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[Pages 72 – 75]

Collected Sources on Rohatyn
during the Time of the Sabbatian Movement

Collected and Adapted by Yehoshua Spiegel

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

A. Shimon Dubnow, History of the Eternal People, Vol 3, Chapter 53
“Mystics and Hidden Sabbatians”

Among the Messianic sects, there arose the desire to put an end to Jewish suffering no matter what this would entail, even to the point of reaching a compromise between Judaism and Christianity, similar to the compromise made by the Turkish Sabbatians with Islam. In the wake of these desires, the Frankist movement arose (1672–99). The man who succeeded in gathering around him these desperate straying individuals who were prepared to leave the Jewish community was two-faced – one face turned toward Judaism and the other toward Christianity. He was born into a background of opposition to the traditional Rabbinic approach.[Tr1] As opposed to the disciplined observance of the Talmud, he propounded the sanctity of the Zohar, in which he claimed were to be found anthropomorphic sources for the godliness of the Messiah and the worship of the “Shechina.” He replaced asceticism with release of the sexual appetite, terming it “a mitzvah ” (good deed) and part of religious fervor. As a result, after a few months of this type of behavior, he came to the attention of the rabbis. On Sivan 516 (1756), the Va'ad Arba Aratzos (Council of Four Lands) in Brody placed an edict of excommunication on the whole cult, distancing and separating them from the Jewish community and proclaiming their wives and daughters “harlots” and their sons and daughters “utter bastards.” The text of the excommunication was signed by Rabbi Chaim Rappaport of Lwow and thirteen other rabbis and was made public under the name of Cherev Piphiot (Double Edged Sword). It was sent to all the Jewish communities, where the excommunication was proclaimed publicly in the synagogues, in the traditional fashion, to the sounding of the shofar and the extinguishing of candles [i] .

The Debate in Kaminetz – 20 June1757
The participating members of the sect that took part in the debate included the leaders from Galicia – Leib Krysa from Nadworna, Elisha Schorr and his son, Shlomo, from Rohatyn, and fifteen other people from Podolia and Galicia.

The Debate in Lwow – 17 July 1759[Ed1]

The debate began on 17 July 1759 and took place in the large Catholic cathedral of Lwow before an assembly of churchmen and dignitaries. The Jews, loyal to the Talmud, sent as their representatives forty rabbis and sages, headed by the chief rabbi of Lwow, Rabbi Chaim Rappaport. Representing the Frankists were, again, Jacob Frank and his close advisers – Leib Krysa of Nadworna and Shlomo Schorr of Rohatyn. Krysa and Schorr were the main speakers for the sect, since their leader, Frank, was not sufficiently fluent in Polish… (After the debate many Frankists converted to Christianity.) In Lwow alone, between 1759-60, 514 Frankists became Christians, men and women, led by the leaders of the group from Galicia – Leib Krysa and Shlomo Schorr. (The latter came to be known as Franciszek Wolowski.)

B. History of the Jews , (H. Graetz), Volume 6, Page 110

“Among these Frankists who opposed the Talmud were rabbis and preachers – Yehuda Leib Krysa, a rabbi from Nadworna, and Rabbi Nachman ben Shmuel Levi of Busk. Most prominent among the Polish Sabbatians or Frankists was Elisha Schorr of Rohatyn, an elderly man of distinguished lineage. His son and his daughter, Chaya, who supposedly knew the Zohar by heart and was considered to be a prophetess, nevertheless, behaved very loosely. His grandchildren and his sons-in-law had already become complete converts to Sabbatianism to the point where they jeered at rabbinic Judaism on the slightest pretext.”

In the year 1800 the leaders of the sect, the brothers Wolowski (previously Schorr of Rohatyn), disseminated a manifesto to the Jewish communities of Podolia and Volhynia to the effect that one should not reject “the Edomite beliefs,” because only they would enable the Jews to continue to exist. However, these declarations were seized by the Russian government, which suspected this so-called Edomite sect of being in reality a secret society of revolutionaries and sent them to St. Petersburg for investigation.

C. Introduction to Mirkevet Hamishna

“This is the history of the first Adam, the great Adam, among the giants, our grandfather, a true Gaon and tzaddik and example to this generation, the rabbi and teacher, David Moshe Avraham, the man of Troyes – Ashkenazi, of blessed memory, whose honorable abode and light appeared in our town, the holy community of Rohatyn. “For there the place of the lawgiver was hidden (Deuteronomy 33:21),”[Tr2] i.e., for he was buried in Rohatyn and where the tree took root there are to be found its fruits, his great grandchildren and grandchildren, May the L-d bless them. Known far and wide as a Gaon and tzaddik who ruled powerfully here and disputed with the giants of his day in a number of responsa. Among these great men who gave letters of approval to this book, Mirkevet Hamishneh , are the Gaon, paragon of his generation, our rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Chaim HaCohen Rappaport, chief rabbi of Lwow, who reads [from the Torah] first; and after him, the Levi, the Gaon and paragon of his day, our teacher, Rabbi Yitzchak Landau, of blessed memory, who, at the time when he was chief rabbi of Zolkiew and later became chief rabbi and justice of Cracow and its environs, agreed with him to fulfill the will of the tzaddik and to publish the masterpiece.

