Reb Menachem Nuchem zt'l
of Boyan Chernovitz

  The oldest of the Pachad Yitzchok's four sons, Reb Menachem Nuchem, was born on the twenty first of Kislev 5629 (1869). Being the firstborn, his father made a pidyon haben (redemption of the first born son) when he was thirty days old. When the infant was carried in, people noticed that he had kicked off part of the blanket covering him and commented about his vigor. The zeide (grandfather) Reb Avrohom Yaakov of Sadiger remarked, "It seems that this child will not succeed in concealing his holiness." The words of the Sadigerer Rebbe were borne out in later years. The child grew up to become the famous Reb Menachem Nuchem, noted for his fiery zeal in his worship of Hashem.
Every Friday night when Reb Menachem Nuchem recited kiddush, his face was afire like a torch. He became so excited when he uttered the first words the cup shook violently in his hand and most of the wine spilled. Often the cup fell from his hand, but the Rebbe was so engrossed in the words that he never realized that his cup had been refilled and replaced in his hand.

Those who saw his kiddush never forgot it, even many years later. In a letter, one of his chassidim describes the kiddush, "At the appointed time the Rebbe arrived, his appearance like that of a malach. (angel) In a lion's voice he started to recite kiddush, all the while our hearts were thumping with fright. Within the first few seconds, all the wine had spilled from the cup - such was his dveikus.(attachment to Hashem) I don't believe that anyone who was there wasn't moved to thoughts of teshuva."

When one of Reb Menachem Nuchem's chassidim described his avodah to his youngest brother, Reb Mordechai Shlomo zt'l, he exclaimed, "What's the chiddush! My brother is on the madreigah (level) of tzaddikim from previous generations."

Similarly, when he would say Torah, it was also with great dveikus, often accompanied with sighs and sobs. By the end of the tish, (the Rebbe's table) there wasn't a dry eye in sight. The chassidim returned home after Shabbos purified and uplifted from what they had seen and heard. An extraordinary story is told from when Reb Menachem Nuchem was still a young child. A group of chassidim were busy discussing about Moshiach and the final geula. In the middle of their conversation, Reb Menachem Nuchem came over to them and told them, "When Moshiach comes we will be the generals." One of the chassidim proceeded to ask the young boy when he thinks Moshiach will finally come. Reb Menachem Nuchem started to answer him, but as he was about to explain, he suddenly fainted. When word of the incident reached the ears of his zeide, he warned his chassidim that from then on they may not speak to him regarding such topics!
Reb Menachem Nuchem grew up under the close scrutiny of his zeide. He acquired a prominent place amongst the elder chassidim. Blessed with an excellent memory, he helped transcribe the divrei Torah that his zeide delivered during the tish on Shabbos. A letter written by Reb Dudia of Berditchev (author of the classic sefer Tehilla Ledovid), bears testimony to the young boy's brilliance. In the letter, written when Reb Menachem Nuchem was just twelve years old, he writes, "The additions between the lines are the sections of the Rebbe's Torah that I wasn't able to recall and was reminded of by the young Reb Menachem Nuchem shlita."

Reb Menachem Nuchem was not just a son to his father, but a fervent chossid also. At the chasunah (wedding) of one of the children of the Belzer Rov, Reb Yissocher Dov zt'l, in 1899, the Belzer Rov asked Reb Menachem Nuchem, who had attended the chasunah, to stay for Shabbos Sheva Berachos. Reb Menachem Nuchem refused, telling him that when he left Boyan he hadn't told his father that he would be away for Shabbos. The Belzer Rov however, didn't take 'no' for an answer and told him that he could tell his father that he had been pressured into staying for Shabbos. Reb Menachem Nuchem still refused and answered, "I have never yet excused myself to my father!" The Belzer Rov was extremely impressed with his response and didn't press him further, and when Reb Menachem Nuchem left on his journey home, the Belzer Rov accompanied him to the station as a sign of respect for him.

To what extent Reb Menachem Nuchem respected and stood in awe of his father can be seen from his tzavaah (ethical last will) which he wrote before his petirah.(death) In it he wrote, "I command that they bury me in the hut where the holy body of my father zt'l is buried, but it should be as far away from my father's kever (grave) as possible."

