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[Page 33]

RYB”L in Radzivilov, 1807–1813

Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman

The father of the Enlightenment in Russia, the scribe R' Yitschak Ber Levinzon (RYB”L, 1788–1860), was born in Kremenets and worked there for most of his life, apart from the years 1807–1823, which he spent away from the town, although he returned to the city and died there. From 1807 to1813, he lived in Radzivilov.

The following is from a section in A Short History of Modern Hebrew Literature, by Y. Klausner, on RYB”L's years in Radzivilov.

In 1807, when RYB”L was 19, he married a woman from Radzivilov, which was near the Austrian border, and moved there. At the beginning, RYB”L loved his wife, but later there was discord, and he immediately divorced her against her wishes. It was heard that, out of anger, his wife tried to poison him before the divorce because he stopped loving her. But he did not marry again for the rest of his life (from this marriage, there was only one son, who died in infancy).

In Radzivilov, which was under Russian and Austrian control before the Polish liberation–and therefore was an educated city, and like every such city had traffic, life, and great influence from the many who crossed the border–there was great opportunity for RYB”L, because he could learn not only Russian but also German. He also learned French, Latin, and a little Greek there. He worked as a private teacher, and in 1812, when the French were fighting in Russia, he was an official translator; that is, he was appointed to translate and write letters from Hebrew and Yiddish to Russian for the government and the army under the command of General Giers, then the commander of the local Radzivilov garrison. RYB”L excelled in his work as a translator, and Giers was very pleased. Also at that time, he began to write First Fruits of the Pen–poems and letters, a few of which appeared in the pamphlet The Scribe's Topics. At the end of 1812, he composed “Heroic Torment,” a poem of praise for Russia's victory in the war against France. Giers sent the poem to the minister of internal affairs–and RYB”L was regarded favorably by the Russian government.

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This was the first connection between RYB”L and the Russian government, a connection that was valuable to him for the rest of his life, and especially during his final days, when the government supported him with the sum of 3,000 rubles in memory of Poems, in which RYB”L praises the motherland's government in 1812.

But RYB”L's hard work in learning languages, reading widely, and translating led to a nervous breakdown, and to recover from his illness, he went to Brody, the center of the Enlightenment for the Jews in Galicia in 1813, at the age of 25, after he had finished his work for the Franco–Russian War.

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The Printing House in Radzivilov[*]

Translated by Rivka Schiller and Judy Fixler

In the town of Radzivilov, which is in the Kremenets district, a printing house already existed in 5578 [1818], and in that same year Charedim [The Pious], Yalkut Chadash [New Anthology],[1] Midrash Shmuel on Ethics of the Fathers, and Tikun Gadol [Great Amendment] were published.

The printer's name was not specified on the title page of these books because he was hiding from the censor's dreaded wrath. However, there is no doubt that this mysterious printer was Rabbi Yehonatan, son of Rabbi Yakov, who previously worked in Dubno and later in Kremenets. Aside from the books' appearance, which proves that, I have other clues that validate my supposition, such as the different pictures, as well as the mayor's sign at the end of Yalkut Chadash, which looks similar to the same sign printed on the title pages of the books in Dubno, of which there is no other example in Poland.

In the beginning of 5579 [1819], the aforementioned Rabbi Yehonatan, the printer, left this town and bequeathed his position to “the exalted scholar, the famous wealthy man,”[2] our teacher and rabbi, Rabbi Pinchas, son of Asher Zelig Barats, a person who brings honor to the Torah and awe to the rabbis,[3] who acquired the typographic material from the printer in Poritsk.

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And he enriched the printing house he received with various letters; and with the help of expert workers, he completed the printing of the five parts of Chok Leyisrael [Law of Israel] during the course of 5579 [1819], “Pinchas arose from within the middle of the assembly,” and he applied himself to print these statute books … on nice paper and with good ink and with precise proofreading …. In my opinion, it is not necessary to praise this superior printing production. However, the aforementioned exalted rabbi feared the emergence of an evil person who would want to undermine him and copy his work to profit from it himself and thus to cheat me. He begged me to support him and help seal the door in the face of these evildoers. I was glad to fulfill his request; and the printers in this country will not reprint Chok Leyisrael within 10 years from the day the printing was completed.[4]

After the printing of the abovementioned book was completed, the printer also printed an expensive edition of the Kuzari and a second part of the Sifri with the commentary, Zera Avraham (5580) [1820].

The printer stopped working because he could not contend with competition from the Slavist printers, and therefore he sold the publishing rights to Chok Leyisrael to Rabbi Aharon, son of Yone–as I have already mentioned above–but he sold the typographic equipment to Rabbi Yakov Finkelman, son of Rabbi Shmuel the printer, son of Rabbi Issakher Ber Segal of Berdichev. After he had given up everything he had, he printed many books in Berdichev while concealing the place of publication.

In one of the two printing houses in this town, a prayer book was printed with Kavanat Hachasidim [Devotions of the Pious] under the supervision of the righteous Rabbi Avraham Heshil of Opatów; and at this time, we know of no surviving copy.[5]


    * Note in original: From History of Hebrew Printing by Chayim Dov Fridberg, 1950. return

