-Rav Chaim ben Betzalel, an older brother of the Maharal and a talmid of the Rema in Krakow (1588).
-Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer, Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760),
founder of Chasidus. When he was thirty-six years old in 1734, Rabbi
Yisrael revealed himself to the world. He wrote no books, although
many claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the
annotated translation of Tzava’as Harivash, published by Kehos.
-Rav Avraham Shalom Halberstam of Stropkov
(1856-1940). The son of Rav Yechezkel Shraga Halberstam, he became Rav
and Av Beis Din of Stropkov in 1897. He was called The “miracle rabbi
of Stropkov.” His sefer, Divrei Shalom, contains Torah wisdom, and
relates the miracles that he wrought.
-Rav Avraham Mordechai Alter, the Imrei Emes of Ger,
(1866-1948). The son of Rav Yehuda Leib (Sefas Emes) and a
great-grandson of the Chidushei Harim, he was the third Rebbe in the Gur
dynasty, the leader of over 250,000 chassidim in pre-WW II Poland. In
1940, he managed to escape with three of his sons to Yisrael. He
began to rebuild the Gerrer community in Eretz Yisrael, but he died
during the siege of Yerushalayim on Shavuos, 1948.
-Rav Yehuda Rosner, the Imrei Yehuda (1879-1944).
Rav Rosner opened a yeshiva in Szekelheid, which he headed throughout
his years there. Although he was offered rabbinical positions in
larger towns, he refused them on account of his yeshiva. Szekelheid
had only 120 Jewish families, and that allowed the Rav to dedicate
most of his time and attention to the yeshiva, which ultimately grew
until, in the 1930’s, it housed over 300 bachurim.
-Rebbetzin Devorah Margulies, wife of of Rav Lipa
Margulies, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn
(1924-2005). Born in the town of Marashvarshehl, Hungary, Rebbetzin
Margulies was the daughter of Rav Binyamin Alter and Chaya Rochel
Ruttner. Her mother was a direct descendant of the Mareh Yechezkel.
Rav Ovadia Bartenura (1445 [or 1450]-1500 [or
1520]). He lived in Italy in the second half of the 15th century and eventually
moved to Yerushalayim. He was well known for his role as a Rav in
Bartinura, Italy, and for his illuminating Pirush on the Mishnah. He also wrote
Omer Nekeh, a supercommentary on Rashi’s peirush on Chumash. Considered one of
the wealthiest mean in all of Italy, he settled in Yerushalayim in 1488.
Rav Yisrael (ben Baruch) Hager of Vizhnitz, the
Ahavas Yisrael (1860-1936). The grandson of Rav Menachem Mendel of Vizhnitz
(the Tzemach Tzedek), he succeeded his father, the Imrei Baruch, as Admor of
Vizhnitz after the latter’s petira in 1893. He was Admor for over 40 years,
during which time, Vizhnitz grew to several tens of thousands of Chasidim. Rav
Yisrael had four sons, Rav Menachem Mendel of Visheva, Rav Chaim Meir (the
Imrei Chaim), Rav Eliezer, and Rav Baruch. Rav Yisrael’s remains were moved to
Bnai Brak in 1950.
Rav Chaim Elazar (ben Tzvi Hirsch) Shapira of
Munkacs, theMinchas Elazar,
(1871-1937). He was a fifth generation descendent of the founder of the Dinov
dynasty, Rav Tzvi Elimelech (the Bnei
Yisas’char). He learned under his father, the Stryzower Rebbe, author of Darkei
Teshuvah on Yoreh De’ah. He succeeded his father as Rav of Munkacs in 1914.
Munkacs (or Munkacevo) for centuries the capital of Carpathian Russia ,
belonged to Hungary before World War I and to Czechoslovakia when that country
was created after World War I. He had no children with his first wife, and they
decided to divorce. His second wife bore him one daughter, Frimet. From his
youth and on, he completed the entire Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi every two
years. He was a prolific author. In addition to Minchas Elazar, he wrote
Nimukei Orach Chaim, Os VeShalom on the laws of tefillin and milah, and many
other sefarim. In 1930, he fulfilled a lifelong desire and visited Eretz
Yisrael with his 13 year old cousin and son in law to be, Baruch
Yerachmeil Yehoshua Rabinowicz . Sadly the Munkacser died only four
years after his daughter’s wedding in 1933. Soon after his petira, most of
the 15,000 Munkatch Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.
