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And the Moon Set

Gittel Chany Rosengarten

For over six decades, Reb Shaya Ungar was the unswerving, ardent servant of two Skverer Rebbes, refracting their sunlight with unflinching devotion. As he fought with banks and battled naysayers in the 1950s, Reb Shaya paved the way for his Rebbe’s dream and moved into the first house in the wilderness of New Square. Since then, he held up the chassidim, ensured the minhagim, and wrote over a million kvittlach for their wellbeing. Last month, the moon waned.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Most homes in New Square look alike. Two maple trees standing sentry on either side of the front yard, a side entrance for a guestroom, and a movable succah roof on tracks, with an obstacle course of bikes and strollers trailing up the driveway. Reb Shaya Ungar’s house looks the same. Except for the shingle-roofed water well in his yard, it’s hard to discern that his was the very first house to be inhabited when New Square was established. Nor does it boast of its history as the nucleus of New Square’s very existence, the command center from where the entire shtetl took shape. But if the well’s deep cistern could echo the staunch message Reb Shaya dug into it, it would tell of a man who refused compromise when it came to his Rebbe’s vision. And if one were to bend into the well, seek his own reflection, and ask why a man would do that, why someone would dedicate his entire life and being to a village that was just beyond the scope of reality, the well would show a moon in complete devoted service, absorbing and reflecting back the light of the sun. Reb Shaya Ungar — the Skverer Rebbe’s faithful secretary who passed away last month after over six decades of devoted service — was born in 1925 after his father Avraham Tzvi, the Rav of Kopuvar, Hungary, received an unusual brachah from Reb Shayaleh of Kerestir. The Kopuvar Rav, author of Machaneh Avraham on mikvaos and a follower of the Minchas Elazar of Munkacs, accompanied one of his married children, a childless son, to Reb Shayaleh for a brachah from the tzaddik whose blessings were otherworldly. They were at the tish when Reb Shayaleh passed a chicken bone to them. “Not for me,” the Kopuvarer Rav said. “I already have children. It’s for my son.” “You should also have a bein [bone in Yiddish is bein, like son],” Reb Shayaleh told the Rav. A short while later, Reb Shayaleh passed away, and a “bein” was born to the Rav Avraham Tzvi. Rav Avraham Tzvi named his ben zekunim Shaya after the Rebbe who had blessed him. 

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