Living Legacy: Rav Eizik’l Kalever, zy”a
By: Yehuda Alter
The first Hungarian chassidishe Rebbe, the patriarch of the great Kalever dynasty still in existence today, Rav Eizk’l’s yahrzeit is marked Thursday, 7 Adar II.
Rav Yitzchok Eizik Taub was born to his father, Reb Yechezkel, a wealthy balebos, in the year 1751, in the Hungarian town of Serench. From his youth, he was known among the townspeople as a tremendous iluy, who would sit and learn with the sweetest niggun.
Indeed, he was known for his tremendous power of song–and this is how he was discovered by Rav Leib Soroh’s; pacing in the forests outside the town, humming the most heavenly niggunim. Rav Leib recognized the greatness of the lad in front of him, and brought him to Rebbe Shmelke of Niklosburg. From there, he went to the Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk.
In 1781, he became the rov of Kalev and the surrounding region. This would be a tenure of forty years, in which he was known for his great avodah, and leading the Yidden of Hungary in the path of chassidus. All this was despite his physical frailty all his life.
His great deveikus was tremendous, and the stories are told about his aliyas neshomoh.
In addition to his son, Rav Moshe Chaim, who succeeded him–and through him, the current successor of the dynasty–he shaped many great talmidim. He worked his entire life to enhance Jewish life in the entire Hungary.
He was especially close to the Yismach Moshe of Uhel. It is said that the two were once at the chanukas habayis for the shul in Nanash. Each one wanted the other to enter first. The debate was settled when the Yismach Moshe said; “Either way you must go in before me; if you are greater, then you deserve to go first. If I am greater than you, then you must listen to me!”
His petirah took place at the exalted time of the waning moments of Shabbos–7 Adar of 1821. Following his passing, the following was inscribed on his matzeivah–in keeping with his wishes: “He knew to learn a blatt Gemoro, and he was an ehrlicher Yid.” So simple, yet so great.
His resting place attracted masses every year on the yahrzeit, among them many great tzaddikim throughout the ages.
As noted, his koach in neginah was great, and he left behind numerous legendary niggunim that bring rivers of tears to the eyes of those who sing them 200 years after his passing. The famed niggun “Sol-a-Kokosh mar…” is just one of the nigunim that he elevated from the peasants of Hungary to the loftiests places of pining and yearning. The words of this song are a parable of tremendous yearning to go home… but needing to wait patiently until we will ultimately be brought home.