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29 Kislev 5773 - December 13, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaRav Mendel Weinbach zt"l

by Yechiel Sever

A large crowd, headed by roshei yeshiva and gedolei Torah, gathered in Mattersdorf and in the beis medrash of Ohr Somayach yeshiva in Jerusalem to accompany HaRav Mendel Weinbach zt"l on his final journey. An unusual talmid chochom and marbitz Torah for decades, HaRav Weinbach was one of the founders of the Ohr Somayach yeshiva, as well as other Torah initiatives including the Mercaz Bais Yaakov in Jerusalem. His clear shiurim and deep shmuessim were well known and drew many listeners. Thousands of talmidim passed through the Ohr Somayach yeshiva over the years and spread out all over the globe.

Chonoh Menachem Mendel Weinbach was born in Kantchuga, Galicia on 4 Tishrei 5694 (1933). His father was Yechezkel Shraga. When he was 4 years old, his family moved to America and settled in Pittsburgh.

His father was moser nefesh to keep Shabbos and to educate his children properly. Their family was one of the few in America of those days from which all the children remained within the derech of Torah.

Rav Weinbach used to say that the secret of his family was that most new immigrants to America lived in poor, black neighborhoods when they first arrived in America but as soon as they could afford it they would move to better neighborhoods where they would all really "discover America" and lose their emunah, chas vesholom. R' Yechezkel Weinbach decided to remain in the poor, black neighborhood where they first settled and he later explained to his children that he deliberately preferred the black neighborhood where his children would not make friends, thus sparing them from the ill winds of America.

At 12 he left home to learn in Torah Vodaas in Brooklyn where he learned for many years under HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky and HaRav Gedaliah Schorr. For a time he was also zocheh to be meshamesh HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt"l. Rav Moshe even included him on his beis din several times.

In 5720 (1960) he married his rebbetzin the former Sheindel Lamm, the sole survivor of the Holocaust from her family.

After living two years in America, the young couple were unhappy with the materialistic and permissive atmosphere of the United States and they decided to move to Eretz Yisroel. They were among the first families to move to Eretz Yisroel from America. Even though he had a good job as a rov in America, he gave it all up to move to Eretz Yisroel where he had nothing. His wife said that even the little savings that they had were lent out to his friends.

When they first arrived he learned in the Mir Yeshiva. When the Mattersdorf neighborhood opened up they were among the first residents and he was among the founders of a local kollel. Many yeshiva bochurim who came to learn in Eretz Yisroel from America felt welcome in their home.

Ahavas Hashem and a desire to increase kvod Shomayim were dominant themes in his life. In America he founded the first Torah camp in the Catskill Mountains. When he came to Eretz Yisroel he became deeply involved in the activities of American Pe'eilim and he used to go around with Rav Yehuda Pelei zt"l to open yeshivas and talmudei Torah for new olim.

Soon after he founded a yeshiva in Givat Ada in a building that he received from the Jewish Agency. Next he founded a yeshiva in Netanya in the buildings of the Radin Yeshiva. He used to spend the whole week in the yeshiva, coming home only for Shabbos. Sometimes he would bring his family to the yeshiva for Shabbos, and sometimes he would bring a group of bochurim from the yeshiva to Yerushalayim to spend Shabbos with his family.

Around 5725 he had the idea to start a yeshiva of baalei teshuva, which he did together with HaRav Shuster. The yeshiva was located in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem. Among the ramim of the yeshiva were HaRav Shimshon Pincus zt"l and ylct"a HaRav Yoel Schwartz. After about two years the yeshiva had to close because of the Six Day War.

After the Six Day War there was a tremendous general awakening to teshuva. Around that time he met his great friend HaRav Nota Schiller and together they founded the institution that later became known as Ohr Somayach. Also among the original founders were HaRav Noach Weinberg and HaRav Boruch Rosenberg, zt"l, who later founded their own institutions.

Ohr Somayach was founded on the principle of kiruv rechokim by exposing them to learning pure Torah on a high level. The method proved very successful and thousands passed through the doors of the mother institution and the many branches and offshoots throughout the world and many grew into talmidei chachomim and marbitzei Torah in their own right. Alumni of Ohr Somayach are found in virtually every Jewish community around the world.

HaRav Mendel invested all of his energy into the yeshiva and the talmidim. He considered and treated them like his own children and they also felt tied to him with bonds of love. He spent many hours with his talmidim and then later with issues with their children, including placing them in good schools and helping them integrate with the bnei Torah community.

With Hashem's help the yeshiva flourished and it expanded. Separate divisions were added for Israelis, Russians, Spanish speakers and others. HaRav Mendel was involved in every detail.

Branches were opened all over the world, including the US, England, South Africa, Ukraine. HaRav Mendel would travel personally to all these places to guide and encourage them.

