Machberes: Inside The Chassidish And Yeshivish World
By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
Merkaz Hakollelim of Skver held its 52nd annual dinner this past Sunday evening, February 15, at the Ateres Chaya ballroom in Boro Park. Merkaz Hakollelim now consists of more than a dozen kollels in Skver, Spring Valley, NY, in which almost 1,000 young men intensely study Torah and prepare for lives of service as teachers of Torah, as dayanim, and as rabbanim. Under the leadership of Rabbi Dovid Twersky, Skverer Rebbe, members of the kollelim devote full days, from before sunup until almost midnight, every day of the week, to absorb the depths of Jewish law. That dedication is only made possible by the generous support of Skverer chassidim worldwide and by those close to Skver.
The event at Ateres Chaya was dramatic in the number of those attending, in the amount of money raised, and in the range of attire, from intensely chassidic to modern Orthodox, all unified in support of heightened Torah study. Honorees include Yom Tov Lipman Direnfeld, son of Mechel Direnfeld, a’h, and Aaron Moskowitz, remembering his parents, Yehuda Eliezer ben Meyer Aryeh and Liba Leah bas Dovid, a’h, recognizing their huge and sustained support through the years. The evening was dedicated to the memory of Aaron Yehoshua ben Meyer Aryeh Moskowitz, a’h, whose home periodically was ennobled in hosting the Skverer Rebbe.
The dayan of Skver relayed the berachah from the Skverer Rebbe and remembered Rabbi Yoel Yeshaya Ungar, zt’l (1924–2014), the gabbai of Rebbe Yakov Yosef Twersky, zt’l (1899–1968), late Skverer Rebbe, as well as gabbai of the present Skverer Rebbe.
Rabbi Shaya Ungar, zt’l, Skverer Gabbai
The entire population of Skver, including older men and little boys, escorted Reb Yeshaya on erevShabbosNaso, Friday, May 3, to his eternal rest. He was 89. He had served as gabbai to the Rebbes of Skver for 64 years. His father was Rabbi Avrohom Tzvi Ungar, zt’l,Hy’d (1898–1944), Kapawar Rav in Hungary and author of the Machneh Avraham.
While at the Shabbos tisch of Rabbi Shayala Steiner, zt’l (1851–1925), revered Kerestirer Rebbe, Rabbi Avrohom Tzvi was given cholent directly from Rabbi Shayala. The cholent had a bone in it. In Yiddish a bone is “bine,” similar to word “ben,” a son in Hebrew. Receiving a bone in the cholentshirayim from Rabbi Shayala was an indication that a son was to be born. Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Avrohom Tzvi celebrated the birth of a son. In the interim, the Kerestirer Rebbe had passed away and Rabbi Avrohom Tzvi named the child Yeshaya in honor of the late Rebbe.
Miraculously surviving the Holocaust and arriving in the United States, Rabbi Shaya became a follower of Rabbi Yakov Yosef Twersky, zt’l, Skverer Rebbe. As the number of chassidim increased, the Rebbe sought a full-time gabbai to assist in serving the growing demand. In 1950, Rabbi Shaya was invested with the responsibility of becoming the Rebbe’s chief of staff. Sadly, Rabbi Yakov Yosef passed away at the relatively young age of 69. He was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Dovid, present Skverer Rebbe. Rabbi Shaya continued his intense dedication on behalf of the successor Skverer Rebbe.
He devotedly and selflessly served the Rebbe and all of his chassidim. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef blazed a new path when he established the chassidish village of New Square (Shikun Skver) on American soil in Spring Valley. The trials and tribulations of the innovative undertaking were shared by Rabbi Shaya, who gave of himself completely to ensuring its success.
Rabbi Shaya’s every day was incredible in the volume of responsibility that he carried upon his shoulders. He would sit at the Rebbe’s door writing kvittlech for petitioners until 2 or 3 in the morning, after which he had a regular seder of learning Mishnayos. Before Shacharis every morning, he would complete the recital of the entire Tehillim.
He was stationed at the Rebbe’s side for Shacharis, Minchah, and Ma’ariv and oversaw the almost daily b’rismilahs, tefillin for barmitzvahs, pidyonha’bens, tenayim, chuppahs, and shevaberachos. Every Shabbos tisch had Rabbi Shaya ensure that its timing was perfect. All arrangements that were decided for those who consulted the Rebbe were organized and overseen by Rabbi Shaya. He had become indispensable. An entire staff was needed to continue the functions that Rabbi Shaya developed and conducted.
At the dinner, a slideshow was presented, with the hope that the immensity of Rabbi Shaya’s lifework would be fully described. The warm words that he imparted to those in need, the heartfelt tefillos that he led, and the sweet songs that he vocalized will never be forgotten.
Rabbi Itzik Twersky
The evening also served to highlight the amazing work that is being performed by Rabbi Itzik Twersky. Rabbi Itzik is the oldest son of Rabbi Dovid Twersky, zt’l (1921–2001), Skverer Rebbe of Boro Park, who was a medical pioneer. Never having seen a medical school, the Skverer Rebbe of Boro Park, in his youth, acquired an unbelievable insight into medical science. As a student at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, he was given an office where he was consulted on all sorts of medical issues.
Before the world knew of medical referral services or the benefit of second opinions, the young Rabbi Dovid Twersky had already established an invaluable network of superb medical professionals with earned outstanding reputations, greatly respected by colleagues. Rabbi Dovid had an uncanny ability to find doctors and surgeons who themselves were ahead of their times. Rabbi Dovid developed a fierce loyalty on the part of the doctors who would stop whatever they were doing, stand at attention, and bid the Rebbe’s specific instructions.
He knew which doctors were preeminent in healing different maladies. People from all over the world came to him for medical advice and referrals. Leading doctors were stupefied by his knowledge and were unable to decline his referrals. Doctors gave up vacations because Rabbi Twersky called—such was the awe and respect that he earned.
Rabbi Itzik Twersky, his oldest son and brother to Rabbi Yechiel Mechel, successor Skverer Rebbe of Boro Park, has inherited the holy work that his father initiated. Rabbi Itzik arranges medical attention for those who need specialized treatments. People contact him at all hours of the day or night. He arranges hospital transfers when needed. Leading medical professionals all over the world know that when Rabbi Itzik calls, immediate attention is necessary.
In seeking to help those who call upon him, Rabbi Itzik often consults with the Skverer Rebbe, who has developed an exceedingly high regard for his lifesaving work. Humbly, Rabbi Itzik accepted the distinction and recognition bestowed upon him. May Heaven pave the way for more success. 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. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.