Reb Avrohom Yaakov
and Reb Shlomenu of Sadiger zt'l

  On the eighth day of the month of Av 5644 (1884), a ray of light emerged to penetrate the darkness and the mourning that had descended earlier that year with the petirah (death) of the Sadigerer Rebbe, Reb Avrohom Yaakov zt'l. The Rebbe's son and successor Reb Yisroel Sadigerer zt'l had good news! His Rebbitzen had given birth to a healthy baby boy. The child was named Avrohom Yaakov after his grandfather.

As a young boy Reb Avrohom Yaakov spent his time engrossed in his learning. Many years later he would reminisce about the long winter nights; "When we sat and learned without a pause." His father, Reb Yisroel, watched his steady progress with satisfaction. Reb Avrohom Yaakov always knew how well he had learned during the day by the way his father received him in the evening. One night, when Reb Avrohom Yaakov came to bid his father a good evening, he noticed that his father seemed to be displeased with him. Reb Yisroel told his son that he could see on his forehead that he had done something incorrect that day. After a few minutes thought Reb Avrohom Yaakov realized that his father must be referring to an argument he had had earlier with one of the chassidim. "Before a person goes to sleep every night he must forgive and beg forgiveness from anyone he might have upset during the day," Reb Yisroel told his son. "Every aveirah (transgression) a person does makes a mark on his forehead and only after the mark has been totally erased can he allow himself to go to sleep."

From right to left: The Sadigerer Rebbe
Reb Avrohom Yaakov zt"l with his shver the Kapichnitzer Rebbe Reb Yitzchok Meir Heschel zt"l
When Reb Avrohom Yaakov turned eighteen he married the Rebbitzen Bluma Raizel, the daughter of the Kapischnitzer Rebbe, Reb Yitzchok Meir Heschel zt'l. The Kapischnitzer Rebbe held his son-in-law in high esteem, as can be seen from a letter that he wrote to him after the petirah of Reb Yisroel Sadigerer on the thirteenth of Tishrei 5667 (1907), when Reb Avrohom Yaakov was appointed Sadigerer Rebbe. "As the beginning of your life's work has started, to lead Klall Yisroel (the Jewish people) and to daven (pray) to Hashem on their behalf, I give you my beracha (blessing) that your reign should be for many long years. It should be the wish of Heaven that all the berachos that you give should be fulfilled and those who bless you should be blessed. Hashem should be with you as He was with your zeides (grandfathers)..."
Before Reb Yisroel Sadigerer was niftar he summoned his son and told him that he was giving him a present which is of no use to anyone except for him. It was the seal of his zeide engraved with his name - Avrohom Yaakov ben Reb Yisroel.
Reb Avrohom Yaakov later related that through the handing over of this precious seal, he understood that it was his father's wish that he become Rebbe even though he wasn't the oldest son. After Reb Yisroel was niftar, all five of his sons became Rebbes, each one sitting in a different hall in the great Beis Hamedrash in Sadiger and conducting his own tish. The five sons were: Reb Aharon who was known as the Kedushas Aharon, Reb Sholom Yosef of Chernovitz, Reb Avrohom Yaakov, Reb Yitzchok of Rimanov and Reb Shlomo Chaim (known affectionately as Reb Shlomenu).

Despite his youth, Reb Avrohom Yaakov soon made a name for himself as a worthy heir and successor. Every question put to him was answered with deep wisdom, and his clear cut decisive answers often left the questioner spellbound. The Rebbe once said: "When I say the tefillah, 'veruach kodshechah al tikach mi-menie' (don't take Your holy Spirit from me), I don't ask Hashem to give me ruach hakodesh, I ask that when people come to ask me advice, the first thought which occurs to me should be the correct answer to the problem. I ask to have the siyaata dishmayia (divine assistance) to give the right answer."

The Rebbe's ability to know how to guide his chassidim wasn't just a result of his tefillos. He felt a great duty and responsibility to his chassidim, the fatherly responsibility of joining in their daily problems and sharing their troubles. The Rebbe once refused to partake in a seudas bris miloh (meal celebrating a circumcision), not even willing to eat a small piece of cake. When he was asked the reason for his refusal, he answered, "A certain Yid (Jew) is undergoing an operation at this very moment. How can I possibly eat...?"

