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{Page 115}

Hassidic courts

by Rabbi Moshe Kamelhar

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Rabbi Eliezer [56], the grandson of the "Noam Elimelech", conducted his role as Admor from his private home on a street that was known by the populace as "Rabbi Eliezer's Street". His house of study was also on that street, adjoining the Dzikow Kloiz. Rabbi Eliezer had a beautiful countenance and he supplicated with vigor and purity. He was also well known as a physician, and the pharmacies would prepare medications according to his prescriptions. People came to him from all corners of the land, and they even brought to him sick people from Hungary who had already been given up as hopeless cases. He also occupied himself with many private charitable deeds. He assisted as much as possible any poor person who was of good lineage, and he also on occasion assisted people who were thought to be well to do. He conducted these activities with the help of several trustwpeople, whom he was sure would not publicize the situations. This only became known to me after the Holocaust, and therefore I see it as my duty to memorialize this great and holy person in the memorial book of the community of Rzeszow. There were also several synagogues whose names publicized their essence, such as "Bikur Cholim" [57]. This synagogue stood in a large square in a private house. Maskilim and progressive people worshipped there. There was also in Rzeszow a group of porters with their own synagogue, and also a synagogue for the tailors, as well as several other such places of worship.

When discussing the Hassidic courtyards, it is necessary to mention the synagogue of the Blazowa Hassidim, in particular during the time that the holy Admor Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of blessed memory came to live permanently in the city of Rzeszow at the end of the first world war. His house along with his Kloiz was located in a section of Rzeszow called "Di Walia", and this place became a center for the Hassidim of Blazowa, as well as for the many who attached themselves to other Admorim. His way of conducting himself and his table celebrations was a great enjoyment to all. On occasion, the Tzadik Rabbi Shlomo Leib of nearby Tyczyn would come to spend the Sabbath with him. Rabbi Shlomo Leib was an Admor himself in that small town, and the masses would flock to him from all surrounding areas to receive his blessings. These two elders, whose faces were always turned toward the community, awakened a feeling of self-denial in all. The Torah sayings of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech were noted for their clear explanations, and in spite of their depth, all would be able to understand his way of thinking. Similarly, his prayers drew close the hearts of all that listened. His prayers focussed more on the supplications and entreaties rather than on song and joy of the prayers of Ropczyce. This was in the style of "And he supplicated before G-d" [58]. I had one opportunity to be present as he was leading the Musaf of Rosh Hashana. As he began to recite "Malchuyot, Zichronot, and Shofarot"[59] I was moved by the devotion and sweetness of his prayers. This was a true inner devotion which was one of the principles of Hassidism.

Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech passed away in 5684-1924, and his position was inherited by his son Rabbi Yehoshua, who had previously been the head of the Rabbinical court in Ritowice. However, he did not live long, and his son Rabbi Yisrael the head of the Rabbinical court of Prucznik filled his place. Rabbi Yisrael survived the Holocaust and currently lives in the United States. His son-in-law Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz who was the Rabbi of Sanok until the outbreak of the war, was killed by the evil Nazis. Rabbi Tuvia was one of the refugees from Galicia during the First World War, and lived in Vienna. There he became friendly with Dr. Nathan Birenbaum, who returned in repentance [60]and later became an ideologue for the Agudas Yisrael movement. In the statements of Rabbi Tuvia one could detect the way of thinking of Dr. Nathan Birenbaum, his teacher from whom he gleaned many things and was heavily influenced.

In Rzeszow there were other Admorim who were grandchildren of Rabbi Naftali Chaim Horowitz, the son of the Gaon Rabbi Meir of Dzikow who left Galicia to settle in the Land of Israel. These were known as the "Zoliner Kinder" [61]. After the First World War they received the appointment to sell cloth from the factory of the city of Lodz. At first their luck was bright and their stature rose. However after some time their lot dwindled, since this was not the correct path for them.

After the First World War the Admor Rabbi Chana Halberstam [62], the grandson of the "Divre Chaim", moved to Rzeszow. He was known for his zealousness, however he was also simultaneously known as someone who pursues charity and righteousness. It is told of him that when he was a boy of five years old and was in the house of the Admor Rabbi David of Krasznow, the son of the "Divrei Chaim", the habit was to satisfy oneself with little, and the cakes baked for the Sabbath were simple. However, for the Rabbi they baked special cakes with eggs added. The child asked "Why are these cakes superior?". The Rabbi's wife answered: "because I added eggs to these cakes". The child became overcome with emotion and said "If that is the case, it should be forbidden to bake such cakes which cost so much, since with this money it is possible to feed the poor." The traits of mercy and righteousness were engraved in his heart from his childhood, and became even more pronounced in his adulthood.