Rav Barukh, his son in law, – after saving thousands and unsuccessfully
attempting to convince other Chassidim to go with him -- made aliyah, and later
established a kehilla in Sao Paulo , Brazil ,
remaining for fifteen years. He then returned to Israel
, where he became the Rabbi of Cholon and later established a Beis Medrash in
Petach Tikvah which he led until his passing in 1999.
Rav Mordechai Yechezkiahu ben Shimon (1994)
Rav Yaakov Wehl (1937-2007). He was
born in Germany in 1937, and in early 1939, the Wehls left
Germany, settling in Boro Park. Yaakov learned at Yeshiva Rabbeinu
Yaakov Yosef (RJJ). In 1959, he married Hadassah Galinsky. Rabbi Wehl
began learning in the kollel of Yeshiva Ohr HaTorah, under Rav Chaim Pinchas
Scheinberg, in Bensonhurst. At the time, he attended law school at night
but eventually decided to leave law school and go into chinuch, spending
his years at Allentown, Pennsylvania; Monsey; Hebrew Academy of Nassau
County for 27 years; and Bais Yaakov of Boro Park Elementary School, where he
served as principal for 12 years. Rabbi Wehl authored the very popular Haggadah
“Ki Yeshalcha Bincha” in lashon kodesh, which was later translated into English
and published by ArtScroll as “The Haggadah with Answers.” He was Daf Yomi
maggid shiur for many years. He authored seforim on various mesechtos, include
Shekolim, Moed Katan, Chagiga, Horios, Me’ilah and Kerisus. He also
wrote a weekly Daf Yomi column in the Yated on Seder Nashim. In 1987,
Rabbi and Mrs. Wehl authored the book “House Calls to Eternity” about the life
story of their mother, Dr. Selma Wehl, who was a pediatrician in Boro Park for
over sixty years, helping people until she was in her nineties. In
2001, Rabbi and Mrs. Wehl moved to Lakewood, enabling themto be
near their children. A shul was founded at the home of his son, Rabbi
Moshe Wehl, on Sharon Court, and named for his father, R’ Aharon Wehl -- Bais Medrash
Simcha HaKohen of Worms was slain by Crusaders in a church for stabbing the bishop’s nephew after he had pretended to submit to baptism (1096)
Rav Yitzchak Feigenbaum, Rav and Av Beis Din in Warsaw (1911). He was a prominent supporter of the Chovevei Tzio
Rav Binyamin Mendelson, Rav of Kommemiyus
(1979).Born in Plotzk at the end of the 19th century, his father was
Rav Menachem Mendel Mendelsohn, who served there as Rosh Yeshiva.
After World War I, Rav Binyamin married and opened a yeshiva in
Bodzanov. During his years there, he became a chassid of the Gerer
Rebbe, the Imrei Emes. In fact, his notes were used to publish the
sefarim of the Imrei Emes decades after the War, as tens of thousands
of pages of the Imrei Emes’ written chiddushei Torah were lost. With
the bracha of the Gerer Rebbe, Rav Binyamin moved to Eretz Yisrael in
1933, and was offered the position as Rav of Kfar Ata, near Haifa. In
1951, he accepted an offer to become Rav of a small, religious
settlement in the Negev called Kommemius, serving the community for
the next 27 years. Shemitta was adhered to according to the opinion of
the Chazon Ish with no reliance on the heter mechira that was almost
unanimously accepted in those years. Rav Binyamin felt that keeping
Shemitta was a key to bringing about the geula. His letters,
masterpieces of hashkafa and emuna were published posthumously in the
sefer Igros HaGrab
Rav Akiva Moshe Gottlieb (1923-2005). Born to Rav
Shlomo Gottlieb, Rav of the Ohr Hachaim shul in Philadelphia, the
family moved to Yerushalayim in 1929. After learning at the Chevron
Yeshiva, his family moved back to the United States, where he learned
at Torah Vodaas. He married in 1946. In 1963, he moved back to Eretz
Yisrael to help his parents. He was appointed general manager of the
Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which he held for 14 years. He also
assisted his father in Yeshiva Rabbeinu Chaim Yosef, founded in 1942.
