The Kadosh From Tzfas

The matzeivah of Harav Elisha Chaim Kliers, Hy”d.

On his second visit to Eretz Yisrael in 5684/1924, the Imrei Emes of Ger, zy”a, visited the holy city of Teveria. Already on his first visit, the Rav of Teveria, Harav Moshe Kliers, zt”l, sent a warm letter of greeting to the Rebbe asking him to grace the city with a visit. On the second trip, the Rebbe traveled to Teveria, accompanied by his brother-in-law, Harav Tzvi Chanoch Hakohen Levin of Bendin, zt”l.

The Rebbe was welcomed by the sages of Teveria with great warmth and enthusiasm. He spent an entire week in the city, walking along the shores of the Kinneret and sharing divrei Torah. In the written impressions of the visit from Chassidim, they say that he went to daven at the kevarim of Rabi Chiya and his sons, Rav Ami and Rav Asi, and at the kevarim of the Rambam and the Shelah.

During this visit, one of Rav Kliers’ sons, Harav Elisha Chaim, was drawn to the Rebbe and became an ardent and devoted Chassid. Rav Elisha Chaim, who lived not far away, in Tzfas, was a ben Torah and a scholarly avreich who spent time learning in Beis Medrash Torah Ohr next to the kever of Rabi Meir Baal Hanes. For a living, he worked as a clerk at the Kliers Bank in Teveria.

During the Rebbe’s next visit to Eretz Yisrael, in 5687/1927, he again visited Teveria. This time, residents of the city, led by Rabbanim, waited for him at the entrance. The children held aloft torches in honor of the Rebbe and his entourage.

This time, again, the Rebbe visited the home of Rav Kliers, where he met the Sephardic Rabbanim of the city and discussed the subject of the Be’er Miriam, the well of Miriam. From here, the Rebbe went to daven at the kever of Rabi Meir Baal Hanes. On this visit as well, Rav Elisha Chaim was at the Rebbe’s side the entire time.

Two years later, the land was shaken by a storm. The riots of 5689/1929 — which broke out 90 years ago during this time in Chevron, Yerushalayim and the surrounding areas — will be remembered for eternity as a time of crisis for Jews who had lived alongside Muslims for hundreds of years, for the most part in neighborly harmony. The violence that erupted in Yerushalayim and continued in Chevron, Tel Aviv, Yaffo and Haifa took the lives of 133 people, Hashem yikom damam. Elokim al dami lach.

The riots also affected the Jews of Tzfas, which was in addition to the various pogroms they had suffered over the years. One of the victims was the Raavad of Tzfas, Harav Yishmael Hakohen from Yazd, Persia. Hy”d.

At the time, toward the end of the month of Av 5689, Rav Elisha Chaim felt a strong yearning for his Rebbe in Ger and sought to make a nesiah to the Rebbe. He planned to travel to Vienna, Austria, where the Rebbe was scheduled to attend the Second Knessiah Gedolah at the beginning of Elul. To that end, Rav Elisha traveled from Tzfas to nearby Teveria to take leave of his father, Mara d’Asra in the city.

Father and son spent several hours together before Rav Elisha took his leave and set out for his home in Tzfas. But that was when calamity struck: Arabs beset the car he was traveling in and killed him; his blood was spilled in the streets. He left behind a young widow, two small daughters and a son.

The terrible news reached his father, who had parted from his son just a few hours earlier. He raised his pure hands Heavenward, and accepted the decree with love, saying: “Baruch Hashem he was killed as a believing Jew,” a statement that would be etched in the heart of every Yid at that time.

The Bendiner Rav sent a pain-filled letter of consolation to Rav Kliers, and his brother-in-law the Imrei Emes added a note to the letter, “And it is impossible to describe our great anguish over what is happening there, in general and to individuals.”

Over the coming years, Rav Moshe Kliers would send kvitlach to the Imrei Emes, asking to mention his orphaned grandchildren. Indeed, Rav Elisha’s family remained yirei Shamayim, who followed in his path of Torah and mitzvos.

At the end of that difficult year, the Rebbe wrote from Vienna to Harav Shaul Moshe of Viershov, zt”l, in a letter: “And may we merit to rejoice in the joy of Yerushalayim instead of the pain that we have experienced.”