On another occasion when the Rebbe noticed signs of wonder on the faces of his gabboim (attendants) after he had granted an audience to a certain dubious character, he told them, "When I come to the Next World and I am not granted entry I will say that I also granted entry to those who really should have been left outside."

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Rebbe fled to Vienna, Austria. There he opened his Beis Hamedrash (Shul and Study Hall) for the many chassidim who had fled with him. After the war's end, the Rebbe remained in Vienna, refusing to move back to Sadiger. He told his chassidim that although he had been upset to leave Sadiger, he was comforted by the fact that Vienna wasn't far from Pressburg, the resting place of the Chasam Sofer zt'l. The Rebbe was makpid not to let a day pass without learning the seforim (books, writings) of the Chasam Sofer. His fluency in the various seforim of the Chasam Sofer was such that he once commented that he considers the Chasam Sofer to be his Rebbe in Halacha (Jewish Law)! For twenty four years the Rebbe lived in Vienna, playing a major role in the daily and communal life of the Jews in the city.
The Sadigerer Rebbe
Reb Avrohom Yaakov zt"l,
The "Abir Yaakov"
When the Nazis entered Vienna in 1938, their first steps were to antagonize and terrorize the Rebbes and Rabbonim and their families. The Rebbe was seized and forced to sweep the streets clean, to the amusement of the onlooking Germans. The Rebbe told his chassidim: "It doesn't bother me to be a street sweeper, are not the roads of Vienna also the roads of Hashem? What upsets me is the Chillul Hashem (desecration of Hashem name), that the Yidden (Jews) are being belittled in the eyes of the goyim." The Rebbe made a vow that if Hashem would release him from the clutches of the Germans and enable him to emigrate to Eretz Yisroel, he would sweep the streets of Eretz Yisroel. The Rebbe did indeed keep his promise and after he arrived in Eretz Yisroel, he would arise very early every morning and sweep the streets around his house. After a few months the Rebbe was 'caught' by one of his chassidim while he was busy sweeping, and from then on he stopped.

It was only after much effort that a visa was procured, allowing the Rebbe to travel to Eretz Yisroel. At first his chassidim wanted him to emigrate to America, but he refused. He was only interested in going to Eretz Yisroel. Every day the Rebbe spent in the Holy Land was for him an additional joy, and he constantly thanked Hashem for having given him the stamina to endure the wait for the visa to Eretz Yisroel rather than giving in and going to America. Many years later when someone told the Rebbe that he was upset that now on his third visit to Eretz Yisroel he didn't have the same feeling that he had had the first time, the Rebbe exclaimed, "Every day I have that same excitement and sensation that I had when I first stepped foot in the Holy Land!"

The Jewish Holocaust in Europe broke the Rebbe's heart, but he carried his pain in silence. During the war, his thousands of chassidim met their deaths, whole kehillos (communities) totally wiped out. The Rebbe was left with just a few dozen chassidim, but from the outside it was impossible to see any change in his ways or his behavior. It was during this period that the Rebbe's true royalty came to light. The Rebbe wasn't dependent on thousands of followers to give him the image of a prince. His regalness was innate in him, regardless of how many people surrounded him. He carried on exactly as before, not allowing his terrible loss to interfere in his Avodas Hashem (divine service) in any way. The Rebbe once said that the Holocaust was hinted at in the words of the posuk(verse) in Parshas Haazinu: "O-marti af-aihem, I had said, I will scatter them." The Seforno explains that the word 'af-aihem' stems from the word pai-ah, a corner, and he explains further, "There will come a time before Moshiach when Klall Yisroel will be totally wiped out. All that will remain from them will be a corner, and this corner will be in Eretz Yisroel. This punishment will descend on them because Klall Yisroel never perfected themselves, not at Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah), and not in Eretz Yisroel and not in Golus." (exile)

Despite the Rebbe's external composure, he was shattered by the great churban (destruction) which he had witnessed. "Just to sit down and relax over a glass of tea requires effort," the Rebbe once revealed. His care for his fellow man can be seen from the following incident. One day a peddler who was selling coffee knocked on the Rebbe's door. The peddler advised the Rebbe to buy a large tin of coffee, saying that due to the war it was highly unlikely that any new stock would arrive. "If that's so, then I'll just take a small jar," the Rebbe replied. "Otherwise there won't be any left for others...."

