A Beacon of Light

Each generation has its great leaders. But even among these luminaries, Reb Aharon of Belz shined brightly. The most accomplished men of his generation called Reb Aharon the “Kohen Gadol.” The Great Kohen! These weren’t just words of honor — they recognized that just as the Kohen Gadol was the connection between G-d and every Jew when the Temple stood, so was Reb Aharon to the Jewish people of his time. His love for every Jew was boundless.
When he was alive Reb Aharon was scrupulous to repay everyone that had done him kindness. The same is true now that he is no longer with us. Generations after his passing, Reb Aharon looks after all who “attach” themselves to him through acts of kindness, charity, and learning.

The Life of a Tzadik

From his earliest years, Reb Aharon showed clear signs of greatness and a sense of compassion for his fellow Jew that would earn him the reputation of a true tzadik. After the horrors of WWII, Reb Aharon gave an entire generation the strength to rebuild physically and spiritually, despite his own personal losses. His entire life was dedicated to the well-being of every Jew, even though he himself lived on a higher plane, largely disconnected from the material world.

Early Years

The third Rebbe, Rebbe Yissachar Dov, the father of Rebbe Aharon, was the son-in-law of Rebbe Zusha, the Rebbe of Chernobyl. After his marriage, he lived near his father-in-law, studying Torah day and night. His father, Rebbe Yehoshua, instructed him to write down all his Torah commentaries in a notebook. One day when he arrived at his father’s home, the latter asked him, “Yissachar Dov, show me your commentaries.” When he went to get the notebook, he couldn’t find it. As it turned out, his writings had been stolen when he spent one night in an inn. Rebbe Yissachar Dov was very bothered by this, but his father told him, “My son, don’t worry and don’t be sad. In place of your lost Torah commentaries, Hashem will give you a son that will illuminate the world with his Torah and his great wisdom.”

One year later, on the 17th of Teves, 5640 (1880), a son was born to Rebbe Yissachar Dov, after 12 years of marriage. He was named after his mother's great-grandfather, Rebbe Aharon of Chernobyl, although his father later revealed that he intended to name the child after the Great Rebbe Aharon of Karlin. Said Rebbe Yissachar Dov, “In the same way that the great Rebbe Aharon accepted upon himself all the misfortunes that could have struck Klal Yisroel, my son will also take upon himself all of their misfortunes.”

Aharonu’s mother died in 5644 (1884) when he was just 4 years old. His grandfather, Rebbe Yehoshua Rokeach, took Aharonu under his wing and oversaw his spiritual development. As he grew up, Aharonu spent much of his day ensconced in Torah learning and he ate and slept little. When Rebbe Aharon was a boy, he would take with him some bread and coffee to the Cheder. One day he called the gabbai and asked him to bring his bread and coffee to a certain Jewish tailor. The gabbai did not understand why little Aharonu requested this of him, and he wondered about it. The boy replied, “Today when I passed the mikveh, I heard this tailor talking to another Jew. He said, “After such a cold mikveh, it would be wonderful to have a piece of bread and a cup of hot coffee.” At that point, I decided to send him my bread and coffee.”

One day Rebbe Yechezkel Shraga, the Rebbe of Shinova, noticed little Aharonu and carefully looked him over. He exclaimed, “Apparently the "yetzer harah" has completely forgotten about this young man.” The young Aharon showed great brilliance in Torah knowledge and extreme diligence, but above all in his sterling character traits and purity of heart. All who saw him knew that he was destined to become a great sage among the Jewish people.

Rebbe Aharon was very modest by nature. The verse “and walk humbly with Hashem your G-d” (Micah 6:8) was one of his guiding principles. The Chassidim recount that Rebbe Aharon studied day and night, and while he knew all of Talmud and Poskim, he concealed the extent of his knowledge.

Becoming The Rebbe

When he came of age, Rebbe Aharon married his cousin, Malka. After his marriage, Rebbe Aharon lived near his father-in-law for several years. His strict regimen of seclusion, deprivation, and asceticism made him become seriously weakened. His doctors recommended a change of location and they sent him to a spa. While recuperating at the health resort of Kreniec, he still ate little, and his sleep deprivation made it difficult for him to stand or walk quickly. On Shabbos, however, he displayed no weakness. Rebbe Aharon would stand upright, walk quickly, and partake in the meals with obvious pleasure.

Rebbe Aharon had five sons and four daughters. Several of them died at birth or during childhood. The rest were killed by the Nazis Hy”d.

