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[Page 103]

The Period of the Rabbinate of Rabbi Meir Shapira in Sanok
– the Cradle of Daf Yomi
[1] and the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva

(Lines about the person and the activities of our rabbi, the Gaon,
of blessed memory, during the period of his rabbinate in Sanok.)

Translated by Jerrold Landau


a. From Spreading – to Storming

The rabbi, of blessed memory, displayed his beautiful, splendorous, enchanting personality, filled with sublime traits that were apparently different from each other, but in practice complemented each other.

From an earlier period, we know that when he took his first steps in the realm of Orthodox Beis Midrash scholarship and spending time in the tents of Torah within the context of restricting oneself and closing oneself in to the four ells of halacha –the continuation of his development led to wonderous scholarship and deep, broad swimming in the sea of Talmud and in all branches of Torah and wisdom, even within the dimensions of representative scholarship and wide-branched Jewish greatness.

We have heard that he was a young Hassid with a Hassidic soul, pious in Torah and Hassidism, attached to Hassidic faith, cleaving to Hassidic behavior, subservient to the words of a Hassidic Admor,

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faithful to the trait of Hassidic trust [in G-d], and given to the Hassidic ways of joy, gladness, and self-satisfaction in his own behavior. Now, a short time after this – he had thoughts and concerns for the fate of the nation and its Torah, thoughts and concerns for the problems of “the ways of Torah,” the suffering of the Torah studiers, and the state of Torah study. He did not make peace with the conformist Hassidic ways in this area, and his actions and initiatives were revolutionary in every area.

We have heard that, as a great personality chosen for small-scale rabbinical leadership, he preferred going in the ways as modesty and discreetness, demonstrating the essence of the behavior of righteous Gaonim – those who in his generation and previous generations preferred living in small towns. On the other hand, he suddenly went out to the public with great splendor, taking upright steps in the large, wide Jewish world, evoking feelings of honor and appreciation, moving the hearts of Torah Jews and encouraging hope and faith in Torah Judaism and in the doctrine of Judaism.

What were the causes of these changes and awakenings in this great, healthy, and firm soul? What were the reasons for these sharp changes in his life and behavior, and what were the causes for his sudden, unexpected public stance?

The words stated and written about him pay appropriate attention to all those points. They are also accompanied by feelings of admiration and wonder about all the manifestations related to his personal greatness. However, the reasons and causes for all this are not explained or noted.

For those who merited knowing our rabbi of blessed memory from up close, through being in his company and basking in his shadow, things can be seen in a clearer fashion: It was not because of forethought or preplanning that these things took place in his internal soul and his external demeanor. There was some pressure, some internal urge, which not only was not negative, but was rather praiseworthy and splendid. His every thought and spiritual strand was of broad scope, leading away from a narrow scope of action. His power of thought and deep comprehension were too large to remain confined and centered in one arena of activity. They extended to many matters simultaneously. Each issue had several ranges of space and time. This matrix [of thought] then aroused peace of mind and wholesomeness of conscience. It demanded alertness and lead to calm. It is clear that, with the passage of time, this matrix led to a surge of waves and comprehensiveness. Indeed, as time went on, this surge took on the character of the fulfillment of a mission, of fulfilling the duties of the heart, the actualization of which was a holy process of soulful dedication.


b. Sanok the City and Our Rabbi Therein

This storminess of the rabbi of blessed memory had its first expression in Sanok. Indeed, its first spark was still in Galina, his first rabbinical post. However the restrictions in place given the small scope of this town did not provide him any need or opportunity to deal with greatness of mind and breadth of heart. On account of the restricted bounds of Jewish life in that town, there was no need for preparations for large-scale activity. With this, several successful actions were performed by our rabbi of blessed memory even there, bringing blessing to the town and to all the towns of Galicia. These actions remain etched in the minds and memories of the residents of Galina and are described in detail by Reb Asher Korech, an activist in Jerusalem and a native of Galina, who, in his old age, collected his memories of life in that town into a book. That book includes a respectable chapter on the activities of our rabbi of blessed memory there.

In Sanok, the beginnings of the storminess of the rabbi could be seen in their essence and scope. His appointment to the rabbinic position in that city appeared to him from the outset as a situation with conditions that would lead to action, with an urge to activity.

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Sanok is not a big city, but it was a bustling city, vibrant with sweet Jewish life, with a spectrum of hues of different dialectics. It had courts of Admors, of various Hassidic groups – starting with Hassidim of the regional dynasties, most of which had been born, founded, and consolidated in that region. These included the Dynow-Bukowsk-Blazowa Hassidism in the area around Sanok, comprising the majority and the main part of intensive Hassidic life of the city. The city also encompassed Hassidim of Tzanz [Nowy Sącz], and went as far as the Hassidim of Czortkow-Sadagora-Boyan. There was even a small group of Hassidim of Gur [Góra Kalwaria], which grew at the time of the conclusion of the First World War and the establishment of greater Poland.

It is clear that the Jewish population of Sanok did not differ from that of other cities, with its multitude of secular factions, national-Zionist on the right and extreme Socialist on the left – none of which expressed personal opposition to the rabbi of blessed memory, even though their face was jaundiced to the existence of the rabbinate in general.

When our rabbi of blessed memory first started with his job and with issues of the city, he immediately found a very broad arena for practical activity. First-class problems were exposed before him, requiring urgent solutions. Some of them were fundamental, ongoing, important religious problems of the city. First and foremost was the issue of kashruth, that is: guarding the kashruth of meat, which served as a daily staple of the diet of the Jewish population of the city and the area. The stringency of the ban and the danger of failure hovering over all observant Jews in this matter is well known, and concerned the rabbi at the same time as did the issue of Sabbath observance – especially in the issue of carrying items outside the city and on its streets with the assurance of a proper eruv[2] around the entire city. No less of a concern than these two issues was the issue of family purity for Jewish women in the city and the area. It is clear that one of the primary keys for a solution to this problem is in ensuring a proper mikva [ritual bath] with a high hygienic level and external esthetic quality.


c. Problems of the Jewish Community and Worries about Jewry in General

Indeed, our rabbi of blessed memory was not the first and only one to deal with these three problems and to attempt to find a solution to them. Many of the rabbis of cities with major Jewish populations, leaders of the generation, faced these concerns and struggles, and even assigned them a mnemonic ( עד יעבור זע-ם [until the wrath passes] זביחה-שׁחיטה – ritual slaughter, עירוּב – eruv, מקוה – mikva)[3]. However, it appears that our rabbi was the first and only one to find the means and methods to solve these problems. He encountered difficulties in Sanok – difficulties in understanding and convincing – and he tried to overcome them. He met opposition and opponents – opposition to the action, and opponents to the idea itself, to the outlook, and to the good will – and he girded himself to overcome them. It is self-evident that the level of patience required to overcome the problems was commensurate with the magnitude of the difficulties. The level of opposition and the number of opponents was commensurate with the level of effort needed to overcome, to influence, and to convince. We then see the rabbi of blessed memory at the critical point that was hidden to many but known to few, to those close to him and who were often in his presence. These halachic problems regarding what was permitted and what was forbidden, what was kosher and what was treif, of family purity and cleanliness of the spirit and the soul, were very difficult. However the essence of their existence was like a problem relevant only to an individual, to a Jew as a Jew. Even if one comes to unite those individuals, they would only be united into one Jewish community, to one Jewish population in one city. Our rabbi of blessed memory began to be bothered by the worries and concerns of the Jewish people as a whole, to the nation of Israel, and it existence as the nation of G-d, as the nation of Torah. Which is preferable? What should one choose to take care of first, and what should one push off – and not even temporarily?!

