Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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29 Tammuz 5772 - July 19, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Admor of Stefenisht HaRav Avrohom Matisyohu Friedman, zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 21 Tammuz

Rabbeinu's concentration while learning or davening was so intense that he became merged as one with the sefer before him and anything happening around him belonged to a world of another time and place, unnoticed by him completely.

It was no wonder then that his son from his second marriage, Rabbi Avigdor Shorr, was startled -- but not surprised -- by an incident that took place in his youth. "It was late at night and I had just fallen asleep when I was awakened by the frightening smell of smoke. Jumping out of bed, I tried to trace the source until I came to the Rebbe's room. As I opened the door I was hit by a cloud of smoke that had come from the Rebbe's paraffin light and that now filled the room with such a density that I could not see the Rebbe or the seforim that lined the walls. Trying to control my rising panic, I took a lungful of air outside and plunged forward into the acrid darkness, groping my way to find the Rebbe. It was only a matter of seconds before I could discern the Rebbe's figure, sitting hunched over his sefer. A startled cry burst from my throat when I suddenly realized that not only was the Rebbe breathing and alive, but he was shocked to find me intruding on him in the middle of his nightly learning -- oblivious to the danger and smoke enveloping him.

"Nu! What could I do?" shrugged R' Avigdor. "As though ashamed at being in the wrong place at the wrong time I just quietly left the room."


HaRav Chaim Toibes, zt"l, of Butchon, Romania, remembers the time when the Admor of Stefenisht was staying in the town.

"One night I saw streams of people hurriedly making their way towards the Rebbe's lodgings. It had been heard that the Rebbe was coming out onto the porch to recite Kiddush Levonoh. I joined the huge throng surrounding the house and we watched, mesmerized, for an hour as the Rebbe said Kiddush Levonoh with immense deveikus.

"Suddenly, the spell was broken by the steady sound of marching. A battalion of Romanian soldiers on a training exercise were passing by. All at once a boom filled the air as they fired a shot from a cannon. The crowd trembled in fright, some were knocked from their feet by the fear, while others began to flee and disperse in all directions.

"The only one who had no idea of what had transpired was the Rebbe," retells HaRav Toibes. "He just continued his holy avodoh as though nothing had happened."


Thousands of chassidim sought his guidance and basked in his shadow, among them the greatest of Romania's rabbonim.

In his eulogy of R' Avrohom Matisyohu, HaRav Nachum Shmaryahu Shechter, zt"l, mourned the death of Rabbeinu, describing him as "the merciful father of all Yidden" and above all as the "wisest of men." He related that a chossid who was known as a great talmid chochom would accompany Rabbeinu on his travels. As the miles fell away beneath the wheels of the carriage, the chossid and the Rebbe would exchange Torah thoughts. On one occasion the chossid quoted from "such-and-such a medrash."

"In the medrash?" Rabbeinu asked rhetorically. The chossid later made sure to check up the source of the words and indeed found that they were not in a medrash but in the sefer "Midrash Pinchos."


From far-off Tzfas HaRav Zilberman zt"l, would travel to Romania to R' Avrohom Matisyohu, just to see him and to hear personally his Torah pearls. He related that once when he was with the Rebbe on yom tov a dispute over a controversial halacha took place between two distinguished rabbonim, both chassidim of the Rebbe. Each one brought solid proofs to support his point, only to be rebuffed by the other's ra'ayos. Since it was a matter of practical halachah, they decided to hand the question over to the Rebbe. No sooner had they presented the shailoh, the Rebbe immediately cut short all their arguments. "We can infer the answer from what the Taz explains in simon such and such." To the amazement of the rabbonim, their shailoh was clarified in a split second by the Rebbe's sharp, clear answer from an inference from the Taz.


Despite his greatness in Torah, the Rebbe was never too lofty to consider the needs of the destitute and brokenhearted.

During Rabbeinu's levayoh, the av beis din of Stefenisht, HaRav Menachem Breuer, noticed an elderly man and his daughter weeping bitterly as though their hearts would break. Explained the father, "For years out daughter tried to find her shidduch, without success. Finally, through the personal efforts of the Rebbe, she recently became engaged. The Rebbe even took upon himself to pay a good part of the dowry and wedding expenses. Now that he has passed away, who will help us?"

As for his own needs, the Rebbe required nothing. During the last year of his life, the economic depression in Romania was at its worst, so much so that the Rebbe himself had to borrow money for basic necessities.

To add to his expenses, the nephew of R' Avrohom Matisyohu, the rav of Itzhan, was taken ill and had to be treated in a hospital in Vienna, incurring enormous expenses. The sick man immediately turned to his uncle for help, knowing he would not be turned down.

As the situation threatened to spiral beyond control, the family of the Rebbe decided to send an appeal to all the Chassidim, requiring that they send monetary aid to the Rebbe. However, the idea was immediately canceled by the Rebbe, who would not hear of such a thing.

"How can I collect money from people when each one of them is struggling to make ends meet?"

On Shabbos Kodesh, Parshas Pinchos, 21 Tammuz, the Admor of Stefenisht left this world.

Motzei Shabbos saw a stream of Jews from all over Romania converging on the town of Stefenisht, amounting to 50,000 mourners, to accompany the Rebbe to his resting place.

In the year 5629, his aron was transported to Eretz Yisroel, where he was laid to rest in the Nachlas Yitzchok cemetery in Tel Aviv, among the Admorei Ruzhin. The site has become a focal point for people in need of yeshuos as many have seen their prayers answered in his zechus.

Zechuso yogein oleinu.


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