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25 Sivan 5766 - June 21, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Admor of Modzhitz zt"l

By Betzalel Kahn

Led by gedolei Torah, roshei yeshivos, admorim, rabbonim and Modzhitz Chassidim, thousands crowded the streets of Bnei Brak to take part in the levaya of HaRav Yisroel Don Taub, the Admor of Modzhitz zt"l, who was summoned to Yeshiva Shel Maaloh on Friday 20 Sivan, 5766 at the age of 78. The histalkus brings to a close a long period of splendor for Modzhitz Chassidus, which has been an exemplar of Polish Chassidus for generations.

Yisroel Don Taub was born in Warsaw on 19 Teves 5688 (1928) to HaRav Shmuel Eliyohu, the Admor of Modzhitz and the author of Imrei Eish. His mother was the daughter of HaRav Moshe Chaim Kahn, an eminent chossid and a prominent member of the community in Warsaw. His father was married by the Admor of Afala of the Amshinov-Worka line, because the mother of the Imrei Eish, the daughter of the Admor HaRav Avrohom Eiger the son of the Admor of Lublin HaRav Leibel Eiger, was married to the Admor of Afala, HaRav Yirmiyohu.

When the Imrei Eish moved to Eretz Yisroel to strengthen Yiddishkeit, his family remained in Poland; only a year later in 5696 (1936) did the eight-year-old Yisroel Don and his mother make the move. Still a boy, he began learning at Yeshivas Heichal HaTalmud in Tel Aviv, which was an important Torah stronghold at the time, and he soon became known for his talent in learning and his boundless shekeidoh.

In 5699 (1939) he traveled with his mother to Warsaw to visit her parents. When the war broke out in September, through chasdei Shomayim they managed to escape on the last ship, sailing back to Eretz Yisroel via Italy. Due to heavy shelling the ship was stuck at sea for six weeks, unable to advance to Eretz Yisroel or to retreat to Italy. But eventually they arrived safe and sound, and were spared from the Holocaust.

In 5710 (1950) he married the daughter of the Admor of Bialystok, HaRav Shmuel Shatzdrovitzky, a prominent rov in Tel Aviv and one of the heads of Agudas Yisroel, which subsequently selected him to serve as deputy chairman of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Religious Council and chairman of Agudas Yisroel.

He continued learning intensively at a kollel in Tel Aviv. Throughout the years his greatness in Torah was well known and he often put his chidushim into writing.

In Tel Aviv he was renown for his yiras Shomayim and for carefully keeping his eyes from wandering. For over three decades he served as a dayan and an instructor of dayonim at the Tel Aviv Beis Din. Due to concerns he might inadvertently see things better left unseen, he preferred to walk to the rabbinate building every day rather than taking the bus.

Later he once said that he had never spoken or heard loshon hora. Ever humble, he took pains to subordinate himself completely to his father like a servant to his master.

When his father passed away in 5744 (1984), HaRav Yisroel Don became the Rebbe of Modzhitz in his stead. His radiance reached Jews of all backgrounds and even many simple folk saw themselves as Modzhitz Chassidim, drawing emunoh and strength from his teachings.

He never kept official hours, saying that anyone who wanted to, could come in to see him at any time.

Keeping with the Modzhitz tradition with its emphasis on niggunim, he put special effort into his tefillos, composing fabulous melodies for prayers and piyutim — delicate melodies filled with feeling and longing.

On weekdays his Shemoneh Esrei would regularly last 20 minutes. He said that during Shomei'a Tefilloh he could see all the needs of Am Yisroel passing before his eyes.

Once he was asked to pray for a Jew suffering from a life- threatening illness and he made an extraordinary effort to entreat for his sake. Days later, when the patient's condition had improved, he rebuked the chossid who came to tell him for not bringing the news more promptly, which would have saved his fellow chassidim from having to wait during davening, for he would have spent less time on bircas Shema Koleinu.

When the Yomim Noraim arrived he became a different man, from Shabbos Selichos through Motzei Simchas Torah.

For years he served as a member of Agudas Yisroel's Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah.

The Modzhitz beis medrash was located on Rechov Dizengoff in one of Tel Aviv's most secular areas. For decades the site was noted for the hakofos sheniyos held the night after Simchas Torah at the beis medrash in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Following concerns that the area would have a detrimental effect on the younger generation, he started a new beis medrash on Rechov Chabakuk in Bnei Brak. When government officials wanted to speak with him he would arrange to meet them at the original beis medrash, which continues to operate to this day.

One Erev Shabbos he was visiting the late MK Rabbi Avrohom Yosef Shapira at the hospital when R' Avrohom Yosef informed him that the Prime Minister was there. Speaking in Hebrew he replied that Chazal said one should not look a rosho in the face and even when the Prime Minister tried to shake his hand he continued to ignore him. Later he explained that he had already gone to the mikveh in preparation for Shabbos and had he touched the hand of a person like this, who almost certainly had not done the morning netillas yodayim, he would have had to return to the mikveh.

One of his last public appearances was at the Siyum HaShas for Daf Yomi last year. After the event he traveled to Poland, where he prayed at the graves of his forefathers.

Nine months ago, one week before Shabbos Selichos, the Admor underwent medical treatment at the hospital and suffered a major stroke there. Many Jews around the world prayed for his recovery and his condition did improve somewhat, but he never recuperated. For nine months he was severely incapacitated.

When his condition deteriorated at the beginning of last week he was brought to the hospital. As late as Tuesday evening he was still aware of his surroundings, but his condition declined further on Wednesday and early Friday morning he returned his pure soul to his Maker.

The paroches was pushed aside at his beis medrash, where for years he had engaged in harbotzas Torah veyiroh and avodas hakodesh. When his aron was brought in, the weeping swelled at the sight of "hasreifoh asher soraf Hashem" and again reached a crescendo as the aron was taken out to began the funeral.

Participants in the procession included gedolei Yisroel, members of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, roshei yeshivos, admorim, rabbonim, marbitzei Torah and public figures. The levaya proceeded through Bnei Brak down Rechov HaRav Kahaneman and then continued to Jerusalem from the Modzhitz center, through the streets of Geula and Meah Shearim to the Mount of Olives, where he was buried beside his forefathers.

Shortly before the grave was covered over, it was announced his eldest son, HaRav Chaim Shaul, the son-in-law of the Admor of Alexander, would become the next Admor of Modzhitz, and that the deceased's other son HaRav Pinchos Moshe, the son-in-law of the Admor of Lublin, would serve as the rov of Kehillas Chassidei Modzhitz.

HaRav Yisroel Don Taub zt"l is also survived by his son- in-law HaRav Yisroel Segal Landa, the son of HaRav Meir Segal Landa, the late gavad of Antwerp, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


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