Joseph Urbach, Translated by Jessica CohenA few rabbis from Buczacz were previously rabbis in Yazlowitz, including the author of Neta Shaashuim and afterwards the tzadik from Buczacz, the son-in-law of [the author of] Neta Shaashuim. One of them was stolen in the middle of the night from Yazlowitz, because the Yazlowitz community did not want to dismiss him from his position.
The tzadik Rabbi Avraham David Warman, of blessed memory, was born in Nadworna. One Friday, the tzadik passed through town and saw that someone was eating a late lunch. The tzadik said to him: Why are you eating now? You could have waited and eaten in the evening, with a full appetite, for Shabbat. The man replied: If I satisfy my hunger now, I will eat in the evening only to honor the Shabbat, but if I starve myself, I will eat on Shabbat only for the bodily pleasure, and not to honor the Shabbat. The tzadik admitted the truth of his argument.
A few months before the death of the tzadik, the leader of the town died. And a few weeks before the death of the tzadik, the leader came to him in his dream. The leader brought a fish in a bowl, but he took back the head of the fish with him. The tzadik told his dream to the members of his household next morning, and said that he was afraid this was a sign that the head would go to the leader. And this did occur. A short while later, the tzadik died.
It is said that on Shabbat, during the seudah shlishit, when the tzadik spoke from the Torah, some people fell asleep. Because they were not all worthy of hearing the secrets of the Torah.
It is told of Michal Preminger, the grandfather of Zvi Preminger, that when he was 15 years old the tzadik chose him as his cantor, and he served in this position his whole life. And once he said to Michal that his grandchildren would be better than his grandchildren.
The builder of the Great Synagogue in Buczacz was a Christian engineer. After he finished the building, namely – after he had positioned the final stone in the vaulted ceiling, he held this stone in both hands, and his legs dangled in the air. He wished to illustrate in this way, that the building was strong and complete.
It is said of Dr. Bloch, that in his youth he worked at a bakery, and then he rose to become a representative in the Austrian parliament and fought in the wars against the enemies of Israel. When he was elected for the second time, there was great joy in our town. The Jews wore their streimelach and acted as if it were Purim, with barrels of beer rolling down the streets. And the city of Buczacz was merry.
Dr. Bloch once came to a voters' gathering in winter and asked the voters what portion was being read this week. They told him: va'yeshav portion. And he told them that vayeshav [Hebrew characters: vav-yod-shin-vav] was an acronym: “valt Josef Shmuel Bloch” (vote for Yosef Shmuel Bloch)…
During one meeting in the Fobiat house, to support products made in Israel, with the presence of Count Potozki, the mayor Barris Stern quoted a verse from the Tanach. When he finished his speech, Count Potozki went up to him and said: Excuse me, Sir, the verse which you quoted from the Tanach is in fact an explicit mishna, and does not originate in the Tanach. All the people present were amazed at this expertise.
A wagon-owner from Buczacz conveyed goods to Lvov. One night, on the way, the goods were burned and there was a dispute between the owner and the wagon-driver, as to whether the latter was an unpaid keeper or a paid keeper, and who was to pay for the damages. They came to Lvov for a din torah before Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson. And the rabbi justified the owner. But the wagon-driver contradicted the Rabbi and told him that he must look in a particular book and he would realize his mistake. Finally, the Rabbi admitted to the wagon-driver and kissed his forehead, saying that even a wagon-driver from Buczacz was an exemplary talmid chaham.
I also heard a story about the Gaon Bechohmat Yefet, who was esteemed and honored in Vienna, Professor Dr. Heinrich Miller, a native of Buczacz: in his youth he studied Torah with Avramtzi Ginsberg, the talmud Torah treasurer. Later, he had the legal right to travel at any time on a special train (saparat-tzug, in foreign language). And in the royal house, Archduke Rauner – the uncle of Kaiser Franz Josef – would boast about being a friend of Professor Miller.
It was said of one of the elderly people of the previous generation, Mordechai Spielberg, that he was the pride of the generation and a great scholar. He was the only one in town who spent his nights as he did his days, both during summer and during winter. In the middle of the night he would get up and leave his house to go to the old Midrash and study Torah until morning. He would always take with him a candle and matches from his home, to light up the Beit Midrash. Once he forgot to take matches, on a winter night. And when he took out the candle, he had nothing to light it with. He stood in the dark in the Beit Midrash, not knowing what to do. But suddenly the candle lit up on its own and he did not see or hear a soul in the Beit Midrash… They honored him greatly when he died. Along all the streets where they carried his coffin, they closed down the stores, and on Shabbat evening he was buried, and was eulogized by Rabbi Meir Arek, of blessed memory.
Near Buczacz, a Jew would transport brandy from one town to the next, without paying the excise tax on it. A goy policeman saw him and was going to deliver him to the court. When the Jew saw this, he took out some money and tried to bribe the policeman. But the policeman gave him over to the court anyway. This happened on a Friday afternoon. And when the day of the trial came, the judge was a Jew, a Torah scholar, and before the trial started the judge said to the accused: Jew! Did you not recite: “If darkenss falls while you are travelling, you must give your money to a Gentile”? The Jew understood the hint, and then claimed before the judge that he had not intended to bribe the policeman at all, but since he was an observant man and it was dusk, he gave his money to the first Gentile he met, because it was forbidden to carry money on Shabbat. Based on this argument, the Jew was released.
