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[Page 17]

Kurow and its Great Men

by Rabbi Aryeh Mordechai Rabinovitch, Jerusalem

Translated by Yael Chaver

Rabbi Aryeh Mordechai Rabinovich, Rabbi and Head of the Community Court of Kurow and its district, and now a rabbi in Jerusalem, Batei Varshe and its neighborhood, was educated by, and studied with, his father, the Righteous Genius, our teacher Rabbi Yaakov Aharon, Head of the Community Court of Ostrowo, Poland (may his righteous memory be for a blessing.)

He was the son–in–law and student of the Righteous Talmudic scholar Rabbi Y. Eybeshits, Head of the Community Court of Losice (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), and served there as Rabbi and Head of the Community Court under his father–in–law.[1] (Following his authorization to decide matters of rabbinic law, by the great geniuses, the Genius Yitzchak Ze'ev Halevi Soloveitchik of Brisk, the Genius of Łykowo and Zduńska–Wola, the Genius Shneur–Zalmen Fradkin of Lublin, and the geniuses Rabbi Yitzchak Faygenboym and Rabbi Petachya Horenblas, rabbinic judge and halachic judge in Warsaw, may their memory be for a blessing.[2] He was later Rabbi and Head of the Community Court in Kosowo, Rabbi and Head of the Community Court in Kurow and its district, Rabbi and Head of the Community Court in Bnei Brak, in the Land of Israel, and now serves as Rabbi in the Batei Varshe neighborhood and its surroundings.[3]

* * *

With God's help[4]

Kurow is an ancient town. Jews began living there centuries ago, as shown by a gravestone that is about 600 years old, which used to be located in front of the synagogue. Before the First World War, the Russian government ordered all the inscriptions on the gravestones in the old Jewish cemetery of Kurow to be copied. In the process, two gravestones were discovered of students of the holy Rabbi Isaac Luria Ashkenazi (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), who died on the 5th day of Av 5335.[5] Apparently, these students were in the area and died while they were “exiling” themselves, as holy men used to do, wandering from place to place as a form of mortification; according to the Mishna, exile grants forgiveness (Sanhedrin 37). The sages had a well–known saying that anyone mentioning a righteous man has a duty to bless and praise him. Blessings and praise are none other than recounting his greatness, and I will therefore offer one story.

Maran Yosef Karo (author of Beit Yosef) (may his righteous memory be for a blessing) once invited the Holy Ari for a festive meal at his house.[6] The Ari agreed, on condition that he not be served any hindquarters; he was careful not to eat hindquarter meat because of the veins.[7] The host reassured him that he need not worry, as he himself had removed the veins. In the course of the meal, the Ari pushed away the meat that he was offered. When the Beit Yosef (may his memory be for a blessing) asked him why he did so, the Ari pointed at a piece of meat with veins.[8] Maran Beit Yosef was sorry, as he thought that he had not been careful enough while removing the veins. As is well known, Maran Beit Yosef was blessed with visits by the Maggid, who appeared to him each night.[9] The Maggid told him, “Don't be sad. It's not your fault–you did the deveining perfectly – but do not compete with this great man and his holy customs: he can find veins even in walls.” (MECh33, 1).[10]

Our town, Kurow, is famous for its well–known scholars who studied and taught in it, and left a legacy in the form of their important books.

 

State of Israel –Ministry of Religions

With God's help, the fourth of Elul, 5712 – 8–25–1952

To
The eminent rabbi Aryeh Mordechai, may he be blessed with a long and good life
Batei Varsha
Jerusalem

Honored Rabbi,

Topic: Memorializing Jewish Communities in the Diaspora

In answer to the letter sent by you, respected teacher, dated 26 Av 5712, I am honored to report that the space dedicated to the Kurow community includes, so far, the following books:

a. Peri Megadim, on Shulchan Aruch 10; bears the name of Avigdor Shabtai Zilbershtrom.[11] b. Kav Hen, by Rabbi Noah of Kurow; bears the name of Akiva Milshteyn. c. Kav Ha–Yashar, bears the name of the town, no note of the author.

