Living Legacy: Rav Eliezer Dovid Greenwald of Satmar

Living Legacy: Rav Eliezer Dovid Greenwald of Satmar

Yehuda Alter 

1 Sivan marks the yohrtzeit of Rav Eliezer Dovid Greenwald of Satmar, known as the “Keren l’Duvid,” on of the great ge’onim prewar Hungary who was a rebbi to countless Rabbonim and Admorim—many of whom survived the Churban. 

He was born in Charna, Hungary, in the winter of 1867. His father was Rav Amrom Greenwald, a great ga’on who hailed from generation of Rabbonim and tzaddikim. His mother was Rebbetzin Esther. 

The Keren L’Duvid was a renowned ga’on and tzaddik, and a fiery fighter against the maskilim and secularists who sought to make inroads into Jewish life during his time. 

As a bachur, he learned by his older brother, Rav Moshe Greenwald, known as the Arugas Habosem, ABD Chust. There he learned with great hasmodoh. He authored his Bar Mitzvah phetel on his own, and the gedolim of his time expressed wonder at his sharpness and erudition. 

In 1882, he entered the yeshiva of Rav Shmuel Ehrenfeld in Mattesdorf, where he continued to grow in Torah, becoming known as one of the greatest lomdim and ga’onim—so much so that he became known as Rav Eliezer Charif (the sharp one). 

In 1889, he married Rebbetzin Perel, the daughter of Reb Yaakov Rappaport of Bardiyov. The couple settled in Bardiyov where they remained for five years. There, Rav Eliezer Duvid spent his days and nights immersed in Torah and avodah. During this time, he acquired semicha from some of the greatest gedolim of the generation, including the Arugas Habosem, The Kedushas Yom Tov of Sighet, the first Rav Shloime of Bobov, and others. He also journeyed to the Admorim of Belz and Shinova. 

Following a sterling career as a marbitz Torah and rov in various Hungarian towns, he heeded the call to become the rov of the prominent kehillah of Satmar in 1921. People later related about the great joy that permeated Satmar when he arrived to accept the mantle of the rabbonus. As the rov of Satmar, he was instrumental in establishing much Jewish infrastructure with incredible dedication to the Yidden of the city.

Among his actions on behalf of Yiddishkeit was his ban on purchasing from Yidden who kept their shops open on Shabbos Kodesh. These individuals went to court, claiming that the rov is causing them damage. At this, Rav Eliezer Duvid proclaimed, “I am prepared to go to prison for the sanctity of Shabbos!” 

With mesirus nefesh, he built batei midrash and shuls, himself gathering funds for their construction. He was a marbitz Torah to many, with incredible dedication—instilling in his talmidim ahavas Hashem and ahavas haTorah. 

His dedication to the people of the town was incredible: he would gather enormous sums with which to help the needy, and he would regularly daven at different shuls within the town so to get to know the people and their needs, inspiring them and elevating them. 

Sadly, the tzaddik did not leave behind any biological children at the time of his passing on Rosh Chodesh Sivan 1928. He lies interred in the city of Satmar. 

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