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Rav Reuven Marga l Iot

Rav Reuven Marga l Iot

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Published by Pesach Wolicki

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Published by: Pesach Wolicki on Aug 15, 2013
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08/15/2013

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“I found in the responsa of the Geonim that on the day that a great man died, the day is established

for his honor. Each and every year when that day arrives, Talmidei Chachamim gather from all around and come to his grave with the rest of the people and they study Torah there.” (Rashi, Yevamos 122a) Rav Reuven Margaliot was born on the 7th of Kislev 5650 – November 30 1889 – and died on the 7th of Elul 5731 – August 28 1971. He was the author of over 60 books. Most notable of his works are Margaliot Hayam on Tractate Sanhedrin and Nitzotzei Zohar. He was a great scholar who combined astounding memory with sharp straight thinking. When one reads his books carefully one can not help but to be awestruck by the breadth of his knowledge. Despite his towering scholarship, he lived a simple life, the last 35 of which were spend as librarian of the Rambam library in Tel Aviv. The Chazon Ish once said of Rav Margaliot, “Rav Reuven does not know how much he knows.” A few months ago, after studying a piece of Rav Reuven’s Torah, a thought occurred to me. Rav Reuven and his wife did not merit any children. In addition, Rav Reuven was never a practicing rabbi or teacher. He did not head a yeshiva or synagogue. He did not lecture in any institution. Despite his prolific contribution to the world of Torah, Rav Reuven did not formally have any students. Without children or students, I reasoned, who is visiting his grave on his yahrzeit? I shared this thought with my close friend Rav Yisrael Herczeg who shares my affection for Rav Reuven’s unique scholarship. We made the decision to visit Rav Reuven’s grave on his next yahrzeit, the 7th of Elul. To locate his grave, I contacted the Rambam library where he worked for so many years. They got back to me after a few days. They informed me that his grave is located in the Nachalat Yitzchak cemetery in Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, no area or plot number was provided. More perplexing to me, the email from the Rambam library stated, contrary to the Hebrew Wikipedia entry for Rav Reuven, that his yahrzeit is on the 8th of Elul “we think” and not the 7th. Since the language of the email expressed doubts about their information, I chose to stick with the 7th. On the evening of the 7th of Elul, preparing for the next morning’s trip, I searched the excellent website of the chevra kadisha of Tel Aviv. The searchable database of all Tel Aviv cemeteries produced a precise plot number. To my dismay, the website listed his yahrzeit as the 8th of Elul. Rav Herczeg and I had already planned the trip for the next morning complete with a car rented for the occasion. Though thoughts of changing our plans crossed my mind, I decided to leave the things as they were. We were joined on the excursion by a student of ours, Gabe Faber. We arrived at the cemetery around noon. Nachalat Yitzchak, named for Rav Yitzchak Elchonon Spektor, is home to many fascinating historical graves. Leaders of the Zionist movement from the first half of the 20th century, the fallen of the infamous attack on the Altalena, and many great Rabbis of the era are buried there.

After a few minutes we located Rav Reuven’s grave. We were pleased and relieved that the date of death on Rav Reuven’s tombstone indicated that we were there on the right day. The 7th of Elul. We said the customary Tehilim and El Maleh Rachamim at the graveside and took a few pictures. Rav Herczeg recounted a piece of Rav Reuven’s Torah that he had read that morning. Our mission accomplished, we went on our way. A few rows away from Rav Reuven’s grave, we noticed the grave of an important historical figure, Rav Binyamin Mintz, the minister of the postal service in the first government of the state of Israel. Rav Mintz was the leader of the Poalei Agudas Yisrael movement and a pivotal figure in the founding of many settlements in Israel. As my brother, Zvi, is currently reading a biography of Rav Mintz, I decided to snap a picture of Rav Mintz’s tombstone to show him. A man walking nearby saw us standing near the grave of Rav Mintz and taking pictures. “Why are you interested in the grave of Rav Binyamin Mintz?” he asked us. “He was a great man.” I replied. “You know a book recently came out about him,” he said “I know. My brother’s reading it. That’s why we’re taking the picture.” “I knew him.” “Really?” “Yes. From the neighborhood.” He then pointed towards Rav Reuven’s grave. “You know there are many other important people buried here. You’ve heard of Rav Reuven Margaliot?” “Yes! Of course! That’s why we’re here! Today’s his yahrzeit. We came to visit his kever. We said Tehilim and a El maleh.” “You know his sefarim? Which ones do you have?” he asked. “I have a whole shelf,” I said. “Margaliot hayam, Yesod haMishna vaArichata, Nitzotzei Or, haMikra vehaMesorah…” “Shem Olam?” “Yes.” “Nefesh chayah?” “I wish I had it. It’s out of print.” “You’ll have it.” he said. “You have his Hagadah shel Pesach?” “No. It’s out of print.” “You’ll have that too. What’s your name and address?” I was surprised by this exchange and gave him my contact information. He took down Rav Herczeg’s details as well. “And who do I have the honor to be speaking to?” I asked. “Chananya Weinberger. He was my uncle. I come every year by myself” “It’s true that they had no children, right?” “Yes.” “How well did you know him? You must have memories of him.” “He raised me. I came over from Europe as a child in 1947 and he adopted me. I lived with him until I married in 1966.”

We were stunned. Standing before us was a person who was adopted as an orphaned survivor after World War II and raised from early childhood by Rav Reuven Margaliot and his wife. He choked back tears and he continued. “I’ll tell you a story. Rav Reuven and his wife came to Israel in Tevet of 5695 (winter 1934-35). One of their first stops was a visit to Rav Kook in Yerushalayim. Half a year before his death. He was sick. They entered his home. Rav Kook asked who he was. Rav Reuven said in his Galician accent ‘Reeven Margulies’ Rav Reuven’s wife corrected him, ‘Harav Reuven Margolios.’ Rav Kook straightened up, got up, put on his spodek (fur hat) and long coat, and recited a bracha of shehechiyanu be’Shem u’Malchus (including G-d’s name). Rav Kook didn’t express G-d’s name in vain. The Chazon Ish once said of him ‘Rav Reuven doesn’t know how much he knows.’” We spent the next few minutes discussing Rav Reuven’s Torah and, most importantly, committing ourselves to make this an annual event. “Next time,” I said, “I’ll bring a minyan.” The doubt regarding the precise day, the chances of meeting Rav Reuven’s adopted son during the few minutes that we were there, and the fact that we weren’t even at Rav Reuven’s graveside when we met him, all added to the distinct sense that Divine Providence had brought us together at this time and place to honor Hagaon Rav Reuven Margaliot in the most appropriate manner, “… to come to his grave… and study Torah there.”

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