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Wednesday
Jul232014

A GAON: IN TORAH, AVODA, AND CHASSIDUS

R’ Dovid Chanzin passed away 11 years ago this summer. We present stories from the book about him written by Menachem Ziegelboim.

FAITHFUL SOLDIER

R’ Chanzin was always and forever a disciplined soldier in the Rebbe’s army, from the earliest days when he began to get involved in Chabad. What the Rebbe Rayatz said was holy to him. For a long period of time, he went with R’ Efraim Wolf from city to city in Eretz Yisroel in order to disseminate HaKria V’HaK’dusha as part of the Rebbe Rayatz’s message of l’alter l ‘t’shuva, l’alter l’Geula.

R’ Itzke Gansbourg said that R’ Chanzin not only gave out HaKria V’HaK’dusha but he also knew it by heart.

Rebbetzin Sima Ralbag said that in those days, R’ Chanzin would go to her father, R’ Ezriel Zelig Slonim’s house in order to get a copy of the Rebbe Rayatz’s sichos which would come by mail to his home.

PUNCTILIOUS IN HALACHA AND MINHAG

R’ Chanzin was careful in halachic matters to the smallest detail in Shulchan Aruch. He was truly G-d fearing and although he sometimes had situations in which he could have been lenient in matters of halacha or minhag, he was particular to the nth degree.

He once sat at an important meeting with the hanhala of the Reshet Oholei Yosef Yitzchok. The meeting began in the afternoon and ended late at night. One of the people present poured water into R’ Chanzin’s cup but he saw that although five hours had passed since the beginning of the meeting, R’ Chanzin did not touch the water, and he was well over eighty. R’ Gluckowsky, who was at the meeting, asked him about it. R’ Chanzin said he had not davened Maariv yet.

R’ Gluckowsky said there was reason to be lenient. R’ Chanzin said it was a halachic discussion between R’ Akiva Eiger and other Acharonim. He said nothing further.

After the meeting, R’ Chanzin went on to explain. “I sat many times with senior Chassidim and I saw how they behaved. If that is how they behave, then it is from the ‘ways of Chassidus’ and one should be particular.”

R’ Gluckowsky concluded, “I learned several things from this. 1) His tremendous scrupulousness in halachic matters. 2) Until he was asked, he did not explain why he did not drink the water. This testifies to his great humility. 3) The lengthy meeting was worthwhile to me just in order to hear from him one of the parameters of darkei ha’chassidus, i.e. something which senior Chassidim do.

R’ Chanzin (right) in the Rebbe’s room

ALTHOUGH THERE WAS REASON TO BE LENIENT

During the Shiva, a woman came to his home who had worked there from the time R’ Chanzin had been widowed in 5711. She was a young girl at the time and in the morning she would clean and straighten up the house. After a while, she noticed that the rabbi returned to the apartment building in the afternoon but would not come up to his apartment. He would walk around and around until one of his children came home from school. Then they would go up together.

“I did not understand this odd behavior but after some time, when I learned the laws of yichud, I realized that he was being very careful about it even though there were halachic reasons to be lenient.”

CONCERN FOR OTHERS

A lady from Petach Tikva related:

“Sixteen years ago my son needed an operation. My husband and I were nervous about it and we asked the Rebbe what to do. The answer was to consult with a rav. We decided to discuss it with R’ Chanzin and for various reasons, we decided to do this without identifying ourselves.

“I called R’ Chanzin and asked to consult with him. He modestly asked who was he to decide for us. When I said we had an answer from the Rebbe to consult with a rav, he agreed to talk to me. The conversation lasted over an hour.

“What shall I tell you … Even before that, we knew the rav as a distinguished person and a talmid chochom, but we discovered that he was able to analyze problems with great clarity like a professional. After considering things this way and that way, he gently asked whether he could know who I was. When I told him, he offered to meet with the surgeon and talk to him about the details that were still unclear to him.

“A few days later, I told him that the doctor said he did not have time to meet with rabbis, being busy with operations. Hearing this, R’ Chanzin said not to use him, saying that he did not have sensitivity for parents who wanted to be reassured by having their rabbi speak to him. ‘He only wants honor,’ he said and added, ‘I am willing for you to find another doctor anywhere in the country and I will go and meet with him.’ When I asked how he would go when he did not have a car, he said, ‘I’ll go by bus anywhere in the country.’ I was moved that this old rabbi who barely knew us was willing to travel anywhere by bus in order to meet with a doctor.

“In the end, we found another doctor and the operation was successful. We thus refrained from bothering R’ Chanzin. But the lesson we learned from this story was immense!”

IT’S NOT ME, IT’S THE TRUTH!

R’ Chanzin gave many shiurim over the years, including many on Chassidus. It made no difference to him whether there were dozens of people in attendance or just one person. He would give the shiur in the same way regardless. 