  1. Note in original: Published by Rabbi Yosef, son of Mordekhay of Kremenets. They published it following the Lublin edition, omitting only the poem printed on the verso of the title page. And at the end of the book we find a “large announcement” concerning the few prayer books that had recently been printed, within which there were calendars for future years. It was printed that 5580 [1820] is a leap year, and they noted the appearances of the new moon for the two months of Adar. It is wrong; that year is a common year [i.e., with only one month of Adar]. Furthermore, bibles were found in which yearly calendars had been printed from 5573 [1813] to 5600 [1840]. And from 5580 [1820] onward, they changed the system of the years a great deal and made common years into leap years and leap years into common years; and heaven forbid that they would rely on this in the villages and small towns and encounter a major stumbling block. We saw from this that, therefore, to remove a stumbling block from the people's path and to publicize this, so as heaven forbid not to depend on the text in the bibles and prayer books in any of the calendar determinations; only on a calendar that is printed annually. And whoever possesses these bibles and prayer books mentioned above should erase and blot out the calendars or remove and cut them out with a razor, and fulfill 'and allow no evil to dwell in your tent'; and for those who heed, it will be pleasant for them, and they shall be blessed with the blessing of good and sweet years. Abundant peace (5578) [1818].”
    The date 5578 [1818], which had been repeated in Efraim Zalman Margaliot's approbation, indicated clearly that the date 5575 [1815] on the title page is an error.
    The researcher, Ringelblum, found in the archival documents (according to the statement in his book Toward a History of the Jewish Book and Printing in Poland, p. 62) the business transactions between the printer, Myantshinski, and the government, regarding the establishment of a Hebrew printing house in Radzivilov in 5548 [1788]; and apparently the plan was never carried out. return
  2. Note in original: He is thus referred to in the approbation of Rabbi Mordekhay, head of the rabbinic court of Kremenets. return
  3. Note in original: Rabbi Moshe Likhtshteyn, who published his father's Sifri [Books] with Zerah Avraham [Seed of Avrahram] in Radzivilov, where he relates in his introduction that the printer took him home and fed him throughout the months of printing. return
  4. Note in original: Words of Rabbi Efraim Zalman Margaliot with his approbation in the middle of Sivan 5579 [June 1819]. return
  5. Note in original: Compare Kiryat sefer, year 9, p. 439, and year 11, p. 495. return

[Page 37]

From “The Wanderings of a Melody”

by Y. L. Peretz

Translated by Yaacov David Shulman

It was destined that Podotsur's wedding melody should be rehabilitated.

As the acrobats went from house to house and traveled from city to city, they dragged the poor girl along until (may it never happen to you!) she grew ill.

In the border town of Radzivil, they left the sick child behind a fence and crossed the border. Now they could no more be caught than the wind blowing across a field. The girl lay in a fever, half–naked, with black and blue marks all over her body.

Caring people lifted her up and carried her to the poor house. The child had typhus, and when she left its care, she was blind in both eyes.

And now the poor child begged. She went from house to house, from door to door, begging.

She barely said anything at all. She could not beg with words. She would stand somewhere and wait. If people didn't see her, she would sing her melody so that they would notice her–the melody from the hand–organ.

And what did the melody say now?

It asked for mercy–mercy for an unfortunate child.

“Bad people stole me from a good father, a loving mother, a warm and comfortable home. I was torn away from everything good; I was abused and thrown away like an empty shell. Mercy for a poor, poor child!”

And the melody also pleaded:

“It is cold, I am half–naked and hungry, I have nowhere to lay my head, and in addition, I am blind!”

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That was what the melody pleaded. And that was its first ascent–because of it, people gave charity.

In Radzivil lived a learned Jew. He was not opposed to Hasidism, and certainly not hostile to it. He simply had no time to travel to righteous ones, because he never closed his Gemara. He was afraid to spend any time not learning.

In order not to be distracted in the study hall, he learned at home. His wife stayed in the store the entire day, and his children learned in cheder.

From time to time, the idea would flit through his mind that he should travel to a righteous one. No doubt this was what his good inclination whispered to him. What did his evil inclination do? It clothed itself in his good inclination and said: “Certainly, sometimes a person has to do that! But there is still time. First you have to finish the tractate.” And in that way, months and years passed by.

But it appears that heaven wanted him to go to R' Duvid'l.

And this is how it happened.

One time, as the scholar was sitting and learning, he heard singing outside his door. He grew angry at himself: “When you are learning, you shouldn't hear anything in the street, anything happening on the other side of the door. You should be entirely absorbed in the Torah!”

Nevertheless, he heard. So he put his fingers in his ears. But the melody stole its way in through his fingers. He grew more upset. He angrily pulled his long beard into his mouth and, biting his beard, he kept learning. He forced himself to learn!

But the melody didn't stop. He heard it more clearly. Suddenly he realized that the voice was that of a girl. He yelled: “Shameless girl! Get away from my house!”

The melody left. But–and this was terrible–even though no one was singing, he still heard the melody.

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The melody itself sang in his ears, in his soul. He made himself look in his book, he tried to force himself to study, but he couldn't. The scholar's soul swelled with the melody.

He closed the Gemara and stood up to recite the afternoon prayers.

But he couldn't–he couldn't learn, he couldn't pray–nothing! The melody rang like a silver bell. The man couldn't stand it. He was literally dying of suffering! A day passed, a second, a third–he grew depressed. He fasted, but it didn't help. He could not rid himself of the melody. At night, it would wake him up.

And this was a man who in his entire life had never acted as cantor, who had almost never sung! On the Sabbath, instead of singing at the table, he would learn a page of Gemara.

He understood that this was no simple matter. “This is the work of the devil!” he thought, and he felt himself falling to pieces.

Perhaps the time had in fact come to go to a righteous one.

But the evil inclination asked him: “Yes, but there are many righteous ones. Who is the true righteous one who can really help?” The scholar began to think about it.

He received another hint from above.

It happened that R' Duvid'l Talner had to uproot himself, and in doing so he passed through Radzivil.

You certainly know the story about the libel that led to that. And I tell you that Talnoe deserved to be punished. They should not have stolen R' Duvid'l away from Vasilkov. They should not have shamed that town. Sadly, Vasilkov was left desolate. All of the guest houses were closed, all of the inns lay idle. People had nothing more than a loaf of bread (it shouldn't happen to you!).

[Translation editor's note: R' Duvid'l refers to David Twersky, known as Duvid'l, the Talner Rebbe, 1808–1882, who began his career in Vasilkov, but moved in 1852 to Talnoe.]

But now he was again libeled, and this time Talnoe was left desolate.

What happened was that R' Duvid'l had a golden chair on which was carved the saying: “David, king of Israel, is alive and well!”

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Informers gave this a political interpretation and their accusation found a hearing in Sankt Peterburg.

We know that this saying is in line with the Gemara's statement: “Who are the kings? The rabbis.” But go explain that to the generals in Sankt Peterburg!

The upshot was that R' Duvid had to flee. On his way, he spent the Sabbath in Radzivil. And fortunately the Radzivil scholar went to the Sabbath Third Meal.

