Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Kislev 5761 - December 13, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Rebbetzin Libbe Leifer a"h of Nadvorner-Tzfas.
by Leah Mindel

My mother-in-law, the Rebbetzin a"h, was born in 1916. Her parents were HaRav Zev Wolf Tirnauer zt"l of Shotz, Romania, and Rebbetzin Hentshe a"h, daughter of Rav Moshe Chaim Deitsch zt"l. She grew up in a home steeped in ahavas haTorah, meticulous shemiras hamitzvos and gemilus chassodim.

She was very close to her great father from whom she learned most of her Torah and general knowledge. From her mother she learned midos tovos and home management, both on a very high standard; her tznius and strict observance of minhagim befitted a true bas melech.

In her hometown, there was no Bais Yaakov and Jewish children were obliged to attend the government schools. All her expert knowledge in Yiddishkeit she received from her parents and from reading Tsenno Ur'enno and other books in Yiddish.

During the terrible war years, the Rebbetzin, then a young girl, fled, together with her parents, sister and brother-in- law, from town to town and from village to village, escaping from the Germans y"s. During their escape, due to lack of sufficient nutrition and medication, her sister, who had only recently become a mother, passed away from pneumonia and the baby boy followed her soon after. Libbe repaid her brother-in-law for his devotion to her parents by agreeing to marry him soon after the war.

Together they wandered from one Displaced Persons camp to another until Hashem helped them to arrive in Eretz Yisroel in 1950. They went to Tzfas, joining the Rebbetzin's parents who had arrived a year earlier. Her husband zt"l had many relatives in the U.S. who had advised them to immigrate to America where it would be easier to settle with young children (by then they had two sons). However, the Rebbetzin a"h preferred to accept the advice of her parents who had begged the young couple to join them in Eretz Yisroel. Her husband relied on her bino yeseiro and agreed with her.

In the first years they suffered from extremely difficult living conditions, as did all new immigrants in those days, until eventually they were offered a large, half-ruined Arab house in the city.

The Rebbetzin's parents a"h were then old and frail and my mother-in-law cared for them, sharing her house with them and attending to their needs with great devotion, despite the fact that she had a growing family of small children. My mother-in-law had a knack for using old, cast- off objects and making good use of them. She managed to transform the half-ruined Arab house into a pleasant home, always bright and clean, decorated with items, curtains, furniture and drapery that she personally sewed and refurbished.

She was a real eizer kenegdo to her husband, the Rebbe zt"l, when he set up his Beis Hamedrash adjoining their house and through the years she personally maintained it.

When the Tsanz-Klausenberger Rebbe zt"l established his yeshiva in Kiryat Tsanz, Netanya, in 1957 (5717), the oldest class of the cheder in Tzfas formed the first class of the yeshiva. The Tzfaser Rebbe zt"l sent his sons from the age of 9 or 10 to learn in Kiryat Tsanz. This was no easy step to take especially as in those years they had no telephone. Because travel was difficult and expensive, the boys rarely came home for a Shabbos or Yom Tov. However, the Rebbetzin overcame her motherly instincts and sent them off happily to yeshiva, accompanied by her prayers and blessings that they should succeed in their learning, chassidus and yiras Shomayim This was always her greatest ambition.

Hachnosas orchim in the Rebbe's home was famous. Anyone arriving in Tzfas knew that he had a place to eat and sleep. Sometimes even without notice, very late at night or on Shabbos after davening, yeshiva bochurim would knock at the door and ask if they could eat at the Rebbe's house, as if it was natural and taken for granted. Of course, the Rebbetzin never asked or even hinted for payment and many times the guests were not aware that she divided up her own family's portions so that the unexpected guests would have enough to eat. This was always done with a smile and a good word.

Beds were always readily made up for guests and no guest was ever turned away with the excuse that there wasn't room or a spare bed. The children were used to giving up their privacy and happily participated in the mitzva of hachnosas orchim, following the example of their parents.

My mother-in-law, the Rebbetzin a"h, symbolized the posuk, "Tzofioh halichos beisoh" in all its aspects. She was extremely well-organized, neat and tidy. Everyone who entered the house felt pleasantly welcome. Even the most downtrodden wayfarers, drunkards, homeless and emotionally or mentally disturbed found their place in her home and she cared for their needs, often doing their washing and other unpleasant tasks. Dozens of baalei teshuva owe their way into the Torah community to her warmth and personal example. She always showed an interest in their welfare, inquired about their parnossoh, children's education, etc., and always offered her good advice and encouragement. She helped many of them find shidduchim and many a chuppah, bris mila and bar mitzva was celebrated at her home and with her help.

Many families of baalei teshuva have very little knowledge of customs and special recipes connected with the Holy Festivals, so the Rebbetzin taught the wives how to prepare Yom Tov meals and often sent them portions of delicacies like stuffed cabbage for Simchas Torah, cheese pastries for Shavuos, latkes for Chanukah, charoses for Seder night and candied esrog for Tu BeShevat. This was all besides plates of her famous cholent and kugel that she sent home with many of the men who davened at the Rebbe's shul. Every Shabbos she served cholent and kugel to all the mispalelim. Many saw in her a mother figure, who gave advice and encouragement, and cared for them in times of joy or chas vecholila, mourning or illness. Now that she has passed away, they feel lost and orphaned.

The Rebbetzin radiated nobility in all her actions. She was a queen in her home-kingdom and her children and grandchildren honored and loved her greatly. She gave each of her grandchildren the feeling that he was her "special one." Even in her last weeks when the suffering increased, her mind was still clear. She took interest in all the family news and events and rejoiced with every simchah and success in her grandsons' learning.

Her preparation for Shabbos was a mitzva to which she devoted a lot of energy, so that by Friday midday the house was ready to receive the guest--the Shabbos Queen. She always was so well organized that long before candle- lighting time she was dressed in her Shabbos clothes, a white tichel and white apron, seated at the Shabbos table, reading the Tsenno Ur'enno and saying the techinos. Her prayers and her tears while lighting the Shabbos candles attracted members of the family and guests to stand and watch, and aroused them also to tears and awakening a longing to be elevated in the holiness of Shabbos. The Rebbetzin always lit more candles than is the custom and added two more especially in honor of her parents a"h.

In the last three years of her life, the Rebbetzin suffered greatly and became extremely weak. The housekeeping and hachnosas orchim were taken over by her only daughter, Esther, with the help of her children, but from her chair or bed the Rebbetzin still took control of all the arrangements. She was aware of all details and of each guest and ensured that no one or nothing was lacking.

We learned a lot of wisdom from my mother-in-law, the Rebbetzin, besides her example of tefilla bekavono (she was particular to daven three times a day in the shul, even when she was ill), love of Torah and gemilus chassodim. We learned a lot about housekeeping, education of children and good middos.

I would like to add that as a young mother when I was still quite new in the family, I considered myself more learned and "well-informed" than my mother-in-law "from the old generation." But looking back, I realize that there is really no substitute for the old Yiddishe way. The young generation has much to learn from their elders, if they will only have enough sense to use the opportunity!

Dear Shviger, many you be a melitzah yeshoroh for your sons, the Admorim (whom you spoke of as your `'diamonds'), your grandchildren, your only daughter who attended to you devotedly until your very last moments and attempted to ease your suffering, for your son-in-law and daughters-in-law, and all Am Yisroel.

Approach, with all your many merits, the Heavenly Throne and entreat Hashem Yisborach, as you knew so well to do during your lifetime, that He should have mercy on His people and speedily bring the geula sheleimo and may we be zoche to the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days, Omein.


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