I don’t usually post Yartzeit announcements. But this one, like the one of Reb Shlomo, is different. The Lelovers had a very strong influence on me one winter when I joined them in their annual pilgramage to the grave of Reb Dovid of Lelov. This Shabbos is Reb Dovid’s son Moshe’s yarzteit.
Reb Moshe ben Dovid Biderman, the Lelover Rebbe, (1776-1850). Born in abject poverty, he married Rachel Rivka, a daughter of the Yid Hakadosh of P’shischa. After the latter’s petira in 1813, he became a chasid of Reb Simcha Bunim of P’shischa, along his close friend, Reb Yitzchok of Vorki. In 1843, he finally agreed to a leadership position, agreeing to be rav of the community of Przedborz, Poland. In the last years of his life, he decided to move to Eretz Yisroel. He and many of his Chasidim arrived at Akko on Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. He traveled to Yerushalyim, but immediately took ill. Tragically, between the illness and the Arabs, he was never able to daven at the kosel, his life-long dream. He was succeeded by his son, Reb Elozer Mendel, and a vibrant community of Lelover Chasidim still exist in Eretz Yisroel today. Sadly, the community in Przedborz – about 4500 Jews – was liquidated at Treblinka.
I always consider him one of the first modern religious Zionists. Though the word didn’t exist yet. In 1843 they left Poland for Israel. He never made it to Yerushalayim, but paved the way for the Hasidic group to be established there, in the Holy Land.
There are many other religious Jews who made their way in the 19th century to help rebuild the spiritual life of teh Holy Land. However, the history of the period is not written by Hasidic Rabbis, and their deciplies. The history of 19th century Palestine is taught often from a secular point of view which ignores frum Jews, or from the Arab point of view.