Satmar Rebbe’s 28th Yartzheit Today

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satmar.jpgToday is the 28th Yartzheit of the Satmar Rebbe ZATZAL – the Divrei Yoel. Tens of thousands have streamed to the Kever in Kiryas Yoel starting on Thursday afternoon. Below are parts of an article on the life of the Satmar Rebbe Zechuso Yagen Aleinu.

The Satmar Rav, a direct descendant of both the famed Yismach Moshe and the Chavas Daas, was recognized as a young man for his unusual lomdus, hasmadah and tzidkus – Torah scholarship, diligence and piety – assuming his first rabbinical position as Rav of Muzheyer at the age of seventeen. By the outbreak of World War 11, he was Rav of the thriving community of Satmar and had emerged as one of the leading figures in Hungarian Jewry. He distinguished himself with his heroic adherence to Torah under the most brutal conditions of the Nazi concentration camps. After a brief stay in Eretz Yisrael, the Rebbe came to America in 1946 and settled in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

It was in Williamsburg that the Rebbe painstakingly helped thousands of fellow survivors reconstruct their lives, at the same time reconstructing a thriving Chassidic community – taking advantage of all technological advances of contemporary America, while shunning its values and the more apparent aspects of its life-style. As a result, at the time of his passing, the Rebbe presided over a tight-knit, highly disciplined community numbering in the thousands, with major settlements in Williamsburg and elsewhere, including their flourishing Kiryas Yoel in New York’s Monroe Township, Monsey, Montreal, and of course, Jerusalem, where he was Rav of the Eida Hachreidis.

The Rebbe was renowned for his extremely strong stand against Zionism, even refusing to accept the existence of the State of Israel – differing markedly with Torah authorities of Agudath Israel in this. For that matter, he opposed the very concept of an organized coalition-structured Orthodoxy as personified by Agudath Israel. Nonetheless, he was respected – even revered – in other circles for his vast scholarship, tzidkus, personal humility, astute wisdom, and unwavering tenacity.

The 100,000 people that crowded the streets of Monroe to bid farewell to the Satmar Rav included followers and admirers, Chassidim and Misnagdim, Europeans and Americans, paying homage to one of the greatest of contemporary Jewish leaders, who had taught and led his people as a Rav for seventy-five years … He will be missed – not only by those who followed his particular ideology, but by Orthodox Jews of contrasting viewpoint as well who saw in him a tower of principled leadership.

Of the hushed tens of thousands that came to pay their last respects to the Satmar Rav at his funeral, a large number were members of other communities – various Chassidic groups, yeshiva circles, and out-and-out Misnagdim. They came out of deference to a giant of vast scholarship, who had symbolized a rare level of personal devotion to G-d as well as a demanding, inspiring leadership of a type that has largely disappeared from the world scene. As Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner (Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta Rabbi Chaim Berlin – Gur Arye) had said regarding the Satmar Rav on an earlier occasion:

Noach suffered a maimed leg as punishment for the one time that he was late with the lion’s meal in the Ark. It would seem that Noach should have been forgiven this one tardiness. But a lion is king of the beasts, and is worthy of service in a manner that is in keeping with its royal position, without any exceptions – especially this particular lion, which was the last of its kind … The same, said the Rosh Yeshiva, may be said of the Satmar Rav. “I’m here to honor him because he’s the last of the lions.”

A great many of those present at his funeral were paying tribute to “the last lion” – the last leader of his kind in our midst.

From the time of his Bar Mitzvah until the outbreak of World War I1 – a period of forty years – Reb Yoel never slept on a bed, except for Shabbosos – studying Torah, on his feet, by day and by night … In the internment camp in Bergen-Belsen, not only did he eat nothing that might have been un-kosher, subsisting mostly on potatoes, but he fasted as often as four times a week.

He continued this procedure until his last days; and even when he did eat, his first meal usually was a cup of coffee at 3 or 4 in the afternoon … “Do I want to eat now? A Jew doesn’t eat because he wants to. He eats because he must.”

