Friday, August 14, 2015

Reb Avraham’s Arrival in Eretz Yisrael

Otzar Nachmani # 224
Collected Talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal
Translated by Dovid Sears (unedited)

Posted in honor of Reb Avraham Sternhartz’s yahrtzeit, 20 Elul.

I heard the following from the chassid [of our community] in Jerusalem, Reb Shmuel Shapiro, zatzal. It is known that our master, Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz, zatzal, arrived in Eretz Yisrael on Rosh Chodesh Adar 5696 (1936), and this was the occasion of great rejoicing for all Breslover chassidim. They had already heard of his reputation long before, and knew that he was a towering figure, an expert Rav (halakhist), Chazan (prayer leader) and Sofer (scribe).

On Zayin Adar, the yahrtzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, the “Raya Mehemna (faithful shepherd),” it was customary [for Breslover chassidim and others] to travel to Meron, the site of the “holy of holies,” the burial place of the G-dly Tanna Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, may his merits shield us. Therefore, they impored our master [Reb Avraham] to lead the journey to this holy place. The Breslover chassidim were aroused to travel with him and also to spend Shabbos there; even those who were not accustomed to travel, as well as many others, came along.

This is what Reb Shmuel [Shapiro] told me: “It was a radiant Shabbos! Reb Avraham davened sweetly and stirringly, with a strong voice, leading almost all the Shabbos prayer services inn the cave near the holy tziyyun (grave site). He presided over Shaloshudes (the third meal), which was held in the old age home (now the site of the yeshivah overlooking the tziyyun), and Reb Avraham taught a lesson [from Likutey Moharan] that was astounding—it was a marvel to hear!

“This was the first time in my life that I heard such deep Torah delivered with such sweetness. His teaching was extraordinary (“oiser-geveintlakh”). Everyone there was deeply moved by his davening and learning; he infused us all with new life and a new spiritual awakening. His smiling face as he spoke such sweet words with the chassidim made a profound impression on us all. Everyone kept speaking about that Shabbos. In short, it was a radiant Shabbos, and the feelings we experienced are impossible to communicate. But it was a radiant Shabbos!”

Thus did Reb Shmuel describe that Shabbos, repeating his conclusion again and again.

Otzar Nachmani # 224

I also heard from Reb Shmuel Shapiro, zal, and also from my father and teacher [Rabbi Moshe Burstein, zal], that when [Reb Avraham Sternhartz] was in Meron at that time, he spoke of how fitting it would be for us to gather there for Rosh Hashanah, due to the great holiness of the place and the inspiration experienced there, which was akin to the Rebbe’s holy tziyyun in Uman.

Moreover, [in the synagogue and courtyard beside the tziyyun of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai] there was enough space for all of the Breslover chassidim in Eretz Yisrael to gather together. And when all of our brothers would pray together at this sacred site, binding ourselves to the Rebbe, there surely would be a great hisorerus (awakening), far beyond what would be the case elsewhere. For Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was an “awakened holy one” (Daniel 4:20), as the Rebbe revealed [in in the lesson “Lekhu Chazu” at the beginning of Likutey Moharan]. And the power and merit of Rabbi Shimon would prompt the fervor, deveykus (cleaving to Hashem) and purification of the mind necessary on the Yom ha-Din [“Day of Judgement,” which is Rosh Hashanah]. [Reb Avraham] cited various allusions to this (as already has been published in his treatise, “Amaros Tehoros”). 

However, this was not fulfilled until Rosh Hashanah 5701 (1940), due to the Arab pogroms that broke out at that time, beginning on Chol ha-Moed Pesach that year [5696 / 1936]  and continuing until 5700 [1939-1940]. It would have been mortally dangerous to gather in Meron, which was in a predominantly Arab region.

Similarly, the chassid Reb Yonah Lebel, zal, told how our master [Reb Avraham], soon after his arrival in Eretz Yisrael, spoke at length about [our praying in Meron on Rosh Hashanah], since we were unable to travel to Uman for the holy Rosh Hashanah gathering. And there [at the tziyyun of Rabbi Shimon] he sensed something like the aura of Uman.

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