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[Page 259]

E. To the Memory of the Absent

 

To the Memory of Yehoshua Puchovsky

by Ze'ev Gach–Ornan

Translated by Rabbi Molly Karp

Yehoshua Puchovsky was born in Nesvizh in the year 1911. He was educated in the cheder and the yeshiva until his 12th year. He learned diligently and revealed rapid comprehension and deep understanding. When the “Culture” school was opened in our city, he transferred to it and completed his studies there.

Yehoshua was a child of his parents' old age; spoiled, weak, shy, but his penetrating eyes emanated intelligence that found its expression in the smile that was on his lips and in happiness. He was among the founders of the youth organization “Gordonia”[1] in Nesvizh, and was active in its development. When the aliyah [emigration to Israel; lit. “ascent”] group “Ba'Maaleh” [on the ascent] was organized, Yehoshua was also among the youth that left the walls of the school and decided to leave his parents' home and go out for training. Our group spent two years of training – years of suffering and becoming stronger. It was necessary to conquer the work. We offered to people our hands that were not accustomed to toil, and we were not accepted. Until we reached Zadonska Wala. There we settled into the life of the group with impatience (“ze'ir anpin”).[2] We worked long exhausting hours of work, and the return – a piece of dry bread. A small room for forty people, sleeping on benches, beds of boards and beams – this was the face of the group in those days.

Here, at the training camp, Yehoshua revealed his organizational ability. As a member of the secretariat, he did much to raise the morale and establish relationships between the members. He also saw to cultural activity.

We got to go up, but Yehoshua did not succeed in advancing his aliyah, and he endured many wanderings in the illegal immigrants' ship “Wallace” until he arrived in the land [of Israel] in 1934. At first we came to Kibbutz Chulda, and after 4 months we moved to Rechovot. Here too, success did not light up our faces. Yehoshua “dove” into activities in the group, and in a difficult time he accepted on himself the financial department. However, the effort left its mark on his weak body, and he was sick for a long time. And in the days when shots echoed in the air and a murdering hand cut down life and human toil – we were called to a struggle over the “conquest of work.” We left our orderly camp in Rechovot and moved to Nachalat Yitzchak on the Jerusalem highway to work in the quarry. This move affected us greatly. It was difficult to get used to the work of the quarry, but we were not dissuaded. We made a pact with the rock! We came to know it and we succeeded in conquering it. The training and self–confidence won out.

We covered the hills of Jerusalem, which were bare these hundreds of years, with one hundred thousand trees. We began to strike roots in this area.

Yehoshua's condition improved. He grew healthy but still he was weakened. Therefore, he was compelled to manage the account books while his friends continued to work at exhausting hard labor. Quietly, he stood to the side. Not even a few days passed until he became entirely healthy, and he went out to work like all of them. There was no end to his joy. His mood improved, his confidence increased, and he engaged much in conversation. He married a woman and hoped for a life of tranquility.

The group stimulated him and he became full of vigor, sevenfold. He was among the leaders of the highway work, he fought for order in the work, for a suitable arrangement, and his desire was for good governance in the group.

For six weeks the highway soaked up Yehoshua Puchovsky's sweat and on the seventh he quenched it with his blood.

One cloudless morning Yehoshua went out together with four of his friends to pave a way for the transport of saplings for the afforestation. They continued for six weeks, daily they progressed, and how their hearts were gladdened when they saw the road advancing!

Suddenly the sapling of their lives was cut down – they fell as one man![3] Our soul was broken, our body broken – but their last will we certainly kept! A blood covenant was made between the group and this ground, whose stones were covered with the blood of our friend.

We conquered the wasteland and its wild growth. The blood, blood of the youth of Israel[4] that was soaked up within it – was not in vain. The farm “The Ascent of the Five” was established as a living monument on the grave of the five friends.


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. Named for, and based on the principles of, Zionist thinker and pioneer Aaron David Gordon. Founded in 1923. Return
  2. From the Aramaic of the Zohar, where God is described as, “Erich Anpin” – the long face, or patient; and “Ze'ir Anpin;” the small face, or impatient. Return
  3. On 9 November 1937, Yehoshua, his friends, and an armed guard were murdered by an Arab band while on their way to work on JNF (Jewish National Fund) land near Kiriat Anavim just west of Jerusalem. Kibbutz Ma'ale HaHamisha (lit. Hill of the Five), established a year later, was named for them. Return
  4. The Jewish people. Return


Reb Shmuel Yosef Butzin,
May His Memory Be for a Blessing

by Y. Vallach (Sde Yaakov)

Translated by Rabbi Molly Karp

One of the few ancestors went to his eternity, who, even while they were dwelling outside of the land[1] educated their sons and their daughters for aliyah, and merited to live with us here on the soil of Israel.

