence other people to direct their ways for the good”. Father of blessed memory also gave up much of his own Torah and worship in order to be able to influence his fellow, and particularly the youth.

Especially glorious was his work and self-dedication in preparing the older students of the Talmud Torah for Yeshivot, and particularly for Yeshivot in Krakow. Despite his own business and affairs, he always took out time at the beginning of the Yeshiva semesters and traveled together with them to Krakow, in order to help them arrange their studies and their room and board. This was not such an easy and pleasant task in those days.

The people of Lizhensk saw him as the representative of Agudas Yisrael, however he always found common ground with the leadership of the other groups, and he maintained friendly relations with all of the factions, without difference, regardless of their outlooks. He even maintained relations with the extreme left, and thanks to the faith and esteem which everyone held him in, he was frequently able to settle disputes between various factions.

In conclusion, do not complain to me that I have only spoken about father of blessed memory, without mentioning the other important personalities who gave of their glory and efforts to the city. However to the best of my knowledge, and thanks to the mercy of G-d, most of them have surviving family members who were saved from the inferno, I have left them a place to tell their stories, and each of them should be able to do a better job than I can in portraying the personalities and activities of their own relatives.



[Page 185]

They Were Three
(Or The Other Lizhensk)

by Abish Reichenthal

 
A note from the editor:

One of the results of the holocaust is that the general knowledge of various points in Jewish life is not complete. We must ask forgiveness for any areas that we missed.

The forgiveness comes with death.

From the lines of A. Reichenthal, we hear the voices of those whose voices were not yet heard in the topics of this book. We cannot forgo this opportunity to hear their voices as a “rectification of the soul” for those who today would have been able to rectify their souls through their life, if only they would be alive. However, only G-d grants life…

Among the rights of the editor is the right to present some material that is not logical… This chapter should serve as an expression of the right of this author, who hesitated to consult with others about this.

Here a wanderer will not be disparaged
There a cow will rejoice.
Yes, yes, an elderly fool
This was. It is no longer
By Maurice Rosenfeld

I wonder to myself, what purpose does it server to relate what occurred? This was an era that did not satisfy the soul and cause it joy. Those that were awake passed on. Why turn back when everything was destroyed along with the town, with our Lizhensk that was burned and destroyed?

I will do so nevertheless!

Let this be for them, for our dear children, it is for them that were took upon ourselves the duty to relate and write.

After the First World War, when those that returned home brought with them new ideas and impressions from the period of terrible killing, when from one side a person had to live an unsettled life, and from the other side, strange people became closer, and bonds of friendship were formed between nations and people of different outlooks.

In those years of 1917-1918 when the spirit of change began to overtake straightforward and serious people. The workingman began to unite throughout the world, and the new winds reached Lizhensk as well.

In 1918, a workers union was founded in Lizhensk by the name of “Poale Zion”.

At the outset, institutions were founded for the needs of the worker: A Beis Midrash for workers, as well as a library that enriched their thoughts and enabled them to obtain knowledge.

New winds began to blow in Lizhensk; the eye of man beheld new vistas, new possibilities and fulfilling ideas.

The first people who organized the union of young workers in Lizhensk were Chanina Glicksman, Shaya Reichenthal, Kalman Wachtelknig, Moshe Birnbach, and Leib Reichenthal.

It is not easy to remember all of the people and their names from those days. There were many of them whom it would be appropriate to recall in our memories. What can I do if I only remember a few, for my memory fails me, nevertheless, the heart reaches out to them. Only those who stood at the center of activities are etched in my memory. After all, fifty years have passed since that time, years in the middle of the century, difficult years, which shook up the foundations. I can only write what I remember.


{Photo page 186 – The Union of Workers}


Chanina Glicksman – one of the first founders of the union of workers in Lizhensk. He had the power to influence people. He was a great publicist, well educated, a good organizer and teacher.

I saw in him a great person, and I will describe him as I remember him.

