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Cheshvan

Tzadikim whose yahrtzeits are in Cheshvan:

 

 

Reb Tzvi-Hirsch HaKohen of Riminov
Born 1778
Died 30 Cheshvan 1847

This year the month of Cheshvan only has 29 days hence the Rosh Chodesh of the month of Kisleiv only has one day, and since the yahrtzeit occurred on the first day of a two-day Rosh Chodesh the thirtieth of Cheshvan and this year Rosh Chodesh is only one day, the yahrzeit is observed on the 29th day of the month of Cheshvan, the true month in which death occurred.

Rebbe Zvi Hirsch of Riminov was fondly known as Reb Hirsch M’shareis, the attendant, because prior to his succession as the Riminover Rebbe he was an attendant and odd-job man in the household of his predecessor, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov (19 Iyar 1815).

Orphaned at a young age, he was taken in by his uncle, who was too poor to maintain him. He soon became a tailor’s apprentice, “but his thoughts were elsewhere. They were weaving the fine silk of avodas Hashem [Divine service] and yiras Shamayim [fear of Heaven]. His soul yearned to gaze at the face of a great tzaddik, to be in his close proximity and learn from his actions and attach himself to his ways.” He had heard about Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov, who was living in Pristik at that time, a nearby village. Once the great tzadik Reb Moshe of Pshevorsk [a talmid of Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk] saw him and advised him to leave his work and dedicate himself to serving Hashem.

Shortly thereafter he went to the Rebbe Reb Menachem Mendel of Riminov. He began to work there, helping in the kitchen, cutting wood, drawing water, stoking the fires, and eventually was ‘promoted’ to sweeping the floors. His Rebbe would say that he would ‘meyacheid yichudim’ [perform spiritual unifications] as he swept the floors.

The holy Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Riminov was accustomed once a month, on the eve of Rosh Chodesh, to send out two supervisors to all the shops in town to see whether they were fulfilling the biblical command that all weights and measures being used were sound as is instructed in the Gemara (Bava Basra 89A). On one particular occasion he sent his faithful m’shareis (attendant) Reb Zvi Hirsch. Arriving with his partner at the shop of a certain wealthy businessman who was somewhat learned, he found an undersized liquid measure. When Reb Zvi Hirsch rebuked the shopkeeper, he answered that it was not used for measuring.

“But there is an explicit law on the subject,” said Reb Zvi Hirsch. “The Gemara relates that Rav Yehudah said one may not keep a measure that is too big or too small in his house, even to use for a urinal (lest he wash it and use it to measure).”

The shopkeeper retorted brazenly, borrowing a phrase from the Book of Shmuel (1: 10:11) he asked, “Is Shaul also one of the prophets?! Does our Reb Zvi Hirsch too go about laying down the Law?”

In reaction to this, Reb Zvi Hirsch took the measure and trampled on it, breaking it into pieces.

When he returned from his day’s rounds and was asked by the rebbe if everything was in order, Reb Zvi Hirsch concealed that incident, being afraid that the wrath of the Rebbe would be kindled against the arrogant offender. But Reb Menachem Mendel got to hear of the story from the man who had accompanied him.

He immediately instructed his shammes to announce that the townsmen should all assemble in the synagogue to hear a sermon.  He was to knock with his cane on all the shutters according to custom, but he was told to ignore the house of the offender.

The shopkeeper heard that the Rebbe was speaking on the subject of weights and measures.  He immediately realized that this speech was brought about in response to his behavior. He went to the shul of his own accord, and as a sign of penance removed his shoes in preparation for begging forgiveness of the tzadik.  Reb Menachem Mendel agreed to forgive him on the condition that by way of a fine, he donate fifty gulden to charity.

Before the shopkeeper arrived at the shul to humbly make amends, someone noticed that Reb Zvi Hirsch was muttering something to himself. Asked what he was saying, he replied: “Only a small prayer that the man should, heaven forbid, not be punished before he comes to ask forgiveness from the Rebbe”.

Once, a Torah scholar asked Rebbe Zvi Hirsh of Riminov the meaning of a certain comment by Rashi which appears to be somewhat redundant, and therefore puzzling. In the passage in the Torah which speaks of Birchas Kohanim (the Priestly Blessing), Hashem instructs Moshe to convey the following command to the Kohanim who are to pronounce the blessing over their fellow Jews: “Thus shall you bless the Children of Israel, amor (saying) to them . . .”