Reb Shmuel Yosef was born on the 15th of Shvat, 5640 [1880] in a small village, not far from the city of Nesvizh, which is in White Russia. He acquired his first learning with his father the teacher, and afterwards continued in the local yeshiva. He decided to stand for the examinations in external studies in the Russian school in order to get a teacher's certificate to teach the Jewish religion. He found his first position in the city of Warsaw, where he taught, among other things, in the government progymnasia [prep school], and engaged in the teaching of the Hebrew language to private students. With the outbreak of the First World War, he returned to Nesvizh and founded a “modern cheder [Jewish grade school].” “The Rebbe Butzin” was not satisfied with instilling knowledge alone. He imbued his students with the spirit of tradition, and placed in their hearts love of the land and the language. His eldest son, who understood his father's torah, went up to the land still in the year 5686 [1926], was among the founders of the settlement of the village Yaabetz and brought up also his sister

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after him. When his wife died in 5694 [1934], Reb Shmuel followed his children and joined the company of youth in the distant point which was subject to frequent attacks.

He did not want to be merely a person who preaches. Fifty–four years old, he took hold of the hoe and went out to the surrounding orchards as one of the pioneers. When the riots broke out, he demanded his share in defense and did not rest until it was decided to include him in those who were engaged in signaling. Only in the year 5710 [1950], when he was sixty years old, did he move to Tel Aviv, but he preferred to support himself by the fruit of his labors, as the coordinator of the kitchen of one of the yeshivas, until a young man from his city, one of his former students, turned over to him the warehouse of his department store. With great difficulty, the children convinced the 70–year–old father to lay aside his work and to live with his daughter in Tzfat. From there he came to Sde Yaakov, to his son's land. He bequeathed to him the pioneering spirit and love of humanity and merited to see great–grandchildren growing into “Torah and work.”

 

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Shmuel Yosef Butzin “The Warshawer Rebbe,” a teacher of Torah to the children of Nesvizh.

 

In a letter of condolence one of his students expressed the theory of most of the pupils: “Only one who lived in Nesvizh in the period between the two world wars knew to appreciate the man who educated a full generation of students in the spirit of Jewish tradition together with progressive Zionism. In all stages of his work in the land, I will not forget my first steps in Nesvizh with “The Rebbe Butzin,” who walked honestly, with clean hands and pure heart, who walked modestly and fulfilled his dreams.

May his soul be bound up in the bonds of life.[2]


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. In the land of Israel, the whole world is divided into two categories: inside the land, and outside the land. Return
  2. This phrase is generally inscribed as an acronym on Jewish gravestones, and is based on 1 Samuel 25:29 “And if anyone sets out to pursue you and seek your life, the life of my lord will be bound up in the bundle of life in the care of the LORD…” Return


Yosef Barzin,
May His Memory Be for a Blessing

by Avraham Lisod

Translated by Rabbi Molly Karp

Our dear friend Reb Yosef Barzin, may his memory be for a blessing, went away from us to his eternal rest. He was one of the veteran settlers of Rishpon, one of those who joined with the first of the Irgun with the Arshuf group.

Yosef was one of the builders of the village and the layers of its foundation. Over the 29 years of his life among us, he invested the best toil in all that was demanded of him. Intelligent and involved in the secrets of Jewish and general culture, he sensed the central points that were in the life of the village, and of the communal Jewish life in the entire land. With all his soul and with all his might,[1] he was gripped by the land and the toil to put down roots in the village and establish for his family a human existence. He was most respected by all the members of the village, and was counted as one of its representatives in his various institutions.

 

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Yosef Barzin

 

I will remember our dear Yosef out of longing and great sorrow over his untimely departure, when he was only 63 years old. In the first years, I had the privilege to work with the deceased in various public works for the benefit of the village. Devoted and with a pure soul, over the course of many years he dedicated himself to his duty on the Cultural Council. His broad knowledge and great understanding added much to the establishment of deep cultural work in the life of the village. His seriousness and his depth in every matter that was brought up for discussion contributed to friendly work that was equal to the occasion.

In my last visit to him, when his illness was to some extent improved, he discussed with me his interest in something that was done in an area of the moshav that was near to his heart – in matters of society and culture. I attempted to ease his troubled heart and I consoled him that there would still be established for us days in which there would be fulfilled more and more of his aspirations for progress in our lives. I consoled him that our sons and daughters would yet know how to deepen the furrow in all the areas of life in our lands and our villages. I consoled him with the fact that most of the sons and daughters remain in the settlement, and continue in the ways of their ancestors. I greatly regret, dear Yosef, that you did not get to continue to weave the fabric that was dear to you; that great was the pain and sorrow that you so greatly suffered; and that we were not able to relieve your suffering.