After his father’s death, Rav Akiva Moshe was responsible for it. He
wrote Beis Shlomo, a biography of his father, and Kerem Shlomo, six
volumes on chumash and the moadim
Today in History - 24 Iyar
· Massacre of the Jews of Worms who took refuge in the castle during the First Crusade, 1096.
· Pope calls upon all Christian princes to send the Jews who had fled from the Inquisition back to Spain, 1481.
· Portuguese Marranos were granted permission to settle in Brazil, 1577.
· Black Hundred pogroms in Brisk, Lithuania, 1905.
· The freighter SS Robin Moor. 950 miles off the coast of Brazil, became the first U.S. ship sunk by a German U-boat, 1941.
· Liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp, 1945, where 200,000 Jews were killed.
· Germanysurrendered unconditionally to the Allies in Rheims, France, 1945.
· Viktor Brack, Hitler’s supervisor of the installation of gas chambers in Poland, was executed, 1948.
· An Israeli attack on Egyptian positions at Ashdod marked the turning
point in the war between Israel and Egypt, 1948. The battle forced
Egypt to give up its plans to attack Tel Aviv and made the isolation
of the Negev from the rest of Israel its prime objective.
· The right wing Dutch politician, Wilhelmus Simon Petrus “Pim” Fortuyn,
was shot and killed in Hilversum, Netherlands, by Volkert van der
Graaf, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison, 2002. Van der Graf, a
militant animal rights activist, claimed in court he had murdered
Fortuyn to stop him from exploiting Muslims as “scapegoats.” Fortuyn was
considered controversial for his views about immigrants and Islam. He
called Islam “a backward culture” and said that if it were legally
possible he would close the borders for Muslim immigrants.
Yechezkel Landau, the Rav of Prague, was known by the name of his
sefer Noda B’Yehuda. During his time he was the source par excellence
to whom people turned for practical advice, and even until today his name shines like a star in the firmament of Judaism.
The son of Rabbi Yehuda Levi, Rabbi Yechezkel Landau was born on
Heshvan 18, 5474 (1713) in Opatow, Poland.
Up to the age of 13, he
studied Torah with Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi of Ludmir, as well as with the
Rav of the city, Rabbi Moshe Yaakov of Krakow, who greatly liked this
young boy with a sharp mind. Together they discussed difficult problems
posed by the Gemara.
At the age of 14, he went to the town of Brody and there he studied
with very devoted young men. At the age of 18, he married a girl by the
name Liebe, the daughter of Rabbi Yaakovka of Dubno, and went to live
with his father-in-law there. Yet after a short time, he persuaded his
father-in-law to come live in Brody, which was then a town filled with
sages and scholars. There he was welcomed as one of the “Sages of
Kloiz,” a famous Beit Midrash that included great Torah scholars.
In 5506 (1745), Rabbi Yechezkel became the Rav of Jampol. He stayed
there for six years, and then he was called upon to be the Rav of Prague. There he directed a great yeshiva that attracted so many
students that he was forced to study with them in the yard of the main
synagogue. He gave courses in Gemara each day, and on Friday he taught
the parsha of the week along with Rashi’s commentary. He loved his
students like a father loves his children, and he was very happy to see
them succeed. Among his students were such great rabbis as Rabbi
Avraham Danzig (author of Chayei Adam) and others.
Rabbi Yechezkel had a fixed rule that, be it in Torah study or in his
approach to Mussar, the main thing was not abstract study but action.
It was not the discussion that counted, but the final conclusion. This
is why he often comes back, in his responsum and lectures, to the point
that the essential thing is not to deny oneself or fast, but to
perform good deeds. On the other hand he wrote, “The main thing is
diligence in study. One must study Torah works that have true meaning,
mishnayot with Tosaphot Yom Tom, the Gemara, the Poskim, the Chumash,
the Prophets, and the Writings, as well as books on Mussar.”
All this, however, applied to others. With his own person, he was
very strict and denied himself. His disciple Rabbi Eliezer Fleckles
testifies that to his old age, he did not sleep in a bed, but rather
with his head on a bed and his body on some chairs. He also wore a
coarse haircloth on his body, and he taught while standing. From the
17th of Tammuz until the beginning of Av, he ate no animal products, and
from Rosh Chodesh Av to Tisha B’Av, he only ate dry bread.