When Rebbe Aharon's father, Rebbe Yissachar Dov, died in Belz on Friday night, on 22 Cheshvan 5687 (30 October 1926), his 46-year-old son accepted the mantle of leadership at the funeral which was held in Belz after Shabbos.

While Rebbe Aharon continued to live with extreme simplicity and seclusion, he revealed himself to be a warm and caring leader. He read each kvitel with great interest and prayed for the petitioner's salvation and success. At first, he tried to limit the number of petitioners who sought his counsel and blessings to five per night, saying, "I simply cannot bear the tzoros (tribulations) of Klal Yisroe!" With time, however, he allowed many petitioners to see him nightly.

After a few years, the name of the young Rebbe of Belz became known throughout the world. The more he advanced in age, the greater his Torah knowledge and holiness became. Rebbe Aharon developed into a light that lit up the whole Jewish world as everyone became aware of his holiness, his righteousness, and his greatness.

The War Years

During Shemini Atzeret 5700 (1939), the Rebbe was forced to take the baton of pilgrimage into his hand and leave the city of Belz. The Rebbe and his brother, Rebbe Mordechai of Bilgoray, who accompanied him, wandered for four years, but Belz Chassidim both inside and outside Nazi-occupied Europe made saving their Rebbe their primary goal and they protected him from any harm. His entire family was killed, yet it was Hashem’s will that the Rebbe be miraculously saved from the Nazi inferno and make his way to Eretz Yisroel.

The Rebbe gave the following account: “It is impossible to describe the miracles, and the miracles within miracles, that the Holy One, blessed be He, has done for us. The man who drove me from the Bochnia Ghetto all the way to Budapest in Hungary visited me while I was in Pest. I once asked him, “How could you dare leave us in the car for more than an hour in the middle of the road in Pschemichl, while you went to the cabaret to visit your soldier friends and have drinks with them? Weren’t you afraid that a Gestapo agent traveling along the roads would catch us and realize that you were hiding Jews?” [Note: This man was a Hungarian military officer who pretended that the Rebbe and his brother were officers who were taking their retirement]. He replied, “I knew with whom I was traveling.” No one saw us along the entire route, for a large cloud covered the car throughout the duration of the trip.”

The Rebbe and his brother arrived in Eretz Yisroel on the 9th of Shevat, which became an occasion for joy and good deeds in the homes of Belz Chassidim. The Chassidim would assemble in his Beit Midrash and seat themselves at the table, while the Rebbe would give them a “Tikkun” and recount the miracles that occurred to him in hiding. He finished by saying, “Thank G-d, I arrived in Eretz Yisroel.” He spent his first Shabbat in Haifa, leaving an atmosphere of spiritual elevation in the city.

The full story of the Rebbe’s miraculous rescue during the war can be read in the book Rescuing the Rebbe of Belz

Rebuilding In Eretz Yisroel

When he arrived, Rebbe Aharon settled in Tel Aviv where he worked to replant Belz from the ashes of destruction. Eretz Yisroel was zocheh to have the Rebbe for thirteen years, first in Tel Aviv and later in Yerushalayim.

To the utter surprise of the Chassidim who thought that he would live in Yerushalayim, he said that he had secret reasons for doing so, reasons that he couldn’t reveal. When it was suggested that he live in Bnei Brak or Petach Tikvah, he replied, “When there were incidents with Arabs, no Arab could enter Tel Aviv, unlike those other cities. Therefore, I want to live in Tel Aviv, for only Jews live there.” The influence of the Rebbe on Tel Aviv was considerable, leading to noticeable reforms in the spiritual landscape of the city. The Rebbe once told a Belz Chassid living in Tel Aviv who was giving his son a haircut on his third birthday and leaving him payos: “Take your son and walk with him along Allenby Street [the main street in Tel Aviv] so that people see that the city now has another child with payos.”

Rebbe Aharon devoted the rest of his life to rebuilding Belzer Chassidus in Eretz Yisroel. He initially established his court in Tel Aviv, where he opened the first Belzer Talmud Torah. Later he moved to Yerushalayim, where he founded the first Belzer yeshiva.

For Rebbe Aharon, the only way to respond to the near destruction of Belz and Chassidus, and to honor the memory of the dead, was to build new institutions and nurture a new generation of Chaasidim. Today, this task has been continued and largely accomplished by his nephew, the present Rebbe of Belz.

Rebbe Aharon remarried after the war but did not have children. His brother, Rebbe Mordechai also remarried and had a son, Yissachar Dov, on January 19, 1948. When Rebbe Mordechai died suddenly on November 17, 1949, Rebbe Aharon groomed his year-old nephew to inherit the dynasty. After Rebbe Aharon's own death in 1957, the boy was educated by a small circle of trusted Chasidim. He became the fifth Belzer Rebbe in 1966.

