Yom Ha’atzmaut: Remembering Rav Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal הי’ד

If you have not heard of Rav Teichtal,

A younger Rav Teichtal, הי''ד

may Hashem avenge his murder by the Nazis, I suggest you borrow or buy a copy of אם הבנים שמחה Eim Habanim Semecha (EHS) which has also been translated into English. Rav Teichtal is known throughout the world of Halacha, as the famous Posek and author of  Responsa שאלות ותשובות משנה שכיר. In fact, I’d venture to say that many Rabbis, save the centrist or religious zionist, would only know of him because of his שאלות ותשובות משנה שכיר. Most certainly, when I was a lad, most people, including centrist and religious Zionist Rabbis hadn’t heard of  אם הבנים שמחה because the Charedi anti Zionist world banned the book and exerted extreme pressure on the family not to republish it.
When I was learning in Israel, there was never a time that I went into a bookshop without asking whether they had a copy. The closest I got, was just before I left, when someone gave me the address of a family member, and suggested I might try knocking at their door. I didn’t have the guts to do that. How pleased I was, some twenty years later, when it was republished. When it appeared in English, I was both surprised and not surprised. I was surprised that something I couldn’t lay my hands on appeared in English, but given the compelling nature of the Sefer, I was not surprised that others sought fit to translate it with haste.

Rav Teichtal was the long term Av Beis Din and Rav of  Piešťany, in Western Slovakia.


On the 10th of Shvat 1945, as Rav Teichtal was transported to the concentration camp in Mathhausen. Rav Teichtal’s son related (see introduction to EHS)

After starving their victims for a number of days, the oppressors tossed each of them a meager crust of bread, with the evil intent of having them fight pathetically for their paltry allotment. Indeed, one of the Ukrainians grabbed the portion of a Jew – my father’s neighbor – who was desperate for this crust of bread. This angered my father, who demanded the return of the theft. The other travelers begged my father not to get involved, since it might cost him his life. But he said “How can I stand by when the wronged man’s life depends on this food?” Indeed he insisted on taking a stand, and the Ukrainians, with the cooperation of the Nazi soldiers, rose against him and killed him, after torturing him mercilessly.

Prior to the the outbreak of World War 2, Rav Teichtal was as anti-zionist as his mentor, the Minchas Elazar of Muncasz. Rav Teichtal had written anti-zionist polemics like the majority of his Hungarian Charedi colleagues. Describing the views of the Muncazer, Rav Teichtal wrote (EHS):

 “The Minchas Elazar opposed resettling and rebuilding the Land [and] based his entire opposition on the idea that salvation must happen with miracles and wonders. In his opinion, anyone who tries to [bring salvation naturally] denies the redemption which will occur miraculously.”

Rav Teichtal הי''ד later in life

During the war, while hiding in Budapest, he wrote (EHS):

“A large portion of our Israelite [European Jewish] brethren who
were killed would have been saved if they had already been in Eretz
Yisrael. And now, who will accept the responsibility for the pure
blood which has been spilled in our time? Similarly, all those who
deterred the Israelites from going to Eretz Yisrael and participating
with those building [the land] cannot purify themselves and say:
‘Our hands have not shed this blood.’
“Those [anti-Zionists] who have a predisposition on this matter
[fleeing to Palestine] will not see the truth and will not concede to
our words. All of the evidence in the world will not affect them, for
they are smitten with blindness, and their inner biases cause them
to deny even things which are as clear as day. Who amongst us is
greater than the [twelve] spies [meraglim]? The Torah testifies that
they were distinguished, righteous individuals. Nonetheless, since
they were influenced by their desire for authority, they rejected the
desirable Land, and led others astray, causing this bitter exile…
[These] spies were prejudiced by hidden motives. The same holds
true in our times, even among rabbis, rebbes, and Chassidim. This
one has a good rabbinical position; this one is an established Admor,
and this one has a profitable business or factory, or a prestigious
job which provides great satisfaction. They are afraid that their
status will decline if they go to Eretz Yisrael. People of this sort are
influenced by their deep-rooted, selfish motives to such an extent
that they themselves do not realize that their prejudice speaks on
their behalf. People of this sort will not be convinced to accept the
truth, even if they are shown thousands of proofs from the Torah…
The holy kabbalist [Rabbi Eliyahu of Greidetz] who resembles
an angel of the Lord of Hosts states explicitly that the reason
there are tzadikim who oppose [aliyah] is because the kelipot [evil
forces] have become strong within them. It entices them to nullify
this great matter for which the Holy One Blessed Be He constantly
longs. He longs for us to return to our forefathers’ inheritance, for
every Jew has an obligation to strive to return to our Holy Land, as
I will prove unequivocally from the words of our Sages.