It seemed as though he never had to prepare for a lecture, drashah, or shiur. In Europe the custom had been for someone to open a Midrash Rabba at Shalosh Seudos, and read three passages at random – giving the Rebbe material for his dissertation. He would then expound at length, quoting passages from the Midrash verbatim … In America, he would enter the yeshiva’s bais hamidrash, ask where the bachurim were up to in their studies, open the Gemara and begin a long, involved lecture without further notice.

An alumnus of a Lithuanian-type yeshiva in Israel sat near the Rebbe at his Pesach Seder. The Rebbe was amused at his guest’s pompous measuring of the precise portion of food and drinks required for the rituals (even though the Rebbe himself was no less fastidious). As the guest prepared his matzos, the Rebbe asked him, “Are you sure it’s the right shiyur (required amount)?” Similarly, after he ate the marror, and later when he eyed his afikomen before consuming it, the Rebbe smilingly asked, “Is it the shiyur?”

Finally, the fellow put down his matzah and said, “Rebbe I’m not sure. But isn’t it the shiyur of tcheppen (teasing)?”

The Rebbe was deeply disturbed that he had actually offended the man with remarks that he had only meant as a friendly exchange. He begged his forgiveness again and again, as was his habit when he felt he had mistreated someone. Finally he asked him, “Please see me right after Yom Tov.”

When the man reported to the Rebbe, he asked, “Why are you here? Why did you come to America?” “I’m here because I must raise five to six thousand dollars to marry off my daughter.” “I’ll get the money for you. And please – any children that you will be marrying off in the future – come here and I’ll take care of your financial needs.” The Satmar Rav was not satisfied until he had financed the weddings of the man’s four daughters.

When Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky spoke at the unveiling of the matzeivah (monument) at the gravesite of the Satmar Rav, one week after his passing, he commented on the special gift G-d had bequeathed on our generation through the presence of the Satmar Rav for over nine decades:

“When an era closes, there is always a danger that the succeeding generations will be oblivious to the values and special character of their predecessors. Thus G-d often grants one exemplary member of the preceding era longevity, to permit him to teach the next generation how the old generation lived – by his mere presence. Thus did Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi – who closed the era of the Tannaim by writing the Mishnah – continue to ‘frequent his home’ for decades after his passing; and Rabbi Yochanan, who compiled the Jerusalem Talmud, lived for hundreds of years…; and thus did the Satmar Rav grace our generation with a greatness in scholarship and piety that had been identified with the glory of days gone by.”

(This article originally appeared in the Jewish Observer)


27 COMMENTS

  1. zechoso yogen alienu

    I have been there many times on the yarziet- it is an unbelievable matzav- you can also go Sunday-keep in mind to adhere to their strict mechitzos policy!

    I think every parent & day camp & yeshiva should take children to kivrie tzadikim to be mispallel, ESPECIALLY ON A YURZIET

    you dont have to wait to go to eretz yisroel- there are plenty of tzadikim buried in ny & nj

  2. This man, if he may even be called that, cared for every Jew. He was the sweetest most gentle and the most caring.

    Aside from his well known Chesed and Tzedukah, every Jew stood on his shoulders.

  3. The Satmar Rebbe together with the Brisker Rov led us in fighting zionism. The Rebbe was already well known before WWII for his fighting the kofrim with the same spirit that we fought the Reform movement in the previous generations.

  4. ou gotta give credit where credit is due.

    My grandfather used to tell me when I was a boy:
    That you are a Frum’e Yid is to credit Kloizenburg’e Rebbe.
    That you are a Chassiddish’e Yid is to credit Satmer’e Rebbe.

  5. I remember as a young boy, I must have been 7 or 8 years old at the time, after Ma’ariv on Motzo’ey Shabbos in Blueberry Park bungalow colony, we went to see the Rebbe ZT’L make Havdollah. What an experience that was, I’ll never forget it.