Like a shepherd faithful to his flock, Rabbi Yechezkel also devoted
himself to the needs of the community. He enacted decrees, dealt with
government ministers and emperors, and built up institutions that
promoted tzeddakah and chesed. All aspects of Jewish life progressed in
accord with his decisions.
Rabbi Yechezkel died on Iyar 17, 5553 (1793) in Prague. He ordered
that neither praises nor orations be multiplied at his funeral, that a
large headstone not be placed on his grave, and that no glorious titles
be inscribed on it. He left numerous works behind, including Noda
B’Yehuda, Hatzlacha (Tzion L’Nefesh Chaya) on the Talmud, Ahavat Tzion,
and Dagul Mei’Revavah.
Many legends surround Rabbi Yechezkel’s brilliant character, and
these illustrate both his intelligence and sharpness of mind. What
follows are some examples:
(1) One day, a merchant carrying wine barrels was traveling from
Hungary to his home in Prague. While on route, he encountered a poor Jew
from his hometown and gave him a ride in his carriage. The poor man
owned a sack filled with money, and since he was afraid of thieves, he
hid it among the barrels. Upon arriving in Prague, however, he could not
find his money. He therefore accused the merchant of having stolen it,
then ran in tears to see Rabbi Yechezkel and cried out to him, “Save
me Rabbi!” Rabbi Yechezkel had the merchant brought to him, but he
denied everything that the poor man had said, and furthermore he
complained that the poor man had paid him back evil for good, since he
had helped him out by giving him a ride home. Hence Rabbi Yechezkel
resorted to a ruse and said to the merchant, “I believe you - you did
not steal the money. Surely it was your driver who stole it. However if
that is the case, your wine has become forbidden to drink, for the
hand of your non-Jewish driver has touched it.” When the merchant heard
this decision, he acknowledged his sin and admitted that he had stolen
the poor man’s money. However the Rav was not satisfied with this, and
he said to him, “Since you began by denying this with all your might, I
will not believe you until you swear in synagogue, before the entire
community, that you stole this poor man’s money.” The merchant did what
Rabbi Yechezkel said, and only then did he allow the merchant’s wine to
(2) Two Torah greats of Israel came to see the Rav of Prague
concerning the mitzvah of redeeming prisoners. “How much money do you
need?” Rabbi Yechezkel asked them. They replied, “1,000 gold coins.” The
Rav went into his room and brought them 990 gold coins. Looking at the
amount, they said in astonishment: “Why did the Rav not add 10 more
gold coins in order for the mitzvah to belong to him?” Rabbi Yechezkel
replied, “I’m surprised that two great rabbis such as yourselves would
ask such a question! Have you forgotten the explicit words of the
Mishnah: ‘One who wishes to give but that others should not - he looks
grudgingly toward others’ [Perkei Avoth 5:13]. I too must allow others
to participate in this mitzvah.”
Rabbi Yechezkel was also marvelously clever in matters of everyday
life, and he knew how to act with the most diverse types of people.
(3) Two rich men once came to see him for an unusual Din Torah. What
happened was that these two men lived in the same building and were
good neighbors. One day, a poor musician came and stood at the door of
the building and began to play some music. The two rich men began to
argue, each one saying: “He’s playing for me!” That’s when they decided
to go see the Rav. First of all, each of them deposited 20 gold coins
to cover the costs of the proceedings. At that point the Rav began to
hear their strange arguments, and then he smiled and said to them: “It
was not for any of you that the musician played, but for me - so that I
could merit 40 gold coins.”
(4) A man came to see Rabbi Yechezkel to recount his troubles to him.
“What can I do for you?” he asked. The man replied, “In my house,
people are constantly coming and going, and this bothers me and prevents
me from studying.” Rabbi Yechezkel said to him, “Let me give you some
good advice. If those who come to you are rich, ask them to lend you
some money - you won’t see them again. And if they are poor, lend them
some money - you won’t see them again either.”