Days of mourning and sorrow have in them enough to bring a person to an accounting of the soul and to awakening; that he will observe his surroundings and wonder about his path and his conduct in his life. Yosef knew how to delve into spiritual areas, and his gazes searched in the distance. More than once, when I encountered him in friendly conversation and in special meetings, we exchanged words between friends. I sensed the pure spring that flowed from the depths of his soul. We lived on the numerous and difficult troubles of our obligations in the years of the building of our village settlement; they did not always enable the spiritual–meditative wellsprings to flow in their quiet course and to penetrate into our daily activities. The six days of doing[2] were not enough for us and we did not allow

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for ourselves the rest and the special devotion to “a person has superiority.”[3] Yosef was very pained about this, and more than once did we dedicate a deep friendly discussion on this important topic.[4] We felt, out of attention and contemplation, that as members of the stage of settlement on which it was incumbent to unite its efforts to giving Jewish–human character to our land, that we were neglecting a broad and important field, and that it was necessary to correct the matter while there was still time. Over the course of years, we had many opportunities to meet and bring up on our agenda the difficult problems that were in our lives; we jointly felt the pain of the weaknesses and disruptions.


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the Eternal your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might” Return
  2. Ezekiel 46:1, referring to the six days of the work–week. Return
  3. Ecclesiastes 3:19 “… a person has superiority over a beast….” Return
  4. Of not allowing themselves to observe Shabbat. Return


Four Personalities

by Yehudah Alperovich

Translated by Rabbi Molly Karp

 

A. Shlomo Damesek

 

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Shlomo Damesek, teacher, writer and educator. Died in the United States.

 

He was a refined sociable person, full of interest, and enchanting. I stood many years in correspondence with him. Each letter was enjoyable.

He knew how to tell stories, to encourage, he whose path was all his days the crossing of the boundaries of the discipline.

And it was good that he had time to bring to light the chapters of his life in their entanglements and their difficulties. The chapters of the lofty and dramatic life of this wonderful man, who was both happy and wretched at the same time, went down with him to the grave.[1]

He was as stricken by fortune as Job.

In his last years he suffered from lack and did not fling words against God or humanity. He was not jealous of anyone.

He bore the suffering silently. He was a descendant of a family that had great spiritual treasures. May his memory be blessed!

 

B. Leibl Eisenbud

With awe and reverence, I mention the name of Leibl, may his memory be for a blessing. A man of principles, the communal activist, who engaged faithfully in the needs of the community. He did and achieved much for the sake of the wretched and downtrodden. He was an honest man, upright, satisfied with having only a little. Loyal and faithful with all his soul and might; he dedicated his life to others.

Still in his youth he was active in the left “Poalei Tzion”[2] and did much for the Yiddish school named for Ber Borochov in the years 1919–1920.

 

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Reception in Honor of the Descendant of Our City Leibl Eisenbud from Australia

From right to left: Avraham Gurvitz, Shlomo Farfel,
[3] Gavriel Avnieli, may his memory be for a blessing. Avraham Barzin (standing), Leibl Eisenbud, may his memory be for a blessing, Sholom Cholovsky, Neima Angelovich

 

After the Polish conquest, he continued with great vigor to act for the continued existence of the school which already belonged to “Tzisha.”[4] Thanks to his dedication and faithfulness, the building was built. He did not rest and he was not quiet until the building stood on its foundation.

He was one of the activists of “Taz” in our city and stood at its head for most of the years. He established the summer farm [in Yiddish in parentheses] of Taz in 1926, which was within the forest, about four kilometers from the city. In the summer days the poor children of our city would find in it nourishing food, pure air, and relaxation. There they gathered strength and health for all the days of the year. He encouraged them and healed their wounds. He was a father and mother to them, these wretched children who needed his help. The children returned healthy in body and soul, transformed from miserable to happy.

His name preceded him. For many years he was the representative of the left in the city. He fought for the sake of righteousness and integrity, and helped all the deprived.

I met Leibl at the time of my work with him on behalf of the school council of the “Freiheit”[5] school of the Workers of Zion. I appreciated and admired his faithfulness and dedication in his communal work. He was admired by all those who worked with and came in contact with him.

His wife, Henya, the Holy One will avenge her blood,[6] was modest and had a gentle soul, did not disturb him in his communal work. He devoted himself to her day and night.

 

C. Shlomkeh[7] Avalevich

I met Shlomkeh during the period of my activity in “The Worker” and I became very friendly with him. He was a gentle–souled young man, with great grace, sensitive, and his entire appearance, even his dress had in them a kind of enjoyment – the model of a new Jew.

He was as worried about external appearance as he was worried about internal content and the soul of the movement. I maintained ties with him even after I went up to the land.

Shlomo stood at the center of every Zionist action and even excelled in it. He read the newspapers of the land of Israel, and lived all that occurred and developed in the movement in our land.

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He was with us in spirit, but he was unable to come to us. With the outbreak of the Second World War the connection was severed. Afterwards came the Russian conquest, and Zionist activity in Nesvizh was destroyed, as in all the villages of Poland. After it came the German conquest, the ghetto, and the liquidation. Nesvizh was one of the few Jewish communities that rose up and rebelled. The Jews of Nesvizh burned the ghetto and fled to the forests. A few survived; however, they fought for their lives. I do not know the details of Shlomkeh's life in the ghetto, in the most bitter days. The image of Shlomkeh will remain engraved on my heart and in my memory as one of the most noble images, who built the Zionist youth movement. He was a loyal friend in heart and soul, a man of misgivings, thoughts, devotion, friendship. A man that wrestled with himself about a conceptual world – and won. I found him to be one of the deep ones, the thinkers, the faithful, and so I became bound to him with bonds of affection and friendship. The heart weeps in hidden places that he did not get to go up to the land, and was tragically killed in the Holocaust together with the martyrs of our city, with the thousands of members of the movement that did not get to arrive. In the history of our movement he will be remembered as one of the precious personalities that were conquered by pioneering Zionism, of whom we were proud. Thanks to members like Shlomkeh, the great camp that built our movement in the land was established. We will not forget him and his friends, and we will raise his image before our eyes.