(photo, p. 74, Y.B.) (Caption states) Title page of the only existing book by the Gaon, Rabbi Avraham David Moshe, Justice of the Holy Community of Rohatyn, which was completed in 5500 (1730) and printed in 5655 (1895) in Lwow.

[From this we learn that 155 years passed before this work was printed in 5655 (1895) in Lwow. According to this the book was originally written over two hundred years ago. Author's note.]

He (Rabbi Adam) passed on to eternal life and was unable to fulfill his desires, leaving behind him many works, as the author writes in his introduction. Their light was hidden for approximately one hundred and fifty years – these dear works – one here, one there, and many years have passed, and no one thought to spread this beam of light.

“And since the author, the Gaon, of blessed memory, was taken from us so many years ago, we decided that it is proper to tell our brothers of this generation something of the greatness of the author, that the Gaon, of blessed memory, was zealous for his G-d and brought forgiveness to the Children of Israel. He was zealous with zeal for the L-d of Hosts when there arose that evil offspring of the cursed sect, and the last of them, after they fell at the debate before the nobility of the holy Jewish community of Lwow, may the teeth of the wicked rot. To separate the unclean from the pure paragon of the generation, our teacher and rabbi, Chaim HaCohen Rappaport, together with the paragon of the generation, our teacher and rabbi, Nota Ashkenazi, chief rabbi of Rozdol.

The accursed criminal came to our town to entice Jews to the heart of the errant, but the Gaon, the author, of blessed memory, arose to do battle against this evil and took his spear in his hand, endangering his life for the purpose of beating and chasing him to the end. This criminal succeeded in deceiving the governor of the town and in bringing him to his rescue and causing him to drive the chief rabbi out of town. He, the rabbi, took his life in his hands and did not protect himself while attacking him and pushing him out with all his might, in order to prevent Jews from being deluded into following him. The Creator came to his aid, and this accursed criminal abjured his faith, becoming the means for ending the evil. No longer would he be able to cause any Jews to leave the fold. Our grandfather told us that their parents told them that the Holy Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, came to him in person to inform him that he was sent as a messenger by the Heavens to impart to him their appreciation and approbation of his zeal on behalf of the Lord of Hosts. It is similar to what was written by Moshe Rabbeinu, of blessed memory, who states at the time that Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon, the Cohen, was zealous for the Lord. It is written, “Therefore, say unto him, Behold I present to him my covenant of peace.” Rashi, of blessed memory, explains, “Similar to when a person shows his appreciation and friendship to one who has done him a kindness.” His greatness, wisdom, and piety are still being related, just as it was told by their ancestors.”

[Pages 75 – 77]

Reb Yudel
finds a Husband for his Daughter in Rohatyn

(Excerpts from “The Bridal Canopy” by S.Y. Agnon)

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

In short, Reb Yudel was staying in Brzezany, living like one of the manna eaters [Tr3] until it was time for him to leave. From Brzezany they turned southwest, that is to say towards Lemberg (Lwow), because the places between Brzezany and Lemberg abound in riches far more than other places. And they arrived in a village called Kushan; it was Thursday, and Reb Yudel wanted to remain there for Shabbos because he was accustomed during all of his travels to remain in the same place from Thursday to Motzei Shabbos (when Shabbos ends) “in order to add from the mundane to the holy,” i.e., he was curtailing his weekday activities before Shabbos required it. But since he could not find a mikveh there to immerse himself in honor of Shabbos, he was forced to arise and travel to another place. In short, he left Kushan and went to the “holy community” of Rohatyn.

The sun stood in the heavens and colored the face of the earth, and, although the winds from the mountain tops quietly blew and brought the smell of snow, one did not feel the cold.

And Reb Yudel said, “Reb Nota, when we reach the town, take me to a place of lodging” to which he (Nota) responded, “And where else would I take you if not to a lodging where you are provided with a table and a bed and some money?” He (Reb Yudel) answered, “I will explain what I mean. Normally, when we come into a town, you drop me off at the Beis Medrash (House of Study) and you go off to feed your horses. But now, what I would like you to do is bring me to an inn.” So he said to him, “And why is this town so different from all other towns, that 'your honor' requests to go to an inn? Innkeepers want money, and, if you do not pay them for your food and lodgings, they collect what is owed to them by taking your belongings and throwing you out.” He answered, “Please Nota, please don't force me to tell you what came to my mind. I was thinking that I would like to eat a piece of bread of my own. It is true that I have two hundred gulden, and according to the laws of the Torah, I am forbidden to touch charity money. So bring me to an inn and stop asking questions.” Nota grabbed his head and screamed, “Heavens, is Reb Yudel going crazy? Everyone feels obligated to feed Reb Yudel, and Reb Yudel feels obligated to throw out his money! And what about his wife and children? What will become of them? But, oh well, what's the sense of arguing with him? In any case, he ends up doing exactly the opposite of anything he makes up his mind to do.” When they arrived in Rohatyn, Reb Yudel repeated, “Bring me to an inn.” When Nota heard this, he said to himself, “Nota will do what he is asked, and we will see what comes of it.”

