Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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10 Shevat 5762 - January 23, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








My Last Meeting With The Last Rov Of Mir:
19th Marcheshvon 5702 -- The Sixtieth Yahrtzeit Of HaRav Avrohom Tzvi Hirsch Kamai zt'l, Hy'd, rosh yeshiva and rov of Mir

A Personal Account By His Talmid, HaRav Osher Katzman

The following piece is taken from the third volume of the extended history of the Mir Yeshiva in Europe, Shanghai, America and Israel, known as Hazericho Bepa'asei Kedem, compiled and edited by Rabbis A. Bernstein, Y. Porgas and Y. Naveh. The recently-released third volume includes chapters on the gedolim of the Mir Yeshiva including HaRav E. Y. Finkel, HaRav Yeruchom Levovitz, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein and HaRav Chaim Shmulevitz, among others.

A Retiring Gaon

Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5762 was the sixty-second anniversary of my last meeting with my teacher and rebbe, the gaon and tzaddik HaRav Avrohom Tzvi Hirsch Kamai Hy'd, zt'l. HaRav Avrohom Tzvi was a retiring gaon, a Torah giant whose power lay in his concealment. He lived his life in the background, keeping his distance from publicity, despite a reputation that spread throughout the Torah world. He was known to all as the rov of the famous community of Mir and as rosh yeshiva of the town's world renowned yeshiva.

Rav Kamai's expertise in halachic ruling was also well known, to the extent that HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky zt'l, used to apply to him regularly following the petiroh of the Chofetz Chaim, consulting him on questions of Torah and halochoh, as well as on communal problems that were of top priority in the Jewish world.

Before I relate the story of my last meeting with him, it is fitting to say a few words about HaRav Kamai's life and personality. The picture that emerges, will make it easier to understand the significance of our last, unforgettable encounter.

The great gaon, HaRav Avrohom Tzvi Hirsch Kamai was born in 5620 (1859), in the Lithuanian town of Shkod. His family traced its ancestry back to the brother of the Vilna Gaon, HaRav Avrohom, author of the work, Maalos Hatorah. A long line of rabbonim and geonim issued from this family, down to HaRav Tzvi Hirsch's father, the gaon Rav Eliyohu Boruch Kamai zt'l who, like his forefathers, spent his life serving as a rov and disseminating Torah.

HaRav Eliyohu Boruch was rov of the communities of Shkod, Karelitz and Czechnovtza, following which he served as rov of Mir and as head of the town's yeshiva. He also left written Torah works. His chiddushim were published towards the end of his life in 5667 (1907) in the volume Bris Melach.

HaRav Tzvi Hirsch faithfully continued the tradition of his noble family. As a youth, he was already known to be extraordinarily gifted, and to possess exceptional fluency in Shas and poskim. On account of his delicate health, his father did not send him faraway to learn in a Torah center, teaching him himself instead. HaRav Tzvi Hirsch was both son and talmid to his father, acquiring most of his Torah from this great gaon, who knew how to value the scholarly, humble and retiring youth.

A Growing Reputation

At a very young age, Rav Tzvi Hirsch married the daughter of one of the notables of the Keidan community, who undertook to support his son-in-law so that he devote all his time to Torah. Rav Tzvi Hirsch learned with tremendous application, spending eighteen hours a day immersed in Torah, climbing to the heights of sharpness and amassing vast knowledge. His genius began to be known in distant places, especially after his notes on the work Beis Shlomo, by HaRav Shlomo Zalman Halevi Abel, came to people's attention.

HaRav Shlomo Zalman, who was also descended from the Gaon's brother Rav Avrohom, had served as a rosh yeshiva in Telz together with HaRav Eliezer Gordon. When he passed away at a young age, his father, HaRav Kalman Abel, sent his late son's chiddushei Torah to a relative, HaRav Eliyohu Boruch Kamai. The latter was weighed down by the burdens of his positions as rov and rosh yeshiva, and he handed the manuscript over to his son, HaRav Tzvi Hirsch, who was then an avreich.

After studying the work closely, HaRav Tzvi Hirsch wrote out his own comments, which amounted to a lengthy and brilliant work on their own that revealed great depth and sharpness. (The notes took up four hundred-and-seventy pages, while the work Beis Shlomo itself only filled one hundred and seventy-eight pages.)

