Dei'ah Vedibur - Information &

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Marcheshvan, 5783 - October 27, 2022 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by











Kodshei Kodshim: The Chortkover Rebbe, Reb Dovid Moshe Friedman zt'l

by F. Avraham


Part II

Hailed as the Rebbe of Rebbes, the tzaddik of tzadikim, the Chortkover Rebbe, Reb Dovid Moshe zt'l is regarded as one of the greatest gedolim in the last hundred and fifty years. His kedusha was considered to be beyond ordinary human grasp and even his physical strength was not understood.

Extraordinary Perishus

Already as a young man the Chortkover Rebbe became famous for his extraordinary self-denial, abstaining from even the most basic minimum needed to keep his body and soul together. His nightly sleep was never more than two hours, and even then not always in bed, but sitting in the chair where he had been learning. As a rule he never went to sleep on Friday night, he would say that we have been commanded to guard the Shabbos (shemor es yom haShabbos) and who has ever heard of a guard sleeping on duty!

Similarly on other occasions such as Seder night and Yom Kippur he would also not go to sleep. One year in the Rebbe's later years when Seder night fell on motzei Shabbos and the Rebbe had already denied himself two nights' sleep, his son, Reb Yisroel, went to his father on Shabbos afternoon to try to convince him to rest for a bit, and said to him: "Dear father, it is already two nights that you have done without any sleep, and tonight and tomorrow night being the Seder means that you will miss another two nights, and I am worried that it could ruin your health. If you are concerned that due to the many years that you don't sleep on Shabbos it has the strength of a vow, I'll call in three talmidei chachomim and they will annul the vow."

The Rebbe answered his son: "Listen, my son to what you are saying. In order to annul a vow one must regret what one has undertaken in order to declare the vow void. For many years I haven't slept on Shabbos. Now because of a half-an-hour's sleep today, I should regret and uproot my minhag of so many years?"

On another occasion when he had already gone for four nights without sleep, and with the arrival of the fifth night he didn't show any intention of going to sleep either, his rebbetzin begged him with tears in her eyes to have pity on himself and to rest a bit.

The Rebbe answered her: "If a person cleaves to Hashem with all his might, he can do without food and sleep for as long as forty days."

Indeed, the Rebbe was once heard to comment that he has worked on himself until he achieved that whether he eats or not or he sleeps or not is immaterial. (Rav Moshe Cordovero says that the limitations on sleep mentioned in Nedarim do not apply to tzadikim.)

Once after Tisha B'Av, the Rebbe received a visit from his nephew, Reb Levi Yitzchok of Ozeranah, who said, sighing deeply: "What more can we do? The Yidden dutifully mourned the destruction of Yerushalayim and have fasted as the din requires, yet the Geula has still not arrived."

"Do you think that fasting means merely abstaining from food and drink?" replied the Rebbe. "A person may eat and drink and at the same time he can be fasting. How is that possible? A person who refrains from transgressing when he has the opportunity to sin, is also practicing a form of fasting. For example, if he has the chance to violate the Shabbos, slander someone or do anything the Torah has forbidden, and he stops himself from doing it because Hashem forbids it, in a way he is also fasting. If we would all fast that kind of fast, then we will be able to look forward to the coming of Moshiach."

True to his words, the Rebbe cut himself off from all this world's pleasures. He would tell his chassidim, "This world isn't worth anything. It's the next world which is important."

The palatial home of the Rebbe

Once before Pesach the chassidim bought a beautiful golden dish for the Rebbe as a present. The dish had cost a fortune and the chassidim wanted very much to hear the Rebbe make a bircas Shehecheyanu (which one recites on receiving an expensive gift) in appreciation of their efforts. The Rebbe, however, refused to recite the brocho and said that the dish should be placed on the table at the Seder and when he then recites the Shehecheyanu, he will also have the dish in mind.

At the Seder before the Rebbe recited the brocho he whispered a few words in his son's ear. The chassidim later found out that he had said: "Gold and silver have no value to me!"

With the approach of the yomim noraim the Rebbe's avoda intensified even more, and his fear and dread could be felt by all around him. Once on Erev Yom Kippur the Rebbe was sitting in his room, hot tears running down his cheeks, as he reviewed his actions during the past year. When the Rebbe's son Reb Yisroel entered the room, he was taken aback by his father's sobbing and his white and ghostly appearance. "You see, my son," Reb Dovid Moshe exclaimed, "this is how one must cry when one isn't ehrlich!"

The Rebbe's intense fear of Heaven governed all his actions and thoughts. A Yid once came to the Rebbe and told him about a brilliant deal which he had just been offered. A poritz wanted to sell him a vast forest for a fraction of its real value. The Yid had carefully thought through the offer and decided to purchase the forest. Before completing the deal he came to the Rebbe to receive his brocho. He explained to the Rebbe that such a good opportunity could not be wasted and the wood could be chopped down and sold as timber for many times the price he had bought it for. From the profit he would be rich until the end of his days and all his financial worries would be at an end. He had already tested the wood for worms and decay, and found it to be of the highest quality.

