Stories Of Greatness

The Mikvah

Among the many decrees that were issued by the evil Nazi government in the ghettos was the...

Read more: The Mikvah

In 1929, Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz zt”l and his son-in-law, Rav Reuven Grozovsky zt”l arrived in New York City to raise direly needed funds for the Kamenitz Yeshivah. On every occasion that Rav Boruch Ber spoke, he described the material poverty and contrasting spiritual riches of the yeshivah. But money was hard to come by; times were tough, and the language barrier made things all the more difficult. Fortunately, they found a native of Kamenitz who had lived in the United States for some time, Rav Yitzchok Tendler zt”l, rabbi of the Kamenitzer Shul in New York, and rosh yeshivah in Yeshiva Rabbi Jacob Joseph, who volunteered to help them. His task was immense, bridging the gap between two spiritual giants and the land of materialism and secularism. To this, add fund-raising during the Depression. The results could not be very lucrative.

Ariel “Arik” Sharon was a famous Israeli statesman, former Prime Minister and retired Major General who served in the Israel Defense Forces for more than 25 years. In mid-December 2005, Prime Minister Sharon spent two days in a hospital after suffering a minor stroke, which doctors said caused no irreparable brain damage.

The chasidic dynasty of Belz is one rich in tradition and righteous devotion. The sleepy little Galician town of Belz may have been small in size, but it was a towering bastion of chasidic zeal and piety, as well as an immeasurable repository of Torah, yir’as Shamayim, and avodas Hashem. Beginning with the holy Sar Shalom who became the first Belzer Rebbe in 5577 (1817), Belzer Rebbes have led their flock for close to 200 years and, during that span, most have emerged as leading lights, not only for their followers, but for all of klal Yisrael. The previous Belzer Rebbe, Rav Aharon Rokeach zt”l, was a spiritual giant and a true saint in the literal sense of the word. Although he was a mere mortal, he was viewed by many followers in the pre-war generation, Jews and gentiles alike – and even contemporaries – as nothing less than a mal’ach, an angel!

The seventh plague wreaked particular havoc on the fields of Egypt. The hail, a heavenly amalgamation of ice and fire, destroyed anything and everything that was left outdoors. This included crops, vegetation, and animals. However, the Torah makes specific mention of what was not destroyed. The wheat and the spelt that was left outside were not destroyed, since they are late in sprouting. Rashi cites the Tanchuma, which explains that it was a “pele” – a wonder – that these types were not destroyed. Why did the wheat and spelt deserve such a miracle? Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi shlita explains that there was a lesson here for Pharaoh to realize: He should be flexible and yielding instead of brazen and impertinent – like the wheat and spelt whose flexibility in the fields allowed them to remain upright even as the devastating hail fell. The “pele” is a reference to the fact that a miracle was performed for Pharaoh to see, and he still didn’t want to recognize it.

The following story is told about Rav Moshe Leib Sassover zt”l (early chasidic rebbe in 18th century Eastern Galicia, now in Ukraine), when he moved the first time from Sassov to the city of Apt. As Rav Moshe Leib and his family were traveling in their carriage, they came across two men in a horse and wagon. Rav Moshe Leib was told that this was a poor father accompanying his son who was getting married to the daughter of the shamash of Apt. He went out to greet them and was struck by the sad expressions on their faces. It didn’t take long for him to realize that the unfortunate man had no money for even the basic wedding festivities. Right then and there, Rav Moshe Leib decided to sponsor the wedding. He dressed the chasan in his own clothes, fed him from his own provisions, sat him in his own carriage, and sang and danced the wedding party into Apt. Eventually, the chasan’s family alighted from the carriage and joined them in their singing. As they made their way down the main street of Apt, throngs of passersby were pulled into the amazing celebratory circle of song and dance, until they reached the kallah’s house.

The winds of Enlightenment and Reform were overspreading Germany, threatening to swallow the hapless Orthodox communities that maintained their religious identities. Into this hostile environment, rose the great Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l, who fought back the taint of the secular invaders with the courage of a lion and the wisdom of generations of Torah knowledge. But even in his early days, Rav Hirsch was unsure of his true calling in life.