His cherished acquisition — the privilege of living in
Eretz Yisroel — was gained by Reb Yosef Chaim
with great travail in true fulfillment of the
mishna in Ovos: "Eretz Yisroel nikneis
He suffered unusual trials (eight of his children were
niftar during his lifetime) yet accepted them
with fortitude and love of Hashem.
Upon being told that the mekubal Rabbi Naftali
Hertz, zt"l of Yaffo once said that for the sake
of fulfilling the mitzvah of living in Eretz
Yisroel he was prepared to go begging from door to
door to earn his livelihood, Reb Yosef Chaim remarked,
"I would be ready to suffer much worse for the sake of
this exalted mitzvah," as indeed he did.
When the Gaon, the rov of Teplik zt"l came to
Eretz Yisroel he found the conditions extremely
harsh. With no one to turn to, he came to Reb Yosef
Chaim. As talmidei chachomim are wont to do, they
immediately began talking in learning, but behind the
shmuess, Reb Yosef Chaim's finely honed
sensitivity sensed the Rov's distress. He led the
conversation to his earlier days when R' Yosef Chaim
himself had been a newcomer to Eretz Yisroel.
At length he described how difficult it was, how his
wife was terribly unhappy, how their first three nights
in Yerushalayim were spent sleeping in an open yard
until they found a small, dingy basement to call home;
how he knew nobody and no one knew him; the misery of
being an isolated family far from anything familiar. He
then continued, that slowly over the time they began
feeling more comfortable as Yerushalayim became their
home and its residents their neighbors and
acquaintances, teachers and pupils. "For you too, Rov
of Teplik," concluded R' Yosef Chaim comfortingly, "the
beginning is harsh, but with the time it will become
Later the Rav of Teplik would say, "R' Yosef Chaim saw
into the recesses of my thoughts and feelings and saved
me with his comforting words. I walked out of his home
a different person." Indeed a short while later he
became widely acclaimed as one of the gedolei
The dignity with which Reb Yosef Chaim bore his trouble
When his son HaRav Yaakov Meir zt"l passed away
on an erev Shabbos, Rabbeinu kept the tragic news
from his family throughout Shabbos so as not to cause
mourning on the holy day. With superhuman strength, he
went to shul and led the seudas as usual.
Only after ma'ariv on motzei Shabbos did R'
Yosef Chaim allow his facade to drop and he fell in a
Throughout the levaya Reb Yosef Chaim, by then an
elderly rov, insisted on standing, despite the requests
of the Chevra Kadisha that he rest a little. He
stayed standing until after the kevurah, and then
explained, 'I have just sacrificed a korbon to
Hashem. In Hilchos Korbonos we know that the one
who brings the korbon must stand throughout the
During the levaya, a particularly antagonistic
Zionist leader with whom R' Yosef Chaim had fought
bitterly, arrogantly faced the venerable Rav. "You
see," he sneered, "Hashem is punishing you for opposing
The mourning crowd was ready to pounce on the wicked
fellow and attack him.
"You're right," replied R' Yosef Chaim calmly, to the
surprise of everyone. "HaKodosh Boruch Hu is
punishing me because of my battle against you," then
adding, "because I haven't fought enough! I hereby take
upon myself to rally all the strength I have and to
fight you until Zionism has no power in Jerusalem."
R' Yosef Chaim fought secular Zionism with all the
strength and resources he could muster, "What do they
think?" he would say. "We were exiled from our land due
to our sins — to which the antidote is surely
teshuva and ma'asim tovim. Without these we
have absolutely no right with which to return to
He would further explain the folly of Zionist policy
with an enlightening moshol.
An experienced matchmaker had just successfully
completed a match between two affluent families. Both
sides were delighted with the shidduch and came
to pay the shadchan. However, the latter refused
the sum they offered. Even as they raised the amount,
he continued resolutely to refuse. Finally, they asked
him what he wanted in payment.
"Instead of shadchonus money," replied the
foolish man, "I'd like to have the kallah herself
as a reward!"
