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[Page 253]

The Rosh Hayeshiva

Rabbi R’ Usher Zelig Landa


Born in 5630 [1870] in Kolbuszowa. His father, R’ Yochanan was the grandson of Rabbi Moshe Meir Landa, the Rabbi of Mielec, and a close adherent of the Gaon of Ropszyce. His mother, Tzirel the daughter of R’ Usher Zelig and the grand-daughter of Rabbi Avrohom Elozor, the Av Besdin of Radomysl, was famous as a woman of valor, and a businesswoman who supported her household so that her husband and sons could fully devote themselves to Torah study.

Rabbi R’ Usher Zelig was a scion of families with Yichus, such as the “Pnei Yehoshua”, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Zaboritzer [?], the Mahara'l of Prague, and others. His family lineage traced back all the way to King David.

He, himself, did not serve as a Rabbi. He refused to accept such a burden claiming that it might interfere with providing answers to the responsa that were directed to him from all over the land. He did, however, function as a Rabbi in several places, but did so without remuneration.

He came to Oshpitzin from Olpiny after it nearly completely burned down in a conflagration which broke out there in 5677 [1917]. He then accepted the repeated invitations of the Chief-Rabbi Yehoshua Pinchos Bombach.

His settling in Oshpitzin was a source of great satisfaction for him because it was an important Jewish center with Talmidei Chachamim and scholars with whom he could interact in Torah conversation. Consequently his stay became permanent and he never wanted to leave there, and would not accept promising requests to come and teach Torah in other places. “I will never regret my refusals to serve in the Rabbinate in Myslenice and Biecz, who implored me” – so he said, and when he did agree to accede to the request of the Admor of Radomsko to head the “Keser Torah” Yeshiva in Sosnowice, he stipulated two primary conditions: Not to give up his apartment in Oshpitzin, and that the appointment was to be temporary, for several semesters only.

Rabbi Usher Zelig's personality was multifaceted and marvelous, fully directed only towards studying Torah and Torah novella. His intelligence was incisive and he had a wonderful memory. They said of Rabbi Usher Zelig that he was distracted, “ a wilder” [a wild person], and that is true, since when I sometimes met him on Sunday mornings he was still going around in Shabbes clothes. This was because he had not as yet responded to a difficult question that had been put to him and in attempting a resolution he had been occupied without a break all that night. His “absentmindedness” was also displayed during regular conversation when his mind was elsewhere, in the realm of Torah dialectics.

He directed the Higher Yeshiva in Oshpitzin for many years and trained hundreds of students. Most of his time was devoted to writing, responding to the many responsa that had accumulated on his desk, and to recording his novella for eventual publication.

He authored many books: “Korban Asher” on the Mitzvah of Circumcision; “Divrei Asher” on the tractate of Brachot, etc., and he was the editor of the monthly “Koheles Asher”. There remained some manuscripts ready for publication entitled “Avnei Zikaron”, “Avnei Hasadeh” and many responsa that he had already edited towards publication in one thick volume, and more. All of these were destroyed by the murderer.

He suffered great discomfort in his latter years but accepted the pain with love and suffered silently. He died on Teveth 23 5702 [Jan. 12 1942] in the Sosnowice Ghetto and was buried in the section allotted to the Jews of Oshpitzin.

He had four sons and two daughters, all upright, following the paths of Torah, and noble souls. Two sons survived: R’ Avrohom Yehoshua, a Rabbi in Brooklyn, and Moshe who resides in Bnei Brak. All the other members of the family perished in the Shoah. HY”D.

T. N. Z. B. H.


[Page 255]

Rabbi R’ Eliyahu Rosen HY”D
Rabbi Ze'ev Gottlieb, Rabbi of Glasgow, Scotland


Rabbi R’ Eliyahu Rosen was the firstborn to my teacher and father-in-law, the renowned Gaon and descendant of a distinguished lineage, Rabbi R’ Avrohom Arye Leib Rosen, from his first marriage. His mother Sarah was the daughter of the Tzadik, Rabbi Chaim Yehoshua. The latter was the son of the Holy Gaon, Rabbi Shmarya, the Av Besdin of Mosty Wielkie (related through the marriage of their children to the Rabbi Tzadik, R’ Dov Berish, the Av Besdin of Olesk, and related to the Holy Rabbi, Sar Sholem of Belz) and the grandson of the Holy Rabbi, R’ Shmarya of Kaminka, who was a disciple of the Holy Rabbi and Tzadik, R’ Elimelech of Lejask. He stemmed from the Holy Rabbi, R’ Eliyahu Ba'al Shem Tov.