The מקובל Rav Eliyahu Greidez, mentioned above, was none other than Rav Eliyahu Gutmacher, ז’ל to whom many Jews in Poland flocked, to receive ברכות and advice, and in whose memory Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu was named.

The Kabbalist, Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher ז’ל, one of the theological founders of Religious Zionism

Perhaps the most heart-rending story that served to motivate Rav Teichtal to be transformed from an anti-Zionist into a religious Zionist was (see here) :

“What can we say; how can we speak, and how shall we justify ourselves? God has found the sin of your servant.” I shall tell you a story.

In a small town there was a shamash (sexton) of a synagogue who died, leaving behind a widow. The people of the community thought about how they could provide her some financial support, for at that time there was no pension for widows. Perhaps it would be possible to allow her to continue the work of her late husband. On the other hand – it is not proper for a woman to serve as the shamash of a synagogue. Eventually it was decided that she would carry out those activities that could be performed outside the synagogue, while the tasks of the shamash during prayer times would be filled by the worshippers themselves, on a voluntary basis. Thus the woman would be able to continue earning the salary that her husband had received.

It came time for “selichot,” and as part of her job the woman had to get up and go about from house to house in the village, waking the people for selichot. She took the special “selichot stick” in her hand and headed for the most distant house in the village – the home of Weiss Shendor. When she knocked on the door, Weiss Shendor awoke, alarmed at the disturbance at such an unusual hour. When he opened the door and saw the wife of the shamash, he asked what she wanted. She explained that as part of her duties she had to go from house to house, waking everyone for selichot. When Weiss Shendor heard this, he tried to persuade her that it was not seemly for a woman to go about outside so early in the morning, in such cold and wet weather, and that it would be better if he did the job in her stead. The woman accepted the offer and handed him the “selichot stick,” and Weiss Shendor set off to waken the people.

Upon knocking at the first house he was asked to identify himself. He answered, “I am Weiss Shendor, and I have taken it upon myself to waken the people for selichot.”

The house owner was incensed. “Weiss Shendor? A pork-eater like you isn’t going to wake me forselichot!” With that he slammed the door and went back to sleep.

He went off to the second house and again came the question, “Who is it?” Again he gave the same reply, and again the same response: “Weiss Shendor? A Shabbat desecrator like you will not come and wake me for selichot!” Again a door was slammed in his face.

The same thing happened at the next house: “A swindler and gambler like you will not wake me forselichot!” – and so on, at every house throughout the entire village. The wake-up round ended with nothing more to show for itself than a trail of scorn and disdain. Not a single person got up for selichot.

When the congregation was gathered for the morning prayers, the rabbi asked: “What happened this year, that no one came to the synagogue for selichot?” The people started justifying themselves and explaining that it was all Weiss Shendor’s fault. He was a shady character who was notorious throughout the village; it was he who had come to awaken them for selichot, and that was why none of them had come.

“Fools!” responded the rabbi. “It’s true that Weiss Shendor is guilty of everything that you’ve accused him of, but this time he was waking you for selichot; he wasn’t doing any of the bad things that he’s known for. So why didn’t you get up?”

[Here Rabbi Teichtal burst into tears and shouted:] It’s true that the Zionists desecrate Shabbat and so forth, but it was they who awakened the nation and shouted, “Get out of the rubble; the gentiles hate us, there is no place for us except in Eretz Yisrael” – and we didn’t listen!

Let us only hope to be worthy of correcting the distortion and having God accept us in the promised land”

These days, alas, not much has changed in respect of the Hungarian ultra-Charedi establishment and the State of Israel, as seen by the following Pashkevil (click to enlarge), appearing now in Jerusalem.

Pashkevil condemning Yom Ha'atzmaut: 2011

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

17 thoughts on “Yom Ha’atzmaut: Remembering Rav Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal הי’ד”

    1. Wow! I wasn’t aware that the brothers went for a Psak Din to Rav Batzri. After skimming the Psak, I’d say that if you want a copy of this Sefer, go out and buy it because it seems that it may not be reprinted!

