he room is simply furnished, with a nondescript table and chairs — the kind usually included in a discount chassan-kallah package.
But the real surprise is the walls. The Sanzer Rebbe’s house in Netanya’s Kiryat Sanz neighborhood doesn’t have a single picture or portrait on the walls, not even of the Rebbe’s illustrious forebears. Instead, every inch is covered with framed certificates attesting to pledges of Torah learning made by the bochurim of the chassidus. The pledges, some of which are truly remarkable — tens of thousands of hours of learning — are presented to the Rebbe as a “doron drashah,” a gift at times of simchah.
I learn that each young bochur in the chassidus takes part in this communal campaign and contributes his share to the priceless gift presented to the Rebbe. Torah is clearly the most valuable commodity to this Rebbe, the only kind of gift he will truly treasure.
Ten minutes pass. The door opens. Two dignified gabbaim stand at the entrance.
“The Rebbe is waiting for you,” they tell us, and we step inside.
I stand at the threshold to the Rebbe’s room, the locus and the heart of all Sanzer chassidim — waiting for the signal, along with a delegation led by Rav Dovid Hofstedter, the president of Dirshu, and several of that organization’s rabbanim. These rabbanim have an open door to the Rebbe, who is one of the nesiim of the organization, and come to discuss issues with him regularly. Together we composed a series of questions for the Rebbe, relating to the public at large in these hard-to-navigate times. Not only will we learn more about ourselves and our priorities, about Torah, chinuch, and the proper outlook and behavior. We will learn, too, about the bedrock values of the tzaddik before us, and of the flourishing chassidus he leads.
It’s 1965, the second day of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. An aura of festivity hovers over the streets of Kiryat Sanz, Netanya. Young Tzvi Elimelech, the first son born to the Shefa Chaim of Sanz-Klausenberg after his first family was annihilated in the Holocaust, is becoming bar mitzvah.
Five years earlier, when the future Rebbe was eight years old, the Shefa Chaim, Rav Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam, moved to Eretz Yisrael from America and settled in the fledgling Kiryat Sanz. Now, in honor of the bar mitzvah, chassidim and admirers flock from all over the country to witness the miraculous resurrection of a dynasty nearly decimated by the Nazis. The Rebbe, whose wife and 11 children were all murdered al kiddush Hashem, summoned his reserves of strength to rebuild his family and chassidus, eventually establishing tzedakah and chesed funds in the merit of each of his murdered children. The Rebbe reestablished his home with Rebbetzin Chaya Nechama shetichyeh, the daughter of Harav Shmuel Dovid Halevi Ungar. He named their first son after one of his forebears, Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov zy”a, author of the sefer Bnei Yisaschar.
As he built a new family, the Rebbe also invested tremendous energy establishing an authentic chassidic enclave in the beach town of Netanya. On the day of the neighborhood’s chanukas habayis, the Klausenberger Rebbe wore a shtreimel, and remarked, “This is the happiest day of my life. I have invested all my blood and energy in this holy kiryah.”
Now the Rebbe’s son — a living testimony to the dynasty’s rebirth and renewed hope — stood up to recite his pshetel. When he finished, the Ponevezher Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, asked the bar mitzvah boy who had prepared the brilliant Torah pilpul with him. The boy shyly replied that he had prepared it himself. The Ponevezher Rav stood up and kissed him on his forehead, marveling: “I did not believe that in our generation there are children who are able to deliver such a brilliant pilpul on their own.”
(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 757)
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