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[Page 178]

My Grandfather, Rabbi Zechariah Yosef[1]

by Azriel Glazer

Translated by Yael Chaver

Donated by Rebeca Bialik Gilad

Either by the decree of fate or because of my own shortcomings, I never had the privilege of meeting my distinguished grandfather. But I heard much about his expertise in Jewish scholarship and his wisdom, as well as anecdotes and legends. I especially enjoyed it when my father Rabbi Yehoshua Glazer, his son-in-law and a rabbinic judge in Turiysk, would tell reverent and admiring stories about him.

He had become Rabbi of Turiysk at age 15, and the wealthy members of the community were proud of him, their great, important rabbi. Not only was Rabbi Zechariah a Torah scholar, he was also wise in other matters; he was acclaimed as a great physician. He had an acute, quick mind and was able to distinguish between right and wrong when judging in an argument. For this reason, people would come to him for advice when they were worried and had difficulties. He loved people, honored their dignity, and helped them whenever he could.

I have a newspaper dated September 17, 1915, printed in St. Louis, America, where he served as Rabbi (after leaving Turiysk), describing his funeral. Fifteen thousand Jews participated in the funeral, as well as many Christians. Those who lived around the cemetery, all Christians, stood by with glasses and pitchers of water, helping dozens of physicians to assist mourners who had fainted due to the crowded conditions.

My grandfather wrote two books that were well-received in the rabbinical world: Yosef-Tikvah and Zikhron-Zechariah[2]. The city of St. Louis has preserved his memory by establishing a yeshiva in his name: “Rabbi Zechariah-Joseph Yeshiva.


[Page 179]

The Last Three Rabbis of Turiysk

by Mordechai Eliezer Perl

Translated by Yael Chaver

Donated by Rebeca Bialik Gilad

Rabbi Zechariah Rosenfeld was an extraordinary Jew and an unusual person. He distinguished himself not only in religious learning but in his medicinal knowledge as well. He became an expert in medicine in the following way. He was sickly for years, and physicians were unable to cure him. He therefore decided to help himself: he learned Latin and began studying books of medicine. Naturally, this distracted him from devoting himself completely to religious learning. Because of this, his father, the deceased Rabbi Gabriel (may his memory be for a blessing) was often annoyed with him; first, for reading secular books, and secondly, for not devoting all his time to religious study. Once, he screamed at him: “I already have one water barrel at home, and I don't need two!”[3]

But his son did not obey the commandment “Honor thy father” in this case, and continued on his own way, until he was confident that he was a “complete doctor.”[4] He then began treating other patients in addition to himself. As he had no license to dispense prescriptions, he would produce his own medications, and the town admired him immensely.

People recounted was that physicians from Kovel sometimes could not make an accurate diagnosis, but Rabbi Zechariah was able to diagose the illness.[5] For example, when a girl from Kovel was sick and the local doctors couldn't determine the nature of her illness, she was taken to see Rabbi Zechariah. He gazed at her, and suddenly asked whether she had been washing and scouring old dishes. When the girl confirmed this, he said: “She has been poisoned by the rust.” The Kovel physicians accepted his diagnosis. The sick girl began to recover, and finally healed completely.

Later, he moved to America, where he became rabbi in St. Louis. He published two religious books there, one about machine-made matza and the other about the mikveh.[6]

[Page 180]

He was followed as Rabbi of Turiysk by his son-in-law, Rabbi Yehoshua Glazer, may his memory be for a blessing. He was highly learned and very righteous, who constantly studied sacred books and prayed. He often carried on a responsa-type correspondence with the greatest scholars of the time, such as Rabbi Meir Simcha of Daugavpils (author of Or-Same'ach) and Rabbi Sholem Mordechai of Brzezany.[7] These rabbis held him in great esteem. He would be called in to serve as a third party in a court of Jewish law, but declined to mediate because a mediator must withstand the temptation to prefer one party over the other, God forbid, even when one party is clearly in the wrong.

The last Rabbi of Turiysk was his son-in-law Rabbi Moshe. He was one of the prize students at the Krynki yeshiva, who studied with the great Rabbi Zalmen Sender Shapira. He was very learned and an extremely righteous man. Rabbi Moshe and his wife, the righteous Libeh, along with their six children, were murdered by the Nazis, may their name be blotted out, may God avenge their memory. One of their children, Shmuel, survived, as he had gone to Palestine before the war. However, the tragic news of his parents' murder caused him to lose his mind, may it not happen to us. He died of starvation, yet another victim of the Nazi beasts.

 

Translator's Footnotes
  1. Rabbi Zechariah Joseph Rosenfeld (1846-1915) Rabbi in St. Louis, Missouri, 1890-1915. Return
  2. Yosef-Tikvah (St. Louis, 1903) deals with machine-made matza. Zikhron-Zechariah (New York, 1916) addresses laws of the Sabbath. Return
  3. The Yiddish phrasing puns on the two Yiddish words for “pair” (por) and “barrel” (fai¸plural feser) to yield a corrupted version of “professor” (Ikh hob shoyn in shtub eyn fas vaser, ikh darf nisht keyn por feser Return
  4. The Yiddish term polner dokter has an ironic implication. Return
  5. Kovel is a larger town than Turiysk. Return
  6. This refers to another of Rosenfeld's publications, Tikvat-Zechariah (St. Louis,1894). Return
  7. Responsa are commentaries answering questions on points of Jewish law. Or-Same'ach is a 19th-century commentary on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, a renowned 12th century code of Jewish religious law. Return

 

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