Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

22 Adar 5759 - March 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







A Simchas Sefer Torah For a Rescued Torah Scroll From Skulen, Europe

In an unusual simcha, a sefer Torah was returned to its rightful owners after 50 years in the possession of a non-Jewish woman. The scroll, rescued from the Skulener beis medrash during the Holocaust, was finally returned to Beis Skulen.

One of the Torah scrolls in the beis medrash of the Skulener Rebbe, ztvk"l, in Europe was exceptionally small. Perhaps it was the sefer's tiny size that helped it escape the eyes of the rapacious Germans. In those dark days, it came into the possession of a non-Jewish woman, and there it stayed for fifty years.

Just a few years ago, a Jewish woman happened to redeem it, and brought it home with her to Australia. There, the sefer was bought by Rabbi Michel Meir Goldhirsch, an esteemed member of the local community. Rabbi Goldhirsch set himself the challenge of returning the sefer Torah to its former condition so that it could once again be read in shul in accordance with halacha. It was a very expensive undertaking, but he succeeded in restoring the sefer.

Rather than using the sefer himself, Rabbi Goldhirsch decided to return the Torah scroll to its original owners: the Skulener chassidim. Himself a Lubavitcher chossid, Rabbi Goldhirsch chose to honor the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson of Chabad, a"h, by giving the sefer Torah to the Skulener beis medrash in the Chessed L'Avraham institutions in Bnei Brak on the Rebbetzin's yahrtzeit.

Rabbi Goldhirsch made the two-day trip from Australia to bring the sefer Torah himself to Eretz Yisroel. When word spread about the unusual gift, the simcha swept up the masses. Jews were overjoyed that the sefer Torah rescued from the Holocaust was now returned to its rightful place.

The festive procession to the beis medrash accompanied by brightly-lit torches was led by the students of the Chessed L'Avraham boarding school in Bnei Brak and those of the Chessed L'Avraham afternoon talmudei Torah. All along the route, people enthusiastically joined the simcha. Everybody begged for the zechus of holding the rescued sefer Torah. Rabbi Goldhirsch joyfully shared his simcha with every Jew, granting the special merit to everyone who asked.

In the words of one of those unaffiliated with Skulen who was dancing at the simchas sefer Torah: "How can I not dance at klal Yisroel's simchas haTorah, at the return of the crown to its former glory?"

The sefer Torah entered the beis medrash, accompanied by lively dancing, with Rabbi Goldhirsch having the honor of the recital of LeDovid Mizmor. Afterwards, hakofos were held according to the custom of Beis Ruzhin. HaRav Stern, son-in-law of the Skulener Rebbe, shlita, the Rebbe's son, and HaRav Tzaler were honored with the hakofos.

At the seudas mitzva, words of true joy and happiness rang out, along with words of praise for Chessed L'Avraham and the holy court of Skulen. All present listened attentively to the blessing of the Skulener Rebbe, whose letter was read aloud by HaRav Tzaler. The Rebbe expressed his sadness that his weak condition prevented him from personally participating in the simcha as he would have liked. He extended his blessings to Rabbi Goldhirsch and to all those participating in the simcha.

HaRav Moshe Yehuda Landau, rav and av beis din of Bnei Brak, spoke of the great zechus merited by Chessed L'Avraham: a sefer Torah that had disappeared and had been given up for lost had now returned to illuminate their beis medrash! He described the beauty of the sefer Torah, which would be the foundation for raising Jewish children. When Jewish children observe how Yidden invest so great an effort to rescue and return a Torah scroll to its original source, he said, they learn a lesson they will never forget. They see firsthand the love Torah scholars have for Torah, and how holy it is in their eyes.

HaRav Eliezer Dovid Friedman, rosh yeshivas Bohush and former rav of Melbourne, Australia, told the assemblage of Rabbi Goldhirsch's extraordinary hachnosas orchim and Chassidus. In the zechus of those special mitzvos, said HaRav Friedman, Rabbi Goldhirsch had merited the special mitzva of redeeming a sefer Torah.

The mayor of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Mordechai Karelitz, praised the Chessed L'Avraham Institutions, which stand as symbols of both physical and spiritual chessed, even in a city full of chessed, chachomim, and sofrim.

Knesset member Rabbi Shmuel Halpert, a student of the Skulener Rebbe while the Rebbe was persecuted and imprisoned in Romania, described the Rebbe's mesiras nefesh for the sake of every single Jewish soul, both physically and spiritually.

Rav Shmuel Stefansky, one of the heads of the Chessed L'Avraham Institutions in the United States, brought with him the blessings of the administrators there. He expressed hope that the school's children grow up in accordance with the main factor that bridges Skulen of long ago with the Skulen of today and the Skulen of tomorrow: Torah.

HaRav Tzvi Segal, a close friend of Rabbi Goldhirsch, lauded the man who merited redeeming the sefer Torah from the hands of strangers, returning that precious treasure to a place of prayer and study. Heaven had arranged that a meritorious man such as Rabbi Goldhirsch had been presented with the opportunity for so great and rare a zechus.

Rabbi Goldhirsch then took the stand, and with great emotion, related the sefer Torah's fascinating tale. He described how he had managed to rescue the sefer from being lost forever in the hands of non-Jews. He expressed his great admiration for what he had seen of the Chessed L'Avraham boarding school: young boys, olim from persecuted countries, learning and reviewing their Torah lessons, their pure countenances radiating yiras Shomayim.

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