But his evil inclination still didn't give up. When he came in, he saw a small Jew, a tiny Jew, sitting at the head of the table. All that he could see was a large, a really large shtreimel and a face over which silver hair fell. People were sitting in silence. No one was saying any words of Torah. The scholar's heart fell. “Is that all there is?” he thought.

But R' Duvid'l saw him and said, “Sit down, scholar.”

At that moment he was restored. Just setting his eyes on R' Duvid'l healed his soul.

You have certainly heard of the Talner's eyes. His glance contained power, holiness, might; whatever you wanted was contained in his glance.

When R' Duvid'l said, “Sit down,” people made room at the table for the scholar. He sat down and waited.

But when R' Duvid'l then said, “The scholar will please sing a melody!” his heart sank–him and a melody!

But someone slapped him on the back: when R' Duvid'l tells you, you sing! So he sang.

He began, the poor man, with a shiver, and he barely stammered out the beginning of a melody. And what did he intend to sing, the scholar? Of course, the orphan girl's melody–because he didn't know any other. And so he shivered and stammered, and sang. And the melody was again transformed! It now had a fragrance of the Torah, something of the holiness of the Sabbath, with a thought of repentance. And as the scholar sang, he felt the melody, and with every moment he began to sing better and more freely.

In the middle, R' Duvid'l, as was his custom, quietly began to sing along. Hearing this, the others joined in. Accompanied by the others, the scholar grew more enthusiastic. He burned. He was lifted out of himself–he was really singing!

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The melody began to pour out like a river of flames, and its waves grew wider and higher, all fiery and flaming!

The room grew too narrow for the melody. It tore itself out of the window and into the street. Into the street poured an ocean of holiness, of fiery holiness. And confused and amazed, the people in the street called out, “The orphan girl's melody! The orphan girl's melody!”

Both the melody and the scholar received their rectification.

Before leaving, R' Duvid'l took him aside and said a few words. “Scholar,” he told him, “you shamed a Jewish daughter. You didn't understand the root of her melody. You called her shameless!”

“Rebbe, help me repent,” the scholar pleaded.

“Unnecessary,” said the rebbe (may his memory be for a blessing). “Instead of repenting, better that you do a mitzvah!”

“What sort of a mitzvah, rebbe?”

“Marry off the girl. Helping a girl get married is a great mitzvah!”

And now, hear the end of the story.

A few years later, the girl had long been married to a widower, a scribe. Only then did they learn where she came from.

It turned out that the girl was a grandchild of the old Katzner. And this is how it happened.

His son–in–law, the man from Kiev, once took his wife to the theater for the entire evening. That evening, his only child was stolen away.

It was no longer possible to return the daughter to her parents. The mother had not been alive for years, and the father had long since moved to America.

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Rabbis Who Served in Radzivilov[*]

Translated by Ellen Garshick

Rabbi Chayim, Son of the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel Rotenberg

He was born in 5624 (1863–1864). His father, the Gaon rabbi, head of the rabbinic court of the Varkovichi, Volhynia, community, was the son of R' Chayim, the righteous one of blessed memory, head of the Rovno community's rabbinic court, who was the son of the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel of Dubno, the righteous one of blessed memory, who was the son of the Gaon Rabbi Iser of Rovno, the righteous one of blessed memory, who published under the name Rabbi Spola, and over holy generation after generation of leading rabbis of Israel and Rabbi Moshe Isserles and the Maharsha, Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Eydis, the righteous one of blessed memory. He was ordained by the Gaon Rabbi Avraham Binyamin Kluger, may he live a long and happy life, amen; the Gaon Rabbi Yitschak Chiyot, may he live a long and happy life, amen, of Brody; and the Gaon Rabbi Moshe Natan Rubinshteyn, may he live a long and happy life, amen, head of the Vinnitsa community's rabbinical court.

Brothers–in–law of the aforementioned Rabbi Chayim are Rabbi Aharon Liper, the righteous teacher in Rovno; Rabbi Meir Chayim of Varkovichi; Rabbi Eliezer Levin of Grodno; and Rabbi Mordekhay of Kozin.

He is related by marriage to the honorable Rabbi Shalom Levin, brother–in–law of the Gaon Rabbi Yisrael Iser Shapira, head of the Zbarazh community's rabbinic court, author of the responsa Israel's Help, based on The Foundation and Root of Service.

The son of Rabbi Chayim, the righteous one of blessed memory, is Moshe Eliezer, who served as rabbi in Rovno from the end of World War I to the Holocaust.

His youngest son was R' Dudel, who served as rabbi of Radzivilov after the death of his father, of blessed memory.

His eldest daughter was married off to Varkovichi, and his second daughter, to a town near Kozin. Everyone, including the youngest son, Yosele; his daughter, Charne; and the rabbi's wife; were martyred, may their memory be a blessing.


Rabbi Avraham, Son of Rabbi Chayim Yehuda Pindros

He was born in 5637 (1876–1877), son and grandson of the Gaon author of the Book of Generations, the righteous one of blessed memory. He studied in Slutsk and Bobruisk as well as Kovno.

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He was the teacher par excellence of the Gaon Rabbi Barukh Dov Libovits, may he live a long and happy life, amen, head of the rabbinical court and head Talmud teacher in Lutsk and now head Talmud teacher at the Slobodka yeshiva.

He was ordained by R' Chayim Halevi Soloveytsik, may he live a long and happy life, amen, head of the Brisk community's rabbinic court; the Gaon R' Tsvi Hirsh Rabinovits, the righteous one of blessed memory, head of the Kovno community's rabbinic court; the Gaon R' Moshe Danishevski, the righteous one of blessed memory, head of the Slobodka community's rabbinic court; the Gaon Yakov David Vilavski, may he live a long and happy life, amen; the Gaon R' Moshe Shmuel Shapira, may he live a long and happy life, amen, head of the Bobruisk community's rabbinic court; and the aforementioned Gaon R' Barukh Libovits, may he live a long and happy life, amen.