THE NODA B'YEHUDA
This article originally appeared in Yated Neeman,
Monsey NY. and is reprinted here with their permission
By D. Sofer
One evening the Noda B'Yehuda, Rav Yechezkel Halevi Landau, was
walking to shul when he noticed a young, non-Jewish peddler sobbing
uncontrollably. Rav Landau stopped at the peddler's stand and asked what
The boy explained that his stepmother had sent him to Prague's
market to sell bagels, and she had threatened to whip him if he didn't
return home with a large sum of money. Although he had sold many bagels,
he had lost all his money and was frightened to go home empty-handed.
"How much money did you lose?" Rav Yechezkel asked the boy. "Fifty gulden," he replied, his eyes overflowing with tears.
Rav Yechezkel reached into his pocket and gave the boy 50 gulden. He then took the boy to his own home and gave him a hot meal.
To Rav Yechezkel, who was renowned for his kindness, this act was
nothing out of the ordinary, and he did not give it a second thought.
But it left an indelible impression on the gentile boy.
Many years later, a non-Jewish man visited Rav Yechezkel before
Pesach. He told Rav Yechezkel that Prague's gentiles had devised a plot
to murder the Jews. The local bakers were planning to poison the bread
the Jews bought from them each year right after Pesach.
Rav Yechezkel was shocked when he heard of the plan - and even more surprised that the gentile man had shared it with him.
"Who are you?" Rav Yechezkel asked, "and why have you told me all
this?" The man reminded Rav Yechezkel of how he had given 50 gulden to a
peddler boy years earlier.
"I am that boy," he said, "I want to repay you for saving my life."
At the same time, however, the man begged Rav Yechezkel not to do
anything that might implicate him as the one who had divulged the
secret. How did he know about it? The plot had been hatched by none
other than his stepmother and the local priest.
Rav Yechezkel thanked the man for sharing the secret and guaranteed
him that he would not endanger his life. After the man left, Rav
Yechezkel sat deep in thought. Soon he had devised a brilliant plan that
would enable him to save the local Jewish community without implicating
the young man.
On Chol Hamoed, Rav Yechezkel summoned the entire community to
shul. He explained that the date of Rosh Chodesh had mistakenly been
calculated incorrectly and that they would have to celebrate Pesach for
an additional day.
When the last day of Pesach had come and gone, the gentile bakers
waited expectantly for the local Jews to purchase their bread. But one
hour passed, then two, and it soon became obvious that they weren't
going to have any Jewish customers that day.
It wasn't long before the bakers learned of Rav Yechezkel's decree.
Angry that their plan had been foiled, they reported Rav Yechezkel to
the local police, charging that he had denied them of their livelihood.
The police began to question Rav Yechezkel, but the questions came
to an abrupt halt when Rav Yechezkel said, "Before accusing me, let's
see if their bread is edible."
Rav Yechezkel took a piece of bread and gave it to a dog, who
immediately keeled over and died. The case against Rav Yechezkel was, of
course, dropped, and Prague's Jews were saved.
This was just one of the many instances in which Rav Yechezkel used
his extraordinary wit and intelligence to foil the plots of rabid
anti-Semites and save his fellow Jews from catastrophe.
Rav Yechezkel Landau was born in the city of Apt on 5 Cheshvan,
5474. His father, Rav Yehuda, was a leading figure in Apt and a great
talmid chachim. His mother, Chaya, was the daughter of Rav Eliezer, the
av beis din of Dubno.
Until the age of 12, Yechezkel studied with Rav Yitzchak Isaac of
Ludmir. Afterward, he studied on his own in the city's beis medrash.
When he was 18, he married Leeba, the daughter of the wealthy Rav Yaakov
After their wedding, Rav Yechezkel continued to devote himself to
his Torah studies, returning home only on Shabbos. His wife never
complained about being alone during the week, and she was proud of her
In his monumental Noda b'Yehuda, Rav Yechezkel later praised his
wife for her dedication: "My wife is my helpmate. Due to her efforts, I
was able to remain in the beis medrash the entire week."
While Rav Yechezkel was in Dubno, a controversy involving Rav
Yonason Eibeshitz raged throughout Europe's Jewish communities. During
this period, many women died in childbirth. One time, Rav Yonason gave a
pregnant woman an amulet and, as a result, she had an easy birth. News
of this incident spread quickly, and numerous people who needed yeshuos
approached Rav Yonason for amulets.
Many, however, were upset by this practice, especially since the
Jewish community was still recovering from the dire consequences of the
false Shabsai Tzvi.