Before he published his late son's work, HaRav Kalman Abel decided to add just ten pages of HaRav Tzvi Hirsch's notes and comments. In an introduction, HaRav Kalman wrote about his young kinsman, "In his great understanding and his broad knowledge of Shas and poskim, he wrote what was virtually an entire work, with depth and breadth, and it would be fitting to print it in its entirety following this work. However, since I was worried about the printing expenses, which were great, I only picked selections from his work, which is a whole volume on sugyos in Shas, the things that are necessary for the work Beis Shlomo, and I apologize to him."

Some time later, when HaRav Tzvi Hirsch left his father-in- law's table, he resolved not to use his Torah as a means of earning a livelihood and not to take a rabbinical position. His wife, who was a very clever and highly-educated woman, opened a pharmacy in order to support the family.

HaRav Tzvi Hirsch assisted her from time to time when she needed help, and he would also prepare medicines for the customers according to the prescriptions that they brought. The news of the new pharmacist soon became known to the wealthy men of the surrounding area, the Lithuanian landlords and estate owners. They would refer to HaRav Tzvi Hirsch as the sadik (the Lithuanian slang for tzaddik), and would arrive from all over to buy remedies for their ailments from him. The well known aristocrat Stolypin, who was a senior minister in the Czar's government, was one of the regular customers. He would say, "When the sadik prepares my medicine, I get better straightaway."

Giving a Rabbonus

His involvement in the pharmacy was, for HaRav Tzvi Hirsch, nothing more than an unavoidable fact of life. Between preparing one medicine and the next, he would continue learning with unflagging application, not budging from his gemora unless his wife needed his help once again.

Following the petiroh of the rov of Keidan where Rav Tzvi Hirsch was living, the community offered him the position as rov. Rav Tzvi Hirsch turned it down, in keeping with his wish to avoid using his Torah as a means of support. "Up until now, I have been an ordinary householder," he said, "and that is what I want to remain."

In the end, the entreaties of both the townspeople and his own family swayed him, and he accepted, although on one condition: his livelihood would not be from the rabbonus. Instead he would be allowed to continue practicing as an apteiker (Lithuanian for a pharmacist), for he was only prepared to serve as rov if there were no remuneration. The news spread throughout the Lithuanian towns and hamlets: in as large a kehilloh as Keidan, the rov was just a simple apteiker . . . Thus, in his own typical way, HaRav Tzvi Hirsch succeeded in fleeing from honor and acclaim.

However, the ensuing years gradually forced him further and further from the anonymity that he so wished for. When HaRav Eliyohu Boruch Kamai was niftar after the First World War, the Mirrer Yeshiva intended that HaRav Tzvi Hirsch should take his father's place as rosh yeshiva. The townspeople of "the city of Torah, Mir," as it was called, also begged him to step into his father's position as their rov. In these two new positions, as rosh yeshiva and as rov of Mir, HaRav Tzvi Hirsch continued the kind of life to which he had grown accustomed. In Mir too, he conducted himself with extreme humility and fled with all his might from honor.

Rov and Rosh Yeshiva

His home in Mir was open at all hours to visitors and guests from all levels and walks of Jewish life, beggars and idlers included. One of those who benefited from his hospitality was HaRav Isser Zalman's nephew who contracted tuberculosis, which was then a dangerous and highly infectious disease, while he was staying in HaRav Tzvi Hirsch's home.

HaRav Tzvi Hirsch cared for the invalid devotedly. He tended him and supplied him with all his needs, without worrying for a moment about the possibility of becoming infected himself.

The shiurim that he delivered in the yeshiva were famous. They were sharp and wonderfully deep, revealing his mastery of Shas and poskim. Even the best students in the yeshiva, who were renowned for their sharp minds, were only able to grasp his full meaning with difficulty. Following the shiur, the older talmidim would review what he had said, clarifying the ideas and passing them on by explaining the shiur to the younger talmidim.

Every Tuesday evening after the regular shiur, the bochurim would sit in groups and review it with each other. This would continue for several long hours, deep into the night.

In contrast to his shiurim, which were lengthy and rich in content, HaRav Tzvi Hirsch's halachic rulings were terse, to the point and eminently practical -- kurtz und scharf (short and to the point) was how people referred to them. He was an expert in ruling on practical halochoh and was considered to be one of the leading poskim of Lithuania.

