Living Legacy: Rav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz, the Alter of Novarodok

Living Legacy: Rav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz, the Alter of Novarodok

by Yehuda Alter 

The 17th of Kislev marks the yohrtzeit of the Alter of Novarodok, the founder of the Novaradok mussar movement, who shaped numerous exalted talmidim who continued his holy path. 

He was born in the year 1848 in the Lithuanian city of Plungyan to his father Rav Shlomo Zalman, a great Rov and talmid chochom, a tzaddik who dedicated his days and nights to Torah learning with great diligence. 

His greatness was apparent from a young age. He would spend hours in seclusion with his Creator, and immersing himself in Torah. He was a brilliant young man, and his father drafted him to be a maggid shiur in his yeshiva at the young age of fifteen. 

He married at the age of eighteen. Tragically, his father-in-law passed away before the wedding, and the young man went out to support the family, an endeavor in which he was successful—all the while continuing to spend day and night immersed in Torah learning. For his business, he often needed to visit a certain city, and there he encountered his great rebbi, Rav Yisroel Salanter. He eventually abandoned all his business, and became an ardent student of Rav Yisroel, following his path in mussar. 

Upon his rebbi’s instruction, he sat down to learn in the Kovno Kollel. There he spent his time learning with great tzaddikim such as the Alter of Kelm and Rav Itze’le Petterburger. It is said that during these fifteen years, he would learn for eighteen hours a day—standing on his feet, so he would not fall asleep—completely separated from matters of this world. 

Around 1897, he established his first yeshiva in the town of Novarodok, with a strong emphasis on mussar and character perfection. Great tzaddikim learned there, many of them future leaders of the Lithuanian Torah world. They would continue his derech after his passing. He also established branches of the yeshiva throughout Poland and Lithuania. Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer testified that the Alter of Novaradok brought back thousands of neshomos to their Father in Heaven. 

His divrei Torah are contained in the seforim Madreigas Ho’odom. 

The First World War brought great upheaval to the area, and the yeshiva was forced to move a number of times, settling in Kiev eventually. In 1920, a pandemic broke out in Kiev, and many people fell ill, and many passed away. The Alter cared for many of the ill with great dedication and ahavas Yisroel, with utter mesirus nefesh. 

He eventually became ill himself, and was nifar on the 17th of Kislev of the year 1920, and was interred in Kiev, following a lifetime dedicated to Torah and mussar. 

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