The Rebbe took an active part in the structuring and building of the Yiddishe life in Eretz Yisroel. He disagreed with those who claimed that it was not befitting for a Godol (great sage or leader) to involve himself in communal problems. He said that he couldn't understand how Gedolim could refuse to help out in matters concerning Klall Yisroel. It should be their first priority to ease the problems of the kehilla and help shoulder their heavy burden. The Rebbe was among the first members of Agudas Yisroel, joining the movement at its inception, and immediately occupying an important place on the Moetzes Gedolai Hatorah. (Council of Torah Sages) In a letter written in 1912 the Rebbe writes, "How welcome and beloved is the founding of the Aguda, I will definitely be a member of the group and will try with all my strength to do what I can for the good of the movement."

In Eretz Yisroel the Rebbe carried the responsibility of seeing to Agudas Yisroel's continued existence and welfare. Now, more than ever before, it fell on him to worry about its survival, to carry on the derech (path) that the previous generation had started. All his public speeches had one central theme - achdus. (unity) If they wanted to succeed in their endeavours, they must be united. Great was the Rebbe's joy when Chinuch Atzmai was founded. He regarded the Chinuch Atzmai as a vital component in the rebuilding of Klall Yisroel and he did all he could to further its existence.

The Rebbe was involved in communal problems at every level and stage. In 1954 the deputy mayor of Tel Aviv resigned his job to become a member of the knesset. (Israeli Parliament) The members of the council decided to turn to the Rebbe and to accept his decision as to who should fill the vacant position.

One of the candidates, Reb Avrohom Boir, was sure that the Rebbe would appoint him for the job. Besides being a close chossid of the Rebbe, Reb Avrohom was also the most senior and the most experienced of the group, and as such he felt that he was the most qualified for the job. The Rebbe, however, refused to nominate anyone. Instead he said that he would cast lots, and the one whose name was on the slip taken from the box would get the job. Reb Avrohom was rather upset by the Rebbe's decision, but he kept silent, not revealing his inner feelings. The Rebbe, however, noticed Reb Avrohom's displeasure and asked him: "What are you worried about? If it has been decreed in Heaven that you are the correct one for the job, then it will be yours come what may..."

Reb Avrohom did, indeed, win the draw and became deputy mayor of Tel Aviv. "You see," the Rebbe told him, "I told you that you have nothing to fear. I knew that the job belonged to you, but I didn't want to appoint you because people would have said that I favor my chassidim. Therefore I decided to draw lots and from Heaven you received what is rightfully yours."

In his humility nothing was ever too much for him or below his dignity. The Rebbe was once seen standing in an office waiting to be seen. When one of his chassidim offered to take his place, the Rebbe refused, explaining that he hadn't come for himself but for someone else. When the chossid persisted in his demand to take the Rebbe's place, the Rebbe told him, "I am also allowed to help my fellow Jews!"

The Rebbe was very particular not to bother or inconvenience anybody. One of the Rebbe's chassidim accompanied him home, and when they arrived the Rebbe asked the man not to knock on the front door, as he didn't want to bother someone to come and open the door. Whilst the Rebbe was searching for the key the man rang the door bell. A young girl came and opened the door, right away the Rebbe apologized for having bothered her.

Similarly, the Rebbe would avoid accepting favors from people as much as possible. When a Yid who had asked the Rebbe to be sandek (godfather) at his son's bris (circumcision), told the Rebbe that he would send a taxi to collect him, the Rebbe refused the free ride and replied, "What? A mitzvah for nothing!"