On the verb Amor (”saying”), Rashi comments: “Amor k’mo Zachor v’Shamor.”  On their simplest level, these words merely explain the grammatical structure of the verb Amor, by pointing out that it is analogous to the structure of the verbs Zachor and Shamor which appear in the two commandments referring to Shabbos: “Remember [Zachor] the Sabbath day to keep it holy”; and ”Observe [Shamor] the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”

Reb Hirsch, however, chose to see Rashi’s comment from a less straightforward perspective, and responded with the following story:

In the days when I served as the attendant of my Rebbe, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov, it once happened that Thursday arrived and there was not a single coin in the house with which to buy the barest necessities for Shabbos. The Rebbitzen requested that I ask the tzaddik [her husband] what to do. I went across to his study, but as soon as I saw the intensity of his inspired concentration in the service of G-d, I could not bring myself to disturb him, so I tiptoed out.

Thursday evening came, and the Rebbetzin made it clear to me – somewhat insistently – that it was high time that I go and remind the tzaddik that there was nothing whatsoever in the house for Shabbos. So I went, but exactly the same thing happened as before.

On Friday morning, when there was still neither fish nor meat nor anything else, I again entered the Rebbe’s study, but before I could say anything, he said: ”Please take the pot in which we always cook the fish, fill it with water, and put it on the fire. Do the same with the pot which we use for meat, and the same again for all the other things we usually cook for Shabbos.”

“But Rebbe,” I protested, “what will we cook in those pots? There is no sign of fish or meat in the house.”

The Rebbe answered me as follows: ”Concerning the manna in the wilderness which fell from Heaven on Friday and was to be eaten on Shabbos, G-d commanded our forefathers through Moshe Rabbeinu: ‘And on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they shall bring.’ That is to say, we are obliged to make the preparations: the holy day itself will bring whatever is needed.”

And that is exactly what happened.  We took out the pots, filled them with water, and left them simmering away on the fire.  After a little while, we were surprised by a knock on the door.  It was a villager who said he had to spend Shabbos in our town for some reason or other, and asked whether he could spend the holy day in the Rebbe’s house.  He assured us that wherever he traveled he took along ample supplies of food – fish, meat, and whatever else one could need.  We, of course, were very pleased to have him stay with us, and we were all blessed with an enjoyable Shabbos together.

“So it is,” concluded Rebbe Hirsch, ”with the Priestly Blessing.  It is obvious that the Kohanim themselves are unable to grant blessings, for it is written: ‘And they shall set My Name over the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’

“All the Almighty commands the Kohanim to do is to go ahead with all the preparations they are capable of – taking off their shoes, washing their hands, raising them, saying the words of the blessing, and so on.  At this point the Almighty comes into the picture and says, ‘And I will bless them.’

“And this is what Rashi meant when he wrote Amor k’mo Zachor v’Shamor – comparing the sayings of the Priestly Blessing to remembering and observing the Sabbath day.  He was not simply giving us a lesson on the structure of verbs.  He was teaching us something about the nature of the Priestly Blessing – that, just like the preparations we made for the Shabbos, it is an act of faith.”

Some of Reb Hirschel Rimnover’s teachings are collected in Mevasser Tov and in Be’eros HaMayim.

Zechuso yagein Aleinu, may the many merits Rebbe Zvi Hirsh of Rimminov shield us!

Reb Lieber HaGadol Ashkanazi ZT’L of Berditchev
Born: 1667
Died: 28 of Cheshvan 1771
 

Rabbi Lieber HaGadol, although never actually a talmid of the Baal Shem Tov, was the person who sowed the seeds of Chasidus in his town. Chasidus fully blossomed during the years of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev.

It was of no surprise that Rabbi Lieber became one of the greatest tzadikim of his era as he was a descendant of two renowned Torah giants, Rabbi Shamshon of Ostropol and the Megalleh Amukos, Rabbi Noson Shapiro.

Sadly, Rabbi Lieber’s father died while still a young man leaving him an orphan. Rabbi Lieber immersed himself fully in Torah.  It is said that every night his illustrious ancestors descended from the heavens to teach him the esoteric secrets of the Torah.

The city of Berdichev came about due to the merit of Reb Lieber through an amazing turn of events.

In the early years, Berditchev w

as a hamlet rather than the city it later became. First founded in about 1430 (reputedly by someone named Berdich) it had been destroyed by the Tartars and subsequently only a handful of Jews lived in its vicinity. By the times of Rabbi Lieber most of Berditchev was still a thick, untouched forest.  Something about the wild, unpopulated area attracted Rabbi Lieber and he felt certain that there was something holy and special about the place. After his father’s passing, he would cross the river every morning and evening and meditate among its ancient trees, reveling in the opportunity to be alone with Hashem without disturbances. This custom continued for months and years.

