Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Shvat 5772 - February 2, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Haflo'oh, HaRav Rabbi Pinchos Halevi Horowitz, zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 14 Tammuz

Rabbeinu Pinchos Halevi was the son of Rabbi Zvi, rov of Tchortkov.

When he was a young child, his mother would claim that she had two sons, Pinchos and Shmelke (later Rabbi Shmelke of Nicholsburg), who never washed netilas yodayim in the morning and never said Krias Shema al Hamitoh, alluding to the fact that they both learned all through the nights as well as the days, never lying down in bed to sleep.

Rabbi Pinchos' diligence continued unabated as he grew from a youth into a young man and then became rov in various cities.

Even towards the end of his days, while serving as rov in Frankfurt-am-Main (then one of the major Torah communities of Europe), he was particular not to waste time that could be used for Torah learning. In fact, he would often go over to Reb Nosson Adler, who was also residing in Frankfurt-am-Main at the time, to talk in Torah.

Once, R' Nosson Adler asked Rabbi Pinchos why he bothered each time to come to him. "You could just send a talmid to call me and I would come running to the king's beckoning." However, the Haflo'oh preferred to come personally, for that would save him the few seconds it takes to instruct someone to go, precious seconds that he could better use for Torah study. This story is related to us by the holy talmid of both rabbis, Maran the Chasam Sofer, zy"a.

All his adult days, Rabbi Pinchos taught Torah to erudite, scholarly talmidim. It is told that he would sprinkle spices and flowers in the beis medrash before learning, to calm and open his students' minds. Great people have given another reason for this custom. When the Haflo'oh began learning, the gates of Gan Eden would open, emitting a wonderfully pleasant smell, that wafted through the beis medrash. Rabbi Pinchos would cover up this fact by spreading the scent of spices and flowers in advance.

No doubt his greatest talmid was the holy Chasam Sofer, as HaRav Efraim Zalman Margulies, zt"l, wrote in the introduction to Ponim Yofos of the Haflo'oh. "His great talmidim filled the world with their wisdom and Torah."

Rabbi Shimon Sofer Hy"d, rov of Erlau, recounted in the name of his father, the Ksav Sofer zt"l, that whenever the Chasam Sofer would even mention his rebbe the Haflo'oh, his whole body would tremble and his face became contorted in fear of his teacher. The Chasam Sofer himself said that he suffered all his life from an intestinal illness due to the times when his insides churned in fear as he stood before his Rebbe to learn Torah from his holy mouth.

On one occasion, the Chasam Sofer remarked to his talmidim that he wonders how anyone who saw the faces of his rebbes, the Haflo'oh and Rabbi Nosson Adler, could continue to survive in such a spiritually impoverished generation. He then added, "I cleaved to my teachers day and night, for a talmid doesn't merely learn the Torah of his rebbe, but observes his behavior twenty-four hours a day, taking lessons from every nuance of his teacher. I was fortunate to have such a great rov, but whom do you have to follow in this manner?"

Before the Haflo'oh became rov in Frankfurt-am-Main, he presided in the rabbinate of the city of Lechovitz.

While there, he once had to be the deciding judge in a din Torah between a widow and a townsman. The latter was a wealthy, influential individual whom all the city feared to provoke in the least, lest he wield his powers and cause them trouble.

Rabbeinu, however, did not balk at the sight of the man and went through the proceedings of the court case without deference to anyone. It turned out that the psak was in favor of the widow. Furious, the other defendant told slanderous tales about the Haflo'oh to the governor, forcing Rabbeinu to flee the city.

He found refuge in the city Yanpele, where he became acquainted with its rov, HaRav Mordechai Zeev Orenstein. They would spend many hours in each other's company, talking in learning.

One day the Rov entered Rabbi Pinchos' house and noticed how his rebbetzin was doing all the household chores without any domestic help at all. From that day on, he sent half of his wages in to the Haflo'oh every week.

Subsequently, Rabbi Pinchos was appointed rov in Frankfurt-am-Main. The finishing touches for a grand reception were carried out with feverish excitement, as the entire kehilloh anticipated the arrival of their new rov. All was finally set as two distinguished talmidei chachomim were dispatched in a carriage decorated with gold and silver to accompany the Haflo'oh into town.

As the carriage neared the city, all the townspeople came out and followed behind in a joyous parade. Suddenly within the carriage, the two talmidei chachomim accompanying their new rov were startled to notice that Rabbi Pinchos Horowitz was crying. On such a joyous occasion with singing and gladness reverberating all around, why the copious tears?

Rabbeinu revealed to them his feelings, the reason for his reaction. "I'm just imagining now a similar journey that I am to take in the future, when my days will come to an end and these very same people will accompany me on my final journey. What is all this honor worth?"

In his old age, Rabbeinu suffered from cataracts, and the doctors wished to operate on his eyes. The Haflo'oh, however, only agreed to have one eye treated, explaining, "In truth, in order to live, one doesn't need eyes at all, except for learning Torah. If so, one eye is enough to enable me to see my seforim and study from them."

The Chasam Sofer was wont to say that when his eyes were weakened, all the others limbs and organs of the Haflo'oh were strengthened as compensation, and this is why towards his last months, his wisdom and sharp mind were even greater than previously!


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