    * Note in original: From the book Ohalei Shem. Translator's note: By Shmuel Noach Gottlieb, 1912, this book includes biographies of 1,500 rabbis who held rabbinical positions at the time of writing. return

A Golden Chain[*]

Translated by Rivka Schiller with Judy Fixler, and by Yaacov David Shulman

My father, my teacher and rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Ingerleyb, of blessed memory, was promoted to head of the Radzivilov Jewish community's religious court. At the age of 23, he received his rabbinic ordination (teaching permit) from the famous R' Shlome Kluger, of blessed memory, from the city of Brody, the author of the religious tome Tuv Taam Vadaat [Good Discernment and Knowledge] and many other religious tomes known within rabbinic literature. And at the time when my father, of blessed memory, received rabbinic ordination from him, the aforementioned Gaon, before those standing before him, he praised my father, of blessed memory, with these words: “This young man is the offspring of Talmudic scholars and righteous people from the triple bond [i.e., the People of Israel, the Land of Israel, and the Faith of Israel]. And he knows the religious tome Peri Megadim [a commentary] on the Shulchan Arukh [Prepared Table], Orach Chayim [Manner of Life], and Yoreh Deah [Compiled Opinions] by heart just as a Jew who knows the prayer “Ashrei,” which he is accustomed to saying three times a day; and therefore I ordained him with my whole heart and soul; may his merit protect us:

In 5633 [1873], he was appointed rabbinic head of the Radzivilov religious court, and his rabbinic writing spanned several years; and there is no way to describe the degree of esteem in this text; and there is no way to convey the love and affection from a written text. And what authority was given to him. And it was written there that he would adjudicate all matters of Jewish law and regulations in managing and administering the institutions; he would have the power and authority to add new regulations and abolish them as he saw fit, without any objections from anyone. As for salary, the rabbi would receive 10 Russian rubles per week, untaxed meat and alcoholic beverages; income from religious marriages and divorces would be divided–two parts to the rabbi and one part to the religious judges. I had this document in my possession, and it is a shame that I lost it in my itinerant movement; that I wandered from country to country, from the city of Akkerman, Bessarabia, to the city of Bucharest, the capital of Romania. In the first year after he was appointed head of the religious court, there was an incident during the Shavuot holiday. My father, of blessed memory, had a large, nice residence with a study hall in it, and the windows of his study hall faced the town's Great Synagogue. On Shavuot, it was raining during the morning prayers. From his window, my father, of blessed memory, saw three wealthy individuals who were some of the most well–known Enlightened of that generation–I do not wish to publicize their names, for two reasons.

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(1) Because it is forbidden to speak ill of the dead and (2) so as not to embarrass their family members. When my father, of blessed memory, saw through the window that these people opened their umbrellas as they returned home from the synagogue, because of the rain and downpour, he opened the window and asked them to please throw them into the synagogue yard and not to violate the holiday in public and in his presence. He explained that he was responsible for their deeds, as stated in the Gemara, Tractate Sabbath, “Anyone who has in his capacity to admonish the residents of his city and does not admonish them is held accountable for his townsmen's sins.” Right away, two of them threw the umbrellas into the synagogue yard. One was not willing to listen to the rabbi and died that same year, God help us, and did not live out the year. This was enough to show how my father, of blessed memory, fulfilled what is written in the Torah, “Do not fear man.” It is written in the holy Torah in the portion of Kedoshim, “Do not defer to the great, but judge your fellow fairly.” Thus it is written, “You shall rebuke your fellow man, and you shall not bear a sin because of him.”

My father, of blessed memory, had inherited from his father, my forebear, the righteous, the head of the Radzivilov yeshiva, 18 pouches, each affixed with a piece of parchment bearing in Assyrian script which charity was placed within it. For example: “Needy Brides' Fund,” “Redeeming Captives,” “Rabbi Meir Baal Ha–Nes,” “Education Tuition for Orphans and Needy,” “Kin Support,” “Charity for the Town's Poor,” “Charity for the Poor of Other Towns,” “Charity for Visiting the Sick,” “Charity for Medications for Poor Patients,” “Pouch for Needy Torah Scholars,” “Yeshiva Support,” “Purim Charity for Beggars,” “Passover Charity for the Poor,” “Pouch for Unforeseen Hardship That Might Befall the Town,” “For Unforeseen Hardship That Might Befall Another Town,” “Pouch for Jewish Soldiers in the Military,” “Charity Dedicated to an Old Age Home,” and “Funeral Expense for the Poor.” There were 18 pouches. My father, of blessed memory, used these pouches and discreetly gave to the needy so they would not be embarrassed. He would pay a monthly salary yo the orphans' teachers and those who supported the orphans and the poor. After his death, the teachers lamented, saying, “Who is going to pay the orphans' tuition?” Then my father's charitable deeds were revealed, because he had done it all as discreetly as possible.

My father, of blessed memory, was loved and adored by all his family members, all the rabbis of his generation, and all his kin and acquaintances from various Hasidic sects. And whenever he visited a different town, all the townspeople would come to greet him and get a blessing from him.

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My great uncle, the Magid R' Avraham of Turiysk, author of Magen Avraham [Shield of Avraham], liked him very much, and when his followers from Poland and Lublin province would pass near the town of Ustilug, by the Bug River, the Polish Bug, on their way to see him, he would ask them if they had visited the rabbi of Ustilug, saying that it should be known that he is a miracle worker like me. “And you could be helped by his blessings as you could by my blessings.” He liked him that much. From here it is known and understood how his relatives and acquaintances and rabbis liked him; all the more so the people surrounding him, his admirers and followers of various sects.

