The Origins of Belz in Brody

The first Belz Rebbe was Maran Rav Shulem Rokeach, known as The Sar Shulem. In Belz he is referred to as, Der Ershter Ruv (The First Ruv). The Sar Shulem was born in the city of Brody in the year 1783 (תקמ”ג). Brody was a center of Torah and Jewish Life as well as a center of commerce for many generations. The wealthy Jews who lived there were devout to Torah and conducted all communal life according to Halachah.

The Gaon Rav Chaim Landau established a “Kloyz” in Brody and made sure its members had support. A Kloyz was an institution established by a patron or by the community to support long term Torah study for a select few. The “Bruder Kloyz” (as it’s known in Yiddish) was a place of distinguished learning and serving Hashem. Many great scholars and Tzadikim were part of it. For many generations the Kloyz was the center of Halachah and Da’as Torah for much of Eastern Europe. The scholars in the Kloyz were studying day and night, and were fluent in every aspect of the Torah, the revealed and the hidden.

The Sar Shulem was very connected to the Kloyz. His paternal and maternal ancestors were disciples of the Kloyz and of its leading members.

Later when the Sar Shulem became Rebbe in Belz, he established the “Yoshvim”, an institution very similar to the Kloyz. Also, the Sar Shulem was a great Torah scholar and one of the central Avodas and emphasis in Belz is learning Torah, which he seemingly took from the Kloyz in Brody.

The father of the Sar Shulem, Rav Eluzer Rokeach, was a close disciple of Rav Chaim Sanzer (not to be confused with the Sanzer Rav). Rav Chaim Sanzer was one of the great scholars in the Kloyz. A few days before Rav Chaim passed away, Rav Eluzer Rokeach was near him at his bedside and was very distressed about his holy teacher’s situation. Rav Chaim turned to him and said, “Soon I’ll be by you”. Rav Chaim passed away a short while thereafter and a few days later the Sar Shulem was born. Rav Eluzer and the members of the kloyz understood it to mean that the Sar Shulem inherited the Neshama, the soul, of Rav Chaim Sanzer.