In short, Reb Yudel installed himself at the inn and sat and studied Torah. The innkeeper asked Nota, “Who is this man?” And Nota answered, “If you knew who this is you would crawl on your belly before him.” So he went away, his curiosity half unsatisfied. He was terribly anxious to know who this guest was. So something inside told him, “Stand by the door, place your eye to the keyhole and peep into his room to see what he is doing, quickly open the door and enter.” And he followed his heart. . . All day he stood bent over in front of the doorway, peeping into the keyhole until his back became hunched, and then he suddenly entered. And what was Reb Yudel doing? He was used to hiding his learning in the Torah and, if a person is in the habit of hiding his ways, he will continue to do so especially in an inn. The innkeeper said to his wife, “This is very strange. A man sits in an inn, spends money like a rich man and does not leave his room to go out and do business.”

His wife said, “You're telling me something new? Just what you are wondering, I have been wondering, too.” Suddenly she cried out, “Be quiet!” He said, “Why are you screaming so loud?” So she said, “I'll tell you why. He has a grown daughter in his house and wants to marry her off.” And who told this woman that Reb Yudel was looking for a match for his daughter? Except that Reb Yudel's face had that look of a man who is weighed down with the problem of daughters, because people in this condition are betrayed by this look on their faces. In short, they decided to notify the shadchan (matchmaker).

The shadchan came, entered Reb Yudel's room, sighed deeply and said, “May the Creator help you.” Reb Yudel raised his eyes from the Gemora and answered, “May you also be helped by the Creator.” The shadchan said, “Blessed is the one who is here,” and Reb Yudel answered, “Blessed is the one who has come.” So he gave him Shalom and received Shalom. The shadchan took a chair, sat down in front of him and took out a snuff box. He opened the box, gave him a full pinch of snuff and started to speak to him in a down to earth fashion and said, “By the way, since I happened to come in, may I incidentally ask his honor what caused his honor to trouble himself to come here?” Reb Yudel quoted the citation from Tractate Hulin 7, “A man does not lift his finger below unless it is so decreed above.” “And if I came here it is because the Creator so decided.” The shadchan said, “Since the Creator invited us to meet in the same place perhaps something will come of this to our mutual benefit.” So the Hasid Reb Yudel asked, “What do you mean?” The shadchan put his right hand on his head and rubbed with all five fingers into his hair. “And if I were to propose a match for your honor, what then?” the shadchan continued and smiled. Reb Yudel answered, “Blessed is He who reminds us of things forgotten. I too have been travelling because of my daughter who has reached the age of marriage.” So the shadchan said, “What is your honor looking for, that is, what type of bridegroom does your honor want?” Reb Yudel answered, “You asked a good question. After all, in the end a person has to have the fear of G-d, and if the Holy One were to present me with a religious young man who can learn a page of Gemora, I would give him my daughter.” The shadchan asked Reb Yudel, “What is your honor's name?” He said to him, “My name is Yudel”. So he said to him, “And from where does your honor come?” He replied, “I am from Brody.” “And what is your honor's family name?” “The name of my family is Nathan-Son.” When the shadchan heard the name Yudel Nathan-Son he became very impressed, because Reb Yudel Nathan-Son was a very rich man, and his good name wafted like balsam all over the country.

The shadchan said to himself, “I will go to Vovi Schorr who is a very rich man, whose son is looking for a bride, and I will notify him that Reb Yudel Nathan-Son came here and is looking for a groom for his daughter.” The shadchan then received permission from Reb Yudel and went to Reb Vovi Schorr.

When Reb Vovi heard this he arose and said, “I am offering twelve thousand gulden.” The shadchan took to his feet and returned to Reb Yudel and said, “I am now coming from the home of Reb Vovi Schorr. The outstanding young man, Mr. Sheftel, that is the son of Reb Vovi, has reached the “ Perek ha-ish mekadesh .”[Tr4] “And your honor's daughter has also reached the stage of  “besula nisat”.[Tr5] In short, I only mean to ask how much dowry your honor is presenting.” Reb Yudel replied, “Whatever the father of the groom is offering, I offer for my daughter.”

In short, in less than an hour, the shadchan returned to Reb Yudel with a marvelous looking young man, handsome, very learned, immersed in piety and pampered since he was a child with the knowledge and wisdom of the Torah. Reb Yudel tested him and found him to be full of old wisdom, e.g. the Torah. He became greatly attached to him immediately. It went so far that he called him “my son,” and this attachment reached the point where he found him worthy of marrying his daughter.

