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11 Sivan 5759 - May 26, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Hagaon HaKodosh Reb Yeede'le Horowitz zt'l -- 11 Sivan: Ten Years from His Petirah
by F. Avrohom

Ten years have passed since the petirah of the gaon and kodosh Reb Yehuda Horowitz zt'l of Dzikov. During his lifetime he was considered by many to be something of a mystery. His father, Reb Alter Yechezkel, was Rebbe in Dzikov, which was one of the large and important chassidic dynasties in Galicia. But despite the fact that Reb Yehuda was his only son, he adamantly refused to fill his father's position and was popularly known to all as simply "Reb Yeede'le."

Indeed until his last days he fled any honor or publicity and was never to be seen in the public eye. His one and only wish was to be left alone so that he could learn and daven to Hashem without disturbance. So far over ten volumes of his chiddushei Torah have been printed but these compromise only a small fraction of the vast amount that he wrote.

Reb Yeede'le was born on the 18th of Elul 5665 (1905) in the town of Vishnitz where his father Reb Alter Yechezkel lived after he married the daughter of the Vishnitzer Rebbe, the Ahavas Yisroel zt'l. From his youngest years it was apparent that he was special. His grandfather, the Dzikov Rebbe, who was renowned for his geonus and tzidkus proclaimed, "I am sure that the day will come when people will break down doors and windows in order to speak to him." The Rebbe's words took on an extra dimension many years later when Reb Yeede'le started to seclude himself and only after much perseverance was one granted an audience to speak to him.

Most of his childhood he spent in close proximity to his grandfather the Ahavas Yisroel who treasured him greatly. When the First World War broke out in 1914 and the Ahavas Yisroel was faced with fleeing to Vienna like most refugees or finding somewhere else, he chose to settle in Grosswardein in Hungary because, "If I live in a big city like Vienna, would I then have such a Yeede'le!"

When he was still a young boy his father sent him to the town of Tarnov to learn under the posek hador HaRav Meir Arik zt'l. Reb Yeede'le remained in Tarnov for five years during which he became extremely close to Reb Meir Arik. Reb Yeede'le regarded those five years as the most important of his life and until his last days would always refer to Reb Meir Arik as `my Rebbe.'

His derech halimud, to which he strictly adhered, he acquired from Reb Meir Arik. In his hesped on Reb Yeede'le, HaRav Moshe Halberstam of Yerushalayim said, "I was zoche to hear from Reb Yeede'le a daily shiur in Kollel Tarbinza where he learnt for many years. The shiur was delivered with amazing depth and every single point in the sugya was discussed. I remember that when he learnt hilchos mikvaos, he spent three weeks just to explain one particular opinion, which he clarified from every possible angle. Often we did not understand why he found it necessary to analyze so deeply every last opinion, but he could not learn differently. He would say, `This is the derech that I was mekabel from my Rebbe, Reb Meir Arik, and this is the derech I am passing on to you.' "

Recently a new volume of Reb Meir Arik's chiddushim on Shas called Tal Torah was printed. This sefer was compiled almost exclusively from the writings of Reb Yeede'le that he had recorded for himself. Although Reb Yeede'le had been a young bochur when he had learnt by Reb Meir Arik and many decades had elapsed since then, he was still able to record precisely all the deep and intricate chiddushim that he had then heard. This sefer is indeed a living tribute to his brilliance.

It was not for nothing that when Reb Yeede'le finally went back to Grosswardein, Reb Meir Arik rewarded him with a ksav semichah in which he wrote, "This bochur has no equal in the world of Galicia."


In 1927 Reb Yeede'le married his first cousin, the daughter of his uncle Reb Chaim Meir of Vishnitz. (They were never zoche to have children and years later they divorced.) After his chasuna he carried on learning steadily, ascending from one madreigo to the next. His hasmodoh knew no bounds and he was makpid to learn until he literally dropped from exhaustion.

In Shulchan Oruch it is written, "The Torah cannot be acquired by someone who learns in comfort or through eating and drinking but by someone who deprives himself from everything for the Torah and denies sleep from his eyes for the sake of the Torah." Reb Yeede'le's unbelievable knowledge of the Torah was the result of his total mesiras nefesh for limud haTorah.