His father the Gaon, my sainted father-in-law, was the son of the daughter of the Holy Rabbi Nachman Ze'ev Auerbach of Monastericz [?] (the brother-in-law of the Holy Rabbi, R’ Nachman of Bratzlaw…)

[tr. note: a seemingly endless and very complex family line tracing back to King David similar to the two paragraphs above is omitted from the translation].

He was, then, of the greatest Yichus from both his parents, and taking after his father, he, too, was an exceptional scholar, poring over Torah texts day and night, possessed a gentle soul, modest and unassuming, a Hasid and holy in all his words and deeds, satisfied with very little and without great pretensions. (Although having been appointed as Rabbi in Hessen, Germany, he, for reasons unknown to me, did not remain there and returned to Oshpitzin).

When still quite young he had already written his own novella on Halacha, Aggada, and homiletics, had already prepared them for publication, but to our regret was not able to raise the publication costs so that his manuscripts were unknown due to his financial status, all except for some of the novella on the Talmud which were published in the first volume of the Great Talmud in London, and several essays that appeared in “HaBe'er” and other Torah journals. One homily on the completion of the study of the entire Talmud by means of the “Daf Yomi” [daily portion] as given in his city, Oshpitzin, was published in Lublin just before the Second World War in 5698 [1938] and entitled “Peh Eliyahu”. In the frontispiece his other manuscripts are listed: Novella Divrei Eliyahu on the Talmud (Tractate Brachot); responsa Minchas Eliyahu, two parts; Zichron Eliyahu, on the Laws of Trefos; P'nei Eliyahu, on tractates of the Talmud, Kol Eliyahu containing sermons and homiletics; Beis Eliyahu on the Torah; Toras Hatzovo, on the Torah.

During the years of war and fury this wonderful Gaon was murdered together with his wife, children, and family, along with his fellow Oshpitziner, HY”D. With him perished all of his books and manuscripts. Like Rabbi Hanina Ben Teradyon in his time, he was burned at the stake, he and “the Sefer Torah together, scrolls on fire and the letters floating in the air”. Only a few of his letters containing Torah which he wrote to his father, the Gaon of Felsztyn survived and were published in the book of responsa “Eitan Arye” by my father-in-law, the Gaon. Woe unto us for those who are gone and cannot be recovered, and for that paragon of Torah who is no more. May the Lord champion our cause and avenge the wrong in our time and bring about the salvation of Israel speedily, in our days. May these lines written in tears and sorrow become an eternal memorial to the soul of my martyred brother-in-law, HY”D.



[Page 257]

Rabbi Dr. Reuben Farber

M. Ungerfeld


He was born in Oshpitzin on Tammuz 18 5629 (June 27 1869).

He was educated in his father's home. His father was a descendant of a long line of Rabbis and the son was schooled in the time-honored tradition of Judaism covering the Talmud and Codes in the Hasidic Yeshivos at Limanowa and Wisnicz. He was ordained by the Admor, the Gaon R’ Shlomo Halberstam, the grandson of the author of “Divrei Chaim” of Sacz.

In order to complete his secular studies he left for Germany and studied at the Universities of Berlin and Strasburg. He studied Semitic Philosophy under Professor Nidelka [?] and was awarded a doctorate on the basis of his dissertation on historical and critical analysis of the Aggadah, the Tanaim, and Amoraim, entitled, “King Solomon in the Tradition”.

Serving as a Rabbi and Educator of religion in Vitkovice and Moravska Ostrava in Moravia, he developed a flourishing educational methodology and battled against the Reform Movement. He came out against the use of the organ in the synagogue on Sabbaths and Holidays as well as against mixed choirs of men and women. He stood guard at this post for 36 years struggling against intermingling and assimilation. He educated his students towards Zionism and many of them made Aliyah while their parents heard the message of the National Renaissance in Israel.

He served as a military chaplain during the First World War in the Austrian Army, first at Vienna, and later on the Russian front at Wlodzimierz Wolhynsk, and here and there developed extensive aid efforts for the many Jewish refugees as well as the urgent relief measures immediately required there.

