Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Rav Boruch Ber Rediscovered

Menachem Pines

Soon after Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz was buried in 1939, the Jewish community of Vilna was destroyed and his unmarked grave forgotten. But 70 years later, a little girl’s sudden deformity led to a series of seemingly unrelated events that resulted in the discovery of his resting place. This week, on Rav Boruch Ber’s 75th yahrtzeit, the Torah world will finally gather to honor his memory.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

His talmidim gathered around his deathbed, waiting for a bit of instruction, a last sign, but the Rosh Yeshivah’s thoughts were elsewhere. “The Rebbi is coming!” whispered Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz, the rosh yeshivah of Yeshivas Knesses Beis Yitzchak in Kamenitz. “I must wash my hands in honor of the Rebbi!” “The Rebbi” could refer to only one person. Throughout his life, it seemed as if Rav Boruch Ber had never left the benches of the beis medrash of Volozhin, and had never stopped quoting the words of his rebbi, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik. “The Rebbi” was at the center of Rav Boruch Ber’s life. Now, on the 5th of Kislev, 5700 (1939), Rav Boruch Ber faced his final hours. The Nazis had already invaded Poland and Jews everywhere had fled in panic and confusion to one of the safe spots, Vilna. Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz and other Torah scholars had also fled to the Lithuanian capital, where Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky, the leader of Diaspora Jewry, had greeted Rav Boruch Ber and asked him to open a yeshivah for the masses of refugees. But Rav Boruch Ber’s stay in Vilna did not last long. Already in his 70s, the Torah giant was ebbing away. He asked his students to accompany him in those last moments — and there they stood. “The Rebbi is coming,” he whispered, frightening his talmidim. It seemed as though he could sense his rebbi, who had died in 1918, waiting for him in the Heavenly realm. “I should put on a new shirt, something clean, in honor of the Rebbi,” he said. He further requested that an empty chair for his rebbi be placed at his bedside. Rav Boruch Ber prepared himself for his petirah like a person preparing for a lavish repast. “Review the shiur,” he begged his talmidim. They looked at each other in astonishment. Review the shiur? Now? Who could do such a thing? One of his students, Rav Meir Pantel, mustered up the courage to begin reviewing the shiur aloud. As he listened, Rav Boruch Ber’s face lit up, angelic, as he heard for the last time the teachings of his master, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik. When the shiur reached its conclusion, Rav Boruch Ber recited the brachah of Ahavah Rabbah and the pesukim of the “Hallelukahs.” Then he fell silent. After a moment, he cried, “V’shavti b’shalom el beis avi!” And his holy soul departed. 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"