One of Shabsai Tzvi's most avid opponents was the Chacham Tzvi. The
Chacham Tzvi's son, Rav Yaakov Emden, feared that Rav Yonason's amulets
were connected to a belief in Shabsai Tzvi.
Rav Yonason, of course, denied that this was the case. He even
published a sefer explaining that the amulets were based on kabbala, and
had no connection to the Shabsai Tzvi movement, which he also firmly
opposed. This argument, however, continued to rage, and it threatened to
divide entire communities and to undermine the unity of the Klal
Rav Yechezkel was determined to terminate this argument. In a
letter that he called Iggeres Hashalom, he praised Rav Eibeshitz highly,
calling him a tzaddik whose intentions were good and whose behavior was
But he added that since the masses misconstrue the meaning and
implications of the amulets, the amulets should be placed in the geniza
and their writing forbidden.
Rav Yechezkel circulated this letter throughout the Diaspora. Other
letters on this issue appear in his seforim Aspaklaria Hameira and
Luchos Eidus. Rav Yechezkel's letter was highly effective, and the
argument slowly subsided.
After this incident, Rav Yechezkel gained wide acclaim as an outstanding peacemaker and arbitrator.
In time, Rav Yechezkel's father-in-law moved from Dubno to Brody,
and Rav Yechezkel joined him there. After living in Brody for a number
of years, he was asked to serve as rav of Yampala, Ukraine.
Not long afterward, he was appointed to the position of rav of
Prague. Rav Yechezkel's predecessor as rav of Prague was Rav Dovid
Oppenheim. A period of some 20 years separated their tenures because of
the political circumstances that prevailed in Prague at that time.
During that period, Austria was ruled by Empress Maria Theresa, who
had inherited the throne from her father. Even though she was Austria's
rightful ruler, many of Europe's emperors sought to conquer large areas
of her kingdom. Her prime enemy was the Prussian emperor, who waged war
against her and wreaked havoc on Austria.
Austria's Jews were accused of being fifth columnists who provided
the enemy with secret information and funds. As a result, Prague's Jews
were banished from the city. After much effort on the part of various
elements, they were permitted to return to their homes, but were still
heavily fined and oppressed.
Under such difficult circumstances, Prague's Jews were unable to
focus on selecting a new rav for their city. But once their financial
situation improved, they went about the task of finding a rav. They were
very impressed with Rav Yechezkel's efforts to bring an end to the
controversy surrounding Rav Yonason Eibeshitz and his amulets, and they
decided to appoint him to the position.
A contingent of rabbanim was dispatched to Rav Yechezkel with his
writ of appointment. At first, he refused their offer, claiming that he
wasn't worthy of such a prestigious position. Eventually, however, he
accepted it. Rav Yechezkel was welcomed to Prague with a gala reception.
There were, some members of the community who felt that Rav Yechezkel -
who was a relatively young man at the time - was not an appropriate
choice for the position because of his age. At first, these residents
tried to undermine his authority as rav. In the end, however, they
recognized his greatness and made peace with him.
RAISING THE PRESTIGE OF PRAGUE'S JEWS
During Rav Yechezkel's first two years as rav of Prague, its Jewish
community flourished. But then the Seven Years War - which would wreak
havoc on Austria, and particularly on Prague - erupted.
Rav Yechezkel's students and close associates advised him to flee
the city, but he refused to abandon his flock at this critical time. It
was during this period that his remarkable leadership qualities came to
the fore. He conducted his communal affairs in a manner that not only
aided his fellow Jews, but also raised their esteem in the empress'
Sensing that certain elements sought to exploit the wartime
circumstances and the political situation to libel the Jews, Rav
Yechezkel strongly urged his community to display its loyalty to the
He published a special Prayer for the Welfare of the Royal House,
which he circulated among the country's Jews. A while after this prayer
was distributed, he summoned Prague's Jews to the Altneu shul and
declared that anyone who dared to undermine the empress, assist the
enemy, or enter the enemy camp on business, would be excommunicated.
Empress Maria Theresa was very grateful to Rav Yechezkel for these
efforts and, as a result, changed her attitude toward her Jewish
subjects. After the war, she visited Prague, where she was welcomed at a
gala reception. Rav Yechezkel greeted her with the blessing reserved
for royalty and high-ranking ministers: "She'chalak mi'kvodo le'vasar
ve'dam," "Who has conferred some of His honor on mortals."
