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2 Shvat 5775 - January 22, 2015 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Sparks of Greatness
Ha'Admor Rabbi Moshe Leib, zt"l of Sassov

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 4 Shevat (5567)

"Each year when the yahrtzeit of R' Moshe Leib Sassover comes around on Daled Shevat, an abundance of joy prevails in all the worlds."

So did the Rav Hakodosh R' Yitzchok of Bohush say, and he explained his words. "When Rabbeinu, R' Moshe Leib Sassover was niftar, he was taken to the Heavenly court for final judgment. As with all tzaddikim, the penalty for the slightest infringement is severe and the tzaddik must pass through Gehennom, albeit for a short time, to cleanse his soul, after which he can enter Gan Eden.

"Rabbeinu was no exception and was duly accompanied for a short while into the fires of Gehennom.

"However, when the time came to leave, R' Moshe Leib stopped in his tracks and firmly refused to go.

"`All my life,' he countered, `I spent no end of time, energy and resources on the mitzvah of pidyon shevuim, redeeming captives. No Jew was too lowly, no prison too deep and no ransom too high, to prevent me from rescuing a Yid from his plight. How can I now exit the gates, leaving behind my Jewish brothers to suffer the horrific trials of the greatest and worst prison? I must take them out with me.'

"His words and adamant stance caused an uproar in Heaven. Should all those guilty souls be pardoned and allowed to escape their due punishment? On the other hand, how could the tzaddik, R' Moshe Leib stay in Gehennom?

"It was decided that R' Moshe Leib's life story should be rechecked. If there was even one case where R' Moshe Leib came across a prisoner whom he was asked to redeem and didn't finish the mitzvah for some reason or another, then here too he would be forced to leave in the middle, deserting his `fellow prisoners.'

"If however, he never let anyone down, having done this mitzvah to the very end, he would be permitted to continue to do here as he used to in his lifetime.

"The records of R' Moshe Leib's life were duly brought forward and looked into. Indeed, it was found that he had, in each opportunity to do this particular mitzvah, worked it through to the very end, each time gaining the release of a Jewish captive.

"Triumphantly, R' Moshe Leib Sassover marched out of Gehennom with all the souls of his fellow Yidden in tow.

"No wonder," concluded R' Yitzchok of Bohush, "that the yahrtzeit of the Sassover is a day of rejoicing not only in this world but in the upper realms as well."

In the area of pidyon shevuim, R' Moshe Leib has become a legend. No effort in time or money was spared as any Jew who was languishing in prison because he couldn't pay the rent to his landlord on time was bailed out and ransomed by R' Moshe Leib.

The Admor, the Divrei Yechezkel of Shinova, remarked that R' Moshe Leib had the neshomoh of the Tana Rabbi Elozor ben Rabbi Shimon of whom the gemora states that he gave himself totally to the task of freeing Jews from prison under the reshoim.


His deeds stemmed from a pure love for a Jew just because he was a Jew.

"Let's take the greatest person we know," R' Moshe Leib would say, "multiply him nine-fold, and he still does not become a minyan so the Shechinah does not reside there. On the other hand, take ten of the simplest Yidden, put them together and you bring the Shechinah down!"


R' Moshe Leib was filled with a boundless love for every Yid.

On Rosh Hashanah after Shacharis, R' Moshe Leib overheard one of his congregants sighing to his friend.

"Oy, until the Rebbe does all his preparations and immerses himself in the mikveh before Tekias Shofar, who knows how long it'll still take . . . and I'm so hungry!"

Upon hearing him, the Rebbe immediately ascended the bimah.

"Ribono Shel Olam," he called out, "Your children are hungry!" And he began the brochos and blowing of the shofar.


Once in the silence of the night, a talmid saw Rabbeinu dressed in farmer's clothing with a bundle of wood on his shoulders, mysteriously leaving the house. Curious, he tiptoed behind Rabbeinu and soon enough discovered the Rebbe's destination.

In a small, lowly hut at the other end of town lay a destitute woman with her newborn child. Both were shivering from the cold and Rabbeinu had come to alleviate her plight.

Without a word that might give his identity away, the Rebbe arranged the wood in the fireplace and started up a fire.

He then left and the talmid following behind heard him whispering Tikkun Chatzos as he hurried home.


His well-known vort on Parshas Bo demonstrated further his love of Klal Yisroel.

"The parsha tells us that Pesach is called so because Hashem jumped over the houses of Bnei Yisroel," explained R' Moshe Leib.

"HaKodosh Boruch Hu came down to Mitzrayim, the country of wickedness and deprivation. Upon seeing that there were Jewish houses in Mitzrayim, he `jumped for joy'!"


His talmid, HaRav Zvi Hirsch of Ziditchov, recounted that R' Moshe Leib once had to enter the royal palace on one of his rescue missions.

The Sassover had not eaten all day, having been taken up with collecting funds for the prisoner in question. As he was led through the palace's regal rooms, the mouth-watering aroma of the king's dinner being prepared wafted over to him from the royal kitchens. The heavy smell entering his lungs made R' Moshe Leib feel giddy and he swayed slightly, almost fainting.

At the last moment, the Rebbe caught himself and began reciting the prayer of Nishmas kol chai. As he continued saying the tefilloh, his strength returned to him and he continued on his way as though he had eaten and satiated himself on a good meal.


The Yesod Ho'avodah of Slonim recounted that R' Moshe Leib, although he had little time to eat, was nevertheless overweight. When someone wondered aloud how the Rebbe was of such build without eating, Rabbeinu explained.

"Every day when I say the morning brochos, I reach the blessing, `Who has not made me a goy,' and I literally swell with pride and joy. So I gain weight every day."


R' Moshe Leib suffered difficult yissurim all his life. In the sefer Divrei Torah of the Minchas Elozor of Munkacz, we find the following:

Every day before the tefilloh, Rabbeinu of Sassov would say "Tai'ereh yissurim, dear yissurim, please leave me alone a little while now so that I can pray as befitting. After the tefilloh you can immediately return to me."

Then following davening, he would say, "Tai'ereh yissurim, come. Come back."

In this context, he translated the posuk in Tehillim (32:10) referring to himself.

"Rabim mach'ovim lorosho — the rosho is smitten with many yissurim but habotei'ach baHashem chesed yesovevenu — when that rosho (like me) trusts in Hashem, then he sees the yissurim as a chesed from Hashem surrounding him all the time."


One of R' Moshe Leib's great talmidim was the gaon Reb Avrohom, Rav of Butchatch. In his sefer Eshel Avrohom, he brings many chidushim on Shulchan Oruch in the name of his Rebbe.

In the introduction to one of his seforim we find, "My Rebbe had a great influence over me and on one occasion removed from me a ruach shtus, as one peels the paper off a bottle."

One of the customs of Rabbeinu that he mentions was that R' Moshe Leib would rise to his full height when he bentched with a minyan and said, "Boruch Elokeinu," and all those present would rise too.


Part of the inscription on his matzeivoh in the cemetery of Sassov reads: "Holy" is said of him. He gave up nights as days for avodas Hashem and His Torah and fulfilling His mitzvos.


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