Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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6 Ellul 5766 - August 30, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaRav Yosef Nosson Lieberman, ztvk"l

by the Family

Although a month has passed since the petiroh of Rabbi Lieberman zt"l the loss of such an eminent talmid chochom is still keenly felt in Golders Green and beyond.

He was born on 1st Av 5688 (July 1928) in Vienna, Austria, to R' Nesanel and Fraidel. He had few memories of those prewar years and rarely discussed his childhood. He was sent away to England at the age of 9 with his older, and only, brother R' Yitzchok zt"l with Dr. Schonfeld's kindertransport, arriving in Dover in December 1938. His parents were taken to Auschwitz. In 1942, the young brothers received a short letter from them that, Boruch Hashem, everything is all right with them! This was the last they heard from their parents, Hy"d.

As a foreign-child-refugee he was placed in various Jewish hostels, learning in the J.F.S. in the East End. In September 1939, when all school children were evacuated to the countryside to avoid the flying bombs, he was sent away as well. The young Yosef was sent to a non-Jewish farmer in Chetrix. Not wishing to remain in a non-Jewish household, fearing the non-kosher food, he fled and met up with other young boys in the same predicament. Together they went to their Jewish teacher and boarded with him at the home of the local priest for a few days, until they moved on to Ely, where the Sassover Rebbe ztvk"l set up a hostel for Jewish children. The Sassover Rebbe held him, even then, in high esteem, and noticed signs of greatness even in his early years. This was heard from the Sassover Rebbe a number of times.

He completed his secular education and with the encouragement and support of his brother Yitzchok zt"l, he continued on to the Gateshead Yeshiva, where he learned together with R' Meir Tzvi Ehrentreu zt"l, R' Binyomin Posen zt"l, and others, setting an example for all the other bochurim. His diligence in learning was outstanding. Even during the Purim seudah he was found learning in the beis medrash. Being an orphan, the Mishnah Berurah became his Father and mentor, and he followed every din to the last detail. Nothing was too difficult for him.

R' Yosef also headed T.A.T. at one point, the student Tomchei Torah Fund of Gateshead, providing basics for impoverished students many of whom were refugees. He himself was a penniless orphan, but would not avail himself of these funds and taught a student privately in order to earn a minimal income.

As an older bochur, he joined the Gateshead Kollel, begun a number of years earlier by Rabbi Dessler zt"l. He received semichoh from Rabbi Rabinour zt"l, having learned Yoreh Deah with a chaburoh in the evenings. At one point he was asked to give the shiur of HaRav Ze'ev Cohen shlita in the yeshiva for two months while R' Ze'ev replaced HaRav Leib Gurwicz zt"l, who was away at the time.

In 1954 Rabbi Lieberman married the daughter of R' Alter Wahrhaftig zt"l, and continued learning in the Gateshead Kollel until 1959. Upon the advice of the Ponevezher Rov zt"l, Rabbi Wahrhaftig invited his son- in-law to give a shiur in Yeshivas Chayei Olom, which he had recently set up in Golders Green to imbue the local boys with Torah-true values. The young family thus left Gateshead and established their Torah home in Golders Green, where Rabbi Lieberman joined the rosh yeshiva, R' Ben Zion Rakow zt"l, in guiding the yeshiva for many years.

After R' Wahrhaftig's sudden passing in 1961, Rabbi Lieberman also shouldered the yeshiva's financial obligations to ensure its smooth running. He taught hundreds of bochurim throughout the years with his shiurim, some years giving two shiurim daily: one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. He was a role model for them all in learning, yiras Shomayim, and middos tovos.

His talmidim recall being woken up each morning by Rabbi Lieberman's irresistible chant, "Hisgaber ka'ari la'avodas haBorei." He felt it a privilege to wake up the talmidim, saying that R' Eliyohu Lopian zt"l also had the same zchus.

He was the ba'al tefilloh for many years on Yomim Noraim, davening with great feeling. He was the ba'al tefilloh forKol Nidrei, musaf and Ne'iloh on Yom HaKippurim, and maintained that the davening gave him strength.

He also took upon himself many dikdukei halocho, not disclosing them to others, living with the middoh of hatznei'a leches. He kept all the hanhogos he had established in his young years in Gateshead Yeshiva, not changing anything, even through his later years in London.

A few examples are: saying a din at each meal of the day, fasting half-a-day on BeHaB in Iyar and MarCheshvan. Long before concern of bugs in fruit and vegetables was widespread, Rabbi Lieberman simply refrained from eating any possibly-infected foods. Whatever he did was epitomized by hatznei'a leches, quietly and without fanfare.

He never looked for kovod. When speaking in public on behalf of the yeshiva, he consistently gave credit to his father-in-law who had founded the yeshiva, though he himself had nurtured the tender sapling for decades while his shver had only lived a couple of years after establishing the yeshiva.

He invested time and effort in his children's education, learning with them every Shabbos. Throughout the holidays, there was learning each day, and also during the daily walks, fulfilling uvelechtecho vaderech. He was a very devoted father to all his children, always making himself available in spite of his busy schedule. He also endeared himself and took great interest in his grandchildren. It always gave him great pleasure to hear from his children and grandchildren, a shtikkel Torah, a kushya, or a he'oroh, at all times.

