Machberes: Inside The Chassidish And Yeshivish World
By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, rosh yeshiva Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, was vacationing last week at the Oppenheimer Hotel in Fleischmanns, New York. The Oppenheimer is a retreat well known for rosh yeshivas. Rabbi Kotler, who leads the largest yeshiva in America (and possibly in the world), with more than 6,500 students, kein yirbu, was there for much-needed rest and relaxation. Of course, R & R for an eminent rosh yeshiva means learning Torah without distraction.
Rabbi Kotler was deep in Talmudic study when he was approached by Rabbi Yaakov Meir Rubin Cheshnover Rav and Boro Park Satmar Rosh Yeshiva, who invited the Lakewood rosh yeshiva to give a shiur to the students at Camp Vayoel Moshe in Fleischmanns. The camp serves as the summer home of the Satmar Yeshiva in Boro Park. Visitors to the camp are inspired by the kol Torah, from early in the morning till late at night, of hundreds of boys absorbed in Torah and avodah.
The Lakewood rosh yeshiva readily agreed to the request and prepared a list of mareh mekomos (Talmudic citations) that were to serve as the foundation and background of the shiur. The list was posted in the camp several days in advance of the shiur. The boys at the camp excitedly pursued every citation, studying each one in depth. Many of the boys committed the citations to memory and tested each other.
On the designated day, at the appointed time, the yeshiva students were seated in the camp beis medrash with their sefarim at the ready. The Lakewood rosh yeshiva entered and the students respectfully rose in unison. Rabbi Kotler began his presentation, every word swallowed by the audience. With each sentence, the Lakewood rosh yeshiva elevated the level of comprehension. Well prepared, the students were increasingly exhilarated with each new concept introduced.
The Lakewood rosh yeshiva did not limit his explorations into the labyrinths of the subject matter in Perek Lo Yachpor in Bava Basra, considered one of the more complicated tractates. Closing the subject, the Lakewood rosh yeshiva then shared words of inspiration, focusing on ahavas Torah, the love of learning.
As Rabbi Kotler concluded his shiur, he was surrounded by the students, each discussing a particular nuance of the shiur. The intensity of the follow-up was a true wonder to behold. As the Lakewood rosh yeshiva left the beis medrash, he was respectfully escorted by the Cheshnover Rav, followed by the other roshei yeshiva and the students. The impression left by the shiur was indelible and will long be remembered by the students.
Spinka Rebbe’s Yahrzeit Events
This past Shabbos, Parashas Re’eh, 27 Av, July 26–27, was the 16th yahrzeit of Rabbi Shmuel Zvi (Hershele) Horowitz, zt’l (1921–1997), the Spinka Rebbe, lovingly referred to as Reb Hershele Spinka. He was one of Williamsburg’s most beloved chassidishe rebbes.
He was the son of Rabbi Avrohom Abish Horowitz (1897–1944), zt’l, Hy’d, Kruleh Rav, and son-in-law of Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac Weiss (1875–1944), zt’l, Hy’d, much-loved Spinka Rebbe and author of Chaykal Yitzchok. Rabbi Shmuel Zvi served his grandfather as “house bachur” (manservant), attending to him 24 hours a day, literally sleeping in the same room and eating only from his grandfather’s portions. Rabbi Avrohom Abish and Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac were murdered in the Holocaust. Reb Hershele lost both his parents and grandfather.
In 1947, Reb Hershele arrived in America and settled on the Lower East Side, establishing a beis medrash on East 7th Street. His piety drew many adherents to him. In 1961, the beis medrash was moved to 117 Keap Street in Williamsburg. That beis medrash flourishes to this very day. Hundreds of people beleaguered him at his doorstep, seeking his sage advice and pious blessing. Sadly, the blazing Torah flame people knew and loved as Reb Hershele burned its last on Friday night, Shabbos Re’eh, the 27th of Av, August 29, 1997, as he collapsed in the midst of delivering words of Torah during his tisch, in the presence of his chassidim. Thus was a holy eminence taken from our midst by Heavenly decree.
The Rebbe was interred in the Spinka Cemetery in Floral Park, NJ. The ohel (mausoleum) has become a holy site that is visited throughout the year. On his yahrzeit, chartered buses leave from Williamsburg, Boro Park, Monsey, Kiryas Yoel, and the Catskills, delivering hundreds of men from early morning until well past sunset. This year, as the yahrzeit was on Shabbos, the visit to the ohel took place on Sunday.
Reb Hershele was a member of a chassidishe organization titled Histadrus Ho’admorim, whose members were descendants of the Ropshitzer dynasty. The organization had early on established a cemetery reserved for chassidishe rebbes, and Reb Hershele had secured an eternal resting place there for himself and for his family members. Buried in that cemetery, amongst the many departed chassidishe rebbes, are two of his uncles: Rabbi Boruch Horowitz, zt’l (d. 1954), Lijensker Rebbe, and Rabbi Yitzchok Horowitz, zt’l (d. 1978), Melitzer Rebbe, both sons of Rabbi Naftoli Horowitz, zt’l (1844–1915), Melitzer Rebbe and grandfather of Reb Hershele.
