Memory Lane: Rav Chaim Pinchos Lubinsky; Churban and Rebuilding
As we rise off the ground in mourning for the Beis Hamikdosh, we focus our memory lane on Rav Lubinsky, who experienced the worst imaginable suffering and anguish during the recent Churban.
Boro Park of yore was home to one of the largest waves of she’eiris hapleitoh in the world; men and women who’d seen the worst atrocities in history before their eyes, had the majority of their loved ones sent heavenward in the fire of the Churban, and emerged to rebuild atop the ashes.
In Boro Park they created a renaissance. These immigrants built and strengthened chinuch institutions, Chessed and tzeddakah organizations, and formed shuls and shtieblach where they gathered along with the only family they had; their fellow survivors. Although, they are mostly left this world, their legacy remains everywhere we look in Boro Park.
Which brings us to Rav Lubinsky—a ga’on, lamdan, and herculean masmid for all of his last days.
‘The Blashker Iluy’
Chaim Pinchos was born in the Polish town of Błaszki, about 100 km west of Łódź, into a famiy of Polish Jewry’s royalty. His grandfather, Rav Bunim Menashe Lubinsky, was one of the prominent chassidim of the Sfas Emes of Ger, who would be seated at a place of honor among the thousands of chassidim.
As a young bachur, he became known for his hasmodoh in learning, and his remarkable memory. He came to Łódź and sought out the town’s lomdim. He became known as the Blashker Iluy—and his memorization of large sections of Torah would later serve to strengthen him and those around him in the darkest of times.
Sweetness Under Fire
He spent the first five years of the terrible churban in the Lodz ghetto. The suffering that he endured impacted him for life, but his emunah remained ironclad, and his ahavas haTorah did not wane for even a moment, under the most trying circumstances—as he would later attest:
The passuk ‘lulei toracha sha’ashuai oz avadti b’anyi’, was our mantra in the camps; the warmth and the mesirus nefesh for Torah literally kept us alive… When we arrived in one of the more brutal camps, we heard that the Radoshitzer Rebbe from Piortrkow had in his possession half of a Gemara Bechoros. What joy this brought us… One of the Kapos informed on us to the Nazis, ‘Dieze Juden shtudiren immer in demm Talmud, these Jews are always learning in the Talmud’... and it was only through great Rachamei Shomayim that we survived this episode.”
The Nazis transferred him 130 km. to Częstochowa. They arrived there on a Friday night following Purim. When he looked around, he saw a group of men singing kol mekadesh in plain sight of the Nazis. Rav Chaim Pinchos got up and repeated in the name of the Sfas Emes—in earshot of the Nazis—that if we will erase Amaleik down on this world, the Eibishter will obliterate them in Shomayim… He and his group also built a sukkah under the noses of their Nazi oppressors.
He also spent time in Buchenwald, where fellow inmate Reb Yossel Friednson absorbed the following sight: “We were slowly losing any connection to Yiddishkeit and learning. We, of course, had no seforim anymore. There was only Reb Chaim Pinchas, who had a photographic memory and remembered entire masechtos by heart. Picture this scene: Reb Chaim Pinchas was pushing a wheelbarrow with work materials in the camp, followed by perhaps two dozen inmates who strained to hear his learning. It was the only way we learned any Torah at all.”
The last period of the war found him in Bergen Belsen, where he became the unofficial rov—and immediately following the war he jumped into the fray, heading numerous initiatives and institutions to serve the broken survivors material and spiritual needs. Along with his brother in law, Rav Shlomo Zev Zweigenhaft, he oversaw the kosher slaughter for the entire region. He assisted these surviving Yidden with every fiber of his being.
Rav Chaim Pinchos’ impact in she’eris hapleitoh America was significant. One of the most prominent Gerer chassidim to survive the war, he was asked by the Beis Yisroel of Ger to found the Mesivta in Boro Park, along with another friend from Bergen Belsen, Rav Yisroel Moshe Olewski, the rov of Celle, Germany in the postwar era.
He was a never-ending source of knowledge and passion for the ways and tradition of Gerer chassidus—and he was revered by the community here. But his days and nights were dedicated to the passion to which he had committed himself those many decades earlier in Poland—and in which he did not waver for one moment, during the most terrible suffering; hasmodoh b’Torah.
A neighbor who grew up one floor beneath Rav Chaim Pinchos in Boro Park recalls this about him; never moving from his shtender from morning till night, learning in the sweetest singsong.
In Kislev of 1985, Rav Chaim Pinchos ascended to continue his learning in the yeshiva shel maaloh—following 35 years of serving as a pillar of a great renaissance in Boro Park of yore.