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He was still full of impressions and feelings from a large event, the Knessia Gedola[4], that took place during that period. This served a basis for the rest of his life of activism. The image of the sublime man, the Chofetz Chaim, who was present at that convention, turned into a point of light and a source of continuity, imparting influence and radiance, still fluttered before his eyes. He did not stop talking about it to his acquaintances, students, and confidants after he returned. It is true that the words of the Chofetz Chaim at that Knessia Gedola struck waves. They echoed and reached the ears of all the Jews of the world, in all corners of the Jewish world. However, to our rabbi, his words were like a revelation, like news, directed to him directly, as if stated specifically to him. They were directed to him not only as an expression of agreement with his ideas, as a confirmation of his proposals. They were like a direct appeal to him as per “Reading the letter is the actualization”[5]. This was a decisive assigning of a mission of carrying out what one set out to do. The initiator himself saw himself as commanded and as standing before those Tzadikim and Gaonim, the chief spokesmen at that Knessia Gedola, regarding the continuity of bearing the responsibility from his perspective, a continuation for the concern of raising the stature of Torah and spreading the study of Torah in the scope that he, the Rabbi of Sanok, proposed, and which lead to the founding of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin. In accordance with that scope, he also planned, envisioned, and finally carried out the founding of Daf Yomi.

I will stress here that the concept of “scope” is not simply an expression of exaggeration in the conventional sense. Here it means a literal worldwide scope – that is, encompassing the entire Jewish world. For the idea of Daf Yomi was based on the study of the same Talmudic tractate by the Jews throughout the world. Its plan and results were everything that is wonderful and splendid about the simultaneous study of the same page, the same Talmudic discussion, the same issue, and the same topic by Jews who are studying throughout the entire expanse of the world at the same time, on the same day, and perhaps even at the same hour.

I will also stress here that the concept of “scope” in the dissemination of Torah was not like it is today. That is, then, it was a conventional concept, detached and fanciful, for the intention was toward simple, physical embodiment, the carrying out of an idea of the creation of maximal opportunities for the study of Torah by establishing the Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin. This too was presented to the Knessia Gedola and was accepted as a positive resolution. The great enthusiasm and deep tension enwrapped in these two resolutions at the time they were accepted were themselves sufficient to serve as a great encouragement for his work in actualizing them, and were a portent for good hope for the success of his activity. Added to this were the declarations and wishes for success expressed by the Admorim and Tzadikim who participated in that convention where the resolutions were accepted, which certainly added strength and initiative to the spirit of our rabbi, and deep faith in the success of his activities in these two great endeavors.


d. With the good fortune of actualization

The acceptance of the idea of Daf Yomi worked out well, and reached the pinnacle of its success throughout the wide Jewish world. The study of a page of Gemara every day on its day – specifically the same page – turned into a heritage of the public: the set study for the masses, and a set page for the day. The Daf [page] and the Yom [day] blended together to the point of blurring the boundaries and forms of linguistic grammar. Which of the two words is the noun and which is the adjective is virtually lost to us. Whether it is the page of the day, or the day of the page, it is etched into our essence and has become part of our lives and reality. The page serves as a calendrical marker. At the top of a letter, one writes: “The 25th day of …. Brachot page…”

It is near certain that there were several reasons for this speedy success. The idea generated great fundamental essence, as well as many approvals and authorizations. More accurately: the authorizations given to that end, from the

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high Torah authorities at the Knessia Gedola. However, we cannot evade the simple, primary reason, that this was a definitive action of “reality” and was a decisively beneficial, that is: success must come, and it did come due to the absence of any opposing reality, of any decisive [negative] factor. World Jewry was blessed at that time with large masses of Torah learners who were thirsty for the word of G-d. The decisive news regarding the study of Daf Yomi was accepted as an awaited announcement, as a command to actualize what was planned, to realize the awaited. In truth: an actualization and realization was not dependent on any other enabling factor, be it money, time, or place – other than goodwill. Indeed, the will was there, and they were waiting to find out how to carry it out and how to refine it. It is interesting that we barely find any publicity, explanation, proclamation, or declaration to disseminate the idea, to carry it out, or to explain the value and uniqueness of the matter, etc.

From this we derive that the Sanok era in the annals of the rabbinical career of our rabbi of blessed memory, which did not last for more than three years, was also the era of the birth of Daf Yomi as well as the era of its development, flourishing and acceptance throughout the entire Jewish world. Even the publication of the organ of Daf Yomi (Haeshkol, containing the Torah novellae of those who study Daf Yomi) was conceived already in Sanok., and the change of the location of its publication was due to the change of residence of its editor, Rabbi Shimshon Fogelman of blessed memory. We can note that the first circular was formulated by our rabbi of blessed memory in Sanok, as is noted in the margins of that circular. In fact, this was the only publicity and explanation action in this matter that we know about. Incidentally, from a formal perspective, this was because “it does not happen without such” rather than due to a real need.

However, regarding the dissemination of Torah study, we have noted a different matter and reality: Our rabbi carried out this resolution and translated it into deed through the founding of a Yeshiva of an unusual style and essence. This implies that those who feel that “anything new is forbidden by the Torah” would not find it acceptable. This was not easy to actualize due to the large financial outlay required. The plans were large and overflowing. They filled his heart and soul, and overcame the storm of his spirit. The more he thought about this, the greater was his worry about the essence of the matter as well as the incidentals of the matter. We knew and saw that the first and most difficult problem, the financial issue, the expenses for building the Yeshiva, did not free him from the concern about the curriculum of the Yeshiva that was to be set up. Both of these problems did not push aside the issue of selecting students for the Yeshiva, as well as the problem of maintaining the Yeshiva.


e. The Yeshiva in Sanok, the Kernel of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin

At that time, we saw him in his full storminess, with his full holy enthusiasm. The aspiration was strong and daring. This was an effort for something vast and large. Vast in terms of the normal ability of actualization by general objective standards. Large , relative to the ability to take the normal preparatory steps for actualizing this great dream without starting the process of actualization at once. The actualization of this first preparatory step was spiritual and soulful, a step that related to a specific form of Yeshiva Torah study, for this was the principal aspiration and the ultimate goal. This led to the founding of a Yeshiva in Sanok. With his great faith and strong trust that the building of a Yeshiva in Lublin would begin and be completed, the rabbi awaited this desired day, the happiest in his life. He wanted to ensure that the primary kernel of Yeshiva students would already be prepared immediately. It is clear that for this goal, and for this task, he sought talented lads, the finest of the young Torah students. He sought youths who would be appropriate to be part of the kernel of the Yeshiva in accordance with his concept, and as he already saw them with the eyes of his spirit.

