Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Klausenberger Rebbe's Visits to Kivrei Tzadikim

This Monday, 9 Tamuz is the 13th yahrzeit of the great Klausenberger Rebbe, Reb Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam. He was the son of Reb Tzvi Hirsch of Ridnik, a grandson of the Divrei Chaim of Sanz and the Yetev Lev of Sighet. The Rebbe’s wife and 11 children were murdered by the Nazis y’s, but he survived, remarried, raised a family and established a large community of dedicated followers. He founded the Kiryat Sanz community in Netanya and the famous Laniado Hospital there. There are also large communities of Klausenberger Chassidim in Boro Park, Williamsburg and Union City, NJ. His seforim include Divrei Yatziv, Minchas Yehudah V’Yerusholayim and Shefa Chaim.

There is so much to write about the Klausenberger Rebbe, from his early days to his years in the concentration camps to his numerous accomplishments after the war. There are many books written about him and many articles have been written on this great tzadik, who was and still is a household name to many of us.


After the war the Rebbe came to America and then moved to Eretz Yisroel in 1960. After arriving in Eretz Yisroel, the Rebbe traveled throughout the country visiting the Mekomos Hakedoshim. He went to just about all the accessible kevarim, including the great sages of the Mishna and Talmud. Here are two stories about his visits to these kvarim:

Why The Rebbe Went to Rebbi Yehudah Bar Iloy's Kever 2 Days In A Row
One day he went with his Chassidim to the kever of the Tanna, Rebbi Yehudah bar Iloy, the Rebbi Yehudah mention in Mishna. They all said Tehilim and then davened Mincha there, as it was getting dark already. After Mincha, the Rebbe’s mood changed; something was troubling him. When asked what was troubling him, the Rebbe explained: “Rebbi Yehuda bar Iloy says in Mesechta Brochos (4th perek, 1st Mishna) that one can only daven Mincha until Plag HaMincha (one and one quarter hours before dark). Even though we don’t hold like his opinion, it was a chutzpah to daven Mincha after Plag HaMincha by his kever, since he holds the time for Mincha has passed. We must go back tomorrow and set things straight.”

The next day they went back to the kever of Rebbi Yehudah bar Iloy. This time they went in the early afternoon and davened Mincha before Plag HaMincha, in accordance with the opinion of Rebbi Yehudah bar Iloy. After they finished davening Mincha, the Rebbe was happy once again; he had made amends for what he considered an affront to Rebbi Yehudah bar Iloy. (I believe this story is mentioned in one of the “Magid” books by Rabbi Paysach Krohn)

The Gemara in Chulin (7b) says that Tzadikim are greater after death than when they’re alive. From this story we see that to the Klausenberger Rebbe, this was a reality. He felt as if he actually slighted Rebbi Yehudah bar Iloy, as if he was still alive.

Why the Rebbe Cried for hours on Reb Mendele Vitebsker’s Kever
Reb Shmuel Unsdorfer, was one of the closest and most devoted followers of the Klausenberger Rebbe. He later became the father-in-law of the Rebbe’s son, Reb Tzvi Elimelech, who is the current Klausenberger Rebbe of Netanya. Reb Shmuel related the following:

By every kever the Rebbe traveled to with his Chassidim, he said Tehilim and they would go on to the next kever and say Tehilim there. This continued until they got to the kever of Reb Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk. (He was one of the great Talmidim of the Magid of Mezrich, who moved to Eretz Yisroel in 1777) When they arrived at the kever of Reb Mendele Vitebsker, the Rebbe threw himself down and prostrated himself on the kever and cried - and he cried and cried and cried – for two hours straight.

Some time later, Reb Shmuel Unsdorfer asked the Rebbe why he read Tehilim by all the kvarim the visited, but by Reb Mendele Vitebsker he laid there and cried like a baby for hours. The Rebbe responded that he was so far removed from Rebbi Akiva and all these Talmidic sages – what was he compared to them – so he just said Tehilim. Reb Shmuel mustered up his courage and asked: “With all due respect, what kind of relevance does the Rebbe have to the great Vitebsker? He was one of the greatest talmidim of the Magid of Mezrich.” The Rebbe answered: “Compared to the Vitebsker, I’m also nothing, BUT you have to understand – the Talmidei Baal Shem Tov accepted upon themselves a special mesiras nefesh to help each and every Yid, even after death. So, yes, I do have what to do with him, and that’s why I lay there and cried”.

This last story explains a phenomenon that many wonder and question. We all know that the Meoras Hamachpela, Kever Rochel, Meron and many of the other kvarim in Eretz Yisroel have a special connection to every Jew and they are constantly full of people praying there. However, you don’t see this outside of Eretz Yisroel, except by the Talmidei Baal Shem Tov. We constantly hear about people flocking to the kvarim of the great Admorim in Europe. What’s it all about?

