The late Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Ben-Zion Rosenfeld z”l, whose 42nd yahrzeit is on the 11th of Kislev, was a fervent Breslov chassid who fled from honor and chose simplicity, and he was the man through whom so many people became acquainted with the spiritual path of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Also, he was the man in whose memory the Nachalat Zvi Institute (BRI) was established in Jerusalem.
On Thursday evening, the eve of 11th Kislev, we commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the passing of the late Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld, descendant of Rabbi Aharon Goldstein, the Rabbi of Breslov, and one of the greatest disciples of our holy Rebbe, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, may his merit protect us.
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Ben Zion Rosenfeld (1922-1979) was born into a deep-rooted family of Breslov chassidim. His father, Rabbi Israel Abba, was a direct descendant -from generation to generation- of Rabbi Aharon, the Rabbi of Breslov, and of Rabbi Shmuel Yitzchak, the Rabbi of Tcherin, both of whom were two of the Rebbe’s greatest disciples.
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh was born in the city of Gdynia in Poland in 1922. When he was six months old, he contracted diphtheria, and his father Rabbi Yisrael Abba approached the saintly Chafetz Chaim -Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen of Radin- and asked him for a blessing for the little baby. The Chafetz Chaim added the name Ben-Zion to the baby (something that is usually done for the sake of a patient who is in danger) and Zvi Aryeh recovered from his illness.
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld z”l davening in the Kotel
The family came to the United States in 1904 and settled in the Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn. Rabbi Zvi Aryeh first studied at a yeshiva named after Rabbi Chaim Berlin, and later at the Torah Vodaath yeshiva. Later he attended yeshivah gedolah and he learned Torah from Rabbi Avraham Yoffen, the famous head of the Novardok-Beit Yosef yeshiva. At the age of twenty-three, after completing for the second time the entire Talmud and various other studies, Rabbi Zvi Aryeh was ordained a rabbi by his teacher Rabbi Avraham Yoffen and other important rabbis.
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh married his wife, the late Mrs. Tzippora Rosenfeld, nee Feivelson, who came from a family of Torah scholars, and for a living, he taught Torah to little children. He instilled in his disciples a love of God and a love of Torah alike, and his purity of character left an indelible impression on them for life. At the same time, while studying Torah in poverty, he took responsibility for some of his father’s obligations to charity, following his father’s death in 1947.
Taking over his father’s activities in matters of charity, Rabbi Zvi Aryeh began to correspond with the Breslover chassid Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz, the great-grandson of our teacher Reb Nosson of Breslov. In 1949, he traveled to Eretz Israel to meet him personally. This trip was the first of more than fifty trips he would subsequently make to the Holy Land. Rabbi Avraham instilled in Rabbi Zvi Aryeh the burning need to spread the teachings of Rebbe Nachman in the United States. This meeting left him most moved, and since then, outreach became his mission in life.
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld z”l during one of his trips to Eretz Israel
For the next thirty years, Rabbi Zvi Aryeh engaged in Torah activity and spread the teachings of Rebbe Nachman throughout the United States. Without any help and without any financial means, he managed to get thousands of Jews close to Judaism and to the teachings of Rebbe Nachman. At first, his holy work was not well received, he had to face angry parents, so much so that the received threats to his life and to his family, and they even tried to prosecute him for kidnapping (cf Sipurey Maasios – 12). However, he persevered in his sacred work and brought thousands of Jews to keep the Torah and the mitzvos and to learn about Judaism for the first time in their lives, always with pleasantness, “be-darchei noam”.
At great risk to his own life, Rabbi Zvi Aryeh also did everything possible to travel to Rebbe Nachman’s tomb in Uman, during the Soviet rule. A lot of courage was required to put your head into the lion’s mouth and travel to the locked and enclosed Soviet Union. With devotion, he organized trip after trip with his students, opening cracks in the hard wall of Soviet rule. His determination eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet wall and the opening of the gates of Uman to all Breslov followers. Rabbi Zvi Aryeh triumphed and the “Gate of Zvi Aryeh” which rises to glory in the tziyun of our holy Rebbe Nachman was established in his name and in his memory, by his disciple Rabbi Shlomo Kopel.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s tombsite in Uman. Above: the gate that was built in memory of Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld z”l
In his many lectures, Rabbi Zvi Aryeh liked to enrich his students with the extensive knowledge he had of the Talmud, Midrash, Zohar, Kabbalah and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman, in shiurim attended by Ashkenazi and Sephardi students alike. He also excelled in practical wisdom and gave excellent advice even in financial matters. He himself, however, lived a contented life with very little, and supported himself and his family with his salary as a teacher.
Apart from the time he devoted to Torah lessons and teaching students, Rabbi Zvi Aryeh also devoted himself to raising funds for the building of the Breslov Yeshiva in Jerusalem, with the encouragement of Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz and Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Rosen. Most of the expenses for the large building that now stands in the center of the charedi neighborhood “Mea Shearim” in Jerusalem, were raised by him and his students. After the building of the synagogue was completed, he continued his activity of publishing the Rebbe’s writings and even began the translation of the book “Sichot Haran,” translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan at the request of Rabbi Zvi Aryeh and sponsored by him. Rabbi Zvi Aryeh edited the book himself.
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld z”l with Rabbi Eliahu Chaim Rosen z”l
In addition, Rabbi Zvi Aryeh raised funds which he distributed to many poor Breslov families in Israel. He loved the Holy Land with all his soul and wanted to settle there himself. The only thing that delayed him from doing so were the new students who joined his classes abroad every year. Once he decided that he would move to Jerusalem only on the condition that a whole year passed without a new student joining the group… However, it never happened!
A group of students was formed around Rabbi Zvi Aryeh who even established their own synagogue, where Torah lessons were held according to the teachings of Breslov Chassidut. Several hundreds of families became acquainted with the lifestyle of Breslov Chassidism and adopted it as their way of life, and many thousands more know and quote the Rebbe’s teachings thanks to Rabbi Zvi Aryeh.
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh himself was evidence that even in a mundane country such as the USA it is possible to be a Breslover, that is, a Jew who is attached to his Creator and is not blinded by the illusions of the modern world.
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld z”l in the USA with his students
In the summer of 1958, after contracting a serious illness (cancer) at the age of fifty-six, Rabbi Zvi Aryeh finally immigrated to Jerusalem, thus giving himself a few months to prepare for his death in the Land of Israel.
Even when he was confined to his bed and was extremely weak, his disciples would study Talmud and Zohar by his bedside, with Rabbi Zvi Aryeh following the discussion and commenting here and there.
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh became a father figure to his students, many of whom came to Israel for a few days just to be by his side for the last time. And in spite of his extreme weakness, he persisted in reciting the “Tikkun Haklali” (General Remedy) often with the help of one of his disciples.
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh left behind a legacy that included thousands of hours of recorded lessons and lectures that allowed a broad glimpse into Rebbe Nachman’s treasures.
Just recently a new project was launched of turning the recordings into written lessons. So far, the lessons on the series of Sichot Haran in English have already been published, and currently we are working on editing volumes with the English lessons. We are working hard translating the English shiurim into written lessons in Hebrew and compiling them into a printed book which will be called, with the help of Hashem, Siach HaNeshama.
May his merit protect us!
Photo gallery of Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld z”l
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s tombsite in Uman in the year 1922, the year of his birth
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld z”l holding the original kiddush cup which belonged to Rebbe Nachman
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld z”l davening in the Kotel
Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld z”l in the tombsite of Shmuel Hanavi