RAV AND TALMID
Rav Yechezkel founded a yeshiva in Prague, and he regarded Torah
dissemination in his yeshiva as his primary goal in life. Many of his
letters reflect his devotion to this aim.
In one letter, to a person who consulted him, he wrote: "I am very
busy now with my students, especially since it is the beginning of the
Therefore, I beg you to forgive me for having delayed my response
to you." He was very fond of his students, and he maintained close
contact with them for many years after they had left his yeshiva. In one
letter to a former student, he wrote, "I received your letter and am
very pleased to see that my expectations of you have been realized, and
that my efforts on your behalf have borne fruit."
To another student, Rav Yoel Brusker, he said, "May you be able to
devote yourself solely to Torah study without having to accept any
rabbinical positions." This blessing did, in fact, materialize.
As rav of Prague, Rav Yechezkel also enacted a number of important
amendments that had a profound influence on the lifestyle of his
community. These amendments were geared to limiting expenditures,
especially at simchas. Among them were limits on the amount of guests
one may invite to a wedding, and the type of food that may be served at a
kiddush. He also abolished certain customs that he felt negated
His Talmud Rabbi Eliezer Fleckles wrote in his sefer on the
behavior of the Noda B'yehuda. "Never did Chaztos of night pass, until
he was in his old age, that he didn't arise to mourn the churban Beis
Hamikdosh and Galus Hashchinah.
In the summer and winter he would arise with dawn and embrace the
day and night with Torah and davening. During the day, he would teach
four groups of talmidim, in different mesechtos and various chalakim of
Shulchan Aruch. On Yom Kippur, from evening to evening, he didn't move
from his place, didn't rest, didn't sit, and didn't sleep. He only
begged, davened, and cried.
Until his old age, he did not sleep in a bed. He would learn and
teach his talmidim while standing and he did not even sit down while
UP IN FLAMES
In 5533, a fire broke out that destroyed Rav Yechezkel's entire
house, as well as his many manuscripts. After this incident, he decided
to dedicate himself to publishing his works in a systematic manner.
In 5537, he published his monumental work Noda b'Yehuda, which
includes sheilos u'teshuvos on all four parts of the Shulchan Aruch. He
called the work Noda b'Yehuda to indicate that his greatness was not is
own, but was to the credit of his father, Rav Yehuda Landau.
He distributed his seforim to talmidei chachamim for free, and gave
the remainder to seforim dealers on the condition that they sell them
at a set price and never raise that price. The Noda b'Yehuda soon gained
wide acclaim for its profundity.
In 5543, he began to publish the Tzlach, a pirush on Shas. However,
illness prevented him from completing it. Among his other works were
Doresh Tziyon, Ahavas Tziyon and Dagul mi'Reveva.
Though the Noda B'Yehuda was not a chassid, he was highly
respected by many Chassidic Rebbes including the Baal HaTanya and the
Sanzer Rav. The Chassidim relate that the Baal Shem Tov went to the Noda
B'Yehuda to be serve him because the Baal Shem Tov said he wanted to be
m'shamesh a Talmud Chochom. He once commented that the Noda B'Yehuda
was holding up a good part of the world.
In the sefer Ohr P'nei Yitzchok, it is written that the Chidushei
Harim recounted that on Leil Pesach when the Noda B'Yehuda opened the
door and said Shfoch Chamoscha, he would accompany Eliyahu Hanavi on all
the steps to his house. The Chidushei Harim added that he didn't know
whether the Noda B'Yehuda saw Eliyahu Hanavi, but his emunah was so
great that Eliyahu Hanavi visited every Jewish home during the Seder
that he would accompany him. Concludes the P'nei Yitzchok that emunah
like this is greater than the revelation of Eliyahu Hanovi.
Rav Yechezkel was niftar on 17 Iyar, 5543. Jews from all over the
region came to Prague to attend his levaya. In his will, he requested
that only a simple monument be erected over his grave, and that no
praises be inscribed on it.
Rav Yechezkel was one of Klal Yisroel's most illustrious and
brilliant leaders. Today, his legacy lives on in his remarkable works.