Living Legacy: Rav Shlomke Zviller, zt”l
By: Yehuda Alter
A tzaddik and a kadosh who illuminated the city of Yerushalayim, the yohrtzeit of Rav Shloimke falls on 26 Iyar, the sefirah of yesod sheb’yesod.
He was born to his father, Rebbe Mordechai, the third Rebbe of the Zviller dynasty. The family hailed from great tzaddikim on both sides, including tracing their lineage to Rebbe Michel of Zlotchev, zy”a, a talmid of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the maggid of Mezrich, and Rebbe Shloime of Karlin.
After his marriage, he traveled to the court of Rebbe Dovid Moshe of Czortkov, where he remained for seven years, becoming connected to his rebbe with heart and soul. Until he was instructed to return home to Zvill, and serve the Yidden of the region.
His fame grew as a many of holiness who could affect yeshu’os for his fellow Yidden, and many streamed to him. In 1925, the communist authorities began persecuting him due to his work, with great mesirus nefesh, on behalf of his fellow Yidden. But he managed to escape to Poland. The Poles arrested him, but he was able to gain passage to Eretz Yisroel, where he arrived in 1926.
Arriving in Eretz Yisroel, Rav Shlomke cast off all the outer trappings of being a rebbe, and behaved like a simple person. He would never have been discovered, if not for a visitor from his hometown of Zvehill who recognized him—the great Rebbe and ba’al mofes from back home was masquerading as a simple person.
At first, he settled in the old city, sitting and learning in the yeshivos there from morning till night. Later, he purchased a property in Beis Yisroel neighborhood, and built a home there.
He continued to walk the alleyways of the holy city like a simple man, but his heart was aflame, and his avodas Hashem and his holiness were otherworldly. He also traveled by bus to the kosel like everyone else.
His chessed, and seeing the good in others, knew no bounds. Once, a man accosted him on his way to the mikvah, shouting insults at him. Rav Shlomke turned to his companion and said, “Go look into the man’s home, and tell me what you see.” The man reported that the man was extremely poor, and there was not a morsel of food in the home. “Now I understand. The man is suffering, and this is why he yelled at me.” He promptly grabbed a bundle of money and dropped it off at the man’s home.
When the German army marched through Egypt, there was great fear that they would come into Eretz Yisroel, but Rav Shlomke went to daven at the kever of the Ohr Hachaim to ward off this decree. And indeed, they were not able to enter.
In Eretz Yisroel, he likewise exhibited great mesirus nefesh for his brethren—especially the youth, for whom he stopped at nothing to get them to enter yeshivos and lead a Torah life.
When he was niftar on 26 Iyar, 1945, the levaya drew enormous crowds of Yidden from all walks of life. The newspapers reported this event because it was so historically large.
He was interred on Har Hazeisim, where his kever remains a makom tefillah until this day.