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He sought – and he found. However, even regarding this, there was no publicity, and no large public announcements. There was quiet information, almost from mouth to ear. For this, he did not use drums and cymbals. For the founding of a Yeshiva in Sanok by the rabbi of Sanok, Rabbi Meir Shapira, a small group of talented students was first brought to Sanok. Some might even have been worthy of the term ilui [genius]. Their numbers grew to several hundred within a brief period. They came from different corners of the breadth of Poland, with varied populations, with differing spiritual climates, different cultural strata, different customs, mannerisms, and ways of life, differing accents and manners of speaking, and even different styles of clothing. It makes sense that this Yeshiva, which in the interim grew in size and quality, and was given the name “Yeshiva Gevohah Bnei Torah” by the rabbi of blessed memory, was no longer merely a local enterprise, but rather took on the character and intrinsic form of a large, general Jewish institution. Intrinsic – because, from an external perspective, it still had several aspects that were always typical of small Yeshivas in the cities of Poland and Galicia, such as: dispersing the places of residence of the students and housing them in the private homes of the Jews of the towns; hosting them with various families in the city and even having them partake their meals at various homes on a rotation basis [eating “days”]. To this we can add the fact that many lads from the city joined the Yeshiva, forming a non-negligible portion. Its intrinsic form, as it consolidated within the Yeshiva in Sanok, served as an important kernel for the Yeshiva of Lublin. Those lads, formed the finest of its students. Some who had come to Sanok were the remnants of the students of the rabbi in Galina, but most of them were from that kernel in Sanok, some even from the city of Sanok itself. The influx of fine lads from all parts of Poland to this new young Yeshiva, despite the lack of comfortable physical conditions, was not just from a desire to fulfil the words of our sages “one should exile oneself to a place of Torah”[6]. They were also attracted to the personality of the rabbi, who at that time was already famous as a teacher, educator, leader, and influencer. “Let Your deeds be seen by Your servants, Your glory by their children.”[7] – thus was written about him by one rabbi from a Galician city when he sent his only son, a talented, dandled child, to Sanok. With time, that child became one of the finest students in the Yeshiva of Sanok, and later one of the famous ones in Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin. This rabbi, as well as everyone, knew about the dedication and faithfulness of our rabbi to the Yeshiva lads in general, and to the ones from outside Sanok in particular. Our rabbi of blessed memory attained the trait of actual fatherly love. As has been noted, he became known for this already in Galina, and we saw this trait with him throughout the entire period of Sanok. He did not let go of it even in Lublin. Indeed, this concern for the student, for good physical life, and comfort in all aspects of life served as one of the primary factors in his first arousal to establish a Yeshiva in Lublin and to forge his programmatic ideas around the concept of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin.

Finally: a point that the writers of the history of our rabbi of blessed memory did not recognize the importance of and did not mention. The concern of our rabbi for the students of the Yeshiva was clear of any taint of feeling of any suffering in his own body of the form of “I felt it myself.” Our rabbi was educated and reared in the family circles of great Gaonim and wealthy people. He did not study in Yeshiva, and did not feel with his body or taste with his soul the poverty and suffering of a Yeshiva student. That is to say: the deep feeling of our rabbi for the Yeshiva lads was objective and businesslike. Its source was his deep faith for the future of those lads who were studying Torah, regarding them as the guarantors for the continuation of Torah study and the faithful guardians of the “smoldering coal.”


Translator's Footnotes
  1. Daf Yomi [Daily Page] is the practice of worldwide study of the same page of Talmud each day. Return
  2. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eruv Return
  3. The mnemonic comes from the letters of the third word za'am [wrath], and refers to the vexing nature of these issues within a Jewish community. Return
  4. Literally ‘Great Congress.’ This is a term used for the major convention of the Agudas Yisroel organization. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Agudath_Israel these were held in 1923, 1929, 1937, 1954, 1964, and 1980. Return
  5. A Talmudic adage from Sanhedrin 82a. Return
  6. Pirkei Avot 4:14. Return
  7. Psalms 90:16, Translation taken from Sefaria: https://www.sefaria.org/Psalms.90.16?lang=bi Return

[Page 109]

The Brothers – Rabbis Avraham-Abish
and Pinchas Szikler of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The firstborn, Rabbi Avraham-Abish, was a rabbi in Wybranówka, a town near Lwów, and the younger, Rabbi Pinchas, was a rabbinical judge in Tarnopol. Both were sons of Rabbi Shlomo Szikler, a shochet in our city. Rabbi Avraham-Abish left the rabbinate a decade before his death, for a reason unknown to us. He then moved to Sanok, where he lived until his death. He was greatly honored in our city. People turned to the rabbi of Wybranówka as an arbitrator, mediator, and forger of an acceptable compromise for both sides in any difficult question or complex debate. Aside from this, he would give classes in Talmud and in the four sections of the Code of Jewish Law. After the Gaon Rabbi Meir Shapira, the rabbi of Lublin, left Sanok, he continued giving the Gemara class to the Yeshiva students in Sanok on a part time basis. He excelled in his expertise in Talmud and early and later rabbinic decisors. Rabbi Avraham-Abish was pleasant in his ways, and every conversation was spiced with words of Torah. He suffered greatly from his illness during his final years, but he accepted the situation with love, and did not utter a groan from his heart, so as not to cause distress for those with whom he was conversing and those who came to visit him.

His brother, Rabbi Pinchas, was one of the excellent rabbis. Every matter in the city of Tarnopol was decided according to him. He was one of the important people of that city. Rabbi Shlomo the Shochet, the father of these two great sons, was an honorable personality. Of course, he earned greater honor on account of his sons. Rabbi Pinchas the rabbinical judge did not come to his birthplace of Sanok very often, because his parents had died, and after some time, so did his brother the rabbi.

