יום שישי ט' בניסן תש"פ 03/04/2020
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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 Saba of Novhardok

Rabbi Yosef Yozel Horowitz, the Saba of Novhardok, was a leading figure within the Mussar movement and a disciple of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter – founder of the movement. Rabbi Horowitz established the famous Novhardok Yeshiva.

David Sofer 10/12/2009 10:13

Rabbi Yosef Yozel was born in 5608 in the city of Cartabian, Lithuania, to his father Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Ziv, the city rabbi. Already during his youth, it was evident that he possessed outstanding character traits and special talents. When he was eighteen years old, he got engaged to a girl from the small town of Shvikshana. During his engagement period, his future father-in-law passed away, forcing Rabbi Yosef Yozel to provide for the family of his bride. He began doing business, which brought him to the city of Klipda. It was there that he met the founder of the Mussar movement for the first time and became his devout disciple.

After having met Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin of Salant, Rabbi Yosef Yozel forwent his business and devoted all his time to study Torah and Mussar from his newly found mentor. He joined the Kollel which Rabbi Yisrael Salanter had established in Kubna, and spent all his time there. Rabbi Yosef Yozel then isolated himself in his house in Slobodka, near Kubna, and did not exit his home for 21 months. During that time, it was forbidden for anyone to enter his house. Towards the end of his isolation period, Rabbi Yosef Yozel began learning with Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv – the Saba of Kelem, and the two learned Torah and Mussar together. Their individual ways of serving G-d, however, were vastly different, with Rabbi Yosef Yozel wanting to isolate himself his whole life and dedicate himself totally to serving G-d without contact with the outer world, in cpmltet contrast to Rabbi Simcha Zissel's approach. Rabbi Simcha Zissel succeeded in convincing him that it was not right to do so, as a Jew must live for others as well and influence the world with G-dliness.

After he was convinced, Rabbi Yosef Yozel began traveling around all major Jewish communities in the surrounding areas, and established Batei Midrash (houses of study) for learning Gemara and Mussar according to the 'Novhardok method'. Rabbi Yosef Yozel received financial assistance for his institutions from philanthropist Ovadya Lachman of Berlin.

In the year of 5656, at the age of forty eight, Rabbi Yosef Yozel decided that in order to influence the people in his generation, he must establish a Yeshiva which will serve as a spiritual center of Mussar to the whole Jewish People. He established his Yeshiva in the city of Novhardok, and taught according to his own special method, naming it the 'Novhardok method'.

The Novhardok method is based on the humility of man. Man is nothing but a battle field between the power of the mind - the good inclination, and the power of desire - the evil inclination. In fact, the mind stands no chance of prevailing over the desire, as the evil inclination causes man to want more with every desire that is fulfilled. The only solution to break this vicious cycle is to totally destroy the power of desire. Man can achieve this by humiliating himself in public and by being detached from worldly matters. The pupils of the Novhardok Yeshiva were encouraged to despise physical pleasure and to nullify their worldly desires. Each pupil had a small notepad where he would record his failures and successes.

The initial number of students at the Yeshiva amounted to ten; however the Yeshiva quickly expanded and soon numbered over fifty students. As the Yeshiva grew, more and more people began to question the Novhardok method and criticize it. The crisis escalated with the local townspeople demanding the city rabbi, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein – author of the 'Aruch Hashulchan' – close down the Yeshiva. Rabbi Epstein ended the crisis by publicly endorsing the Yeshiva and its method. Three years later, the Yeshiva numbered over two hundred young men.

In the year of 5668, Rabbi Epstein passed away and the townspeople were divided among themselves regarding Rabbi Epstein's successor. As the internal rift became increasingly unbearable, Rabbi Yosef Yozel feared for his pupils' future in the city and transferred a large part of the Yeshiva to the city of Zhitel. After the argument in Novhardok died down, Rabbi Yosef Yozel returned to Novhardok with his Yeshiva where it remained for several years.

In 5674, WW1 broke out and Novhardok was occupied by the Germans. Rabbi Yosef Yozel was forced to transfer the Yeshiva to a place far from the battleground; after wandering from city to city he finally found such a place in a small town called Hommel, where the Yeshiva remained for four years. In 5679, Rabbi Yosef Yozel relocated to Kiev in order to strengthen the spirits of the survivors. The physical conditions in Kiev were horrific, and many Yeshiva students died of various diseases. Rabbi Yosef Yozel dedicated himself to assist the ill; however he was himself infected and died at the age of seventy two in Kiev on the 17th of Kislev, 5680.

Throughout his lifetime, Rabbi Yosef Yozel established several Yeshivas where the Novhardok method was taught. Even after his death, his establishment flourished and dozens of Yeshivas throughout Europe employed his method.
One of the most famous character traits of Rabbi Yosef Yozel was his steadfast faith in G-d. Even the saintly Chafetz Chaim was greatly impressed by Rabbi Yosef Yozel's faith. It is related that Rabbi Yosef Yozel always kept a stump of a candle with him due to an incident that had occurred: 

One night during his isolation period, he was learning under the light of a candle in the forest when the candle burned out. It was seemingly impossible to find a candle in the middle of the night deep in the forest, but his faith in G-d was so strong that he went out to find a candle, certain that he would. Indeed, after a mere few minutes, a stranger approached him with a candle and disappeared. Rabbi Yosef Yozel returned to his place in the forest and continued learning. After the candle had burned out almost completely, he put it in his pocket and left it there as a reminder of how man must have faith in G-d, and, when doing so, never fails. Rabbi Yosef Yozel safeguarded the candle for twenty two years, until a fire broke out in his house and burned everything down to the ground, including his precious candle. Rabbi Yosef Yozel's family was particularly upset about the loss of the candle; however Rabbi Yosef Yozel calmed them down by saying that G-d's powers need no proofs…

Yet another anecdote regarding Rabbi Yosef Yozel tells about the time furious soldiers burst into his house in the middle of Havdalah. Those who were present in his house at the time later testified that Rabbi Yosef Yozel was not intimidated by the soldiers and not frightened by the least; for he feared only G-d. He calmly finished reciting Havdalah and did not spill even one drop of wine. Rabbi Yosef Yozel acknowledged and appreciated his firm faith in G-d, and would write 'b"b' next to his signature, an abbreviation for 'ba'al bitachon' – 'man of faith'. Rabbi Yosef Yozef left us his legacy in the form of two books called 'Madreigas Ha'adam', where he explores the Novhardok method.