He appeared to us as a person filled with both Torah knowledge as well as knowledge of the world and its problems. He was a gifted orator, who was able to elucidate difficult and serious matters with humor and jocularity. Chanina convened frequent meetings of the workers, at which he introduced them to political matters and obtained for them stature in the eyes of the community.



{Photo page 187 – The leadership of the workers movement.}



I remember that on one of the days of Passover, Chanina convened a gathering of the workers of the town in the house of Lehczy Herman (or Lehczy Ferber) and lectured for three straight hours on the state of Torah and the state communal life at that time. He explained to those gathered in a glowing manner how much the Torah desires to improve the situation of each and every person in the Jewish nation, and that this is its main purpose. These words left a deep impression upon me and upon everyone gathered. His words were so simple, as if he was speaking about everyday mundane affairs, however the deductions were deep, sharp, and full of wisdom.

Every ordinary person was able to understand him without effort. He explained all of the difficult matters with intelligence and straightforward words, and he presented a complete picture of the situation.

He founded a library and encouraged many to begin to read regular books or advanced books, each according his needs. The books did their job in awakening the youth to different ideas, thoughts, and to improved paths. He also organized an amateur theatrical group, which began to present performances in the city.

At first this was very difficult. Girls were not able to and did not want to participate in the plays, and it was necessary for disguised men to play the role of women. Chanina was an experienced actor, and he was able to find appropriate men who would be able to play the women's roles. Moshe Birnbach especially excelled at this. This theatrical activity raised the stature of the people, and added value to their lives.

Chanina was also a contributor the “Tog Zeitung” newspaper, which was published in Lemberg. He served as the regional reporter. He was an activist, a man of the people, active in affairs of the state, and involved in communal affairs. On top of everything, he was a simple and pleasant person. He displayed progressiveness and success in all arenas. He was a fighter,
a breaker down of barriers, and a leader of the youth.

He failed in only one area, and that was in the affairs of the heart, where he was a victim. This affected him greatly. He retreated from his stormy personal life and dedicated all of his time to the writing of a book. This was for the most part an autobiography, in which he described his era.


Shaya Reichenthal – he was primarily a teacher of children, and that is how he obtained his livelihood. However he was a proud man and a deep thinker. He was content with his lot, and had no desires for greatness. He was a socialist in his youth; he identified with the workers groups, and related with suspicion and distrust toward the opinions of the owners.



{Photo page 188 – Shaya Reichtenthal of blessed memory and his wife}



He was one of the founders of the workers union. He did everything with enthusiasm and complete dedication. He was an enlightened and warm Jew.

I remember once, when Shaya stood on the table in the Beis Midrash during a large gathering, and poured fire and brimstone upon the snobbish citizens of the city, who imagine that they have the right to all honors, to choose for themselves the choicest of honors, and to look above all the tailors, tinsmiths, butchers, and lowly shoemakers. The Beis Midrash was crowded with ordinary people. He called upon the workers to protect their honor against the idlers and the well to do, and to settle their accounts with the “frivolous arrogant ones”. He outlined several means which were open to them: if a bourgeois person comes to the barber, the barber should cut half his hair; if a bourgeois overseer does not give a worker an appropriate aliya to the Torah, one should break his bones; in Elul, the shamash should not awaken the rich man for selichot; in the winter, the windows in the mikva should be smashed so that their wives would freeze; all the workers should only purchase their provisions from the grocery store which was in the house of Shimon Kitz etc.

He declared war against all “well-placed” Jews, and he saw the rich people as the primary enemy of the workingman that constituted the majority of the nation. He displayed his hatred and enmity toward them without bound.

This speech was filled with enthusiasm and burning faith for better times. He spoke about the hopes of the nation, and of the simple working folk, however the crowds simply listened to his speech and did nothing more. The Jewish people were not yet ripe for changes, the fire of the speech extinguished, the enthusiasm for a change of circumstance dwindled, everything that began in this regard was lost, and the situation returned to what it was previously.