An interesting example of one of Rav Tzvi Hirsch's rulings concerned his sister, Rebbetzin Malka Finkel o'h, wife of the gaon HaRav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel zt'l. One year, as the Yomim Noraim were approaching, the Rebbetzin became seriously ill. The doctors told her not to fast on Yom Kippur and warned her that doing so would endanger her life. The Rebbetzin was greatly distressed at this and told her brother how she felt.

HaRav Tzvi Hirsch's response was brief and not long in coming: "I am prepared to make an exchange with you! I will fast, im yirtzeh Hashem, on the holy day and I will gladly give you the merit of my mitzvah of fasting. You will give me the merit of your mitzvah of eating on Yom Kippur! And not only that, I'll also add merits of other mitzvos, of mine."

This answer greatly encouraged the Rebbetzin and her hesitation left her. For the first time since hearing the doctors' instructions, she now happily accepted the fact that she had a mitzvoh to eat on Yom Kippur.

Rav Tzvi Hirsch continued to toil over Torah study during the twenty-five years that he spent in Mir. Throughout that entire period, there was just one route that he was familiar with in the town: the path between his home and the yeshiva, which was located in "The White Shul" on Wisoker Street. This was where he prayed for all those years and where he delivered the rov's two traditional droshos, on Shabbos Hagodol and on Shabbos Shuvoh.

Once, after he had already been living in Mir for many years, a bochur came across HaRav Tzvi Hirsch wandering in a faraway street, searching in vain for his way home. To the astounded bochur he jokingly explained, "What are you surprised at? I know the streets of this town as well as I know the streets of Heaven! Well, you know I'm no astronomer, unlike the amoro Shmuel who said, `The pathways of Heaven are as clear to me as the streets of Neharde'a.' "

Escape to Vilna

My last meeting with this gaon and tzaddik, who was my teacher and rebbe while I learned in Mir, took place on Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5700 (1939). The Second World War had broken out shortly before and the area around Mir had been taken by Russia and was smarting under the weight of the Communist boot.

The Mirrer Yeshiva, with all its teachers and talmidim had already fled to Vilna because there were rumors that the Russians were about to depart and hand the city over to the government of independent Lithuania. Thousands of bnei Torah and students from the yeshivos in Poland and White Russia streamed into Vilna, with the prospect of being rescued from both the Nazis and the Communists. HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky, who lived in Vilna himself and who was the patron of all the bnei yeshiva, encouraged this movement, which indeed soon transpired to be a wondrous avenue of escape by which means the Torah world survived.

"In our times, we can see the fulfillment of the saying, `The Torah lies in a narrow corner,' " Reb Chaim Ozer quipped. "All of Lithuania is no more than a `corner,' a small, unimportant country, while Vilna, which is just one of its small cities, is `a narrow corner'. And here all the Torah of Poland and Lithuania can be found."

Indeed, many thousands of yeshiva students and teachers then filled Vilna. From near and from far, refugees from tens of different yeshivos found their way to Reb Chaim Ozer's town, "the Yerushalayim of Lita" as it was known, in the hope of finding respite from both of the great foes, the Germans and the Russians, with the city's transferal to the independent Lithuanians.

The Mirrer Yeshiva in its entirety were among the arrivals, including its leaders and rabbonim: the rosh hayeshiva HaRav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, the mashgiach HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, the maggid shiur, the gaon HaRav Chaim Shmulevitz, HaRav Finkel's son-in- law, and almost all the talmidim. The yeshiva was located in the building of the famous Ramailes Yeshiva, as well as in the Novogrodi beis hamedrash, and the shiurim were held in these two places.

The talmidim were given quarters in the beis hamedrash at 14 Fahn-Lanke Street and in the Worker's Kloiz, as the Jews of Vilna called it, which was at 6 Dietschische Street. Both these places of lodging were crowded and cramped, lacking minimal conveniences. At night, the bochurim lay down on straw mattresses and rested their heads on their cases and travelling bags.

Shortages and Dangers

The arrangements for food were worse. Food supplies to Vilna were scant. As was their wont, the Russian conquerors emptied all the shops and plundered their contents. The shortages were terrible and the few items that were supplied to the population were rationed and difficult to obtain. In order to receive a meager bread ration, people had to stand in line with hundreds of others and it was only the lucky ones who eventually got what they wanted.

The hundreds of Mirrer talmidim and all the yeshiva's rabbonim and their families also suffered from the hunger. No wonder then, that when a chance suddenly presented itself to obtain sufficient bread, it was an occasion for great joy!