His commitment to tefillos betzibbur was unshakable. One year, while on holiday, the family happily walked over an hour in each direction on Shabbos, in order to join a minyan. Even in his later years when each step was an effort, he still exerted himself walking to a minyan.

Nothing was too difficult or inconvenient when a mitzvoh was involved and his simchah was apparent and affected all those around him. He was always seen with a pleasant and genial smile, greeting everyone with a kind word. He was loved and respected by Jews and non-Jews alike. Each one felt the smile was personal to them.

Though living many years in Golders Green, Rabbi Lieberman's lifestyle was not influenced. He lived simply within his financial means except for devorim shel mitzvoh when he would extend himself to acquire the most mehudar that was available.

His bitochon was evident in his calm acceptance of life's difficulties, accepting the will of Hashem at all times. He never worried about meeting the yeshiva's budget, saying, "Worrying does not help," and his life reflected this credo.

Over the last few years there was a decline in his health, but the inner simchas hachaim was always evident and remained within him. Although frail, limud haTorah was still the focus of his life and gave him great joy and pleasure. When receiving a lift from neighbors and friends, mokirei Torah, he always paid for the favor by sharing a dvar Torah on the parsha with them. He was always pleased to hear a gut vort or a kushya.

He was very devotedly cared for by his Rebbetzin tlct"a until he passed away on 27 Tammuz this year and was brought to kevuroh in Yerushalayim. Hespedim were delivered to a large crowd at the levayos in Golders Green and in Yerushalayim. Further hespedim were given in the yeshiva at the end of the shiva, and also in Manchester on Tisha B'Av.

May he be a meilitz yoshor for his Rebbetzin, family and all of his talmidim, ad bi'as Moshiach Tzidkeinu bimheiroh beyomeinu. Omen.

Related at the Levaya by one of His Sons

My father zt"l used to go annually before Pesach to bake his own hand matzos. After joining yeshiva, I was privileged to accompany him.

Shortly after we arrived at the bakery, there was a loud commotion. The previous Yid had requested to leave over some of his own, shemuroh flour for his Erev Pesach matzos. Inadvertently, all the flour had already been used for matzos. This meant that there would be no Erev Pesach matzos for this person this year. The Yid was extremely upset. His Leil Haseder would not be the same as in previous years. When my father became aware of the man's plight, he immediately said, "You can take my flour for your Erev Pesach matzos, and I will take your matzos in return."

Although my father zt"l had always been very careful to eat his own hand-baked matzos over Pesach, he was willing to eat someone else's matzos this year. He felt that to settle a machlokes and to make two people happy takes preference. This Yid would have his Erev Pesach matzos, and the kneiter would be relieved from his mistake.

My father understood what the Ribono Shel Olom would prefer. In line with his middoh of hatznei'a leches my father never made any mention of this episode, not even to family members.

I have long forgotten the lessons on how to bake matzos which I learned at the time, but this limud of bein odom lechavero has remained with me for life.

Letter Received from an Avreich in Eretz Yisroel

I would like to inform the family about the terrific chizuk I received from your father zt"l in my young school years. I still recall this vividly today, although it happened about 35 years ago.

One Sunday afternoon, I came to your house to play with my friend, one of the Lieberman boys. I watched your father sitting and learning with a sefer Chazon Ish open in front of him. It appeared that he was preparing a shiur. I saw the radiance on his face, and the great internal simchah that he was deriving from the sefer Chazon Ish. I then thought to myself "Eh! When I grow up, I daven and hope that I should also be able to learn and understand the precious words of the great Chazon Ish and get such pleasure."

This Yungerman is now sitting and learning in a kollel in Eretz Yisroel, and is a mechaber seforim and a true ben Torah of high caliber.

Concern for his Bochurim

The morning after a severe rain storm, R' Yosef Nosson zt"l asked a bochur in yeshiva how he had slept the previous night. The bochur replied that he had not slept well. R' Yosef Nosson then related, "I also didn't sleep well, but it was not the storm that disturbed me. I was concerned for you and the bochurim who sleep with you. I was aware of the leak in your room and have been trying to get it repaired, but the workers who promised to come let us down. I just could not sleep peacefully knowing that it may have been raining in the room."

A letter Received from Eretz Yisroel

I would like to notify the family about my personal experience, which I believe is known to others.

A number of years ago, I was in Golders Green over Elul. I had been married for several years and had not yet been zoche to children. I plucked up my courage and dared to go to R' Yosef Nosson zt"l to ask for the aliyah of maftir Channah in yeshivas Chayei Olom on the first day of Rosh Hashonoh, a well known seguloh for children. The answer was a definite YES. R' Yosef Nosson zt"l then said, "However we have to arrange it in a way that it should not look strange to others, as this is usually reserved for one of the hanholoh (probably himself)."

He continued: "I have an idea. The person who usually davens Pesukei Dezimroh is an ovel this year. I will let you daven Pesukei Dezimroh both days Rosh Hashonoh and also on Yom Kippur and, as a form of hakoras tovoh I will give you maftir Channah. Do you know the nusach of Adon Olom and Yigdal for Yomim Noraim?"

When I replied in the negative, he said, "Come to my house with a tape recorder and I will teach you the nusach."

All this was done without mentioning a word to anyone. You cannot imagine my inner feeling at that moment. Be'eizer Hashem within the year I was zocheh to a healthy child, and more children over the following years."

The gadlus was the immediate "yes," and only then the practical arrangements.


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