By the time the stars came out, they wrote the engagement contract, broke plates and made merry with food and drink – songs and praises to the Lord.

(Kohelet 3) “'Everything has its time…,' as King Solomon wrote,” said Reb Yudel. “I enjoy my stay in Rohatyn far more than my jostling on the road, but the time has come to return to Brody and tell my daughter, Pessele, that I have found her a husband. I haven't told her anything yet.”

Yet Reb Yudel continued to remain in Rohatyn, to eat, drink and learn and debate on topics in the Torah until he saw that his money was running out and decided to return; he paid his expenditures and took leave of his future in-law, Reb Sheftel, and all of his other friends, and left Rohatyn. He who did not see the happiness of the two future in-laws when they parted never saw a happy parting of in-laws. Reb Yudel was happy to be on the way back to Brody and was happy that his in-law lived in Rohatyn.

But why was Reb Vovi happy? There is a reason for this. All the time that Reb Yudel was staying in Rohatyn, Reb Vovi was afraid that Reb Yudel might hear things that he shouldn't, such as – that the ancestors of Reb Vovi were followers of Sabbatai Zvi, may his name be erased. They said about the great-grandfather of Reb Vovi (in other words, about one hundred years before), that on Tisha B'Av, he used to go down to a cellar to eat half a small cherry, at which time he would say, “If Sabbatai Zvi is the true messiah, I am fulfilling the requirement for the meal,[Tr6] and if Sabbatai Zvi is not the messiah, it is as if he has not eaten anything, since what he ate is less than the size of an olive. Because of half cherries such as these, families were uprooted, and Satan was still dancing. And the problems still existed, because it was difficult for Reb Vovi to find brides for his sons, because his enemies used to poke fun at him saying, “Did you see that Sabbatian whose grandfather ate on Tisha B'Av?” and Reb Vovi was afraid that they would bring his shortcomings to the attention of his forthcoming in-laws. But he did not realize that this was a match made in heaven, and even if all the jealous people in the world would get together, they could not have broken up the match.

[Pages 78 – 83]

The Hasidut of Stratyn

By Yehoshua Spiegel, Tel Aviv

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

There lies before me a thin book that contains eighty-eight pages in all in a format of one sixteenth of a full newspaper sheet. It has a black binding with the title engraved in letters of gold – Sefer Degel Machane Yehuda. On the inside of the page this title is repeated with the addition of the sentence, “And in it, opened before you, are three books of the Rabbi and Tzaddik, Rabbi Yehuda Zvi, of blessed memory, and his Holy Children, of blessed memory.”

The whole book is printed in Rashi script and was published by the brothers Eliezer and Chaim Brandwein, the grandsons of the holy rabbi, our teacher and rabbi, Yehuda Zvi of Stratyn. It was printed in Jerusalem in the year 5717 (1957). This book was obtainable then at M. D. Blum of Meah Shearim, Jerusalem, as recorded in the frontispiece. I, however, received this book from Rabbi Yehuda Zvi Brandwein, Shelita, one of the descendents of the Admor (Hasidic leader) Rabbi, Avramtsche of Stratyn, of blessed memory. It is stamped with his seal, “the Admor of Stratyn.” In this introduction I will attempt to present something of the background lineage of Rabbi Brandwein.

Rabbi Avramtsche had four daughters and no sons. The first one, Bluma,[Tr7] was the wife of Rabbi Uri of Rohatyn. The second one, Ester, was the wife of Rabbi Aaron of Felsztyn, near Sambor. The third one, Leah, was the wife of Rabbi Berish of Dolina, and the fourth one became the wife of Rabbi Pinchas of Brzezany. Rabbi Yehuda Zvi Brandwein of Israel is the grandson of Rabbi Aaron of Felsztyn, a continuation of the line of the family of Rabbi Avramtsche Brandwein. The others are considered to be part of the family of Rabbi Uri Langner. The following were the sons of Rabbi Uri of Rohatyn: Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Langner, who went to Bobrka, Rabbi Avraham Langner, who went to Knihynicze, Rabbi Yisrael Langner, who went to Brody, Rabbi Moshe Langner, who went to Kosow and in our town there was Rabbi Shlomo Langner, whose children were Yehuda Zvi, Toibe, Uri, Avraham, and Yisrael, may their souls rest in peace.

At my request Rabbi Brandwein permitted me to use this book in obtaining the following information, which according to the publisher contains “articles that are pleasant and sweeter than honey, written by his holy children, of blessed memory.”

The publisher continues, “And now to you, sirs, do I call; take this blessing into your home at full price, and I pray for you and for your family that through the merit of these tzaddikim, you will be helped from the Source of Blessings and Great Success, and may the Alm-ty fulfill all your heart's desires for good.”