One morning, the poritz/ducal owner of Berditchev and its environs was traveling in the forest in his coach when his horses suddenly halted and reared upwards, almost throwing the duke out of his carriage. They had been startled by Rabbi Lieber, who was standing in middle of the forest in his tallis and tefillin, totally immersed in his prayers and completely unaware of the coach that had almost run him down. Using every ounce of his strength, the Ukrainian coachman got the horses under control.  The infuriated duke ordered his coachman to give the insolent Jew a whipping he would not forget. Unfortunately the coachman did not need to be told twice; his whip lashed through the air biting into Rabbi Lieber’s clothes and flesh.  Rabbi Lieber was so engrossed in his davening that he was completely oblivious to what was happening to him.  The coachman turned to his master and said, “He must not be a human being! No matter what I do he doesn’t flinch.”

“Leave him alone!” the duke said in disgust. “Let’s go.”  Back home, the duke leapt from the carriage and strode confidently into his luxurious mansion; suddenly his legs and arms went limp and he collapsed onto the floor.  Help, help!”, he began to scream.  The servants who ran in from every direction could not do anything except carry him to his room and put him in bed. There he lay completely paralyzed as helpless as a newborn, and his doctor did not give him much hope declaring that his condition was unhealable.

Help came from an unexpected quarter. Like most Eastern European land-owners, the poritz had a Jewish arender (estate manager). When he heard what happened, his face paled.  “Do you know who the person the poritz ordered to beat up must have been?” he asked the servants. “Obviously our holy maggid Rabbi Lieber HaGadol who crosses the river to pray every day! I am certain the only way for the poritz to recover from his paralysis is if he begs the holy man for forgiveness!”  The poritz immediately dispatched his doctor to help Rabbi Lieber recover from his beating and to bear a message begging his forgiveness. This was a golden opportunity for Rabbi Lieber to help Yiden.

“I will forgive the poritz and he will completely recover if he builds a large shul at the place I was praying and a house next door in which to live,” Rabbi Lieber told the doctor.  The duke hurriedly built the shul and the house and after his recovery, he visited Rabbi Lieber and asked if there was anything else he wanted.  Yes,” he replied. “I would like you to build a town for Jews next to the shul.”  This is how the Berditchev kehillah was founded approximately in 5451/1691.

It is no surprise that the mere mention of name Berditchev evokes spiritual longings in Jewish hearts, as Rabbi Lieber used to say that the shul he built was sited opposite the gateway to Heaven where the prayers of Klal Yisroel stream skywards. This is one reason Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev established his kloiz (Shtiebel) and home right next door to the old, original shul of Berditchev when he moved there after Rabbi Lieber’s passing.  In addition, Rabbi Lieber built a beis medrash next to his shul where he taught revealed and hidden Torah to talmidim. Once the Berditchev kehillah began thriving, Rabbi Lieber served as its maggid.

Although Rav Lieber always revered the Baal Shem Tov, he never became his talmid nor did he follow his path of Chassidus. His awe of the Baal Shem Tov increased dramatically after the Baal Shem Tov’s passing when the Megalleh Amukos, who up until then appeared every night to study with Rabbi Lieber, suddenly stopped coming. Concerned, Rabbi Lieber sent his older son, Rabbi Yechiel, to the Megalleh Amukos’s grave in Krakow to inquire what happened.

“Since the Baal Shem Tov’s passing, the yeshiva shel ma’alah (heavenly Yeshiva) has closed down for thirty days,” the Megalleh Amukos told him.” “It is from there that I get the Torah I study with your father.”  Rabbi Lieber then drew closer to Chassidus, mentioning its wisdom in his Shabbos drashos each Shabbos. Through these teachings, the Jews of Berditchev became receptive to its ideas when talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov, including Rabbi Leib Sarahs and Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye the author of the Toldos Yaakov Yoseph, began passing through, and by the time Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev arrived in 5545/1785, the foundations had already been laid for him to create a major Chassidic metropolis. By then, Berditchev had a thriving kehillah of about 2,000 Jews who comprised seventy-five percent of the town’s population.  The kehillah reached its highpoint in 5621/1861 when its 46,683 strong community was the second largest in the Russian Empire and the only major town of the empire with a Jewish majority.  Rabbi Lieber lived an extremely long life, passing away in 5531/1770 at the age of 104 during a violent plague. The plague claimed so many that survivors were afraid to bury them according to halacha and interred them in mass graves. “Great destruction has been decreed on the community,” declared Rabbi Lieber. “I hereby accept death upon myself instead!”  Calling four people to him, he promised them a place in Olam Haba if they would perform all the customs of interment on him and bury him properly instead of throwing him into a mass grave. He then passed away and the plague ceased.