Indeed, for the Rebbe every mitzva was a priceless opportunity to carry out the will of Hashem, a one time opportunity which wasn't to be wasted. When a bochur (young man) complained to the Rebbe that he found it difficult to concentrate during davening, the Rebbe answered him, "I don't understand how it is feasible to think about other matters during davening. Chazal have composed such a nussach (order of prayer) that it is almost impossible for other thoughts to enter one's mind...". To another bochur who moaned about his low spiritual level, the Rebbe answered, "Is it so difficult to refrain from speaking loshon hara (slander or gossip) and idle chatter? If you try to desist from such conversations and also work on your pride, you will soon feel yourself steadily climbing higher."

The Rebbe once heard about someone who donated a large sum of money to a yeshiva on condition that they put up a large placard commemorating his donation. The Rebbe sent the man a message telling him not to bother with the placard. In Heaven everything is written down, there is absolutely no need for a placard...

For seventy eight years the Rebbe's inner light shone forth, from Sadiger to Vienna to Eretz Yisroel. Whilst the Rebbe was in his element, his guiding hand being sought ever more, signs began to appear that the sun was starting to set.

One of the last pictures
of the Rebbe,
a few months before his petirah
Three years before the Rebbe's petirah, his rebbitzen was niftar. After the levayo (funeral) the Rebbe told his chassidim: "I don't know whether I will manage more than three years without her... ." When the chassidim came to receive the Rebbe's beracho during the last yomim noraim before his petirah, the Rebbe asked them to give him a beracho in return. "This year I need your berachos," he explained.

During one of the last nights of Chanukah, one of the chanukah lights suddenly went out. The Rebbe wanted to know which light it was. When he heard that it was the fifth light that had gone out, he said, "I was my father's fifth child." On the fifth of Teves 5721 (1961) the Rebbe's neshomo ascended. The Rebbe's holy body was laid to rest in the Ruzhiner section of the Nachalas Yitzchok cemetery in Tel Aviv.

After the Sadigerer Rebbe's petirah (death), his chassidim looked to the Rebbe's younger brother, Reb Shlomenu, to fill his brother's place. Reb Shlomenu, however, refused to take up the position, although he did agree to sit in his brother's place, on various occasions during the year, notably on Yom Tov and on the yahrzeit (anniveersary of the death) of his zeides (grandfathers). He explained to one of the chassidim: "A person cannot change his way of life like he changes his clothes, or even a job. This is a Heavenly matter, a holy derech (path), it can't be changed so easily." To a second person, Reb Shlomenu added, "I have already taken a shlichus (mission) on myself in this world. I can't retract from it."

Although Reb Shlomenu refused to be crowned Rebbe, many years before, in 1908, when his father Reb Yisroel Sadigerer had been niftar, he had assumed the mantle of the Rabbonus together with his older brothers.

Despite the fact that Reb Shlomenu was the youngest of the five brothers, he attracted many of the elder and more senior chassidim. His deep and penetrating divrei Torah were printed and distributed all over Galicia. When one of the divrei Torah came into the hands of Belzer Rebbe, Reb Yissocher Dov zt'l, he marvelled greatly that such a young person could produce such a masterpiece, and he remarked that it was Toras Emes (real true Torah)!

When the first World War broke out and Reb Shlomenu was forced to flee to Vienna, he decided to give up being Rebbe, leaving his older brother, Reb Avrohom Yaakov, to lead the chassidim. Despite the chassidim's vigorous protests, Reb Shlomenu refused to retract his decision; he wanted to serve Hashem in the way that suited him. In a letter to one of the chassidim, Reb Shlomenu wrote, "I never accepted to be a Rebbe in the usual sense, I wish to go in my own way, the way of life that I have chosen for myself over many years. My derech (path) is the derech of many of the talmidim (students) of the Baal Shem Tov. Boruch Hashem I have succeeded in my derech and Hashem should help me succeed further."

