Maran Rebbe Aharon of Belz zy’a, the devoted shepherd of Yisroel, was the epitome of the middah (trait) of ahavas Yisroel, loving each and every Jew. Just as Rabbeinu had a fully worked-out plan exactly on the way to carry out each of the mitzvos of the Torah, he likewise set for himself guidelines precisely how to implement ahavas Yisroel. His devotion and love for other Jews was simply boundless. His entire aim both in Torah study and tefillah was to draw from Heaven only the best possible spiritual and material goodness that Hashem can give and His enormous chessed for all of am Yisroel, and with such a berochoh for our nation Rabbeinu would conclude all of his Toros that he would deliver at his pure tish.
From the time he was a young boy, all that Rabbeinu did was dedicated to further benefit of brethren. Every mitzvah that he performed was with the explicit intention that the merit of that mitzvah would protect the Jewish Nation from all harm. When he once heard about a person who found a metzi’ah (lost item) and was about to return it to its rightful owner, Rabbeinu told him that when he performs this mitzvah he should have in mind that it is as if all of Klal Yisroel are performing it. He explained that not everyone is fortunate enough to fulfill the mitzvah of returning lost property, since not everyone finds a lost article and discovers who the true owner is. Unfortunately, the Jew who hasn’t fulfilled this mitzvah will be lacking this particular mitzvah, his neshomoh will lack perfection and he will not be rewarded for it in Olam Habo. However, through the act of a Jew performing the mitzvah of hashovas aveidah and sharing it with others, who have not have had such an oppurtunity, he is providing a tikun (spiritual rectification) for them.
Rabbeinu would be incessantly engaged in thoughts on how to benefit Hashem’s creatures and cause them nachas ruach (satisfaction). His warm compassionate heart would overflow with love for other Jews like a fountain that bubbles over. Rabbeinu was conscious of every tear, of every sigh and of every subdued sorrow of a Jew. He would go out of his way to encourage and console the disheartened, depressed and dispirited.
Shortly after Rabbeinu arrived in Eretz Yisroel, a woman who owned a fruit and vegetable store in the Tel Aviv market came to him with a kvitel. She requested a berochoh from Rabbeinu for her daughter who was way past the age to begin looking for a shidduch. That woman related to Rabbeinu that her daughter was suggested a man who arrived from Poland and his wife had perished in the concentration camp. The husband is fully convinced that his wife was killed with the other Jews who were imprisoned there. Rabbeinu answered the mother: “Hashem will help her find a better shidduch.” That woman, however, was naturally not at all satisfied with such an answer from Rabbeinu, and again told him that her daughter isn’t at all young and this seems to be a good shidduch for her. Rabbeinu, however, again answered her: “Hashem will help her find a better shidduch.”
That woman returned home and related what Rabbeinu had told her. Her husband and daughter advised her that it seems that she didn’t adequately explain to Rabbeinu the whole situation and that she should go again to Rabbeinu and perhaps he will change his mind. Maybe then he will not only agree to the proposed match but would award a hearty berochoh for its success. The mother indeed returned again to Rabbeinu and presented him another kvitel. Rabbeinu immediately said to her: “I already told you that Hashem will help her find a better shidduch.” That woman began crying and explained to Maran that her daughter is getting older and until now she hasn’t found any shidduch at all, and that the present suggestion seems to be excellent. Maran answered: “What can I do? How can I agree to a shidduch with a man who has a wife? What will happen when he finds out that his wife is living? Go home, and I tell you that soon she will find a better shidduch.”
Two weeks later the proposed choson received a letter from his “dead” wife that she is on her way and will soon arrive in Eretz Yisroel. Not long afterward, the Rebbe’s promise also came to fruition when a bachur was suggested to the woman’s daughter as a shidduch. She was later married and lived a peaceful and blissful life.
This story became known all over. HaRav Yehudah Segal from Salant St. in Tel Aviv, [the district rabbi of Shechunat Shapiro and a major rabbinical figure] told me that the above-mentioned woman who had brought the kvitlach to the Rebbe visited his mother and asked her: “How can it be that the Rebbe who would always obscure anything miraculous that he did, told her openly what he foresaw with ruach hakodesh?” My mother replied: “Since the Rebbe heard you crying, his heart filled with pity for you and revealed what he foresaw through ruach hakodesh.”
Many episodes are related about Rabbeinu’s venerable character. Numerous accounts were related about how he helped people out of dire straits and seemingly impossible situations, which actually changed their whole life. Rabbeinu would always delve deeply into each person’s calamity and would offer his holy and sagacious advice to assist them. If he envisioned a possibility to prevent someone from suffering or remaining in distress he would lend his heartfelt support to them and make an effort to the best of his capability. In regards to interrelated mitzvos Rabbeinu’s daily conduct served as a symbol of perfection, the epitome of what a Jew could reach in this area. His vigiliance in the way he conducted himself with others, both regarding monetary matters and matters of honoring others was unique. It is simply impossible to write in detail all that Rabbeinu did in this area. Concerning other people’s kovod Rabbeinu knew how to take into consideration the most sublime feelings of other people, and always attempted to behave according to the will and spirit of each person.
