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5 Iyar 5766 - May 3, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Biography of the Admor of Satmar zt"l

By Betzalel Kahn

An enormous crowd took part in the levaya last week of the Admor of Satmar HaRav Moshe Teitelbaum, the nephew of Rav Yoelish and the author of Derech Moshe.

Moshe Teitelbaum was born in 5675 (1915) to HaRav Chaim Tzvi Teitelbaum, the rov of Sighet and the author of Atzei Chaim, and his mother, the daughter of HaRav Sholom Eliezer Halberstam, the son of the Divrei Chaim of Tzanz.

One year after the outbreak of World War I with Hungarians fleeing in every direction, the Teitelbaums fled to Ratzpert, where their grandfather HaRav Sholom Eliezer Halberstam lived. Moshe's bris was held at his grandfather's beis medrash on the knees of the Admor of Belz HaRav Yissochor Dov, the father of the Admor HaRav Aharon.

While he was a child, his father served as the rov of Sighet for several years. Various rabbonim regularly visited his father's home where they held involved conversations on matters of Torah and halochoh. On one occasion when the rov of Nirbator, HaRav Aharon Teitelbaum, arrived for a visit he asked his assistant to summon Moshe, who was sitting in cheder at the time. When the boy arrived he was told to take a look at the guest and then was immediately sent back to class.

Many years later, after World War II, while HaRav Moshe was serving as the successor to his father in Sighet, he married the daughter of the rov of Nirbator following the loss of his first wife.

Over the years Moshe's parents gave birth to 22 children but 12 died of illness and eight perished during the Holocaust, leaving only him and his sister (who later married the rov of Achuza in Haifa). Years later he said that his father never shed a tear at the various levayos for his siblings, but when his own mother — the Admor's grandmother — passed away he wept bitterly. When asked to explain, his father had said he was not crying over his mother's petiroh but over the loss of the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of kibbud eim.

When Moshe was just 11 his father passed away at the age of 46, followed by his mother a mere three months later. A short time later he traveled to the home of his uncle, the Admor of Satmar and the author of Vayoel Moshe, who offered the boy much encouragement. One year on Succos the boy went to the home of the Admor of Nassaud, the grandfather of HaRav Moshe Aryeh Freund and one of Hungary's elderly admorim. When he entered the room the Admor rose to his feet. When asked why he stood up for the young bochur he replied, "I've never seen such a clean esrog as this."

As the young man matured, his uncle began to search for a shidduch for him, telling one shadchan that he was the product of 18 holy, pure generations and did honor to his heritage. Therefore a fitting shidduch should be sought. In 5696 (1936) he married the daughter of his uncle, HaRav Henoch Teitelbaum (Mayer), the rov of Kretzky, who was the son-in-law of the Kedushas Yom Tov. He spent the next four years in his father-in-law's home, during which time he started Yeshivas Beis Dovid.

Later he was asked to serve as the rov of Simihali, but before he set out another rov was installed. His uncle consoled him by saying he was meant to occupy a more important post. Only many years later, when he was appointed to succeed him, did HaRav Moshe understand his uncle's intentions.

A short time later he was made the rov of Zenteh, Yugoslavia. For several years he taught Torah and Yiddishkeit, starting a yeshiva that acquired a sterling reputation. The yeshiva was run by HaRav Y. Neuhaus, the brother-in-law of HaRav Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky. The town had two main botei knesses, one Ashkenaz and one Sfard, and he would divide his time between the two.

In 5704 (1944) on the second day of Shavuos the Derech Moshe and his entire kehilloh were sent to Auschwitz. Despite the suffering there his emunoh was not weakened in the least. Instead he would offer chizuk and encouragement to the thousands of other prisoners. Even after losing his wife and three children, Hy"d, he continued to teach Torah inside the camp until he was miraculously saved through chasdei Shomayim.

On 25 Iyar 5705 (1945) he arrived at the displaced persons camp at Theresienstadt and from there returned to Sighet, Hungary. Upon arrival he began to rebuild the ruins of the kehilloh, appointing rabbonim and shochtim, setting up educational institutions and heading the beis din. During this period he married the daughter of the rov of Nirbator, HaRav Aharon Teitelbaum.

In Sighet he managed to expand the kehilloh. During this period he regularly gave strident speeches against the Russians' intentions to take control over Hungary, saying that they posed a threat to Jewish education. One day two Jewish officers from the Russian army passed near his home. When he related to them how he survived the concentration camps they said the Russian government had marked him as a troublemaker and advised him to leave as soon as possible.