May the memory of the great tzadik Rabbi Lieber be a blessing and serve as a protection over us.

Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl

Author of the Sefer Meor Einaim

Born: Garinsk, Volhynia, 1730

Died: 11 Cheshvan Chernobyl, Ukraine, 1797

Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl dedicated much of his life’s work to the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim (redeeming imprisoned Jews). In those days, if a Jew could not pay his debts to the local landlord, he was often thrown mercilessly into a dungeon or pit, sometimes with his entire family.

Rabbi Nachum raised money to redeem these unfortunate Jews, saving them from sure death. Our sages say that there are two commandments that are called “great mitzvot.” The first is the commandment to procreate, and the second is the commandment to redeem imprisoned Jews. When one redeems a Jew, thereby saving his life, it is as if he given birth to his soul.

It came to pass that based on a false charge, the Czar’s officers threw Rabbi Nachum, himself, into prison. Daily, he would bribe the prison warden to let him out of the pit for a short time to pray and to immerse in the mikveh. One day, Rabbi Nachum did not bribe the warden. He explained that he did not need to do so, for he would be released from prison on that very day.

When asked how he knew that he would be released, he related that on that night the matriarch Sarah had come to him in a dream. Rabbi Nachum asked Sarah what he did to deserve being thrown into a prison. Sarah told him that her husband Avraham Avinu had fulfilled the Mitzvah of Hakhnasas Orchim (hospitality to the stranger and the wayfarer) all of his life. His tent was always open to strangers for whom he invariably provided food and shelter. Yet Hashem commanded him (at the beginning of this week’s parsha) to go forth from his native land and from his father’s house to the land that Hashem would show him. Thus Avraham, himself, became a stranger in a strange land.

Why did Hashem do this? He wanted Avraham to recognize the greatness of the mitzvah he performed.  Only through personally experiencing the difficulty of being a stranger in a strange land can one truly understand the hardships of the passerby and wayfarer.

“So to with you, Rabbi Nachum”, she continued, “you have devoted your entire life to redeeming captives.”

It was necessary for him to experience a taste of captivity so that he could truly understand the situation and subsequently devote himself to this mitzvah in an even more rectified manner.

When a person understands why Hashem has put him in a certain situation, it releases him from the situation. Thus, as soon as Rabbi Nachum understood the reason for his imprisonment, he knew that he would be released on that very day.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager of Kosov

Author of Ahavas Shalom

Born: 1768 in Kolomaya
Died: 17 Cheshvan 1826 in Kosov

Rabbi Chaim Meir Hager of Vhiznitz, the Imrei Chaim, had an ancestor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kosov.  He was the author of the Ahavas Shalom and a disciple of Rav Meshulem Feivish of Zabriza (a close disciple of Rabbi Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov and of Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezritch. His Sefer Yosher Divrei Emes is a basic work on chasidic thought, and his teachings appear also in Likkutim Yekarim).

The Imrei Chaim related that when Rabbi Feivish of Zabriza was once going to spend Shabbos in Skole, his young disciple Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kosov set out to greet him — on foot, because he could afford no other way.

As evening fell on Thursday a village inn came in sight. He had not tasted a morsel of food all day long, and he was weak and weary from trudging across Ukraine, so he asked the innkeeper if he could spend the night in his inn.

“You may certainly sleep here,” was the answer, “but unfortunately I have nothing to give you for supper. I do not even have a slice of bread left to give my small children. There is no income from this inn, and if I do not pay the owner of this village what I owe him for the lease within a few days, he will throw me and my entire family into his dungeon. I do not even have one single coin to pay with.”

That night, Rav Menachem Mendel slept fitfully; it was not hunger that bothered his sleep, it was his feelings of distress to hear the suffering of this yid (the innkeeper) and his poor starving children. In the morning he bid farewell, gave the poor man his blessing that the Hashem should help him, and he resumed his slow and long journey.

Soon a carriage overtook him, and as it slowed down the Jew sitting within called out to him: “Young man! Where are you heading?”

“To the holy Rebbe of Zabriza,” answered the walker.

“In that case,” said the owner of the carriage, “come and join me up here, because I too am headed in that very direction.”