 

D. Yosef Barzin,
May His Memory Be for a Blessing

Yosef Barzin, may his memory be for a blessing, went to his eternity on the 20th of Tammuz 5729 (1969). I met Yosef while I still in the dawn of my youth. He was a son of a good family. His father, may his memory be for a blessing, was a learned person, innocent, honest, and upright. Comfortable to people, with a gentle soul, and from him he inherited his great qualities.

A wonderful personality, a typical Zionist personality.

He was among the first and the founders of “The Pioneer” in our city, and one of the activists of the Zionist youth movement “Workers of Zion.” He was one of the first of the pioneers that went out for training and when he returned home from the kibbutz[8] with a permit to go up to the land, the turning point burst out in the land. The Mandatory[9] government stopped giving certificates.[10] A difficult crisis came over the pioneer movement. Many members left its ranks. Anguish began to gnaw at the hearts of many members. The anti–Zionist parties lifted their heads. They rejoiced at the calamity. They began to sing their well–known tune: “didn't we always say that the land of Israel is a volcano that is likely to explode any day?”

Yosef did not despair. Patiently and breathlessly he anticipated the day when his dream would be realized. And this day indeed arrived. He came running to me in tears, joy on his face, and good news in his mouth: “I received a certificate, I am going up to the land.”

In the month of Av 1929 he left Nesvizh and went up to the land. And in the moment that his foot trod on the soil of the land, he began to work in the orchards of the village of Hadar and in Tel Litwinsky.

He was among of the first and founders of the settlement “Rishpon.” The veterans among us remember the first days of Rishpon.

Rishpon is a lonely island, with a sea of murdering and rioting Arabs around it. There was no work in the place, and they went out to seek a day's work outside. After a day of exhausting work, they began to build their settlement. And of course, guard duty at night. Where is the writer and where is the composer that can describe the suffering and the devotion, the faithfulness and the love of the homeland of these pioneers? Together with his wife, his faithful and loyal corresponding helpmate[11] and woman of valor,[12] they began to build their farm. Layer upon layer. Many hardships, troubles, and tribulations befell them on their long road, until they arrived here.

And when he reached the rest and the inheritance, the cruel death came and severed the cord of his life. He was only 63 years old. He was among the builders of the land and the creators of its character; he was able to see the establishment of Israel. He lived in it for more than 21 years, and plucked the fruits of his labors. He went to his eternity after 40 years of creation, toil and sweat. The Barzin family grieved a husband, father, faithful and loyal brother, and I, a good friend, comrade, and companion.

It's a pity that we have lost, and we do not forget.

May his memory be blessed


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. Job 5:26 “…You will come to the grave” Return
  2. Workers of Zion. Return
  3. An asterisk indicates a person murdered by the Nazis and listed in the Sefer Nesvizh necrology. Return
  4. A network of Yiddish Socialist schools in Poland. Return
  5. Freedom. Return
  6. Used to refer to people murdered by the Nazis. Return
  7. Diminutive of Shlomo. Return
  8. Collective community. Return
  9. The British Mandatory government in Palestine post WWI. Return
  10. For immigration to Palestine. Return
  11. Genesis 2:18 “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the human to be alone; I will make a corresponding helper for him.” Return
  12. Proverbs 31:10 “What a rare find is a capable wife!” Return


To the Blessed Memory of Gershon Lemesh

by Yehudah Alperovich

Translated by Rabbi Molly Karp

I met Gershon while I was still in the dawn of my youth, at the time when we were together in one of the groups of “The Young Guard.” He came from a family of land–workers that took care of many children. His father, may his memory be for a blessing, was a simple man with an honest heart who was satisfied with a little. From him he inherited his great characteristics. This was a united family, in which devotion and comradeship prevailed. While still at a very young age, he began to help his father in their vegetable garden. Afterwards he began to learn the work of tailoring.

From “The Young Guard” Gershon transferred to “The Pioneer.” He was one of the first pioneers that went out for training at Kibbutz Telchan. From the time that he returned from the kibbutz with a permit to ascend to the land, the crisis in the land broke out. It was 1927. A difficult crisis passed over the pioneer movement, and many members left the ranks. The haters of Zion lifted their heads, and rejoiced at the calamity.

I remember the pamphlet that Yaakov Leshtzinsky brought out at that time, “The Bankrupt for Zionism.”[1]

Gershon waited a few years for a certificate, until his patience ran out. He married a woman and traveled alone to Argentina, from there to Brazil and Uruguay. After a few years he returned home to his wife and family. I remember his words on his return: I am not moving from here; enough wandering.

