Machberes: Inside The Chassidish And Yeshivish World
By The Tannenbaum Family
The general custom is not to visit a cemetery during the month of Nissan, the month in which the nation of Israel was freed from slavery and in which we celebrate the yom tov of Pesach. Those who have a yahrzeit for either a father or mother visit the cemetery immediately before or after Nissan (Gesher HaChaim 26:6, Orchos Rabbeinu 2:305, Piskei Teshuvos 429:4).
As with every rule, there are exceptions. Some permit visiting a parent’s grave on a yahrzeit. The visit would be exclusively to the one gravesite. However, visiting the gravesites of tzaddikim is mostly allowed, with the specific gravesite being the exclusive destination. Visits to gravesites of tzaddikim during Nissan are noteworthy.
There is an annual gathering of tens of thousands of Jews at the gravesite of Rabbi Chaim Halberstam, zt’l (1793—1876), revered Sanzer Rav and author of Divrei Chaim, on his yahrzeit, 25 Nissan (this year Tuesday, May 3) in Sanz (formerly in Austro-Hungary and today in Poland). The assembly of so many pious Jews to pray at the gravesite is testimony to the impact the Divrei Chaim had during his lifetime, as well as the continuing influence that affects chassidic Jewry to this day.
Several chassidic communities organize official cemetery visits to their revered leaders’ graves during Nissan.
Satmar in Monroe. Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, zt’l (1914—2006), late Satmar Rebbe and author of Beirach Moshe, passed away late in the afternoon of Monday, 26 Nissan (April 24, 2006) and is buried in Kiryas Yoel next to his uncle, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zt’l (1886—1979), first Satmar Rebbe and author of Divrei Yoel. The yahrzeit this year is on Wednesday, May 4. Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, his eldest son and Satmar Rebbe, usually conducts a l’chaim tisch after Shacharis in Kiryas Yoel and then visits the gravesite. The Rebbe is accessible for berachos in his home at 5 Sanz Court afterwards. He then conducts the yahrzeit tisch in the main Satmar Beis Medrash in Kiryas Yoel on Wednesday evening.
Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe and son of the Beirach Moshe, commemorates the yahrzeit with Shacharis in Williamsburg, and then visits the gravesite in the early afternoon. The Rebbe later conducts the yahrzeit tisch in the main Satmar Beis Medrash on Rodney Street in Williamsburg on Wednesday evening. Thousands of chassidim attend each event.
Sanz in New Jersey. Rabbi Menachem Binyamin Ben Zion Rottenberg-Halberstam, zt’l (1881—1957), Voideslover-Sanzer Rebbe, immigrated to the United States in 1922 and conducted his beis medrash in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. He was the son of Rabbi Aaron Halberstam, zt’l Hy’d (1865-1942), of Biala-Bilitz and author of Meged Eretz and Pri Noah, murdered in the Holocaust; son of Rabbi Yosef Zev Halberstam, zt’l (d. 1890), Kshanover dayan; son of Rabbi Dovid Halberstam, zt’l (1818—1893), Kshanover Rebbe; son of the Divrei Chaim. Rabbi Menachem Binyamin Ben Zion is buried in the Washington Cemetery on Deans Rhode Hall Road, Monmouth Junction (Deans), New Jersey.
Rabbi Menachem Binyamin Ben Zion assumed the additional hyphenated name of Rottenberg after his second marriage in 1913. His second father-in-law was Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Reuven Yechezkia Rottenberg, zt’l (d. 1935), Voideslover Rav and author of Sifsei Avrohom. Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Reuven Yechezkia Rottenberg was the nephew of Rabbi Yitzchok Meir Alter (Rottenberg), zt’l (1899—1867), founding Gerrer Rebbe and author of Chidushei HaRim. Rabbi Menachem Binyamin Ben Zion was also the maternal grandson of Rabbi Alter Meir Rottenberg, zt’l, Valbromver Rav. Rabbi Menachem Binyamin Ben Zion, prior to coming to America, lived in Voideslov and, as a great-grandson of the Divrei Chaim personified Sanzer chassidus there as well as later in America.
Being that he is a direct descendant of the Divrei Chaim and that his yahrzeit is just three days removed from that of the Divrei Chaim, his gravesite is visited a lot year round and especially in Nissan.
Manastrich in Queens. There is often a cemetery visit organized to the Old Montefiore Cemetery on Springfield Boulevard in St. Albans, Queens, where prayers are said at the gravesite of Rabbi Yehoshua Heschel Rabinowitz, zt’l (1860-1938), Manastricher Rebbe who fled pogroms in Russia and arrived in the United States in 1924. His son, Rabbi Gedalya Aaron, zt’l, Hy’d (1880—1919) was murdered in a pogrom.