Rabbi Mordechai Spalter of blessed memory

[by] Rabbi Alter Meir

He was one of the rabbinical judges of the city. He was a great scholar. His method of study was deep with maximal extraction [of essence]. He was beloved by all strata on account of his simplicity. He was G-d fearing and a great Hassid. He did not conduct himself in a high manner, and he satisfied himself with little. He bore himself in a lowly fashion, and was an attentive friend to all who sought his company. He would give classes in Talmud and rabbinic decisors to all who wanted. If the size of the class grew, he would be very happy, and would welcome everyone pleasantly. One of those close to him used to say in jest about the rabbinical judge, Rabbi Mottele[1] of blessed memory, that he did not conduct himself like Abaye[2]. Abaye used to rejoice when one of the rabbis concluded a tractate, whereas Rabbi Mottele would rejoice when someone started to study… (see Tractate Shabbat 118b). Just as all of his actions were simple, so was his mode of dress. He did not dress in rabbinical garb or cloak himself in clothes of honor. Rather, he dressed as one of the people. When a great rabbi or Admor came to the city, he would not receive him privately and separately, but rather in the presence of the entire community. His livelihood was meager, and he never requested a raise in salary. It was far from him to demand verbally, for his essence and nature was fundamentally opposed to such. He wandered greatly in Russia, Siberia, and other such places during the Holocaust. He reached Paris at the end of the war, where he lived for a brief period. From there, he moved to New York. His wife died there, as did he a short time later. His casket, and that of his wife before that, were brought to Israel, and they are both buried on Har Menuchot in Jerusalem, where they had purchased plots while still alive.

Rabbi Elazar Sprung of blessed memory

By Sh. Sh.

Despite his greatness in Torah and his great expertise in the entire breadth of Talmud and its earlier and latter commentators, and despite the certificates of rabbinical ordination he had from the great, ordained Gaonim of his generation, he did not wish to earn his livelihood from his Torah and his wisdom. He did not agree to accept a position of rabbi or rabbinical judge. Throughout his life, he attempted to earn his livelihood from labor and commerce. That is also how he educated his family.

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On account of his desire to give his children excellent and comprehensive Torah education, he could not find the local melamdim [Torah teachers] in our city with adequate capabilities to educate his sons Menachem and Pinchas of blessed memory, so he sent them to the famous Yeshiva of Vizhnitz, where they were diligent at their studies. He then sent them to other Yeshivas, to the point where they grew and matured in Torah, and even received rabbinical ordination. He owned an umbrella factory until the First World War. After the war, the family earned its livelihood from a fancy goods shop run by his wife Ita, of blessed memory, in an intelligent and worldly-wise fashion. Even then, he found the opportunity to delve into Torah during most of the hours of the day and night. At times, he even issued decisions on questions regarding that which was permitted and that which was forbidden. However, he did this only for friends and neighbors who approached him, in order to save them the effort of going to a rabbinical judge or a rabbi.

As he was known and accepted as a great scholar, the leaders of the city used him as one of the examiners for any rabbinical candidate of our city. He was also one of those who examined Rabbi Meir Shapira of blessed memory. In accordance with the opinion of the examiners, this rabbi and Gaon was accepted as the city rabbi of Sanok. The activities of Rabbi Shapira related to the founding of the local Yeshiva in our city was done in strong collaboration with Rabbi Eleazar Sprung. When Rabbi Shapira moved to Lublin and began to concern himself with the founding of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, he wanted to take Rabbi Elazar Sprung along with him, but he refused. In lieu of this, he agreed to assist with the directing of the Yeshiva that was founded in Sanok, and to help in the efforts for Daf Yomi. All this was not to be done for payment.

Rabbi Chaim Raab of blessed memory,
a Military Rabbi in the Polish Army

Although he was first raised in Sanok, and studied Torah at the large Beis Midrash and the Sadagora Kloiz, he never served as a rabbi in our city. His brother David Raab, the artistic engraver and one of those faithful to Mizrachi in the city, remained a resident of the city until the Holocaust. Rabbi Chaim, however, moved to places of Torah in the yeshivos of Hungary while he was still a lad. He reached a high level of Torah expertise and also gained secular education. After the First World Wa, he joined the military rabbinate of Poland, headed by Rabbi Dr. Josef Mizis of blessed memory. Rabbi Raab's friends and acquaintances note, in his praise, that even as time went on and he shone in his military service, he did not forget the grace of his youth, and never lost the feelings of brotherliness and closeness to his friends of his youth, with whom he had studied in the Beis Midrash and Kloiz during his few years in our city. During every family visit to Sanok, he would seek out those friends, and find the time and chance to renew contact, through a conversation or a visit to their homes, like the old days.

Rabbi Yaakov Geldzahler of blessed memory

He was born in Sanok in 1905. His father, Reb Yisrael Geldzahler, was a merchant with a textile shop. He was middle class, and was known as an honest, educated man. He was one of the veteran worshippers in the Tzanz Kloiz.

Already from his childhood, Yankele, as he was called, was already different from those of his age cohort. Childhood games were foreign to him. Mischief and light enjoyment, which are so natural to children, were also far from him. He went through all the routes of Jewish education known from those days, starting from the teacher of young children [melamed], all the way to the upper cheder where lads of age 13 and over studied Gemara and rabbinical decisors. Yankele was a lad of 11 when he began to study in that cheder. He only studied there for one year, for when the second term was over, the teacher sent him home, claiming that the level of study in that class was too low for him. From then, he began to study in the Kloiz on his own. His diligence was very great. Through all hours

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of the day, before noon and after noon, he was diligent with the study of Torah. In the evening, when he was at home at a late hour, he dedicated an hour or two to secular studies that he received from a private teacher. After all the members of the household went to sleep, he turned again to the study of Gemara, and continued until late at night. More than once, his father got up in the middle of the night and found him sitting, bent over a Gemara. His father got angry and even lectured him about this… But he continued with this behavior.


Rabbi Yaakov Geldzahler of blessed memory


In 1921, the Gaon Rabbi Meir Shapira of blessed memory, later known as the Rabbi from Lublin and the founder of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, was accepted as the chief rabbi of our city. This was a very good opportunity for Yankele. He was a frequent visitor to the rabbi's house, and apparently was a very welcome guest there. After a brief period, the rabbi told him that his was ready for rabbinical ordination, and that he was willing to grant him such. However, rather than being “a prophet in one's own city,” it would be better to recommend him to some of the leaders of that generation (he named them by name: Rabbi Meir Arik of blessed memory, the rabbi of Tarnów, Rabbi Ish-Horowitz of Tarnopol, and others). He would also give his personal recommendation to them. It was not long before Yankele traveled to these rabbis, without the knowledge of his parents or friends, under the pretext that he was going to visit his uncle. He returned home after one week with the certificates of rabbinical ordination in his hands, with special notes of praise. At that time, he was only an 18-year-old youth! We should note that from that time and onward, Yankele did not change any of his ideas or behaviors, whether with respect to his own actions or with his relations with his relatives at home and his friends and acquaintances outside the home. However, he became known as the “genius” [ilui] of the city. The finest Yeshiva lads loved to take any opportunity to discuss Torah with him. They always requested his company in any discussion of halacha. He never refused them, to the best of his ability, and according to the time he had available. On the contrary, he helped and encouraged them, and even gave lessons gratis. Anyone who studied with him felt it to be a special merit.