The worship of the Creator contains within it the use of different texts of prayers that are said through pleading, are written poetically, and involve different forms of behavior, bearing, and the like. There is the Ashkenazic text of prayer, which differs from the Sephardic version, which is again different from the Yemenite version, and there is even extant a Karaite version of prayer and its like. Similarly, customs differ at weddings, circumcisions, and funeral services. Even among Hasidim there are large and small differences based on customs, texts, and versions attributed to this or that rebbe.

The book Degel Machane Yehuda details the customs of Stratyn for the whole year. The rabbis of Stratyn were considered to be miracle workers like other tzaddikim of their generations, such as the Ruzhiner, the Zydaczower, the Czortkower, the Belzer, and others. Even people who were not so religious were accustomed to come to them in their time of need to ask for their help. When a tzaddik passed away, his Hasidim remained devoted to his sons and other descendents. The Degel Machane Yehuda tells about two of these children, tales and stories that were passed on by word of mouth. I cannot completely ignore them as some of them do have a grain of historical truth within them.

The following are a few of these stories:

The Holy Rebbe, Rabbi Shmelke of Nickelsburg, of blessed memory, went on a trip for a worthy cause, and by Shabbos he had gotten as far as the town of Zawalow. The Holy Rabbi Shmuel Zanvill, of blessed memory, the chief rabbi of Zawalow, received him in keeping with his exalted stature, but the people of the town did not. When the Holy Rebbe Shmelke decided to leave, he called the chief rabbi and said to him, “Tell me what blessing you would like.”

[Photo and text, p. 79]

And the rabbi asked to be blessed with a son who will be a tzaddik and a Gaon like the Rebbe, and indeed, there was a son born who filled the house with light, later to become the Holy Rabbi, Yehuda Zvi of Stratyn, of blessed memory, student of the Holy Rabbi of Strzeliska, of blessed memory.

Now we know the origin of our teacher, the first Rabbi of Stratyn, Rabbi Yehuda Zvi, who he was and whose son he was.

Our tale begins when he was still a young man, and the people of Stratyn were in need of a rabbi. “They sent a committee to the town of Zawalow to request of the rabbi, the father of Rabbi Yehuda, to permit his son to become the rabbi of their town, but the young man was not willing to accept this position. He was, however, willing to be the town shochet (ritual slaughterer) and returned with them in this capacity.

It soon became known in Stratyn that chickens run after him to be slaughtered, while cattle crouch down and extend their necks to be slaughtered. In one instance there was an ox that was very wild and gored anyone who came close to him. This ox escaped from his owner, and no one was able to catch him. People therefore advised the owner to have this ox slaughtered by the new shochet of the town, and when the shochet appeared with his slaughtering knife, the ox immediately crouched down and extended his neck to be slaughtered.

The Rabbi of Strzeliska once said, “When Mashiach ben David arrives and all of the tzaddikim come out to receive him, the Baal Shem Tov with his students and the Holy Magid, the Rebbe Reb Ber, with his students, I shall come with my student, Reb Yehuda Zvi, and I will have nothing to be ashamed of.”

It is related that after the demise of the holy Stratyner, of blessed memory, a number of Hasidim came to the Ruzhiner to spend Shabbos. After Shabbos the Ruzhiner said, “It is no great marvel that these Hasidim behave as they do having had such a rebbe, but it is also no great marvel that their rebbe was as elevated as he was, having Hasidim of this stature. And when the Holy Ruzhiner used to refer to the Stratyner, he would call him “my heartfelt friend.”

Once when the Holy Ruzhiner met with the Holy Reb Yehuda Zvi, they sat facing each other while important people stood behind them, and the Holy Ruzhiner ordered them to leave the room permitting no one else to hear what was being said. When the Holy Reb Yehuda Zvi returned to his lodgings, the Holy Ruzhiner sent him one of the tefillin straps of his arm, while Reb Yehuda Zvi sent the Ruzhiner the tefillin strap of his arm.

One time on learning that there was a Hasid from Stratyn travelling to the Admor of Lublin, he sent a kvitel and a pidyon nefesh[Tr8] with him. When the Hasid arrived in Lublin and delivered the kvitel, the Lubliner said, “He shines, he shines all over the world. Tell him in my name to immediately stop being a shochet. Thousands of Jews are waiting impatiently for his prayers to help them in their spiritual elevation, and there is one celestial hall where the prayers of a shochet are not permitted. When you return home, tell him in my name that I order him to stop being a shochet.” When the Hasid returned, he passed this message on to Rabbi Yehuda Zvi, and this is how he eventually became the Stratyner Rebbe.

“It is well known that Rabbi Yehuda Zvi had a book of remedies and cures, and many times he literally saved people's lives through these remedies, but what is not so clear is where he obtained this information. Some say that he obtained it from his holy teacher, the Admor of Strzeliska, of blessed memory, who in turn learned it from his rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin, of blessed memory, and the Holy Rabbi of Strzeliska said to him, “I never wanted to make use of them for private reasons of my own, but you have my permission to make use of this book.”