Two days before his death, he asked that a telegram be sent to his eldest son, my brother, Rabbi Yisrael Duvid Ingerleyb, of blessed memory, asking that he take his place as rabbi of Radzivilov, that he come to Hrubieszów. He calculated with precision that the following day he would certainly take the train from Radzivilov to the city of Chelm, and there was no additional train from Chelm to the town of Hrubieszów. And it was 60 kilometers from there to Hrubieszów, and according to his calculation, he said that he would arrive in two days at two o'clock in the afternoon. And that is precisely how it happened. He also instructed that his will not be opened until this son arrived. My father, of blessed memory, had a small box that at the time they called a pretty shkatulka [Russian for “box”] in his inheritance from his father, my forebear, may his memory be for a blessing in the next world, with closed double lids. And not a single person from his household approached this box to see what was in it. Before his passing, he said that he had a will inside this very box, the aforementioned shkatulka. When my brother, the aforementioned rabbi of blessed memory of Radzivilov, arrived, they opened up this box and found the will inside it. So it was that an ownership right was issued by the Hebron religious court of law and with the seal of the religious court of law saying that herein and with this certificate of approval that has been issued by the judges with the seal of the great religious court of law in Jerusalem how, one of the grandsons of the righteous R' Duvid Lelever, of blessed memory, who sold four ells of land that he had in Hebron as an inheritance from his grandfather, the aforementioned R' Duvid Lelever, of blessed memory, for 300 Russian rubles, which he sold to Rabbi Eliezer Ingerleyb, head of the Radzivilov Jewish community's religious court; and, with witnesses and their signatures, the religious court confirms that the seller received all the money and that the aforementioned four ells of land belong to the rabbi of Radzivilov. I recall the Hebron religious court's seal, which was green and bore the witnesses' signatures, and the Jerusalem religious court's seal was red and had the witnesses' signatures. How awful, astonishing, and surprising it was to all the onlookers at that moment, and particularly for my righteous mother, may peace be upon her, who cried bitterly about this to an indescribable degree; and who, when she calmed down, related before us and everyone who was there at that moment how she remembered this man, the righteous rabbi from Lelev's grandson, coming to Radzivilov. For several days he was a guest in the home of my father, of blessed memory, and it is a given that he was a fitting guest for my father, of blessed memory. He would tell my father how it was that he had land in Hebron in his inheritance from his grandfather, and that if a buyer were to come upon him, he would sell it to him so that he would not need to travel overseas to collect money, as he needs money to marry off his daughter. This is what my mother, may peace be upon her, remembered.

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But if my father, of blessed memory, was interested and purchased it, my mother, may peace be upon her, did not know about this until that very moment. It was astounding: my father, of blessed memory, was then 25 and was interested in spending so much money on this. For 300 rubles was a large sum of money then, even for wealthy people. Especially for rabbis of the Jewish Nation. And then inside this box they also found a small linen sack attached to a letter in which my father wrote that in this sack was some soil from this land that he had received along with the ownership right from the aforementioned. And then they found a sash that he had in his inheritance from his forebear, the righteous Rabbi Barukh of Medzhibozh, of blessed memory, from his forebear, the Baal Shem Tov, may his memory be for a blessing in the next world. My father, of blessed memory, requested in his will that this soil be placed in his grave and that he be dipped in a kosher ritual bath three times and wrapped with this sash following the purification of his body, and then that several rubles be distributed to poor people around his bed. And also, as for all the money found in the aforementioned 18 pouches as an inheritance from his father, his forebear of blessed memory from Radzivilov, to distribute the money from every pouch according to what was written on it and not to switch from one charity to another charity, and to place the empty pouches in his grave. That was the entire content of the will. And thus they did everything written in the will. Before the funeral, an order was issued by the rabbi, the Gaon Henta of blessed memory, to assemble and participate in the funeral and to close the shops and workshops until after the funeral, indicating mourning and sorrow, and to pay last respects to the deceased. And thus all the townspeople participated; and thus people arrived from the entire vicinity, as did the important residents of Ustilug. And hundreds of thousands arrived, and it was not possible to walk in the street. Only with the [help of] police officers did they walk the deceased's coffin to the Great Synagogue. My brother, of blessed memory, eulogized him; and following him, the great chief rabbi of the town eulogized him, and throughout the eulogy the people bellowed in their great sobbing until the synagogue beadle was forced to pound several times with a hammer to calm and silence the cries and sobs so that it was possible to hear the final words of the aforementioned great rabbi of blessed memory's eulogy. And in his praise and eulogy, he mentioned the ownership right that was buried with him. And the eulogizer brought down a citation from one of the rabbinic commentaries that speaks in praiseworthy terms about the Land of Israel; that one who has four ells of land in the Land of Israel, “and He will appease His Land and His people,” one who is placed and buried in the Land of Israel, even though he is buried outside Israel. I do not recall which commentary stated this or where in the Talmud this reference appears. The great rabbi, of blessed memory, concluded with these words: “Look and see the greatness of the deceased, who fulfilled the statement of our rabbinic sages, three types of blessings: If a contemptible person chances on you, drag him into the religious house of study. Should this gain him the victory [i.e., over his evil impulse], well and good; but if not, let him read the Shema. Should this gain him the victory, well and good; but if not, let him reflect upon the day of [his] death. And the deceased rabbi, when he was yet only 25 years old, reflected upon the day of [his] death and for 300 rubles purchased 4 ells of land for himself in the Land of Israel in Hebron, near the Cave of the Patriarchs, and secretly made a will. Now, the bill of ownership of the land and some of the soil from this land will be placed on him in his grave, and we will be able to say of him, happy is he who is virtuous and attains this point; and his righteousness, Torah, and virtue will stand him, his offspring, and all of us in good stead for eternity. Amen.”

[Page 47]