Just days ago, tens of thousands of people went to daven at the Ohel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, on his yahrzeit. Every Adar, thousands travel to Lizensk for the yahrzeit of the Rebbe, Reb Meilich. For Rosh Hashona, tens of thousands flock to Uman, where Reb Nachman of Breslov is buried. For Shavuos, people go to Mezibuz for the yahrzeit of the Baal Shem Tov. The list goes on and on – Rimanov, Vilednik, Ger, Radoshitz, Berdichev, etc... All these places have people traveling there for the yahrzeits and at other times throughout the year. If one goes to these places, it is filled with all types of Yidden. One will see Chassidim and non- Chassidim, Askenazim, Sephardim and Yeminites, beards and clean shaven faces, payos and ponytails and many others. The one thing in common is that they are all Yidden being drawn to these places.

People ask: “Is this Rebbe greater than so and so?” The answer was given by the Klausenberger Rebbe. It has nothing to do with who’s greater, but these Jews feel in their heart a yearning for these great tzadikim who took upon themselves to help every Yid with mesiras nefesh, even after they leave this world. This explains why during WW II and during the Communist reign, people risked their lives to daven at the kvarim of the Talmidei Baal Shem Tov. Whether risking a life for that is a correct thing to do, is not the issue, but we can now understand why they did so. The Yiddishe heart drew them there, because Tzadikim are sacrificing themselves, even after death, for any Yid that needs help.
9 Tamuz is also the yahrzeit of:
R’ Dovid Lifshitz (1993), Suvalker Rov
R’ Yosef Shlomo Dayan (1985) Talmid of R’ Mordechai Sharabi
R’ Zalman Sorotzkin (1966) Lutzker Rov, wrote Oznaim L’Torah
R’ Moshe Chevroni (1975), Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron Yeshiva, Talmid of the Chofetz Chaim and wrote Masaas Moshe.

Zchusom Yogen Aleinu V’Al Kol Yisroel


yitz said...

A few he'aros:
1. I recall reading the story about the Mincha at Rabbi Yehuda's kever in the Jewish Observer, shortly after the Rebbe's petira [either the 30 or yahrzeit]. I seem to recall that he didn't mention about going back the next day, & only explained it after he took them there again the next day before Plag HaMincha. But you definitely have the gist of the story.
2. However, you don’t see this outside of Eretz Yisroel, except by the Talmidei Baal Shem Tov. I object, your honor! Although I share your affinity for the Gedolei HaChassidus, there ARE indeed Jews that visit the graves of the Maharal, the Rama, the Vilna Gaon, the Noda B'Yehuda, and most notably, the Chasam Sofer, all non-Chassidic. And there are many Sefardim who go, yes, to EGYPT, to one of the forefathers of the Baba Sali [I think it's his father]. Some people try to go to Jordan, to Aharon HaKohen's kever on his yahrzeit.
The Yiddishe heart drew them there, because Tzadikim are sacrificing themselves, even after death, for any Yid that needs help.
Again, I'd be very careful about making generalities here, as if this was only something shayich to the Chassidishe Rebbes. I think for the Klausenberger ZT"L, that may be true, but perhaps others feel a connection to their Gedolim, and we shouldn't ignore that.

A Talmid said...

You are right about point #2 and didn't mean that to come across the way you interpreted it.
1. The sentence was supposed to read: "However, you don’t see this outside of Eretz Yisroel, with few exceptions, except by the Talmidei Baal Shem Tov."
Also, while people do travel to these kvarim the magnitude is not the same as the amount of people going to Lizensk, for example.

2. As far as other tzadikim of course it's true, I'm just basing it on what the Klausenberger Rebbe said about the Talmidei Baal Shem. He didn't say that others don't - just that these took upon themselves a ”special mesiras nefesh to help every Yid”.

The kever they travel to is R' Yaakov Abuchatzeira, grandfather of Baba Sali, in Egypt.
Again, there are many other kvarim, of great tzadikim, that people go to, you just don't see it on the same level by as many.

Anonymous said...

not to tak anything away from other tzadikim but when does anyone see thousands and thousands of people going to kivrei tzadikim at one time not in Israel except lyzhenk (aprox 10000) and uman(25000+)also mezibuz has people there for shabbos every few weeks and you have frum and frei going

yitz said...

One last point on this topic. As evidenced by the turnout of the 250K Jews that come to Meron for Lag B'Omer, the overwhelming majority of them are Sefardi or Chassidic. The non-Chassidic Ashkenazim just aren't "into" going to Kvarim as much as the Chassidim are. Perhaps they consider it bitul Torah, or whatever, but they have their own ways in Avodas Hashem. We should be careful not to make it seem that one way is "right" or "more correct". Thanks for your other clarifications.

A Talmid said...

"The non-Chassidic Ashkenazim just aren't "into" going to Kvarim as much as the Chassidim are."

That's the point. I'm not saying the non-chassidic Ashkenaim are wrong for not going to kvarim, just mentioning why, based on the Klausenberger Rebbe's words, people feel drawn to certain tzadikim. This is not to Chas v'Shalom take away from the kovod of any other tzadik. Personally, I've been by many more kvarim of Litvish - Ashkenazish tzadikim than Chassidish. They are all great.

Bitul Torah wouldn't appply to all the working people. Many people, use their vacation time to go to kivrei tzadikim, in Eretz Yisroel, Europe or North Africa.

The point was not to say one way of serving Hashem is greater than the next, only the positives of why people go to kvarim. As far as the sources for going to kvarim that goes back to Yosef HaTzadik and maybe one day I'll put together a post on that.