“The Holy Rabbi Meir of Przemyslany, of blessed memory, called him the “Stratyner Chacham ” (Sage of Stratyn). One Purim he sent him a Megilla (scroll) that he himself had written. (This Megilla is now in the possession of the esteemed Rabbi Eliezer Melech, a grandson of Rabbi Yehuda Zvi.) Part of the text of this story is missing, but one gathers that a decree had been written driving the Jews out of the small villages. Rabbi Yehuda Zvi became aware of this and appealed this decision to the Celestial High Court, claiming that it was an unjust act and all that the goyim really wanted was to rob the Jews of their property. The Megilla is symbolic of Purim and what occurred then.… The Celestial Court decided to accept Rabbi Yehuda Zvi's appeal, and in the end the Jews were not driven out. (Degel Machane Yehuda, Chapter 36). To this the Holy Rabbi Meir remarked, “Didn't I say that he was a wise man?”

Before he passed away, the Holy Rabbi Zvi of Zydaczow, of blessed memory, used to sigh and cry and then say, “The reason why I am so upset is because I will have to leave the world, and I do not know of any tzaddik who has the power to aid Jewish souls and arouse pity on them.” Later he said, “Now I was informed from heaven that the Holy Rabbi Yehuda Zvi of Stratyn is able to correct the deficiencies of Jewish souls and to bring blessings on them.”

The Holy Rabbi Shalom of Belz once told his saintly rebbetzin as follows, “The Stratyner Rabbi was a marvel. I can give truthful testimony to the fact that for three years before his passing, only his body was in this world; his spirit was already in the heavens.”

The Rav Gaon of Buczacz upon hearing that Rabbi Yehuda Zvi had come to town went to receive him; when he came close to him, he stood up on a chair and said the blessing “Shehechianu” (prayer for new occasions), pronouncing the Holy Names.

There was a man who was caretaker of a river with fish. Once he caught a fish, cut off its tail, and threw it back into the river. For several months thereafter he was unable to catch a single fish. He would spread out his net but did not succeed in catching even one fish. After a few months of this, he went to Rabbi Yehuda Zvi and wanted to know if he had done something wrong at the river. He had completely forgotten about what he had done to one of the fish and could, therefore, not understand why he was being punished and said so to the rabbi. The rabbi asked him whether he had not done something wrong. Finally he reminded himself of what happened, and he related it to the rabbi. The rabbi advised him to spread out his nets on a certain side, because that was where all the fish were congregated, because after he had cut off the fish's tail and embarrassed him, he asked the other fish to hide him. The rabbi ended up by saying, “From this we can learn how careful you have to be when dealing with people.” It was known that the Stratyner knew the language of the birds and the speech of the trees and was once asked by one of his friends where he learned how to do this. Who taught it to him? He replied, “If one attaches himself to ' klipot ,' he understands their speech. Certainly then someone who attaches himself to the Creator, who is the source of all life, will certainly understand it. This is not such a big thing.”

The Holy Rabbi Yehuda Zvi went up to the heavens on Tuesday, 11 Iyar 5604 (30 April 1844). Approximately twenty-one years later, when his son, the Holy Rabbi Eliezer of Jezupol, of blessed memory, passed away in the year 5625 (1865), they dug his grave next to that of his father, of blessed memory. In the process, a board that was covering the grave of Rabbi Yehuda Zvi fell off, and everyone could see Rabbi Yehuda Zvi lying in his grave, in the shrouds in which he was buried that were as white as they had been on the day that he was buried, while his face looked as if he were sleeping. The Rabbi of Rohatyn who came to eulogize Rabbi Eliezer said, “Now what can the apikursim (agnostics) say to this? It is over twenty years, and you can see clearly that he looks as if he went to sleep yesterday.” It was a marvelous sight, that is, it caught the attention of everyone around. May his merit protect us all.

Rabbi Yehuda Zvi had four sons. The first son worshipped the Creator quietly and did not become a rabbi. He became a merchant instead and passed away in his younger years in 5598 (1838). His second son was a holy man. This was our teacher and rabbi, Rabbi Avraham (Avramtche), of blessed memory, who filled his father's position as Admor in Stratyn to whom thousands of Hasidim and religious people flocked in order to be in his proximity, for he truly worshipped the Alm-ty in holiness and purity. And what is the work of worship if not prayer? When he prayed, it was with the pouring out of his whole being with great emotion, reminding one of the style of prayer practiced by the Holy Rabbi of Strzeliska, of blessed memory. He brought succor to the needy and solved their seemingly insurmountable problems when they came to him as a place of last resort. His face was like that of an angel. To this, the Rabbi of Sacz (Nowy Sacz) of blessed memory, gave witness in his book Divrei Chaim, Hoshen Mishpat, Siman 32, new edition, in which he wrote, “His face brings fear of the Lord.”