I heard from my brother–in–law, Rabbi Yitschak Lerner, of blessed memory, of Radzivilov that once my grandfather, of blessed memory, was asked to come to the city of Kremenets, I forget why. At that time, my great–uncle, the Magid of Turiysk, Rabbi Avraham, of blessed memory, author of Magen Avraham on the Torah, had come to the city of Kremenets. And it was then the law of the land that the righteous were forbidden to travel from their place of residence to another city. In their place of residence, they were allowed to receive their followers, even by the thousands and tens of thousands, but not in another city. This law resulted from the dispute between the Hasidim and mitnagdim, as described in Bet Rebbe, the biography of the rabbi of Lyady, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, of blessed memory, author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch Harav. This law was instituted after he was freed from prison (see there). And this is not the place to expound on that matter. When my great–uncle, the Magid of Turiysk, came to the city of Kremenets, the city official told him to go back home in accordance with the law. Therefore, when my grandfather was asked to this city, his relatives were afraid to allow him to travel to Kremenets lest he be treated disrespectfully, as the Magid of Turiysk, of blessed memory, had been. When my grandfather, of blessed memory, received a second letter of introduction from Kremenets, the beadle and sexton sent back a letter saying that my grandfather, of blessed memory, did not want to travel there, for his own reasons. Meanwhile, the rumor spread among the Hasidim that the city official who had told the Magid, of blessed memory, to return home had done so due to the influence of the rabbi, righteous one, and famous author, R' Yitschak Ber Levinson (RBY”L; peace be upon him), author of Efes Damim, Zerubavel, and Bikurei RBY”L. Therefore, Rabbi Y. of Radzivilov did not want to come to this city. At last, matters came to the attention of the pious Rabbi Yitschak Ber Levinson (peace be upon him). As the saying has it, “Your confidante has his own confidante.” Then the pious RBY”L (peace be upon him) wrote a letter to my grandfather, of blessed memory, asking him not to believe this rumor, saying that it was not true and that he should come to the city of Kremenets, and that RBY”L and his colleagues would be responsible for upholding his honor. Of course, after receiving this letter from the wise RBY”L, of blessed memory, my grandfather, of blessed memory, traveled there. Then the wise rabbi (peace be upon him) came to him among the visitors, and my grandfather, of blessed memory, accorded him great honor. And the pious RBY”L would tell all the visitors standing there: “Everyone knows that I am not a Hasid and I do not pay any visits to the rabbis who come here. So why have I come to visit this rabbi? I have sufficient cause to do so.” He then told, “When I was a young man, I married a woman from the city of Yampol”–which is close to our city. “At that time, this rabbi's grandfather, Rabbi Yosile Yampoler, of blessed memory–the present rabbi is named after him), was still alive. I will tell you what I remember. My father–in–law was a passionate, faithful follower of the rabbi, but I was far from all of Hasidism. And every time my father–in–law, peace be upon him, returned from the rabbi, he demanded that I accompany him to the rabbi. Once he came and told me that the rabbi had asked him, ‘Where is your son–in–law? Why is he hiding from me?’ I decided that I would not go and that it was better for me to learn Torah, because ‘Torah learning is equal to [all other commandments].’ [At the time,] some learned friends and I were studying Rambam's Guide to the Perplexed together.

[Page 48]

We came to a very difficult passage. It was well known that the rabbi was an outstanding scholar. I told myself that I would test the rabbi with this passage. If he could explain it to me, then I would know that he was learned and [truly] a rabbi. I came to him with the Guide to the Perplexed. He put on his glasses, because he was already very old. He looked at the book and gave a satisfactory answer. A short while later, the rabbi passed on, and I regretted that I had not gone to him earlier, because I had been in Yampol for three years. And since I know that you are his grandson, I thought it right to pay you a visit. And as for why I wrote to you to come here and that I would be responsible to uphold your honor, there is another reason for that. It is because I heard an upsetting rumor in this city that my friends and students or I were involved in the fact that the Magid of Turiysk had to return home. That is a total falsehood. Maybe some foolish opponent was responsible for that. I am not guilty of such a terrible thing, heaven forbid. Maybe it was caused by jealousy and hatred. As to the question of how I can take on the responsibility of upholding your honor, the answer is that we all know that you do not have any opponents and enemies, and no one is jealous of you or hates you. Who among us cares if the poor of Kremenets give you money? What will this rabbi do with the money? He will not buy golden utensils and jewelry for himself and his family, but he will distribute it to his 18 charity funds. Then the money from the poor of Kremenets will be distributed to the poor of Radzivilov and Dubno and the surrounding area. And who would oppose that?” He turned to everyone standing there and asked, “Who can be opposed to this rabbi? And so I am capable of undertaking the responsibility of upholding his honor.” And so my grandfather, of blessed memory, stayed in Kremenets for 10 days, and no one protested. And he returned home with great honor.


    * Note in original: From the religious tome Golden Chain, by Rabbi Shlome Gur–Arye (Ingerleyb). return

Reb Yakov Ger, of Blessed Memory

by Tsvi Zagoroder

Translated by Yaacov David Shulman

I remember the following: a little over 50 years ago, a Jew named Yakov Ger lived in Brody. Every day, and sometimes twice a day, he would come in by train, stay about half an hour, and leave. He worked as a kind of mailman, bringing the mail from Brody to Radzivilov and vice versa. He would get home at 6:30 p.m. and go to a fixed location in town where people were waiting to retrieve letters, packages, money, and so forth. They would also give him valuable items–letters, packages, and so forth–to deliver to the merchants in Radzivilov. He was highly trusted.

[Page 49]

I was very surprised that the tax inspectors never questioned him. I never got an answer to this question, and I didn't know why Yakov Ger[1] had the privilege of avoiding inspection by the tax authorities.

R' Yakov Ger was a very pious, upright man, and it never occurred to me to find out why he was called “Ger.” And now, after so many years, I happened to get hold of a book written by Shlome Gur–Arye (Ingerleyb), now rabbi of Tel Aviv, the great–grandson of R' Itsikel (may the memory of a tzaddik be for a blessing), who served as rabbi about a hundred years ago in Radzivilov. This book revealed the source of the name “Ger.” Here is the story:[*]

