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Sacred Silver

Yeruchem Landesman

Mystical powers, elevated meditations, flames of the spirit — the holy menorahs of the rebbes and tzaddikim of the past were a vehicle for bringing down esoteric light into the darkness of exile and persecution. Some of these special menorahs are still being used, passed down through generations and wandering through galus like the righteous ones who fashioned them. Eight menorahs for eight days — and may the holy light continue to push away the final darkness.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Among the dozens of holy items that were passed from father to son in the Puppa dynasty is the pure silver menorah used by the Puppa Rebbes to kindle their Chanukah lights. The menorah is unusual in that it can be transformed into candlesticks for Shabbos and Yamim Tovim, which the Puppa tzaddikim used throughout the year.

The story of the Puppa menorah is the story of the wanderings and rescue of the dynasty itself, told by Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Neiman, ztz”l, av beis din of Belz in Montreal, who was a student of the Vayaged Yaakov (Rav Yaakov Chizkiah Greenwald, ztz”l, the second Puppa Rebbe) and of his son, the Vayechi Yosef (Rav Yosef Greenwald, ztz”l, the third Puppa Rebbe, who, after losing his wife and ten children in the Holocaust, rebuilt the Chassidus in the United States).

With the annihilation of Hungarian Jewry, innumerable holy manuscripts and responsa were destroyed. But among the objects that were rescued was the menorah that the Vayaged Yaakov had received from his students, which they had constructed especially for him. It was passed down to the Vayechi Yosef, and today is used by the current Puppa Rebbe, shlita. This menorah — which can only be considered a borderline antique — is especially tall and majestic, which is not always the case with older menorahs of previous generations. On its back are engraved the words: “Mishloach manos to the holy Rebbe, shlita, from his faithful students of Puppa, 5698 [1938].”

With the division of the inheritance of the Vayechi Yosef, his son Rav Aharon Greenwald — brother of the current Puppa Rebbe, shlita, and dayan of the Kehillas Yaakov community of Puppa — received the menorah.

Rabbi Neiman related that in 1938, a number of the Puppa yeshivah bochurim decided to order a special, splendid menorah to be made by a silversmith in Pest. Each of the students contributed toward the expense of the valuable mishloach manos gift to their Rebbe, the Vayaged Yaakov. On Purim, some of the older bochurim, who served as gabbaim in the yeshivah, presented the Rebbe with the stunning menorah. Its size and beauty were unusual.

In 1941, with the passing of the Vayaged Yaakov, the menorah was left with the Rebbetzin. A year later, the menorah was transferred to her son in the following roundabout way: The Vayaged Yaakov’s father-in-law, the Brezhvitzer Rav, Rav Yisrael Menachem Braun, ztz”l, was living in Slovakia, where the occupation under the Nazis had already become intolerable. The widowed Puppa Rebbetzin decided to bring her father to Pest — where Jews still has some recourse — but needed a huge sum to smuggle him over the border. The yeshivah bochurim offered her a deal: They would obtain the sum she needed and buy the menorah off her, which they would then present to her son, the Vayechi Yosef, who was arriving in Puppa to fill his father’s place.

There was great anxiety about the fate of the many manuscripts and holy artifacts — would anything survive the Nazi onslaught? Rabbi Shmuel Webber, then learning in the Puppa Yeshivah, came up with the idea of burying them. The Rebbetzin gave him her large cholent pot, and he buried the manuscripts along with the holy menorah inside it in the courtyard.

As the war raged and the community was ravaged, Rav Shmuel met the Rebbe, the Vayechi Yosef, in a labor camp as they were both being sent to Auschwitz. Neither knew if they would survive, and so Rav Shmuel told the Rebbe what he had done, so that someone else should know the whereabouts of the manuscripts and the menorah. With Hashem’s kindness, both survived the war. After the liberation, they returned to Puppa, dug up the items, and found the menorah whole.

Having witnessed the murder of his family, the Vayechi Yosef wandered from place to place after the war, until he reached the United States. Meanwhile, he sent the menorah to Temishvar, Romania, to his surviving sister, the Temeshvarer Rebbetzin, tchya. She returned it to her brother in 1946, when he was living in Antwerp, and from there, it traveled with him to the United States, where it remains to this day. The accompanying little silver pitcher was a mishloach manos present to him from the students of the Puppa yeshivah in the United States on Purim 5725 (1965).

 

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