76 posts categorized "Giants of Judaism"

The Blacksmith of Grodno

Blacksmith of Grodno
Shabbat Chanukah reminds me of my great grandfather, who died some 26 years before I was born.

My maternal great grandfather, Reb Yankev ("The Blacksmith") Podrub from Grodno, Belarus (formerly Poland) was a legendary figure in the annals of Stolin-Karlin Chassidus. He arms were like twisted steel, but his disposition was extremely gentle. Although he was a blacksmith. he was also a Talmudic scholar. He worked so that his little brother, Arie Leib, could attend rabbinical yeshiva. Ultimately, Arie Leib became the head rabbi of Meretch in Lithuania and one of the prime students of Rav Chaim Ozer Grudzinski, osb"m.

The renowned "Yanuka" of Stolin, the famous Rebbe Yisroel Perlov ob'm who had over 20,000 Chassidim, would stay in Reb Yankev's house every Shabbat Chanuka when he'd visit his chassidim in Grodno. Even more, The Stoliner Rebbe - who loved horses - insisted that only Reb Yankev shoe his horses. From what the old Stoliner Chassidim told me, the Rebbe loved my great-grandfather's pure and simple emuna and the innocence in which he served Hashem. Reb Yankev would be so excited that the Rebbe was a guest in his home that he'd dance all night long. Rav Binyomin Adler, who was head of the Kashruth Department in the Jerusalem Rabbinate, heard from his uncle - who was also a guest in my great grandfather's home when the Rebbe was there, that Reb Yankev danced all night long in the living room, singing, "Shabbat! Chanukah! Rosh Chodesh! Rebbe!" and making such a commotion that no one could sleep.

What was so special about Reb Yankev? He never spoke small talk. Even at work, he'd mumble tehillim and mishnayot. Also, his trust in Hashem was phenominal - he'd only work long enough to earn that same day's bread with one extra kopeck; he saved the extra kopecks in a jar all year long, and then at the end of the year, he'd use the money to travel to his Rebbe in Stolin for Rosh Hashanna. As such, my great grandfather lived his connection with the tzaddik all year long.

The minute Reb Yankev finished his day's work, he'd fly up the stairs to the Stoliner shtiebel, conveniently located on the second floor over the smithy, and open up a Gemara. Grodno lore holds him as one of the hidden tzaddikim of the area, may his blessed memory be cherished always.

***There's a poignant epilog to the above story: when I received my rabbinical ordination in 1992 from Rav Yitzchak Kulitz of blessed memory, former head Rabbi of Jerusalem, he told me that my great-uncle Arie Leib, Reb Yankev's younger brother, was the rabbi who ordained his father. In fact, when Rabbi Arie Leib passed away, Rav Kulitz's father took his place as the head rabbi of Meretch in Lithuania. It was my great grandfather who enabled his little brother Arie Leib to learn in Yeshiva. Now, Rav Kulitz was ordaining me - a lovely cycle was completed.

I heard the above stories and many more from my grandmother Kailie of blessed memory, from Rav Yitzchak Kulitz of blessed memory, former head Rabbi of Jerusalem, who as a little boy saw my great grandfather, and from Rav Benyamin Adler shlit'a of Jerusalem, whose uncle knew my great grandfather well, and from the elderly Stolin-Karlin chassidim of Jerusalem.

I know that alte zaidie (Yiddish for great grandfather) has nachas (gratification) that his great granchildren are continuing on in the way of Torah and Chassidus. You know what that means? The Greeks and the Hellenists lost, and so did Hitler and western assimilation. With simple emuna, we shall continue to overcome, with G-d's help. Have a wonderful Shabbat Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh!


Rabbi Yoram Abergel, of saintly and blessed memory

Rav Yoram Abergel ztzl
Breslev Israel, Emuna Outreach and the Beams grieve from the loss of an enormous tzaddik, Rabbi Yoram Abergel osb"m, who returned his holy soul to Hashem earlier today on Shabbat afternoon. At the time of this writing (10;30 PM Israel, Saturday night), the funeral procession is about to begin in Netivot, in the south of Israel, where Rabbi Abergel lived.

Rabbi Yoram was the head of the "Rav Pa'alim" Institutions, a huge network of Torah learning all across Israel. He had thousands of students, many of whom he personally brought in to observant Judaism.