When I was 17 years old, I was a houseguest of my brother–in–law, Rabbi Y. Lerner, and my sister, the rabbi's wife, of blessed memory, in Radzivilov. One day, as I was learning Talmud, a 60–year–old man came to the door and asked me, “Are you the son of Rabbi Eliezer'l, of blessed memory?” When I answered that I was, he threw his arms around me and kissed me repeatedly. Who was this, and what was it all about? At that moment, my sister, peace be upon her, came and said, “This is our good friend, Yakov Ger of Brody, whom our grandfather, of blessed memory, converted to Judaism.” Afterward, my brother–in–law, of blessed memory, told me the story: When this person was six years old, orphaned of his father, he was kidnapped. At that time, during the reign of Czar Nicholas I, because of the terrible laws, small boys would be kidnapped. These Jewish children were handed over to non–Jews, who would raise them to be faithful Christians. And when they grew up, they would serve as soldiers in the army. When this boy was kidnapped, he was sent to a village near Moscow, where he grew up among Christians. It was then considered a good deed for a childless Christian to take such a Jewish boy and convert him to Christianity, to raise him, educate him, and give him a Christian name, and then send him to serve in the army. For this, the czar would give the man gifts and thanks. This is well known to knowledgeable people who have read Russia's history. As a boy, Yakov was talented. He could write and read Russian. After he graduated from public school, he became an officer among them. Afterward, he was appointed to work in their ministry of security. There he found the file that recorded the names of the children from the Zhitomir district. In it, he found himself described as Yakov, a native of Radzivilov, with the names of his father and mother and their family. He began to take an interest in this, and a spark of a Jewish spirit entered his heart. Although he knew that taking an interest in this was dangerous, completely forbidden by the law of the king and the land, he nevertheless felt impelled to send a letter from his office to the Radzivilov police, asking if there was such a family there.

[Page 50]

He did this, and of course the police discovered that the head of the family (his father) was dead, but they found his widow's name and address. When he received this response from the police, he sent a letter in Russian directly to his mother, asking a few questions. She brought the letter to my grandfather, of blessed memory, understandably filled with fear and terror that this might be a trick by someone identifying himself as Yakov, her son–but who knew if this was truly her son or someone who knew her son's name, who wanted to do her some harm? My grandfather, of blessed memory, advised her to write back immediately that she was wealthy and that my grandfather, of blessed memory, was her brother–in–law and the town's rabbi and that she wanted him to come to Radzivilov, where he could live in comfort, and to ask that before he came, he should send her a telegram letting her know what day he would arrive at the address of her brother–in–law, Rabbi Ingerleyb. With the help of a professional, she wrote a literate letter in Russian, and my grandfather advised her and blessed her that she should soon see [Yakov] as a Jew. He told her that if she got another letter or telegram, she should immediately tell him about it. A month later, she received a telegram saying that on such–and–such a day of such–and–such a month [Yakov] would come to see her. She brought this news to my grandfather, of blessed memory. He was glad to hear it. He told her to be at home on the day that [Yakov] came, and he told [my] grandmother, peace be upon her, to dress in her beautiful clothes, with golden rings on her fingers. And he also told [his] sons that on that day they should wear their Sabbath clothes and receive [Yakov] with warm kisses and treat him as though he were truly their flesh and blood. And in the house the table should be set with all sorts of good food, fruits, and good wine, as on a holiday. And the purpose of all of this was to persuade him to stay with them and convert. When [Yakov] arrived, the house was filled with joy and gladness, and they did everything as [my grandfather] had told them. When [Yakov] came to my grandfather's house, of blessed memory, a person who knew languages served as interpreter. The next day and the day after that, my grandfather asked [Yakov] some questions through the interpreter, which [Yakov] answered willingly. Afterward, among other questions, [my grandfather] asked him if he was married, and he answered, “No.” Then my grandfather, of blessed memory, said that he had an attractive, educated young woman in his family, and tomorrow they would summon the girl to meet him to see if he liked her, and that she could speak Russian. But he said that he had two weeks' vacation and he must return to Moscow to arrange his affairs because he was afraid that otherwise he might be punished. Then my grandfather asked him why he needed to return. My grandfather said he intended to give him 500 rubles as a dowry and that through his acquaintances he could smuggle [Yakov] over the border whenever he wanted. [My grandfather said that] he would come to Brody to arrange the wedding and set [Yakov] up with some income. And with such words he persuaded him, until he agreed to everything. A few days later, they smuggled him, the bride, and his elderly mother over the border to the city of Brody. And my grandfather, of blessed memory, also traveled there and gave them the dowry.

[Page 51]

They immersed him in a ritual bath, and [my grandfather] converted him in accordance with the words of the holy Torah, and he arranged the marriage for them and hired a teacher to teach him Torah and commandments. And he accepted the Torah and commandments with love. This was Yakov Ger. He attained great success in business, and he grew wealthy and rich and became an outstanding, wealthy merchant with sons and daughters. Afterward, whenever he came to Radzivilov on business, he would come to the house of my brother–in–law, the rabbi, of blessed memory, with gifts, and he gave an appropriate gift to each family member. And the next day he would come to receive a going–away blessing from my father–in–law, of blessed memory. He would hug and kiss me again with all his heart, and he would tell me that “there is no one as righteous as your grandfather.” And he would say this with many tears on his face. And he was called Yakov Ger of Brody, peace be upon him.


    * Note in original: The story comes from the book Golden Chain, by Rabbi Shlome Gur–Arye (Ingerleyb) return

  1. Translator's note: Ger (literally, “stranger”) means “convert” here. return

Genealogy of Rabbi Yitschak Lerner,
of Blessed Memory

by Pinchas Verthaym, R' Yitschak Lerner's Nephew

Translated by Ellen Garshick

Father's Side: Mother's Side:
Rabbi Mordekhay'le Lerner of Shumsk, son of Mrs. Reyzele, wife of R' Mordekhay'le of Shumsk, daughter of R' Yosele of Radzivilov, son of
Rabbi Mikhele Lerner of Shumsk, son of R' Eliezer of Radzivilov,[1] son of
Rabbi Mordekhay of Lakhovtsy, of blessed memory, student of R' Yisrael of Teofipol, son of
R' Shlome of Karlin R' Yosef of Yampol, son of the magid of Zloczow

R' Yitschak of Radzivilov, son of the magid R' Yechiel Mikhel of Zloczow, was born in 1711 and died in 1826.

His son, R' Dan, was trained by the rabbi of Opatow, R' Avraham Yehoshue Heshel (author of Ohev Yisrael).

R' Dan's daughter married the son of R' Yosele of Ustilug, who was the son of R' Mordekhay of Nesukhoyezhe (the magid of Nesukhoyezhe).

This wedding is known in the Hasidic world as “the great Ustilug wedding.” In attendance were the bride's grandfather, the righteous one of Opatow, and the groom's grandfather, the rabbi of Nesukhoyezhe. At this wedding, extensive discussions were held on the law of the Hasidism of Przysucha. According to tradition, hundreds of rabbis and righteous men and tens of thousands of Hasidim attended. Also known is the story of the “White Cossack.”

