This Story about my Great-Grandfather Changed my Life as told by the Hornosteipler Rebbetzin

This Story about my Great-Grandfather Changed my Life as told by the Hornosteipler Rebbetzin

Today is the yahrzeit of my great-grandfather, Rav Shalom Leizer, the Ratzferter Rebbe. I never met my great-grandfather, but many years ago I heard a story about him that changed my life.

After we had a few little kids, one day my husband met a man named Rosenblum. After engaging in a bit of Jewish geography, it came up that I’m the great-granddaughter of the Ratzferter Rebbe.
And when he heard that, Rosenblum got very excited and told my husband that there was a story he must share with him: “When my father, R’ Shaya Rosenblum, was newly married he lived in a border city in Hungary. At that time, your wife’s great-grandfather, Rav Shalom Leizer of Ratzfert, used to go around from city to city collecting money for his large charity projects, as his father the Divrei Chaim had before him. When my father heard that the Rebbe was in his city he begged him to come stay at his home, telling the Rebbe he would arrange a daily minyan for him in his home with a sefer Torah.
“And my father told me something remarkable! Every day before he prayed, the Ratzferter Rebbe would stand on the porch for an hour staring at the sky, and when he would come inside to daven Shacharis, his face glowed like the sun out of his deep connection with Hashem, like an all-consuming fire.
“When World War II started, the Ratzferter Rebbe was already in his 80s. My father was sent to Auschwitz, where he worked by the crematoria sorting clothing, and one day he saw the Ratzferter Rebbe getting off the train, and his heart filled with dread.
“Somehow while the Rebbe was waiting in the selection line, my father managed to approach him, and whispered to him: ‘Rebbe, I have to tell you that the Germans are going to say they are sending you to the showers. But you need to know that nobody comes out of those showers alive!’
And the Rebbe said to my father, “Shaya’le, I will promise you Olam Haba, the World to Come, if you bring me half a cup of water.”
“And my father brought the Rebbe some water and he washed his hands, and pronounced the martyr’s blessing, ‘ברוך אתה ה’ אלוקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציונו לקדש שם שמים ברבים’.”
And then he asked my father, “Shayale, please give me back my tsitsis, let me die like a Jew with my tsitsis on.” After putting back on his tsitsis the Rebbe grabbed my father’s hand and said, ‘Shaya, you will survive the war. You must tell people what happened here!”
And my father told me that then the Ratzferter Rebbe walked into the gas chambers like he walked into Shacharis every morning, his face shining like the Sun.
So my husband came home that day and told me this story and I cried for weeks.
I cried over the holiness of this person, and the audacity of the nations who attempted to destroy all that holiness. I thirsted for revenge.
A few weeks later, we were taking our 3-year-old to cheider for the 1st time wrapped in a tallis and my husband said to the cheider rebbe “I’m making you a shaliach to teach my son Torah.”
And I realized, this would be my revenge. Any child of ours who would begin performing a mitzvah, whatever the mitzvah was, I would say, “this is my revenge for Shalom Leizer ben Chaim, may it be an elevation for his soul”  Because with that mitzvah, we were undermining everything the Germans had tried to do. They had attempted to destroy holiness, as they had my great-grandfather.  But the Germans only succeeded in destroying his body, they couldn’t touch his soul. And I understood that my great-grandfather’s holiness, through his descendants, my children, would live forever.


  1. That is an incredibly powerful story. I burst into tears picturing this holy man walking to his death with such dignity and commitment and faith.

  2. Absolutely incredibly moving!! Made me cry but also makes me proud to be a Jew!
    Davening for the Geulah shlaima

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