Sometimes obnoxious individuals came to him who caused him seemingly unending grief, but nevertheless he listened with patience to all that they wanted to convey to him. His attention to what they were telling him didn’t wane although they would talk at length. He would hear what they have to say from beginning to end with the outmost concentration in order to encourage that person who was spilling out his broken heart. Although Rabbeinu’s time was extremely precious, he acted patiently and didn’t react with restlessness when confronted with unwarranted disturbances.
One Yom Tov the gabbai’im were giving out aliyos to the Torah and one person who considered himself to be a rav and was among those who persistently annoyed the Rebbe was not included among the one’s being honored with an aliyah. Rabbeinu asked that this person also be honored with an aliyah since in that way he will be pleased and would have an oneg Shabbos.
Rabbeinu would honor each person according to all what is generally accepted. In every place that he visited he would go over to the local rov and honor him properly. He would do his utmost and even much more than that to ensure all the needs of others. Everyone living in his vicinity would feel as if he was standing near a fountain bubbling with live water; one that quenches the thirst of every person. His countenance would radiate rachamim and true mercy, and also his heart would burn with a strong desire to extend a helping hand to each suffering person and to each oppressed Jew. Rabbeinu was pleased to hear anything good which happened to any person and experienced real sorrow when some calamity would befall anyone. Each Jew was dear to him like a brother or a son since in fact all are sons of Hashem. The burning love in his heart for all of Klal Yisroel, and his loftiness put him way above all the different political parties with their boastful platforms composed of magnificent – but soon forgotten – promises. Rabbeinu belonged to the klal and found a zechus for each and every Jew. His love for his Jewish brethren was truly never-ending and every night after he recited kriyas shma al hamitah, before he retired he would say: “Good night. Good night to the Jews of Yerushalayim. Good night to the Jews from all over Eretz Yisroel. Good night to the Jews throughout the whole world.”
Occasionally Rabbeinu would ask to call different types of doctors to treat him. Nonetheless when that doctor arrived and wanted to examine him, he refused to allow the doctor to even touch him. Instead he told the doctor what is bothering him and the doctor would write him a prescription. Sometimes Rabbeinu would buy the medicine and put it inside his closet without ever using it, but sometimes he wouldn’t even bother buying it. A few days after the first doctor’s visit he would ask to call in another doctor of a different medical specialty and he would act the same way with the second. This scenario would repeat itself several times. He would from time to time ask that doctors of different specialties check him, but wouldn’t take their prescribed medicine. Rabbeinu’s acquaintances would wonder about this peculiar behavior. They just couldn’t fathom any explanation for it. Eventually someone discerned that when a doctor would leave Rabbeinu’s room, he would accompany the doctor and would bless him that Hashem will send a refu’ah shleimah (quick recovery) to all the sick people who need him. Only then did they understand that Rabbeinu’s entire aim in summoning these doctors was to convey a blessing to the patients under their care to have a refu’ah shleimah among all sick Jews.
Dr. Rabinowitz came to examine the Rabbeinu. He had to administer medicine. He noticed that Rabbeinu was very engrossed in thought.
“Rebbe, What are you thinking now?”
Rabbeinu answered him. “Gits auf Yidden!” (Good things about Yidden)
A Yid from Tel Aviv, who had lived in Vienna, relates that in Vienna he had a friend who was a Belzer Chossid. Once that Chossid traveled to Belz to see the Rebbe, and after he arrived Rabbeinu asked how he is managing in general and expressed interest to known if he studies Torah with someone. That Chossid told Rabbeinu that he has a friend who was his chavrusa (with whom he would study together). Rabbeinu asked him who that person was mitzvah, and he answered that he is not a Belzer Chossid. When he parted, Rabbeinu asked him: “Does that friend that you study with have ample livelihood?” That Jew from Tel Aviv concluded: “We see what great ahavas Yisroel the Belzer Rebbe possessed. He was even concerned about the livelihood of someone who isn’t a Belzer Chossid and someone he never met.”
