By Hershel Rosenbluh for Anash.org
The following is part II of the account of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s trip to Eretz Yisroel, 90 years ago this week. For part I click here.
On Sunday, The fifth of Av, the yahrtzeit of the Arizal, the Frierdiker Rebbe visited Tzfas, where the AriZal and his contemporaries are buried.
Shabbos Daled Av was spent in Yerushalayim at the Hotel Amdursky on Ben-Yehudah Street, where hundreds of people joined the Frierdiker Rebbe for Davening and the seudos. Shabbos day towards evening hundreds more came to hear the ma’amar. The hotel roof was prepared for the occasion before Shabbos, and was packed with people. At 6:00 pm the Rebbe began to say the ma’amar ד”ה ציון במשפט תפדה for approximately two hours. The local press reported that hundreds more gathered outside for lack of space.
Among the people who came to hear the ma’amar was Rav Aron Roth, author of the sefer Shomrei Emunim, whose talmidim later formed the Toldos Aron Chassidus. After maariv he joined the Frierdiker Rebbe for a while in his room. Later that night, Chief Rabbi Rav Kook came to visit as well.
At 10:45 am Sunday morning the Frierdiker Rebbe went to visit his relative, the elderly Rebbe, Reb Nuchem’tshe (Menachem Nochum) of Rachmistrivka, grandson of the Rebbe, Reb Mordechai of Chernobyl, who was the Frierdiker Rebbe’s elter zeide. He had lived in Nikolayev for a while and had been in close contact with the Frierdiker Rebbe’s shluchim then. He had moved to Yerushalayim some years earlier. The Frierdiker Rebbe never showed his back to Reb Nuchem’tshe throughout the visit, including when he left the house, all the way to the waiting car. The Frierdiker Rebbe later mentioned to the mashpia Reb Alter Simchovitch that “there’s a yid like Reb Nuchem’tshe in Yerushalayim and people don’t go to him. It’s an avlah (wrong)”.
On Sunday at around 12:00 noon, the entourage, which included some 15 people, left for Tzfas. Two hours later they stopped in Schechem to fix a tire. At three o’clock they arrived at Afulah, where the rov of Tel-Aviv, Rav Shlomo Aronson, who was descended from Chabad Chassidim and was staying in Haifa for health reasons, had come down to greet the Rebbe. At that time it was decided for the two to meet again in Yerushalayim or Tel-Aviv and work together for the sake of Russian Jewry.
At 5:30 pm they arrived in Tzfas. A quick reception had been set up for the distinguished guests. The community had only found out about the visit a short while earlier when a phone call was made from Tverya when the procession passed that city. In attendance were the rov, Rav Avrohom Leib Zilberman and others. As soon as they arrived they prepared for Mincha, so that they could be at the kever of the holy AriZal before sunset – which was around 6:30 pm that day. The Rebbe arrived at the cemetery at 6:15.
Some 200 local yidden were waiting there. The Rebbe said a short tefillah at the AriZal’s resting place from a siddur, then stood there silently, only a silent cry could be heard. He read the pidyonos that he brought along and circled the three kevorim of the AriZal, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz (the “Lecho Dodi”) and the RaMaK (Rav Moshe Cordovero), who are interred next to each other. The Frierdiker Rebbe then approached the kever of the Beis Yosef, Rav Yosef Karro. He then went to the cave of the Alshich and spent some time alone there.
By the time the Frierdiker Rebbe was ready to leave the cemetery, it was dark outside. The way back to the city is up a very tall hill. Reb Shimon Glitzenshtein, in his diary of the visit, writes how the Rebbe walked up the hill with above human strength. A chair was brought for the Frierdiker Rebbe to sit on, after which he remarked: “On the first visit to the holy places one gets excited and the physical world disappears completely.” At the gates of the cemetery, a delegation of Sefardic Rabbonim waited for the Rebbe.
At 8:30 pm the Frierdiker Rebbe arrived at the Mayberg Family Hotel – today the building houses the Mechon Alta. After a short break that included Maariv and a meeting with local officials, the Rebbe entered the large hall, where some 500 people – including many on the street outside- were anxiously waiting to greet him. After greeting each one and bentching them, the Rebbe went out to the terrace and asked for a pen and paper. He then sat and wrote until 11:00 pm, when he began to retire for the night. Other than Rashag and Reb Alter Simchovitch, all other members of the entourage went to stay with family and friends in Tzfas.
At 4:30 am the Frierdiker Rebbe was on the road again, this time to Meron, the resting place of the Rashbi.