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9 Marcheshvan 5773 - October 25, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaGaon Reb Nochum Shadiker, zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 12 Cheshvan

It protrudes incongruously among the matzeivos in the Chelkas HaRabbonim on Har Hazeisim: a tombstone with a phenomenal inscription.

"At the age of eight he started to learn and to teach. He sanctified all his days for Torah, avodoh, fasting and self-affliction. His mouth never stopped speaking Torah day or night."

Let us discover the identity of the holy personage buried under these lofty descriptions.

R' Nochum's original surname was Luria. However, afraid that people would spell the name with a "yud" and "hei" at the end instead of an alef, thereby incurring a desecration of Hashem's name, the family changed it to Levi. Their new name too, they were careful to spell with an "ayin" in the middle so that later generations should not assume themselves to be Levites.

Thus his very identity began with chumros, the like of which would not occur to many other people.


Reb Nochum learned under the Chemdas Shlomo, rov of Warsaw, who was also his relative.

When a delegation arrived in Warsaw from the town of Shadik asking that he serve as their rov, Reb Nochum first and foremost inquired if there was a daily minyan that davened at sunrise. He had just recently taken upon himself to pray with the netz daily and saw this as a test: If there was no vosikin minyan in Shadik, than he would prefer to refuse the position with its accompanying livelihood and remain anonymous in Warsaw. The delegation duly assured Rabbenu that there was a netz minyan, and consequently he packed his meager belongings to relocate to Shadik.

Reb Nochum Shadiker is named after the town he led, but the town prided itself on being Reb Nochum's place of residence — for without their great rov, who would ever have heard about the tiny town of Shadik at all, let alone its having a famous place in the pages of Jewish history.

There was another reason that lay behind Reb Nochum's move to Shadik. He had a burning desire to fulfill the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisroel, despite the tremendous hardships he knew it entailed. But physical hurdles and difficulties were not what prevented Reb Nochum from realizing his wish. In his typically self- deprecating way, he felt that he had surely not attained the spiritual level of sanctity required to live in the palace of the King and be mekabel pnei haShechinah in Yerushalayim.

He therefore decided to cut himself off from the bustle of the big city life in Warsaw and make his home in the quiet of Shadik where he could work upon himself to achieve loftier heights in sanctity and fear of Hashem.

He began as his father had before him: to fast from Shabbos to Shabbos. Contrary to the natural results of such deprivation, he never appeared weak or fatigued, but was always alert and fully awake for every dovor shebikedushah. His appearance was that of one who had just eaten and is satisfied.

Despite his holy custom to which he would adhere steadfastly, if a guest came to his house, the fast was put on hold. Rabbenu would sit down with his guest at the table and eat in his company, thereby assuring there was no ill feeling and that his visitor would not be embarrassed to eat while the rov fasted.

Gedolim of his generation said of him that Reb Nochum truly portrayed the depth of what Chazal meant when they said that hachnosas orchim is greater than greeting the Shechinah. The madreigoh of Reb Nochum in this mitzvah was unique in that he could forgo his holy customs and practices which afforded him a closeness with the Shechinah, for the sake of his guests.

"True hachnosas orchim," they claimed, "is not found by the great philanthropists and famous guest houses, but in the home of R' Nochum Shadiker."

In the periodical Halevonon that was circulated during those times, a writer revealed (Year 2, Vol. 23) that even after his daily or weekly fast, before Reb Nochum would sit down to eat, he would invite a poor man to join his meal and be the first to eat. In the event that no one would turn up at his door, the rov would run around searching for an oni, refusing to eat until he had found one to partake of his meal and take the first bite. Only then would he break his fast.

"Furthermore," notes the writer in Halevonon, "Rabbeinu's value is equal to that of 600,000 of Klal Yisroel."

It is worth noting that these words were written at a time when people were not so liberal with their words, and titles were weighed and measured before being put into print.


It is told that R' Nochum was coming to the end of almost a week's fasting when he felt a weak sensation during learning and could not grasp the Tosafos at the depth to which he was accustomed. Immediately he broke his fast and, after having revived his waning strength a little, returned directly to his studies. Upon being asked the reason for his behavior, R' Nochum replied, "All the madreigos in the world are worthless if because of them I cannot understand the words of the Tosafos properly. I'd rather cancel my week's taanis even on the last day so that I can learn as I should."


When he finally arrived in Eretz Yisroel, R' Nochum settled in Yerushalayim, where he was osek beTorah together with his elder brother R' Osher Lemil zt"l, who later became Rosh Av Beis Din.

Together their daily or rather nightly schedule was as follows: For two hours of the night they would sleep and the rest of the time was spent learning the esoteric Kabbalistic secrets of the Torah with the great mekubalim of Yerushalayim.

During the day, they learned Toras Haniglah and taught their many talmidim.

Their minimizing sleep was due to a dream that R' Nochum had the night before entering Yerushalayim in which he was exhorted, "Lazy one — for how long will you lie down!"

Following this he decided that he was duty-bound to forgo his sleep entirely. On reconsidering, he recalled the mitzvah of Venishmartem me'od lenafshoseichem and so a compromise was reached. Two hours a night of sleep would suffice for the body to survive and the remainder would be sacrosanct for Torah and avodoh.


His holy kever on Har Hazeisim has become a focal point for prayers and supplications, and many are known to have been helped apparently through his heavenly intervention.

Until recently, his descendants would make their way to the tziyun on the day of the yahrtzeit. "On one such occasion," recounts a descendant, "we noticed a certain rov who was not a regular. Upon asking him what brought him here to the grave of R' Nochum, the man told his story. He had been married many years and had not yet been blessed with children, when a friend advised him to daven at the grave of R' Nochum Shadiker. The Rov did so and, having completed his heartfelt tefillos, he pledged to print and publish some of the chidushei Torah of R' Nochum. He fulfilled his vow and a year later was blessed with a child. "I have come to bring R' Nochum his sefer Sheilos Uteshuvos Avnei Kodesh," said the man with joyous tears, "and to thank and praise Hashem at this spot!"


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