He was accepted as the rabbi of Aleksandrów Kujawski, a city near Piotrków, a short time after his marriage. He served in the rabbinate there until the outbreak of the Second World War. When Yankele presented himself as a candidate for the rabbinical seat, he impressed them with his oratory and presentation, both in their form, as well as in his fluency and clarity in the Polish language, and in the deep comprehensive content, which greatly aroused the interest of his listeners.

The final information we have of his life is that he came to Sanok during the time that the city was under Nazi conquest. He shared the same fate as the rest of the Jews of the city.

Rabbi Yankele Geldzahler was one of the fine fruits and splendid sprouts of our city. He attained what he did through his own energies, the power of will, diligence, and talent. He was the pride and splendor of Jewish, Torah-oriented, learned Sanok. May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.

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Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz of blessed memory
The final rabbi of Sanok

By Yaakov Katz (of blessed memory)


Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz of blessed memory


Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz came to us as the rabbi of the city after going through a period of great success in fruitful, successful activism. He was involved in splendid, large-scale leadership, earning for himself honor, esteem, and even reverence within the Agudas Yisroel movement. This was particularly in its broad communal work, but no less in its upper echelons. He had excellent talents and was blessed with sublime traits of the soul. He succeeded in advancing and rising on the ladder of party activism, quickly reaching the top echelon, which was then composed of the giants of religious Judaism, including renowned rabbis and Admorim.

His appointment as rabbi of the city came after about a ten-year absence of a chief rabbi in our city, from the time that Rabbi Meir Shapira of blessed memory left his post in Sanok and was chosen as the rabbi of Piotrków and then Lublin. Of course, it was very difficult for the heads of the community in Sanok to reach agreement on the question of appointing a rabbi for that community, that demanded a large measure of pretentiousness after the fame and recognition it earned through its great rabbis who served as rabbi of that city, especially the Gaon Rabbi Mei Shapira. The situation was even more difficult given the composition of personalities of the communal leadership, and the multitudes of ideological-factional streams in the city, including Hassidic factions.

The side of Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz took the most enabling steps, from the perspective of stressing his talents, his connections, and his fine traits, to win over the hearts and agreement of the members of the community and its activists. His refined personal character traits particularly stood in his stead. However no less than this, his recent past, rich with deeds and activities in the arena of the Aguda movement, especially in the Beis Yaakov movement[3] from one side, and, on the other side – his great success and renown for his logical talents, his literary writing abilities, and high-level journalistic publicity abilities [also stood in his stead].

Among others, Dr. Hillel Zajdman wrote about him: “…He never turned into a ‘professional’ party activist. His levelheaded spirit and sublime aspirations saved him from loud, noisy activism. For he had a refined soul and noble spirit, with good traits and fine manners. He was deliberate with his words and cautious with his deeds.” He continued on: “His culture, manners, understanding of the opinions of others, even of his opponents, and his patience… served him greatly in fulfilling this role.”[4]

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Mr. Mordechai Baba'd, one of the young activists of the Aguda in Sanok of those days wrote among the rest of his words about Rabbi Horowitz available to our book: “He did not fear his opponents in Sanok. On the contrary, he related to them with honor. At that time, he told a friend in Sanok: ‘People who display the trait of political activism in our city and regarding its religious matters, in which even the Maskilim doctors participate, are certainly not simple people. These are certainly people of consciousness, with intelligent, and a serious demeanor. Were these people equivocal and apathetic, it would bother me more.’” The writer continues: “Rabbi Horowitz began to earn the reverence of the Jews of Sanok, and was chosen as rabbi of Sanok in 1933. He and his family then came to live here.”

A short time after he came to serve as the rabbi of Sanok, he was forced to refrain from factional activity, whether due to the difficulties that became apparent in this realm with respect to his role as a young rabbi, or due to the heart disease that afflicted him suddenly in the middle of the year 5694 [1934]. Dr. Hillel Zajdman continues: “Nevertheless, he participated in the third Knessia Gedola in Marienbad in the year 5697 [1937], and played an active role in the debates and deliberations on issues relevant to the Land of Israel. He promoted an assent to the Peel Commission that recommended the partition of the Land of Israel, and supported the stance of Rabbi Y. L. Tsirelson of Kishinev, the chairman of the Knessia, who was enthusiastic about the establishment of an independent Jewish State, even if only in part of the Land of Israel. This was the final public appearance of Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz.

“At the outbreak of the Second World War, Rabbi Horowitz and his family were taken, along with all the Jews concentrated in the Sanok Ghetto, to the concentration camp in nearby Zaslaw. His friends made efforts to transfer him to Hungary, and even succeeded in obtaining certificates granting him and his wife permission to live in Hungary. Rabbi Horowitz and his wife escaped from the Zaslaw Camp to sneak over the Polish-Hungarian border. This was a dark, winter night with snow and frost. Along the way, his wife fell, hurt her leg, and was unable to continue on. She pleaded for her husband to save himself and continue to the border, but he refused to leave her, and carried her on his arms back to the Zaslaw Camp.” Dr. Zajdman continues: “A short time thereafter, all the prisoners of that camp were taken to Belzec, the liquidation place of tens of thousands of Jews. They were taken to be murdered on 10 Shvat, 5703 [1943].”

Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz was 55 years old when he was murdered. May G-d avenge his blook.

The Rabbi, Leader, and Writer
(In memory of the Rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz, may G-d avenge his blood)

By Yaakov Katz (of blessed memory)

I first met the Gaon, writer, and forger of ideas Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz, may G-d avenge his blood when I was young. I found myself at the crossroads as a Yeshiva student in those days, plagued with doubts as the youth after the First World War began to roam in strange pastures. His deep statements, his fundamental historical research, his sweet language with which he excelled – all of these influenced the errant souls who were seeking a path, and saved them from aimless wandering. Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz captured hearts not with a storm, not with a smack over the forehead as a warrior, but rather with an outpouring of the soul, and with his unique sense of refinement.

During our youth, he appeared as a tower of light who illuminated our path and strengthened the faltering knees and weakened hands. He blew a living breath and reviving dew into us, so that we would remain faithful to the entire burden that we had received inside the walls of the Yeshiva, the Beis Midrash, the courts of the Admorim, and in our parental homes, and to everything that we had absorbed from the Torah

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and Hassidic sources. He has a great portion in the fact that we did not follow after the vain and corrupt visions of the 1920s, when many of us followed after misleading lights, were damaged, and fell.

