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27 Sivan 5764 - June 16, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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HaRav Yitzchok Shlomo Unger, zt"l
By S. Bruchi

The bnei Torah of Bnei Brak filled the streets on Friday to take part in the levaya of HaRav Yitzchok Shlomo Unger zt"l, gavad of Chug Chasam Sofer and founder and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Machaneh Avrohom, who passed away Friday morning follow a bout with illness at the age of 83.

Thousands accompanied the mittoh as it was carried out of the beis medrash of his yeshiva on Rechov Maimon, the place where he taught Torah for over 50 years. Thousands joined as the procession made its way through the streets of Bnei Brak to the Vishnitz section of the Bnei Brak Cemetery.

HaRav Yitzchok Shlomo Unger was born to HaRav Avrohom Tzvi Unger Hy"d the author of Machaneh Avrohom and a descendent of the Ponim Meiros and Ari Hakodosh, and to his mother Chavoh Leah.

In 5686 (1926) his father was asked to serve as rov of a the kehilloh in Kapavar, Hungary. The Reform Movement had begun to hold sway in the city, causing a decline in the local Jewish school. Young Yitzchok Shlomo was the only boy who wore a yarmulke all day with special permission from the top supervisor. As a result of his father's influence the kehilloh underwent dramatic change.

Yitzchok Shlomo was raised in this home of Torah and yiras Shomayim, the local headquarters for waging the battles of milchamos Hashem. As a young man his father sent him to learn under the gavad of Papa, the author of Veyageid Yaakov. During this period he learned constantly and cleaved to his rabbonim.

He also forged ties with the gedolei hador in Hungary. While still a bochur he went to the gavad of Shimani to receive semichoh. The gavad took him to a secluded place and spent four days testing him on the four parts of the Shulchan Oruch. "You are worthy of horo'oh," he said at the end of the exam, "but I don't give semichoh to bochurim."

Only when Yitzchok Shlomo's father contracted a serious illness did the gavad send him a semichoh certificate in the mail. In his letter the gavad explained that he was departing from his normal practice because under the circumstances Yitzchok Shlomo would have to assist his father in running community affairs and giving halachic rulings.

When the Nazis reached Hungary, before his father, HaRav Avrohom Tzvi, was taken to the concentration camps he said, "Know that of the family members you and another four will survive through Hashem's chessed. I would like you to carry on the tradition in a holy yeshiva and teach Torah to talmidim." Later Yitzchok Shlomo carried out this final request by founding Yeshivas Machaneh Avrohom.

During the Holocaust he was sent to various concentration camps, including a period of time with the Admor of Klausenburg. Eventually he wound up in Bergen-Belsen where he contracted typhus and was near death. Assuming he was already gone the camp commanders threw him in among the dead until a Jew saw him convulsing and brought him to the hospital, where he spent six months recuperating.

In 5708 (1948) he married and moved to Eretz Hakodesh with his wife Rochel o"h. Upon arrival, based on advice from the Gavad of Pressburg, he accepted a post as the rov of Jerusalem's Dir-Yassin neighborhood (later Givat Shaul Beit). During this period he maintained ties with the Chazon Ish, HaRav I. Z. Meltzer, HaRav Z. R. Bengis, the Ponevezher Rov and the Tchebiner Rav. He also kept in contact with the Admor of Belz, who praised him highly for his greatness in Torah and horo'oh.

In 5715 (1955) he was asked to serve as rov of the Chug Chasam Sofer kehilloh in Bnei Brak. He went to his rov, the Admor of Belz, to ask whether he should accept the post even though the kehilloh followed minhag Ashkenaz whereas he followed Chassidic minhagim. The Belzer Rebbe told him to accept the position with pride since the kehilloh carried the name of Rabban Shel Kol Yisroel Baal Hechasam Sofer, zechuso yogen oleinu.

For the next 50 years he led the kehilloh, setting up a kashrus organization he oversaw himself. The machine matzoh baked under his supervision was once considered the most mehudar available.

In 5724 (1964) he carried out his father's will by setting up Yeshivas Machaneh Avrohom, starting with eight bochurim which increased to 12 after two months. HaRav Unger gave the iyun shiurim himself. He personally oversaw the spiritual progress of each of his young talmidim.

Other roshei yeshivos and menahelim ruchanim later joined him in turning out talmidim who went on to become prominent talmidei chachomim, including roshei yeshivos, rabbonim and dayanim. After four years he began a yeshiva gedoloh. He assumed the brunt of maintaining the yeshiva, seeing to all the needs of the talmidim.

In addition to heading the yeshiva and leading the Chug Chasam Sofer, HaRav Unger also served as a dayan at HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner's beis din together with ylct"a HaRav Nosson Geshtetner.

His droshos on Shabbos Hagodol and Shabbos Teshuvoh were packed. He also knew how to speak out against every breach liable to have a detrimental effect on religious matters.

Recently he became sick and returned his soul to his Maker on Friday morning, erev Shabbos parshas Shlach. When the mittoh was brought into his beis medrash Friday afternoon the paroches was removed as hundreds of his weeping talmidim recited Tehillim. Some of them even did kriyoh.

At 1:00 p.m. the levaya began with a hesped by HaRav Wosner, gavad of Zichron Meir, who mourned his friend of 60 years who bore the burden of the rabbinate and of both the klal and the prat in Bnei Brak, particularly as a member of the beis din. Despite his suffering he exerted himself to carry the weight of Torah. "Just this week when I visited him he asked for a brochoh that he might be able to resume learning, for that was the center of his life," said HaRav Wosner.

The deceased's brother, HaRav Yechiel Michel Unger, noted his mesirus nefesh during the Holocaust, saying that even with the threat of death hanging overhead he would learn Torah orally and made great efforts to bury the Jewish dead at Bergen-Belsen. Later he continued his father's legacy by taking part in the rabbinate, he added.

His brother-in-law, HaRav Aharon Yaakobovitz, av beis din of Wadkrat and a dayan at Machzikei Hadas, also spoke. "For some people a gravestone is erected on their grave, but for other people the eidoh is their gravestone," he said, citing the verse, Eid hagal hazeh ve'eidoh hamatzevoh (Bereishis 31:48). "The fabulous eidoh and the fabulous yeshiva with thousands of talmidim perpetuate his pure memory."

The gavad of Shikun Agudas Yisroel HaRav Nosson Geshtetner cited the verse, Hinei mitoso sheliShlomo, shishim giborim soviv loh migiborei Yisroel (Shir Hashirim 3:7). "Sixty years of bravery in upholding Torah and horo'oh in Yisroel. How humble and modest and diffident he was, and even while bearing his pain he toiled in Torah."

HaRav Yosef Meir Altman, menahel ruchani at Yeshivas Machaneh Avrohom, noted his devotion to his talmidim, saying he served as a living example of the verse, Yasor yisrani Koh velemoves lo nesononi, all his life. He also described how his tears would flow during the prayers of the Yomim Noraim like a servant standing before his master, and what an impact the sight had on his many talmidim.

After the hespeidim the procession set out for the cemetery, where he was buried in a plot he purchased during his lifetime.

HaRav Yitzchok Shlomo Unger zt"l is survived by his wife, his brother and sister and relatives and thousands of talmidim like sons bitterly mourning the loss of their esteemed rov.


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