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4 Teves 5766 - January 4, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaRav Tzvi Zeev (Hirsch) Pelei, zt"l

by Betzalel Kahn

The Torah and Mussar world felt orphaned following the histalkus on Wednesday, 20 Kislev of HaRav Tzvi Zeev (Hirsch) Pelei, zt"l, who left his mark on thousands of talmidim during decades of harbotzas Torah at Yeshivas Knesses Yisroel-Hevron, where he served as menahel ruchani, delivering mussar talks for over 50 years. One of the last of the talmidim who studied at Yeshivas Knesses Yisroel while it was located in Old Hevron, in his will the Mashgiach asked that no titles be attached to his name posthumously and that no eulogies be delivered.

Thousands took part in the levaya in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, including Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita, and other gedolei Yisroel, roshei yeshivas, mashgichim and thousands of talmidim.

Tzvi Zeev (Hirsch) Pelei was born in 5671 (1911) in the town of Shklov, Lithuania to HaRav Avrohom Noach Pelei—one of the leading talmidim of the Alter of Slobodka and a rosh yeshiva under HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz—and his mother Rivkoh, the daughter of HaRav Aryeh Leib Halevi Wolpert, the rov of Krinkshok, Lithuania. He studied in his hometown until the age of 14.

On Chanukah 5685 (1925) he and his family moved to Eretz Yisroel. Ever since then every year the Mashgiach would hold a seudas hodoyoh to mark the day of his arrival in Eretz Yisroel. Upon landing in Jaffa the family settled near the yeshiva in Hevron, where HaRav Avrohom Noach would give regular mussar talks.

During the riots of 5689 (1929) the Pelei family was spared through chasdei Shomayim when an Arab resident hid them in a secret one-room apartment belonging to HaRav Yechezkel Sarna, who was in Jerusalem at the time. The Arab landlord secreted the Pelei family and HaRav Efraim Zeev Garbuz and his wife and children into the basement apartment and when the rioters came to the Rosh Yeshiva's house the landlord told them that nobody was home. The survivors left the city immediately after the pogrom and the yeshiva relocated to Jerusalem's Geula neighborhood.

As a bochur, Tzvi Zeev formed very close bonds with the roshei yeshiva, the Alter of Slobodka, HaRav Eizik Sher, HaRav Moshe Mordechai Epstein, HaRav Yechezkel Sarna and the mashgiach, HaRav Leib Chasman. He also shared deep friendships with the roshei yeshiva during the years he served as mashgiach: HaRav Moshe Chevroni, HaRav Aharon Cohen and the Mashgiach, HaRav Meir Chodosh. As a bochur he studied bechavrusa for several years with HaRav Simchah Zissel Broide, who later became rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Hevron.

During his years as a talmid at the yeshiva he often went with his friend, Sholom Schwadron, to the talks HaRav Eliyoh Lopian would deliver in Jerusalem periodically, eventually considering himself a talmid muvhok. When the yeshiva was started in Kfar Chassidim they would regularly travel there to hear his mussar talks. Years later, when his sons reached the age of bar mitzvah he took them to Kfar Chassidim to receive brochos from HaRav Lopian. He was also heavily involved in the publication of talks by the Mashgiach, HaRav Leib Chasman.

Hirsch Pelei studied at Yeshivas Hevron in Jerusalem until 5705 (1945), when he married Menuchoh, the daughter of HaRav Shlomo Zalman Pines. The Rebbetzin tlc"a, who served for years as a teacher at Bais Yaakov schools in Jerusalem, had been among the first students of Bais Yaakov founder, Mrs. Soroh Schenirer, in Krakow. After the wedding they lived in Tel Aviv, where for two years he studied at Kollel Heichal HaTalmud, which his father had founded.

In 5707 (1947) HaRav Y. Sarna asked HaRav Hirsch Pelei to serve as mashgiach at Yeshivas Knesses Yisroel-Hevron in Jerusalem. Until his passing 55 years later he taught Torah and mussar to thousands of talmidim, both Yeshivas Hevron students and other students who came from far and wide to hear the talks he gave at the yeshiva in Geula and later in Givat Mordechai. He was asked to take the post of mashgiach during the period HaRav Chodosh was serving as menahel ruchani.

For over five decades HaRav Hirsch Pelei occupied the post of mashgiach at Yeshivas Hevron, which produced generations of marbitzei Torah and mussar seekers, prominent educators and activists. With his unique speech and manner he succeeded in infusing thousands of students with the foundations of mussar and Torah study.

The Mashgiach worked not only on imparting mussar values to his students in the vaadim he led regularly, but also on building the individual through the study of the holy Torah. During the sedorim he would walk among the students, encouraging them and spurring them on. When he would enter the heichal he would start posing kushiyos to groups of bochurim and soon the entire hall was ablaze with rischo deOraisa. After his shiurim he would linger to engage the bochurim in discussions on their learning.

From his very first day as mashgiach he would learn with bochurim bechavrusa. His whole life revolved around the yeshiva. His home on Rechov Ezer Leyoldot near the yeshiva in Geula was open night and day to all of the students. Together with his wife he would perform the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim, regularly hosting the needy and downtrodden in his home, and always in a humble manner.

He kept mitzvas exactingly. In order to find the best possible daled minim for the rosh yeshiva, HaRav Sarna, he would begin rushing around to the dealers several weeks before Succos. And before Pesach, when he would take a group of talmidim to bake matzos, he would lie down under the machinery and baking equipment to insure the entire workspace was free of any possibility of chometz. This painstaking attention to detail had a great impact on the students.

