By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
The world continues to recite Tehillim for the recovery and good health of Rabbi Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, founder and Rosh Yeshiva Ateres Yisroel in Yerushalayim, who had open-heart surgery on Wednesday, March 6. Hundreds of his students organized a round-the-clock Tehillim recital that continues. The public is asked to pray for the good health of Rabbi Baruch Mordechai ben Hinda Malka.
Rabbi Ezrachi, in his youth, studied at Yeshivas Chevron and is the son-in-law of Rabbi Meir Chodosh, zt’l (1898–1989), renowned Mashgiach Yeshivas Chevron. In 1976, Rabbi Ezrachi established Yeshiva Ateres Yisroel and has taught Torah to thousands of students since then. On Shabbos at this past Agudath Israel Convention, Rabbi Ezrachi was the keynote speaker, delivering his drasha before Musaf. In the summer of 2012, he was appointed a member of the Moetzes Gedolei Torah of Degel HaTorah in Israel.
Yeshiva Ateres Yisroel receives educational stipends from the Israeli government, which are now, together with Israel’s other leading yeshivas, threatened by the new anti-religious political coalition. More than 150 students of the yeshiva attended a siyum mesechta at the Tel Hashomer Hospital to bring joy and nachas to their rosh yeshiva. Rabbi Ezrachi asked for the microphone in order to express his appreciation. Emotionally moved, the rosh yeshiva added that the new government’s intention to abolish the deferment for yeshiva students weighs heavily on his fragile heart. In conclusion, the rosh yeshiva expressed his intention to refuse any further financial assistance from the government. Instead, he intends to establish and build a ten billion (that’s billion with a B) dollar endowment fund to sustain yeshivas in Eretz Yisroel, thus making yeshivas independent of government control. Many commentators are identifying this intention as “Out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Shoftim 14:14).
Rabbi Lamm and YU’s Endowment
In 1976, when Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm was appointed as president and rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchanan (RIETS) of Yeshiva University, potential bankruptcy loomed on YU’s immediate horizon. Rabbi Lamm focused all of his energies on not only saving YU from its immediate threat, he galvanized YU’s support network to financially fortify the institution. To his great credit, Rabbi Lamm invested his tremendous energies in building an endowment fund. That fund today is in excess of 1.13 billion dollars, ranking Yeshiva University as having the 46th largest endowment fund. Rabbi Lamm retired as president in 2003 and continues as YU’s chancellor and rosh yeshiva. The lesson learned from Rabbi Lamm’s success can serve as the blueprint for Rabbi Ezrachi’s bold initiative.
Rabbi Yisroel Stern, zt’l, Neshchizer Rebbe in Ashdod
Dark clouds covered the city of Ashdod on Tuesday, March 5. The holy soul of Rabbi Ben Zion Yisroel Stern, Neshchizer Rebbe, ascended to Heaven and left the city in mourning. He was greatly beloved by his chassidim as well as by many of the city’s secular Jews whom he befriended.
He was the son of Rabbi Meir Stern, Chief Rabbi of Meron, and the son-in-law of Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Roth, zt’l (1924–2012), late Shomrei Emunim Rebbe and author of Chukei Chaim, who passed away in August 2012. The Chief Rabbi of Meron has served in his position for more than 45 years. The late Shomrei Emunim Rebbe was the son of Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Cohen, zt’l (1914–1996), author of Divrei Emunah, who received his teachings from his father-in-law, Rabbi Aaron Roth, zt’l (1894–1947), author of Shomrei Emunim and Shulchan HaTahor, known as the Shomrei Emunim Rebbe. The Shomrei Emunim was a disciple of the Kosoner Rebbe, the Vishnitzer Rebbe, and the Blushever Rebbe, and emigrated to Jerusalem in1925. He intended on becoming a sofer and serving Heaven by writing megillos, mezuzos, tefillin, and sifrei Torah. He was introduced to an elder sofer who began teaching him but quickly realized that the student was no ordinary pupil. In very short order, the teacher became a chassid of Rabbi Aaron, together with a growing number of Jerusalemites who were also able to discern greatness in the pious young scholar.
In 1939, the Shomrei Emunim Rebbe, while visiting Eastern Europe, took an outstanding devout scholar, Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Cohen, as a son-in-law. Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok, born in Tsefas, had studied in the great yeshivas of Europe and had earned relationships with the leading rabbis there. Upon returning to Jerusalem in 1940, the Rebbe placed his new son-in-law at the helm of his growing yeshiva. In 1947, when he passed away, Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok was anointed as his successor. He guided the large and intense following in the path set by his predecessor. Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok, known as the Toldos Aaron Rebbe, became the spiritual leader of the core of the older Jerusalemite families.
Two years before he passed away, the Toldos Aaron Rebbe became seriously ill and was bedridden. He was brought to his beis medrash only on special occasions, his seat partitioned off by curtains. At those time, the beis medrash was jammed with chassidim patiently waiting just to catch a glimpse of their great rebbe. The curtains were pulled open for only a few minutes and the chassidim considered themselves fortunate for the opportunity of seeing their rebbe. Sadly, to the tears of many, the rebbe passed away on the fourth day of Chanukah, 1996.
Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Cohen was the son-in-law of Rabbi Mordechai Goldman, zt’l (1910–1981), Zhviler Rebbe and author of Mordechai B’shaar Hamelech; son-in-law of his uncle, Rabbi Shmuel Mordechai Shapiro, zt’l (d. 1920), Neshchizer-Stevichover Rebbe; son of Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Shapiro, zt’l (d. 1907), Neshchizer Rebbe; son of Rabbi Mordechai Shapiro, zt’l (d. 1885), Stevichover Rebbe; son of Rabbi Yisroel Shapiro, zt’l (d. 1881), Stevichover Rebbe; son of Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Shapiro, zt’l (1780–1838), Kavly Rebbe; son of Rabbi Mordechai Shapiro, zt’l (1742–1800), founding Neshchizer Rebbe and author of Rishpei Aish.
Rabbi Ben Zion Yisroel Stern, the late Neshchizer Rebbe, originally established a beis medrash in Bnei Brak to continue the heritage and customs of the Neshchizer-Stevichover chassidishe dynasty. Shortly thereafter, he established his beis medrash in Ashdod, where he cultivated a huge following. He especially emphasized outreach to the not-yet-religious. On the night of Purim, he celebrated the engagement of his daughter. The picture taken then was the last one of him.
During the shiva, his oldest son, Rabbi Mordechai Stern, who lives in New York, was declared as successor Neshchizer Rebbe and will lead the beis medrash in Ashdod. A younger son, Rabbi Aaron Stern, living in Antwerp, will lead the yeshiva and kollel. On motzaei Shabbos Vayakheil-Pekudei, March 9, in the midst of sitting shiva, Rabbi Mordechai celebrated the pidyon ha’ben of his son. The event also served as the coronation of his becoming Neshchizer Rebbe. 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.