One day, the head of one of the city's large bakeries (which apparently enjoyed ample flour supplies but had difficulty in obtaining other basic ingredients), promised HaRav Avrohom Kalmanowitz zt'l, "Bring me a sack of sugar or of salt, and I will bake bread for all the talmidim and for all the families of the staff!"

Our starving group could already smell the fresh bread. However, actually obtaining it seemed like a distant dream. How could we possibly get hold of sugar or salt? It seemed an impossible undertaking.

Everyone was waiting with longing for Vilna to be handed over to Lithuania and pinned high hopes upon finally being free of the despotic Communist rulers. The long awaited step was finally taken at the end of Cheshvan 5700 (1939) on Shabbos parshas Vayeiro. The Russians left the city and the Lithuanian army proudly entered. Vilnius, as it is called in Lithuanian, was officially transferred to Lithuanian rule and was proclaimed the capital city.

The joy of Vilna's Jews was short-lived however. The antisemitic Polish party, the Endekes, marked the occasion in its own way. Its members attacked Jewish neighborhoods and held a pogrom. Tens of Jews were beaten and injured. Shops, that were half-empty anyway, were looted and cleaned out of anything that might have been left. The rioters left no trace of anything fit for human consumption.

The shortages were now compounded. People were forced to endanger themselves, literally placing their lives in danger, in order to obtain some bread -- and even then they didn't always succeed. The baker who until now had been supplying the yeshiva with a limited amount of bread, was now left with empty flour sacks. There was hunger in the yeshiva.

It was during those hectic days that I suddenly remembered something: my mother, who had run a stanszia (a boarding house) in Mir, had left behind half a sack of salt in the stanszia's attic, where Notke the sofer lived when we left Mir. It is hard to describe how excited I was when I remembered this: half a sack of salt (that in ordinary times was worth a few pennies)! A virtual treasure! No small thing this, half a sack of salt! We owned a treasure, up there in Notke's attic in Mir. In exchange for the precious salt (which was a vital ingredient for the baker but which was not to be seen or found anywhere in the entire region), the baker would supply bread, to the yeshiva families and to all the bnei hayeshiva, and we would be able to still our hunger without endangering our lives.

One could travel to Mir at that time, for the border between Lithuania and White Russia (where Mir was), was still open. I was therefore able to go to Mir and bring back "the precious treasure": half a sack of salt that was as valuable as gold!

Journey to a Changed World

It was a journey that I'll never forget. I left on a Sunday, the day after Shabbos parshas Toldos, Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5700.

Early in the morning, I joined the train to the main town in the Baranovitch district and I transferred to another train that had a stop at the station in Horodeiz, from where one could catch a bus to Mir, which was some twelve kilometers away. Towards evening, I arrived in der Mir (i.e. The Mir, as everyone called it. It wasn't just the name of an ordinary town. It was a major center of the Jewish world!).

As I have said, it was Rosh Chodesh Kislev, a day I'll never forget. Mir itself was covered by a heavy layer of gleaming snow. Russian soldiers walked the streets. Dressed in their green uniforms and armed with pistols and rifles, they were everywhere, in the marketplace and in all the town's squares.

I walked along the main street -- Vilna Street -- and I couldn't recognize my own town. This was not the same Mir that I had left five weeks earlier. The shops were completely empty, and were closed and locked up. Just a lone barber's shop, one of the many in the town, was open. Jewish traders and storekeepers walked around like shadows, emptied and cleaned out of all their property.

I continued on to Wisoker Gass, the street where the yeshiva was. Here, in this place, I had spent seven happy years. As I approached the yeshiva building, I could almost hear the wonderful chant of tonnu rabbonon, as it had issued from the mouths of hundreds of talmidim in the not-so- distant past. I hoped in my heart that I might find my bench and shtender where I had left them. I had rocked back and forth over that shtender for years, immersed in the gemora, trying to resolve a difficult Rambam or Ketzos or a question of Rabbi Akiva Eiger's.

As I got closer, my heart beat faster and faster. Perhaps within the yeshiva's walls I would manage to hear the many Shemoneh Esrei prayers that I had uttered by that shtender, prayers that had been full of longing for the Ribono Shel Olom. And perhaps I might still be fortunate enough to meet the Lodzher masmid, whom everybody admired, sitting there by himself over his gemora immersed in a difficult sugya.