HaRav Pelei was dedicated to his talmidim heart and soul. He was fond of all of them, arranging chavrusas and personally seeing to their individual needs. At weddings he would dance with the chosson at length. On Simchas Torah all of the yeshiva students and alumni would arrive to be a part of the great joy the Mashgiach exuded. On Purim, too, his home was filled with exuberance. Students would come to gladden him and he would gladden them in return— ad delo yoda.

HaRav Pelei maintained strong ties with his students even after they married and continued Torah lives elsewhere. Decades later he could recall the names of each student and still felt a real bond with him. His talmidim from his early days at Yeshivas Hevron would continue to come to a mussar talk or vaad once every few weeks for decades and he would treat them with the same grace and charm he showed at the yeshiva over 50 years ago.

For many years he gave chizuk talks at Beis Medrash Hisachdus Chanichei Yeshivas Hevron on HaAri Lane in Bnei Brak, bringing the spirit of the yeshiva to the congregants and alumni. Before Rosh Chodesh Elul he would give fervent chizuk and his'orerus talks, bringing an Elul atmosphere to his listeners.

HaRav Pelei would make sacrifices to do acts of chessed for others. Whenever an avreich or talmid needed to arrange medical treatment for a family member the Mashgiach would come to the hospital to help any way he could. All of the physicians at Hadassah and Bikur Cholim knew the Mashgiach would not take "no" for an answer and it was well known he was able to solve problems that arose at the hospital. When he was consulted regarding a sick person he didn't know, he would make every effort to help, always in a quiet and humble way that served as an example to his talmidim.

For decades, before Pesach he would distribute tzedokoh to needy families without them knowing where the money came from. He spent two days a year raising the money. On Taanis Esther and the first day of Purim he would drive to Tel Aviv with his friend, HaRav Shraga Grossbard, and together they would go from door to door, collecting substantial sums of money that he would lump together with other tzedokoh money that generous donors had entrusted to him.

He did not allow any of these acts of tzedokoh and chessed to disturb his Torah and mussar sessions at the yeshiva. He chose to devote Taanis Esther and Purim deProzim to fundraising efforts because the yeshiva does not hold regular learning sessions on those days.

People would come from far and wide to hear the Mashgiach serve as baal tefilloh. Years ago he was still serving as baal tefilloh for the minyan held in the home of HaRav Eizik Sher and later, for decades he led Shacharis on the Yomim Noraim at the yeshiva; the talmidim who caught sight of him saw the face of an angel. When he recited Birchos HaTorah in the morning he would burst out crying at the words, "venihiyeh anachnu vetze'etzo'einu..."

He was careful to avoid even avak loshon hora. Forty years ago he once felt ill and, falling asleep, he dreamed about a large, fearsome dog. He recounted the dream to his rov, the Mashgiach of Kfar Chassidim, who told him that anyone who speaks loshon hora or listens to loshon hora without protest deserves to be thrown to the dogs. "Be sure people do not speak loshon hora," HaRav Lopian told him and for the rest of his life he was exceedingly careful in his speech.

HaRav Pelei was close to maranan verabonon gedolei Yisroel shlita. For years he would come to Tiferes Bochurim, the beis medrash of Maran HaRav Eliashiv ylct"a, for shacharis on Hoshanoh Rabboh and when he came to Bnei Brak he would visit his close friend, HaRav A.Y.L. Shteinman ylct"a, and other gedolei Yisroel shlita.

He lost his strength in recent years but made every effort to continue delivering mussar talks and vaadim. During the past year he lived in Bnei Brak with his son, HaRav Shmuel, who took care of him devotedly with the help of other family members.

On the morning of 20 Kislev HaRav Pelei returned his soul to his Maker, surrounded by his family members and close talmidim.

In his will he asked not to have any titles associated with his name or any hespeidim delivered in his memory. When the levaya set out from HaRav Shmuel's home in Bnei Brak two chapters of Tehillim were recited by HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Borstein, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Kiryas Melech. A crowd of thousands accompanied the mittoh, led by HaRav Steinman, HaRav Lefkowitz, HaRav Meir Tzvi Bergman, roshei yeshivos, roshei kollelim, talmidim and Bnei Brak residents.

Following ritual purification at the Shamgar Funeral Home the mittoh was brought into the heichal of Yeshivas Hevron in Givat Mordechai. The rosh yeshiva, HaRav Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, recited several chapters of Tehillim, after which the deceased's sons, HaRav Noach, HaRav Shlomo and HaRav Shmuel, offered brief words of parting and recounted some of their father's hanhagos. They recounted his truthfulness and some of the requests in his will, including chizuk in shemiras haloshon, mussar study and Torah study on Erev Shabbos and Motzei Shabbos. The funeral procession then made its way on foot from Givat Mordechai via Begin Hwy, Rechov Sarei Yisroel and Rechov Malchei Yisroel to Meah Shearim, where Maran HaRav Eliashiv joined as well. From there the funeral procession continued to the Mount of Olives, where he was buried in the evening in the yeshiva's section near the grave of HaRav Meir Chodosh zt"l.

HaRav Tzvi Zeev (Hirsch) Pelei zt"l, is survived by his sons, HaRav Noach, a mashgiach at Yeshivas Rabbenu Chaim Ozer, HaRav Shlomo Zalman, a mashgiach at Yeshivas Hevron, and HaRav Shmuel, a ram at Yeshivas Beis Shmayoh; his daughter, who is married to HaRav Eliezer Safrai, a ram at Yeshivas Beis Shmayoh; grandchildren and great-grandchildren following in his path of Torah, yir'oh and mussar.


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