When the Ershter Ruv z”l traveled to his primary Rebbe, the Chozeh of Lublin, he would always ask to be blessed with לייטישע קינדער (an expression in Yiddish that means children who are Ehrlich and Chashuv). It came to be with all his holy children, which underscores the importance for constantly davening for Ehrliche children. Most of his sons and sons-in-law assumed Rabbinic positions in towns and cities in Galicia and beyond.
Today there are thousands of ‘Belzer Einiklach’, people who descend from the Ershter Ruv z”l, including some of the readers of this newsletter! (We’ll be happy to hear from you! Reach us here)
The Ershter Ruv had five sons and two daughters. Three sons did not become Rabbis in other towns. The oldest was R’ Eluzar, the second son, R’ Shmiel Shmelka, and the youngest Reb Yehoshua, who eventually filled his father’s position as Rebbe of Belz.
The second son, R’ Shmiel Shmelka, was born sickly and passed away at a young age without leaving behind children.
At first it wasn’t clear who the Ershter Ruv wanted to take over his position after his passing, either the oldest, R’ Eluzar, or the youngest Reb Yehoshua.
In the last three years of the Ershter Ruv’s life, he became blind and assigned his youngest son, the Mitele Ruv, to lead the Rabbinic tasks of the town of Belz. This and other signs were indicative that he wanted Reb Yehoshua to assume his position, notwithstanding the fact that the Ershter Ruv and many other Tzadikim held R’ Eluzar in high esteem and recognized his great Tzidkus (piety).
Right after the Ershter Ruv was Niftar, the Chasidim gathered the signatures of the town’s residents to appoint Reb Yehoshua as Rav.
Here’s a good opportunity to explain the difference between a Rav and a Rebbe. A Rav is the Rabbinic post of a town or city, elected by the local residents. A Rebbe is a Chasidish master who Chasidim come to from all over to learn from them. Especially in Galicia, most Rebbes were Ravs too. In the case of the Ershter Ruv, he became Rav in Belz first- before becoming Rebbe. As recounted in the past, the Rebbetzin wanted him to become Rav so he can receive a salary as a Rav, albeit a meager salary, and be able to learn and immerse himself in Avodas Hakodesh. Eventually, Chasidim started to flock to him to learn from him and be by him on Shabbosim and Yomim Tovim, and they made him their Rebbe. The position of Rav was dependent on the residents who weren’t necessarily all Chasidim.
The town residents elected Reb Yehoshua to be Rav. At first, R’ Eluzar the oldest brother was opposed that Reb Yehoshua should lead as a Rebbe too, because he felt that the greatness of their father, the Ershter Ruv, cannot be filled.
A few days after the Levaya was Rosh Hashanah, as recounted here. On the second day of Rosh Hashanah the Ershter Ruv appeared to R’ Eluzar and told him that he wants that Reb Yehoshua should assume his position fully. R’ Eluzar accepted right away and told Reb Yehoshua exactly what their father has said. Since then R’ Eluzar became a Chassid too of Reb Yehoshua.
R’ Eluzar was Niftar on 19 of Kislev and was buried near his father in the same area of the other Belzer Rebbes in Belz. See thumbnail image.