The Savraner Rebbe, z’tl: “When the Badatz goes against Rav Berland, that’s when Moshiach will be revealed”
On the 13th of Tammuz 5773 the Admor Of Savran, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Hager, z’tl, was taken from the world. The Admor was a very close friend of Rabbi Eliezer Berland, shlita, and even considered himself to be one of the Rav’s students.
Before he passed away, the Savraner Rebber gave his family a hair-raising message about what would occur before Moshiach was revealed.
You can hear and the original account in Hebrew in the video below followed by a written translation of the words:
“My wife is a very good friend of the Savraner Rebbe’s daughter,” begins Rabbi Yechiel Elasar. “By chance, she happened to be visiting her immediately after her father had just passed away. The Admor died on a Friday, in a very special way. Before he died, his family and his students gathered around him, and they sang Shabbat songs together.
His daughter, my wife’s good friend, had the merit of spending some private time with him in the last few moments before his neshama was taken from the world. [When my wife saw her friend,] she asked her, ‘What, did you immerse in the Dinar River? Look how you look!’
The daughter of the Savraner Rebbe replied: ‘How did you know to say that? My father just passed away now, and I literally now just got back from the funeral.”
Then, she continued to tell my wife, very emotionally, the following:
“I went in to my father, in yechidut (one-on-one private time between a Rebbe and someone else) before the petirah (passing), and he told me these words:
Know, that there will come a day when the Badatz will oppose Rav Berland. And when that day comes, when the Badatz goes against RaV Berland, know – Moshiach will come.
“My father continued, and warned me after he told me these bone-chilling words: But you, my daughter, you should stay with Rav Berland.”
We need to understand a little bit about the history that transpired between Savran and Breslov, to really understand the importance of this extraordinary message from the late Savraner Rebbe.
In 1835, 24 years after the death of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Rabbi Moshe Tzvi, the Rebbe of Savran, z’tl, decided to come out in fierce opposition to Breslov chassidut, and in particular to Rabbenu’s biggest student, Rav Natan Sternhartz. This unleashed a wave of terrible, life-threatening persecution against Reb Natan, and even led him to be informed upon to the secular authorities, and unjustly incarcerated.
HOW THE SAVRANER REBBE PERSECUTED BRESLOV
After the death of Rebbe Nachman, the mantle of leadership of Breslov chassidut passed to his student, Reb Natan. Reb Natan focused almost all of his efforts into printing and distributing Rebbe Nachman’s lessons and teachings, as he himself stated in his writings, and also in his conversations with others.
During his time leading Breslov chassidut, Reb Natan – and the other followers – suffered from a great deal of harsh persecution, especially at the hands of Rabbi Moshe Tzvi of Savran. The Savraner stated that it was forbidden to eat from the shechita (ritual slaughter) performed by any Breslov chassid; and also forbid his followers from marrying someone from the Breslov community, or from letting them teach Torah.
At that time, the Czarist Russian government had passed a number of decrees against the Jewish community (including the infamous ‘Cantonist Decrees’), which made it illegal to print the books of Breslov teachings. Reb Natan had tried to get around the prohibition by operating an illegal printing press in his house.
The Savraners followers informed upon Reb Natan to the secular authorities, which led to him being imprisoned. Meanwhile the Breslov beit midrash in Uman was shut down. Afterwards Reb Natan had to keep moving from place to place, often using an assumed identity to stay one step ahead of the authorities.
During this period of time, the number of Breslov chassidim – who continued to identify themselves as such publicly – started to shrink, until the whole movement was being sustained by small groups of followers in Uman, Breslov, Tcherin and Tultchin.
Initially when Reb Natan took over the leadership of the movement, there was a good connection between him and the Savraner Rebbe.
The connection had begun when the two men met each other at the court of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev. But then, one of the Savraner’s students began a war of bitter defamation and slander against Reb Natan and Breslov – and the Savraner believed him. This student, an outwardly god-fearing Jew, gathered pairs of false witnesses to testify against Reb Natan in the Beis Din of the Savran. The false testimonies against Reb Natan included eating on the fast day of tisha b’av and acting immorally with women.