One of his gabboim recalls, "Reb Yeede'le would learn every day without interruption for at least eight hours at a go. Often he learnt for the whole day from dawn to dusk. When he didn't want to be disturbed he would not open the door to those who came to see him, even to his gabboim. He would signal not to disturb him. I remember that once he locked himself in his study for three consecutive weeks and did not interrupt his learning for anything. The meals were brought to the study door and he would take the food and immediately shut the door again."

A Dayan in Klausenberg

In 1936 Reb Yeede'le was offered the position of dayan in Klausenberg, which he accepted. Before he took up the position he first reviewed the whole of Shulchan Oruch Choshen Mishpot. Every day for half a year Reb Yeede'le had a six hour chavrusa in Choshen Mishpot with his close friend Rav Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss zt'l (who later became rav of Yerushalayim and interestingly was niftar on the same day as Reb Yeede'le). Only after he had thoroughly reviewed all the halochos properly did he finally agree to take up the position.

Despite his youth he ruled the town with an iron fist and did not tolerate even the slightest deviation from the halocho and the accepted norm. His firmness can be seen from the following incident which occurred not long after he arrived there.

One day the Yidden in Klausenberg woke up to find that their new dayan had disappeared. No one knew where he had gone or why he had gone and it became the talk of the town. Searches were conducted in Grosswardein but he wasn't there either.

Eventually he was located in a small village outside Klausenberg. He explained that he had issued a certain ruling but he had been ignored. Therefore he decided to resign his post and leave the town. The kehilla immediately sent a delegation to apologize and to ask his forgiveness. Reb Yeede'le returned to the kehilla and from then he was respected by the whole kehilla who admired his strength of character and his uncompromising stance for Yiddishkeit.

Typical of his meticulous observance of every mitzva was the following incident. One day Reb Yeede'le heard that his uncle the Rebbe of Vishiva was in the hospital outside Klausenberg. Reb Yeede'le decided to visit him but was unable to decide what was the best way to travel there. On the one hand his uncle was such a great personage that he "merited that one should walk the whole way to the hospital." On the other hand "a mitzva which one spends money on is more mehudar than a mitzva which is performed without giving away money."

In the end Reb Yeede'le resolved the problem as follows. He took a taxi halfway to the hospital, whereupon he descended and completed the journey by foot!

Nazi Persecution

For seven years Reb Yeede'le lived in Klausenberg until suddenly in Adar 5704 (1944) Hungary was invaded by the Nazis, ym'sh. Almost immediately the accursed Germans started to close the Yidden into ghettos from where they were sent directly to the Auschwitz death camp. In order to evade the ghetto, Reb Yeede'le volunteered to join a labor camp where his job was to cut down trees in the forests. This backbreaking work was supervised by the Germans who didn't hesitate to shoot anyone they suspected wasn't working fast enough.

To describe here all that Reb Yeede'le endured under the Nazis is impossible. Indeed in a letter that he wrote soon after his arrival in Eretz Yisroel, Reb Yeede'le wrote, "To record everything that has happened to me from the day I left Klausenberg until I finally arrived in Eretz Yisroel is not feasible."

Eventually, Reb Yeede'le, together with his shver the Imrei Chaim zt'l of Vishnitz, succeeded in escaping from the camp and after many near captures and countless nissim, they finally arrived safely in Romania. Although they were out of Nazi hands, they were still in great danger from the Romanian police who sent back any refugees they caught.

Reb Yeede'le made his way to Bucharest, the capital of Romania. In Bucharest lived the Bohusher Rebbe, Reb Yitzchok Friedman zt'l who was instrumental in hiding and saving the lives of hundreds of people. Reb Yeede'le was given a place to sleep in the Rebbe's large beis hamedrash and he also received new false Romanian papers which would help protect him if caught.

To Eretz Yisroel

With the war's end in 1945, Reb Yeede'le applied for a visa to Eretz Yisroel and some time later he left Bucharest, arriving in Eretz Yisroel in Kislev 5706 (1946).

When Reb Yeede'le arrived in Eretz Yisroel he at first settled in Tel Aviv. Immediately he started to look for new surroundings and a new rebbe to whom he could turn for assistance. When he heard about the greatness of the Chazon Ish, he decided to go to Bnei Brak to see for himself if he was suitable for him or not. Reb Yeede'le entered the Chazon Ish's home and sat himself down in a corner from where he could observe the Chazon Ish's every move. The Chazon Ish asked Reb Yeede'le who he was and what he wanted, but Reb Yeede'le didn't answer and the Chazon Ish left him alone.