After the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic, Rabbi Farber was invited back to modify the textbooks in the subject of Jewish Religion for the high school curriculum and it was he who included in the subject matter the Jewish and Zionist values emphasizing Jewish identity in the spirit of national renewal [in Czechoslovakia]. The Prayerbook which he composed, entitled “Avodas Yisrael” was recognized by the authorities as the official study text in all of the schools in Czechoslovakia.

As the secretary of “Hamizrachi” there, he gained many adherents to this Religious-Zionist Movement. In order to expand religious activity towards Zionism on a greater level, he founded the “Haivri” Press which published books and research works on the history of the Moravian Kehillot, handbooks for Rabbis, and informational books on Zionism.

Rabbi Farber himself, wrote and published several books, among them the comparative literary study “King Solomon in Tradition”, and an antholgy of his speeches and sermons.

In 5698 [1938] he made Aliyah and settled in Tel Aviv. He established his own synagogue, engaged in research of Judaism and Zionism, and founded the “Eytan” Press. In 5701 [1941] he published his great monograph on Rabbi Mordechai Benet [Markus Benedict] of Nikolsburg [Mikulowa] entitled “Pe'er Mordechai”. He also published his book “Moses and Joshua” in which he dealt with the relations between them, as reflected in the Talmudic, Aggadic, and Halachic sources. It was here that the author examined the reasons and explanations of the motivations of the Sages during a specific period for having interpreted their acts detrimentally and ascribing various “sinful acts” to them. With conclusive evidence Rabbi Farber demonstrated, that the heyday of that school of thought did not last more than three generations, and that the sages following them were in opposition and restored their [Moses and Joshua's] place of glory.

Rabbi Farber brought to bear his great expertise and knowledge in his book “Pe'er Mordechai” on the Gaon, Rabbi Mordechai Benet of Nikolsburg, the author of “Be'or Mordechai”, “Mordechai”, and Mogen Ovos”, on the 39 Types of Labor in the Mishnah, “Har Hamor” – responsa, “Parshas Mordechai” – responsa, “Divrei Mordechai” – homiletics and explanations of the Tur and Shulchan Aruch sections of Yoreh Deah.

The twenty-two chapters of the work include the story of R’ Mordechai's childhood, the origin of the name “Benet” – which according to the author is a distortion of the name “Ben Yom Tov”, the lineage of Yichus of the Rabbi, his sons and daughters, the books of the Gaon, and on his study methodology. The book also contains the imprimaturs he gave to 58 books and the certificates of ordination he granted. One of the chapters is devoted to Benet's campaign against Reformists and their Temples, against the extreme Reformer, R’ Ahron Chorin, the author of “Kinat Ha'emet”, and against Saul Levin of Berlin whose book entitled “B'samim Rosh”, had been forged and falsely attributed to the Ro”SH and other Jewish luminaries, and in which there are bogus Halachic decisions in the spirit of revision and extreme reformism.

Another chapter describes the excellent relations between R’ Mordechai Benet and the Imperial Palace at Vienna, and of the special relationship he enjoyed with Kaiser Franz Josef as a result of an event that occurred. Kaiser Franz wished to marry a woman who was his relative and the Church forbade the union on the basis of the family relationship. Rabbi Benet proved in a memorandum to the Pope that such marriages were permitted according to Jewish Law, and should accordingly not be forbidden by Canon Law. The Pope was convinced and permitted the marriage. The Kaiser elevated the Rabbi to the rank of Nobility and granted him favors by nullifying harsh decrees against Jews when he requested it.

The treatise is written in excellent Hebrew. It contains much material covering biographical details
of both the Rabbi and his family as well as the Kehillot where he served and the Kehillot and Rabbis with whom he had dealings.

For many years he labored on a book about the Kabbalist, R’ Nosen Note Shapira, author of “Megale Amukos” but he didn't complete it.

He died in Tel Aviv on the 23rd of Sivan 5715 (13.6.1955).

T. N. Z. B. H.


[Page 259]

Roshei Yeshivos and Melamdim

Ch. Ben-Yosef


Our town Oshpitzin was a city thirsty for Torah and knowledge. Most of the residents set aside time for Torah and some of them were Talmidei Chachamim and accomplished people. Its Rabbis were famous for their status among the great Torah Luminaries in the land, and so were the Roshei Yeshiva and Melamdim of the young.