The grocery store was liquidated and dismantled, and the workingman returned again to the synagogue to pray on Friday evenings and Sabbath days.

He worked with special ardor in the realm of Zionism. The activists who educated the workingman did everything without obligating themselves to anything. They conducted a movement for the change of life, spoke about going back to the land of the fathers, however they did everything so as not to disturb their own private peace. When the command to action was issued, they imposed it upon others, that they should go and realize the situation. They realized that they would not be able to live such a comfortable life in the Land of Israel, and those who did make aliya quickly returned home, or emigrated from Israel to other lands.

On the memorial days for Herzl or Trumpeldor[26] there was great activism, and there was no shortage of fiery speeches that were filled with optimism and faith. However, everything was forgotten by the next day, and none of them made any move to make aliya. They regarded themselves as members of the intelligentsia, for whom the life of work was not appropriate.
A sort of a complex was formed at these meetings – the worker, the worker who was prepared for anything would place himself in an undesirable light and emphasize their lack of fittingness. I now permit myself to express my own opinion, it seems to me that Zionism in Lizhensk was trusted to inappropriate hands, and this caused the worker to distance himself from Zionism, and not to regard it as a solution.

Many of the working people did not find their place in the Zionist circles, and found their freedom via emigration to the United States. When the children of the working people would reach the age of thirteen or fourteen, their parents would send them to the side open world. One dragged the other, and the chain of emigration increased. However, this did not take place toward the proper route to Zion, and this is unfortunate.

Leib Reichenthal – The First World War became more severe, and in the meantime a generation grew up in Lizhensk who were not able to study appropriately, who did not know childhood, and who were forced during their tender years to help their mothers, who looked after children without any livelihood or sign of hope. Instead of spending their childhood in games and broadening of the free spirit, the children had to occupy themselves with earning a livelihood.

Thus, a generation of workers grew up in the city and spent their youth working. Their work was thrust upon them not by their skill, but rather by the need for food and clothing. This youth who thirsted for knowledge looked upon enlightenment from any route that was available. They began to read books, and to accept upon themselves the official and unofficial ideas of the haskala (enlightenment). Their desire for development knew no bounds, and their yearning for progress was very deep.



{Photo page 190 – Leibish Reichenthal of blessed memory}



At that time a student appeared in the city who extended a brotherly hand to them, and gave them what was missing. This student was Leib Reichenthal.

He broadened their spirit and increased their feelings of self-worth. He opened the sources of knowledge to them, broadened their horizons, and deepened their commitment and faith to their own ideas and to raising their intellectual level.

Leib brought appropriate political ideas to their situation. He brought the ideas of Socialism to Lizhensk, along with books and ideas from the Socialist thinkers and writers.

In this vein, he organized a group called “The Political School”, where members would gather in the evenings. On Friday nights and Sabbath days, there would be lectures and publicity speeches. Leibish Reichenthal became the spiritual father of the youth.

In this group, debates took place about streams, factions, and personalities in this era of upheaval and change. Leib permitted them to have a spirit of independent vision thought, vision and values, like people who could create a life of truth according to their own beliefs.

These were not simple matters. There were children who did not move, and who were not willing to participate in this group, and they rose up against its influence.

Some of those who were attracted to us stood back, for fear of joining us, however in their spirit they were connected to us. There were clear reasons for their inability to participate. We also did not want to recognize them, until the day came and all of them, with the exception of very few, participated, became comrades, and joined in our efforts.

Inside the walls of the meeting place, the evenings turned into uplifting and meaningful experiences. We were full of spirit, and warmth enveloped us all.

Nevertheless, when we left the meeting hall, the walls came up again, and the feelings were mixed.

