Living Legacy: Rav Yaakov Yechezkia Greenwald, the ‘Vayaged Yaakov’ of Pupa
By: Yehuda Alter
The second of Adar marks the yohrtzeit of the Vayaged Yaakov, the founder of the Pupa chassidus, who served in a number of kehillos in Hungary, including being a ruv and Rosh Yeshiva in the Hungarian town of Pápa, Hungary. A renowned ga’on, he shaped numerous talmidim who survived the war and reestablished the Pupa chassidus on American shores.
The Pupa Ruv was born to his father, Rav Moshe Greenwald, known as the Arugas Habosem of Chust, in the year 1882.
He was an ardent talmid of his own father, and he would later journey to the Admorim of Belz, who influenced him greatly.
At the age of eighteen, he married his cousin, Rebbetzin Sarah Rivkah, the daughter of Rav Yisroel Menachem Brown, the ruv of Brezvitz. In 1906, he became the ruv of Likov, and later in Zhelim, where he took the place of his uncle, Rav Eliezer Duvid Greenwald, known as the Keren L’Dovid.
In 1929, he became the ruv in Pupa, where he also established a yeshiva. It would become one of the most prestigious yeshivos in Hungary, numbering three hundred bachurim.
In addition to his great ga’onus which was always on display, it was his loving demeanor to his talmidim that so endeared him to them. A talmid related that he was fourteen years of age when he came to learn in Pupa. During the shiur, the Vayaged Yaakov asked for a chumash, and he quickly ran and brought it over. The Pupa Ruv told him, “in reality, one is not permitted to be served by a talmid chochom, but another talmid chochom may do so.” This Yid, who was by then elderly, exclaimed, “The good feeling that I felt then remains with me to this day.”
He would send many of the talmidim to learn in Belz after their time in Pupa. They would strike quite a contrast when they returned to the Ashkenazic-dominated Pupa wearing their Chassidic levush that they adopted in Belz.
The Rebbe was a prolific author of chidushei Torah as well. He wrote the series of Vayaged Yaakov al haTorah, She’eilos uteshuvos Mishpatecha l’Yaakov, Zechus Avos on Pirkei Avos, Agudas Eizov on the Haggadah, and Brocho Utehillah on Tehillim.
The Vayaged Yaakov became ill on a Thursday, and was niftar on Shabbos, the second of Adar of the year 1941. He was survived by his son, Rav Yosef Greenwald, known as the Vayechi Yosef. He would survive the war, and rebuild the Pupa chassidus in Williamsburg, where it continues to flourish today, with branches in other communities as well, under the current Rebbe who is named for his illustrious grandfather.