שבת ט' בכסלו תשפ"ג 03/12/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

The Admor Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk zt’l

The first day of Iyar is the yahrzeit of the Admor Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk zt’l, of whom great chassidic leaders said that if he would have remained in Europe and not ascended to Eretz Yisrael, he would have been, together with the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk zt’l, the leading chassidic Rebbe.

Motty Meringer 25/04/2009 10:00

The Admor Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk zt’l was born in the year 5498 to his father Reb Moshe, who was one of the bnei aliya, an elite member of the holy chabura, the group of talmidim of the holy Baal Shem Tov, the founder of chassidus. It is recounted that on one of the occasions upon which Reb Moshe was sitting at the table of the holy Baal Shem Tov, the Baal Shem Tov hinted to him that he and his wife were soon to merit to bring down an exalted soul into this world. A short while afterwards, Reb Menachem Mendel was born.

When Reb Menachem Mendel reached the age of nine his father took him with him on a journey to the holy Baal Shem Tov. Later, when the boy had grown, he travelled to Mezritch to learn Torah directly from the Baal Shem Tov’s talmid and successor, the holy Maggid of Mezritch zt’l. The Maggid drew Reb Menachem Mendel close to him and became his teacher and mentor. Later on, when the members of the community of Minsk sought a Rav to lead them, they turned to the Maggid of Mezritch, who gave them a gartel and a staff and told them to transfer them to Rav Menachem Mendel. Rav Menachem Mendel thus became the Rav of the Minsk kehilla and was beloved by all its members.


However, some time later, Rav Menachem Mendel pronounced guilty one of the wealthy congregants of Minsk in a din Torah, who in his anger proceeded to publicly defame Reb Menachem Mendel. The rav remained silent in the face of his public embarrassment and did not fight against the brazenness of his opponent. But in that same year, during the Ten Days of Repentance, Rav Menachem Mendel left Minsk with a group of those close to him, and went to live in the township of Radishkovitz. After a short time, with the guidance of his Rebbe the Maggid, Rav Menachem Mendel went to live in the town of Hordok, there to spread the light of chassidus and to the nearby towns of Vitebsk and Minsk. After some time, Rav Menachem Mendel decided to extend the reach of the chassidic movement to the lands of White Russia, Raisan and Lithuania. When he later went to visit the Maggid of Mezritch, the Maggid asked him what he had achieved with the Jews of White Russia, to which Rav Menachem Mendel answered that when he had arrived there, he had found Jews with torn and tattered clothing but hearts intact. His achievement had been to transform them into Jews with perfect garments and broken hearts.

For a period of time, Rebbe Menachem Mendel endeavoured to heal the rift that had emerged between the chassidim and the misnagdim. Together with the founder of the Chabad dynasty, Rav Shneur Zalman of Liady, he attempted to gain entrance to the Gaon of Vilna, in order to persuade him to alter his determined stance against the chassidim. However, despite their best efforts, the meeting never came to fruition.

In the month of Adar in the year 5537, Rebbe Menachem Mendel made the decision to ascend to the holy land of Eretz Israel, to dwell on its holy soil. Rebbe Menachem Mendel set out on his journey together with a group of chassidim numbering around three hundred. On their way they passed through Kushta, where Rebbe Menachem Mendel rented a ship to transport them to Eretz Israel. The ship was the very same one that had transported Rav Elazar Rokach, the Rav of Amsterdam, to Eretz Israel seventy-two years previously. Rebbe Menachem Mendel especially desired to travel in that particular ship, with the hope that the merit of that tzaddik would now stand them in good stead for a safe journey. A group of impoverished Jews of Kushta joined the group of chassidim for the overseas voyage to Eretz Israel.

After five months of great hardships traversing the seas, the ship finally reached the port of Acco on the fifth of Ellul, 5537. The group travelled to Tzfat where they had decided to settle, hoping that their dwelling would be blessed with peace and tranquillity. Rebbe Menachem Mendel greatly loved the Holy Land and once said; “It is indeed true that the air of Eretz Israel makes one wise. All the time that I lived in the diaspora, my one wish and aspiration was to pray just one prayer as it is meant to be prayed. Yet from the day that I arrived here in Eretz Israel, my heart contains just one request; that I might even just once answer ‘Amen’ in the correct way.”