He was not only a tremendous scholar and Kabbalist, but he cared tremendously about each human being and did tremendous loving-kindnesses for widows, orphans and the needy. He always had a smile on his face.

This is an irreplaceable  loss for the Jewish People at a difficult time, when we need the merit of our righteous spiritual leaders. Maybe Rabbi Yoram plead in our behalf at the Heavenly throne, and may we soon see Moshiach and the full redemption of our people, amen.


Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev

Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev

Above image - the holy gravesite of Rebbe Levi Yitzchok in Berditchev, Ukraine

Today, the 25th of Tishrei, is the 206th yahrtzeit of the holy Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (1740-1809), may his sacred soul intercede in our behalf, amen. When Rebbe Levi Yitzchok died, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev said that the world became a darker place. Rebbe Levi Yitzchok is especially known as the senegor of Israel, the defending attorney of the Jewish People in the Heavenly Court, for he only saw the good in people.

Light a candle in memory of Rebbe Levi Yitzchok ben Sara Sasha. may his holy memory invoke blessings for all of us, amen.

Rebbe Levi Yitzchok's hauntingly beautiful niggun (melody) is one of my favorites. Here is Yehuda Green singing it for us. Enjoy this bit of inspiration, and may you be blessed with a healthy winter and a wonderful new week.


The Story of the Holy Bach

Rabbi Yoel ben Shmuel Sirkis (1561-1640), aka the "Bach", named after his landmark commentary on the Arba Turim, was one of the greatest rabbis and scholars of all time. He was also my 11th generation great grandfather on my mother's side, which makes me a distant cousin of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, of blessed memory, who was a great-grandson of the Bach.

In the following memorable clip, here's Rabbi Shlomo telling a classic story about the Bach, which I enjoy telling to my guests and grandchildren in our Succa. It's really moving, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Moadim L'Simcha and Shabbat Shalom!


Rebbe Nachman's 205th Yahrtzeit

Willows Breslev

Above image: Lazer by a willow tree in the town of Breslev, Ukraine, near the Bugg River - these are probably the same willows that Rebbe Nachman used with his lulav...

Today, the 18th of Tishrei 5776, is the 205th yahrtzeit of our holy, esteemed and beloved Rebbe, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, may his holy neshama intervene in our behalf, amen!

Please light a candle in loving memory of Rebbe Nachman the son of Faigie and Simcha. In his memory, ask Hashem for a favor you need, especially in the area of spiritual growth.

Breslev Israel and the Beams wish everyone a healthy, happy and joyous Succoth holiday!


"No Nukes will Land in Eretz Yisrael"

Ahavat ChaimRabbi Nosson Tzvi Kenig osb"m, one of Breslev's leading rabbis, revealed before he died that a modest tinsmith from Jerusalem, Menachem Menashe osb"m (1892-1968, image, left), author of the 'Ahavat Chaim' commentary on Torah (a book that never leaves my Shabbat table), was the leader of the 36 hidden tzaddikim of their generation.

The "Ahavat Chaim" describes at the end of Parshat Tzav an argument that the angel Gabriel had with Hashem. "Hashem, you made me send down the fires that destroyed the Holy Temple. It looks like I wanted to do it!" He explains that Gabriel was the guardian angel of Esau, but once he was defeated in the all-night grappling match with Jacob, Gabriel turned his allegiance to Jacob and since then has been defending Jacob's offspring. Hashem consoled Gabriel and told him that he would be privileged with taking revenge against all the nations that tormented Israel. Nothing will be left of them.

The nations will attack Israel and the fear will be great. The "Ahavat Chaim" promises that if Israel does teshuva, there won't be any fear at all. Furthermore, he makes an amazing unconditional promise, which he wrote over 50 years ago,  that Gabriel will make a protective fire-wall around the Land of Israel and "no atom bomb will hit the Land of Israel." This is the sentence underlined in green in the photo of the page from "Ahavat Chaim" below.

Our so-called friends and our enemies can continue with their schemes, but they'll all blow up in their faces. The Nation of Israel is becoming spiritually stronger by the minute, despite what the media may say otherwise, and our full redemption is close by. We all fel it.

Ahavat Chaim Tzav