The Second World War broke out. The Germans invaded the town. He was an eyewitness to the agony that the Nazis and their helpers did to us, may their names be erased. He saw the destruction of his family, and he was taken to the ghetto.

With the help of the Partisans he succeeded to flee with a group of men from the ghetto to the forest. He joined the ranks of the Partisans, fighting and taking vengeance for the spilled blood of our kin.

When the Red Army freed our area, he enlisted into the ranks of the Red Army. He fought, and was wounded twice.

After the war Gershon returned home; from his extended family, not one person was left. He left Nesvizh and wandered throughout Europe, until in 1947 he arrived in the land.

Also, in the land fortune did not shine on him; he lived alone almost all of the time and suffered very much, but he carried his suffering in silence. He was an active member for many years in the Nesvizh Emigres' Council. He was a faithful son to his nation and his land.

At the end of his life when his financial situation improved, he became ill. He lay on his deathbed for three years, until the cruel death came and severed the cord of his life. He was sixty–seven years old at his death.

May his memory be blessed.


Translator's Footnote:
  1. In Yiddish. Return


Pesach Kubel,
May His Memory Be for a Blessing

by Buma Katznovsky (Avraham Niv)

Translated by Rabbi Molly Karp

Pesach is dead. One of our contemporaries left us who, together with us, undertook the pioneer Zionist creation. He was rooted in the life of the town in its Jewish existence and in its aspiration for the redemption of Zion and national independence, a faithful son to his generation, flesh of its flesh,[1] a generation in which there surged the spirit of volunteering and preparedness, above personal comforts and the aspiration to be organized – a generation of the pioneering enterprise, without boundary or accounting.

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Pesach was born in Nesvizh in the year 1909 to his parents Peshe and David Kubel, in a family blessed with children, four daughters and two sons. His father worked hard for the family's sustenance, his hand stretched out for work and trade, and while Pesach was still young, he volunteered to help his parents. Pesach did not learn in educational institutions; when he was 13–14 he joined “The Young Guard” in our town. With the full passion of youth, he devoted himself to the activities of the Guard branch and made his days and nights for continuing his education, learning and acquiring education. With this he was active, a leader, an educator, and an organizer. In this way his qualities as a man of deed and clear thought are revealed, faithful to his principles and his friends.

In the year 1933 Pesach went up to the land. He began his path as a pioneer making the wilderness bloom, working as a farmer in the orchards of Yehudah, lending his hand to building and all other kinds of work.

In the events of 1936 he enlisted in the Haganah,[2] his life dedicated to security, days and nights wandering on the roads and paths of Rishon L'Tzion, in its orchards and vineyards.

Pesach became the speaker of the United Workers' Party and as a party man he represented the workers' community and dedicated himself to their concerns. Public action became his life's axis, and he indefatigably took care of every petition of friend and acquaintance; he knew how to find shared language with his opponents and supported every constructive act.

 

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Pesach Kubel

 

In his modest appearance, in his clear thought and simplicity, he acquired the confidence of his friends and acquaintances. Honest, with a straight gaze, a clear conscience, he was a symbol and teacher to many. He was a man of vision and possibilities in Rishon L'Tzion. Thousands accompanied him on his final way, indeed they were reliable testimony to the man Pesach, to his deeds and his life.

We feared for his wellbeing, and hoped for a miracle, but the miracle did not occur. And here the bitter and cruel moment arrived which put an end to his suffering, and left behind bereavement and loss, mourning and sorrow, in the hearts of all his friends and acquaintances.

Pesach was the representative of the Jews of Nesvizh, the successor of the chain of loyal and simple communal workers, upon whom the axe fell and who were destroyed with terrible cruelty by the German Nazi invader.

We will bind his soul and his memory with the bonds of souls and memory of our slain loved ones.

May his memory be blessed!


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. Genesis 2:23, on the creation of woman: “Then the man said, “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…” Return
  2. Pre–state Jewish defense organization. Return


You Were Like a Father to Us
(About Moshe Lachovitzky, May His Memory Be For a Blessing, In Memory of the Martyrs of the City)

by Gershon Gefen

Translated by Rabbi Molly Karp

With a trembling hand and a heart full of grief and a withheld tear, I will offer up these lines with great respect, to your memory, Reb Moshe, the most precious man of all.

In the latter part of 1941, a time when cannons thundered and the Allied armies advanced in a victory march to the muzzle of the brown beast, I returned to you, my town, my homeland: wounded, leaning on crutches, consumed by battles and the horrors of war, I stood at your gates. No kisses of a compassionate mother kissed me, and no trembling and gentle father's hand caressed me on my return home from the battles of war.

