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Section: Stories   Category: Gedolim Biographies
The Satmar Rov, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum - Teaching Us To Stand Tall In America
The Tchebiner Rov would marvel at the Brisker Rov's depth in learning and the Brisker Rov would marvel at the Tchebiner Rov's breadth of Torah knowledge.  Both of them were in awe of the Satmar Rov's breadth and depth of Torah wisdom.  So the story goes.  Not only was the Satmar Rov the architect of Chassidishe life in Post War America but he was one of the generations greatest torah scholars and poskim.  He was truly a living legend.

Rav Yoel Teitelbaum was born 18 Teves 5647/1887 to his father Rav Chananya Yom Tov Lipa the Rebbe in the Hungarian town of Sighet.  He was a direct descendant of the Yismach Moshe and the Yeitev Lev.  After being childless for many years, the Kedushas Yom Tov had two sons Rav Chaim Tzvi, the Atzei Chaim of Sighet and Rav Yoel.  Rav Yoel or Yoilish as he was called was a wonder child.  His Bar Mitzva Drasha kept the crowd spellbound and was the big news the next day in the newspapers.  In a practice that lasted through his life, Rav Yoel often did not sleep in a bed, instead learning through the night by forcing himself awake by placing his feet in bucket of freezing cold water.

Rav Yoel got married at the age of 17 to Chava Horowitz the daughter of the Plancher Rebbe.  His gravely ill father was Misader Kedushin and was niftar two weeks later.  After the petira of the Kedushas Yom Tov, Rav Yoel's older brother, the Atzei Chaim became Rebbe and Rov of Sighet.  Rav Yoel quietly moved to the neighboring town of Satmar where he hoped to grow in Torah away from the limelight and his father's chassidim.  Things didn't work out that way and within a year due to pressure from his many admirers, Rav Yoel was leading his own Kehila and Chassidim.

Rav Yoel's first official position was as Rov of Orishiva, Czechoslovakia, which he accepted in 1911 at the age of 24.  It was there that he gained a reputation as a fearless kana'i padlocking a wedding hall and not letting the seudah proceed after they violated his warning against mixed dancing.  It was during his years in Orishiva after opening a yeshiva that Rav Yoel's halachic psak became sought after with Shailos pouring in from all over Hungary. In 1924, after Rav Yoel felt he had brought Orishiva to the level of yiddishkeit it needed to be, he accepted a similar position in Kroli.  The ten years he spent in Kroli was in his opinion some of the best years of his life, learning and teaching torah.  Due to pressure upon the vacancy of the position of the Rov of Satmar, in 1934 he acceded and moved back to his adopted town of many years before.  By this time he was already recognized by the likes of Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz as the leader of Hungarian Jewry and one of the Gedolei HaDor.

From the outbreak of World War II until the Nazi beasts invaded Hungary, the Rebbe did not sit still.  He was actively involved in the rescue efforts of his Polish brethren.  When the Nazis invaded Rav Yoel was fortunate to be awarded a seat on the famous Kastner train after Rudolf Kastner's mother appeared to him in a dream and told him that if the Satmar Rov is not on the train all its passengers would not survive.  The Kastner train was a trainload of people who were to be taken out of Nazi occupied territory to freedom in Switzerland as part of a deal between the Zionist leader in Hungary, Rudolf Kastner and the Nazi hierarchy.  Although originally intended for important Hungarian Zionist members and their families, many members of the Chareidi community also were able to get on.  The train did not go initially to Switzerland as promised, but after a detour and a four months layover in the infamous Bergen Belsen death camp (albeit in a special section) they were finally sent on their way.

After the war Rav Yoel moved to Eretz Yisroel.  However shortly thereafter through Hashgacha Pratis, he embarked on a fundraising trip to New York and ended up settling there.  While Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Moshe Feinstein rebuilt non-chassidishe Jewry, Rav Yoel laid the foundations for Chassidishe America.  Rav Yoel knew exactly what he wanted and built it according to the script he wrote.  

While he was often add odds halachicly and hashkaficly with Rav Aharon and Rav Moshe they had the greatest mutual respect and admiration for each other.  So much so that when Rav Aharon asked the Satmar Rov not to drive his car after Shkia on Friday, which the Satmar Rov held was permitted until a later Zman, he obeyed without question.

The Satmar Rov built Williamsburg into a bastion of Satmar Chasidus and founded Kiryas Yoel with many Mosdos of Chinuch, a great deal of torah learning, and their enviable Chesed network which touches every corner of chesed to Jews of all walks of life regardless of affiliation and background. But more than just building Satmar he was a "Rebbes Rebbe", in his fatherly way guiding many other transplanted chasidishe courts and helping them rebuild and firmly plant their roots on the once treifeh soil of America.  The Rebbe taught us how to stand tall in America and be proud Jews just like we were in the Shtetlich of Europe.  For this all of American Jewry and even world Jewry has a great amount of respect and gratitude.  The Satmar Rov was niftar on 26 Av 5639/1979.  Yehi Zichro Boruch!
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