  6. jc, you had to spoil the flow of this blog. Why the animosity ? We are commemorating his yartzeit , he had compassion for every single jew. For you to make a disparaging comment about his chasidus , surly would not have been tolerated by the rebbe himself.

  7. #14, that was a great compliment. Teaming up with Brisk and other Gedolim indeed is achdus. For defending the Torah with the same spirit as Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch, et al, defended the Torah against the Reform.

  8. I went to the Satmar Rebbe’s Tzion on Friday morning and while I was there the Current Satmar Rebbe Reb Aharon Shli’ta arrived, I can’t describe the feeling that I had while saying tehillim with the Rebbe and Hundreds of people who were present, I never ever had so much tears in my eyes, it was an experiance I will not forget so fast!

  9. I am sorry that I canot go. Growing up my parents were very close to the Satmer Rebe ant to the Rebitzin . They were people that if you had a chance in your lifetime to know,was a speciasl zchus

  10. While I was standing friday at the Gravesite of the holy Rebbe Yoel Ztz”l and saying tehillim my memories flashed back to the same day in 1979 when I was a young boy in an Upstate bungalow colony and my father woke me up that morning that I should get up and dress up fast because we are going to the lavaya of a big Tzaddik since we lived all year in Lakewood and I was young I at that time didn’t know who R’Yoel Ztz”l was so when my papa took me and my 2 brothers in the car (on the way he picked up 3 Hitch hikers going to the levaya) we all got anxious to what’s going to transpire that day, we traveled down the NY 17 till we couldn’t travel anymore (it was at the exit of the Museaum Village road) there was hundreds of cars parked on the highway and all kinds and shapes of Yiddin where walking. On the Highway towards Kiryat Joel we walked with my father holding my hands it was a hot day but nobody cared about the heat, I remember seeing grown man crying aloud, I was shaken by that sight my father explained to us that it is a sad day, we walked and walked until we saw a magnificent white shul building and there was thousends upon thousends of people surrounding it, we pushed ourselfs thru the throngs of people until we got to the building, all of a sudden the loudspeakers started with the first hesped and everybody around us started crying aloud like babies, I couldn’t control myself and I also started crying I then saw everybody standing with ripped suits I asked my father why does everybodies suit have a tear on the front he explained to me what “Kriya” means, this went on for a long time something that I will never forget in my lifetime, most of the hespeidim was hard for me to understand because they where crying more then talking, around us there was constantly calls of “Hatzalah” when many people fainted, that really scared me, seeing volunteers running with oxygen tanks on their shoulders, my father just stood there with his young kids clutching him and crying, until the aron came down the stairs of the shul, I almost got trampled we started walking towards the cemetery and as we were on top of a hill I looked back and saw masses upon masses of black hats walking (until this day I have never seen such a crowd) the walk was endless, people were walking with their heads down and sobbing with red eyes from much crying, we couldn’t get to the cemetery I saw people on trees trying to take a last peek of the Mittah, it was something that I will always remember, when I recount the events of that day to my kids I cry when I tell them what I experienced, I will forever be grateful my father for taking me along that historic day in 1979.

  11. Zy’A. I remember when he was niftar I was a young girl an I heard the news in Florida. There were many elderly people there who were born in Satmar and started reminising about when he was Rav in Hungary.

    He wa clever, sharp and very witty. Someone once told him that he had a Bar Mitzvah and Chasuna on the same night and couldnt decide where to go.
    The Rebbe told him ‘go to whoever is older’.

  12. Thank you so much ffb, very heartfelt.
    My family was zoicheh to host the Rebbe zatzal both in Sighet (Berbesht) and later in Chicago when he came to be with the Vaitzener Ruv zatzal.
    Illini, come to Monroe, come visit his holy tziyon and you will be moved to encourage yidishkeit. There is a seperate womens section as well.
    VC

  13. vc
    is today mens say or ladies day?

    I was thinking of going to the tzyion while on my way to the 25th yurziet of the skulener rebbe zatzal in monsey.