R' Avrum Matityahu Friedman, 2nd Shtefanesht Rebbe (1846 - 1933) MP

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Birthplace: Galicia, Austro-Hungary
Death: Died in Stefanesti, Botosani, Botosani, Romania
Managed by: Yakov Leib Grunfeld
Last Updated:

About R' Avrum Matityahu Friedman, 2nd Shtefanesht Rebbe

Shtefanesht (Hasidic dynasty)

 Rabbi Avraham Mattisyahu of Shtefanesht ( 1847-1933 ) considered to be one of the hidden tzaddikim of his generation.

Biography

After the death of Rabbi Yisroel Friedman of Ruzhin in 1851, his fourth son, Menachem Nuchem Friedman, born in 1823, settled in the town of Shtefanesht, Romania, and subsequently founded the Shtefanesht Hasidic dynasty. In 1869 he died and his only son, Avraham Mattisyahu succeeded him.

Reb Avraham Mattisyahu was born in 1847 in Sadigura. At the behest of his grandfather he was named Avraham after Reb Avraham HaMalach his direct ancestor, and Mattisyahu after Mattathias Maccabee as he was born during the festival of Hanukkah.

In 1862 he married the daughter of Reb Yitzchok Reich. Eleven years past without her conceiving at which point they divorced and Reb Avraham Mattisyahu remarried his cousin Sarah Zipporah, a daughter of Reb Yosef Mansohn of Berdychiv who had been widowed by her husband Reb Aharon Schorr of Berdychiv. She brought three children into the marriage.

In 1869 aged 21, his father Reb Menachem Nuchem died and after much pleading and approval of his uncle Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Friedman, (1820–1883, the 1st Rebbe of Sadigura), Reb Avraham Mattisyahu agreed to fill his fathers position, a role he held nearly 65 years.

He was considered to be one of the hidden tzaddikim of his generation. His influence over Romanian Jewry was immense and he had a large following which numbered in the thousands.

Reb Avraham Mattisyahu died on the 21st Tammuz 1933 and his funeral was held in town of Iaşi. As he was never blessed with offspring, Reb Avraham Mattisyahu had invited Reb Menachem Nuchem of Itskani to Shtefanesht in order to succeed him. However, he died a few months before Reb Avraham Mattisyahu‘s own passing.

In 1969 his remains were transferred to the cemetery in the Nachalat Yitzhak neighborhood of Tel Aviv for reburial in the Ruzhin plot.

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The holy Rebbe of Shtefenesht

A Light Unto the Nations: The holy Rebbe of Shtefenesht - Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu Friedman zt’l, a towering personality to whom Jew and gentile alike streamed for blessings and advice.

Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu Friedman of Shtefenesht was born on the first night of Chanuka – 25th Kislev 5627 (1867), to his father Rabbi Menachen Nachum Friedman zt’l. His grandfather was the ‘Ruzhiner’, Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin. At the instruction of his illustrious grandfather, the newborn was given the names ‘Avraham’, after his ancestor Rabbi Avraham HaMalach; and ‘Matisyahu’, after the high priest Matisyahu of the tribe of Chashmonaim, in the hope that he too would work wonders for the people of Israel just like his namesake.

After his father’s passing and his subsequent appointment as Rebbe, Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu lived in Shtefenesht. He would frequently visit the neighboring city of Yasi, where his father lay buried. Each time the Rebbe visited Yasi an elaborate reception was arranged in his honor; the entire Jewish population of the town would stop their work, and line the streets to greet him with singing and dancing.

Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu was known to many as a wonder-worker, and Jews and gentile alike would knock on his door to receive blessings and advice. The gentiles of Romania called Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu ‘Marila Rabbin din Shtefenesht’ – Romanian for ‘the great Rabbi of Shtefenesht’.

Many stories abound as to Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu’s great powers as a wonder-worker. It is told that in Romania there lived an anti-semitic scholar named Alexandro Koza, ym”sh.  Koza was an intellectual, and held a position as professor in the University of Yasi. He set up an anti-semitic movement in all the large cities of Romania, whose main goal was to secure the expulsion of Romanian Jews by revoking their citizenship.

One winter morning, in the early hours of dawn as a fierce snow storm raged outside, the door of the Rebbe’s court in Yasi opened and two men entered the study hall. Their dress indicated that they were men of considerable stature. The two turned to the Rebbe’s aides and requested an audience with the Rebbe, in due haste. One of the aides, Rabbi Feivish, understood that something unusual was underfoot and set out to determine the identity of the two guests and the purpose for their visit. To his surprise, these were none other than Dr. Filderman, president of the Federation of the Jewish communities in Romania, and Dr. Solomonowitz, president of the Jewish community in Yasi.

