Today, כ”ב חשון, is the Yartzeit of the Third Belzer Rebbe, Reb Yisochor Dov Rokeach, refered to by Chasidim – The Friedige Ruv.
The Freidige Ruv was born in the year תרי”ב – 1852, to the Second Belzer Rebbe, Reb Yehoshia Rokeach.
Much of what Belz is today was shaped by the Freidige Ruv. The generation he lived in was a difficult one for Yiddishkeit in Eastern Europe and the whole world. The roots of mass assimilation and estrangement from Yiddishkeit started in his lifetime in the few decades before WWI and continued in full swing after WWI ר”ל.
The Freidige Ruv experienced it all in his lifetime. After WWI he paraphrased the Pasuk in Tehilim 9:7, האיוב תמו חרבות לנצח – The enemy is gone, but the Churban it brought is left forever.
During WWI the Freidige Ruv had to flee the town of Belz and wandered between a few cities in Hungary. First in Teglash, Ratzferd, Munkatch, and then back in Galicia in the town of Oleszyce (הולושיץ). In תרפ”ד he returned to Belz and reestablished the Kehilla and the Chassidus there. Three years after returning to Belz, the Freidige Ruv was Niftar on כ”ב חשון תרפ”ז and was succeeded by his oldest son the Holy Reb Aharon of Belz.
The Yiddishkeit situation in Europe never ceased being on the mind of the Freidige Ruv. He fought a fierce battle to preserve Yiddishkeit and reinvigorate its spirit for the young generation.
The first Belzer Rebbe established the Yoshvim institution. A select group of Yungerleit, who were called Yoshvim, were learning and serving Hashem all year in Belz. The Freidige Ruv opened this institution for every Bochur to come and be part of it.
Many Bochurim learned there. The Bochurim came from all over Galicia, from Hungary, even from more modern homes and from western parts of Europe.
The Yoshvim emphasized learning Lomdus and mastering Shas. Davening with a Bren was very important and Shemiras Haddibur – talking only refined and clean language. A Bochur who spent time in Belz became a changed person.
Once a Bochur from Hungary who was very into the news decided to come to Belz to report on what he saw. Instead, when he returned home, he started learning. When asked what happened, he said, “I came to Belz and saw the “erenskeit” – the seriousness and realness; I saw that life is not a show to be reported on!”
The Freidige Ruv would come in everyday and Daven together with the Bochurim and instilled a Chiyyus in their Yiddishkeit.
The Freidige Ruv, following his father’s example, was of strong opinion that to fight the winds of assimilation one must cherish and upkeep everything in Yiddishkeit even Minhagim and ways of life from the previous generations that are not written in the Seforim.
Some tried to bring into Yiddiskeit a westernization and demanded that everything in Yiddishkeit be rational to their mind. In the course of this approach, they dismissed many Minhagim that they didn’t find a source or reason behind it. They claimed that this is the only way to fight the secular culture that was permeating the Jewish World.
The Freidige Ruv believed the exact opposite. He taught that we need to uphold what we received and realize the holiness in the Minhagim and the lifestyles of the previous generations. If we cherish Yiddishkeit and live it with Chayus and Bren, only then will we be able to reach the young generation.
This approach of the great Tzaddik still guides the Belz Chassidus today and many other Jewish communities until Mashiach’s days. May we see it soon!