When his father, Rabbi Yehuda Zvi, became very ill, he went to the Holy Rabbi of Ruzhin with a pidyon in order to save his father with his prayers. When Rabbi Avraham left, the Ruzhiner said, “It's marvelous! That someone so young should answer to the point so well,” and Rabbi Avraham said that at that time he was given ordination to be an Admor by the Ruzhiner. His father (Rabbi Yehuda Zvi) used to say, that if he had not come to the world for any other purpose but to bring down the soul of Rabbi Avraham, the Holy Rabbi Avreimenu, this would have sufficed.

“Rabbi Avraham had many Hasidim among whom there were a number of scholars who sat and learned all year and engaged in Torah and worship. Among them there was a young man, an orphan, who sat and learned with a great deal of hatmada (zest) and was an unusually great scholar. When he reached the age of “Ha-ish Mekadesh,” the time for him to take a wife, the Rebbe called him over and asked him why he was not fulfilling the commandments of the rabbis – “marriage at eighteen years.” The young man answered him, “Obviously, because I am very poor.” The Rebbe then ordered him to look for a wife and accept the first offer that was presented to him.

The young man went out to fulfill the command of his Rebbe and came to the home of a rich man and owner of a concession who had an unmarried daughter. At the time, there were many people in his house coming and going, but the owner himself was not home. The young man walked over to the oven to warm himself, and people asked him where he was going. He innocently answered – to look for a wife. When they heard this, it occurred to them that this young man could provide them with some fun and told him, “We have a good match for you, the daughter of the owner of this house.” The young man innocently answered, “Call her and ask her whether she would be willing to marry me.” They called her, and joining in the fun, she replied that she was willing. They then wrote a “Tna-im” (engagement contract). After this they asked him, “Maybe you would like to get married now?” And he answered, “If the bride is willing, so am I.” And so it was. He himself wrote the Ketuba, and the people there carried out the ceremony of the Huppa . A complete legal marriage ceremony had taken place.

In all of this time, the young man was serious, and the people there were having a good time at his expense, while he personally was not aware of it. Then everyone wished him mazel tov and a happy marriage. Having had their fun, the people wanted to go home and go to sleep. They told the young man to get out because they wanted to close the door, to which the young man replied, “Very well, give me my wife, and I will leave, but if you don't, I won't leave.” When the people there saw that he was truly serious and would not leave of his own free will, they threw him out by force. And he continued to scream, “Give me my wife!”

In the meantime the owner returned home and asked what all the noise was about. When they told him what had happened, he was devastated because he realized that his daughter was officially married. He then called the young man and asked him to please release his daughter and give her a divorce. But the young man innocently replied, “Why should I give her a divorce? She is a very pretty girl, of fine character and the daughter of a talmid chacham (a learned man). One is exhorted to take the daughter of a learned man for his wife. If you were to give me anything in the world, I would not release her.” The rich man asked him, “Who sent you here?”, and the young man replied, “The Admor of Stratyn ordered me to do so and this is what I did.” The rich man replied, “In that case, I am coming with you to the Admor and whatever he decides we will do.” The young man answered, “Fine.”

When they reached the grounds of the residence of the Holy Admor, the rich man in a desperate effort offered the young man a thousand rubles if he would divorce his daughter. However, the father of the bride did not have a thousand rubles with him at that time. So he took out two hundred rubles and went with him to buy him a suit of clothes worthy of a rich man. After a month, he gave him two hundred rubles and promised to give him the remaining eight hundred in another month.

Then the rich man came to the home of the Rebbe with his daughter, gave the money to the holy rebbe and asked him to put an end to this affair quietly. The Rebbe answered, “I have a very good match worthy of you and your daughter, a very highly learned young man of very fine character, good looking, and the descendent of a distinguished family. He also has a thousand rubles to cover the dowry.”

The rich man answered that he would be interested in seeing this young man, and if he indeed finds favor with him, he will agree to the match. The Rebbe called in the young man, but he was not recognized as he was dressed like a rich man. He spoke with the young man and determined that he was truly a very learned person, while his daughter, too, was attracted and agreed to marry him.

Then the Rebbe asked him again and again if he was willing to accept this young man as his son-in-law, and he always replied in the positive. The Rebbe then said, “Very well, you may take possession of your wares. This is the young man who came to you and married your daughter. I saw that this match was officially made in heaven where it was announced, “Bat Ploni L'Ploni.” (This woman will be married to this man.) However, since this young man was a poor orphan, and your honor would probably not be willing to take such a young man into your family, it was decreed that you must die, and all of your wealth must go to waste, while your daughter must marry him anyway in the end. When I heard this heavenly decree, I sided with you and promised to see to it that the match would be carried out. I did what I could. Now the choice is yours. You can accept the young man and everything will be all right, but if you don't, then you will die.” The rich man predictably accepted the young man and gave him his daughter. From then on everything went along smoothly.