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  1. [Slightly edited by me]
    I happened by chance to see your blog for the first time, I see you criticise anyone who offends one of your Gedolim but you have the chutzpah to call a letter from the בית דין הגדול בירושלים a pashkevil?????
    Yom Hatzmaut is a sad day for Klal Yisroel, the Chazon Ish זצ”ל ruled to say Tachnun on this day even if there was a Bris. The Gemara Sanhedrin says: אמר רבי חמא בר חנינא אין בן דוד בא עד שתכלה מלכות הזלה מישראל and Rashi explains: שלא יהיה שום שלטנות לישראל אפילו שלטנות קלה ודלה. What do we need more? In my opinion, the state is holding back ביאת המשיח as the Satmar Rebbe זצוק”ל said countless times that if not for the Medinah, Moshiach would have long been here!!
    It is sad that there are still people like you who believe in this אתחלתא דגאולה which has unfortunately sacrificed thousands of Jewish lives on the מזבח הציונות. May we be zocheh to ביאת משיח צדקינו במהרה

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    1. Golus Yid, thanks for your comments.

      You call it a “chutzpah” to call a poster from the Badatz posted in the Haredi enclave of Jerusalem a pashkevil!! שומו שמים
      Allow me to quote a definition of Pashkevil for my readers so they may judge whether you are simply engaging in hyperbole.

      A pashkvil (Hebrew: פשקוויל‎ pl. pashkvilim פשקווילים) is a broadside or poster that has been situated on a public wall or location in an Orthodox Jewish community, and most commonly within Hareidi enclaves

      I rest my case.

      As to the opinions who hold that one should say Tachanun even on a Bris, they are entitled to those opinions. We are acquainted with this. In Melbourne, Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Beck of the anti-zionist Adass Israel Kehilla in fact enacted this Psak a number of years ago, much to the chagrin of a minority of members of his Congregation. So what should I do, not post about Rav Teichtal הי’ד as a result of these opinions? What exactly is your point?

      PS. I wonder why you don’t call yourself Geula Yid? Isn’t that what you aspire to?

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  2. [Lightly edited by me]
    What you didn’t mention was that the late and great Rav Meir Brandsdorfer zt’l was one of the most prominent members of what you label as “Hungarian ultra-Charedi establishment ” – the Edah Hacharedis Beis Din
    was a grandson of Rav Teichtal zt’l.

    (And BTW, the Edah Hacharedis represents many non-Hungarians as well, including the Prushim Litvaks/ Briskers as well as chassidim of many stripes and colors eg, the non-Hungarian Breslavers and “old”-Karliners.)

    The Lubavitcher rebbe told RT’s grandson – a Chabadnik – to clearly state in the reprinted edition of EHS, that his grandfather was NOT a zionist.

    But besides all that, does anyone think that had Rav Teichtal הי’ד survived the war and seen what the State aof Israel haס done to half a million Sfardi Jews, permit govt-sponsored chilul Shabbos, importing 6-700,000 Russian some of questionable Jewish roots vechule vechule, would he have not immediately admiited and stated that his rebbe, the Minchas Elozor, was 100% correct when damning the zionists and their fellow travellers?

    And Isaac, as you probably realise, you are not the first (nor the last) person who when trying make out the case for zionism – religious and/or otherwise, bring up the sefer EHS.

    The fact is that there were hundreds and hundreds of anti- and non-zionistr rabbonim in Eastern and Central Europe. I doubt that you can name another handful who changed their minds and decided that Herzl’s derech was the right one.

    And not for a second do I think that Rav T would be out there with you celebrating Yaom Haatzmaut.

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    1. “Yitzchok Dovid” I am hoping this is your real name and you aren’t simply using Rabbi Groner’s name to hide behind:

      Of course there are people, including some of his family who have gone in different directions. Equally, there are many who acknowledge his learned arguments even to this day. To use R’ Teichtal’s own words, argue with his Mekoros and conclusions. Don’t bring me “he said, she said, they said”. It’s just being argumentative in a vacuum.

      It could just as easily be argued that the reason why many secular Zionists aren’t yet more frum revolves around the various Chillulei Hashem perpetrated by the ultra charedi establishment. I’m not going to get into such pointless polemics, however.

      PS. If you aren’t clear about the clear Hungarian influence on Meah Shearim and the Eda, read the letters by Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank ז’ל.

