Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lamed Voov Tzadik

A great Tzadik left us last Shabes (Zuchor).
No, you didn’t hear about him; he was one of the Lamed Voov – the hidden Tzadikim in whose merit the world exists. Thanks to those few individuals, we have an opportunity to struggle to elevate ourselves to the level of who we should be.
The first time I read about Rav Zev Vava Moreino, I was just beginning to learn about my country’s horrible past, about the Holocaust which happened there and about the stand of my landsman and coreligionists at that horrifying time. This was still in the hardest years of communist Poland, when the state of war imposed on its citizens by the communist regime was merely suspended.
In the main communist weekly ‘Polityka’ there was article about Rav Moreino, the last chief rabbi of Poland. Actually, most of the article was criticizing the municipal government of city of Lodz, which had seized the apartment of Rabbi Moreino and tossed all the furniture and Sefurim (sacred books) through the window into the melting snow of the Polish spring. Among the books were some historic manuscripts recognized as such by the communist journalist who himself was Jewish.
You may wonder if such criticism of the government was possible at all under communism. Well… it was possible for Warsaw to criticize lower levels of government, but it was punishable to criticize the communist establishment from the Polish capital.
It was I think 1985 or 1986 when I read this article; Rav Moreino left Poland in 1973. For ten years there was no one single rabbi in the country which for at least 500 years has probably had more rabbis than all the rest of the world together.
I spoke then with some of the members of the local synagogue who knew him personally. Everybody agreed that this man was simply not normal. He was a good man, they said, but he was too extreme.
Only many years later I understood what was so abnormal about Rav Moreino. He was living as if the war just didn’t exist, as if there was no communism in his country. Only the pain of losing six million of his brothers and sisters affected him.
He stayed a Shomer Torah ve Mitzvois (a Servant of the G-d of his ancestors) and ohev Yisruel (lover of every Jew) while thousands of others lost most of their faith. Among them were those who told me about the ‘mental condition’ of Rav Moreino.
I can not judge them, but I can admire him.
When I came to this country I learn about Rav Moreino more from my rebbi, Yosef Bruzda ZTL. Rabbi Bruzda, himself a Lamed Vuv Tzadik, remembered Rav Moreino from after the war in Lodz, where Rabbi Bruzda spend two years before escaping from the communists to France. He spoke about Rav Moreino with great esteem, wondering about his Geoinus (scholarship), unknown in post-war Poland and superior even to the knowledge of our brothers who were less harmed by the war.
Yet as long as there were people in Poland who needed him, he stayed, even while others were rebuilding their moisdois in different parts of the world.
Rav Moreino possessed all the organizational skills needed to establish himself somewhere else. He was a lawyer, speaking Latin and French. This last skill helped him to survive the war as POW in a German camp for French soldiers. Above of all of this, he studied the Heilige Toirah in Baranovitch and Kamenetz Yeshivos.
Just these two lines are fascinating in the overall description of this Tzadik, aren’t they?
I didn’t meet Rav Moreino until few years ago. I was sitting in my car on the corner of 15th Avenue and 46th street in Boro Park where I was building a house for someone. Almost everyday I saw this, an alte Yid mit a rabeishe Poilishe Hit vus hot gevokt yeide tug mit zain yinger Rebbetzin – an old Jew with hat characteristic for rabbis from Poland, who walked with his much younger Rebbetzin taking the stroll to refresh rigid bones. But one day while they passed my car I was stunned when I overheard their conversation. No, I didn’t listen to what about they were speaking about, but in those days you couldn’t here my native Polish on the streets of Boro Park, at least not coming from people looking like this. At first I didn’t know even who it might be, but after evaluating the facts it came to my mind that it could be Rav Moreino. I had assumed if he was still alive he lived somewhere else besides BP.
I visited Rav Moreino and his Rebbetzin, together with my wife and my brother and sister in law. My brother-in-law wanted Rav Moreino to play significant role in his upcoming Hasune (wedding). Unfortunately, Rav Moreino, at the time over 90 years old, was not able to participate. That meeting will be not forgotten, as I was already aware of with whom I was visiting.
Two weeks ago a great man left this reality. He was one of those who others see--through the prism of the confusion of this world--as individuals going against the stream; not normal, they say.
Like his great-grandfather Avraham, Rav Moreino was not worried what others will say. He did what was right.
Matys Weiser

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