R’ Yehuda Bock, a Modzitzer Chassid who lives in Petach Tikva, said:

“I regularly attended a Tanya shiur given by R’ Chanzin which had another one or two people. The shiur took place in the big shul. Sometimes simple people came to daven who did not understand what the shiur was about. They would join and ask questions that did not necessarily pertain to what was being said. R’ Chanzin answered every one of them and gave the questioners their due respect.

One time, someone did not agree with an explanation that he gave and he insisted on his version time and again. R’ Chanzin firmly said, “This is not mine but it’s true. I am not saying it because I am more important than you; whoever is sitting here is more important than me. I’m telling this to you because it’s true!”

It was hard for me to believe, but the rabbi, at his age, with his knowledge, answered with such humility to a person who could barely read. 

TANYA NO MATTER WHAT

R’ Chanzin in his great humility had a chavrusa to learn Tanya who was a young bachur from a Litvishe yeshiva. The bachur wanted to learn Chassidus and R’ Chanzin gave him of his time. 

“I would go to his house and he taught me,” said R’ Michoel Hirshzon, who is a Chabad Chassid today.

“I once wanted to arrange a time for the shiur and I called him at home. One of the family members answered the phone and said the rav wasn’t feeling well. He asked whether I could come another day. Of course I agreed but then I heard the rav’s voice on the line telling me, ‘Michoel, come. Don’t pay attention to what they told you.’

“So I went. When I showed up, he was sleeping. I waited for him to get up and heard him moaning in pain. A short while later, he came out of his room and sat down to learn with me for a long time as though all was well.”

WALKING BETWEEN THE DROPS

R’ Hirschzon continues:

“Although I learned in a Litvishe yeshiva, R’ Chanzin taught me Chassidus while avoiding getting into issues of debate or attempts to win over others. He maintained this position even when I, in my innocence, made comparisons between shiurei Chassidus and the shiurei musar that I heard in yeshiva. He never debated or tried to persuade me.

“He knew who wanted to learn Chassidus and who wanted to start up. There was a bachur who said he wanted to learn Chassidus with R’ Chanzin. R’ Chanzin discovered in the first shiur what I had guessed. He asked, do you want to argue or to learn? He refused to continue learning with that boy.

“When I wanted to transfer to a Chabad yeshiva, he encouraged me but was not willing to help me. He did not say the reason but in his sensitive way he managed to convey that he wasn’t willing to get into a conflict with his nephew, R’ Boruch Shimon Solomon, the rav of Petach Tikva and the rosh yeshiva where I learned. He fled from any hint of machlokes (dispute).”

THREE QUARTERS OF AN HOUR EACH WAY

More about private Tanya classes that the rav gave:

Sixteen years ago, R’ Chanzin began learning Tanya once a week with two bachurim from Petach Tikva, great-grandchildren of his friend, R’ Avrohom Pariz. The two boys learned in a Litvishe yeshiva and R’ Chanzin wanted to be mekarev them.

“For a year and more, R’ Chanzin taught us Tanya,” said R’ Nosson Pariz in amazement. “I was just 14 and my brother 15, too young to understand what he was doing for us. What we knew was that he walked three quarters of an hour from his house to the shul where we learned. Walking was hard for him and yet he did not forgo this Tanya shiur.”

Today, the brothers are Lubavitcher Chassidim who have beautiful Chassidishe homes.

ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD

Many people consulted with R’ Chanin about halachic questions, Chassidic matters, and problems in daily life. R’ Zalman Losh of Petach Tikva relates:

“I moved to Petach Tikva over a decade ago. He was already over eighty at the time. Nevertheless, he devoted a lot of time to me and others for personal conversations and to give advice. I don’t mean a two minute conversation. There were times the conversation took four or five hours. He gave you the feeling that he had all the time in the world.

“The fact is that he was a very busy man. Aside from his diligent learning, people were always going to his house and the phone did not stop ringing. Chassidic askanim and regular people asked him questions in halacha or for advice.

“Despite this, the rav continued talking to me patiently. You could not see any effects of his advanced age.”

TREMENDOUS HUMILITY

R’ Chanzin was an incredibly humble man. This small incident was told by one of the young people who attended the Tanya class he gave:

“At the end of the shiur, I said I wanted a bracha. He got up and looked at me as though he was waiting. I did not understand what was happening. Then I realized that the rav thought I wanted to give him a bracha! He was already over ninety and yet he got up in order to receive a bracha from me.

“After I explained that I wanted to receive a bracha, he excused himself with various explanations. I said it says in the Gemara that when there is a sick person you need to ask for a bracha from a chochom. The rav said, ‘You mean what it says in Gemara Megilla? But I am not a chochom … Still, Hashem should help that whoever needs a refua should be well.’

“In the following classes he would ask me how the sick person for whom I had asked a bracha was doing. When I said that the situation had improved, his face lit up as though it was his relative we were talking about.”

FLEEING MACHLOKES

R’ Chanzin avoided any trace of machlokes and when it was directed toward him, his incredible humility came to the fore. 

In one of the last years of his life, he went to give a Tanya shiur in the big shul in Petach Tikva. In the room where the shiur was always given, there was a group of students studying chazanus. The rav told them that there was a shiur that takes place there regularly. One of the youngsters began arguing with him.

