Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

19 Adar II 5765 - March 30, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Admor of Bobov, zt"l

By Betzalel Kahn

Led by gedolei Torah, roshei yeshivos, admorim and rabbonim, innumerable Bobov Chassidim accompanied the Admor of Bobov, HaRav Naftoli Tzvi Halberstam zt"l, on his final earthly journey after his histalkus last Wednesday, 12 Adar II, following a prolonged illness.

Naftoli Tzvi Halberstam was born on 25 Sivan 5691 (1931) to the Admor HaRav Shlomo, and the daughter of HaRav Chaim Yaakov Teitelbaum of Limnov. From an early age his only aspiration was to bring nachas to his Creator. Before the War he was molded and instructed by his grandfather, the Admor R' Ben Tzion Hy"d, the author of Kedushas Tzion imparting to Naftoli Tzvi the inner aspects of avodoh and Chassidus.

During the Holocaust Naftoli Tzvi fled with his father, grandfather and other family members to Lemberg. On that same Friday the Nazis, may their names be blotted out, took his grandfather away before the young boy's eyes. Years later he would tearfully recount how the reshoim burst into the hidden apartment and wrested the tefillin from his head before arresting everyone except the boy, who chased after them through the streets until he could run no more.

HaRav Shlomo was with Naftoli Tzvi for his bar mitzvah on 25 Sivan 5704 (1944) in the Grosswardein Camp and they hid in a bunker beneath the hospital. The boy's father always tried to go to the mikveh before laying tefillin, especially for the first time. The two went up to the rooftop in search of a way to prepare for the first time laying tefillin. Finding a water container they poured nine kabin on themselves and at the time the father told the boy to have kavonoh to purify himself in preparation for being killed sanctifying the Name of Heaven.

Once they got caught on a Shabbos Night and asked the goy to give them one last night together. They sang songs throughout the Shabbos, made Kiddush on a cup of wine and ate crumbs of bread instead of fish and meat. After the meal they studied the chapter in Sefer HaShloh on the letters of Kiddush Hashem. They will probably kill us tomorrow and we must do the mitzvah with joy, he told his son, asking him not to cry if his father was tormented in order not to disturb his focus on the oneness of Hashem. R' Naftoli Tzvi wept and asked to be killed before his father because he felt unable to withstand such a nisoyon. Through chasdei Hashem the officer who had arrested them got drunk and released them.

Bobov Chassidus was nearly wiped out during the Holocaust, but when HaRav Shlomo arrived in the US after the war, he decided he would not let the Nazis win and set about gathering together the Bobov survivors one by one to rebuild the community.

He started a beis medrash on Manhattan's West Side and then set about building a Bobov center in Crown Heights, later relocating to Boro Park. In Boro Park he set up a yeshiva as part of his efforts to invest in the younger generation. The talmidim, most of whom were Holocaust survivors with neither home nor family, soon felt bound to their rebbe heart and soul.

This core later grew to form the Bobov empire of Torah and Chassidus, which has had a major impact on American Jewry to this day. At the time the vast majority of Americans pursued only materialistic goals, leaving Torah cast off to the side. Despite Admor Shlomo's financial difficulties he dedicated all of his efforts toward building Bobov Chassidus and chareidi Jewry in the US in general.

After the Holocaust the Admor sent his son Naftoli Tzvi to study in Jerusalem. This was after the Germans agreed to release three ships packed with children and a few adults. The ships set sail from Romania at the beginning of 5706(1945). As soon as the ships embarked the Nazis bombed one of the ships, enjoying the sight of Jews flailing in the water unable to save themselves. The Admor himself recalled how he stood on the deck trying to no avail to save them from drowning. Only six emerged from the water alive.

R' Naftoli Tzvi arrived in Jerusalem at the age of 14, enrolling at Yeshivas Slonim. He formed a tight bond with the Slonimer Rebbe as well as other gedolei Yisroel, including the Chazon Ish, the Belzer Rebbe, HaRav Aharon, and the Satmar Rav.

Eventually he returned to the US and from that point on he remained at his father's side, helping run Bobov institutions and delivering shiurim. When HaRav Shlomo passed away on Rosh Chodesh Av 5760 HaRav Naftoli Tzvi assumed his place as Admor.

The Admor of Bobov suffered from poor health all his life and grew very weak in his final years. Reports of his deteriorating state of health caused great concern in the Jewish world and on Wednesday, 12 Adar II, at 6:30 am in New York he returned his pure soul to his Maker.

In 5735 he wrote a will with instructions not to eulogize him or offer words of praise about him and to write only "R'" before his name on the gravestone, adding that no beis din should grant permission to do otherwise.

Despite stormy weather a large crowd came to the levaya, which set out from his beis medrash on 15th Avenue in Boro Park. His two sons-in-law offered brief words of parting, and Tehillim were recited in accordance with the Bobov custom. The procession went to the ohel and then to a cemetery in New Jersey where he was buried near his father's grave site.

The Admor of Bobov, HaRav Naftoli Tzvi Halberstam zt"l, is survived by the Rebbetzin, the daughter of the Admor of Desh of the US, two daughters, his sons-in-law HaRav Yehoshua Rubin and HaRav Mordechai Dovid Ungar, his younger brother HaRav Ben Tzion Aryeh Leibosh Halberstam, his brothers-in- law, HaRav Chaim Yaakov Yosef Tauber, who serves as a dayan, HaRav Yonoson Binyomin, who serves as a rosh kollel, HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Yeshurun Meislish, the rov of Kiryat Bobov in Bat Yam, HaRav Ben Tzion Bloom, a dayan among Bobov Chassidim in London, and HaRav Boruch Avrohom Horowitz, the rosh yeshiva of Mesivta Bobov in the US.


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