The charm of his personality, his rare nobility, his graceful countenance, his tall stature, his external and internal beauty, testified to his roots in the golden chain as a descendent of Rabbi Naftali of Ropszyce, may the memory of the holy be blessed, and a scion of the Dzyków dynasty and other splendid Hassidic dynasties. He was the son of the great Gaon of Maydan Galicia, may the memory of the holy be blessed, and the son-in-law of the Admor of Rybotycze – who was the son of the elder Admor of Błażowa. He absorbed overflowing fistfuls of Torah, Hassidism, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, along with generous traits, manners, and good heart from the homes of his father, grandfather, father-in-law, and grandfather-in-law. He moved along with his father, the rabbi, may the memory of the holy be blessed, to Vienna during the First World War. He grasped and rose up on the rungs of Torah, and served the Gaonim and great ones of the generation who settled in that large city during those turbulent times. He warmed himself with their warmth, basked in their light, and learned from their wisdom. With his great, unusual wisdom, understanding, and depth of thinking, his soul sparkled like a brilliant, illuminating diamond. Even though he was relatively young at that time, his name became famous as one of the special people who excelled from all aspects, with literary and publicity talents, as a brilliant orator, as a diligent, dedicated activist, as someone who frequents the courts of the great ones, the righteous, and the wise, as one known in the circles of the intelligentsia and people of spirit.

He also drew close to Dr. Nathan Birnbaum of blessed memory[5] while he still walked in the paths of a free spirit. He became friendly with him, debated with him, and explained to him the ways of Judaism, its treasures, and its truth. He demonstrated its light to him, and played a significant role in the return of this great thinker to the bosom of faith and the observance of mitzvot.

He was the living spirit in Dr. Birnbaum's Tnuat Haolim.

He wrote a bright page in the annals of the Aguda. He played a very active and prominent role with his life spirit and vibrancy, starting from the first Knessia Gedola. His personage was honorable and significant among the greats of Torah and action. He stood in the first ranks, and was known as a talented leader even though he was still young. He had already been chosen for the upper institutions along with famous personalities. Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz became a concept and a citadel. He did the same at the second Knessia in Vienna, and the third in Marienbad. His statements, contributions, research, and telegrams won hearts. He filled complete pages in the Orthodox newspapers and periodicals, whether in Hebrew or Yiddish. He also wrote a great deal in German, and contributed his writings to newspapers.

Rabbi Tuvia Horowitz, may G-d avenge his blood, wrote a large article in the Jubilee Book for Dr. Birnbaum, of blessed memory, on the occasion of his 60th birthday. The article was very meaningful in the hearts of many.

In time, he decided to accept the rabbinical post, in accordance with the recommendations and influences of the greats of Torah and Hassidism. He was a candidate and also served for a period of time as a rabbi in our city of Złoczew. The Orthodox people, who were a significant and strong element, invited him to this post despite the objections of the Zionists. However, in time, he was offered the rabbinate of Sanok, the place where his friend the Gaon Rabbi Meir Shapira, may the memory of the holy be blessed, had served, and who pressured him to take his place. He moved to Sanok and remained there until the outbreak of the Second World War. The time that he spent in that city will never be forgotten. His sermons, statements, melodies, joyous occasions, the fervor of his Hassidism, and his refined personality drew the hearts of the G-d fearing folk whose souls thirsted for Sabbaths and weekdays filled with joy and meaning with words of Torah, direct in good taste, and with the Hassidic joy in all its manifestations.

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Rabbi Aryeh Leibush Weill

While he was still a lad, all the signs of “children of the poor from whom Torah will emanate” could be seen in him. With all the harshness of the poverty of the family, and the reality of the poverty of his parents, the home of his prominent father, Reb Itche Weill of blessed memory[6], indeed a home empty of physical good and bounty, far from physical wealth – was a home full and overflowing with spiritual influence, rich in plans for study and spiritual completion. The plans of this family, of the children of the home, chief of whom was Leibush, did not remain in the realm of plans and aspirations, but were rather carried out practically – with the realities of study, of attending various schools, institutions of learning, and courses, in order to absorb, internalize, and become wise. All this was through efforts of the body and the soul, and unimaginable suffering from various perspectives, in the manner of all those, in those times and under such conditions, whose fate it was “to make oneself as if dead in the tents of Torah” and wisdom.

Reb Leibush did not satisfy himself with his studies in the Polish primary school. He was also diligent with non-primary education, through his own powers, and under very difficult economic circumstances. He passed his matriculation exams and obtained a certificate of matriculation. As was told, he continued to study in the University of Lwów while serving in the Polish army. We should note that all this was done without lowering one iota from his level of diligence and progress in his Torah studies. When people in the know began to realize his level of advancement in Torah in general, and his attainments in the field of halacha and rabbinic decisors in particular, they found opportunity to connect him with the head of the rabbinical court, Rabbi Elazar Brumer of blessed memory, at first as an assistant in the general religious affairs of the city, and later, in a special role in matters of the city eruv, including tending to its care.

Reb Leibush Weill is remembered well by us from our childhood days, and later from the time we studied together with his father in the Talmud Torah. His traits of nobility and modesty, in which he excelled, are etched in our hearts. His morality and fear of Heaven that filled his entire essence, his friendly demeanor full of smiles, and the grace and kindness were etched on his face at all times and under all circumstances.

Rabbi David Avigdor

His excellent talents that were later expressed in various areas were already recognized during his youth. The home of his father, who was a rabbi in the small city of Tirawa, was a forging house of children-rabbis of rare form: greatness in Torah along with general knowledge, rabbinical conduct along with factional activity, love and study of Torah along with a strong desire for knowledge and general sciences. All of these were blended together in him, Rabbi David Avigdor, as they were in his brother Rabbi Yaakov Avigdor, known as the Rabbi from Drohobycz, and later as the chief rabbi of Mexico.

Rabbi David Avigdor was like his brother. He later became the rabbi of Andrychów. He was also graced with sublime traits. He had a fine soul. He was modest, loved beauty, and loved his fellow. His place in this book is noted specifically in this chapter, both because of his future as an active rabbi in an honorable, rich Jewish community, as well as because of his years living in our city were his final, intensive years of preparation for his rabbinic career and service. The city was the location of his primary preparatory steps on his route to spiritual leadership as the pastor of a community and issuer of rabbinic decisions. Furthermore, and perhaps primarily, the years that he lived in Sanok were also years of education and issuing rabbinic decisions, of guidance and influence, direct and indirect. Even internally, within the home of his wife's parents, the Oling family, within the circle of the family and the synagogue, as well as outside, in public appearances, through the giving of Torah classes and disseminating wisdom to friends in the party and movement, and with his activism in the arena of the religious Zionist movement – his days in Sanok were days of substance and the days of the beginning of his self-actualization. It was quiet activism, but fruitful and effective.

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Admorim and their Courts in Sanok

by A. Sharbit


Rabbi David Spira, the Rebbe from Dynów


Y. Tabarski, one of the chroniclers of Hasidism and Hassidim, writes, “Through the course of generations, the courts of the Tzadikim were houses of the soul in our towns. Nevertheless, their lives were never portrayed from this inside.” To our sorrow, we, the natives of the city, did not merit that the two courts of Admorim did not have an “internal portrayal” or even an “external” description – that is, a memory of the things or some details about their external, day-to-day essence of these courts, of the external way of life of the leaders of their courts, their family members, those who frequented them, the devotion and dedication of the members of these courts, of the level of influence that flowed from them to our city and to all cities and towns, near and far, from where Hassidim came to visit, to bask in the shadow of these [Hassidic leaders] on festivals, Sabbaths, or ordinary days, to sit at their table, to be with them as “a matter of salvation and mercy.”