I was bitterly mistaken. Terribly mistaken. A cold afternoon sun sent pale twilight rays through the yeshiva's windows. The sweet chant that used to burst from the windows was gone, utterly silenced. The yard at the entrance to the yeshiva was empty and desolate, as though no living creature whatsoever were present.

Inside though, there they were, the new bochurim. When I opened the gate, the same feeling swept over me that Queen Esther must have felt, as Chazal tell us (Megilloh 15), "When she reached the house of idols, the Shechinoh left her." The Shechinoh had left this place, the beis hamedrash of Yeshivas Mir. As I entered, I was met by a sign that had a whiff of idolatry about it.

House of Culture, the large, red Russian letters proclaimed, on a notice that hung near to what had been the oron hakodesh. The sifrei Torah had long been removed from it, on the day the yeshiva became bereft of its talmidim.

Gentile youths, the local shkotzim, were reveling in this holy place, whirling around in wild dances, to the accompaniment of music from mouth organs, that, to my misery were being played by Jewish youngsters who had thrown off Torah's yoke. Communist songs, the anthems of our troublers, were now filling the air between the oron hakodesh and the shelves for seforim, within the very walls that used to absorb the moving melodies of gemora at all hours of the day and night.

I stood by the door, rooted to the spot. Curious looks were directed at me from all sides. I was eyed with antagonism and wonder: What was I doing there? What did I want? The whole thing was like a nightmare. It was like something unreal. I only stayed there for a few moments, the last moments in my life that I saw my yeshiva.

When I came to myself, I fled with quick steps. I ran for my life. My legs brought me as quickly as they could to the home of the rov. My rebbe and teacher, the gaon and tzaddik HaRav Avrohom Tzvi Hirsch Kamai, lived just across the street from the yeshiva. In those moments, my feet brought me to him.

I Must Stay

I scarcely recognized the rov of Mir. In those few weeks, his whole appearance had been altered as though by the wand of some malevolent sorcerer: he appeared shorter and more bent. His face was pale and his beard had turned white. I had genuine difficulty in recognizing him.

"Rebbe!" the words burst from my lips uncontrollably. "What are you doing here still? Why are you staying in this Communist town? Why don't you come to us in Vilna, to be with all the bnei hayeshiva? Your brother-in-law, Reb Leizer Yudel wants you there at his side so much! Why then, are you staying here?"

The rov's reply was sharp and cutting, but it brimmed with inner resolution: "No! No! I cannot leave my community! A shepherd cannot leave his flock. I shall remain here with the members of my community. Whatever befalls my Yidden will befall me as well. We are together!"

"But rebbi," the words were flung from my throat, "How can you stay here, and hear the raucous songs of the shkotzim, in your house, coming from the yeshiva's holy beis hamedrash? How can you bear it?!"

The rov seemed to break in one stroke. A flood of hot tears streamed from his eyes. His hand, warm and tender as always, held mine and my fingers felt scalded at the touch of his burning tears. "Yes, Reb Osher, yes," he said, as he held my hand. "It is certainly bitter for me, very, very bitter . . . it is difficult and bitter to experience, `Nations have entered Your inheritance; they have defiled Your holy chamber.' Yes, yes, the destruction is truly great," he continued in a choked voice. "In fact, I no longer leave my front door. How can I go out and witness the destruction?! I no longer daven in the beis hamedrash, which is now closed and locked up. The Yidden come to my house to daven with me betzibbur. But I have to stay here. I am not allowed to leave. I cannot and I must not leave, to abandon two or three thousand Yidden, my community, here! I can't, I can't."

You Must Go

His words cut through the air, his last, holy words. Then, he quite suddenly changed the subject. "But you, what are you doing here, Reb Osher?" he asked with tremendous force [The Yiddish original, mit a gevaldige shtreinkeit, simply cannot be conveyed in translation]. "What are you doing here? Leave the town of Mir immediately. Get out of here now!"

And raising his voice, he repeated even more forcefully, "Leave Mir and catch the Baranovitch-Vilna train -- but now! Straightaway!"

The urgency in his voice surprised me and I found it hard to understand. "But rebbe," I tried to explain, "There's something I have to do here. I came to take half a sack of salt in exchange for which the entire yeshiva in Vilna will be able to obtain bread! And I also have to visit my aunt, Rebbetzin Reichka, and my uncle Reb Dovid Vishluk (who had been an avreich in the yeshiva's kollel, and was known for his fluency in all four parts of Shulchan Oruch, by heart), and his daughters Devorah and Rivka, and his son Yeshaya'le..."

