In the presence of Oz Vehadar’s directors and rabbinical leaders along with representatives of the Lublin and other Polish communities,

Lublin, Poland – 5700

For nearly twenty-four hours, the fire raged. Flames leaped upwards, wreaking havoc on Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin’s famed treasures. The huge library – in fact, the biggest library in Poland – with its twenty-two thousand precious sefarim, was complete burned down. The Lublin firefighters were never called to the scene. No water or foam were sprayed to tame the raging flames and prevent the heartrending damage. Instead, in an attempt to drown out the heartbroken screams of the Lublin community standing helplessly around the fire, a military band broke into wild music, spiteful in the face of the Jews watching the horror taking place before their eyes in shock and agony.

The German youth magazine Deutsche Jugend Zeitung, describing the fire, explains the tremendous importance attributed by the Nazis to this “Talmudic Academy” and their fervent desire to destroy it. These wretched murderers were well aware of the value and pricelessness of the library, and they gleefully carried out the destruction with their own hands, throwing the holy sefarim out into the street and then setting the enormous pile on fire.

It will be another seventy-five years before the precious sefarim, most treasured possessions of the Jewish nation, will once again make their way back into the Yeshivah’s study hall and library on 85 Lubertowska Street – this time with the rightful honor accorded to them. These will be magnificent new editions, in the spirit of the holy gaon and tzaddik Rav Meir Shapiro, who had always strived to glorify Torah and its learners in every way possible.

 

Lublin, Poland - 5777

Travel Diary

 

Lublin – the great city that had once been dubbed “Poland’s Jerusalem” – now looks nothing like that golden age, when Jewish life thrived and about a third of its residents were Jewish. Now, the fifty-three thousand non-Jews living in the city comprise its absolute majority, with nearly no Jewish residents living in Poland today. Like many of the other cities in Poland, Lublin greets its visitors with Christian holiday decorations. Other than the gravestones surrounding the walls of the new cemetery – gravestones that had been painstakingly collected over an extended period of time from sidewalks and backyards throughout the city – there is nearly no trace left of the forty-thousand Jews who had once filled the streets of Lublin and were murdered in the concentration camps dotting the area just like the rest of their brothers in the region. May Hashem avenge their blood.

And so, just as in the days of Matisyahu, once again- few against many and pure against the impure, we make our way to the holy library that will soon be inaugurated once more. Bayamim hahem – bazman hazeh again, in the magnificent hall of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin.

 

The library will now boast many sefarim in all fields of the Torah, including some of the most magnificent editions produced by Oz Vehadar, under the directorship of the gaon hatzaddik Rav Yehoshua Leifer, who had had the tremendous zchus of disseminating Torah to all parts of the world.

The sefarim are now making their way from the bus trunks to the newly restored Yeshivah hall, where over four hundred great talmidei chachamim had once filled the seats and illuminated the entire world with their Torah. Now, the sefarim are carried into the hall with utmost respect. Tears of emotion and hope mingle with the gratified prayer: “Baruch Metziv gvul almanah - Blessed be (Hashem,) Who upholds the boundary of a widow!” (- the blessing said upon viewing the reconstruction of Jewish life). No music or band can do justice to the magical song of gratitude that springs forth.

 

The inauguration of the magnificent library has been enabled through a unique journey titled “In the Halls of Chassidus,” headed by the gaon Rav Menachem Mendel Pomerantz shlit”a, who traveled to visit the burial sites of the greatest Chassidic luminaries in preparation for the holy work of editing and elucidating their sacred words in the most beautiful manner possible.

 

Once again, the hall of the famed Yeshivah is teeming with joyous Torah learners, members of the journey, and the sounds of Torah reverberate through its walls; a painful reminder of a long-gone majestic era under the Yeshivah’s founder and rosh yeshivah, the venerated and beloved gaon Rav Meir Shapiro zt”l. There is a feeling in the air as though in just a few short moments, the Yeshivah’s historic shiur klali will begin…

Now, a shiur klali will be delivered in dedication of the reconstruction of the Yeshivah and return of its rightful glory, and members of the Lublin Jewish community – formally affiliated with the larger Warsaw community - are invited to join, along with the esteemed Rav Yitzchak Pinchas Etzyoni who lives in Lodz and acts tirelessly on behalf of fellow Jews visiting Poland. The esteemed Rav Yisrael Gellis of Yerushalayim, one of the originators of the initiative to reestablish the Yeshivah library, delivers a welcoming address in which he provides a short summary of the magnificent past of the holy Yeshivah and its founder, and then invites the gaon Rav Menachem Mendel Pomerantz, reish mesivta of Oz Vehadar, to share a few words in honor of the occasion.