After many hours had gone by and Reb Yeede'le was satisfied with what he had seen and heard, he finally got up and introduced himself. From then on Reb Yeede'le became a regular visitor in the Chazon Ish's house and they would spend many hours learning together. After some time, Reb Yeede'le asked the Chazon Ish permission to be present whilst he ate, for he wanted to learn how to act during meal times as well. The Chazon Ish agreed to his request and from then on Reb Yeede'le would sit at his table like a chossid at the tish of his rebbe.

The Chazon Ish held Reb Yeede'le in very high esteem and voiced his praises on a number of occasions. He would often say that Reb Yeede'le was an odom hasholeim and once he said, "He is not only a tzaddik and a talmid chochom but also a true chochom, someone who knows how to act in every situation."

Sometimes when people would come from Tel Aviv to see the Chazon Ish, he would tell them, "I don't know why you have to come the whole way to Bnei Brak? In Tel Aviv lives Reb Yeede'le. Why don't you ask him?"

Besides the Chazon Ish, Reb Yeede'le also became close to the famed Rebbe of Husyatin, Reb Yisroel Friedman zt'l who lived in Tel Aviv. The Husyatiner Rebbe was from the only Rebbes to whom Reb Yeede'le ever gave a kvittel. The Rebbe also thought very highly of Reb Yeede'le and allowed him to be present even when others were forbidden. One night on Chanukah the Husyatiner Rebbe announced that he wanted to light the menora in private, "because the thoughts of those around me are disturbing me." The Rebbe looked around at the assembled crowd and, seeing Reb Yeede'le there, he told him, "You may stay. Your thoughts don't bother me!"

To Yerushalayim

After some years in Tel Aviv, Reb Yeede'le decided to move to Yerushalayim. The Vishnitzer chassidim in Yerushalayim were delighted to hear that he was moving and they promptly crowned him as their rov. Reb Yeede'le however wasn't interested in their offer and he refused the post. Instead he made his new home in the beis hamedrash of HaRav Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky zt'l, the rov of Yerushalayim.

Reb Yeede'le was fond of repeating a vort from the Chortkover Rebbe, Reb Dovid Moshe zt'l, with which he explained his derech in life. A Yid once came to the Chortkover Rebbe and asked him advice as to which shul he should daven in. There were a number of shuls in his town but he was unable to decide which he should make his home. The Chortkover Rebbe asked him if any of these shuls had in them a Yid whose heart trembled from fear of Hashem. When the Yid replied in the affirmative the Rebbe told him to daven there even if the other minyanim had more members.

The Chortkover explained his reason as follows. The Torah tells us that before Klal Yisroel would wage war against its enemies the commanding officer would proclaim, "Who is the man who is afraid and faint hearted? Let him return home and not cause his fellow soldiers to also become afraid, like his own heart." From here we see that when one man is afraid this causes those around him to also become afraid.

Similarly, explained the Chortkover Rebbe, when a person davens next to someone who is a true yirei Shomayim, after a time one becomes influenced by his ways and some of his fear of Heaven rubs off on his surroundings as well.

It was this vort which Reb Yeede'le used as his guide in life. He always ran away from the crowds and the masses, preferring to seek the company of the ehrlicher Yidden and the talmidei chachomim. It didn't matter what group or to which derech one was affiliated; such things he ignored totally. He was only interested in the person's true worth, his Torah and his yiras Shomayim.

If in Tel Aviv Reb Yeede'le had been a chossid of the Chazon Ish, in Yerushalayim he annulled himself totally to HaRav Dushinsky. HaRav Dushinsky was not in the habit of rising from his chair when someone would enter the room. But when Reb Yeede'le would come into the room, he would always respectfully rise to his feet. When he was asked for an explanation, HaRav Dushinsky answered, "I haven't met another person with whom I can discuss everything nigleh and nistar, as I can with him."

Indeed when one looks in Reb Yeede'le seforim, the mind boggles from his knowledge. Rev Yeede'le used to write his chiddushim in the margins of his seforim. Almost all of his seforim, of which he owned many hundreds, are packed with his comments. It doesn't make a difference what sefer it is, halocho, aggada, Kabalah, or chassidus, all of them were carefully learned through and after he had thoroughly analyzed what was written he would add his own additions and thoughts to the words of the sefer.