Respectfully,
Rabbi Mordechai HaCohen
Chief Assistant to the Director

[Page 18]

Rabbi Aryeh Mordechai Rabinovitch, Rabbi and Head of the Community Court of Kurow and its surroundings. Now Rabbi in Jerusalem. Author of Sefer Ha–Yehudi, Tiferet Yonatan, Klil Tiferet, and Zechuta de–Avraham.[12]

 

As our sages (may their memory be for a blessing) said: “No memorials need to be made for the righteous, their sayings are their memorial” (Jerusalem Talmud, Shekalim 2.5, 11a), and it is thanks to them and their merit that our town gained fame in the Jewish world.[13] It is well known that the few outstanding individuals can testify to the many. The great people that our town had the honor of producing are not only witness to their own qualities but also the qualities of the other residents, people who were close to them and to the spirit of Torah and were God–fearing. Let me mention a few of them.
  1. The Genius, our teacher and rabbi Eliyohu, head of the Community Court of Kurow, author of Har Ha–Carmel Responsa on the four sections of Shulchan Aruch, printed in 1785.[14] The old journal of the Kurow burial society contains the following: “If you go to ask the rabbi whether the lungs of cattle are kosher, etc., do not walk through the area where the rabbi who wrote Har Ha–Carmel is buried, because of his honor; the cemetery was near the slaughterhouse.”[15] This regulation is due to the fact that the author of Har Ha–Carmel made several complicated and restrictive decisions concerning cattle lungs. Later religious authorities made less restrictive decisions, yet as he was the local authority they were careful not to dishonor him and would not walk through the area where he was buried. This is a fine indication of the great esteem in which they held their rabbis. Their memory was powerful even after death.
  2. The holy Genius Rabbi Avrom Abish (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), Head of the Community Court of Kurow, later rabbi in Frankfurt–am–Mein, who composed the book Birkat Avraham.[16] He was world–renowned for his righteousness and innocence. During his tenure as rabbi of Kurow, he had thirteen candlesticks installed on the cantor's stand in the synagogue where he prayed. His reasoning was that when the Holy Maggid of Kozienice visited Kurow and saw the thirteen candles in the synagogue, he said, “A great light shines forth from them” (quoted by the Holy Genius Dov Berish of Biala, may his righteous memory be for a blessing, in his endorsement of Birkat Avraham).[17] It is well known that he attained high levels of holiness and was granted visions from the upper world, even of the prophet Elijah, remembered for the good (see his book).[18]
  3. The Genius and righteous Rabbi Yaakov Aharon (may his memory be for a blessing), Head of the Community Court of Kurow, author of the Beit Yaakov commentary on the Bible. He was a real student of the author of Chavat Daat, as well as of the following famous Hasidic leaders: my ancestor the Holy Jew (may his memory protect us); Rabbi Bunim of Pshischa; the rabbi of Vurka; and the rabbi of Kuzmir, (may their memory protect us).[19] In his book he presents several items of scholarship that he learned from them.
  4. The Genius Rabbi Eliezer of Pultusk recounted that when he was in Warsaw, studying with the author of Hiddushei Ha–Rim (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), the Rabbi of Kurow came to visit them; he was a descendant of the Genius, the author of Pnei Yehoshua.[20] He presented himself as a master of Even Ha–Ezer and of Hoshen Mishpat and the Bsh (as our sages said, a scholar may advertise himself in a place where he is unknown).[21] Rabbi Alter asked him several questions and determined that he had memorized it all (see in ShShK, part 3, page 52).[22]
  5. The Genius Rabbi Yechiel Goldberg (may his memory be for a blessing) was authorized by the greatest scholars of the time to teach and make rabbinical decisions. He was, in fact, a very excellent teacher. As is well known, knowledge of the Torah in and of itself is not sufficient to issue rabbinical decisions. For this,
[Page 19]

A bill of sale from the 19th century, written by Rabbi Yechiel Goldberg, who served as rabbi in Kurow for forty years, and lived to age 88.

 