 


{Page 115}

The Rabbi of Blazowa and his dynasty

by Shlomo Tal

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo on page 116 – Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro of Blazowa}

 

  1. Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapira was born in the year 5601-1841. His father was Rabbi Dovid of Dinow, the author of “Tzemach David”, who in turn was the son of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinow, the author of “Bnai Yissachar”, and many other books, and a student of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanow and the Chozeh of Lublin.

    When he was sixteen years old he married Sara Horowitz, the daughter of Rabbi Moshe of Rozwadow, who was the son of Rabbi Eliezer of Dzikow who was the son of Rabbi Naftali Tzvi of Ropczyce of blessed memory. He was supported for three years by his wife’s grandfather Rabbi Eliezer of Dzikow. His first Rabbinical post was in Ryboczyce, and thereafter he was appointed as the head of the Rabbinical court of Blazowa, which is nearby to Rzeszow.

    After the passing of his father the author of “Tzemach David” on the 19th of Adar 5634-1874, he began to conduct himself as an Admor, and was ordained to that position by Rabbi Chaim, the author of “Divrei Chaim” of Sanz, who introduced himself in his presence with the name Chaim the son of Miriam, and gave him the sign “mechalkel chaim bechesed”, which has the same first letters as “Chaim ben Miriam” [63].

    His older brother, Rabbi Yeshaya Naftali Hertz, the author of “Hanoten Imrei Shefer” took the place of his father in Dinow. Nevertheless, many of his father’s Hassidim traveled to Blazowa. After the passing of his brother, most of the Hassidim of Dinow transferred to Blazowa.

    A few years before the outbreak of the First World War, the Admor of Blazowa moved from Blazowa to Jawornik Polski which is near Przeworsk. In the summer of 5674-1914 he went to a summer resort in Marienbad [64], and when the war broke out he was not able to return to his home. He stayed in Budapest for more than three years, and in 5678-1918 he returned to Galicia and settled in Przemysl. There the wife of his youth passed away. In 5683-1923 he moved to Rzeszow, and there he conducted himself as an Admor with splendor. The Rabbi of Blazowa took ill on the 19th of Adar 5684-1924, and his pure soul left him on the night of the 5th of Nissan. As he departed, his bedside was surrounded by his children, his grandchildren, and his great- grandchildren (he merited in his lifetime to see his great-great- grandchildren), and many of his Hassidim. He was laid to rest in honor. His only son Rabbi Yehoshua of Rybotycze took over the leadership of his community of Hassidim in Rzeszow.

    The Rabbi of Blazowa was the elder of the Admorim of Galicia. In his childhood he merited to be with his father in the presence of Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhin and Rabbi Shalom of Belz. He was known as a very intelligent man, and Hassidim flocked to him from afar. After the First World War, his followers included many Hassidim of Hungary, and also from Congress Poland, as it used to be known. His eyesight did not dim and his powers did not diminish through his seventies and eighties. On every Sabbath and Festival he would serve as the public Torah reader (and he did not require glasses), and on the High Holydays he would serve as the prayer leader for all the services, the morning service and the Musaf service, and on Yom Kippur also Kol Nidre and Neila, with the exception of the Psalms of Praise (introductory morning service), and the afternoon service (Mincha). His prayers would be like the roar of a lion.

    When he movto Rzeszow, many of the most reputable of the Hassidim of Sanz, Belz, Sadigora and especially Dzikow became his followers, in addition to his own Hassidim. He devoted much of his time to the young scholars, and guided them in Torah and Hassidism. During the winter in particular, he would spend the long Sabbath evenings together with them, until a very late hour after midnight.

    His Torah novellae that were produced over a period of fifty years were published in part in the book “Tzvi Latzadik”. His responsa in halacha were printed in the responsa book “Tzvi Latzadik” (Bilgorei, 5696-1936), published by his grandson Rabbi Yisrael Shapira may he live long, the head of the Rabbinical court in Pracznik (currently the Bluzhover Rabbi in New York), along with his own glosses.

    The pain of child rearing was the lot in life of the Admor of Blazowa. Of his twelve children only three survived: the first born Rabbi Yehoshua the head of the Rabbinical court of Rybotycze of blessed memory, a son Rabbi Yosef, and a daughter the Rebbetzin Alta Malka. Rabbi Yosef died during the lifetime of his father shortly after his own marriage and was survived by a daughter. His daughter-in-law the wife of Rabbi Yosef remarried. Her second husband was the Rabbi of Ridnik, and their child is the Rabbi of Klausenberg may he live long, currently the Rabbi of Kiriat Sanz in Netanya.