An amateur theatrical group was established again under the direction of Leib Reichenthal. This group also attracted theater aficionados from Rzeszow and the surrounding area, who came to act in the theater. They put on the performances: “Where are my Children”, “Returning from Siberia”, as well as other plays. Life became colorful and full of success. The youth began to pair off into couples, the heart was filled with youthful love, however these couples were not brazen enough to appear together on the main streets, where members of upper class strolled.

This street was very long, lined with old trees that provided shade and spread their shade on the entire area. A stroll on that street led from the post office to the train station. Here and there, there were places to sit and rest. On that street, only the children of the bourgeois, i.e. the “intelligentsia” so to speak, strolled.

Our couples strolled in scattered areas, in narrow alleyways and side streets. They would sit down to rest from their stroll on patches of grass that were under the shade trees.

Things were different now; the national tragedy changed all of the old problems. The customs of the previous groups now belonged to the distant past.

Nevertheless, memories of those days would accompany us, whether we liked it or not. This would particularly happen when one met a native of one's town, who also made the transition from one mode of life to another.

The writer of these lines left Lizhensk during the end of the 1920s. However on occasion he heard that many more youth joined Leib's groups and the reactionary government of Poland persecuted them, made their journey difficult, and even brought them to judgment and imprisonment.

Leib Reichenthal was imprisoned first, and he immediately started a hunger strike in jail. Baruch Miller was sentenced to nine years in prison in Rzeszow. Shlomo Reichenthal was sentenced to eight years. Similarly, many others were sentenced to prison, due to the fact that they waved the banner of righteousness and friendship, and they dedicated themselves with strength to their correct ideas, which, as Jews, they believed would lead to the redemption of the Jewish nation.

Reb Meirl of Premyshlan relates: “Once I ascended to heaven and I stood by the gates of the Garden of Eden, in order to see how things are going there. Behold, I saw a rabbi coming, who was about to enter directly to the Garden of Eden, however the gatekeeper stopped him in his path and asked him:

Why are you in such a rush? What merit do you have to enter the Garden of Eden?

The rabbi answered him:

What is this about? I busied myself with Torah all my life; I studied day and night, and if not for myself and people like me, for who was the Garden of Eden created?

The angel answered without pausing to think:

First of all, we must investigate if the Torah you studied was for its own sake, and not for the sake of livelihood, honor, etc. Wait until we investigate these matters.”

Reb Meirl relates: “In another hour another well placed person arrives, and wants to enter the Garden of Eden. The angel delays him as well:

Wait until we check that all of the good deeds were not done for honor and livelihood.

In the meantime, a simple Jew entered, a workingman, and he stood and tarried without knowing where to go. The angel stopped him and asked:

What good deeds do you possess?

The Jew answered in a groan: To my dismay, I do not have any. I am a simple Jew, a worker, who is not familiar with sublime matters. However, my door was always open to anyone who needed me, whether or not I knew him, whether or not he was a Jew. I accepted everyone with friendship, I gave them a little bit of drink to warm their soul, and later, once the guest was relaxed, I sat him by my table and honored him with whatever might be found in my house. If you will, allow me to enter this Garden, and if not, be well, and peace be upon you…”

Reb Meir of Premyshlan concludes his story: “Once the angel heard these words, he immediately opened wide the gates of the Garden of Eden and said:

Your deeds do not require investigation. A person who feeds the hungry and gives drink to the thirsty, such a person does not have to be investigated into what motives he had, whether he did it for its own sake, or for an ulterior motive…”

I remember you, my straightforward and good friends. You did not exaggerate your importance in order to request from the golden fish. You did what you did not for livelihood and honor; you gave more than you took.

I remember you my town of Lizhensk. I personally did not gain much good from you; however, you dwell deep in my heart…

In the eyes of my spirit, I can now see many visions and pictures of you, oh Lizhensk, and there is much to tell about you. However, this is all that I can write about you. I am not fitting for the task of writing, all I am doing is transmitting a message of greeting from you to those who do not know you at all, and who want to know everything about you.


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