Each of the Admorei Belz in succession not only served as
rebbe to their own chassidim, but also as chief rov
of the large, bustling city of Belz.
Many of the local minhagim were kept according to the
psak of its greatest posek, Rabbon shel
Yisroel, the Bach (Reb Yoel Sirkish).
"Once I had been learning late into the night with my
father, Reb Shiele, zt"l. Upon leaving his room, I
was startled to see a prostrate figure lying across the
floor. The man had fallen in a faint and was cold to the
touch. We worked frantically to revive him and finally,
after a few long minutes, he came around. Weakly he told us
that he had been learning in the city's main shul,
when he sensed all the benches and tables in the hall
starting to vibrate. As the trembling grew increasingly
violent, the lone masmid was terror-stricken. He
rushed towards the Rebbe, Reb Shiele's room to warn him of
the danger, but just as he reached the door, he
"Upon hearing the story, the Rebbe's action was not one of
shock and surprise. He just sighed and commented, `It seems
that in the World of Truth they still have no rest because
they insulted the Rov.'"
Reb Yissochor Dov went on to explain his father's words: "In
Belz, in the days of the Bach, there were some people who
did not accord the Bach sufficient respect. Furthermore,
they even slighted his honor and although so many years have
gone by, the severity of their sin against the Bach was so
great that they have not yet been given rest in Olam
Reb Yissochor Dov was known to have been steeped in his
Torah learning and avodas Hashem from his early
As a boy, his singsong tune would ring out in the stillness
of the night from the tiny roof top room where he hid so
that he could learn undisturbed.
After his wedding, he stayed with his grandfather, Reb
Mordechai of Tchernobyl. The latter once mentioned that the
boy's father had asked him to make sure to be mekarev
his grandson. "However, how much can I do if you're busy all
day learning Torah and I don't have time to be
There in Tchernobyl he lived a life of Torah and
avodoh and wrote down his chiddushim.
When he went home to be married, he wished to take all his
writings to his father, who would go over them. To his
consternation, his papers had disappeared. In truth, the
Tchernobylers had confiscated them on the grounds that he
was wrong to disrespect the minhagim in Tchernobyl
and instead clung steadfastly to minhagei haBach as
in his hometown Belz.
Seeing his sorrow, his father, R' Shiele, reassured him.
"Don't worry. It's written, `Zeh sefer toldos Odom.'
To replace this sefer of your writing, you will merit
to have a son who will illuminate the world with his
Upon his return to Tchernobyl, the chassidim there
were prepared to return his writings on condition he share a
lechayim with them.
Reb Yissochor Dov, however, refused, insisting that he did
not want to forgo the brochoh he had received from
his father in exchange for the loss of his work.
Indeed, his reward came with the birth of his son, Reb Aaron
of Belz, zy"a.
When the idea of integrating secular studies into Jewish
learning programs began circulating in Galicia, the Rebbe
wrote a sharp letter in which he warned that this would not
only weaken the limud Torah of those who excelled,
but would also damage the weaker talmidim, ultimately
leading them away from the derech haTorah, l"a.
One of the residents of Belz was offered a job as teacher of
limudei chol in one of the chadorim that had
taken up the idea, but he had to get the approval of the rov
of his town. Knowing that under ordinary circumstances the
Rebbe would never give him permission, let alone a
hamlotzoh, the man took his son-in-law, who was a
distinguished person, in to the Rebbe together with him.
At first the Rebbe welcomed them and offered them some
Since it was Friday, the two came to the point quickly and
presented their request. The Rebbe pushed them off and
instructed them to return on motzei Shabbos.
"I have a question," said R' Yissochor Dov, when the two
entered. "We say every day in the Shemoneh Esrei: `We
thank you Hashem, for Your wonders that are all the time
— evening, morning, and afternoon.' Why do we use a
double expression? If we said `all the time,' why do we have
to enumerate evening, morning, and afternoon?"
The brazen man, at a loss for an answer, asked, "And does
the Rebbe himself know the answer?"
"Despite the fact that you are an az ponim, I will
explain the meaning of the sentence to you. However, I
cannot give an approbation to someone who spoke to me with
He then went on to explain: for the nissim that
Hashem does for us at all times we thank Him three times a
day, in shacharis, mincha and ma'ariv.
Thus, the Rebbe managed to save face yet not write his
consent to an issue that he had so vehemently opposed.
In the realm of halacha, the chumros of
Rabbeinu were well known.
Once on an erev Shabbos, the Rebbe switched on the
electric light and then turned it off again. He explained
that he had not the opportunity to do a melochoh the
whole week and therefore quickly did a deed that would
differentiate between Shabbos and the weekday.
Reb Yissochor Dov was extremely particular in keeping the
holiness of chol hamoed. Even if someone had to do
business during these days or else incur a loss, the Rebbe
insisted that he go to work with his full Shabbos attire.
This stringency once proved crucial. A chossid whose
business was renting property from the gentiles and
subletting them to tenants had a heter to work on
chol hamoed Pesach. Following the Rebbe's
instructions, he donned his streimel and caftan
before going to the poritz's house. These he took off
in the hallway and then sat down to business. For several
hours they sat, engrossed in transactions, accounts, deeds
and profits. When they had finished, the goy offered
his Jewish client some liquor as he would often do after
completing difficult accounts. Having plunged so deeply into
the business world, the Yid forgot momentarily that it was
Pesach, and went to fetch his hat so that he could make a
brochoh on the drink. Only when he saw his
streimel lying on the table did the Yid
remember, with shock and gratitude, that it was chol
hamoed Pesach and liquor is chometz.
The Rebbe had a tremendous love for every Jew. He would
often say, "It's better to be like the people of the large
town of Cracow than those of the humble townlets. The former
are proud and hold themselves in high esteem, but also think
and behave likewise to their peers. The humble villager
thinks nothing of himself, but neither does he accord anyone
In the same vein, the Berzhaner Rov (Maharsham MiBerzhan)
writes in his haskomoh to the sefer Mayim
Rabim, that his father R' Shiele Belzer would say: "If
you want to perceive whether a person has true humility, see
how he behaves towards his fellow Jew. If he is humble but
holds other people in high regard, then his anovoh
comes from a holy source. However, if a person has a low
self- esteem and drags all his fellow Jews down with him,
this is no humility, but is posul completely.