     

  2. His son Rabbi Yehoshua was born on the 10th of Sivan 5622-1862. He was a student of his father and also of his grandfather Rabbi Moshe of Rozwadow.

    He wrote many Torah novellae as did his father. At the end of the book of responsa “Tzvi Latzadik” of his father, his novellae on Talmudic discussions is published, with the name “Pri Tzadik”. His book “Keren Yeshua” on the Torah was published in New York by his son the Rabbi of Blazowa may he live long. He passed away on the 12th of Adar I 5692-1932, and was buried near the grave of his father in Rzeszow.

    Most of the sons and sons-in-law of the Admor of Rybotycze of blessed memory lived in Rzeszow. His first son-in-law was his cousin, Rabbi Menashe Horowitz the son of Rabbi Tzvi the Admor of Rozwadow, the brother of the mother of the Admor of Rybotycze. After the First World War, the Admor of Rozwadow moved to Rzeszow, and passed away there on the 10th of Cheshvan 5679-1919. After his death, Rabbi Menashe filled the position of his father.

    His second son-in-law was Rabbi Yitzchak Halberstam the son of Rabbi Moshe of Bardejov [65], the son of Rabbi Baruch Margolitz. He left Rzeszow after the passing of his father, and settled in Brooklyn with his entire family.

    His son Rabbi Meir married his cousin Basha the daughter of his uncle Rabbi Yosef of blessed memory, the brother of his father (she is the sister of the Rabbi of Klausenberg, may he live long). He was accepted as the Rabbi and head of the Rabbinical court of Blazowa. After the passing of his father he took on the role of Admor there, until he was murdered by the Nazis, may their names be blotted out. He had in his possession the manuscripts of his grandfather Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Blazowa of blessed memory. These were miraculously salvaged and arrived in New York into the hands of the current Rabbi of Blazowa Rabbi Yisrael Shapira may he live long, as he describes in his introduction to the book “Tzvi Latzadik” on the Torah.

    “The holy manuscripts were in the safe possession of my brother the Tzadik and holy Rabbi Meir the head of the Rabbinical court of Blazowa, of blessed memory and may G-d avenge his death. When he saw from afar that the murderers were nearing his city in order to exterminate, kill and destroy [66], even at a time when the dread of death fell upon him, he remembered the holy writings of our grandfather, our master and teacher, may his virtue stand us in good stead as well as the writing which he as well so diligently produced, and he gave his soul in order to save them so that the children of Israel can rely on them, as our Rabbis of blessed memory said “I give my soul for my writings”. At the last moment he went to his gentile (literally uncircumcised) neighbor who lived next door to his house, and gave him the writings with the address to the United States, and promised him that if he would send them after the war to America, they would pay him a great sum for this deed. A miracle within a miracle took place here, for the gentile agreed to accept the writings and hide them in the ground, even though he himself would be under the threat of death for such an action. After they were hidden in the ground for several years, the writing did not fade or become erased, and remained intact as if it was written that very day. This was over and above the difficulty involved in transferring these holy writings to the United States”.

    Rabbi Meir added a section of his own Torah novellae to his book “Tzvi Latzadik” on his grandfather.

     

  3. His son Rabbi Yisrael Shapira may he live long lived in Rzeszow until he was appointed as the head of the Rabbinical court of Pracznik, and after the passing of his father of blessed memory he acted as the Admor in Istrik. During the Holocaust he moved to Lemberg (Lvov), where the Nazis murdered his only daughter, his son-in-law and their daughter in front of his eyes. He was bereaved of all his family as well as his wife Perel, the daughter of Rabbi Shalom David of Zawana. He was transferred from camp to camp amidst great suffering and backbreaking work, and he found himself several times among those who were selected for death. Always, at the last minute he was saved by a miracle, and he arrived in the United States as a remnant of the house of Blazowa, where he continues the dynasty to this day.

    The two sons-in-law of the Admor of Ryboticze, Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz and Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Horowitz also lived in Rzeszow. The former was a well known activist of “Agudas Yisrael”, the editor of the newspaper “Baderech” which was published in Vienna after the First World War. He left Rzeszow when he was accepted as the Rabbi and head of the Rabbinical court of Sanok. There he was taken out to be killed along with his brother-in- law Rabbi Meir of Blazowa. Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Horowitz left Rzeszow when he was appointed as the Rabbi and Head of the Rabbinical court of Dembitz, filling the position of his father. He was also killed by the Nazis along with his entire family.

    The youngest son of the Admor of Rybotycze, the son of his old age, Rabbi Eliezer left Rzeszow for Rybotycze when he was appointed as a Rabbi there, and there he conducted himself as an Admor after the death of his father until he was taken out to be murdered.