“But I will not travel with you,” answered Rabbi Menachem Mendel, “unless you first give me one hundred gulden.”

“Is it not sufficient that I offer to take you in my carriage free of charge,” fumed the other. “yet on top of that you still demand payment?!” The good hearted Jew added: “Nonetheless I shall still give you a respectable contribution – but not such a large sum as that!”

“Believe me,” replied Rabbi Menachem Mendel, “I do not ask for this money for my own need. My request is made for the benefit of others – and for your benefit too.”

Hearing this interesting answer the wealthy Yid in the carriage now wanted to know what benefit he could expect to derive from his sizable contribution, apart from the obvious of having earned a mitzvah.

“Who knows what ups and downs each new day can bring?” said Rabbi Menachem Mendel in reply. “Life is a wheel that turns in the world…”

These words had their desired effect. The rich man took out one hundred gulden and handed them to his passenger, who said: “Now I shall not move from here until you return with me to the nearest inn, so that you will be able to see with your own eyes what a great mitzvah you have fulfilled.”

The rich man agreed, and they rode back together along the highway until they reached the village they sought. Rabbi Menachem Mendel handed the innkeeper the money he had just been given, sent him off to town to buy up a stock of vodka for his inn, and assured him that from that day on he would prosper in all his affairs.

He now turned to the owner of the carriage and said: “As you know from the words of our sages, ‘One mitzvah brings another mitzvah.’ Let us stay here for the morning prayers and in the meantime, if you give your coachman some money, he will be able to go and buy bread so that our host’s children will have what to eat and we to will be able to eat some of it for breakfast.”

This was done, and there was enough bread left over for Shabbos meals for the whole family as well as for provisions to last the travelers for the remainder of their journey.

As they were about to leave, Rabbi Menachem Mendel whispered in the ear of the innkeeper: “From now on you will prosper more and more, and in the course of time my rich companion will unfortunately lose his entire fortune. When the time comes, remember to repay one kindness with another!”

When they arrived at Zabriza they were unable to make their way through the busting throngs of chasidim, until Rabbi Feivish himself called out: “Make way for the Yidden who have just performed a mitzvah!”

In response to Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s account of how his traveling companion had saved an entire family from starvation, the tzadik- borrowing the words of the patriarch Yaakov – said: “I know, my son, I know. But did you tell the innkeeper how he is to act when the time comes?”

“I told him,” said Rabbi Menachem Mendel, “and he undertook to fulfill his obligation.”

After Shabbos the rich man drove off in his carriage, a contented man. In due course, however, his fortune turned. Every transaction was a disappointment, every investment was a failure. He was left completely penniless. Dire necessity drove him to wander from town to town, knocking on the doors of the well-to-do in quest of alms.

During the same period Rabbi Menachem Mendel became renowned as the great Rebbe of Kosov – and the innkeeper became a prosperous man, just as his young guest had promised him long ago.

In the course of his years on the road, the destitute wanderer arrived at Kosov. He did not know that the tzadik of Kosov was none other than the young man to whom – in such different circumstances – he had once given one hundred gulden.

The itinerant paupers who knew Kosov from previous visits now told the newcomer: “Let us come along and visit the local Rebbe. There is a man who knows how to provide for the likes of us!”

Recognizing him at once, the Rebbe called him aside and said: “Take my advice, my friend, and may Hashem prosper your path. I will write a letter to a certain individual, for you to hand deliver to him. “Go to this inn and claim your share,” instructed the Kosover.

The pauper wondered at these words, but was too weary to ask for an explanation. With the letter in hand he set out in the direction he was told to take, and eventually found himself treading the length of the long forgotten dirt track that meandered its way to a certain remote village inn.

The innkeeper did not recognize him after his fifteen long years of privation, but before he opened the envelope he said: “I know this letter is from the Rebbe of Kosov, for this very night he appeared to me in my dream and told me that the time had come for me to fulfill my commitment of repaying one kindness with another.”

He then reminded the wandered of their first encounter, and told him what it was that their mutual friend had whispered in his ear at the time. For the first time in years, a smile now warmed the strained features of the dusty traveler.

The Rebbe wrote him a letter of introduction reminding the innkeeper of his promise and of the Kossover’s instructions years before. The innkeeper kept up his part of the bargain and gave the formerly wealthy yid a sizable amount of money. He then went and re-established himself in business and prospered. Each and every venture he touched was successful; his Mazal had been completely overturned and he returned to his former standing as a wealthy yid.

“And that,” concluded the Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz, is how my ancestor helped other jews!”