In the aftermath of the First World War many Jews found
themselves displaced, disoriented and far away from
home. R' Yitzchok Yaakov, then a boy of twelve, managed
to return to Munkacz with his parents, where he did not
allow the war and its aftereffects to affect his
learning. He sought out his corner in the beis
medrash and there he sat, studying, learning, and
reviewing, until he distinguished himself even among
the great talmidei chachomim of Munkacz.
However, his hasmodoh was detrimental to his
general health and his body became weak due to constant
fatigue. Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov was forced to lower the
intensity of his learning and rest many more hours.
Brokenhearted, the bochur went to R' Yissochor
Dov of Belz, who was in Munkacz and explained his
"A body that learns so much Torah must be well-looked-
after," remarked the holy Belzer Rov. He then gave him
a few instructions on how to learn with his previous
diligence at no risk to his health.
R' Yitzchok Yaakov indeed recovered. His newly-regained
health, however, posed a new problem. He was now of age
to be drafted into the army. With army service, his
most formative years as a yeshiva student would be
Once again R' Yitzchok Yaakov made his way to the
Belzer Rebbe. This time R' Yissochor Dov quoted from
the mishna in Ovos, "`One who takes upon
himself the yoke of Torah, the burden of the government
and derech eretz are removed from him.' This is
your surest relief from army duty." He then advised Rav
Weiss to leave the town for a while, and "they'll
forget about you."
Heeding the Rebbe's advice, Rabbeinu left for the small
town of Halmin and, to his parents' wonder, they
received no draft notice — as though his existence had
Rav Yitzchok Yaakov's immense diligence was surpassed
only by his talented and sharp mind. Already then, as a
young boy, he wrote long chapters of profound
pilpul. He authored a booklet explaining all the
words of R' Shimon in the Shas, all according to
his own principle of learning.
Upon seeing this, the famous Gaon, the Maharshag — who
had tested Rabbeinu and given him semichoh at a
young age — admonished R' Yitzchok Yaakov:
"Your tachlis is not to delve into the
pilpulim of Shas. Rather, invest your
talent and strength into learning halochoh and
Having heard this, R' Yitzchok Yaakov plunged into the
world of halochoh, eventually to become Rov of
Following his marriage to the daughter of Rav Pinchos
Zimetbaum zt"l, rov of Grosvardein, Rav Yitzchok
Yaakov was appointed dayan in that town, a
position he held until World War Two.
Some of his teshuvos in halochoh were
printed before the war.
The Nazi invasion of Europe brought terrible suffering
for Rabbi Weiss and his fellow Jews in Grosvardein. At
the end of his sefer Sheilos Uteshuvos Minchas
Yitzchok, Vol. I, in an epilogue entitled
"Pirsumei Niso", Rav Weiss recounts some of the
miraculous escapes he encountered:
Crossing the border from one country to the next was
always a danger. Once on an erev Shabbos,
arrangements had been made to cross the border as soon
as Shabbos was over. However, the woman who had taken
Rav Weiss and his family into her house (for a fee, of
course) was not keen on keeping them an extra day.
Friday night she informed the group of Jews that their
smuggler guide would take them that night. As they were
eating a hurried seudas Shabbos, their guide
arrived. Their escape being a case of pikuach nefesh
docheh Shabbos, they had no choice but to go. After
traversing mountains and valleys, they were finally
near the border.
"Halt!" the sound made them freeze in their tracks. The
border guards closed in, machine guns drawn.
Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov began to plead with the guards.
Offering them all their worldly possessions (which they
would have taken anyway) he begged that their lives be
spared. To his amazement and relief, the guard relented
and they crossed the border with no further mishap.
From then until they were finally able to breathe
freely was still a long, arduous journey fraught with
danger. At one point, the group had to scale an almost
vertical mountain. As Rav Weiss recounts, the climb was
becoming increasingly difficult. He toyed with the idea
of looking down the vertical drop of hundreds of feet,
and letting go of the grip he had on the rocks above
his head. It would be so much easier. Suddenly, a long
stick stretched out towards his head and, at the very
last moment, the guide pulled him over the last ridge
Upon arrival at Arad, Rav Weiss found a letter waiting
for him. It told of three boats from Bucharest to
transport refugees to Palestine. "I've booked places
for you and the family," continued the letter. "Make
sure to be here."
That was no simple feat. The war was not yet over and
the Germans were still hunting down Jews to send to
Disguised as gentiles, the group of now thirty bribed
an officer to give them a ride in his army truck.
Several times guards at the border crossings attempted
to stop them, but the driver pretended not to hear
their orders and careened straight on. Their joy after
those narrow escapes was short- lived, when the truck
broke down. Several precious days slipped way while a
new part for the truck was brought.
When they finally arrived, exhausted, in Bucharest, Rav
Weiss's relative told them the bitter news. They had
missed their boats and he, not wanting to leave without
them, had also stayed behind, giving up his place to
another lucky Jew.
The group with Rav Weiss at its head, tried to comfort
themselves, assuring one another that one must have
bitochon to believe that whatever Hashem does is
for the best, and surely He would not forsake them. It
was only several days later that they saw the truth in
their words. All three boats had been sunk by the
enemy, with no survivors. Their gratitude to Hashem was
boundless, as they sang the words of Hallel: "Odecho
ki anisoni — I thank You for afflicting me for You
became my salvation." The affliction itself was
ultimately to save their lives.
There in Bucharest tragedy struck again as Rav Weiss's
young Rebbetzin passed away, leaving him alone with his
only son. Rabbenu, however, continued learning and
teaching Torah and paskening sheilos for the
Particularly during war time, when people were living
crowded together in ghettos and bunkers and nerves were
raw, many arguments and quarrels arose. In his calm and
noble manner, Rav Weiss always managed to restore peace
and tranquility among all those who came to him.
At the time when Rav Yitzchok Yaakov became rov in
Grosvardein, the Ahavas Yisroel was living in the same
town. The latter blessed Rav Weiss that "his days of
kingship should be lengthy." This was fulfilled in
After the war, Rav Weiss was rov in Manchester,
England, for about twenty-two years. Subsequently, he
came to Eretz Yisroel, where he served first as
dayan and then Rosh Beis Din. He then rose
to be Rov of all Yerushalayim, a position from which he
paskened sheilos that were referred to him from
all over the Jewish world. These were printed in the 10
volumes of Sheilos Uteshuvos Minchas Yitzchok,
one of the most basic seforim of halachos
and sheilos pertaining to our generation.