Memory Lane: The Apsha Rav, Rav Moshe Yaakov Beck, zt”l
Apsha is a small
hamlet in Rumania, divided into the sections Oiber Apsha, Mittel Apsha, and
Unter Apsha (Upper, middle, and lower Apsha), in the immediate vicinity
of Sighet, and indeed, many Sigheter Chassidim, as well as Viznitzer chassidim
resided in the town.
Harav Aharon Tzvi Beck (the Metzach Aharon) was the Rav of the town, and it was after his passing, that his brother Harav Moshe Yaakov Beck, a talmid muvhak of the Minchas Elazar of Munkatch, who hailed from the area of Volove in Czechoslovakia, married his daughter, and also assumed his post as Rav of Apsha. He was beloved by the people in the town, and would alterbate, davening one Shabbos in the Sigheter Shtiebel and one Shabbos in Viznitz.
His connection to Viznitz went even further in that the Ahavas Yisroel of Viznitz would always enjoy speaking to him in learning—specifically in Choshen Mishpat.
From 1933, to 1944 when the Nazis ym”sh took the residents of Apsha to Auschwitz, the Apsha Rav displayed great leadership in that town. He lost a wife and firv e children in that terrible place, and although he never spoke about this time, his second Rebbetzin related that his youngest daughter called out to him as they were being taken away to the gas chambers, “We will meet again when Moshiach comes…Hy”d.
After the war he returned to the area and served as the Rav in Sighet—and the shei’eilos that came before him were most heartwrenching nature, given the horrors of the war, There were many agunos that he was mattir, but on one occasion he said, “this is one that I cannot permit. And indeed, a short time later, bah harug b’raglav, the husband strode into town, alive.
When the son of the Sigheter rav arrived in town, the Apsha Rav gave up the Rabbanus, and he went to Prague, and subsequently in France for three years—where he continue to assist the she’eris hapleitah in every possible way.
After some years in Crown Heights, Harav Beck settled in Boro Park in 1971, at 1640 50th street, where it is led to this day by his son, ybl”ch. Harav Pinchas. And this became a special, warm place, where the Rav picked right up in his Raabanus—a true, European style Rabbanus.
Reb Feivel Muller hails from Antwerp, where his family settled in the early 1930's, and served as a longtime gabbai in the shul. His wife, Mrs. Chaya Muller (nee Flancer), was a child survivor of Auschwitz, and they recall the warmth of the Rav, and his second Rebbetzin Miriam, whom he remarried after the war.
“The Rebbetzin was a Rebbetzin with every fiber of her being, and she would refer to her husband as mahn Ruv... my Rav, and would faithfully execute her duties, organizing The melaveh malkes, a was overall a very social woman, extending warmth to everyone.
He was a Rav from the alte heim... He talmid chacham in the European style, and his davening was sublime; the sweetness was unimaginable. He davened all the tefillos during the Yamim Nora’im, and he a lained as well.
He authored the sefer Chemdas Moshe which holds many teshuvos that were timely and relevant to the American scene, and he was close with Rav Hutner (who sent his yungeleit to ask him sheielos) and with the Mirrer Rosh Yeshivah, Harav Shraga Moshe Kalmanovitch.
He was also exceptionally close to the Gerrer Rebbes; the Beis Yisroel, the Lev Simcha, and Pnei Menachem, and the chassidim would always marvel at the way this quintessentially Hungarian Rav related to their Polish-style Rebbes.
In Boro Park, he was known and beloved, and wherever he went, and the simchos that he graced, his tremendous hadras panim illuminated the room.
Harav Moshe Yaakov was niftar on 24 Iyar of 1984, but his legacy continues to shine on 50th street in Boro Park.