The Manastricher Rebbe was imprisoned together with his son Rabbi Yaakov Rabinowitz, zt’l, later Manastricher Rebbe in Philadelphia, for the crime of encouraging children to learn Torah in yeshivas. Russian revolutionary authorities preferred that children be taught in their secular schools.
After the murder of his son and his own imprisonment, the Manastricher Rebbe intensively sought and finally received authorization to leave Russia. Arriving in the United States, the Manastricher Rebbe chose Brooklyn. His beis midrash was at Legion Street in Brownsville, Brooklyn. His son, Rabbi Yaakov, established the Manastricher Beis Medrash in Philadelphia, the third chassidishe shtiebel there.
The Manastricher Rebbe was the author of Divrei Yehoshua and Toras Avos. After his arrival in America, he served as president of the Hisachdus Ho’Admorim, the organization of chassidishe rebbes. He was in the leadership of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin as well as Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, and was recognized as the leading chassidic rebbe in America, greatly respected by all of American Jewry. His huge funeral was reported in detail by the New York Times (April 28, 1939).
The Manastricher Rebbe was the son of Rabbi Yitzchok Yoel Rabinowitz, zt’l (1840—1885), Katikoziva Rebbe, imprisoned from 1869 to 1874 by Czarist officials for the high crime of spreading Yiddishkeit; son of Rabbi Gedalya Aaron Rabinowitz, zt’l (1815—1878), Linitzer Rebbe and author of Chen Aaron who fled in 1868 to Romania; son of Rabbi Yitzchok Yoel Rabinowitz, zt’l (1793—1827), Linitzer Rebbe who succeeded his brother and also died young; son of Rabbi Gedalya Rabinowitz, zt’l (d. 1803), founding Linitzer Rebbe and author of Teshuas Chein who merited to having studied under the Baal Shem Tov.
Beth Israel Cemetery in Woodbridge, NJ. Situated in Woodbridge, New Jersey, the Beth Israel Cemetery is a place of honor for Torah giants who rest there.
They include Rabbi Yonoson Steif, zt’l (d. 1958), rosh beis din and effectively chief rabbi of Budapest and later Vienner Rav; Rabbi Chaim Michael Dov Weissmandl, zt’l (d. 1957), Nitra rosh yeshiva, son-in-law of the Nitra Rav, zt’l, and Holocaust hero; Rabbi Moshe Stern, zt’l (d. 1997), Debretziner Rav and author of Be’er Moshe; Rabbi Ezriel Yehuda Liebowitz, zt’l (d. 1991), Hodhahzer Rav, who succeeded Rabbi Yonason Steif as Vienner Rav; Rabbi Hillel Bishko, zt’l (d. 1960), prolific writer and contributor to the Hamaor Rabbinical Journal; Rebbe Dov Berish Dembinsky, zt’l (d. 1981), Alexander Rebbe; Rabbi Shraga Feivel Sholom Dembinsky, zt’l (d. 1954), Alexander Rebbe; Rabbi Mordechai Menachem Mendel Eiger, zt’l (d. 1995), Lubliner Rebbe; Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, zt’l (d. 1991), New York Radziner Rebbe; Rabbi Yeruchem Leiner, zt’l (d. 1962), London Radziner Rebbe; Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Mayer, zt’l (d. 1991), Nitra Rosh Yeshiva; Rabbi Yitzchok Yehudah Leib Shacar, zt’l (d. 1953), rav in New York; Rabbi Yechiel Menachem Singer, zt’l (d. 1988), New York Alexander Rebbe; Rabbi Naftali Aryeh Spiegel, zt’l (d. 1948), Ostrov Kalishiner Rebbe; Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Spiegel, zt’l (d. 2001), rav of the Romanian Shul; Rabbi Yehoshua Yechezkel Taub, zt’l (d. 1952), Modzitzer Rebbe; Rebbe Yekusiel Yudah Teitelbaum, zt’l (d. 1972), Lapisher Rebbe; and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, zt’l (d. 2016), rav of Congregation Bnei Israel of Linden Heights, director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, and longtime author of “Machberes.”
Established in 1927, Beth Israel, also known as Woodbridge Memorial Gardens, sits upon American historical ground. George Washington stayed in Woodbridge on his ceremonial visit to New York City (then the capital of the United States) to assume the office of president back in 1789. Plants brought from Israel were dedicated there by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1957.
Among the outstanding features of the park is a prominent white stone monument showing the Ten Commandments flanked by two majestic lions, which is a memorial to the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The inscription on the base of the monument reads: “In memory of the six million martyred Jews of Europe from whose ashes Israel rose anew.”
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum was the rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park and director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. His family can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.