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Enduring Link

Eliezer Shulman

Rav Yochanan Sofer of Erloi, scion of the Chasam Sofer and indefatigable Holocaust survivor, somehow found towering strength to rebuild a broken generation after the devastation of the war years. From nurturing a struggling Hungarian yeshivah to leading a flowering court, a single linchpin connected every action he took: the burning drive to perpetuate his ancestors’ teachings in a new world.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Every year, on the seventh day of Pesach, the Erloi beis medrash in Katamon saw the same scene. The chassidim — at first small in number, but with the passage of years more and more numerous — packed into the room. All eyes focused on the luminous face of their leader, Rav Yochanan Sofer, a small man who’d somehow found towering strength to rebuild so many of them after the devastation of the war years. They readied themselves for the familiar story. The story began with a blessing. The blessing had been granted by the Rebbe’s grandfather Rav Shimon Sofer, known as the Hisorerus Teshuvah. The straits were desperate: The Nazis had spread to Hungary, and young Reb Yochanan was about to conduct a dangerous nighttime foray for food for his starving family. The Angel of Death hovered menacingly close by. Yet his grandfather’s blessing kept him safe. The chassidim listened to the tale, anticipating the emotional conclusion that never failed to move them. “Why do you think I was saved?” the Rebbe would cry out. “To eat a bowl of soup? My grandfather’s blessing entrusted me with a mission — a mission to teach the traditions of Pressburg to talmidim inEretzYisrael!” That mission became the linchpin of every decision he made and every action he took, from the conclusion of the war until his passing this week.

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