Rebbe Aharon lived for 13 years in Eretz Yisroel, elevating the standards of Belz. On Motzai Shabbos Parshas Eikev, on the 21st of Av, 5717 (1957), his holy and pure soul departed.

BRING DOWN THE BLESSINGS

The Zohar Teaches That Tzadikim Bring Down Blessings To All Who Have A Connection With Them, Even More So After Their Passing.

How Does One Have A Connection With A Tzadik? By Studying His Teachings, By Emulating What That Tzadik Held Dear In Particular, Or Helping Continue What The Tzadik Started.

Although Reb Aharon Lost All His Children In The War, He Considered The Students Of His Yeshiva His Own Children, And Laid The Foundations Of The Rebuilding Of The Belz Chassidus. He Made A Solemn Promise To All Who Supported “His Boys” Through Tzedakah That Supports Their Learning:

“Whoever supports the boys Learning at my Yeshiva ,
is as if he support me Personally ”

That promise has brought many blessings to all who have partaken in it. And now, during the days surrounding his yarzheit, it is an especially auspicious time to connect with him by supporting Reb Aharon’s students.

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Images Of Greatness

A Holy Lineage

Reb Aharon was the oldest son of the third Rebbe of Belz, Reb Yisachar Dov. From his youth, Reb Aharon had the utmost respect and reverence for his father and for all his ancestors. He meticulously followed all their customs, which he regarded as sacred as the Torah itself.

In turn, his father and grandfather saw greatness in the young man’s demeanor, recognizing that a soul such as Reb Aharon’s is a gift from Heaven unique in his generation.

August 5, 2021

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Stories Of Greatness

In Reb Aharon’s youth, lunches were not provided in cheder (school), and mothers would lovingly pack food for their children before sending them off to learn. One day, young Aharale’s mother prepared for him a lunch of broiled chicken liver and bread. But when the Rebbitzen was about to cook the rest of the chicken, she saw there was a question on its kashrus, making it — and the liver — unfit to eat. She ran to her husband in a panic and said “The liver is not kosher! What if, Chas V’Shalom, our child should eat it! What should we do?” Aharale’s father, Reb Yisachar Dov, calmed her and said quietly, “Don’t worry, the child will not eat the liver!”
Sure enough, that evening when Aharon came home from cheder, his mother found the untouched liver in his pocket, wrapped up just as she had given it to him!  The Gemara says, that Hashem protects Tzaddikim from eating unfit food. This obviously applied to the special child who, at such a tender age, was already a true Tzaddik.
His mother later asked him “Aharale, why didn’t you eat the liver? Weren’t you hungry?” He answered her “Mammeh, you know that I usually don’t care much about food. But today, I had such a strong desire to eat this liver, such an urge, that I thought to myself, “I must learn to control myself. I can do without it.”

A famous Chazan (cantor) once came to the town of Belz for Shabbos. Reb Yehoshua, the second Belzer Rebbe, Reb Aharon’s grandfather, so enjoyed his davening and singing that he asked him to sing one of his nigunim (melodies) to his grandson. After Havdalah (the end of Shabbos), he sent the Chazan to the room where his little grandson sat holding a sefer (book of learning) in his hands.
The Chazan started to sing, but the child did not lift his head from his sefer. He seemed indifferent to the song. The Chazan sang the song again and then once more, and still there was no reaction from little Aharon. After a while, Reb Yehoshua came in to see why the Chazan kept singing the nigun over and over.
“I think that your einickel (grandson) isn’t even listening,” he told theReb Yehoshua. “He is immersed in his sefer.” The Rav smiled and said to him gently “You must understand that a soul like his, you cannot find one in a thousand, or even one in ten thousand! Believe me, he heard you on a much higher plane than you can imagine! He heard you!”
Later, when asked to by his grandfather, young Aharon sang the tune perfectly!