"This is exactly what the Zionists are doing,"
explained R' Yosef Chaim. "They come to Eretz
Yisroel, begin to build it up and do beautiful work
here, but then in exchange they want to take away the
Kallah, the Torah itself. Such a policy can have
One of Rabbeinu's strategic tactics against the
Zionists was to encourage as many Torah-observant Jews
as he could to settle in Eretz Yisroel so that
perhaps in the end by their sheer numbers they would
persevere. To this end he would support them morally
and financially — anything to keep another chareidi
Jew in Eretz Hakodesh.
Of late, an amazing tale came to light, of how Reb
Yosef Chaim, with his love of Eretz Yisroel and
advice to a Jew, helped a whole family to escape
annihilation at the hands of the Nazis.
The Zionists were spreading vile false rumors
concerning the Yidden of Yerushalayim. Confused,
Rabbeinu Yaakov Rosenheim zt"l decided to send an
emissary to personally appraise the situation and give
him a full report.
The shaliach, R' Chaim Noach Kruskal of
Frankfurt, set out for Yerushalayim. Upon his arrival
there, he contacted R' Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld and
stayed with the Rov a short while. So impressed and
overcome was he with the spiritual quality of life in
the Holy City that he prepared a glowing report to be
sent to Rabbeinu Yaakov Rosenheim. In addition, he
included a letter to his parents back in Frankfurt,
informing them of his decision to remain in the Holy
Land under the wing of R' Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld.
In Frankfurt, the Kruskals were taken aback by their
son's step. Furthermore, they disagreed with his
decision, fearing that a boy on his own so far away
could easily be drawn into the clutches of the secular
forces prevalent. Together, they crossed the ocean to
fetch their son and escort him home.
They were unprepared for the magnetic pull of Reb Yosef
Chaim who tried stubbornly to convince the parents also
to leave European shores forever and settle here in
However, R' Yehuda Leib Kruskal's mind was made up and
nothing would keep him from returning to Frankfurt.
Seeing his case was lost, R' Yosef Chaim gave the
family his brochoh, but as a last resort begged
the father to at least buy burial plots in the holy
soil. "In this zchus, you'll merit to have your
final resting place in the Holy Land and you'll be
saved from tragedy," were R' Yosef Chaim's parting
R' Yehuda Leib Kruskal bought three burial plots, one
in his name, one his wife's and the third in the name
of his son. Since Eretz Yisroel was at the time
under British rule, the official documents were sent to
London for safekeeping with relatives of the family.
September 1939 brought with it the devastating
hurricane of World War II.
Being British citizens in Frankfurt, Family Kruskal
were interned in the Vitelle camp in France together
with other British and American Jews. As is now known,
there were various prisoner exchanges between the
Germans and the Allies. The Kruskal family, together
with their fellow prisoners, were transported to Bergen
Belsen, where they were made to wait while the
painfully slow negotiations between the Nazis and the
Allied Armies were carried out.
Those who had visas to Palestine or America had an
infinitely better chance of being chosen in an
One day, R' Chaim Noach was summoned to the Red Cross
office. There, he was informed that since he has no
visa to Palestine, he and his family were being deleted
from the list of those to be exchanged. R' Chaim's
knees weakened. Deletion from the list meant certain
transportation to Auschwitz and sure death al
Kiddush Hashem. Suddenly, the brocho of R'
Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld ran in his ears, " . . . and you
will be saved from tragedy."
With a flash of inspiration, he began to explain to the
officer that their records were mistaken.
"We are citizens of Palestine, which is under British
rule," he claimed.
"Without documents to prove your claim, I can do
nothing for you," answered the man coldly.
It was then that R' Chaim Noach recalled the purchase
of the burial plots his father had made all those years
"Listen," he told the officer confidently. "At my
relative, Mr. so and so of London, on this and this
street, are the documents verifying my possession of
land in Palestine. This is proof enough that I am a
citizen and landowner of that country."
Notorious for being meticulous and methodical, the
Germans indeed checked out the details. When they were
verified, R' Chaim Noach was returned to the list of
prisoners set up for exchange. Eventually he was
included in a prisoner swap and was thereby saved from