My grandfather, Yosef Engelberg of blessed memory, was a great talmid chaham, and was also learned in external wisdoms, fluent in French and extremely modest and retiring. He died at a young age and was survived by a few daughters. My grandmother cried when he saw the patient's condition. Grandfather asked: why is she crying? And when they told him that she was crying because of the children, he told her not to cry, and comforted her by saying that if he left this world, the children would have a greater father then him, because hashem is “the father of orphans and the judge of widows.”
My brother-in-law Moshe had a son, also a Rabbi, whose name was Yehosha. He took the place of his father. And when he was given the office of Rabbi in place of his father, they wrote to him: before the sun of Moshe set, the sun of Yehosha rose.
My brother-in-law, the Rabbi mentioned previously, had a sister named Tova, and she had a son called Haim. When he was bar-mitzvahed, they wrote him a blessing, which was: since he is a Haim [life] of Tova [goodness], may he also be Haim [life] of blessing, a life of wealth and honor and also a God-fearing sin-fearing life.
Before the First World War, Rabbi Meir Arek, of blessed memory, from Yazlowitz, was accepted as a rabbi in Buczacz. A few years previously, he had visited Rabbi Matzortakow, because he was one of his followers. And he said to him: Greetings, Buczaczer Rabbi! For in previous years, the rabbis from Yazlowitz had been appointed Buczacz rabbis several times. And so the rabbi thought that this time it would happen too. When Rabbi Matzortakow's followers heard what their rabbi had said, they were concerned that the rabbi's promise should come true. And indeed, the Gaon Rabbi Meir was accepted as the Buczacz rabbi with great pomp and circumstance.
Rabbi Gedalia Margaliyot from Saraki gave his two horses – which were the finest in all the district, and had carried princes several times – to the carriage which was going to Buczacz. And Rabbi Yisraeli Stein, the son-in-law of Mordechai Lieb Bergman from Potok, one of the wealthiest men in all the district, was the wagon-driver himself, to transport the honorable rabbi to Buczacz. And that was on a Thursday, in winter, and the town of Buczacz was merry. That Shabbat, there were many guests in Buczacz, including the students of the Rabbi, who were rabbis themselves. Among them was Rabbi Meir Shapira, of blessed memory, the founder of the Chahmei Lublin Yeshiva and founder of the daf yomi. Another student rabbi was unable to attend, and he sent a telegram saying: “Rejoice and sing, Buczacz, for in your midst sits the greatest of Israel.”
I recall that on that Shabbat night, I was with Rabbi Meir Shapira, of blessed memory, and he told a joke. Once on Shabbat morning a Hassid was leaving the mikveh and he met three Ashkenazim who had finished their prayers. And since the Hassidic circles do not deal with the Tanach much, they decided to test him. They asked the young man: What is the difference between “diadem, crown and wreath.” The young man understood that they were trying to trick him, he held up his hand and pointed at each one of them, saying: You tell me the difference between “this is my exchange, this is my substitution, and this is my sacrifice,” and he left them.
It is said of Fischel Aberdam, the father of Zvi Aberdam, that when he was once in Karlsbad, a nobleman lost a large sum of money and Fischel Aberdam found the treasure and did not return it. He was suspected, and they searched him and found the treasure, but he claimed that all the money was his and that he was rich. He told the searchers: ask in the town I come from, and you will hear. The police asked in the town where he had come from. The townspeople thought they were talking about a healing fee which everyone who came to the bathing town paid, and because he had enemies in the town who wanted to get their revenge on him, they told the bathing town that Fischel Aberdam was truly a rich man. And so they left him alone in the bathing town and all the treasure remained with him. When the real reason for the questioning was discovered later in the town, they were angry at them, because they had thought badly of him and it had turned out good.
His son Zvi Aberdam was a learned man in chohmat shem ve-yefet and was very handsome. He had a noble appearance, he was wealthy and respected and famous. Once, someone came to his house and he was not at home. Zvi Aberdam's wife said to the guest, walk through the town and when you meet the most handsome Jew in all of town, you will know that it is my husband Zvi Aberdam. (This was no exaggeration.)
Our teacher, Rabbi Zvi Meir Arek, of blessed memory, had a brother called
Fischel, who had a son called Zecharia. On his mother's side, Zecharia Arek was
a grandson of Mordechai Lieb Bergman, owner of the Potok estate, which was
previously the estate of the eminent Rabbi Yisrael from Rozin. The same Zecharia
was married to the house of an important family from Krakow. The young and
wealthy woman was learned and educated, as most Jewish girls were in Krakow. But
her devout husband was not to her liking, and she rebelled against him, left him
and went to Vienna to study secular studies. No amount of requests and imploring
could bring her back to her husband. And finally she even refused to separate
from her husband by means of a get. Time went by and she did not change
her mind. She mocked him and the Jewish custom of the get. In such a
case, there was only one solution. With the heiter of one hundred rabbis,
the husband could marry another woman. And thus he did. Zecharia came to the
Rabbi from Rodi, Rabbi Mendel Steinberg, of blessed memory, and he also gave him
a heiter, one out of a hundred, and invited Zecharia to later take his
daughter as a wife. And thus it happened. For after he had obtained a heiter
from one hundred rabbis, Zecharia married the daughter of Rabbi Steinberg, of
blessed memory. And I recall that after a son was born to him (this was before
shavuot), the Rabbi, of blessed memory, came to Buczacz to celebrate
Shavuot and the briss. The Rabbi's coming to town made a great impression
and I had the honor of hearing the address he gave to the public. And the
Hassidic circle was very joyful.