On the threshold of your small narrow room I stood, and you, Reb Moshe, with love, compassion, and mercy, gathered me to your bosom. You restored my suffering soul. You were like a father to me, and your daughter, may she be distinguished for a long life, like a sister. A tear welled up in your eyes with your meeting me and a Jewish groan broke out from within your heart and did not add more. I knew that you did this for my sake, in order not to pain me and add a groan to grief. But in my bed at night, your groans, and your weeping full of complaint, reached me as if to say: “see, God, how they harmed us?” In hidden places you wept so that I would not see you in your failure. (Since it was not proper for a man to shed tears even if they burst out of the chambers of his heart) only your lips were whispering, like a pure prayer, the names of those who were dear to you; Esther'ka, Elisheve'le, that went the way of destruction, no more to return… But I, orphaned of mother and father or any other flesh, heard in them the thousands of myriads of names of women, boys and girls, men and elders, babies whose own names they did not yet know how to utter, who were killed and slaughtered and butchered with impure cruel hands and there was no one to raise their memories.

 

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Moshe Lachovitzky

 

Did he leave you, Reb Moshe, the angel of the fate of life, in order to mourn the lost ones, to tell for life what Amalek[1] did to us? However, not only did you grieve, you wrote the chronicles of the terrible Holocaust that befell our town. I knew that it was not the crown of writers and composers that would adorn your head, or even in the community of men of the quill that your place would be counted; you were a simple Jew, a Jew with heart and soul, an everyday Jew. Indeed, every word that you put on paper you hewed from within your heart, which was saturated with blood and tears. And its meaning – the Jewish tragedy.

There was a contradictory duplication formed in your personality: victor and defeated, intensifier of strength and the humiliated licking his wounds, treading on high places and lowered to the dust, the man of the joke and sharp wit on the one hand, and lamenting and calling out on the other.

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This duplication did not make the abuse of the Shoah disappear from our eyes but only we knew it: it was born out of the storms of the struggle for life, and you felt at fault regarding your loved ones, whom death befell and your hand was unable to save them. I saw your weakened eyes, when a spark was lit in them, and I felt your upright pride when you said: “I have two daughters and a son in the land of Israel, I am the father that sent them there, at the time that many of we parents had to part from their children, I saved them; let this be for me, at least, half consolation.” And I felt that this was your complete consolation, your victory, your supremacy, your pride, and your joy. Fortunate is the man for whom it is so.[2]

I saw you struggling with yourself, in order to build your life anew. You sought to heal your health which was wounded in the storms of war and in the struggle for life in the ghetto and in the forests of the Partisans. You understood that there is no wholeness in life without work. You were a trained carpenter, a man of work all the days. You returned to this profession, despite your advanced age; with the fullness of love and devotion for it you worked for the support of your widespread family. And it seems to me that even your work kept faith for you and paid for you a section of its lot. You began to feel that your strength had returned to you, that a man like you could still be very active. You married a woman with a gentle soul and a good heart. Only one thought did not give you peace: how to sew up the tear that you tore with your own hand? You hoped for the day when your eyes would again see your sons and your daughters, you believed that it would surely come, as a Jew believes in the coming of the Messiah.

Indeed, you were privileged, Reb Moshe, you were privileged and you won. You returned to the lap of your family. Your soul travelled to your sons and your daughters and to the land of the “beautiful sun.” She brought you her beauty and her brilliance, took the place of bunkers, disease, and the swamps in the forests of Belorussia; she lifted you up from the dust. You were no longer a humiliated Jew licking your wounds, but rather, proud, exalted, and lofty. Your spirit, that you had not known yesterday or the day before, returned to you. You found love and devotion with your children and additional faithfulness with your wife, who was good to you and a soul mate[3] to your children.

We idolized you, Reb Moshe, even if we did not crown you with official crowns, and for my friends and to our city you were considered the head and leader of the community to us, an example to every person to whom your name and your memory are precious.

Our last meeting, on Sukkot 5724 [1964], will never be erased from within my heart. With great respect I will carry it, as I carry on the tablet of my heart another fateful meeting, the time when I stood wounded on the threshold of your room and you in your great compassion gathered me under the shade of your roof. You knew that we would not see each other again, and I consoled you and encouraged you that you would overcome your aches, that it was only the weakness of old age and it was not, God forbid, an illness from which you should expect any danger. You refused to be comforted, you knew well in the depths of your heart, that an incurable illness dwelled within you, and that the cord of your life was growing weaker. But this time too, as in our first meeting, you restrained yourself and did not cry; one tear welled up in your eye, and the rest caught in your throat. Your lips whispered just one short sentence of wonderful blessing when your warm fatherly hand was placed in mine for the parting: “nice to live when your children are around you….”

And when I accompanied you to your eternal dwelling place, when I walked mourning and hunched behind your coffin, your beautiful words, whose meaning I understood, accompanied me: It is good to die among your children!

You are fortunate, Reb Moshe! You are fortunate that in your life you merited to see children, grandchildren, and great–grandchildren!

You are fortunate, Reb Moshe, that you were able to find in your death eternal rest at the foot of Gilboa, which has rain and dew on it, and Sde Trumot[4] around it.

May you rest in peace!