The Boyaner Rebbe also held his son in high esteem, relying on him as his representative on various occasions. One year, during one of the winter months, bad weather prevented the Boyaner Rebbe from being able to perform the mitzva of kiddush levanah. The last possible night to be mekadesh the levanoh (to bless the new moon) arrived, and still there was no sign of the moon. The chassidim became worried that their failure to perform the mitzva was a bad omen of things to come. They asked the Rebbe to daven that the clouds should clear so that they shouldn't miss out on this important mitzva. The Rebbe instructed them to go to his son Reb Menachem Nuchem and tell him in his name that he should see to it that there be a clear levanoh. Reb Menachem Nuchem accepted the shlichus and a few minutes later the clouds cleared, leaving the moon shining brightly for all to see.

The Boyaner Rebbe trained his son to take over his position. On one occasion the Boyaner Rebbe spoke of his wish to go live in Eretz Yisroel. He told his Rebbitzen, "We will go and settle in Eretz Yisroel, and as for the chassidim, Baruch Hashem we have whom to leave them with."

The outbreak of the first World War in 1914 changed his plans and the Boyaner Rebbe was forced to flee to Vienna where he was niftar on the seventeenth of Adar 5677 (1917). For the Boyaner chassidim this second blow was enough almost to break them. Not only had the Rebbe's court in Boyan been totally destroyed, they had now lost their crown as well.

Reb Menachem Nuchem decided to move to Chernovitz where there was a large Boyaner beis hamedrash which had been opened many years earlier. Vienna was overcrowded with refugees and the atmosphere of confusion and turmoil was not conducive to rebuilding the Boyaner Chassidus.

Next to the beis hamedrash a large court was built. From there Reb Menachem Nuchem was able to lead his chassidim in style as his father had done in Boyan. On the arrival of the new Rebbe in Chernovitz, thousands turned out to accompany him as he entered his new court for the first time.

The Rebbe's court became a magnet for the thousands of Boyaner chassidim, a beacon of light in the ever darkening gloom. The Rebbe would sit and listen to the woes and worries of his chassidim, as one by one they loaded him with the problems in their hearts. Due to the war many had lost their homes and their jobs, and they had no one to help them. For hours on end, day after day, the Rebbe would sit and listen to their woes as they poured out their hearts to him, leaving his room only after he had succeeded in comforting them - convincing them that through their bitachon combined with the zechusim of the tzaddikim, all would turn out for the best.

Even when the situation seemed hopeless, the Rebbe still didn't rest from davening, begging Hashem to help His Yidden and improve their lot. A chossid whose sister was lying in hospital in critical condition came to the Rebbe, begging him to daven (pray) for her. The chossid gave the Rebbe an enormous sum of money as a pidyon, (soul redemption) hoping that it would help his sister somehow. The Rebbe, however, didn't accept the money and told him, "What do you want? To bribe me with money!" Hearing the Rebbe's negative reply, the chossid started to cry, begging the Rebbe to have pity on his sister and save her. The Rebbe took the pidyon, and after he wished the ill lady a speedy recovery asked the man to leave the room. No sooner had the door shut, thanthe Rebbe started to pace up and down in great dveikus, imploring Hashem to have mercy and revoke the decree. The same day the woman had a miraculous recovery, living to an old age. On one of the rare occasions that the Rebbe spoke about himself, he said, "It doesn't take me long to understand the problems of others, and it doesn't take me long to secure a yeshuah (favorable outcome) for them."

The Rebbe took onto himself the worries of Klall Yisroel, carrying the heavy burden on his shoulders. Only through superhuman strength was he able to soldier on, not allowing the constant problems to break him. On one occasion, after he heard of a particularly distressing problem, he commented to one of his close chassidim, "Chazal (our sages) tell us, if a person has a problem he should speak it over with others. One person on his own cannot cope with a problem and therefore Chazal advise us to speak over the problem with a second person... Nu, and what should I do?" The Rebbe added with a sigh, "I sit here the whole day and everyone tells me their problems and I have to bear it all!"


Besides the thousands of Boyaner chassidim living in Europe, the Rebbe also had many chassidim living in Eretz Yisroel. Due to the high costs involved most of them could not afford to go see the Rebbe. Therefore, it was with great simcha (joy) that they received the news that the Rebbe had agreed to their request to come visit Eretz Yisroel.

