Living Legacy: The Ribnitzer Rebbe, zt”l
It is difficult to believe that a tzaddik of this
caliber lived among us, in the very recent past.
A human being who defied all the rules of nature, of life on this earth. A man of flesh and blood who saw clearly from one end of the earth until the other, who engaged in fasts and sigufim reminiscent of the Talmidei Ba’al Shem... and whose incredible yeshu’os continue at his tziyun which continues to draw multitudes to this day, on the yohrtzeit—which falls today, Thursday, 24 Tishrei—and around the year.
Rebbe Chaim Zanvil Abramowitz, zecher tsaddik v’kadosh livracha, was born in the Romanian town of Botoshan in the year 5656 (1896), and he was orphaned at the age of two.
He became tethered with every fiber of his being to the Stafaneshter Rebbe, Rebbe Avrohom Matisyohu Friedman (5607-5693/1847-1933), a grandson of the holy Ruziner. He considered him his Rebbe until the end of his life. He later related that he learned the entire Torah from the Stefaneshter.
During his formative years, he studied shechitah and milah—two mitzvos that he dedicated himself to with tremendous mesirus nefesh... literally risking his life on countless occasions under Stalinist rule.
He was not only threatened by the KGB, which did not give him a moments rest, constantly threatening and persecuting him—but from other dangers as well, neither of which he paid any heed.
Once, he traveled through a thick forest to a distant town in order to perform a bris, when he noticed a pack of vicious wolves staring at him. He raised up the milah knife Heavenward, saying, “Kudsha Brich Hu, for You alone I am going,” and proceeded on his way. On another occasion, the Rebbe related of a similar incident. “I hid out in a pit in the forest, holding up my tallis and tefillin, and my milah knife. When I awoke, and I saw the wolves standing there quietly, I understood that they were sent to protect me.”
Thus, he traveled throughout Russia—at risk to his life—fearlessly spreading Yiddishkeit. The Rebbe’s mikva’os were likewise fraught with utter mesirus nefesh. He stood in contact with the underground network of Lubavitcher chassidim assisting them in their efforts.
He would regularly break ice with an ax in order to immerse before davening in the dead of the Russian winter—and his mikva’os remained a major feature of his avodah to the end of his life.
His Tikkun Chatzos every single night shook the room with his heartrending sobs, and he fasted every day for most of his life (complete, with aneinu).
Although his Torah learning is not as talked about as much as his kedushah, his avodah, and his mofsim— his chassidim relate hearing from him that at the age of eighteen, there was not a single Rashi in Shas that he did not know by heart. He also related learning the complex halachos of Shechitah and Melichah one hundred and one times (!) together with the previous Skverer Rebbe. “Every spare moment that he had was spent learning Gemara or Shulchan Aruch,” relates one of the close gabo’im.
For a number of years, the Rebbe resided in Boro Park.
Here too, a group of close people coalesced around him. The things that they witnessed could fill volumes. The countless open miracles that he performed defy belief, and his avodah defied reality on this earth—a true merit to our generation which was zoche to have such a tsaddik livings amongst us.
In later years, he moved to Monsey, where he was niftar on Isru Chag Sukkos of 1995, and was interred in the Viznitzer Chelka in Monsey.
Zechuso Yagein Aleinu.