For the “houses of the soul” and fortresses of the spirit were the courts of the two Admorim who lived in honor in our city – both for their faithful Hassidim inside Sanok, who formed a known and recognizable community in the city, with importance and significant influence; as well as for the hundreds of Hassidim who were dedicated and devoted to those Admorim.

Here, we will mention in a positive way and thank Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Petach Tikva, and Rabbi Baruch Halberstam of New York for the material, photographs, and interesting details that they gave me regarding these two courts that are surveyed here, which are invaluable for the vitality for this chapter of our book and whose importance for a complete picture.

The Tzadik Rabbi David Spira,
the Rebbe of Dynów

The first to found a Hassidic / Admoric court in Sanok was Rabbi Dovidl Spira of blessed memory, the Rebbe of Dynów – the Dynówer Rebbe as he was known in the city. Rabbi Dovidl, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing, already came to live in our city before the First World War. He set up his residence in the Posada quarter, where he also established his Beis Midrash and ran his Admoric regime for approximately three decades. Within a brief period, the court and the Beis Midrash became a central point for scholars and rabbis, for the rich and simple householders, for the important people of the city and the common Jews. All found a place and opportunity in this Beis Midrash to benefit from the light of Torah and the splendor of wisdom. They were welcomed with great love and good relations.

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Rebbetzin Chaya Spira, the wife of the Admor of Dynów and daughter of the first Admor of Bukowsko


Reb Dovidl was the son of Rabbi Yosef Spira, may the memory of the holy be blessed, the rabbi of the city of Dynów. He was the son-in-law of the Admor of Bukowsko, who will be discussed in the section of Bukowsko in this book. He was a descendent of the renowned Tzadik Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dynów, the author of the classic Hassidic book Bnei Yissachar.

This Admor was loved and revered by all the Jews of the city and the area. Within the rooms of the court and Beis Midrash of this Admor, especially while he was conducting his table celebrations on Sabbaths eves, one could see a blend of Hassidism in the most actual sense of this concept. Hassidim of Belz and Dzyków sat together around the table in harmony and friendship, and drank l'chaim. Also participating in these toasts were Hassidim of Tzanz, warm of spirit and great in fervor; as well as the more deliberate, polished Hassidim of Sadagora and Czortkow, as they all partook of shiryaim[7]. Members of Agudas Yisroel, as well as their political opponents from Mizrachi were present. All found their rightful place with the Rebbe of Dynów. Indeed, the Hassidic affiliation of each one was according to the previous family roots, but, nevertheless, they could all together also be enthusiastic Hassidim of Rabbi Dovidl of Dynów, drink with thirst his words of Torah and Hassidic discussions, which were built on broad, deep knowledge in both the revealed and the hidden [mystical] aspects of Torah, and benefit from the spiritual enjoyment of his melodies, sung with sweetness, devotion, and an outpouring of the soul. Even though this Admor was great in Torah, was immersed incessantly with study, devotion, and fear of Heaven day and night, he was not lacking in other qualities in the realm of thought and feeling from those that are natural from birth for a person of refined spirit, and which were especially prominent with Rabbi Dovidl of Dynów in the realm of melody and general musical talent. His musical sense was etched deeply inside him, and developed to the point where every “movement” in his melodies and prayers came forth smooth and sculpted, groomed, and complete – even to those who had a refined musical ear, and were veterans and experts in this area, even to those with the sharpest musical sense. In the melodies of Rabbi Dovidl, one would never hear any minor deviation in tone, style, beat, or the like. There is no doubt that this was a natural manifestation of supreme talent, of a deep soulful trait, and of a developed sense – developed rather than cultivated! For just as it is clear to us that these things existed with him without any study, preparation, or formal learning, so it is obvious to us regarding this sublime man, wo lived a life of holiness, of Hassidic purity, and asceticism – that he would not have had any thought whatsoever of musical training, and would not dedicate even short period of time to studying this area. Nevertheless, he regarded melody not only

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as an important means of expressing the outpouring of his soul, which would give forth the appropriate results of this “service” and Hassidic activity. He also saw and felt the essence of holiness with the Hassidic melody. This explains the known fact that he brought to life through his musical talent many Hassidic melodies that, according to Hassidic tradition, were sung by the first fathers of Hassidism. He revived the melodies of Ropszyce, Tzanz and Dynów, as well as those ancient Hassidic melodies that are common amongst Hassidim today (e. g. Lakel Asher Shabbat). He added some side element of his own that was not really a change at all, but rather accepted as an addition, such as the conclusion with a light musical flourish or a specific, enchanting Jewish-musical ornament. It is not off topic if I mention a small incident here to stress his attitude and relationship to music: My father of blessed memory, who was one of those who frequented his home and court, as a Hassid, friend, and confidant, told me one day that the Admor of Dynów wanted to see me, and requested that I come to him at a certain time on a certain day. This request made me very nervous. I had a strong suspicion that the Admor wanted to reprove me for some mistake in my Hassidic behavior when I was present with the Rebbe during his prayers, or when he was conducting his table celebrations. Even though this Admor did not usually reprove with a moral lecture his Hassidim or others who were not his Hassidim, nevertheless, I could not think of any other reason for his invitation for me to visit him. My nervousness did not abate. When I presented myself at the set time, the Rebbe welcomed me when he was alone in his room. He offered me a place a seat, and approached the bookcase in his room. He took out a small book, placed it on his desk, and sat down in his armchair. My eyes followed all his movements. My heart was palpitating a bit, and my nervousness grew. He opened the book and turned to me: I hear that you know how to read musical notes, and I want you to interpret the notes of this melody to me. He then gave me the book, which was called Hon Ashir [Rich Treasure]. The author was Rabbi Immanuel Hai Ricchi[8], who served as a rabbi in several Italian cities (1688-1743). He was a fundamental personality in his comportment and manner of study, and he authored several books on the revealed and hidden [i.e. mystical] Torah. In his book Hon Ashir, in which he comments on the six orders of Mishnah in accordance with kabbalah, he includes two songs, with their musical score at the side. These two songs were the fruits of the spirit of that rabbi. The Rebbe of Dynów was very interested to hear these two songs. When I interpreted them, my father of blessed memory explained to me that the Hassidim of Belz sing the first song, which was believed by them to be an old melody from one of the Hassidic fathers, and was holy to them. I identified the second song immediately, for I recognized it as a melody sung by the Hassidim of Tzanz-Bobov, and I used to hear it from Reb Asher Barber of blessed memory during his rendition of Vekach Haya Moneh [and thus did he count] during his pleasant prayers in the Avoda section of Yom Kippur Musaf[9].