His talks in the yeshiva were well-known. He gave over to his talmidim the true hashkofos of Torah life. He was in constant contact with gedolei hador, including HaRav Shach and HaRav Eliashiv zt"l, both of whom had confidence in him and encouraged the special derech that the yeshiva followed. HaRav Eliashiv once quoted him as saying, "R' Mendel Weinbach told me that baalei teshuva who have a personal relationship with Torah never regress."

HaRav Weinbach always made sure that the level of learning in the yeshiva was particularly high. His goal was that those who left could merge seamlessly into the general Torah society. They always tried to secure faculty of the highest caliber. For example HaRav Dov Schwartzman zt"l gave daily shiurim and served as rosh yeshiva for many years.

He was known as a gifted speaker and hundreds used to come to hear him speak. Of special note was the talk he gave on Tisha B'Av that lasted more than three hours. He always focused on the specific point that was most in need of chizuk.

He was one of the founders of the Mercaz Bais Yaakov high school and seminary ("Chadash") together with HaRav Yeshaya Lieberman shlita. HaRav Weinbach was continually involved with it, helping to guide it. He used to explain to the girls the correct Torah hashkofoh in a very clear manner.

His hasmodoh served as a model in Mattersdorf, as he was always seen on the long Fridays and long Shabbos nights after the seudah, learning for hours at his regular seat in the beis medrash.

His broad knowledge was well-known. He would immediately identify any gemora cited. He was known to put out lists of reference sources (mar'ei mekomos) in rishonim and acharonim for the sugyos learnt in yeshiva and for daf yomi. The latter were sent out worldwide. He also put together lists of references for special topics studied in Yarchei Kallah and in studies with students. He always knew how to organize and focus these efforts so that the central points were highlighted and clarified. In fact, his last collection of references for daf yomi for subscribers to the list was on 16 Kislev of this year when, from his sickbed and despite his weakness, he prepared material for several weeks ahead.

He wrote and edited many seforim, mostly in English, including several based on the works of the Chofetz Chaim and on Megillas Esther. He also wrote for Ohr Somayach and in the popular Jewish press.

In the last period when he was very weak, he established a personal rule to keep two regular sedorim: daf yomi and regular study of Ein Yaakov. Until a few days before his passing he was able to keep both of these. Last Wednesday he learned the daf of that day and after finishing the last word on the page the gemora fell from his hands as he reached the absolute limit of his strength.

In his last years he used to give a daf yomi shiur in Mattersdorf and he hardly ever missed saying the shiur. Even when his grandchildren got married he said the shiur and when he was sick he used to come straight from treatments to give the shiur. In the last period when he was too weak to say the shiur he used to come to hear it.

People used to seek his advice on a wide range of issues and his cleverness and honesty made him into a much sought adviser. Despite his public standing he would completely negate himself to gedolei Yisroel. Once 30 years ago when a certain matter was at issue and he was involved, Maran HaRav Shach zt"l called him up and asked to speak with him. He immediately went to Bnei Brak and when he heard that Maran zt"l was not comfortable with the matter he deferred completely to his opinion and immediately withdrew from the whole issue.

His honesty on monetary matters was outstanding. He never had dispute about money and he was extremely careful with the money of the yeshiva.

His levaya began in the Heichal Shmuel shul in Mattersdorf. There were no hespedim since it was on Chanukah, but words of chizuk and farewell were said by the local rabbonim, HaRav Yisroel Gans, rav of Mattersdorf and a rosh yeshiva of Kol Torah yeshiva ketanoh, HaRav Yitzchok Ehrenfeld, rosh yeshivas Beis Shmuel and a rov of Mattersdorf, HaRav Yaakov Bornstein, rosh yeshivas Zevhill, and the niftar's son HaRav Yechezkel.

After that the levaya went to the Ohr Somayach yeshiva. Speaking there were the rosh yeshiva HaRav Nota Schiller, HaRav Yitzchok Breitowitz, and the niftar's son HaRav Moshe.

The speakers spoke about the great loss of a talmid chochom and mechanech who was marbitz Torah for close to half a century and who produced thousands of talmidim. HaRav Schiller said that he had three brothers, tzvei geborner und ein gevorner — two from birth and one who became a brother later. He said that so much of the success of Ohr Somayach was due to the talents and work of HaRav Mendel. HaRav Breitowitz stressed that the derech of HaRav Mendel was always to stay close to pure Torah.

Survivors include his widow who stood by him and supported him in all his many endeavors, his sons, HaRav Avrohom, HaRav Yechezkel, HaRav Moshe, HaRav Mordechai, HaRav Eliahu, and his sons-in-law HaRav Elchonon Ehrentreu, HaRav Yisroel Glazer, HaRav Dovid Nordheim, HaRav Shmuel Hildesheimer, and HaRav Yitzchok Stanietzky. In addition there are numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren who go in the derech Hashem and embody his heritage as well as thousands of talmidim throughout the world.


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