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. Deuteronomy 25:17 – 18 “You shall remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you went out of Egypt, how he happened upon you on the way and cut off all the stragglers at your rear, when you were faint and weary, and he did not fear God.” Haman, the enemy of the Purim story, is said to have descended from Agag, the King of Amalek (Esther 3:1), and Hitler is considered to descend from Amalek as well. Return
  2. Echoing Psalms 144:19 “Happy is the nation for whom this is so.” Return
  3. Yedid Nefesh, the title of a Sabbath poem composed in the 16th century. Return
  4. A settlement at the foot of Mt. Gilboa. Return


Akiva Barzilai and The Story of His Life

by Shmuel Eisenstadt, Givat Chen

Translated by Rabbi Molly Karp

A son of a religious family that was educated and rooted in the tradition of the ancestors. His father was a man of tall stature, broad–shouldered, solid in body and soul, and had a strong character. In the qualities of his character he merged the traditionalism of the men of the Torah from the old generation with the spirit of enlightenment, advancement, and pure nationalism. He was straightforward, loved the truth, and was ready to help others to the point of self–sacrifice. These qualities Akiva inherited from his father.

The father educated the members of the family, the many boys, in the spirit of tradition and enlightenment and implanted in them an honest national consciousness that was drawn from the early wellsprings, without flaw or restriction to extreme superficial nationalism. Also, the love of the earth and agriculture that was integral to the father himself and the burning aspiration to go up to the land and work its soil – Akiva inherited directly from his father. However, his luck worsened, and his father died when he was still a child. Only, the spiritual inspiration that the father infused into the adult members of the family reached the soul of young Akiva and accompanied the path of his education until he grew into a man, and until he became that same Akiva that few recognized, for the right of his soul and the nobility of his spirit were concealed in a shroud of modesty and shyness.

By chance the First World War was born (in 1914), and a stormy period, with many changes of fortune for our people and for the entire world, accompanied the path of his life and made its mark on his soul and his spirit.

 

Nes264.jpg
Akiva Eisenstadt, fell defending the homeland

 

Akiva was a child of his parents' old age, and he was born out of fearful expectation and longing. His father died in 1919, a sacrifice of the distress of the war. He left a family of eight children behind in the chaos of a material and economic avalanche. The worry about the sustenance of the family and its education fell on the widowed mother and the eldest son, who was 18 years old. The rest – they were below the age of adulthood. But the distinguished tradition of the father

[Page 265]

did not end. His spirit hovered over the family, and despite the difficulties and suffering the web of life was continued in its form and content as in the days of the father. In the tragic moments of the father's death, when the orphaned family, in the presence of its relatives, stood around the body of the precious father, the eldest son swore to help the mother and see to the education of the daughters, and of the young son, Akiva the orphan, whose father loved him with all his soul, and hoped to raise and educate him in his spirit. To this end, Akiva was enrolled in the Hebrew “Culture” school, and there, as at home, from the dawn of his youth, Akiva absorbed the atmosphere of the land of Israel and the sound of the Hebrew language. This reality influenced his world view little by little, and determined his consciousness and life–path for the future. Already in the first years of his education he aspired to go up to the land. Ascent to the land was inseparable from the life of work and agriculture; these were tied together and inseparable from the life of collective cooperation.

When he was 14 years old, he completed school with distinction. Naturally gifted with the inclination for knowledge, with curiosity and a practical sense, he knew how to squeeze as much as possible from his studies, to broaden the horizon of his knowledge of his surroundings. When he was 12, he entered the branch of “The Young Guard” and became an activist in the youth groups. In this period, he corresponded with his brother, who was already in the land of Israel, and was influenced by the living connection to the land. He thirstily drank up the descriptions of the life of the group, the land, and agriculture. Akiva was drawn to the field while still in the dawn of his youth, and on the eve of his ascent to the land he was especially given to thought on the life of the village and the field.

In 1928 the brother fulfilled his promise and brought Akiva up to the land. Despite the difficult separation from his mother and his sisters, he was quickly consoled, in his finding recompense in the warm family atmosphere, with both his brother and the well–known Karol family in Petach Tikvah. This house had a great influence on Akiva. Here he came to know the first steps on the path of Zionist fulfillment, in practice, that which was described in the beautiful literature, in noble realistic garb.

Within a short time he entered “Mikve Yisrael,” and from here began a new period in his life. Here his character, as he came to know it in the years of his adulthood, was formed; quaking, Akiva discerned this fateful event in his life: “no difficulty will prevent me from progressing in my life.” And indeed, despite the difficulties, he found his world and progressed, and arrived at wholeness between the goal and its realization. His solid, stubborn, and patient character stood him in good stead, and at the time of crisis he did not fail or turn away from the path that was before him.