The Savraner had thousands of followers, and was considered to be the defacto head of chassidut, generally, at that time. So when he came out publicly attacking Breslov, that fanned the flames of the persecution to towering heights. Breslov chassidut was a small movement in any case, but the ranks of followers quickly reduced much further, as the fierce war waged by the Savraner Rebbe continued.
The persecution and machloket that occurred at that time has been written about in many Breslov sources, and continues to be burned into the soul of Breslov chassidut even today. That period of time ranks as one of the hardest that Breslov chassidut ever experienced, and even secular academics have written about this time that:
“The persecution of the Breslovers by the Savraner chassidim was crueler even than the persecution of the chassidim, generally, by the mitnagdim, the century beforehand.” – Professor Raphael Mahler.
At that time, Reb Natan and the very few remaining Breslovers who continued to hold firm, suffered from an unimaginable amount of ostracism, humiliation and even violence.
They endured horrific boycotts and harassment, deliberate damage to their property and livelihoods, and even murder threats. On one occasion, a man named ‘Reb Natan’ was found murdered in his bed in Breslov. The investigation showed that the man had been killed because he’d been identified as Reb Natan Sternhertz, in a classic case of mistaken identity.
And on top of all this violence and abuse, Reb Natan and his remaining followers were also constantly being ‘informed against’ to the Czarist authorities. One of the many false allegations thrown at Reb Natan was that he was a ‘false prophet’ who was working against the secular authorities, and trying to find ways to undermine them and betray them.
After all this terrible persecution, only 5 openly Breslov chassidim remained.
Reb Avraham ben Reb Nachman was the leader of the Breslov chassidut movement after the death of his father, Rabbi Nachman of Tultchin.
Rabbi Nachman of Tultchin was the closest student of Rav Natan Sternhartz, and the person responsible for first printing Reb Natan’s magnum opus, Likutey Halachot, amongst other works.
In his book ‘Yemey HaTlaot’, he relates that the persecution at that time was so bad, “Only 5 people in Breslov could stand up in the test, and continued their avodat Hashem as before. But the majority of those who gathered to Breslov didn’t have it in their capabilities to return to their original service of Hashem, even after Hashem Yitbarach helped Moharanat (Reb Natan), and freed him from all the enemies around him.”
Given the history between Savran and Breslov, it becomes an even sharper question, then, how the Admor of Savran of this generation, the direct descendant of the Admor Moshe Tzvi of Savran, z’tl, came to be such a close friend of Rav Berland, shlita, and even considered himself a student.
Let’s explore how that came about, next.
Around two years after the Six Day War, Rabbi Hager first met Rav Berland, on a public bus from Bnei Brak that was heading towards the Kotel.
He was impressed by him, and the whole way came back to speak with him, and even invited him to come and visit him in his home. Throughout a whole day, they learned Sefer Shmuel together in-depth.
The Admor’s daughter said that she remembered the tremendous enthusiasm that the Rav prayed the ma’ariv (evening) prayers, at this time.
And from that point on, a strong connection was built between the Rav, and Rabbi Hager of Savran.
For a number of years, they would learn together every Friday night, all through the night, until they would go and do hitbodedut (talking to God in your own words). Rabbi Hager loved Rav Berland a great deal, and used to praise his greatness in Torah, and this connection between them continued even after the Rav opened up the Shuvu Banim yeshiva.
Rabbi Yehoshua Dov Rubinstein recalls: “I can really testify that Rabbi Berl Hager used to really nullify himself to Rav Berland, shlita. So much so, that Rav Hager once said, ‘Every student at Shuvu Banim, the yeshiva of Rav Berland, would be like an Admor in another place.”
Rabbi Moshe, the grandchild of the late Savraner Rebbe, also said;
“At the beginning when the terrible machloket against Rav Berland, shilta, started, the people who were creating the machloket came to visit my grandfather. They tried to speak against Rav Berland, shlita, buy my grandfather got very angry at them, and even requested that they should be brought before a Beit Din. But it was already beyond his capacity to do this, because he was already gravely ill.
“But in the morning prayers, my grandfather would shout out with all his strength:
Rabbi Eliezer Berland is kodesh kodeshim (holy of holies)! Rabbi Eliezer Berland is kodesh kodeshim!”