As the Sages have said: “Dare ye not harm my anointed – this refers to the little ones studying Torah”, and so the Rabbis and community leaders sought to provide Melamdim who were Talmidei Chachamim, pious, and had pedagogic skills. If they were unable to secure fitting candidates locally, they went to the trouble of bringing to town learned and dynamic Avrechim who would invest their time and energy to educate the Oshpitzin children toward Torah, understanding, and knowledge, and they were, indeed, successful in raising generations of young in a praiseworthy manner.

The Admor, Rabbi Elozor, in his stubborn attachment to the customs and traditions of his forebears, and in his uncompromising zealousness, brought Melamdim of little ones and intermediate levels for his sons and grandchildren from his birthplace, Kaminka. These were quickly integrated in the multifaceted landscape of the Jewish Kehilla and absorbed into the wide range of activities to enrich the study of Torah and its students.

It is only proper to mention R’ Yekele Kaminker who responded to the call of the Admor, R’ Eluzerl and came to teach his children. He later made his stay permanent and brought his family which branched out to include the Zwerling and Tadnir [?] families. They, their children and grandchildren contributed much to shaping the atmosphere, and soon were accepted as townsmen in every respect. The same happened with R’ Mordechai Boruch Donner, the renowned Magid who was at first brought to town by the Admor as an intermediate-level Melamed, and remained as a permanent resident along with his household, and even attained the status of one of the Kehilla dignitaries.

Among the Melamdim there were those who were simply Melamdim, and there were some who achieved the coveted status of Roshei Yeshiva. The truth is that both categories taught the young the “words of the living God”; both were great in Torah knowledge, true scholars and Rabbis for whom Torah was both a vocation and avocation, but as our Sages have said: “Everything depends on luck, even a Torah Scroll in the Holy Ark”. So it was that some had the good fortune to be called by the honored title: Roshei Yeshiva, and the others remained with the name: Melamdim. Yet, each and every one of them bore his title with pride and respect since his craft was a holy one. The common denominator was that they all taught Torah to the many and raised generations of Talmidei Chachamim, who knew Torah and set aside time to continue to study it.

There is not enough space to bring full biographical details of each of the town's Melamdim, and we make no pretense of evaluating their characters and huge accomplishments. We will but list the names of our teachers and Rabbis, so dear and beloved, who toiled and made so many efforts with all their heart and soul, to raise and educate the young of Oshpitzin in Torah and piety. These are their names:

Rabbi Shimon from Berdajew [?], the Melamed of the martyred Admor, R’ Benzion of Bobowa, HY”D.

Rabbi Wolf Magid, he too was a Melamed of the martyred Admor, R’ Benzion of Bobowa, HY”D.

   
Rabbi Yakov Arye Zwerling (R’ Yekele Kaminker)
Rabbi Mordechai Boruch Donner Rabbi Wolf Samuel
Rabbi Mordechai Krakower Rabbi Shmuel Zuterer
Rabbi Nechemia Tyberger Rabbi Eli Elias from Sanok
Rabbi Binyamin Soifer Rabbi Yitzchok Schroite [?]
Rabbi Shimshon Hirsch Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
Rabbi Avigdor Bronner Rabbi Moshe Simcha Teitelbaum
Rabbi Berel'e Wintholz Rabbi Moshe Leib Kremnitzer
Rabbi Eliezer Zlotorow Rabbi Dovid Benet
Rabbi Sholem Roth Rabbi Dovid Reifer
Rabbi Yehoshua Roth Rabbi Yechezkel Kinderman
Rabbi Chaim Scherer Rabbi Shimon Hersh Wulkan
Rabbi Shloime'le Wisznicer Rabbi Mordechai Leib Kaminker
Rabbi Yitzchok Porath Rabbi Simcha Kliger
Rabbi Ahron Korngold Rabbi Dovid Kremnitzer
Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Wilchfurt Rabbi Avreme'le Rosenthal
Rabbi Yakov Unger Rabbi Avrohom Oizer Alter
Rabbi Ahron Yudel Levy Rabbi R’ Osher Zelig Landa
Rabbi Dovid Levy Rabbi Shlomo Posner
The Lodzer (the Melamed from Lodz)  
 

It should be noted that after the death of the Melamed, R’ Avigdor Bronner, his wife, Mrs. Kreindel Bronner ran a “Cheder” for girls. Most of the Oshpitzin girls studied there, beginning with “Alef Beis” and on to reading and writing in Yiddish, and to pray with understanding of the words.

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