However, the period of tranquillity for the newcomers in Tzfat was not to last long. Several of the inhabitants of Tzfat began to torment and persecute Rebbe Menachem Mendel, and the anguish he suffered from this caused him to fall ill and be confined to bed for a number of months. After three years of suffering such persecutions, Rebbe Menachem Mendel decided to leave Tzfat and go to live in Tiberias. There, the Sefardishe kehilla received him with great honour and Rebbe Menachem Mendel finally found peace amongst them. In Tiberias, Rebbe Menachem Mendel continued to lead his chassidishe following in Tiberias and even those who had remained in Tzfat. For a short period of time he left Tiberias to dwell in Peki’in, but he soon returned to Tiberias.

Rebbe Menachem Mendel greatly exerted himself in promoting the mitzvah of settling the Holy Land. He sent his talmid, Rav Yisrael Politzker, as an emissary to Europe to collect funds for the ‘Rabbi Meir ba’al ha’Nes’ foundation, which had been established for the poor of the Holy Land.
Rebbe Menachem Mendel’s external appearance was one of dignity and honour. His apparel was noble and impressive and he would ride in a chariot pulled by mighty horses. Yet in reality, Rebbe Menachem Mendel was exceedingly humble, as attested to by his signature on his letters, where he describes himself as ‘the truly insignificant one’. In the same vein, he instructed his son that his headstone should carry no praises of him, only simply the words ‘Moreinu haRav Reb Menachem Mendel’.

It is recounted that when Rebbe Menachem Mendel was still a young lad in the court of the Maggid of Mezritch, the Maggid at one point entered Rebbe Menachem Mendel’s room and found him walking around with his hat tilted at an angle. The Maggid addressed the young lad, asking him how many dapei Gemora he had learned that day, to which Rebbe Menachem Mendel replied that he had learned six dapim. The Maggid then said to him; “see how many dapei Gemora you had to learn in order to wear your hat tilted to an angle”. Rebbe Menachem Mendel took the Maggid’s words to heart, divining in them a hint that he had been infected by a wisp of arrogance. The Maggid turned to leave and Rebbe Menachem Mendel raced after him, begging him to tell him of a way to rectify his character traits. The Maggid told him that he must travel with him to spend a Shabbos with the holy Baal Shem Tov, who would give him a tikkun, a rectification. The two set out together, the Rav and his talmid, and arrived in Mezhibuzh on Erev Shabbos. As soon as Rebbe Menachem Mendel arrived he began to prepare himself to greet the Shabbos Queen, washing himself and donning clean and prestigious garments in honour of Shabbos. For the entire Shabbos the holy Baal Shem Tov paid no apparent attention to Rebbe Menachem Mendel. On Motzoei Shabbos, the Maggid together with Rebbe Menachem Mendel entered the Baal Shem Tov’s room and the Maggid recounted to his Rebbe what had transpired. The Baal Shem Tov listened to his account, and then told the two that there was in fact nothing to be rectified in the matter of the trait of arrogance; Rebbe Menachem Mendel only appeared on the outside to be perhaps slightly proud, but in reality he was extremely humble and of lowly spirit.

Rebbe Menachem Mendel was recalled to the Heavenly Yeshiva on the first of the month of Iyar in the year 5548. Prior to his petira he turned to those standing around him and told them; “move away from me, for HaShem’s presence is upon me”; immediately afterwards, his soul ascended in holiness and purity. His holy body was interred in the ancient cemetery of Tiberias.

Rebbe Menachem Mendel had a number of children, but all of them died during his lifetime save for one son, Rav Moshe, and daughter who married a son of Rav Abulafia of Tiberias. The divrei Torah of Rebbe Menachem Mendel are preserved in his seforim ‘Likutei Amorim’ and ‘Pri HaAretz’, among others. Rebbe Menachem Mendel had many talmidim including many prominent scholars such as Rav Baruch of Kossov and Rav Zalman Vilner.

In his will and testament, Rebbe Menachem Mendel instructed his son Rav Moshe not to take on any position of communal leadership and authority, and to endeavour to love every Jew, ‘even the lowest of those of Israel’. He also requested that his burial take place not more than one hour after his petira, and that his body not be placed in a casket, but directly in the holy soil of Eretz Israel.