Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reb Leibele, zy"a (Part 1)

B"H, I have been busy with a new baby and haven't had lots of time to write. Hence, this post is unfinished and late. However, we are told that the three days after a yahrtzeit are still connected to the yahrtzeit, so here it is.

The following is a meager compilation about Reb Leibele. (Sources include Midor el Dor, Malchus Shlomo, Kuntrus HaRo'eh Bashoshanim, Toldoseihem shel Tzadikim, and that which was heard directly from various family members. There is a ton more; this will be the first installment.)

Reb Leibele was born on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos, the 20th of Tishrei, 5628, third son to the Rebbe Reb Motele, zy"a. He was named after HaRav HaKadosh Rebbe Yehudah Leib Hakohen of Anipoli, the author of the Or Haganuz (from the talmidim of the Mezritcher Magid and a close friend of the Rebbe Reb Zisha of Anipoli). It is worthwhile mentioning that Reb Motele, who was known to be careful with his words and never praised someone excessively (according to his grandson, Reb Nachum of Tel Aviv), would refrain from calling the Or Haganuz by his name. Instead, when referring to this tzadik, he would rise to his feet and say, "Der Heiliger" - "The holy one".

The name "Bentzion" was added in1920 when Reb Leibele became ill will typhus in Kiev. The same outbreak claimed his son Reb Moshe Meshulem Zisha, "Zeesaleh".

On the 10th of Elul, 5645, Reb Leibele married Ruchel, the daughter of Rebbe Yitzchak Yoel of Kantikuziva. After the wedding, Reb Motele sent a certain Reb Yosef as a chavrusa to learn with Reb Leibele, and wrote to them in a letter: "You should learn the laws of Nidah in Tur and Beis Yosef. The Sidrei Taharah should be open before you, and review the Shulchan Aruch Harav well. So too shall you establish a seder in sifrei tzadikim, and it is proper to learn Sefer Tanya in its entirety, and other sifrei tzadikim: Maor Einayim, Or Hameir, Be'er Mayim Chaim, and Emek Tefilah."

Reb Motele used to refer to Reb Leibele as "my wise one" and "my minister", and he would speak to him before deciding on many issues. Once, he wrote to his chassidim in Bobrovitch: "[Reb Leibele's] mouth is as my mouth, his hand like my hand." 

The chassidim thought very highly of Reb Leibele, as is evident from the fact that after Reb Motele's passing on the 22nd of Elul, 5663, the elder chassidim and rabbanim came in to Reb Leibele and decided to pronounce him as Rebbe in his father's place. Paranthetically, I recall hearing there were over thirty cities and towns under Reb Leibele's magidus. He was also appointed the Nasi of the Kolel Vohlyn in place of his father, and hence vast sums of money passed through his hands to Tzfas. (This later led to much yisurim as he was accused of aiding an enemy country since Israel was part of the Ottoman Empire.) Below is an elaborate document officially crowning Reb Leibele as Nasi of the Kollel Rusia and Vohlyn, as well as of the tzedakah collections for Kupas Rebbe Meir Baal Haneiss.

Reb Leibele's son, Reb Nachum, wrote (translated from Hebrew): "The chassidim were mekushar (connected) to him with all their soul and spirit. The sight of Friday nights when Reb Leibele spoke would make a powerful impression. As the chassidim stood crowded and packed together, lest even one letter be lost from his words, they were overcome by intense crying, even thought the Rebbe's divrei Torah did not contain any rebuke, rather they dealt with lofty matters, as was the way of his father. However, the holy awe that burst forth from every sentence did its work to arouse the hearts of those present to love and fear our Father in Heaven."

Reb Leibele, zy"a, "feering" tish in Milwaukee. To his right is his son and successor, Reb Yaakov Yisroel, zy"a.

During davening, he was removed entirely from the physical world. When he davened Shemoneh Esrei he would sway from side to side with his eyes wide open. Once someone asked him that we are taught to daven Shemoneh Esrei with the eyes specifically closed. Upon hearing the challenge, Reb Leibele was surprised. "I had no idea that my eyes were open. And if I ever reach a point when I shall indeed notice in middle of davening if my eyes are open or shut, I shall desist from davening."

Reb Leibele was well-known for his utter simplicity; he would flee honor and publicity to the extreme. Even though he was revered and admired by all, he toiled to hide himself and to give off the appearance of a simpleton, without standing out in any way.

Reb Leibele with Reb Yaakov Yisroel, a grandchild and other family members.

He was known for his chessed which was similar to that of his father, Reb Motele, and that of his grandfather, the Divrei Chaim of Sanz. His disbursement of tzedakah knew no bounds. Reb Nachum (his son) related that he knew of many periods of time when his father's house was completely empty. Even still, as soon as he would receive any amount of money, he would immediately give it out to those who needed it. When they asked him once, "Are your own children's needs no less important?" he responded, "There will surely be someone to have compassion on my children."

According to Reb Nachum, "His conduct was like that of his father, Reb Motele, combining Chassidus of the heart and emotion of Chernobyl with Chassidus of the mind and meditation of Chabad."

To be continued...

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