During the war, Reb Shimon Kempler was lucky to have a job that took him outside of the ghetto. While outside he would sneak over to a farm where a cow was milked every day. Having assured that the milk was kosher, Reb Shimon would fill a bottle, tie it to his waist, and with great risk, smuggle it back into the ghetto for the ailing Rav Aharon to drink. The Rav never questioned how he got the milk, or who supervised the milking.
One day, he was caught by the Gestapo, and was led by them into the woods, presumably to his death. He miraculously managed to escape them. But the episode made him late, and he arrived at the farm just after the cow had been milked. The farmer told him that he could take some of the fresh milk as usual. He filled the bottle, tied it under his shirt and smuggled it into the ghetto.
But now he was in a dilemma. Should he tell the Rav that he did not actually observe the cow being milked? The Rav would certainly not drink it, since it was not supervised by a Jew during the milking. On the other hand, the Rav was weak and he desperately needed the milk for his health. Maybe it would be best to kept quiet. After all, the farmer was trustworthy and surely there was nothing un-kosher in the milk.
When he put the milk on the table, the Rav asked him — for the very first time — whether he had been present by the milking. He stammered and stuttered and before he could reply, the Rav told him gently “There are many children and mothers in the ghetto who need milk and are being deprived. I shall also forgo the milk.”

An employee of the Rabbinat in the city of Tel Aviv was charged with insuring that the local stores closed in time for Shabbos. Since this important job lasted until sundown, he davened in the Belz shul where the davening was a little later than everywhere else. After davening, everyone filed passed the Rav to greet him Gut Shabbos! When this Yid passed, the Rav would raise his eyebrows as if asking a question. The man would respond, “Alles iz tzugeshpart,” (“Everything is closed”) and the Rav would smile.
One Shabbos, another Jew substituted for him. When the man passed the Rav to say Gut Shabbos, the Rav asked him who he was. He answered that he was a substitute from the Rabbinat, making sure that all stores were closed on time. The Rav asked him, “Nu, how does it look?”
“Well,” he answered, “The stores are closed except for….” Suddenly he realized that the Rav had stopped listening. As soon as he said, “the stores were closed,” that was enough. The Rav would not listen to a single negative word spoken about another Yid.

During some of the toughest times in Russia when emigration was all but impossible, one daring man tried to get out of the country with his son. The father escaped but the son was caught. The father ultimately managed to make his way to Eretz Yisroel. He went to the Belzer Rebbe for a bracha for his son who had been sentenced to ten years in jail. When the Rav heard about the severe sentence, “Ten years? Would three months not have been sufficient?”
That very day in a Russian prison, the chief guard burst into the cell of this young man and yelled, “What are you doing here? You think that we are not aware that you are stirring up unrest among the prisoners! Get out of here!” He threw him out of the jail with his meager possessions flying behind him!
Eventually, this young man made his way to Eretz Yisroel and joined his father. They figured out that the day the police threw him out of jail was the exact day on which the Rav asked his father, “Would three months not have been sufficient?” He had been in prison three months to the day!

While Rav Aharon lived in Tel Aviv, his eyes started becoming weaker. A doctor came to examine the Rav’s eyes and exclaimed, “I have never come across such eyes before. I cannot fathom their depth!”
He went on to say that without the appropriate equipment, there was no way he could conduct a thorough examination as he could in his office. However, if the Rav could position his face upward and focus on a moving object such as a flying bird, it will give me a better idea of what the problem may be.
“I have never seen a flying bird before,” answered the Rav. “As a child, I never had the time to look out of the window. I would learn, then I had to chazer (review what I had learned), then there was more to learn. I never had time then to look at a bird.”

In Reb Aharon’s youth, lunches were not provided in cheder (school), and mothers would lovingly pack food for their children before sending them off to learn. One day, young Aharale’s mother prepared for him a lunch of broiled chicken liver and bread. But when the Rebbitzen was about to cook the rest of the chicken, she saw there was a question on its kashrus, making it — and the liver — unfit to eat. She ran to her husband in a panic and said “The liver is not kosher! What if, Chas V’Shalom, our child should eat it! What should we do?” Aharale’s father, Reb Yisachar Dov, calmed her and said quietly, “Don’t worry, the child will not eat the liver!”
Sure enough, that evening when Aharon came home from cheder, his mother found the untouched liver in his pocket, wrapped up just as she had given it to him!  The Gemara says, that Hashem protects Tzaddikim from eating unfit food. This obviously applied to the special child who, at such a tender age, was already a true Tzaddik.
His mother later asked him “Aharale, why didn’t you eat the liver? Weren’t you hungry?” He answered her “Mammeh, you know that I usually don’t care much about food. But today, I had such a strong desire to eat this liver, such an urge, that I thought to myself, “I must learn to control myself. I can do without it.”