Taking no chances, a short time later he sailed the US. He landed in Florida shortly before Rosh Hashana 5707 (1946). A few days later he traveled to New York after learning that his uncle was living there. HaRav Moshe wanted to daven in his beis medrash, but his uncle would not hear of it, instead naming him the Admor of Sighet, leading other refugees from Sighet who had arrived in the US and set up a shul. Thus he began to establish the Sighet kehilloh in the US, setting up Yeshivas Atzei Chaim in Boro Park.

For many years he led the kehilloh and served as rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Atzei Chaim, which was named after his father. He would often engage in exchanges with gedolei Torah on various matters of Torah and halochoh. His talmidim recall that when his uncle once asked a pressing question relating to meat kashrus he was sent to discuss the matter with HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt"l. When HaRav Feinstein later met his uncle he said, "Your nephew is a real gaon."

About one year after his uncle, the Admor of Satmar and the author of Vayoel Moshe, passed away in 5739 (1979) HaRav Moshe was named his successor. Known as a talented speaker he would deliver extended droshos and profound shiurim on gemora and halochoh. He penned a multi- volume set of commentary on the Chumash called Derech Moshe and additional volumes are currently scheduled for printing.

Since his appointment he elevated the Satmar community. He initiated very low priced building projects for Satmar Chassidim in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and Beit Shemesh as well as numerous projects in the US, going from one benefactor to another to raise funds for construction.

Over the years he issued numerous takonos to strengthen the community both in ruchniyus and gashmiyus. Meanwhile he was appointed nosi of the Edoh Chareidis in Jerusalem, Keren Hahatzoloh, Kollel Shomrei Hachomos and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the US and Canada. As head of the latter organization he would take part in all of the meetings of gedolei Torah and admorim in the US and was among the prominent speakers on every issue that came on the agenda.

HaRav Moshe Teitelbaum's tefillos were remarkable and his stately speech and mannerisms left a strong impression on everybody who came in contact with him. His thousands of Chassidim had access to him during all hours of the day and were always warmly received.

He visited Eretz Yisroel on several occasions before becoming Admor and again in 5743 (1983) and 5754 (1994). On his last visit he met with Rabbenu Hagodol HaRav Shach zt"l. He visited Maran at Yeshivas Ponovezh and later Maran repaid his visit at his residence at Kiryat Yoel in Bnei Brak.

In 5747 (1987) he contracted a serious ailment in his leg. Satmar kehillos around the world pleaded for his recovery until he eventually regained his strength. In 5758 (1998) he again became ill and suffered for the next several years. During the past few months he was hospitalized at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and seemed to be on his way to recovery, but passed away last Tuesday evening, surrounded by his family members and many of his talmidim and Chassidim crying out Shema Yisroel.

Before the levaya set out from the large Satmar beis medrash in Williamsburg bitter hespeidim were delivered by his son-in-law HaRav Dovid Berish Meislish, av beis din of Satmar Boro Park, his son HaRav Aharon, gavad of Kiryat Yoel, his son HaRav Lipa, av beis din of Kahal Derech Moshe in Williamsburg, his son HaRav Zalmen Leib, av beis din of Satmar in Williamsburg, his son HaRav Sholom Eliezer, rov of the Satmar beis medrash on 15th Avenue in Boro Park, and his son-in-law HaRav Chaim Yehoshua Halberstam, av beis din of Satmar in Monsey.

Thousands were waiting at the large Satmar shul of Kiryat Yoel in Monroe when the aron arrived at about 3:00 am. There eulogies were given by his son-in-law HaRav Dovid Meislish, av beis din of Satmar of Montreal, HaRav Yisroel Chaim Menashe Friedman, dayan umoreh tzedek of Satmar in Williamsburg, HaRav Getzel Berkovitz, dayan umoreh tzedek in Kiryas Yoel, and HaRav Ezriel Glick, the faithful shamash of HaRav Yoel and HaRav Moshe for decades.

At 6:00 am he was buried beside his uncle in the Kiryas Yoel Cemetery. HaRav Moshe Teitelbaum zt"l is survived by his sons and sons-in-law, grandsons and great-grandsons. With his petiroh the Jewish world lost one of the great admorim from the previous generations.


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