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In Sorrow: Rav Menachem Mendel Schneebalg ztz”l

Rav Menachem Mendel Schneebalg prayed for his people

"Some years ago, late on the night of Bedikas Chometz, Rav Menachem Mendel Schneebalg, rav of Manchester’s Machzikei Hadas, told me to come over,” says a close confidant. “He emptied his pockets of the scores of envelopes community members had handed him with their sale of chometz documents, and combined the many bills they contained into one bundle. This entire wad he entrusted to me. ‘Go and take this to Mr. X for his Yom Tov expenses,’ the Rav said, ‘and don’t tell him who it’s from.’ ”

Rav Schneebalg, who led his kehillah with both strong principles and a loving hand, passed away this Acharon shel Pesach at age 100, after years of illness. Machzikei Hadas is at the center of the city’s chareidi kehillah and Rav Schneebalg oversaw its formative years, as the small core of stalwart Yidden in Manchester Jewry transformed into a burgeoning community.

Rav Schneebalg's father was a rosh yeshivah in Grosswardein, Romania, and he himself was a close talmid of the Damesek Eliezer of Vizhnitz. In Manchester, he initially became rav of a small shtibel, Damesek Eliezer, in the Prestwich area in 1946, before being appointed rav of Machzikei Hadas, a position he held for over 50 years. He continued to learn and serve the kehillah with legendary focus well into his nineties. His concern for the entire community covered both the material and the spiritual; he prayed for them constantly, and he completed Sefer Tehillim weekly on their behalf.

His children, too, are devoted to their kehillos, taking the cue from their father: Rav Yosef Dovid, the Chernovitzer Dayan; Rav Chaim Feivel, rav of Khal Avrechim in Monsey; Rav Yisrael, rav of Khal Bolchov in Boro Park; Rav Yitzchok Eizik, rav of Belz-Machnovka in Williamsburg; Rav Pinchas, rosh yeshivas Vizhnitz in London; and his daughters, the wives of the Stropkover Rebbe and Rav Chaim Halpern.

Antwerp Dayan Rav Aharon Schiff once asked Rav Schneebalg how he managed to observe Succos properly in a city that is notoriously rainy. Rav Schneebalg replied that every year, from Rosh Chodesh Elul, he davens that nothing should prevent the kehillah from keeping the mitzvah of Succah, and baruch Hashem, things usually worked out fine. But the year after the Rav suffered an incapacitating stroke, Manchester was hit by heavy rain, which effectively made the mitzvah of the first night a washout.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 855)

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