"No! No! Just go to take the salt and immediately after that go to the station at Horodeiz, so that you can catch the Baranovitch-Vilna train! Do you hear?!"

Just moments ago, the rov's voice had been crushed by his pain. Now it rose in powerful authority: "Did you hear? This is what I command you to do!"

I certainly listened. I started trembling. I shivered at the sound of his unequivocal order and at his appearance, that bespoke urgency. At that moment he let my hand go, expecting me to obey him and set out at once.

But I had to take one last look at him. I surveyed him with great respect. His black eyes shone as though they were casting a light in the distance. His look seemed to be focused faraway, as though he was gazing at some other world. The rov of Mir resembled a martyr, who already belonged elsewhere, who was already inhabiting other, holier worlds than this one. I felt as though he was very far away from us, even though he was sitting right there in the room, in the seat next to me, in his humble dwelling on Wisoker street.

Leave Straightaway!

Then, everything started happening at lightning speed. The rov didn't allow me to wait a single moment longer. He parted from me warmly and blessed me with a safe arrival in Vilna, and with being saved to enjoy a good life and peace.

Neither did I understand his order, "Travel at once, as quickly as possible, at once." (And how could I have understood it?)

But I obeyed him. I hurried to our old boarding house and took the half sack of salt (in exchange for which I had to give Notke's son the only thing I had with me, my umbrella), and from there, holding onto my treasure, I ran to the bus stop. I managed to get onto the last bus to Horodeiz that day, which left two minutes after I had sat down breathlessly.

The rest of my journey also had a "last minute" air about it. Arriving in Horodeiz, I immediately got onto the Baranovitch train and in Baranovitch, I barely caught the last train to Vilna, which was to leave several minutes later. There were no longer any tickets on sale for this trip. Before the train left, thousands of people waiting on the platform heard the announcement made by the conductor, who sold the tickets: "The border between White Russia and Lithuania will be closed and sealed tomorrow morning. This is the last train to leave for Vilna and travel on it is free. Whoever wishes to reach Vilna can ride on this train. Tickets are unnecessary."

In an instant, I found myself on board this last train, squashed into one of the carriages. It was only then, when I was already standing inside the crowded carriage, that I understood what the rov, my teacher and rebbe HaRav Avrohom Tzvi Hirsch had said to me, "Travel quickly, immediately, away from Mir. Leave the city straightaway and save yourself!"

Because of his insistent orders, I gave up on my plans to visit my relatives and to spend the night with them. The rov, with truly prophetic foresight, had not allowed me to stay the night in Mir and lose my last chance of reaching Vilna (from where I later followed the escape route to Shanghai).

Rebbe, I listened to you and was saved!

The miracle I had experienced, thanks to the rov's holy inspiration, did not remain a secret. Rumors of the border being closed at dawn the next morning had already reached Vilna and my mother was frantic with worry over my fate. When I arrived in Vilna the next morning, she greeted me with a flood of tears. "Yes, my child, the Ribono Shel Olom saved you. He protected you, so that you would return to me in Vilna!"

I need hardly add that the half sack of salt arrived in Vilna together with me, or that its value was greater than that of gold. In exchange for it, the baker supplied the yeshiva and the families of the rabbonim with bread, and thanks to it, we were saved from starvation in those days of shortage.

Two Years Later

HaRav Avrohom Tzvi Hirsch Kamai's greatness and his holy inspiration were revealed in all their glory to the Jews of Mir on that most bitter of days, the community's last. On the nineteenth of Cheshvan 5702 (1941), the rov, together with another one and a half thousand Jews, was led to his death in a communal grave in the forest adjacent to the town. On their way to the valley of death, he spoke meaningfully to them, encouraging them to sanctify the Name of Heaven in holiness and with joy. His sublime dignity gave them strength for those last paces that they took.

Before he was shot to death, he addressed a final request to the German officer: Could he please be shot only after he had completely entered the communal grave, so that none of his blood would be scattered outside but all of it would absorbed by the earth of the pit, that belonged to all his Yidden.

The murderer fulfilled his request.

The Mirrer rov's wish to remain with "his Yidden" and not to leave them until the end, was fulfilled. He stayed with them in Mir throughout the German invasion and he went to his death with them. He sanctified Heaven's Name together with them and he is buried together with them in their communal grave.

May Hashem avenge his blood and may his merit protect us and all Yisroel, omen.


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