A need of a growing kehillah. As Reb Hershele’s kehillah grew in numbers, he was influenced by its members to establish a larger, independent cemetery. Reb Hershele acquiesced. At that time, together with his son Rabbi Yesochor Dov Berish, he studied the procedure of consecrating a cemetery, as set out in Responsa Chakal Yitzchok 61. On the designated day, Reb Hershele collected the value of a half-day’s meals from each member as annual dues and used the money to support his Yeshiva Beis Yitzchok. Respected officers of the chevra kadisha then accompanied Reb Hershele to the burial field in Deans, NJ, and sanctified the property as a Jewish cemetery.
In February 2002, Kehal Beis Shmuel Zvi Spinka of 117 Keap Street in Williamsburg added property to their existing cemetery field in Deans, NJ. The kehillah was led at that time by Rabbi Yesochor Dov Berish Horowitz (zt’l), Spinka Rebbe in Williamsburg. He was the oldest son of Reb Hershele Spinka.
Spinka this year. This year, gatherings took place in all shuls led by his sons. Reb Hershele was succeeded by six sons, all of whom have nobly carried on with the pious devotion to Heaven that their father taught them by example. They are Rabbi Yesochor Dov Beirish, zt’l (Beis Medrash Shmuel Zvi); Rabbi Avrohom Mayer Abish (Beis Medrash Beis Yitzchok); Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac (Beis Medrash Toldos Zvi); Rabbi Nasan Nota Zev (Beis Medrash Beis Avrohom); and Rabbi Naftali (Beis Medrash Zichron Shmuel Zvi Kruleh). Rabbi Yosef Meir Horowitz succeeded his father, Rabbi Yesochor Dov Beirish, zt’l (d. 2007).
The yahrzeit was celebrated by a siyum haShas and grand melaveh malkah at the Hamaspik Terrace Hall in Kiryas Yoel by his son Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac Horowitz, Toldos Zvi Spinka Rebbe in Williamsburg, whose beis medrash is at 44 Penn Street. The Shabbos tefillos and tisch were held at Beis Medrash Toldos Zvi Spinka at 2 Teitsch Road, which is led by Rabbi Yecheskel Shraga Horowitz, dayan and a son of the Toldos Zvi Rebbe. Before Shacharis, the entire Tehillim was publicly recited. The Toldos Zvi Spinka Rebbe, together with a large following, visited the ohel of his father on Sunday, August 4, at 4:30 p.m., with chartered buses leaving Kiryas Yoel at 2:00 p.m.
Rabbi Naftali Horowitz, Kruleh Rebbe, whose beis medrash is at 127 Wallabout Street in Williamsburg, conducted the yahrzeit Shabbos tefillos and tisch in the Kruleh Beis Medrash in South Fallsburg, at 5405 Route 42. The melaveh malkah was held at 11 p.m., and the Rebbe, together with his following, visited the ohel at 8 p.m., with chartered buses leaving South Fallsburg at 5 p.m. In honor of his father, Torah institutions were established. The Kruleh yeshiva and girls school have a combined student enrollment of more than 500 students. Camp Nachlas Zvi in Mountaindale serves the hundreds of boys of the yeshiva. In 2000, a new sefer Torah was commissioned by students of Reb Hershele of Spinka and brought to Beis Medrash Beis Shmuel Zvi, from the home of Rabbi Yesachar Dov Berish Horowitz (zt’l), Spinka Rebbe, 219 Keap Street. A banquet meal in celebration was served in the Spinka Yeshiva at 575 Bedford Avenue.
Recent spinka circumstances. On Monday evening, July 24, 2006, traveling from Williamsburg to the Spinka Camp in Woodridge, the automobile carrying Rabbi Yesochor Dov Berish Horowitz, zt’l (d. 2007), Spinka Rebbe in Williamsburg, and Rebbetzin Sarah Bluma Horowitz, a’h (1949–2006), overturned on Glenwild Road in Woodridge. The Rebbetzin was thrown from the vehicle and immediately succumbed to her injuries. The Rebbe survived with injuries but, less than 18 months later, the Rebbe, too, succumbed to injuries sustained in that tragic automobile accident. Rabbi Yesochor Dov Berish Horowitz passed away on Monday, the third day of Chol Hamoed Sukkos.
The Rebbetzin was the daughter of Rabbi Elazar Meisels, zt’l, Uheiler Rav; son of Rabbi Dovid Meisels, zt’l, Hy’d (1875–1944), Uheily Rav and author of Binyan Dovid; grandson of Rabbi Dovid Meisels, zt’l (1814–1875), Losker Rav and author of Ahavas Dovid. She was also the granddaughter of Rabbi Yosef Paneth, zt’l, Deijer Rebbe; son of Rabbi Yechezkel Paneth, zt’l (1870–1929), Deijer Rebbe and author of Knesses Yechezkel; son of Rabbi Moshe Paneth, zt’l (1843–1902), Deijer Rebbe; son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Paneth, zt’l (1818–1884), Deijer Rebbe; son of Rabbi Yechezkel Paneth, zt’l (1783–1845), Karlsburger Rebbe.
The Rebbe and Rebbetzin were survived by their children Rabbi Yosef Meir, Rabbi Moshe, Rabbi Yaakov, Rabbi Zalman Leib, Rabbi Dovid, Yoel, Rebbetzin Raizy Zegelbaum, Rebbetzin Rivka Freidman, Rebbetzin Pearl Berger; and Rebbetzin Toby Oshry. v
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the Rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park and Director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. Rabbi Tannenbaum can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.