The rav did not respond, he just asked the participants of the shiur to go to the Chabad house where he would give the shiur. Walking was hard for him but he did not forgo the shiur. He walked a while to the Chabad house where he gave the shiur. Of course, nobody heard a word of complaint from him.

ROLE MODEL

R’ Yisroel Butman a”h, director of the Reshet Oholei Yosef Yitzchok, said that R’ Chanzin taught him about a Chassid’s relationship with the Rebbe.

“To me, R’ Chanzin was one of the few who had a genuine devotion to every word of the Rebbe. Nothing could sway him, not money, not honor, not a position, not power. Reshet Oholei Yosef Yitzchok was dear to him. He invested a tremendous amount of energy into running the Reshet and also donated large sums regularly even though his financial situation wasn’t the best.”

IF I ASK EVERYONE …

R’ Moshe Dovid Cohen, director of the Keren L’Maan Yahadus Kazakhstan, related:

“I once asked R’ Chanzin as a member of the Beis Din Rabbanei Chabad to write a letter for a Chaf Av fundraiser for activities in the name of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, the Rebbe’s father. R’ Chanzin, for reasons of his own, did not like producing letters like these. However, when R’ Yaroslavsky put out a letter, he added in his handwriting that he joined this holy call as well.

“After signing it, he took out a sum of money as a donation, saying: If I ask everyone to donate, then I have to donate myself.”

DEEP FAITH IN WHAT THE REBBE SAID

R’ Chanzin was a big believer in what the Rebbe said. His hiskashrus to the Rebbe was boundless and an entire book could be written about that. R’ Meir Bitton gives one example:

“During the first Gulf War, the Rebbe said that Eretz Yisroel is the safest place. However, when Scud missiles landed at night and exploded, the emuna of many people was shaken, but for R’ Chanzin, his emuna just intensified.

“It was Friday night, in the middle of the war. After the davening, we left the shul and walked together toward the rav’s house. We suddenly heard the wailing of the siren announcing a Scud missile attack. One of the people from the shul who was walking with us, immediately ran home while the rav continued walking with me and his son, Yosef Yitzchok, as though nothing happened. I gently said there’s a siren and maybe we should hurry but the rav said, ‘So what?’

“Some seconds passed and then the explosion of the Scud missile shook Petach Tikva. I and his son were very scared. Only the rav continued walking peacefully and this amazed me. He was a role model of someone with faith in what the Rebbe said.”

LOYAL TO THE WORDS OF THE REBBE

R’ Chanzin was known to be tremendously knowledgeable in Nigleh and Chassidus but despite this, he was modest and did not display his genius.

R’ Zalman Losh relates:

“Now and then I would arrange farbrengens in the Chabad shul in Petach Tikva. R’ Chanzin would come and would read a sicha from the Rebbe. He was a tremendous gaon and could say his own shiur but he preferred to read a sicha of the Rebbe. He taught us that we need to learn specifically what the Rebbe taught.”

Somebody from Anash in Petach Tikva related, “He once read a sicha and explained it. He was known as someone very talented at explaining things, but his explanations kept very closely to the actual wording of what the Rebbe said. When something wasn’t that clear, he was asked to explain further and he went back to reading the sicha word by word. That is how he conveyed the message that there was nothing to add to what the Rebbe said, nothing at all.”

On the other hand, once, in a Chassidus shiur, he was asked to explain something. He was quiet for a while and then gave a lengthy, deep explanation in Chassidus that was said with great clarity so that even complex ideas were readily understood. He did this without any prior preparation.

STANDING ON PRINCIPLE

R’ Yehoshafat Alpert, secretary of the Reshet for 13 years, related:

“In the early years, many of the teachers of the Reshet were not Lubavitch. There were two views regarding them: Some said the main thing is that they believe in the Rebbe and as such they can teach the students. R’ Chanzin maintained that in order to instill Chassidus, one had to have strong grounding in the teachings.

“So it was established that the non-Lubavitcher teachers of the Reshet would attend a shiur once a month with the Chassid, R’ Nachum Goldschmidt who was known for his wonderful explanations of Chassidus.

“R’ Chanzin himself had a shiur with me in Likkutei Torah for a long time.”

GREAT CARE

R’ M. M. Gluckowsky related:

“We once sat on a din Torah that took place in the Chabad shul in Petach Tikva. It took hours and in the middle we had a break. That day was especially warm and the air conditioner did not work. I went out to buy a bottle of cold water in a nearby store. When I came back, I poured a cup of water for R’ Chanzin. 

“When I poured the cup he was in the other room. When he returned, the discussion went on for a long time. Throughout that time I noticed that he wasn’t touching the water.

“When the din Torah was over, I asked him why he didn’t drink when it was hot (and he was well over eighty). He said: I didn’t know who bought the water and who poured it for me. I was afraid it might have been one of the baalei din and then it would be in the category of bribery.”

 

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