Living Legacy: Rebbe Leibele Twerski, zt”l, of Hornosteipel-Chicago
Shabbos, 28 Teves, marks the 71st yohrtzeit of Rebbe BenzionYehuda Leib Twerski, the son of Rebbe Mordechai Dov of Hornosteipel (known among the Twerski’s as the “zeide RebbeMottele”), who came to Chicago and transplanted the holy Hornosteipeler branch of the Chernobyler dynasty on American shores—where it has continued to enrich Klal Yisroel through his descendants such as Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, his brothers, and their families.
He was born in Hornosteipel on Hoshana Rabbah of the year 1868, to his father Rebbe Mordechai Dov, and his mother Rebbetzin Reitza, a daughter of the Divrei Chaim of Sanz.
He was raised in the holy tradition of Chernobyl, in the shadow of his holy father, and merited to see his Sanzer Zeide. With the passing of his father, in 1903, Rebbe Leibele assumed his place, leading the chassidim of Hornosteipel, which had come to include many Chassidim from other branches of Chernobyl.
A landsman of the Twerski’s from Hornosteipel was famously the holy Steipeler, who wrote about the Rebbe’s court: “I remember the entire royal court… and the Eibishter will surely restore the glory with even greater honor.”
He was married to Rebbetzin Rochel, the daughter of RebbeYitzchok Yoel Rabinowitz, a Rebbe from the Linitzer dynasty. 1914, the Rebbe made Aliyah to Eretz Yisroel, but returned to Ukraine a short while later, settling in Kiev. In 1925, he moved to Antwerp, where he remained another eleven years. In 1936, he went to Eretz Yisroel for one more year, and shortly thereafter immigrating to America, and settling in Chicago.
The Twerski’s are famously descendants of the Rebbe Zusha of Hannipoli, and the Rebbe’s son, Moshe Meshulam Zusha(named for his holy ancestor), was niftar on 2 Shevat of 1920—the very yohrtzeit of his namesake.
The Twerski home in Chicago of those early days became an outpost of Torah and chassidus in the American wilderness. Stories abound of the Rebbe’s mofsim and of his avodah.
His son was Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel Twerski of Hornosteipel-Milwaukee, the father of the aforementioned Twerksi brothers. They grew up in the glow of their grandfather—who transmitted the traditions and the love for Hornosteipel of yore. Once, his grandson, Rebbe Shloime Twerski, later of Denver, walked into his room and saw his grandfather crying. He explained, I pine for my holy father (Rebbe Mottele). It was forty years after his passing.
During the Rebbe’s final days, when he was very ill, he summoned one of his close chassidim in Chicago, and asked him to come with car, and he would guide him where to drive. They arrived at the Mikveh, and his attendant was scared for the Rebbe to enter, due to his ill health. But the Rebbe insisted on immersing. Upon his return, he said, “I wanted to toivel in the mikveh one last time.”
Days later, on 28 Teves of 1951, the Rebbe returned his holy neshomoh to its Maker, leaving behind an incredible legacy, and bridge that spanned from Hornosteipel, to Chicago, to Milwaukee, and today, to countless Yiddishe communities who are enriched and inspired by his descendants.