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14 Sivan 5773 - May 23, 2013 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Minchas Yitzchok, Rov of Yerushalayim - HaRav Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss, zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 11 Sivan (5749)

In the aftermath of the First World War many Jews found themselves displaced, disoriented and far away from home. R' Yitzchok Yaakov, then a boy of twelve, managed to return to Munkacz with his parents, where he did not allow the war and its aftereffects to affect his learning. He sought out his corner in the beis medrash and there he sat, studying, learning, and reviewing, until he distinguished himself even among the great talmidei chachomim of Munkacz.

However, his hasmodoh was detrimental to his general health and his body became weak due to constant fatigue. Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov was forced to lower the intensity of his learning and rest many more hours.

Brokenhearted, the bochur went to R' Yissochor Dov of Belz, who was in Munkacz and explained his predicament.

"A body that learns so much Torah must be well-looked- after," remarked the holy Belzer Rov. He then gave him a few instructions on how to learn with his previous diligence at no risk to his health.

R' Yitzchok Yaakov indeed recovered. His newly-regained health, however, posed a new problem. He was now of age to be drafted into the army. With army service, his most formative years as a yeshiva student would be wasted.

Once again R' Yitzchok Yaakov made his way to the Belzer Rebbe. This time R' Yissochor Dov quoted from the mishna in Ovos, "`One who takes upon himself the yoke of Torah, the burden of the government and derech eretz are removed from him.' This is your surest relief from army duty." He then advised Rav Weiss to leave the town for a while, and "they'll forget about you."

Heeding the Rebbe's advice, Rabbeinu left for the small town of Halmin and, to his parents' wonder, they received no draft notice — as though his existence had been forgotten.

Rav Yitzchok Yaakov's immense diligence was surpassed only by his talented and sharp mind. Already then, as a young boy, he wrote long chapters of profound pilpul. He authored a booklet explaining all the words of R' Shimon in the Shas, all according to his own principle of learning.

Upon seeing this, the famous Gaon, the Maharshag — who had tested Rabbeinu and given him semichoh at a young age — admonished R' Yitzchok Yaakov:

"Your tachlis is not to delve into the pilpulim of Shas. Rather, invest your talent and strength into learning halochoh and horo'oh."

Having heard this, R' Yitzchok Yaakov plunged into the world of halochoh, eventually to become Rov of Yerushalayim.

Following his marriage to the daughter of Rav Pinchos Zimetbaum zt"l, rov of Grosvardein, Rav Yitzchok Yaakov was appointed dayan in that town, a position he held until World War Two.

Some of his teshuvos in halochoh were printed before the war.

The Nazi invasion of Europe brought terrible suffering for Rabbi Weiss and his fellow Jews in Grosvardein. At the end of his sefer Sheilos Uteshuvos Minchas Yitzchok, Vol. I, in an epilogue entitled "Pirsumei Niso", Rav Weiss recounts some of the miraculous escapes he encountered:

Crossing the border from one country to the next was always a danger. Once on an erev Shabbos, arrangements had been made to cross the border as soon as Shabbos was over. However, the woman who had taken Rav Weiss and his family into her house (for a fee, of course) was not keen on keeping them an extra day. Friday night she informed the group of Jews that their smuggler guide would take them that night. As they were eating a hurried seudas Shabbos, their guide arrived. Their escape being a case of pikuach nefesh docheh Shabbos, they had no choice but to go. After traversing mountains and valleys, they were finally near the border.

"Halt!" the sound made them freeze in their tracks. The border guards closed in, machine guns drawn.

Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov began to plead with the guards. Offering them all their worldly possessions (which they would have taken anyway) he begged that their lives be spared. To his amazement and relief, the guard relented and they crossed the border with no further mishap.

From then until they were finally able to breathe freely was still a long, arduous journey fraught with danger. At one point, the group had to scale an almost vertical mountain. As Rav Weiss recounts, the climb was becoming increasingly difficult. He toyed with the idea of looking down the vertical drop of hundreds of feet, and letting go of the grip he had on the rocks above his head. It would be so much easier. Suddenly, a long stick stretched out towards his head and, at the very last moment, the guide pulled him over the last ridge to safety.

Upon arrival at Arad, Rav Weiss found a letter waiting for him. It told of three boats from Bucharest to transport refugees to Palestine. "I've booked places for you and the family," continued the letter. "Make sure to be here."

That was no simple feat. The war was not yet over and the Germans were still hunting down Jews to send to their deaths.

Disguised as gentiles, the group of now thirty bribed an officer to give them a ride in his army truck. Several times guards at the border crossings attempted to stop them, but the driver pretended not to hear their orders and careened straight on. Their joy after those narrow escapes was short- lived, when the truck broke down. Several precious days slipped way while a new part for the truck was brought.

When they finally arrived, exhausted, in Bucharest, Rav Weiss's relative told them the bitter news. They had missed their boats and he, not wanting to leave without them, had also stayed behind, giving up his place to another lucky Jew.

The group with Rav Weiss at its head, tried to comfort themselves, assuring one another that one must have bitochon to believe that whatever Hashem does is for the best, and surely He would not forsake them. It was only several days later that they saw the truth in their words. All three boats had been sunk by the enemy, with no survivors. Their gratitude to Hashem was boundless, as they sang the words of Hallel: "Odecho ki anisoni — I thank You for afflicting me for You became my salvation." The affliction itself was ultimately to save their lives.

There in Bucharest tragedy struck again as Rav Weiss's young Rebbetzin passed away, leaving him alone with his only son. Rabbenu, however, continued learning and teaching Torah and paskening sheilos for the wider community.

Particularly during war time, when people were living crowded together in ghettos and bunkers and nerves were raw, many arguments and quarrels arose. In his calm and noble manner, Rav Weiss always managed to restore peace and tranquility among all those who came to him.


At the time when Rav Yitzchok Yaakov became rov in Grosvardein, the Ahavas Yisroel was living in the same town. The latter blessed Rav Weiss that "his days of kingship should be lengthy." This was fulfilled in every sense.

After the war, Rav Weiss was rov in Manchester, England, for about twenty-two years. Subsequently, he came to Eretz Yisroel, where he served first as dayan and then Rosh Beis Din. He then rose to be Rov of all Yerushalayim, a position from which he paskened sheilos that were referred to him from all over the Jewish world. These were printed in the 10 volumes of Sheilos Uteshuvos Minchas Yitzchok, one of the most basic seforim of halachos and sheilos pertaining to our generation.


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