Reb Shlomenu was not a man who sat back and saw to his own life and problems. Although he had retired from being Rebbe, he didn't stop helping others for a minute. In another letter, Reb Shlomenu wrote, "My position as a Rebbe is not confined to a particular spot. It is a moving position, each time it finds itself in a different place. Sometimes it is in a cellar or in a shack which serves as a house for a poor family. Other times it is in a rich man's office where I remind him of his duty to his less fortunate brothers. Or it is in the council offices where I draw their attention to some important matter."

In 1938 Reb Shlomenu left Vienna for Eretz Yisroel, settling in Tel Aviv. There he freed himself further from the trappings of the Rabbonus. Although in Europe Reb Shlomenu was always accompanied by at least one gabbai (attendant), if not two, in Eretz Yisroel he refused to have a gabbai. When he was asked the reason for the change he answered, "My father was always accompanied by many gabbaim, yet at home when he went from one room to another, he was by himself. In Eretz Yisroel I feel as if I am in my home, therefore a gabbai is quite unnecessary."

In 1949 Reb Shlomenu left Eretz Yisroel for Europe. He went to seek out the many Yiddishe (Jewish) children that were still in non-Jewish hands and were being brought up as goyim. These children had been given away during the second World War to avoid their being killed by the Germans, and after the war's end their new foster parents were in no hurry to return them. Reb Shlomenu saw it as his life's mission to rescue these children and bring them back to Yiddishkeit. In a letter Reb Shlomenu wrote: "My stay in this lowly world is between one Heavenly sphere and the other. I came down here, a messenger from Above, to participate in the great tikkun (rectification), to perfect the world through Hashem's sovereignty." For close to two years Reb Shlomenu travelled throughout Europe searching high and low for his lost brethren. Special frum absorption centers were set up in Eretz Yisroel to look after the children that Reb Shlomenu rescued. After a number of years, when these children grew older, Reb Shlomenu helped them to get married and set up frum (religious) homes. He would appear at their chasunahs (weddings) as a mechutan (in-law, close relative), even signing his name on the wedding invitation.
Reb Shlomenu zt"l

Reb Shlomenu excelled as a true manhig Yisroel (Jewish leader), not someone who liked to make long flowery speeches for the masses to hear, but as a manhig in action. In his notebook he wrote: "A speech which is not followed by the appropriate actions, not only is the speech not worth anything, it is even detrimental. The speaker thinks that he has already done his duty. He forgets that he still has the obligation to help complete the task at hand."

The Sadigerer Rebbe, Reb Avrohom Yaakov, used to say, "My brother Reb Shlomenu is kodosh ve-tahor." (pure and holy) Indeed, anyone who ever saw Reb Shlomenu whilst he was davening never forgot the experience. His tefillos (prayers) gushed forth from the depths of his soul. Each word was said and pronounced with intense kavanah, (intention) accompanied by hot tears. The realization that he was standing in front of Hashem enveloped his whole being, elevating him to a level far above this mundane world. All his energy was inserted into his davening, (praying Yid.) and often he had to pause to rest in the middle until he regained his strength.

During the tishen (Chassidic gatherings, lit. Rebbes' table) that he gave on special occasions, Reb Shlomenu sat deep in thought as his mind drifted back to times gone by. Often when he recounted stories of divrei Torah from his zeides, he would burst into tears, weeping like a small child. Those present could almost visualize the particular tzaddik who was being spoken about.

His advice and his berachos (blessings) were given with that same emotion as during davening or a tish. One could sense his great love and feeling for every person. Reb Shlomenu wrote in his notebook, "I have tried for myself what I suggested to others with the unpleasantness and the problems that go with it, and the result was excellent. It has worked wonders!"

Not many people were zoche (had merit) to truly understand and appreciate who Reb Shlomenu was. He always shunned the limelight, preferring to let others receive the honor whilst in reality he did most of the work. Those who were granted the privilege of an inside view saw in him a model of a true servant of Hashem, a person who strove constantly to become ever closer to Hashem. Reb Shlomenu was niftar in his eighty fifth year on the twenty sixth of Av 5732 (1972). His passing was a major blow for all the Ruzhiner chassidim worldwide, who until this day speak of him with emotion and longing.

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