Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Nissan 5761 - April 4, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







The Divrei Yirmiyohu - Reb Yirmiyohu Lev, zt"l
In honor of his yahrtzeit 17 Nisan

It was while the Shaarei Torah, Reb Binyomin Zev Lev, was rov in Kellin that his special son, Reb Yirmiyohu, was born.

Few details are known to us about his youth, but when he was only seventeen he received smicha from the gaon, R' Mordechai Banet, the rov of Nicholsburg.

Reb Yirmiyohu married Baila Chaye, daughter of R' Zvi Hirsch Paaper, a distinguished Jew from Semnitz who was a great talmid chochom and an expert in the Toras hanistar.

R' Yirmiyohu lived and learnt with his father-in-law for several years. He then returned to his father, who had meanwhile been appointed rov in Verbau.

During those years, R' Yirmiyohu traveled to the great leaders of the time to learn from their ways and their Torah. When he reached Pressburg and learnt with the holy Chasam Sofer, the latter was duly impressed with the young scholar. A short letter that the Chasam Sofer later wrote to the Divrei Yirmiyohu testifies to the high regard in which he held him. In it he writes, "Do not take offense or think that I am not replying at length because your question is not worthy. Far be it, I regard your words as valuable stones but simply have no time!"

In the year 5604 (1844), when R' Yirmiyohu was thirty-three years old, the community in Magendorf begged the Shaarei Torah to persuade his son to accept the rabbonus in their town. R' Yirmiyohu led this town for eight years until his father was niftar on 2 Adar 5611 and he then took over his father's position in Verbau.

Shortly after, he was appointed rov in Ujhel and this became his home.

His home was in Ujhel, but his net was spread over the length and breadth of Hungary, his Torah reverberating all over.

He is particularly remembered for his courage and the part he played in the battle against the maskilim. In fact he was such a thorn in their side that they were ready to even kill him; and they reported him to the authorities on the basis of a "crime." However, when R' Yirmiyohu appeared before the court they saw before them a distinguished, noble person and cancelled the case against him.

Together with four other gedolei hador, they formed a delegation to meet the Emperor Franz Joseph for permission to completely segregate the Reform from the religious community. The Emperor granted this request and thus they saved Hungarian Orthodox Jewry from being assimilated.

The Divrei Yirmiyohu fell ill in Adar 5634 (1874) and on the first day of Chol Hamoed Pesach (in chutz la'aretz), 17th of Nisan, he was niftar. He was buried in the new cemetery of Ujhel.

After his passing, his talmidim set up a fund for the printing of his seforim. They published the two- volume Divrei Yirmiyohu on the Rambam and later his sefer Droshos Anshei Hashem.

Recently his seforim on maseches Kiddushin and maseches Kesuvos were published directly from his handwritten manuscripts, and were widely acclaimed in the Torah world.


The Divrei Yirmiyohu's determination in his battle against the maskilim was rooted in a farsighted concern for the future of our nation.

To this end he considered it of primary importance to bring people to respect the talmidei chachomim of his generation. The Divrei Yirmiyohu expended much effort on this point. For example, when the Maharam Shick, zt"l, passed through Ujhel, Reb Yirmiyohu went out with his pupils to meet him with great honor, which in turn made all the townspeople follow them, giving the visiting rabbi a royal welcome like the one accorded to Yisro by Moshe Rabbeinu.

Likewise, when Reb Yirmiyohu hosted a meal in his home for the public, as on Simchas Torah in honor of the Chosson Torah, instead of seating the president and prominent heads of the town at the head table, he would seat first the talmidei chachomim and only then the community dignitaries. Difficult as it was to change the common custom, it brought respect and value to the Torah scholars.

On one occasion, a certain rabbi passed through the town on his way to the Chasam Sofer in Pressburg. He asked the Divrei Yirmiyohu, who knew the Chasam Sofer well, to write him a letter of recommendation saying who he was, so that the Chasam Sofer, who would surely respect his words, would treat him as befit his stature. How great was his disappointment when the Divrei Yirmiyohu refused to do him this small favor. He had no choice but to continue on his way to Pressburg with a heavy heart.

Upon his arrival at the home of the holy Chasam Sofer, the rabbi received a warm welcome, was ushered in and treated with unusual honor. Puzzled, the rabbi wondered: "The holy Chasam Sofer does not even know me. Why have I, a mere stranger, merited such distinguished treatment?"

Noticing his astonishment, the Chasam Sofer explained, "The Gaon of Ujhel wrote me a letter and sent it with an express messenger, saying that you had been there and asked for a letter of introduction and recommendation. Since he considered it belittling for the Torah that a talmid chochom such as you should have to carry his own letter of approbation, as does a common "schnorrer," he refused to give you such a document and instead wrote a letter personally introducing you and asking that you be respected as a godol beTorah."

The maskilim were out in full force in the city of Krali, where the gaon R' Moshe Perls was rov. Since he would not allow them to initiate changes in the daily prayers, they agitated against him personally, threatening him in many ways until they slandered him to the authorities and R' Moshe was forced to flee his home town. His travels took him through the town of Ujhel, where he decided to stay for Shabbos.

Upon hearing that such an eminent guest would be joining them, the gabboim asked the Divrei Yirmiyohu if they should tell Reb Moshe that their rabbi would like to give the visitor the honor of addressing the congregation in the large Beis Medrash on Shabbos morning. Much to their surprise, Reb Yirmiyohu waved away their suggestion. Their surprise only multiplied when, on Shabbos morning, after krias HaTorah, the rov stood up and announced that he would like the visiting rabbi to honor the crowd with a drosho.

"What was the reason for yesterday's decision and what was the reason for today's?" they wondered, "and why the abrupt change? How could the Rov just send for the rabbi without giving him ample time to prepare his drosho, thus risking an embarrassing situation?"

"This is exactly the point," exclaimed the Divrei Yirmiyohu. "I wanted you to see the greatness of this guest of ours. I deliberately did not ask him two days in advance so you should not think he needs so much time to prepare his drosho. Indeed I wanted you all to witness with your own eyes his greatness in Torah. Even though you just honored him now with the pulpit, he immediately delivered a wonderful drosho, thus impressing on you all the true greatness of our talmidei chachomim."

Out of necessity the Divrei Yirmiyohu together with the Chasam Sofer and Maharam Shick, set up the Chevras Shomrei Hadas whose purpose was to protect and uphold the respect given to Torah. As the gaon Rav Feivel Plaut, a talmid of the Chasam Sofer, wrote in his hesped after the petirah of the Divrei Yirmiyohu: "He was the first and foremost to set up the Chevras Shomrei Hadas, without which our holy Torah, which already being singed by those who wanted to burn it, would have, chas vesholom, been consumed. Had it not been for his work every believer of Torah would have become a mockery, a tragedy that has been averted due to his holy group."

Zechuso Yogein Oleinu!


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.