Living Legacy: The Sar Shulem of Belz, zy”a
Shabbos, 27 Elul, marks the yohrtzeit of the
first Belzer Rov (der Ershter Ruv),
the founder of the illustrious court of Belz that continues to grow and expand
throughout the world—as he himself had foretold: “Belz vet zahn ah vinkel fin Toireh in yiras Shomayim biz Moshiach vet
kimmen, (Belz will serve as a corner of Torah and Yiras Shomayim until the
coming of Moshiach.
The Belzer Ruv traced his lineage to Rav Elozor Rokeach of Amsterdam, known as the Ma’aseh Rokeach. He was born in the town of Brod to his father, Rav Elozor Rokeach, in the year 5543 (1783). His father left this world at the age of 36, leaving behind eight orphans. The young Shulem was sent to live with his uncle, Rebbe Yisachar Ber of Skohl, and eventually married his daughter Rebbetzin Malka.
In Skohl, he learned under Rebbe Shloime Lutzker (Flam), a talmid of the Maggid of Mezritch, and was greatly influenced by him. He was also a talmid of the Chozeh of Lublin, whom he said taught him to “lein kvittlech.”
In the year 5587 (1816) he became the Ruv of Belz, and with this began the illustrious chain of Belz that endures to this day.
The famed story is told of the way he resolved, along with two chaverim to sit and learn for a consecutive one thousand nights. The other two gave up after hundred and two hundred nights, respectively—while the Belzer Ruv continued on to the end. On the thousandth night, Eliyahu Hanavi revealed himself to him, and they learned together the entire Torah, concluding with the Halachos of Beis Hakneses.
Following this, he set to work erecting the magnificent Shul in Belz, which consumed him. He would make everyone partake in the building of the shul.
During his years, the Yidden of Eastern Europe suffered terribly, from poverty and from persecution. The Sar Shulem was known as a great ba’al mofeis and poyel yeshu’os—making many miracles for Yidden, for parnassah and curing them from illness. He represented them to the government, in an effort to annul the terrible decrees. Once, a governor summoned him to his residence and said, “you know that I am the second Haman.” To which the Belzer Ruv fearlessly replied, “the first one didn’t fare all that well!”
The Sar Shulem was niftar on 27 Elul, 5615 (1854). Half an hour before his passing, he related that before he was born, his neshamah refused to descend to this world—despite being shown the great reward of Torah and mitzvos. Until Hakadosh Baruch Hu himself assured him that his soul will return to the olam ha’aemes as pure as it had left—and that there were thousands of neshamos waiting to be guided by him.
Indeed, aside from the chassidim, some of the great masters of his day became his talmidim, including the Divrei Chaim and Rebbe Asher of Stolin—through whom we witness his continuous living legacy.