A short while earlier, the anti-semitic leader Koza, who was a member of the Romanian parliament, presented before the parliament a suggestion to instate a new law revoking the Romanian citizenship of all Jews, and as a result, their subsequent expulsion. Dr. Filderman was a legal attorney by profession, and heard about this ominous parliament meeting. He immediately turned to his friend Dr. Solomonowitz, president of the community in Yasi, for advice. Dr. Solomonowitz suggested that they take advantage of the Rebbe’s visit in Yasi at the time, and ask him for advice as to how to deal with this new threat. And so it was that the two guests appeared at the door of the Rebbe of Shtefenesht.

As soon as the gabbai Rabbi Feivish had clarified the identity of the two guests, he hurried to the Rebbe’s chamber and notified him of their arrival and their request to be seen immediately. Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu was already wrapped in his Tallis and Tefillin in preparation for the morning prayers, but agreed to see them nonetheless. The two entered, and without preamble informed the Rebbe of the impending danger hovering over the heads of Romanian Jewry.

Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu listened intently, and after some thought turned to Dr. Filderman and said – “In the ‘Paris’ accords that took place in 5679 (1919), the Romanian government committed to providing citizenship to every Jew in Romania. In the contract it states explicitly that ‘Romania is obliged to recognize Jews living in its territory as Romanian entities, with full rights...’ And in the same contract, there is a clause that states ‘in the case of an attempt to strip a Jew of his citizenship, he has the right to appeal before the High Court’”.  This clause, declared the Rebbe of Shtefenesht, may save the Jews of Romania.

The eminent Drs. Filderman and Salomonowitz stood dumbstruck as they listened to the Rebbe’s fluent rendition of passages of Romanian law, and after they left the Rebbe’s sanctum, they determined to keep the matter secret so that should the need arise, they could put this legal weapon to use.

Years passed, and in the interim Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu passed on to the eternal world of truth. In the year 5689 (1929), with the help of the accursed Nazis ym”sh, an anti-semitic government was set up in Romania led by Octavian Goga and the notorious Alexandro Koza. On the 19th of Shevat of the same year, the government issued a command – Law No. 169, requiring investigations to be carried out anew, as to the citizenship of Jews in Romania. A potential danger hung over the heads of over six hundred thousand Jews.

Upon hearing of the new decree, Dr. Filderman recalled his visit with Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu and the advice he received from him. He immediately turned to the Superior Court and presented the appeal as the Rebbe had suggested; the appeal was registered and the edict was delayed.

A day after the appeal was handed in to the court, a messenger from the Superior Court arrived at the office of Dr. Filderman with a letter requesting his immediate presence at the court house. With no choice, Dr. Filderman returned to the court house where he was told - “You presented an appeal in the name of over six hundred thousand Jews. According to the law, the Court is required to judge each case on an individual basis. The Superior Court adjourns three days a week, and presides over a mere five cases each day – when will we be able to sit with all the cases involved in this appeal?

And so it was, that in the merit of the advice of Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu of Shtefenesht, the decree was averted and over four-hundred thousand Jews succeeded in retaining their Romanian citizenship - a matter that significantly hindered the Nazis as they attempted to carry out the Final Solution in Romania.

Rabbi Avraham Matisyahu was called to the Heavenly court on the 21st of Tamuz 5693 (1933), and was buried in Romania. He left behind no heir, and in his memory the people of his town established a Yeshiva named after him - ‘Beis Avraham’. This Yeshiva stood until the rise of the Nazi scourge, which destroyed most of European Jewry.

In the year 5729 (1969), the grave site of the Rebbe in Romania was in danger of being demolished, and his Chassidim wished to bring his remains to Eretz Yisrael. It is told that when they dug down and took out the pure remains of the holy Rebbe, they found the entire body intact - exactly as it had been on the day he was buried.

On the 3rd of Cheshvan 5729 (1968), a large funeral took place in Tel Aviv in which thousands of people, amongst them great Torah leaders, accompanied the Rebbe to his final resting place in the Nachalat Yitzchak cemetery, in Givatayim.  The grave of the Rebbe has become a pilgrimage site for multitudes of Jews in need of blessing or salvation. On the 21st of Tamuz, the Yahrzeit of the great Rebbe, thousands of people come to pray at his grave.

By Motty Meringer 23/10/2009 Source

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R' Avrum Matityahu Friedman, 2nd Shtefanesht Rebbe's Timeline

1846
1846
Galicia, Austro-Hungary
1933
1933
Age 87
Stefanesti, Botosani, Botosani, Romania
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