Special Closeness to the Chasam Sofer

Reb Yeede'le had a special affection for the words of the Chasam Sofer. This deep affection for the Chasam Sofer's seforim went back to his youngest years. After his chasuna Reb Yeede'le secretly gave away his entire nadan to HaRav Yosef Naftoli Stern so that he could print the sefer Droshos Chasam Sofer.

Every word of the Chasam Sofer was beloved to him, until his words became ingrained in his mind and he was able to quote by heart from almost all of the Chasam Sofer's seforim.

On one occasion Reb Yeede'le became visibly upset when someone admitted that he had forgotten a vort from the Chasam Sofer that he had heard from Reb Yeede'le years earlier. "How is it possible that you don't remember?" Reb Yeede'le wondered. "From this vort it is plainly obvious how the Chasm Sofer's blood boiled for the sake of Hashem. And you say that you don't remember it!"

Besides the thousands of comments and chiddushim that he wrote on almost every page of the Chasam Sofer's seforim, he also wrote extensive glosses on the seforim of the Chida, the Maharsham and Reb Meir Arik and many of the classic chassidishe seforim.

Reb Yeede'le's greatness wasn't just limited to his tremendous geonus. When it came to the mitzvos bein odom le chaveiro, he was also famous for his gadlus and mesiras nefesh.

When twenty years had passed from his chasuna and he hadn't yet been zoche to children, Reb Yeede'le decided to travel to Pressburg to daven at the kever of the Chasam Sofer zt'l. Reb Yeede'le spent over two hours at the kever davening to Hashem, but whilst he was there he totally forgot to daven for himself. Later on he explained that he had felt so elevated to be next to such a tzaddik that he was simply unable to remember his own personal needs!

Reb Yeede'le would often go to cheer up those who were in need of chizuk: the poor and ill, widows and orphans. It didn't matter that he didn't know them or that they didn't know him, he would suddenly knock on their doors and walk in.

One year just before Succos, a young man was suddenly niftar leaving behind his bereaved widow and a number of young children. Yom Tov night as Reb Yeede'le was walking home from shul, he suddenly told his gabai, "We are on our way home to fulfill the mitzvah of simchas yom tov. But the Rambam writes that the mitzva of simchas yom tov is to gladden the hearts of widows and orphans."

And with that he turned around and walked to the widow's house. When arrived, he found the whole family sitting there, somber and depressed. For three hours Reb Yeede'le sat with the family telling them stories and singing zemiros. Only after he had helped to put all the children to sleep did he finally go back to his own home.

He had a minhag of going to be menachem ovel only a few weeks or months after the person had been niftar. "During the shiva, they don't need me," he would say. "I'll go later on when everyone else has forgotten about them. That's the time when they are in need of support."

He would always praise highly the custom of HaRav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld who would make a point to visit the bereaved on Chol Hamoed. Yomim tovim are a time when they feel their loss more acutely than during the year, and he would go to cheer them up.

Nosei Be'ol

Often it was possible to physically see how he suffered when he heard about the problems of others. Sometimes when he was informed that someone was seriously ill he would suddenly be overcome with temperature and would have to stay in bed for a few days. Reb Yeede'le would not limit his involvement just to davening for those who requested his brochos, but would take an active part as well, advising which doctor to go to or which type of treatment should be used.

A young man once phoned Reb Yeede'le late at night and asked him to daven for his wife who was having a difficult childbirth. The next morning the man came to Reb Yeede'le and told him that his wife had given birth at 3 o'clock that night. "Why didn't you call me in the middle of the night?" Reb Yeede'le demanded. "Because of you I didn't sleep the whole night!"

A man once came to Reb Yeede'le to pour out all his woes and sorrows to him. In the middle, Reb Yeede'le suddenly interrupted him and said, "I beg of you, please don't tell me any more. My heart can simply not take it!" And he added, "When my zeide, the Ahavas Yisroel was a young man he refused to accept the rabbonus because he felt it would be too much for him to manage. When his father Reb Boruch'l of Vishnitz heard about it, he explained, `To be a Rov is so demanding? Believe me, when I take kvittel and I read the sorrows of others, sometimes my hair stands up on end.' Now I understand," Reb Yeede'le explained, "what it feels like to have to hear the pain of others, and I appreciate what Reb Boruch'l meant."

