🕯 Rav Yeshaya Steiner of Kerestir zt’l (1851-1925) – 3rd of Iyar

April 15, 2021

לז”×  הרב זכריה שמעון בן ר’ יצחק הכהן וואללערשטיין

Reb Shayele Kerestirer (1851-1925) was one of the most famous Chassidic Rebbes of the early 20th century. He was a student of both the Divrei Chaim of Sanz, R’ Chaim Halberstam zt’l and R’ Mordechai of Nadvorna zt’l. He was known as a baal chesed and baal tzedakah, for his extraordinary Ahavas Yisroel, as well as his miraculous work for those in need of yeshuos.

{Interesting note: his picture is considered by many to be an amulet of protection. In the famous portrait, one can see that the Rebbe was facing down. It is said that the Sanzer Rav once placed his hands on Reb Shayele’s head to bentch him and from that point on, Reb Shayele never raised his head.}

I heard a vort told over by R’ Meilech Biderman, shlit’a in the name of R’ Yaakov Sholom Freund, zt’l regarding the words of the phrase (Maseches Sanhedrin 111a, Rashi, Shemos 6:9) חֲבַל עַל דְּאָבְדִין וְלָא מִשְׁתַּכְּחִין – It is a pity for those who are gone and no longer to be found! The expression laments the great loss of the deceased, as they are truly irreplaceable.

R’ Freund explains that even when a tzaddik leaves this world, he is eventually forgotten. However, if one uses a rope – a חבל – and binds himself to the tzaddik through speaking of his deeds – and in this case, by remembering how much he cared for and helped his fellow Yidden – then 100 years later, ולא משתכחין. In this way we can be sure – Reb Yeshaya ben R’ Moshe of Kerestir will not be forgotten.

When one looks at the letter צ (“tzaddik”) of the alef beis, one will notice that it is holding a backwards yud on its shoulders. The early sefarim say that this hints that a tzaddik is someone who carries his fellow “Yud,” who helps others. According to the Arizal, the yud on top of the tzaddik is written backwards because a tzaddik is someone who can tolerate even someone who is crooked and backwards. Simply put, a tzaddik is good to all Yidden, no matter what.

We just completed the 17th day of the 49 days of the Omer (!Don’t forget to count!). In gematria, the words לב טוב equal 49. The message is clear; if we wish to reach the level of achdus needed in order to be mekabel the Torah this Shavuos, the way to do so is to acquire a Lev Tov.

When we speak of Reb Shayele, we quickly recognize his excellence in this middah. He loved each and every person no matter their financial, social or spiritual status. He didn’t focus on the sins, mistakes, or bad habits of others. He saw each person as they truly were – a beautiful, pure neshoma with unlimited potential. He understood, therefore, that each precious soul is worthy and deserving of Hashem’s constant love and attention.

When Reb Shayele was niftar, thousands came to his levaya. At one point during the hespedim, the gentile mail carrier from the town spoke up and said, “You don’t have any idea who this man was. I personally handled his mail and I know that he himself supported hundreds of poor families throughout Hungary!”

In this way, we, too, can bind ourselves to the great middos of Reb Shayele and start listening to our pure neshoma – that internal tzaddik found within our hearts – that urges us to love, to give, and to see the good in others unconditionally.

Yehi Zichro Baruch – Zechuso Yagen Aleinu.

{For more amazing lessons and stories from the life of this great tzaddik, I highly recommend that you get your hands on “Reb Shayele (Kerestirer) – The Warmth and Wonder of Kerestir” (Feldheim, Rabbi Yisroel Besser, 2017).}

In music, I have found that there are songs that resonate, there are songs that captivate, and there are songs that motivate. But every once in a while, there is a song that accomplishes all three. Reb Shaya (ben R’ Moshe) is a moving and emotional tefillah expressing our desire that Reb Shayele Kerestirer should appeal before the Ribono Shel Olam for our collective health and well-being, just as he had done for Klal Yisroel throughout his lifetime.

In 2019, R’ Shimshon Neiman released an album of his compositions called, Nechuma on which the original version of this powerful song appeared. Not long afterwards, talented choir director R’ Yossi Glick directed and produced an a cappella album called Shvuchim and included this one along with some of that year’s biggest hits.

ר’ ישעי’ בן ר’ משה פועל פאר כלל ישראל בני חיי מזוני רויחי
(תפלה ובקשה להצדיק ר’ ישעי בן ר’ משה מקערעסטיר)

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