Rabbi Avramtche rose to the heavens in a storm (reminiscent of Eliyahu Hanavi) on 3 Teveth 5625 (January 1865), leaving four daughters who married four rabbis. His first son-in-law was Rabbi Uri (Langner) of Rohatyn (who took over his position in Stratyn in 5625 (1865) when Rabbi Avramtche passed away). He was an outstanding scholar and personality and rose to the heavens on Lag B'Omer 5649 (1889).

Rabbi Uri of Rohatyn, of blessed memory, left children after him – the famous and Holy Admor Rabbi Yehuda Zvi, of blessed memory, the chief rabbi of the town of Stratyn, who took over his father's position. Hundreds of Hasidim flocked to him. He had an excellent voice and served as rabbi for eighteen years, passing away on 14 Iyar 5667 (1907) and was buried in Rohatyn. The second son was Rabbi Yitzchak Aharon, a very pious Jew who passed away at an early age on 26 Tammuz. His third son was the Holy Rabbi Yisrael of Brody.

The Holy Rabbi Berish of Dolina, of blessed memory, left after him a son, the Holy Rabbi Yehuda Zvi and he passed away 12 Iyar 5670 (1910).

[Next section was in smaller type in the Y.B.]

It is possible that, as a copyist, I have proportionately devoted a little too much time to the genealogy of those whose connections were with our town of Rohatyn, Stratyn, and the general area. Perhaps it is proper to add here the fine descendents whom we knew in our day who walked on our streets, some erect and some bowed, each one according to his personality but all of them alike in their dress. The same black hat with large brim, the double breasted Capote (frock) of silk, white stockings, low shoes unlaced. The younger ones wore a wide black tie that covered their chest completely under the white collar of the shirt. Their parents did not need this because their beards came down and covered their sensitive faces. This was why people used to say, partially in jest, that the beards fulfill the statement “Melo Kol Ha-aretz K'vodo” (the land was filled with their dignity). It is also no great wonder that the name Yehuda Zvi, that great tree, was repeated over and over among this family of rabbis, i.e., Rabbi Yehuda Zvi of Stratyn or Rabbi Uri, after him, the Admor of Rohatyn who was also named after the Saraf (the burning angel), Rabbi Uri of Strzeliska. I remember that families in our town who were Stratyner Hasidim for numerous generations named many of their children after the rabbis. One such name immediately comes to my mind – my friend Yehuda Zvi, the younger son of Reb Avraham Messing, of blessed memory.

I also remember that on the yahrzeit of Rabbi Uri of Rohatyn (on Lag B'Omer), when we children went to a school called Czerwona Szkola (Red School) and could see through the windows the hill leading to the graveyard, we would wait for the recess bell and then run after that wonderful parade of rabbis, rebbes, and learned Jews from the town and its surroundings. We used to join them and walk up to the graves of the tzaddikim. The singers stood near the eastern wall, and the sweet voice of Rabbi Elimelech of Lwow could be heard holding forth singing, “Bar Yohai, Bar Yahai.”


Tr1 [His father, Leib, was dismissed from his position as sexton for teaching Sabbatian dogma.] back
i It stands to reason that Rabbi Avraham David Moshe, the man of Troyes, Chief Rabbi of Rohatyn, was one of those who signed. This I gathered from the introductions to his work Mirkevet Hamishne on the Mechilta of Rabbi Ishmael, as one who at that time pursued and condemned Sabbatai Zvi and his followers and “put a spear in the body of Elisha Schorr of Rohatyn,” one of the preachers of the above Messianic movement. All of this I will better clarify in a separate chapter, “Our Town of Rohatyn.” back
Ed1 For details about the trial and the Frankists, see Gelber's chapter "A History of the Jews of Rohatyn." back
Tr2 [A comparison between Moshe Rabbeinu and Rabbi Adam, one of whose names was Moshe. Rashi explains that the Tribe of Gad decided to settle in Trans-Jordan because they knew that Moshe Rabbeinu would be buried in their territory, and their love for him was so great that they did not want to leave him.] back
Tr3 [He did not have to make any exertions to obtain his daily needs; it all came from Heaven.] back
Tr4 [The second chapter of Tractate Kedushin which deals with betrothals.] back
Tr5 [Besula niseit l'yom ha-r'vi'I A maiden is married on the fourth day etc., e.g. the first words in Tractate Ketubot which deals primarily with marriage contracts.] back
Tr6 [If Sabbatai Zvi is the messiah, then he would be permitted to eat on Tisha B'Av.] back
Tr7 [Encyclopedia L'Chochmei Galicia by Rabbi Meir Wunder, Vol. 1, Pg 59394, states that Bluma was the wife of Pinchas Brandwein of Brzezany, and Sarah, the wife of Rabbi Uri Langner of Rohatyn.] back
Tr8 [A “kvitel” special note asking the blessings of the Admor for a request; “pidyon nefesh” a ransom of the soul, a sum of money sent to the rebbe.] back

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