In his speech, Rav Menachem Mendel Pomerantz mentions the Yeshivah’s founder and rosh yeshivah, Rav Meir Shapiro, and how before ascending to his rabbinical position he attested that his only goal is to connect himself to a life of spirituality and to disseminate and glorify Torah. Rav Pomerantz then relates the story of “Efrayim’l of Galina” – residence of the Maharam Shapiro. Efrayim’l was a child in whom Rav Meir Shapiro recognized tremendous potential and talent; a child who personified the words of Chazal, “Be careful with the children of the poor, for it is from them that Torah will come forth.”

The young Efrayim’l, who seemed to have been destined for greatness, fell ill and died at a young age. During his hesped, Rav Meir Shapiro painfully cited the passuk in Yirmiyahu: “haben yakir li Efrayim im yeled shaashuim, ki midei dabri bo zachor ezkerenu od – Efrayim, My favorite son and a delightful child, whenever I speak of him I remember him more and more!” Efrayim, cried Rav Meir Shapiro, was a “favorite son.” Yes, he was only a “delightful child,” but nevertheless a great person! “And whenever I speak of him,” continued Rav Meir Shapiro to mourn, “‘I remember him more!’ – I remember how much more he could have accomplished had he merited to continue living…”

“This eulogy,” said Rav Pomerantz, “is in essence our eulogy and mourning over the Rosh Yeshivah himself. We must remember how much more Rav Meir Shapiro could have accomplished had he not been taken away from us at such a young age. We must remember how much more could have been achieved in this building had the accursed Nazis not murdered the students of the yeshivah. After all, this was where the greatest minds had flocked to, and tremendous geonim could have grown here, had it not all been destroyed at its peak.

“The library that is now being reestablished is the beginning of our personal ‘more.’ It is our own share in furthering activities to disseminate and glorify Torah through all parts of the world,” concluded Rav Menachem Mendel Pomerantz emotionally. His words left a powerful impression on everyone in the room, reverberating through the walls and urging every participant to fulfill Rav Meir Shapiro’s request: “I will remember him more” – to remember the “more” that could have been; to consider what “more” we can all do and how we can make ourselves better and bring “more” nachas ruach to Hashem and an aliyas neshamah to the Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Meir ben Rav Yaakov Shimshon zt”l.

Rav Bloom, Deputy of Chief Rabbi of Poland Rav Michael Schudrich shlit”a, also spoke and expressed the communities’ deep gratitude to Oz Vehadar’s director, hagaon hatzaddik Rav Yehoshua Leifer of Monsey, who had managed to reach all corners of the world, as well as the esteemed guest, Rav Menachem Mendel Pomerantz, under whose guidance the chachamim and rabbanim of Oz Vehadar have succeeded in spreading and glorifying Torah. “It is no wonder,” cried Rav Bloom, “why so many are drawn to the study of Gemara, poring over the Talmud for so many hours. Your efforts are resulting in an increased desire and joy of learning. Today, a page of Gemara is something that is experiential – simply pleasurable. Ashreichem!”  Rav Bloom concluded by emotionally thanking Oz Vehadar’s CEO, Rav Chanoch Dranger, with whom all technical arrangements had been made for the realization of the initiative.

 

It is hard for the guests to leave the Yeshivah, so saturated with Torah and yirah. “Where are its beautiful blossoms?” one of the participants shares his emotions with us. “What would the Jewish world have looked like today had the Yeshivah continued raising its generations of gedolim?” we wonder in contemplation of Rav Pomerantz’s words. Only the brachah of emunah, “Shehakol niheyah bidvaro,” which we utter a few moments later, provides us with the answer to our question: “All was done in His command!”

                                                                        

A lovely “L’chayim” ceremony follows, its beauty befitting the trademark work of Style Productions managed by Rabbi Yechiel Ludmir and his team, who had joined the journey. The ceremony takes place inside the Yeshivah’s library in honor of its renewed inauguration. Rav Yisrael Shachori, reish mesivta of Beis Yisrael in Bet Shemesh, shares a heartfelt message. Then, the guests sit down for a beautiful seudas mitzvah that is full of gratitude to the Creator for His many chassadim, and a prayer to merit to see the entire Yeshivah return to its previous glory.

Up until now, every journey to visit the holy gravesites of tzaddikim buried in Polish soil would generally incorporate a Daf Yomi shiur in Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. However, without access to copies of the daf, it was difficult to fulfill the holy wish of the initiator of Daf Yomi. Now, a magnificent library awaits visitors, with basic sefarim alongside elucidated gemaros, volumes of Mesivta and many other treasures from the home of Oz Vehadar for the benefit of all visitors to the Yeshivah.

And perhaps… perhaps the day will come that the holy site will be restored to its previous glory in full. Perhaps we may merit to view a rebirth of the Yeshivah, with talmidim once again fillings its seats. Perhaps.

Halevai.