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[Page 669]

R'Henoch Yanover z”l

Shimon Zuker (New York)

Translated by Yocheved Klausner




As other towns in Poland, Wloclawek also had people, whose spirit shone with much eloquence, Torah study and good qualities. In the orthodox environment in our shtetl, that place was occupied by R'Henoch Yanover z”l.

Apart from the fact that he was erudite in the Talmud and Judicators [SHAS and Poskkim], he was one of the first Hassidim, who were close to the Sfat Emet ztz”l, the old Rabbi of Gur. He had come from Warsaw to Wloclawek, which was at the time without Hassidim, and was soon accepted by the population as a leader. He was far from seeking honors; he excelled in modesty.

The first work to which he devoted himself with great zeal was education. He was the founder of the heder Yesodei HaTorah, work that consumed much time, effort and money. The heder was the school of hundreds of children, many of them who grew up to be great Torah scholars. It was his daily main occupation; often he would leave in the middle of the day his regular business and go to the heder, since even the smallest detail there would interest him. I remember, when I learned there as a small boy, all pupils knew that R'Henoch Yanover would give 5 coins to each pupil who knew by heart a “page of the Gemara”. Every afternoon one could find in his shop young boys who were examined by him on a Gemara Page.

A special chapter in R'Henoch Yanover's life was the community life. With the establishment of the official Jewish Community in Wloclawek, R'Henoch became the chairman of the orthodox Jewry, organized by the Aguda. The organization contained all Jewish institutions.

It is worth mentioning that R' Henoch was pressured, with the help of the authorities, to accept the nomination of president of the community, but without any success. The arguments of the young Aguda members, that as president of the community he would be able to assist the Jews in town did not help. The only thing he agreed to do was to go to Gur and ask the rabbi there. He returned a happy man, because the Rabbi of Gur agreed with him.

As a delegate of the community, R'Henoch was in contact with the authorities, first of all in order to act against restrictions. His handsome and dignified face, his long white beard and sidecurls, his thick eyebrows commanded everywhere – Jews or Christians – respect.

R'Henoch had a specially respected place in the Hassidic world, especially among the Hassidim of the Gur dynasty. In Wloclowek there was a Hassidic Shtiebel (a Hassidic synagogue) with some 20 minyanim of Jews (minyan = a prayer quorum of 10 people). A large part of these people were well–known learners and Hassidic personalities, for example R'Elazar Flasker z”l, R'Alter Prizant z”l, R'Moshe David Fuchs, R'Hershel Zhimnovode the slaughterer and many more. Yet the congregation would not begin the prayers before R'Henoch arrived. When he came in, room was made for him right away. Often he would give a sermon on Shabat before the Torah reading. He would speak about the Agudat Israel, about education, awaking the crowd.

It is worth mentioning the following fact: when I organized for the first time, before Rosh Hashana, a truck to Gur, to transport more people for a cheaper ticket, R'Henoch Yanover asked me a day before the trip why I did not include him. I explained to him that I thought that it would be too difficult for an elderly man like him. I was struck when I heard his answer: “How could you think that I could not go? If I had to walk I would do it.” And he began to speak about Hassidism and said that the trip itself is very important, because the minute one begins to travel he becomes connected with the Tzadik of the generation, “therefore I want to go with you” – he categorically ended the conversation. I shall avoid describing here the “comfort” of the travel in the poor truck, with the benches taken from the Shtiebel and the torn cover; but for R'Henoch it was

[Page 671]

sweet and fine. By the way, old Hassidim told me, that the Rabbi of Gur often asked whether R'Henoch conducted a “Tish” in Wloclawek.

R'Henoch considered the work of Agudat Israel a mitzvah, equal to any of the 613 mitzvot. He was the chairman of the Agudat Israel in town and participated in its local and world conferences. In his sermons he would admonish the listeners not to show any hatred to other parties, since he believed that in the end all parties would unite and form one group [‘agudah’]….

He lived his own life conforming to all the commandments of the Shulchan Aruch [the Jewish Codex of Law]. Very often, on the “Third Meal of Shabat” his house would be full of guests and he would conduct discussions on Torah. During Holidays his house would be full of Gur Hassidim, learners and simple people – each of them was happy to hear from him a novel explanation, a “word of Torah,” since everyone considered him a Rabbi.

He really behaved like “a good Jew”: his eyes were looking down and his heart was striving up. During winter Friday nights he would come in late for the Kiddush, since he was busy studying.

Very often I would look for an opportunity to go to the synagogue with R'Henoch Yanover, so that on the way he could “catch a discussion” with him. Once, on Passover morning, as I was walking to shul with R'Henoch z”l, he secretly told me that he had a disturbed Seder. The servant–girl did not want to sit at the Seder Table, because she was too shy. R'Henoch waited several hours until she did, because he intended to show that in this night of freedom and deliverance any Jewish girl can be free to do what she desired…

R'Henoch was a great Jew and perished at the foul hands of the murderers.”

Woe for the loss of those who are so rare and hard to find!


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