Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Tammuz 5761 - June 27, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
Voyage into Yesteryear --
How Shaarei Zedek Was Established

by Yisca Shimony

Part II

"Zalman," R' Yaakov Leib Levy turned to his son, "when are you going to Italy?"

"We are not yet ready. R' Moshe Yoel Solomon is still extremely busy, but as soon as he is able to settle some of his affairs, we plan to be heading there. The pending inheritance will have to wait a while longer."

"I have a request to make of you. I want you to go to Germany, too. You must ask the people there to help us improve the health conditions in Yerusholayim," sighed R' Leib Levy, the dayan, as he recalled the death of R' Nochum Shadiker. While tending to the many stricken from plague, his brother, the great tzaddik, had succumbed himself to cholera. So many had died! Something had to be done!

R' Zalman agreed to his father's request, but found it necessary to explain. "It won't be so simple. We do not know how long it will take us to complete the procedures of the inheritance. I fear that the harsh European winter will make travel to Germany almost impossible. The roads will be covered with snow. I really don't know if we can undertake this mission." He reflected a moment. "It really depends on how long it will take to clear up the matter of the property. Hopefully, things will work out, however."


In the year 1873, R' Yoel Moshe Solomon and R' Zalman Levy sailed to Livorno, Italy, and with the help of Hashem, successfully completed their mission and headed for Germany before the winter snows settled in. In Wurtzburg, they met Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Bamberger, the head dayan of the city, and asked him to help the Ashkenazi community improve the health conditions of the Holy City.

"We have shortages of everything," they explained. "Doctors, medicines, medical facilities. What we don't lack is sick people," R' Zalman added wryly. "The contaminated water supplies and very crowded living conditions contribute to spread disease. And when plague strikes, the death toll is high, leaving many orphans and widows." R' Zalman sighed. "We live under a terrible feeling of foreboding. There is the missionary hospital, but, of course, no one is willing to accept its services. People are afraid of dying there, amid all the crosses..."

The esteemed Dayan Bamberger listened to the sad description and advised, "Go to Frankfort and enlist the help of Rabbi Shamshon Rafael Hirsch. He knows many academicians, many scientists. He will be able to advise you as to the proper way to achieve your goal."

The two messengers reached Frankfort and met the noted rabbi, R' Shamshon Refael Hirsch. They described the terrible sanitary conditions. "There are two small Jewish hospitals in Yerusholayim, the Bikur Cholim hospital and the Rothschild Hospital (later renamed Hadassah Hospital). They have only a few beds and lack a proper staff of medical men and supplies. These do not meet the pressing needs of a growing population. Something must be done!" insisted R' Yoel Moshe Solomon.

"What you have in mind will require large sums of money. The person to approach is Baron Shimon Wolf Rothschild, a righteous Jew. He is very devoted to the Jews of Yerusholayim and his heart is full of kindness."

The baron suggested they establish a committee to deal with these matters. "It should include noted public figures, askonim, among them Jews of German extract who are already involved in helping the settlement in the Holy City."

The committee was duly established and it included the Baron, Rabbi S. R. Hirsch, the Lehrn family of Holland, R' Asher Stern of Hamburg and Rabbi Meir (Marcus) Lehman, the noted author.

The trip was successful. The committee established was active in improving the health conditions of Yerusholayim. At first, they tried to expand the existing establishments but the members soon realized that this was not feasible.

In 1890, the committee succeeded in enlisting Dr. Moshe Wallach, a young, idealistic doctor, aged 26, to go to Yerusholayim and do whatever he felt needed doing. He began by establishing a clinic in the Armenian section of the Old City. By this time, the population had begun moving to the newer neighborhoods outside the city walls. "I must raise money for a new building. The German Jews will surely help me," he said. Dr. Wallach traveled to Germany and upon his return, was able to acquire a plot of land outside the walls which he registered in his name through the German embassy. [This landmark today sadly houses the Television Authority.]

Dr. Wallach's meticulous adherence to halacha won him the respect and trust of the Jerusalem community. This was coupled with medical skill and connections with the committee, the triple formula for success in his endeavor.


Zissel, a typical mother of a large family, met a neighbor one day and stopped to chat. She remarked, "You know, last week my Leah'le was very ill. She had a high fever that terrified me but I didn't have the money to call a doctor. I tried all of the remedies I had learned from my mother but nothing helped. I have to tell you what happened.

"Desperate, I ran to the shul next door to pray. Luckily, it was empty so I went over to the oron kodesh, opened the door and kissed the scrolls. I cried bitterly to Hashem to save my daughter and called upon my deceased parents to intercede for her. I promised to donate some olive oil to light the lamps in honor of Shabbos.

"Who should come in just then but the shammos, who overheard my cries. He said, `Why don't you take your daughter to Dr. Wallach's new hospital? He'll treat her capably and won't charge you a grush.'

"I did just that and with Hashem's help, Leah recovered very quickly." Zissel sighed with relief at the mere memory. "Not only did the good doctor treat her free of charge, he even gave her the medicines and provided her with nourishing food. May Hashem bless him and pay him for his kindness!"

Dina nodded knowingly. "He's a good man, Dr. Wallach. I hear that he has acquired a lot near Meah Shearim."

"What for?"

"It's for housing. To ease the congestion and improve our living conditions. A real tzaddik, that man is!"

The property which he purchased eventually boasted twenty housing units and was called Chatzer Shtraus, after its donor; it was a famous complex that accommodated such world- famous figures as R' Itzele Blazer and R' Naftoli Amsterdam zt'l, among others.


One day, Dr. Wallach turned to his secretary, R' Porush, and said, "I notice that the patients who have been coming lately to the clinic are very undernourished. Is there any particular reason for this?"

R' Porush replied, "Yes. The price of food has shot up because of the drought and the Arabs are determined to keep it high. They have a monopoly over the supplies."

Dr. Wallach despatched an urgent message to the committee in Germany and before long, a shipload of food arrived at Jaffa port. Its contents were distributed free of charge to both Jews and Arabs. He then undertook to plant the field behind Shaarei Zedek hospital with wheat for Pesach matzos. At the same time, he purchased several cows to supply milk to the starving people.

When the cows were being delivered to the hospital, one of them gave birth to a calf. The Arab seller swore that this was a first born, which made it a sofek petter rechem (Arabs tended to exaggerate or fabricate), rendering it holy. The calf grew wild and caused much damage, but could not be restrained. Eventually it died, to everyone's relief...

Dr. Wallach's exceptional success was attributed to his excessive yiras shomayim and great respect for the Jerusalem sages, whom he consulted for every little thing and whose rulings he followed to the letter.

It was his righteousness that established the Gates of Righteousness (Shaarei Zedek).


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