    The grandson of the Admor of Rybotycze of blessed memory, Rabbi Yosef the son of Rabbi Meir of Blazowa, settled in Rzeszow. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Bombach, the head of the Rabbinical court of Osweicim (Auschwitz). Even though he was very young, he conducted himself as an Admor in Rzeszow during the lifetime of his father, in the place of his father from Rybotycze and his great-grandfather of Blazowa of blessed memory. He and his family were killed in the Holocaust, may G-d avenge their blood.

    Of all the family, one daughter of the Admor Rabbi Yehoshua of Rybotycze remained alive – Chaya Techiya and her husband Rabbi Yehuda Horowitz may he live long, and their daughter, who currently reside in New York. Rabbi Yehuda is the son of Rabbi Yitzchak the Admor of Szuczyn who lived in Tarnow (he was the brother of the mother of the Admor Rabbi Yehoshua of Ryboczyce). When the Nazis entered Tarnow, they took the Admor of Szuczyn, who was quite old, to the forest, tortured him and forced him to run about until his soul left him in purity. His son Rabbi Yehuda, who was previously mentioned, was the surviving remnant of the house of Rozwadow, and he continued the dynasty.

    The fourth generation, the great- grandchildren of the Admor of Blazowa of blessed memory, also lived in Rzeszow -- Miriam Rivka, the daughter of the daughter (Chana) of the Admor of Ryboczyce and her husband Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Teitelbaum of the house of Dinow. Rabbi Tzvi Elimelecwas a respected merchant. He had a beautiful voice and a good sense of music. Their son Menashe, may his light shine [67], who lives today in the United States, was born during the lifetime of the Admor of Blazowa of blessed memory, who delighted in him and rejoiced that he merited to see his fifth generation. Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech and his wife and children [68] were killed in the Holocaust.

    The two brothers Rabbi Chaim and Rabbi Moshe Horowitz who were the children of Rabbi Menashe of Rozwadow, the son-in-law of the Admor of Ryboczyce, also lived in Rzeszow. The first was killed in the Holocaust along with his family and the people of Rzeszow. The second was a young scholar, the student of Rabbi Yosef Reich may G-d avenge his death, and the student of Rabbi Yaakov Fink may he live long (currently the head of the Rabbinical court of Haifa). Rabbi Moshe was ordained by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Reich of blessed memory, who was known to everyone as Reb Mendele Dayan, and was one of the eminent Rabbinical halachic decisors and a member of the Rabbinical court of Rzeszow. Rabbi Moshe married the daughter of the Rabbi of Ozarow, and moved from Rzeszow to Ozarow. They all died in the Holocaust without leaving any survivors.


Translator’s Footnotes

56. The Rabbi Eliezer mentioned here may be equivalent with Rabbi Elazar Reisher who is discussed above. In Hebrew, the names Eliezer and Elazar are actually different names, but are prone to confusion due to their closeness, and are sometimes interchanged. However, I am not sure at all if it is equivalent, since in the above story, he has no sons and only one daughter, and in this version he has at least two sons. Back

57. Bikur Cholim, here the name of a synagogue, means "visiting the sick". Back

58. A reference from the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses supplicated before G-d requesting that he be allowed to enter the Land of Israel. Back

59. The three themes of the Musaf service of Rosh Hashana: G-d's kingship, G-d's remembrance of man, and the entreaty to G-d by the sounding of the shofar (ram's horn). Back

60. The Hebrew words here are "Baal Teshuva", literally a master of repentance. This refers to someone who previously led a non-observant lifestyle, and then changed his lifestyle to become a fully practicing observant Jew. Back

61. The Zoliner children. Back

62. The name here is spelled Chet, Nun, Aleph, which is a male name, but pronounced the same as the much more common female name spelled Chet, Nun, He. Back

63. “Mechalkel Chaim Bechesed”, means “He sustains the living with loving kindness”, and is taken from the second blessing of the daily “Shmone Esrei” prayer, which is recited as the main part of every prayer service. The first letters of the three words in this phrase are the same as those in “Chaim Ben Miriam” – Chaim the son of Miriam. Back

64. Marienbad, or in Czech Marianske Lazne, is a resort town in western Bohemia, now the Czech republic. Back

65. Bardejov is a city in north eastern Slovakia, south of the Polish border. It is about 100 kilometers south of Rzeszow. Back

66. “Exterminate, kill, and destroy”, is a quote from the Book of Esther (the Megilla), describing Haman’s intentions to wipe out the Jewish people. Back

67. A form of blessing used after the name of a young person who is living. Back

68. Clearly with the exception of the son Menashe. Back

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