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LOT 22:

Lengthy and Interesting Halachic Responsum from R. David Sperber Rabbi of Braşov – Regarding Bringing the Coffin of ...

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Lengthy and Interesting Halachic Responsum from R. David Sperber Rabbi of Braşov – Regarding Bringing the Coffin of the Ahavat Yisrael of Vizhnitz to Eretz Israel – Braşov, 1945 – Unpublished Parts
Manuscript, lengthy halachic responsum from R. David Sperber Rabbi of Braşov, regarding the transfer of the remains of the Ahavat Yisrael, rebbe of Vizhnitz. Addressed to Rebbe Chaim Meir Hager, the Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz. Braşov [Romania, Transylvania], Shevat 1945.
Five large pages, containing an in-depth halachic responsum from the rabbi of Braşov, ruling to allow the coffin of Rebbe Yisrael Hager, the Ahavat Yisrael of Vizhnitz, to be brought from his burial place in Grosswardein (Oradea) to Eretz Israel. The responsum was addressed to the Ahavat Yisrael's son – the Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz, and was composed at the end of WWII, when the Imrei Chaim was residing in Grosswardein. In his responsum, R. David asserts that not only would this be permitted, it would actually be a mitzva. Additionally, he provides detailed directives in his responsum on how to open the grave and on the caution required when removing the coffin.
R. David concludes his letter: "And may the G-d of Israel come to his assistance, that this endeavor should be successful, with the fulfillment of the adage frequently uttered by this holy Tzaddik: 'Yancheni BeMaaglei Tzedek' (He leads me in the path of righteousness), a saying bearing the same initials as his name and that of his mother [=Yisrael ben Tziporah]". He states that his permission is contingent on the approval of two prominent rabbis – the two brothers of the Imrei Chaim (the Damesek Eliezer and the Mekor Baruch). The letter is signed with his name together with his mother's, as in a kvittel: "David son of Shaindel Sarah Sperber".
Rebbe Yisrael Hager of Vizhnitz (1860-1936) passed away on 2nd Sivan 1936, and was buried in Grosswardein. On 13th Adar (Taanit Esther) 1950, his coffin was brought to Eretz Israel, and buried in the Shomrei Shabbat cemetery in Bnei Brak. As soon as the idea of transferring the grave of the Ahavat Yisrael to Eretz Israel was suggested, R. Sperber was consulted on the matter. He was the first halachic authority whom the Imrei Chaim approached for his halachic views on the move. In 1949, the Imrei Chaim mentions this correspondence in a letter sent to Romania: "Regarding the transfer of holy remains, when I suggested it to the Gaon of Braşov, he replied with a responsum allowing it". The idea was proposed as early as the winter of 1945, but various obstacles arose and the matter was delayed time and again until 1950. The grave was eventually opened in Shevat 1950, in the presence of R. Sperber. The latter boarded a ship together with the coffin, wishing to immigrate to Eretz Israel at that opportunity. Ultimately, the coffin was delayed in port until a later voyage, and R. David arrived in Eretz Israel several days before the coffin (She'arim newspaper, 23/2/1950).
While the grave was being dug up, R. Sperber delivered an inspiring, rousing address. He mentioned that when a Tzaddik is buried outside Eretz Israel, his positive influence is limited to the residents of his city, whilst when he is buried in Eretz Israel, he can generate an abundance of kindness and mercy for the entire Jewish people throughout the world. This is taken further in Kedosh Yisrael – biography of the Ahavat Yisrael (II, pp. 566-567): "It must be noted that the words of R. Sperber were indeed fulfilled shortly thereafter. Up until then, the iron gates of Romania had been securely locked, with only very few Jews being allowed to leave, and behold, mere weeks later, the gates were opened and multitudes of Jews left Romania for Eretz Israel within a short period of time" (Kedosh Yisrael, ibid, p. 566, states that the correspondence between the Imrei Chaim and the Gaon of Braşov regarding the transfer of the remains began in 1947, yet this responsum discloses that the correspondence began as early as Shevat 1945, even before the end of the war).
Wondrous accounts are recorded regarding the process of bringing the coffin of the Ahavat Yisrael to Eretz Israel. At first, the family was undecided as to where to bury the remains, yet the Chazon Ish determined that they should be buried in Bnei Brak. The Chazon Ish even participated in the funeral, remaining until after the filling of the grave. Reputedly, when the coffin reached Eretz Israel, the Chazon Ish heard that on the way, the coffin was opened a little, and the body of the Ahavat Yisrael was found to be intact, completely unaffected by maggots, despite the fact that thirteen years had elapsed since his passing. In light of this, the Chazon Ish requested that the coffin be publicly opened "to cause a sanctification of G-d's Name in the eyes of the people, when they all witness how Tzaddikim are unaffected by decay", and that is indeed what was done. Reputedly, the Chazon Ish wished the body to be completely removed from the coffin, and buried directly in the earth, as is the custom in Eretz Israel, but the Imrei Chaim did not consent (Maaseh Ish, VII, pp. 165-166; Pe'er HaDor, IV, p. 149, based on documentation by R. Moshe Schonfeld).
R. David Sperber (1877-1962), leading Galician and Romanian rabbi. Born in Zablotov to a family of Kosov-Vizhnitz Chassidim, he was a disciple of R. Meir Arik. He also studied under Rebbe Moshe Hager of Kosov, author of Ezor HaEmunah, and arranged the latter's writings for printing. He frequented the courts of the Chakal Yitzchak, rebbe of Spinka, and the Ahavat Yisrael of Vizhnitz. From 1908, he served as dayan and posek in Polien Riskeve (Poienile de sub Munte), and from 1922, as rabbi of Braşov (Kronstadt). He authored Afarkasta D'Anya, Michtam LeDavid, Tehilla LeDavid, and other books. He was renowned for the permissions he issued to agunot following the Holocaust. In the winter of 1950, he immigrated to Eretz Israel, where he became known as "the rabbi of Braşov", and served as a leader of the Moetzet Gedolei HaTorah and Chinuch HaAtzma'i.
This responsum was not published in its entirety in his responsa book Afarkasta D'Anya, III, section 228, pp. 214-224 (New York 2002 edition). At the end of the responsum there, the following is printed in parentheses: "Lacking the end of the responsum, and the loss is unfortunate". This manuscript contains the complete responsum, from beginning to end. There are some textual variations compared to the printed version. It is unclear whether this letter is the final version of the responsum, while the printed version is based on a draft, or vice-versa.
In the approbation of the Yeshuot Moshe of Vizhnitz to the new edition of Afarkasta D'Anya, he refers to this responsum, and extolls the virtues of the author: "I was very pleased to see that you are reprinting the responsa book Afarkasta D'Anya… who was renowned in his generation for his fear of G-d and piety which superseded his knowledge, for his Torah eminence and erudition in Talmud and halachic literature… and now you are adding several hundred new responsa, including the responsum to my father the Imrei Chaim regarding the transfer of my grandfather the Ahavat Yisrael from Grosswardein to Eretz Israel, and several other halachic correspondences with my father… the leaders of his generation relied on him and his rulings in the most critical matters".
[3] leaves (5 written pages). 33.5 cm. Good-fair condition. Stains and wear. Minor marginal tears, not affecting text. Fold lines.