It protrudes incongruously among the matzeivos in
the Chelkas HaRabbonim on Har Hazeisim: a
tombstone with a phenomenal inscription.
"At the age of eight he started to learn and to teach.
He sanctified all his days for Torah, avodoh,
fasting and self-affliction. His mouth never stopped
speaking Torah day or night."
Let us discover the identity of the holy personage
buried under these lofty descriptions.
R' Nochum's original surname was Luria. However, afraid
that people would spell the name with a "yud" and
"hei" at the end instead of an alef,
thereby incurring a desecration of Hashem's name, the
family changed it to Levi. Their new name too, they
were careful to spell with an "ayin" in the
middle so that later generations should not assume
themselves to be Levites.
Thus his very identity began with chumros, the
like of which would not occur to many other people.
Reb Nochum learned under the Chemdas Shlomo, rov of
Warsaw, who was also his relative.
When a delegation arrived in Warsaw from the town of
Shadik asking that he serve as their rov, Reb Nochum
first and foremost inquired if there was a daily
minyan that davened at sunrise. He had just
recently taken upon himself to pray with the netz
daily and saw this as a test: If there was no
vosikin minyan in Shadik, than he would prefer to
refuse the position with its accompanying livelihood
and remain anonymous in Warsaw. The delegation duly
assured Rabbenu that there was a netz minyan, and
consequently he packed his meager belongings to
relocate to Shadik.
Reb Nochum Shadiker is named after the town he led, but
the town prided itself on being Reb Nochum's place of
residence — for without their great rov, who would
ever have heard about the tiny town of Shadik at all,
let alone its having a famous place in the pages of
There was another reason that lay behind Reb Nochum's
move to Shadik. He had a burning desire to fulfill the
mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisroel, despite the
tremendous hardships he knew it entailed. But physical
hurdles and difficulties were not what prevented Reb
Nochum from realizing his wish. In his typically self-
deprecating way, he felt that he had surely not
attained the spiritual level of sanctity required to
live in the palace of the King and be mekabel pnei
haShechinah in Yerushalayim.
He therefore decided to cut himself off from the bustle
of the big city life in Warsaw and make his home in the
quiet of Shadik where he could work upon himself to
achieve loftier heights in sanctity and fear of Hashem.
He began as his father had before him: to fast from
Shabbos to Shabbos. Contrary to the natural results of
such deprivation, he never appeared weak or fatigued,
but was always alert and fully awake for every dovor
shebikedushah. His appearance was that of one who
had just eaten and is satisfied.
Despite his holy custom to which he would adhere
steadfastly, if a guest came to his house, the fast was
put on hold. Rabbenu would sit down with his guest at
the table and eat in his company, thereby assuring
there was no ill feeling and that his visitor would not
be embarrassed to eat while the rov fasted.
Gedolim of his generation said of him that Reb
Nochum truly portrayed the depth of what Chazal meant
when they said that hachnosas orchim is greater
than greeting the Shechinah. The madreigoh
of Reb Nochum in this mitzvah was unique in that he
could forgo his holy customs and practices which
afforded him a closeness with the Shechinah, for
the sake of his guests.
"True hachnosas orchim," they claimed, "is not
found by the great philanthropists and famous guest
houses, but in the home of R' Nochum Shadiker."
In the periodical Halevonon that was circulated
during those times, a writer revealed (Year 2, Vol. 23)
that even after his daily or weekly fast, before Reb
Nochum would sit down to eat, he would invite a poor
man to join his meal and be the first to eat. In the
event that no one would turn up at his door, the rov
would run around searching for an oni, refusing
to eat until he had found one to partake of his meal
and take the first bite. Only then would he break his
"Furthermore," notes the writer in Halevonon,
"Rabbeinu's value is equal to that of 600,000 of
It is worth noting that these words were written at a
time when people were not so liberal with their words,
and titles were weighed and measured before being put
It is told that R' Nochum was coming to the end of
almost a week's fasting when he felt a weak sensation
during learning and could not grasp the Tosafos
at the depth to which he was accustomed. Immediately he
broke his fast and, after having revived his waning
strength a little, returned directly to his studies.
Upon being asked the reason for his behavior, R' Nochum
replied, "All the madreigos in the world are
worthless if because of them I cannot understand the
words of the Tosafos properly. I'd rather cancel
my week's taanis even on the last day so that I
can learn as I should."
When he finally arrived in Eretz Yisroel, R'
Nochum settled in Yerushalayim, where he was osek
beTorah together with his elder brother R' Osher
Lemil zt"l, who later became Rosh Av Beis
Together their daily or rather nightly schedule was as
follows: For two hours of the night they would sleep
and the rest of the time was spent learning the
esoteric Kabbalistic secrets of the Torah with the
great mekubalim of Yerushalayim.
During the day, they learned Toras Haniglah and
taught their many talmidim.
Their minimizing sleep was due to a dream that R'
Nochum had the night before entering Yerushalayim in
which he was exhorted, "Lazy one — for how long will
you lie down!"
Following this he decided that he was duty-bound to
forgo his sleep entirely. On reconsidering, he recalled
the mitzvah of Venishmartem me'od lenafshoseichem
and so a compromise was reached. Two hours a night of
sleep would suffice for the body to survive and the
remainder would be sacrosanct for Torah and
His holy kever on Har Hazeisim has become a focal
point for prayers and supplications, and many are known
to have been helped apparently through his heavenly
Until recently, his descendants would make their way to
the tziyun on the day of the yahrtzeit. "On
one such occasion," recounts a descendant, "we noticed
a certain rov who was not a regular. Upon asking him
what brought him here to the grave of R' Nochum, the
man told his story. He had been married many years and
had not yet been blessed with children, when a friend
advised him to daven at the grave of R' Nochum
Shadiker. The Rov did so and, having completed his
heartfelt tefillos, he pledged to print and
publish some of the chidushei Torah of R'
Nochum. He fulfilled his vow and a year later was
blessed with a child. "I have come to bring R' Nochum
his sefer Sheilos Uteshuvos Avnei Kodesh," said
the man with joyous tears, "and to thank and praise
Hashem at this spot!"