Rav Issamar Rosenbaum of Nadvorna
22nd of Sivan
Reb Issamar Rosenbaum was born in 1886 in Kretchnif. He passed away in 1973 in Tel Aviv and was interred on הר הזיתים (the mount of olives) in Yerushalaim. He was the son of Rabbi Meir (1852-June 29,1908) of Kretchnif, who in turn was a son of Rabbi Mordechai (1824–1894) of Nadvorna.
Reb Issamar became a rebbe at the age of fifteen and, at his father’s behest, moved to Czernowitz where he served as a chasidic rebbe. In the Nadvorna dynasty, all children of the rebbes opened their own chasidic courts, even during their fathers’ lifetime. His wife, Rebbitzen Malka, was the daughter of the Rebbe Usher Yeshaya Rubin of Kolbuszowa.
His family was the only chasidic family of grand rabbis known to have survived the Nazi camps with the whole family intact. His wife died in 1969 and was buried in Tveria. In 1970, three years before his death, he moved from the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan to Yad Eliyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel. At the time of his death, he was one of the longest living chassidic rebbes in history. He was known as the Admor Hazaken miNadvorna, or “Elder Rebbe of Nadvorna.”
Rav Mordecha’le of Nadvorna used to play the violin. He taught his descendants that they too should attempt to learn and study its secrets, explaining that “when Moshiach comes, who then shall play in his honor and add music to his welcoming ceremony? Chaim’l Klezemer? Or a Tzaddik such as one of us – if we might have such a merit?!”
Rav Meir of Kretchnif said before his passing that his son, Rav Issamer, would be the best successor to inherit the violin. However, he would not change the family custom of drawing lots. And so, when Rav Meir passed on and there was a lottery drawn among his holy sons for his holy possessions, the violin did indeed fall to Rav Issamer. Rav Issamer used to play the violin only a few times a year at auspicious times such as Lag Ba’Omer, Chanuka, and family simchas. On these occasions he played the well-known Nadvorna niggunim of אחד יחיד ומיוחד as well as ידיד נפש and Bar Yochai on Lag BaOmer. He was once asked: If he only played a few times a year and never practiced, how did he learn and know how to play? He answered that his father, Rav Meir of Kretchnif, once played those niggunim to him and said, “See – that’s how you play the violin,” and he acquired the knowledge right then and there on the spot and never needed to practice again!
Once he moved to Czernowitz and later, when the accursed Nazis began their rampage, his home was miraculously spared their wrath from searching and pillaging. One day, the precious violin vanished. Family members were looking out of the window a few days later and miraculously spied the precious violin being hidden by an unknown thief beneath the haystack in his wagon. Immediately upon hearing this, Rav Issamar simply went outside, marched up to the amazed goy’s wagon, lifted the haystack, pointed at the instrument, and thundered, “That is my violin!” So saying, he took it and just marched back into his home. The thief was too stunned to utter a syllable!
A simple Jew who lived in Chernowitz once came to the Rebbe Reb Issamer of Nadvorna and asked him why he kept his children indoors and didn’t let them go out like everyone else. (Chernowitz Was a very spiritually void city, therefore he was extremely careful that his children not go out and learn the improper ways of its Inhabitants.) The question was asked in these words, “Why do you lock the doors to the street before your children and cause them to be less knowledgeable about the goings-on in the street and in the world?” The Rebbe took out his siddur and showed him the prayer that is said on motzei Shabbos called רבון העולם אב הרחמן והסליחות. It lists many gates (in fact it lists a total of 63 gates!) that are opened to those who keep the Torah. The Rebbe then said, “You see my friend, I lock before them one door, the door to my house, however this causes all these lofty doors to be opened to them. Now certainly you agree that this is better to close the one than to open up the door of the house which opens to the city which can cause that, Heaven forbid, all these lofty and good gates will be closed before them. Indeed the Rebbe Reb Issamer was blessed with sons who were great Torah scholars and Tzadikim inspite of them having grown up in Chernowitz.