BD”E: The Biala Rebbe, Zy”a

By Hamodia Staff

The Biala Rebbe, zy”a, in Meron. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Torah world in general, and the Chassidic community in particular, was plunged into mourning on Friday morning, with the news of the petirah of the Biala Rebbe, Harav Betzalel Simcha Menachem Ben-Zion Rabinowitz, zy”a, at the age of 89.

In recent months, the Rebbe had been hospitalized several times, and was hospitalized this week in serious condition. His situation took a sudden turn for the worse on Friday morning, and the Rebbe’s pure neshamah returned to its Maker.

The Rebbe’s levayah is to be held Friday afternoon in Yerushalayim.

The Rebbe was born in the city of Siedlce in Poland, on 8 Adar I, 5695/1935, the youngest son of his father, the Chelkas Yehoshua of Biala, zy”a.

His mother, Rebbetzin Chana Fesha, a”h, was the daughter of Harav Eliezer Bernholz, z”l, who was a Biala Chassid from the city of Voldova.

When the Nazis conquered Poland and they arrived in Biala, they began their destruction by abusing the Rabbanim and Admorim. The rRebbe’s father fled to Barnovice, which was then under Russian rule. In Barnovice, the Koidanover Rebbe, the brother-in-law of the Chelkas Yehoshua, resided. When they wanted to return to Poland, the Koidanover Rebbetzin, who was childless, lo aleinu, pleaded with the Biala Rebbetzin, a”h, to leave her at least one of her children in her care, so that at least one memory of the family would remain.

In the end, it turned out that the family members were transferred to Siberia as part of the rescue operation from Barnovice, and all the Jews who remained in Barnovice or in Biala were killed. In this way, the Rabinowitz family survived, b’chasdei Shamayim.

With time, they managed to obtain permits from the Polish government to leave Siberia and arrived in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, not far from the Persian border, closer to Eretz Yisrael.

The Rebbe’s father, the Chelkas Yehoshua, made sure that his young son and his brother and sister left for Eretz Yisrael, via Tehran, Iran, where they stayed for several months.

Eventually, they arrived by buses through Transjordan to Eretz Yisrael. The journey was full of immense difficulties, and the fact that they managed to overcome the great turmoil, under the conditions prevailing at that time, was in itself a miraculous feat.

In Eretz Yisrael, he initially stayed in the Battei Avos established by the Ponevez Rav, and later with his great-uncle, Harav Yosef Zvi Kalish, zt”l, Rav of Bnei Brak, where he stayed for two years. His father, the Chelkas Yehoshua, was still in Poland at the time, and he maintained contact with his father through letters.

Already in his youth, the Rebbe was recognized as one of the greatest and most diligent bachurim of the Ponevez Yeshivah. His vast knowledge in all areas of Torah was dazzling. He was an outstanding talmid of the Roshei Yeshivah, Harav Elazar Menachem Shach, Harav Shmuel Rozovsky, and Harav Dovid Povarsky, zt”l.

In 5707/1947, when the Rebbe was 12 years old, his father finally immigrated to Eretz Yisrael, and he traveled to greet him at the port of Haifa with great excitement.

In 5717/1957, he married Rebbetzin Beila Bracha, a”h, the daughter of Harav Avraham Moshe Babad, zt”l, the Rav of Sunderland and the chairman of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah in Europe. After his marriage, he lived in Gateshead, England, and served as Rosh Kollel there.

In 5739/1979, he was chosen to serve as the Rav of the city of Lugano in Switzerland, where he stood guard over the Yiddishkeit in the city for several decades.

On 21 Shevat, 5742/1982, his father, the Chelkas Yehoshua, was niftar. After his petirah, his son, the Rebbe, zt”l, was appointed to serve as Biala Rebbe.

The Rebbe divided his time between the cities of Lugano and Yerushalayim.

In 5771/2011, with the decline of the community in Lugano, the Rebbe moved to Yerushalayim, above the building of his large beis medrash. Over the years, the Rebbe divided his time between Yerushalayim and Tzfas, where he often traveled to seclude himself.

During his lifetime, mosdos flourished under his leadership both in Eretz Yisrael and abroad. He established yeshivos, combining Chassidic teachings with Torah learning as he received from his predecessors. His educational approach was influenced by the Litvishe yeshivos. His Chassidic teachings were based on the writings of the early Chassidic masters, as well as the works of the Maharal and the Ramchal.

In 1995, his first Rebbetzin, a”h, passed away, and later, he remarried the widow of the Harav Moshe David Steinvortzel, zt”l, the head of the Bobov Yeshivah.

Throughout his life, the Rebbe increasingly engaged in outreach to distant communities. In Beit Shemesh and Tzfas there are centers of Biala Chassidim primarily composed of English-speaking baalei teshuva.

The Rebbe wrote numerous sefarim in his series of the Mevaser Tov sefarim.

The collective name of his books, Mevaser Tov, is an acronym for his full name, Betzalel Simcha Menachem Ben-Zion Simcha Rabinowitz.

The Rebbe was respected and admired everywhere he went, and was received with reverence and affection. He served as a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah.

In his later years, the Rebbe was weakened, and he was hospitalized several times as thousands of Chassidim davened for his complete and speedy recovery. On the last day of Pesach, the Chassidim were still privileged to see the Rebbe lead a tisch in the main beis medrash in Yerushalayim. The Chassidim did not dream that this was their farewell to their Rebbe.

Last Friday, the Rebbe was hospitalized at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. Many tefillos were held for the Rebbe over the last week, and it seemed that his situation was improving. However, on Friday morning, his pure soul returned to its Creator.

The Rebbe is survived by his sons, daughters, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and thousands of Chassidim mourning the loss of their Rebbe.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.

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