During the four weeks that the Rebbe spent in Eretz Yisroel, he infused new life into his chassidim. He took a ship from Trieste to Alexandria in Egypt from where he travelled by train, arriving in Lod on the fifteenth of Iyar 5687 (1927). From Lod the Rebbe travelled to Sefas where an estimated crowd of four thousand people came out to welcome him. Whilst in Sefas he went to daven at the kever of the Arizal and the other tzaddikim buried there. His tefillos, which were accompanied by hot tears, aroused the many onlookers. After he finished davening, he spoke a few words. "When one realizes the greatness of the Gedolim (luminaries) buried here, and thinks that we were zocheh to have them as our leaders, it is possible to come to gaavah (arrogance) chas vesholom. Instead one has to make sure as my holy zeide from Sadiger once said, 'When a person remembers the kedusha (holiness) of the zeides and compares it to our own lowly madreigah, he becomes humble and small in his own eyes and not chas vesholom haughty.'"

In a letter from one of the chassidim who accompanied the Rebbe he wrote, "When these words left the Rebbe's mouth, tears streamed down from his eyes. All those around him also cried with true broken hearts, and I could not stop myself from crying along, and cried then with such a broken heart like I have never cried before."

On the twenty ninth of Sivan, the Rebbe left for Yerushalayim, again thousands turned out to meet him with the Rov of Yerushalayim, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld at their head. Despite the royal welcome, the Rebbe wasn't besimcha.(joyful) He told his chassidim, "In Yerushalayim one sees the Churban (destruction) in every corner." His body became covered in boils and blisters from his anguish. His pain was such that he couldn't sleep at night and spent the time pacing up and down in his room.

When the Rebbe arrived back in Chernovitz, he told his chassidim, "The reason for my trip was to heal my neshamo, (soul) and even though the journey was very difficult, my neshamo gained from the trip. If Hashem helps a person to prepare himself properly in chutz la-aretz, (outside of Israel) then when he arrives in Eretz Yisroel, he truly feels the kedusha (holiness) of the land in all his bones."

For almost twenty years the Rebbe led his flock. In his last years, as the threats from Germany became louder and louder, his whole being was totally given over to entreating Hashem to annul the evil decrees. When a chossid asked him for a berocha (blessing) to a certain problem, he answered, "Now isn't the time to worry about people's private problems, now is the time to worry about the klall (community) as a whole." To a second person he commented, "The plight of the Yidden doesn't leave my mind for a second." Although his tefillos had always been full of sighs and tears, in his last years his tears became a literal flood as he poured out his heart in constant tefilla.

Although the Rebbe had been suffering for a number of years from a severe kidney disorder, he had managed to conceal it from even his closest chassidim. Although he suffered terrible pains, in his typical way he had managed to hide it.

The severity of his pain can be seen from what the Rebbe wrote in his tzavaah, "Even though Chazal say that a person only suffers if he has sinned, and who can say that they are innocent from sin? A person knows how he has acted, and I don't chas vesholom feel that I have committed such a sin that I should have received such suffering...". His pains were such that his zeide the Sadigerer Rebbe zt'l said, "Tzaddikim accept suffering on themselves to atone for the sins of the generation."

In his last year his illness became worse and the doctors decided that he would have to undergo an operation. The Rebbe, however, refused to hear of it. The family decided to ask the Rebbe's cousin, the Sadigerer Rebbe, Reb Avrohom Yaakov zt'l, to try and persuade the Rebbe to change his mind. The Sadigerer Rebbe agreed and went especially to Chernovitz to speak to the Rebbe. On various occasions the Sadigerer Rebbe would relate the following story, which he himself had witnessed.

When he opened the door to the room where the Rebbe was lying in bed, he stopped in shock. Standing next to the bed was the Rebbe's father, the Pachad Yitzchok of Boyan. Immediately, the Sadigerer Rebbe closed the door and went away. An hour later, the Sadigerer Rebbe returned and when he opened the door for the second time, the Pachad Yitzchok was still standing there in the same place. The Sadigerer ended this story saying, "From this incident I understood that his days were numbered, and he was already busy preparing to leave this world."

Ten days before his petirah, the Rebbe agreed to travel to Vienna to undergo medical treatment. After a few days his condition took a sudden turn for the worse.

During his last hours on the nineteenth of Av 5696 (1936) he lay peacefully in bed, his face radiant as he prepared himself to meet his Creator. His whole being glowed with kedusha as his holy neshamo ascended. Zechuso yogein oleinu.

The Rebbe was succeeded by his two sons, Reb Aharon and Reb Mordechai Shraga, who led the chassidim together until they and their families died through the hands of the Germans, ym's, during the second World War. Hashem yinkom domom. (May Hashem avenge their blood!)


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