In his later years Reb Yeede'le would often develop terrible migraine headaches for which no cause or cure could be found. It was however noticed that these headaches would come on days when he had heard of a particularly disturbing case. He would then bandage his head with a cloth in an attempt to try and relieve the terrible pain.

Reb Yeede'le also used to always lament and cry over the kovod of the Shechina. He was makpid never to eat meat on Wednesdays in keeping with the words of the Shlah Hakodosh, as a sign of mourning for the Beis Hamikdosh.

His Tefillos

During his tefillos he would cry like a little child, as all those who knew him remember. Indeed from all his many attributes, Reb Yeede'le was perhaps famed the most for his tefillos. Those who davened with him will never forget the spectacle.

He was the epitome of the vort that he used to recite, that a person whose heart trembles for Hashem causes others to tremble in fear of Hashem. Often he would daven with such concentration and intensity that he would be forced to take a break and lie down for a few minutes to regain his strength. Then he would carry on davening with the same kavannah as beforehand until he needed to rest a second time.

Throughout his life Reb Yeede'le refused to accept upon himself the position of Dzikover Rebbe. Although there were many chassidim who longed for him to finally give in, he never did so. In his later years chassidim would come up to his house on Shabbos and yom tov to try to create the atmosphere of a tish but even then he would not admit defeat. Reb Yeede'le would simply rise from his place and bid a good night to his visitors. With that he would retire to his bedroom and leave his guests to find their own way out.

It was not known why he refused the position to which he was so suited, but in one of his comments can be found a hint of an explanation for his behavior. Reb Yeede'le commented on the words of the Chasam Sofer who writes, "Outwardly a person should always be friendly and mix with others, but inside in his heart he should remain apart and secluded." On these words, Reb Yeede'le wrote, "I think that a person should do just the opposite. On the outside a person should adopt an air of seclusion but in his heart he should be firmly bound to every single Yid."

Reb Yeede'le acted true to his words, and although he always sought to isolate himself, he remained bound with all his heart to the whole of Klal Yisroel. Before he carried out a mitzva he would say countless times with intense kavannah that he is carrying out the mitzva on behalf of all of Klal Yisroel. He would also refer to the words of Dovid Hamelech who insisted that the soldiers who remained behind in the camp on guard be given the same share of the spoils as those who went out to war. Reb Yeede'le thus referred to himself as the soldier who remained inside to guard the camp, watching and looking after the base for those who had gone out to fight.

Final Years

In his later years Reb Yeede'le grew steadily weaker. Four years before his petirah he traveled to London for medical advice. Although he had intended his stay to be a short one, in the end he remained there until his petirah. His new home on Jessam Avenue, Stamford Hill, became a beacon of light for the whole of London.

Against his will and his wishes he was sought after by all sections of the community. Hundreds queued up by his door to receive his brocho or just to wish him a `Gut Shabbos' or `Gut yom tov."

To one of his chassidim from Eretz Yisroel who was surprised that Reb Yeede'le had finally given in to become a Rebbe, he remarked bitterly, "Now you can appreciate how weak I am!"

For the last three years of his life Reb Yeede'le kept a taanis dibbur, abstaining from even the most basic conversation. During davening and learning one would hear his voice as normal, but besides that he didn't utter a word, not to those who came to him for advice and not to those who came to seek his brocho.

Even when famous rabbonim and gedolim came to visit him, he refused to speak and greeted them in silence. One of the few exceptions was the Bohusher Rebbe, Reb Yitzchok Friedman zt'l, who was moser nefesh to hide Reb Yeede'le in his house during the war. Out of hakoras hatov Reb Yeede'le would speak to him normally every time the Bohusher Rebbe came to London.

In his last months, Reb Yeede'le dropped a number of hints about his petirah. He once told those around him that he was preparing himself to leave. Another time he said that he would soon be reunited with his grandfather, the Ahavas Yisroel.

A few weeks after Pesach 5749 (1989) he suffered a major stroke and three weeks later, on the 11th of Sivan, his holy neshomoh ascended upwards. Reb Yeede'le was laid to rest in the Enfield cemetery in London where his kever is a place of tefilla and comfort for many.

Zechuso yogein oleinu.

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