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  3. Wow, that story about selichos waking is powerful. I just noticed that I have אם הבנים שמיחה in my library, now I am going to have to read it.

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      1. one thing is certain, I don’t get frightened by Zionism. The I understand it, people like Rav Teichtel and Rav Kook loved the Land of Israel and more importantly, they loved Jews. If even one Jewish life is saved it is worth it. After understanding that I appreciate their views, though I may not agree with it.

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  4. Pitputim

    For “some” reason you didn’t mentions words from harav teichtel’s hakdama to EHS:

    “מרחפת עלינו אימה ופחד, כאשר אנו רואים כעת בשעה שאני כותב טורים הללו שכל האדמו”רים של מדינתו עושים השתדלות לברוח מכאן לארץ ישראל מפחד הסכנה מחמת המציק ואינם מביטים על מה שמפילין בזה לבן של ישראל, כאשר שומעין מההמון שמרננים ואומרים: הרבי’ס בורחין, ומה יהיה עמנו?! ועיין מדרש רות שמה”ט [=שמהאי טעמא] נענש אלימלך מפני שהפיל את לבן של ישראל בברחו מהצרה, עיי”ש [=עיין שם]”.

    And If he ruled so what? Who made him the chief ruler for am isroel? Does the jewish world care about his other rulings?

    the Satmar Rebbe זצוק”ל said countless times that if not for the Medinah, Moshiach would have long been here!!

    And I said just as many times that the delay in the coming of moshiach is for two reasons:

    1) because the satmar rebbe cooperated with the Zionist by boarding Kastner’s train.

    2) because the satmar wear shtreilmels and not ספודיקס.

    It wasn’t his grandson but his son, what else could the rebbe say? Yes! he was azionist!?

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    1. R’ Dovid,
      I try to be moderate, but depending on whose side of the argument one is on, I’m extreme!
      Thus far, I got emails which connected my posts with

    2. the tragic death of the Sydney Symons couple
    3. The tragic death of Rhonda sharp last week
    4. The murder of the holtzbergs
    5. It takes all types. Then there are 2 bo Huron from YG who send me abusive emails.
      So, I continue on, but try to be moderate.
      PS you forgot the smiley on your comment.

      Like

  5. Thank you Isaac for this posting.
    I am sure many non centarist orthodox jews were not aware of Rav Teichtel.
    One of his great grandsons was a shliach in YG, Yudi Teichtel, now the shliach in Germany. I only found out about the Rav after Yudi left YG.
    The text you quote from the book is very interesting given that the Rebbe ZYU described him as not being a Zionist.
    It may be that he was not one in the way that the term became to be understood in the 1950’s an 60’s.
    But the fact that the Rav was prepared to be so critical of Rebbes and Rabbonim for their anti Zionism was indeed very brave for him.
    For him it was break with the principal of “emunas chachamim” where one would defer to the Gedolim of previous generations.
    So while the rebbe focused on the Zionist aspects of the book he did not take note of the strong criticism of the earlier Gedolim.
    This is all the more interesting in view of the fact that one of the opponents of yishuv eretz yisroel on large scale was the Rebbe Rayatz, in stark disitinction to the Imrei Emess of Gur.

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    1. Yes, I spoke to Yudi about his elder zeyda a few times. I am not sure at that time that he realised how great he was.
      Chabad (Rashab zy’a) ) subscribe to “macht do eretz Yisroel” something I understand figuratively but cannot reconcile otherwise.

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  6. Moishe
    you wrote:

    What is printed in the book is for everyone to see, but the story that the Rebbe described him as not being a Zionist is not more than his story, and you have to ask yourself, did the rebbe really say that, were they the words the rebbe used or what did the rebbe mean, was he saying it as a fact or just to make him “feel” good about his father ?הי”ד
    You wrote:
    “It may be that he was not one in the way that the term became to be understood in the 1950′s an 60′s”.
    he wrote:
    “… ולא די בהתנגדותם לחוד, עוד גרמו להעלות איזה שנאה בלבות הפשוטים מן החרידים לעסק בנין הארץ עד שאם אחד פותח פיו לדבר ולהתלהב עצמו לבנין ארצינו הוא משוקץ ומתועב בעיניהם והכל גוערין בו אתה ציוניסט ושקץ ומתועב וגרמו בזה באמת מיאוס ושיקוץ לארץ חמדה ואיש הפשוט שאין לו דעת עצמו להכריע מדעת התורה אם זה אמת או לא ורוצה שיחזיקו אותו לחדד וחסיד הוא צועק ככרוכיא על הרוצה להתעסק בבנין הארץ אתה פושע וציוניסט ובזה הוא מבאיש ריחו ואת ריח ארצינו הקדושה ובאמת הוא רק תם ושאינו יודע לשאול ואינו יודע בין ימינו ושמאלו ואם שכמה מן הת״ח אמיתיים הולכים בלבותיהם ומחשבים מחשבות טובות במפעל הקדוש הזה ומודים אמת בלבבם שרק זה תכליתנו לקומם ולכונן את בית חיינו ולחונן את ארצינו ולרצות את אבניה ועפריה אבל נשאר רק מחשבה טובה בלב לבד כי לא ימלא נפשו להוציא מחשבתו בדבור כי ירא וחת מהגערות שיגערו בו ויעשו אותו לשיקוץ ומתועב ולציוניסט וכה היו מפיצים שנאה ושטנה בעולם החרדית נגד כת שנתנו לבם לבנות את ארצינו על תילה וממילא גרמו בזה גם מיאוס לארץ חמדה ונפלו בעבירת המרגלים שעליהם נאמר וירגנו באהליהם וימאסו בארץ חמדה…”.

    ‏I don’t think that the principal you mentioned was even known in the Jewish world in his days, he writes in the end of page 17:

    “… ואודה על האמת ואזכיר את חטאי שגם בעיני הי׳ לנמאס מפעל הזה של בנין הארץ מחמת ששמעתי כן מהרבה מנהיגי חרדים סתם ונשרש בלבי כך ולא התענינתי בזה כלל כי טרוד הייתי בגירסא בלימוד תלמידים ולחבר חיבורים בגפ״ת ובשו״ת להשיג לכל שואל בדבר ה׳ ורק אחר שלקינו בגלות החל הזה עיינתי בהלכה זו והאיר ה׳ עיני שטעות הי׳ בידי וביד אשר התנגדו לזה ואני מודה ואומר כמו שמצינו בש״ס מרבא ובכמה גדולי חכמנו ז״ל שהודו ואמרו דברים שאמרתי לכם טעות חיו בידי ומודים דרבנן היינו שבחייהו וב״ה אני איני חת משום אדם לומר בפומבי׳ דברים אמת שבלבי כי אני ביה שמשתי גדולים וצדיקי עולם ונתגדלתי בין חכמי דור קדושי עליונים אמיתיים… ואין אני מבטל דעתי דעת תורה משום גדול או רבי בזמנינו רק אם יתוכח עמי בדרך משא ומתן של תורה בראיות מדברי חז״ל אז אודה על דבריו אם יצדקו אבל לא בסברות כרסיות לחוד וה׳ יודע ועד כי לא כתבתי דברים הללו למען להתגאות ולהתיהר רק למען האמת והצדק ולמען כבוד שמו יתברך ולמען כבוד אומתנו וכבוד ארצינו הקדושה ואיש אשר אין לו פני׳ לא יירא ולא יחת מלומר האמת כאשר כתב בהקדמת ספר דברי יוסף להגאון ר׳ יוסף שווארץ מירושלים שכחב בפירוש הכתוב לא תגורו מפני איש כי המשפט לאלקים הוא, כי המשפט שהוא אמת לאלקים הוא והוא המכריע והכונה אם ידעת שדבריך נכונים ואמיתיים לא תגור מלאומרם כי האמת הוא המכריע עכ״ד ועיין ירושלמי סנהדרין רפ״ב וירושלמי הוריות רפ״ג גבי ר״ל שאמר לרבי יהודא הנשיא וכי בשביל יראה דלכון אמנע מלמימר אולפנא דרחמנא עיי״ש המעשה דריש לקיש אמר מילתא שגרם בזה איזה בזיון לרבי עיי״ש”.

    ‏see here:

    I don’t remember his son writing that the rebbe focused on any aspect of the book, all that I remember is, that his son wrote that when he was in yechidut with the rebbe, when he told the rebbe that people say that his father was a zionist, and that the rebbe answered: your father wasn’t a zionist, he was a…(good jew ?), and that was it, and that is why it is not clear to me what did that answer means.

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