The Rebbe listened carefully to the man's story and when he had finished, the Rebbe told him not to buy the forest. The Yid left the Rebbe's room in shock. He could hardly believe his ears. He hadn't come to seek the Rebbe's advice, he had come just to receive his brocho and now he would have to let this marvelous opportunity slip through his fingers. In the end the Yid decided not to listen to the Rebbe and he bought the forest from the poritz.

After the trees were chopped down ready to be made into timber, disaster struck. Almost all the trees were wormy and rotten, and were totally useless. Obviously the test hadn't been done properly. The Yid, who had invested all his money in the deal, became a pauper overnight. Feelings of shame and guilt overcame him on having disobeyed the Rebbe's words and for a long time he didn't show his face in Chortkov.

When he finally plucked up courage to see the Rebbe, he begged his forgiveness. At the same time he asked the Rebbe how he had known that the trees were wormy, surely it must have been either Ruach Hakodesh or a mofeis!

"It was neither," the Rebbe told him. "I did not know that the trees were wormy. It was just that when I heard how you were speaking about this deal— with such an air of confidence as if it was impossible for you to lose money on it, I thought to myself: If, in such a deal, even before it has been made, you forget totally about Hashem, that He is the one who decides who will be rich or poor—such a deal can't be a good thing. Therefore I told you not to go ahead with it."

Now that the Yid had learned his lesson, the Rebbe blessed him that he should regain his money and indeed not long afterwards he regained his lost wealth.

Lessons in Anivus

The Rebbe was once learning the posuk in the Torah where it is written that Moshe Rabbeinu was the most humble person alive, more than any other person on the face of the earth, when he suddenly burst into tears. "You see what's written," the Rebbe told those around him: `Moshe Rabbeinu was the most humble person on the earth.' Now how is it possible that Moshe Rabbeinu who spoke to Hashem `face to face' and wrought so many miracles could possibly be so humble as to think that he was the lowest and the most insignificant of all the Yidden?"

"The answer is that Moshe thought to himself: it is not surprising that I serve Hashem properly for I was on Har Sinai for 40 days and nights where I saw things that no one else has seen and heard, and therefore I am not tempted any more by ordinary mundane matters. A simple Yid who doesn't understand much and his yetzer hora is constantly trying to win him over, and even so he doesn't give in and carries on keeping the Torah and mitzvos, such an avoda is much more precious to Hashem than mine."

The Rebbe was convinced that he was just a simple ordinary Yid. The fact that he lived in a palatial villa surrounded by thousands of chassidim made absolutely no impact on him. He remained convinced of his insignificance as if he were no different from anyone else.

In his memoirs HaRav Mordechai Arye Horowitz writes, "The first time I was zoche to see the Rebbe, and to hear him recite Sholom Aleichem and Kiddush was when I was eleven years old. Even the most simple people there were overcome with emotion as they heard the words flowing from his holy mouth.

"In truth, it was enough just to see how the Rebbe entered into the large hall in preparation of Kiddush. Due to his amazing humility on one hand, and his deep deveikus on the other, he never even noticed the thousands who hung onto his every step. It was quite apparent that if the whole crowd would go outside and leave the Rebbe alone by himself, he would not even notice!"

Although the Rebbe usually did not daven as a chazan, a few times a year he would lead the tefillos and act as the shaliach tsibur. On those occasions, thousands of chassidim would converge on Chortkov to hear the Rebbe's davening. One of these was during Selichos when the Rebbe would recite the paragraph "Aneinu" aloud at the end of the Selichos.

One year, amongst the large crowd assembled to hear the Rebbe were two of his nephews Reb Shlomo and Reb Nochum Ber of Sadiger. Surprised by their sudden arrival the Rebbe asked them why they had come, to which they told him that they came to hear him say the `Aneinu's.'

"I only daven to Hashem, and not for people to listen to," the Rebbe told them and that year he refused to lead the davening. Until someone told him that people journeyed to hear his davening, it hadn't occurred to him that all the thousands assembled had come specially to hear his tefillos!"

When the famed poseik, Reb Meir Arik was in Chortkov for the first time, he was upset by the beautiful gardens surrounding the Rebbe's house. Most of the rebbes of the time lived in dire poverty and the Rebbe's luxurious surroundings were not what Reb Meir had expected. Noticing his concern the Rebbe asked him what was troubling him, to which Reb Meir answered him that he wasn't used to the idea of a Rebbe being surrounded with beautiful gardens and flowers. "What gardens? What flowers?" the Rebbe asked him. "I don't know what you mean!"

Reb Meir later related that when he heard how the Rebbe could honestly say that he didn't know that the gardens existed even though he walked through them a few times a day, that made him into a fervent Chortkov chassid.

The Rebbe secluded himself totally from everything around him. Even at his grandchildren's weddings, when thousands converged on Chortkov to participate in the joyous events and celebrations, the Rebbe remained in his room quite unaware of the goings-on. Only when the chosson and kalla were already on their way down to the chuppah did he finally take off his tefillin and don his Shabbos clothes. As soon as the chuppah was over, he would return straight to his room to carry on with his avodas Hashem.

The Rebbe once commented that he had managed to achieve three madreigos: Never to move a limb unless it is lesheim Shomayim, to truly love every Yid, and to feel the pain and suffering of every Yid who gave him money, irrespective of where the Yid was later situated.

Zechuso yogeyn aleinu.

End of Part 2


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.