The Belzer community on Wednesday lost one of its venerated and notable Chassidim with the petirah of Harav Alter Yaakov Eliezer Direnfeld, zt”l, at the age of 88, after a life devoted to Torah, avodah, Chassidus and gemilus chassadim.
Harav Direnfeld, one of the eldest Chassidim in the Belz community, served as a Rosh Kollel in Tel Aviv – in the kollel that was housed in the home of the Belzer Rebbe, Harav Aharon, zt”l.
Harav Direnfeld was born in 5688/1928 in Pupa, Hungary, to Harav Avraham, a Rav in the city, and his mother, Rebbetzin Tirtzah. In his younger years, his diligence in his learning was eminent.
As a bachur, he learned under the tutelage of Harav Yaakov Chizkiyahu Grunwald, zt”l, known as the Vayaged Yaakov, and later under his son, Harav Yosef, zt”l, later known as the Vayechi Yosef. He distinguished himself in the yeshivah, known as one of Hungary’s foremost yeshivos, as a genius in learning.
When the Nazi regime reached Hungary in 1944, he was transferred to several concentration camps, eventually being sent to Auschwitz. Despite his relatively young age, he managed to overcome the horrors of the camps. Amid the horrors that surrounded him, he did all he could to maintain as much of his Yiddishkeit as possible. His fellow survivors recall Reb Yaakov Eliezer always reviewing mishnayos baal peh, even in the darkest and toughest times.
After surviving the Holocaust, Reb Yaakov Eliezer went to the DP camp of Föhrenwald, in Munich, where the Sanz-Klausenberg Rebbe, zt”l, led an organization on behalf of the survivors, drawing them back to their roots and the ways of Torah and avodas Hashem. The Rebbe later said that even then, shortly after the war had ended, Reb Yaakov Eliezer was a chassidishe bachur, who devoted his time to learning.
From there, Reb Yaakov Eliezer went to Antwerp, Belgium, where he learned once again under the Vayechi Yosef of Pupa. In Antwerp, he joined a group of Belzer bachurim.
Upon reaching the shores of Eretz Yisrael in 1949, he was drawn close to the Belzer Rebbe, Harav Aharon, zt”l, who lived in Tel Aviv. From then on, until his last days, Reb Yaakov Eliezer would relate stories and customs of the Rebbe to the younger generation so that they, too, could learn and appreciate his greatness and emulate his exalted ways.
The Rebbe appointed him to teach in the Belzer Talmud Torah, where he taught thousands of talmidim over the years. He also merited to be the melamed of, lhbch”l, the Belzer Rebbe, shlita.
Reb Yaakov Eliezer married Rebbetzin Sheindel, the daughter of Harav Shalom Horowitz, zt”l, Rav in Kshanov. The Pshevorkser Rebbe, Reb Itzikel, zt”l, an uncle of the kallah, was the omed mitzad hakallah.
Even after the Belzer Rebbe was niftar, Reb Yaakov Eliezer stayed on in Tel Aviv and served as Rosh Kollel in the home of the Rebbe to ensure that it remained a makom Torah, a post he held for nearly fifty years.
Reb Yaakov Eliezer was a devout Chassid of the Rebbe, shlita, and was respected in the Belz community as a stalwart bearer of the tradition of their Rebbe, zt”l.
Earlier this week, Reb Yaakov Eliezer traveled to Haifa, where he suddenly collapsed and was rushed to hospital. His condition took a turn for the worse and on Wednesday afternoon he was niftar in the Rambam Hospital in Haifa.
The levayah of Reb Yaakov Eliezer set out from the Belzer Talumd Torah and kollel in Tel Aviv, continuing on to Yerushalayim, where it passed the Belzer beis medrash. Kevurah was late on Wednesday night in the Belzer chelkah on Har Hamenuchos.
Reb Yaakov Eliezer is survived by four sons, all Rabbanim in the Belz community: Harav Shalom Yisrael, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivas Torah V’Emunah; Harav Aharon, Maggid Shiur in the Belz yeshivah in Yerushalayim; Harav Avraham Tzvi, Rav of the Belz community in Beit Shemesh; and Harav Yosef Paltiel, Dayan in Ashdod, along with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all bnei Torah.
Yehi zichro baruch.