    a familiarity with the material as well as imagination and innovation are required. Rabbi Goldberg was blessed with these traits. He served as rabbi in Kurow for forty years. May his memory be blessed. His sons followed in his footsteps: Rabbi Shmuel Mendl (may his memory be for a blessing), Rabbi Haim (may his memory be for a blessing), the Genius Rabbi Elimelech who was the head of the community court of Kaminka (may his memory be for a blessing), and Rabbi Sholem, may his memory be for a blessing.
  1. The Genius Rabbi Elimelekh Guterman (may his memory be for a blessing), son of the Genius Rabbi, Head of the Community Court of Janowice, Rabbi of Kurow, was renowned for his zealous study of the Torah and his Hasidic ways. He was the last rabbi before the Holocaust and died along with his entire flock. May God avenge their blood
  2. The leader and teacher Rabbi Shmuel Koriver headed the hasidic community of Kurow.[23] His followers recount: when Maran the Rabbi of Lublin authorized the holy Rabbi Moyshe of Kozienice (may his merit protect us) to lead a community, Rabbi Shmuel was present. Rabbi Moyshe asked Rabbi Shmuel whether he would ask the Rabbi of Lublin to bless him, as righteous men do, Rabbi Shmuel told him, “Don't ask! Look up to heaven, and make the blessing!”[24]
  3. The leader and teacher Rabbi Noah of Kurow, author of Kav Hen¸ had many followers sho followed him with all their hearts and believed that he could deliver them from harm and was superior to all those around him.[25] They would attach notes to his Sukkah, believing that even such notes would result in help from God.
  4. The leader and teacher Rabbi Moyshe Koriver, son of the holy Rabbi Sholem Roke'ach of Belz (may his merit protect us). He is buried there in the new cemetery. While I was Rabbi and Head of the Community Court in Kurow, I lived in the same neighborhood as Rabbi Moyshe. One room of his house faced a cross that was set up by the Christians; I heard people praising Rabbi Moyshe for never eating in that room at night. As Maimonides says, a person fulfilling one Torah commandment in all its details is rewarded by this merit alone in the world to come. Therefore, each of the great sages would choose one commandment to fulfill to its tiniest detail.
[Page 20]
    This Rabbi Moyshe avoided idol worship with all his might. He used to say, “In this room, soup is eaten with the cross.” His intention was to avoid even the shadow that the cross cast into the room.
  1. The father of the Old Rabbi of Kotzk (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), Rabbi Yehuda–Leybush Morgenshtern, was born in Kurow.[26] His father was Menachem Mendel, and his family was renowned: Yehuda Leybush Morgenshtern was famous for his wealth and generosity as well as for his scholarship and righteousness. Rabbi Leybush of Kurow granted complete financial support to an entire bes–medresh and to its ten talmudic scholars.
    When the Nazi murderers succeeded in destroying our beloved town – it was its physical presence alone that they were able to seize and raze. But not its spirit. That will survive in our heart forever. “The synagogues and study halls in Babylonia in which the Torah is read and disseminated shall be relocated in the Land of Israel” (Megillah 29a).[27]
* * *

On April 23, 1952, I was privileged to participate in the first memorial service for the martyrs of our town who were exterminated by the wicked (may their names and memories be blotted out). I also joined in the second service, on April 13, 1953. It is now my privilege to participate in the book commemorating the martyrs of our town (may God avenge their blood) who were murdered for their faith by the Nazis (may the names of the wicked rot).

May God console us in our terrible grief, and may we live to soon witness the arrival of our righteous Messiah.

[signed]Aryeh Mordechai Rabinovitch, Rabbi and Head of the Community Court, Kurow.

Author of the following books: Keter HaYehudi, Tiferet Yonatan, Klil Tiferet, Zechuta deAvraham.[28] Son of the Admor, the Genius and Righteous teacher Rabbi Yitzchak Alter (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), Head of the Community Court of Ostrowo, son of the righteous Rabbi Maharam (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), son of the holy Rabbi, our teacher Rabbi Yehoshua Asher (may his merit protect us), Head of the Community Court of Zelechow and Parisόw, son of the holy Rabbi, Rabbi of all the Jews in Diaspora, our teacher, the Holy Jew of Przysucha (may his merit protect us and our children, Amen).[29]

Son–in–law of the Genius, the Righteous, of the lineage of our teacher the Rabbi Yonatan Eybshitz (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), Head of the Community Court of Losice.


Translator's Footnotes:

  1. This Rabbi Y. Eybeshits may be a descendant of, and named after, the famous Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeschutz (1690–1764), a major Jewish scholar and rabbi in Prague and author of Tiferet Yonatan, a compilation of homiletics on the weekly Torah portion. Return
  2. Yitzchok Ze'ev Halevi Soloveichik (1886–1959), was a renowned Orthodox rabbi and a descendant of the important Soloveichik dynasty of talmudic scholars. I could not identify the Genius of Lykowo and Zdunska–Wola. Return
  3. The redundancies are part of the original text. Return
  4. The acronym that translates as “with God's help” is commonly used by observant Jews at the beginning of every piece of writing. Return
  5. Rabbi Isaac Luria Ashkenazi is considered the father of contemporary Kabbalah. He is often referred to by the acronym Ari. His date of death as given here in the Hebrew numerical equivalents corresponds to July 22, 1575. However, the date usually given for his death is July 15, 1572. Return
  6. Yosef Karo (1488–1575), often referred to in English as Joseph Caro, was the author of the Shulchan Aruch (1563), the most widely accepted compilation of Jewish law ever written. Both he and his contemporary, the Ari, lived in Safed, in the Land of Israel. His book Beit Yosef is a commentary on the Arba'ah Turim, composed in Spain by Jacob Ben Asher in the 14th century. Maran is Aramaic for “our teacher” and is often used for respected rabbis. Return
  7. Observant Jews do not eat cattle veins, a custom first mentioned in the Talmud. The meat therefore undergoes an elaborate process by specially trained handlers to remove these parts. Return
  8. The author of an important sacred book is often referred to by the book's title. Return
  9. Yosef Karo's Maggid was an angelic being, his heavenly mentor. Return
  10. The acronym may refer to the book of sermons Meir Einei Chachamim by the scholar Rabbi Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtze (1851–1928). Return
  11. Peri Megadim is a super commentary by Joseph ben Meir Teomim (18th century) on Shulchan Aruch. I found no information on Kav Hen. Kav Ha–Yashar, by Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Kaidanover (1648–1712), is a popular work of the ethical, educational and cultural Musar movement that developed in the 19th century. Return
  12. Keter HaYehudi is a collection of and commentary on the sayings of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Rabinovitch (1766–1813), known as “The Holy Jew,” who was the founder of the Przysucha sect of Hasidism and an ancestor of the writer. Tiferet Yonatan is a commentary on the Torah, written by Yonatan Eybeshitz (the writer's father–in–law; see Translator's note 1). The reference here may be to a republication of the famous 18th–century work. Klil Tiferet and Zechuta de–Avraham are the names of several rabbinic works, none of which were written in the 20th century; it is difficult to identify these references. Return
  13. The Jerusalem Talmud is a collection of Rabbinic notes on the 2d–century Jewish Mishna that was compiled in the Land of Israel. It is distinct from the Babylonian Talmud, which was compiled in Mesopotamia (known as Babylonia in Jewish sources). The translation is my own. Return
  14. The honorific title “Genius” (gaon) is given to a great Jewish scholar and spiritual leader, starting with spiritual leaders and scholars who headed Talmudic academies that flourished from the 7th to the 13th century in Babylonia and Palestine. The Responsa is a body of written decisions and rulings given by Jewish legal scholars in answer to questions addressed to them. Return
  15. The rabbi of each community is the final authority on matters of kashrut (a set of dietary laws dealing with the foods that Jews are permitted to eat and how those foods must be prepared according to Jewish law). Return
  16. Avrom Abish, better known as Abraham Abusch (1690–1768), was an important Halachic scholar. Birkat Avraham comprises several collections of his writing. Return
  17. Yisroel Hopshteyn (1737–1814), known as the Maggid of Kozienice, was the founder of Kozhnitz Hasidism, and an important hasidic leader in Poland. Dov Berish of Biała was a noted hasidic leader of the early 19th century in Poland. Return
  18. The “upper world” is the location of celestial beings. Return
  19. I could not determine the reference to the Beit Yaakov book. Yaakov ben Yaakov Moshe Lorberbaum (1760–1832) was the author of the commentary Chavat Daat on Shulhan Aruch. Rabbi Bunim of Przysucha (1765–1827) was a key leader of Hasidism in Poland. The Vurka (Warka) and Kuzmir hasidic sects have had several noted rabbis; the text gives no indication as to the identity of these particular rabbis. Return
  20. Yitzchok Meir Alter (1799–1866) was the author of Hiddushei Ha–Rim, a commentary on the Torah and Mishna and the first rabbi of the important Ger hasidic dynasty. Yaakov Yehoshua Falk (1680–1756) was a Polish and German rabbi and Talmudist, known as the Pnei Yehoshua after the title of his commentary on the Talmud. Return
  21. Even Ha–Ezer is one of the four sections of the Shulhan Aruch that deals with marriage, divorce, and sexual conduct. Hoshen Mishpat is another of these sections, and deals with laws pertaining to monetary affairs. I could not identify the work known by the acronym Bsh. Return
  22. I could not identify the work known by the acronym ShShK. Return
  23. Koriv is the Yiddish pronunciation of Kurow. Koriver means “of Kurow.” Return
  24. I could not determine the reference here. Return
  25. See note 13, on Kav Hen Return
  26. Menachem–Mendel Morgenshtern (1787–1859), known as the Rebbe of Kotzk, was an important Hasidic rabbi, and the spiritual leader of the Ger hasidic dynasty in Poland. Return
  27. The quote is from the talmudic commentary on the Mishnaic tractate Megillah 29a. Return
  28. Keter HaYehudi –– a collection of and commentary on the sayings of “the Holy Jew”. Return
  29. “Maharam” is an acronym for the words “our teacher, the Rabbi M. As many rabbis were referred to as Maharam, I could not identify the reference here. Return

 

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