Mikve Yisrael in those years did not at all suit the spirit of the youth movement and the kibbutz.[1] There still prevailed in it the tradition of “Pik”a,”[2] and the old settlement. Most of the educators did not look favorably on the leanings and tendencies of the “left,” and the idea of the collective settlement was repulsive to most of them. From the first minute in “Mikve” Akiva became connected to a small group of friends who were close in aspirations and thought, and the living spirit was among them. Since he was resolute in his opinion and uncompromising, the anger of the educators of the “Haredi discipline” turned towards him. Even some of the students of the “sabras”[3] harassed him as “green,” but this was a period of acclimation and he overcame it quickly. In this year he devoted himself to professional studies, and his teachers recognized his abilities and his seriousness. When he visited his brother, who took care of the apiary, he found interest in this department, and while in Mikve Yisrael he worked in the barn and excelled at it, the apiaries drew his heart more. By means of his brother and Mr. Piat, who was then a teacher at “Mikve,” (and today administers the Kaduri School), who succeeded in cherishing Akiva, he was brought into the apiary. In his devotion to the department, he reached professional wholeness for many days – since many knew him – and became one of the best beekeepers, and his professional activity extended beyond the borders of Beit Hashita.

When he completed agricultural school, he already walked with sure steps towards his future in life. It was clear to him that he would continue in agriculture, and in the cooperative kibbutz life. Like most of the youth in those days, he was worried about the search for the path and the framework, but the decisiveness and the creation of character brought him quickly out of the labyrinth, and with his friends of the graduating class, they constituted a group in the “Immigrant Camps.” Yaakov went out to Kibbutz Herzliya (Shfayim) for training in 1932, and the fate of his future was set.

In Kibbutz Herzliya, at first Akiva emphasized his uniqueness in professional economics. The love of agriculture and the tendency towards research were integrated in him, and with consistence, patience, and strength of will created the complete personality of a professional. He had self–confidence, and he knew how to find what was important in his profession. In the area of dairy farming he excelled in an easy and on–target natural approach. He like the cow, and she represented for him the living and awake connection with the smell of the green field and wide open space. But he especially dedicated himself with all his passion, temperament, and energy to raising the bees. Here he found a broad field of action for the researcher in it; he saw in the bees much of the mystery that was in nature. The field was still in the beginning of its development in the land, without professional literature, and in the absence of practical experience, perhaps precisely this thing aroused his interest and drew his heart. He came to Kibbutz Herzliya for training, for the sake of learning, but he immediately became an initiator. He established a small apiary on the site, dedicated himself to its development, and, of course, succeeded. In his transfer to Beit Hashita, he gradually developed a large apiary, which reached its climax in quantity and quality (450 hives). Over the course of years we find Akiva among those standing at the head of bee–keeping in the land; he participated in activities in the secretariat of the national association of bee–keepers, and conducted training visits in the apiaries of the farms. His teacher and educator, Mr. Piat, the Director of the Kaduri School, who at various opportunities boasted of him, and pointed out with pride his gifted student, invited him more than once to consultations and conversations in innovations in the profession.

When he left the group for a short time, in order to help his family come up to the land, it became clear what the strength of his connection was to the collective life, and the life of the kibbutz became an inseparable part of his soul.

In the year 1933, Akiva found his regular place in Kvutzat Hachugim. Here he built his house and charted the course of his life.

Of the part of his life that was created at Beit Hashita – it is not for me to tell. His friends know this well. With us, the members of his family that were outside of the farm, he used to meet at invited times and it was a source of inspiration and satisfaction for us. These meetings were always turned into festive family events, for the love of brothers and sisters, accompanied by hearty, spiritual and gentle joy that spread over them. The young children of his brothers especially felt the pleasantness of his presence, that there was something special in Uncle Akiva, poured over him from the ancient patriarchal spirit. Abundant fatherliness, kindness, patience, and gaiety, drew the little ones to him, and he too was drawn to them. So too it was in the framework of his family life; he was a faithful husband to his group of friends, and a father devoted to his children. With warmth and devotion he tended to them, and feared for their education. He was troubled by his frequent absences from his home, and the doubt always assailed him that he was not fulfilling the responsibility of the education and proper care of his children. In his adding to the members his family one girl who was a refugee from the Nazi destruction, he knew to distribute the abundance of his fatherly love between her and his children.

But Akiva was a family man; he knew how to block his emotions, by reining them in and placing a boundary around his most sensitive and intimate urges while he was fulfilling his role. In his pleasant times spent in the family group, Akiva did not go beyond his allocated time. And when the dictate of his conscience forced him to go out on the road, he excluded himself from all enjoyment. His knowledge always urged him on, and no insistent pleading succeeded in preventing him.

He was a man of confidence. Courageous in his spirit, he did not know fear. As an army man, he sensed the paths of caution. His self–confidence guided him in soulful silence on the paths of danger. These qualities his friends recognized as a weapon, and those who stood in his command were tied to him, and trusted him. However, his human feelings, and the strength of his spirit, enabled him, even in the tragic moment of the battle in which he fell on the military cause of a necessary retreat, to turn to saving his wounded friend.

And he paid with his life.

The page of his life will be counted among the heroes that fell in the struggle of the nation's war for its independence, and national existence.


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. Collective settlement. Return
  2. The Palestine Jewish Colonization Association, founded in 1924 to promote settlement projects. Return
  3. Those born in the land of Israel. Return

 

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