Rabbeinu would take part in the sorrow of other Yidden not only through his advice and tefillah, but throughout consoling him and his berochos. When he would hear about any misfortune he would take it to heart and wouldn’t forget about it until he would hear that the suffering of the Yid was somehow relieved. Sometimes a long time afterward he would ask about some matter that the Chossid once mentioned to him but had already forgotten about. Rabbeinu, however, didn’t forget at all. His innate nature was to love fervently every Jew and was tied to every Yid with all chords of his soul. Many times Rabbeinu would mention that the seforim hakedoshim teach us that it is forbidden for a person to take pride in any of his accomplishments, but if someone was born with a good middah (character trait) he is allowed to be proud of it. He said: “I was born with the trait of rachmonus and it is therefore quite natural for me to have pity on others.” Since Rabbeinu possessed such a merciful heart, imbued with immeasurable ahavas Yisroel nothing could cause him to hate another Jew. He always saw the hidden Jewish essence in every Jew and knew how to appraise correctly the good side of each Jew. He didn’t refrain from protesting against those who would use unrefined expressions against those who deviated from Torah observance. Rabbeinu tried to find some positive even in the most bitter and aggressive enemy of Torah observance. Just as the Torah and Chazal were holy in his eyes, so too every Jew, even the lowliest one, was holy and pure in his eyes since that Jew also stemmed from a holy source. He never would denounce any person and never humiliated a soul. It was difficult for him to believe and didn’t want to hear anything disgraceful about any Jew and he never said that he doesn’t approve of the way so-and-so acts.
Because of his impassioned love for Hashem’s creatures he was exceptionally cautious not to upset any person. Rabbeinu would be wary not to cause any Jew to have any complaint against him. Because of this extreme vigiliance he would many times ask for forgiveness from each person and even from small children. Once he heard the shamosh ask a child to bring something for Rabbeinu in the middle of the tish. Rabbeinu called over the child and told the shamosh to repeat his request and to ask forgiveness from the child. He never commanded any of his Chassidim to do anything for him, but instead asked them if they could possibly do it.
For most of his life Rabbeinu suffered from countless diseases and aches and pains. In addition, he agonized with tzar giddul bonim (hardships of parenthood). Nonetheless, even in the most difficult times he would smile to every Jew and tried to cheer up every one of our brethren. Because of his tangible feeling of sharing the distress of others he would also suffer great emotional pain over the existance of unfortunate Jews to whom the radiance of emunah never penetrated their heart and consequently renounced the Torah’s mitzvos. Once a person came to him with his son who became bar mitzvah and studied in a Mizrachi school (state-religious school). He asked Rabbeinu to extend his berochoh on him. After they left Rabbeinu sighed and remarked: “It is such a great rachmonus on that child. If he had been educated in the right way he would have turned out to be a very good child. Such a pity on him, nebach, nebach (how unfortunate!).”
From the time Reb Efrayim Klein of the USA was young, he would come to Belz during the Yomim Noro’im with some friends from the city Pest (a town of north-central Hungary on the left bank of the Danube River that is now part of Budapest). It occured once that after Sukkos when his friends bade farewell to Rabbeinu before they left Belz, Reb Efrayim was delayed somewhere. A short time before the train left he rushed to Rabbeinu’s house and requested from the gabbai to allow him to immediately enter Rabbeinu’s room since he was afraid that if he were delayed he would miss the train. When he came into Rabbeinu’s room, he said to Reb Efrayim: “Don’t rush, take a wagon, and travel very slowly to the train station.”
When he heard what Rabbeinu said, he was comforted, since then he was sure that he wouldn’t miss the train. He requested from Rabbeinu an apple from the noi Sukkah which hung in the sukkah, which Rabbeinu was accustomed to distribute after Yom Tov. Rabbeinu answered that he had not yet begun to distribute noi Sukkah. Reb Efrayim parted from Rabbeinu and when he reached the train station he saw that for some reason his train was delayed and didn’t leave yet. He suddenly heard someone calling out his name: “Efrayim of Pest!” That was the shaliach of Rabbeinu who brought him an apple from the noi Sukkah. Although Reb Efrayim was then a young bachur, however, since Rabbeinu saw his sincere yearning for noi Sukkah from him, he hastened to fulfill his request and sent a special shaliach with it in order to bring him nachas ruach.
Rabbeinu almost never raised his voice and it was rare for one to sense his being irritated. Only on infrequent occasions did his demeanor change. This would happen when concerning some desecration of kedushah or some decline in ruchniyus for the masses, or as people say ein Rebbeshe zach, meaning to do a favor for someone, to alleviate someone’s suffering, but even when he appeared irritated, he would be exceptionally careful to act with self-restrain. He constantly behaved with tact and would afterward appease that person.
One day a delegation came to Rabbeinu and complained about a rav who had come from golus Russia and took an non honorable position as a livlihood. One member of the delegation was a Belzer Chossid. Rabbeinu heard their argument in length and let them finish. Afterward he turned to the Belzer Chossid and rebuked him sternly: “This man came from Russia without a penny to his name. He was chased out from his hometown. In Russia he served as a rav; was honored immensely and had a fine livelihood. Later in Russia for several years he was forced to roam from one place to the other without a place to stay and without food. When he arrived in Eretz Yisroel he lacked basic financial means to support himself. Did you ever ask him if he has an apartment to live in, if he has what to eat? You, boruch Hashem, have an apartment and parnosoh. Does it bother you that he can now support his family? Instead of concerning yourself about parnosoh for him, you are concerned about it not being honorable for him?”
May his zechus protect us and all of Klal Yisroel