[Page 52]

Chane, granddaughter of R' Yosele of Ustilug and daughter of R' Pinchas of Ustilug, married R' Yosele of Radzivilov, son of R' Eliezer of Radzivilov, who was the son of R' Yisrael of Teofipol, son of R' Yosef of Yampol, son of the magid of Zloczow. Rabbi Eliezer of Radzivilov died in his prime, and R' Yosele, orphaned from his father at the age of four, was brought up by his grandfather, R' Yisrael of Teofipol.

R' Yosef of Radzivilov was the rabbi of Lanovtsy. He then moved to Radzivilov. He served time in prison under a sentence imposed by the Russians. When he was released, he fled to Galina, Galicia, where he died in 1875.

R' Yosef of Radzivilov had three children. His first son, R' Eliezer Yingerleyb (Gur Arye), was rabbi of Radzivilov and then of Ustilug; he died in 1898 in Hrubieszow. His daughter, Sore Treyne, was the wife of Rabbi Yitschak Verthaym of Bendery. R' Eliezer Yingerleyb of Ustilug's daughter married Rabbi Yitschak Lerner, who was the son of R' Mordekhay of Shumsk and, on his mother's (Mrs. Reyzel's) side, grandson of Rabbi Yosef of Radzivilov, who served as rabbi of Radzivilov until the Holocaust.


  1. Footnote in original: From the genealogy of the Baal Shem Tov, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing: R' Eliezer of Radzivilov's wife, Feyge Sosye, was the daughter of R' Berko Tulchiner and his wife, Reyzele, who was the daughter of R' Barukh of Medzhibozh; R' Barukh was the son of Hodele, the Baal Shem Tov's daughter. return

Radzivilov in Russia's First Hebrew Newspapers

by M. Sh. Geshuri

Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman

On the Fire in the City, Av 5642 (1882)
Pinchas Lerner

From Radzivilov comes the report that the fire that broke out there was catastrophic for our people and that many have been left with nothing, not even the basic necessities of life.– HaMelits, 1882, Vol. 29

On Sunday, 6 Menachem Av, a fire broke out in the city and consumed nearly 150 houses and another 150 shops, 6 study halls, and public bathhouses. An elderly woman was burned at her dooe. Yesterday, the leaders of the Nirenshteyn and Kalir families came from Brody and collected contributions to benefit the victims of the fire…. A few Christians also participated in the effort to help the victims.– HaMelits, 1882, Vol. 31

[Page 53]

In 1991 in Radzivilov (Volhynia district), it was reported that a town resident sailed to America. He spent some time there, but life there did not suit him. So he managed to board a Russian ship sailing to Japan. There he went into business with an elite mercantile shipping company (Kutiki), which transported goods from Bahrain and hauled them to supply the Russian warships passing through Japanese waters to Vladivostok. After a few years, he became immensely wealthy and began to shower gifts on his relatives in our town.

After a time, he married a woman from our town, a daughter of one of our town's most honorable women, who traveled to Japan to be with him. It was known that there was no Jewish community in Japan, so the wedding had to be in Singapore, which is in India [sic]. But things did not go well, so it seems, because now there is a notice in every Hebrew newspaper that a certain rabbi from San Francisco in America was asked to come to Japan to arrange a divorce for a man named Gintsburg. Wasn't he born in our town? Now this Gintsburg comes from Yokohama, Japan, to visit his elderly mother and his relatives and to spread his “experience” in matters of charity in our town–10,000 rubles and more from his tainted hand.

In our little town, which is situated on the border, and where many inhabitants are so enlightened that they don't have to learn anything or forget anything, they have so far remained quite removed from the current nationalist movement. Neither of those two allegiances exist among us, nor is there anyone devoted to one particular movement, but none of the “elite” can be accounted for in our town. It is perfectly clear that no one pays any attention to national culture, but really, it is quite the opposite. In certain matters, we have reached great heights: in dressing luxuriously, playing cards, and having women ride bicycles. This last matter also was considered an insult to Israel's honor, because seeing these free–spirited women, including Jewish women, going around on bicycles was unheard of. However, on bicycles, the Jewish women gained better access to public places, even places in which Jewish women are forbidden to be… . Perhaps someone will provide an answer to this dilemma? Who knows?

HaMelits, 1899, Vol. 154; publisher: M. Sh. Geshuri

[Page 54]

From “Motil, Son of Peysi, the Cantor”[1]

Translated by Ellen Garshick

Everyone is going now to America. That is what Yoyneh, our nephew the bagel maker, wrote. And he is also going to America. He is on his way. He is in fact. He is already at the border. It is not same border we ran. Ours had a bad reputation. They steal your linens there. They steal them in other places too, but they don't hold you at knifepoint. True, we've heard of borders where you are stripped naked and robbed of everything. You aren't killed though. That only almost happened to us. Except that we would have died of fright first. It was our luck someone fired a gun. I must have told you about that. We can hardly remember it anymore.

Not that our women aren't still telling the world about the miracle that happened at the border. But Elye and Pinye never let them finish. They think they can tell it better. Pinye wants to write it up for the papers. He's even begun a poem about it. I've told you he writes poems. This one goes:

The town of Radzivil's the size of a yawn
With a border that has to be run before dawn–
And while you are running it thieves run away
With all that you have and leave you to say:
“Thank God that it didn't turn out to be worse!
We might have ended our days in a hearse
With a slit in our throats and a slash in our purse!”

[Page 55]

Pinye says that's just the first stanza. It will improve as it goes along. He has a poem about Brody, too. And about Lemberg and Cracow, all in rhyme. He is the devil for rhymes, Pinye is. He's even written some about Taybl. I know them by heart.


  1. Translator's note: The English translation here differs slightly from the one in the yizkor book., which appears to come from a different edition of the story. This translation is from Sholem Aleichem, The Letters of Menakhem–Mendl and Sheyne–Sheyndl; and Motl, the Cantor's Son, translated and with an introduction by Hillel Halkin, New Haven: Yale University Press, c2002. return


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