A famous Chazan (cantor) once came to the town of Belz for Shabbos. Reb Yehoshua, the second Belzer Rebbe, Reb Aharon’s grandfather, so enjoyed his davening and singing that he asked him to sing one of his nigunim (melodies) to his grandson. After Havdalah (the end of Shabbos), he sent the Chazan to the room where his little grandson sat holding a sefer (book of learning) in his hands.
The Chazan started to sing, but the child did not lift his head from his sefer. He seemed indifferent to the song. The Chazan sang the song again and then once more, and still there was no reaction from little Aharon. After a while, Reb Yehoshua came in to see why the Chazan kept singing the nigun over and over.
“I think that your einickel (grandson) isn’t even listening,” he told theReb Yehoshua. “He is immersed in his sefer.” The Rav smiled and said to him gently “You must understand that a soul like his, you cannot find one in a thousand, or even one in ten thousand! Believe me, he heard you on a much higher plane than you can imagine! He heard you!”
Later, when asked to by his grandfather, young Aharon sang the tune perfectly!

During the war, Reb Shimon Kempler was lucky to have a job that took him outside of the ghetto. While outside he would sneak over to a farm where a cow was milked every day. Having assured that the milk was kosher, Reb Shimon would fill a bottle, tie it to his waist, and with great risk, smuggle it back into the ghetto for the ailing Rav Aharon to drink. The Rav never questioned how he got the milk, or who supervised the milking.
One day, he was caught by the Gestapo, and was led by them into the woods, presumably to his death. He miraculously managed to escape them. But the episode made him late, and he arrived at the farm just after the cow had been milked. The farmer told him that he could take some of the fresh milk as usual. He filled the bottle, tied it under his shirt and smuggled it into the ghetto.
But now he was in a dilemma. Should he tell the Rav that he did not actually observe the cow being milked? The Rav would certainly not drink it, since it was not supervised by a Jew during the milking. On the other hand, the Rav was weak and he desperately needed the milk for his health. Maybe it would be best to kept quiet. After all, the farmer was trustworthy and surely there was nothing un-kosher in the milk.
When he put the milk on the table, the Rav asked him — for the very first time — whether he had been present by the milking. He stammered and stuttered and before he could reply, the Rav told him gently “There are many children and mothers in the ghetto who need milk and are being deprived. I shall also forgo the milk.”

An employee of the Rabbinat in the city of Tel Aviv was charged with insuring that the local stores closed in time for Shabbos. Since this important job lasted until sundown, he davened in the Belz shul where the davening was a little later than everywhere else. After davening, everyone filed passed the Rav to greet him Gut Shabbos! When this Yid passed, the Rav would raise his eyebrows as if asking a question. The man would respond, “Alles iz tzugeshpart,” (“Everything is closed”) and the Rav would smile.
One Shabbos, another Jew substituted for him. When the man passed the Rav to say Gut Shabbos, the Rav asked him who he was. He answered that he was a substitute from the Rabbinat, making sure that all stores were closed on time. The Rav asked him, “Nu, how does it look?”
“Well,” he answered, “The stores are closed except for….” Suddenly he realized that the Rav had stopped listening. As soon as he said, “the stores were closed,” that was enough. The Rav would not listen to a single negative word spoken about another Yid.

During some of the toughest times in Russia when emigration was all but impossible, one daring man tried to get out of the country with his son. The father escaped but the son was caught. The father ultimately managed to make his way to Eretz Yisroel. He went to the Belzer Rebbe for a bracha for his son who had been sentenced to ten years in jail. When the Rav heard about the severe sentence, “Ten years? Would three months not have been sufficient?”
That very day in a Russian prison, the chief guard burst into the cell of this young man and yelled, “What are you doing here? You think that we are not aware that you are stirring up unrest among the prisoners! Get out of here!” He threw him out of the jail with his meager possessions flying behind him!
Eventually, this young man made his way to Eretz Yisroel and joined his father. They figured out that the day the police threw him out of jail was the exact day on which the Rav asked his father, “Would three months not have been sufficient?” He had been in prison three months to the day!

While Rav Aharon lived in Tel Aviv, his eyes started becoming weaker. A doctor came to examine the Rav’s eyes and exclaimed, “I have never come across such eyes before. I cannot fathom their depth!”
He went on to say that without the appropriate equipment, there was no way he could conduct a thorough examination as he could in his office. However, if the Rav could position his face upward and focus on a moving object such as a flying bird, it will give me a better idea of what the problem may be.
“I have never seen a flying bird before,” answered the Rav. “As a child, I never had the time to look out of the window. I would learn, then I had to chazer (review what I had learned), then there was more to learn. I never had time then to look at a bird.”

Connect to the Tzadik and Merit to be Part of His Special Promise

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