This event more than four decades ago remains firmly etched in my heart and memory to this day. These two tunes are remembered and guarded in my heart. I also recall to this day the enthusiasm and devotion of the Rebbe when I sang him the two melodies from the written musical notes. Indeed, he had a great spirit, sourced in the sanctuary of supernal melodies.

* * *

In the winter of 5692 (1932), signs of illness began to appear. The physicians of his court, Dr. Romer and Dr. Herzog, both of whom were friends of the house and veteran confidants, immediately determined, to all of our dismay, that it was stomach cancer. They also stated that the situation was serious, and the only hope was surgery. The Rebbe traveled to Vienna and was operated upon there. His father Rabbi Yosef Spira of blessed memory died while he was in Vienna, and the community of Dynów, in a unanimous decision, immediately appointed him as rabbi of that city. When he came to Dynów to accept the rabbinical position, all the residents of the city came out to greet him and gave him great honor. This community expected greatness and unknown thigs from their new rabbi, but

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to our sorrow, they only merited to benefit from his light for several weeks. The Admor's state of health declined, and he had to return to Sanok to be under the supervision and care of his aforementioned physicians, who knew his situation, the details of his illness, and his bodily constitution. His illness worsened in Sanok. He became weaker day by day, and his suffering increased. His physicians wearied themselves in trying to find a cure for his illness. All their help was only palliative. I should note here that even in the worst physical situation, and in the worst spirit, as he lay doubled over and afflicted with suffering, he did not turn his mind away from the study of Torah and the service of G-d. He continued the entire time, without stop, to produce new ideas in Torah and Hassidism. Most of them were based upon the ways of his prominent grandfather Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dynów, the author of Bnei Yissachar. Along with this, the smile never left his pale face. He accepted the suffering as afflictions of love, and did not complain about them at all[10].

The High Holy Days approached, and the Rebbe could not descend from his sickbed. He was already dangerously ill at that time, and, according to the physicians, his days were numbered. However, his greatness and holiness were displayed at that time, during his final days and hours. As has been noted, he had served as the prayer leader for Musaf on the High Holy Days all the years, and he knew how much the congregation of worshippers loved and anticipated his prayers, even that time. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, when the physicians already gave up on his life and said that it is a matter of hours or days, the Rebbe approached the prayer lectern to serve as the prayer leader for the Selichot service of the eve of Rosh Hashanah. Those who were present at that service can testify that the Rebbe reached the pinnacle of sweetness and heights of outpouring of soul, devotion, and enthusiasm during those prayers. He was no longer able to serve as the prayer leader on the two days of Rosh Hashanah, but certain, specially selected prayers were recited by him. His situation declined after Rosh Hashanah to the point where even the palliative treatments were not effective. He suffered from terrible afflictions.


The gravestone of the Admor of Dynów in the Sanok cemetery


Nevertheless, on Sukkot, he requested that he be brought on his bed to the sukkah, so that he could fulfil the commandment of dwelling in the sukkah for the final time in his life.

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The Admor of Dynów died on 24 Tishrei, two days after the Sukkot festival[11] at the age of 56. News of his death spread through the entire area. Hundreds of Jews from the entire area came to the funeral. Rabbi Meir Shapira of blessed memory, the Rabbi of Lublin, a good friend of the deceased from the time he was the rabbi of Sanok, came specially to the funeral and delivered a heartfelt eulogy rich in content and meaning. Rabbi Meir Shapira of blessed memory was also asked to be the final decisor in a dispute that broke out between the two communities of Sanok and Dynów regarding the burial place of the great deceased man. Dynów claimed that the Tzadik should lay his head there, because the deceased was officially and practically the rabbi of that city during the final period of his life. Sanok claimed that his burial place should be Sanok, the city in which the great deceased man had disseminated Torah and Hassidism for many years. As is known, the rabbi of Lublin decided that the burial place of the rabbi of Dynów should be Sanok.

The Admor of Dynów wrote many Torah novellae, and many of his manuscripts remained. A few years after his death, his Hassidim began to take interest in preparing his manuscripts for publication. Reb David Gartenberg took upon himself the editing of a portion of the letters. A large, printed book was already in Biłgoraj at the beginning of 1939. The structure of the book was in the style of Bnei Yissachar, based on the months of the year. This book was full of fine new ideas and wonderful explanation of Torah, based on kabbala, Hassidism, and the revealed and hidden [mystical] Torah. The book was there [in Biłgoraj] and ready to be sent to Sanok to be marketed to hundreds of Hassidim and friends who were waiting for it and were anxious to obtain it. However, apparently, the decree was that this book would also be destroyed along with the destruction of the holy nation by the Nazis, may their names be blotted out. The Nazis destroyed the publishing house of Biłgoraj and burnt all the books that were there, including the book of the Admor of Dynów, which was already bound and ready to be shipped.


Rabbi Elazar Spira, the son and heir of the Admor of Dynów


His wife, the holy Rebbetzin Chaya Tova, may peace be upon her, and his three sons – Rabbi Menachem-Mendel the firstborn (who later filled the place of his father as the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of Dynów), Rabbi Elazar-Teshi (who followed his father as the Admor in Sanok), and the youngest Rabbi Yisrael – all perished in the Holocaust along with their families. May G-d avenge their blood! Henia, the only daughter of the Admor, survived. She married Rabbi Baruch Halberstam, may he live long, three years before the Holocaust, and they settled in the United States. They settled in Brooklyn, New York, and raised a prominent, honorable, Jewish family.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Mottel or Mottele is a diminutive of Mordechai. Return
  2. Abaye was a Talmudic sage. Return
  3. A network of Orthodox girls' schools Return
  4. There is a footnote in the text here: Eile Ezkera [these I recall], an anthology of the martyrs of 5700-5705 [1939-1945] – 5705 [1945], edited by Yitzchak Lewin, New York, 5719 [1959] [Translator's note Eile Ezkera is the title and opening words of a liturgical hymn recited on Yom Kippur, memorializing the ten martyrs of the Roman government.] Return
  5. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Birnbaum Return
  6. There is a footnote in the text here: About him, see the chapter “Schools in Sanok.” Return
  7. Leftovers of food blessed by the Rebbe, distributed to those gathered. Return
  8. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Hai_Ricchi Return
  9. There is a footnote in the text here: M. Gorali, a veteran musicologist from Haifa, dedicated special research to these two melodies in his Hatzalil anthology, volume III, 5726 [1966]. Return
  10. Afflictions of Love – there is a concept that especially pious people may suffer afflictions in this world to magnify their reward in the World To Come. Return
  11. This is actually 1 day after Simchat Torah in the Diaspora. The 2 days may be due to the fact that the author was writing from the perspective of Israel, where the festival lasts one day less than in the Diaspora. Return

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