A Testimonial to his Greatness

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The Yahrzeit of Reb Meir Yechiel Halevi Halstock of Ostrowiec (1852-1928) is commemorated on the 19th of Adar. The following praise of his works appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)


Who Can Bring Us a Replacement?

In Midrash Bereishit Parshah 91:

“Four materials, (silver, gold, iron and copper), stand out in terms of their utility in the world, and if any of the four is lost, it can be replaced as follows: For silver has a mine, and there is a place for gold to be refined, iron may be gotten from dust and from ore is smelted copper.”

But a wise sage who has died, who can bring us his replacement, who can bring us his equal?

All four of these qualities were contained in the Tzaddik, our master, our teacher zichron tzaddik l’vracha.

Attribute of gold: In familiarity with laws of Jewish observance and practice, who was greater than he? Wasn’t he the authority of his generation? The most serious, the most elusive questions, including matters of divorce and marriage and repairs for agunot, questions which came about in the Jewish world in every province, were turned over to him. He was the greatest authority to whom all the “giants” of the generation hurried their most urgent questions for his review, and he was divinely inspired, because his familiarity with laws of Jewish observance and his practice was noteworthy. We can rightly say of him, that he adorned the precious Torah with his attention to deatail. The greatness of  his expertise and his sharpness were not found in courtrooms or in books. Before him, all hidden wisdom was revealed. There was nothing that he couldn’t tackle.

Attribute of Silver: In homiletics who was greater than he? Didn’t he draw forth powerful words through his ability for speaking, producing jewels? In his presence, the gates of wisdom opened and his interpretations were amazing to the listener. His innovative approach in exposition weaved a tapestry beginning with Torah, and from there, to Prophets, and from there to Ketuvim, to Mishnah and Midrash and Yalkutim with amazing analyses, wonder of wonders in wonderful profundity, with permutations and gematriot, fruits for wisdom.

Attribute of Iron: Every Jew’s sight was raised toward the Tzaddik of Ostrowiec. He was a total angel for law and for instruction, for interpretation and mediation on every issue of communities, their disagreements with the Rabbis, butchers, he was a teacher of tzaddikim, and the remnants of holy vessels. They went out and came in in accord with what he said. And they did what he said and the Jews took note in every community where he taught.

Attribute of Copper: He created two copper pillars, the right pillar, “Ready-for-action”:

In matters touching on Klal Yisrael dealing with legal issues, he put his face as copper without fear, and without backing down. He was the mighty one who knew when to raise an issue and when to give in in a controversy of Torah before those that wanted to destroy the holy and to lop off seedlings.

The left copper pillar “Strength-in-him”:

I.e. in touching upon him as a person, he did what he accomplished without delegating, he served in all his service, he, himself, in the holy service he did, it was all done in selflessness and there is no greater.

(Pillars of Marble)

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