In 1940, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua prevailed on his father to establish a yeshiva in Grosswardein. At that time both the political and financial climates were restrictive. Nevertheless, the yeshiva almost immediately had more than one hundred students, buoyed by Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua as their rosh yeshiva.
The Right Shidduch
In April 1942, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua married Rebbetzin Leah Esther a”h (d. 1993), daughter of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Paneth, zt”l Hy”d (1894-1944), Deijer Rebbe; son of Rabbi Moshe Paneth, zt”l (1843-1902), Deijer Rebbe; son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Panet, zt”l (1818-1884), chief rabbi of Transylvania, Deijer Rebbe, and author of Maaglei Tzedek; son of Rabbi Yechezkel Paneth, zt”l (1783-1845, rav of Karsburg and of all of Transylvania, author of Mareh Yechezkel, and patriarch of the Deijer chassidishe dynasty.
The rebbetzin always respectfully stood to his right and enabled him to study Torah unimpeded. It was their joyous devotion to the study of Torah that enabled them to build the preeminent chassidishe family, with his sons and sons-in-law the leaders of four of the largest chassidic dynasties.
After their wedding, the newly married couple remained in Deij for several months. In Deij, he attracted a following. The couple returned to Vilchovitz where he actively served in the position of spiritual leader in order to qualify for a military draft exemption. Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua reenergized the yeshiva there, and it was left to him to provide full sustenance to fully half of the more than one hundred students enrolled. Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua labored to build the foundation of a huge yeshiva. Sadly, all his planning never came to fruition in Vilchovitz.
Escape to Palestine
In March 1944, when Hungary came under the rule of the Nazis, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua and his rebbetzin moved to Grosswardein to be closer to his father. The Jews there planned to either escape or hide should the Nazis enter the city.
In June, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua, his rebbetzin, and their firstborn daughter (today the Skverer Rebbetzin) covertly crossed the border into Romania, where they were arrested by Romanian police. Intercession (and bribes) by devoted Vishnitzer chassidim facilitated their release. After several months in Bucharest, the family left for Palestine. Their journey took them through Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. They finally arrived in Eretz Yisrael in September 1944.
Their arrival sparked seven decades of Torah inspiration and the building of a Torah empire. Rabbi Eliezer Hager, zt”l (1891-1946), Vishnitzer Rav, author of Damesek Eliezer, and uncle of Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua, had arrived several months earlier and established his beis medrash and yeshiva in Tel Aviv. Upon his arrival, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua was immediately appointed rosh yeshiva. He devoted himself to his students and remained with them in the beis medrash day and night.
His uncle, the Damesek Eliezer, passed away in September 1946. His father, the Imrei Chaim, arrived in Palestine in 1947. In that interim, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua gained inspiration in developing warm relationships with the Chazon Ish zt”l, Brisker Rav, Belzer Rebbe zt”l, Shomrei Emunim Rebbe zt”l, and the Steipler Rav zt”l.
When the Imrei Chaim arrived, the rebuilding of the decimated Vishnitzer dynasty commenced. In 1949, the Imrei Chaim left Tel Aviv and settled in nearby Bnei Brak. Shikun Vishnitz, the Vishnitz neighborhood, was established in 1951.
Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua’s Reign
Days before Pesach 1972, the Imrei Chaim passed away and the Vishnitz leadership was passed down to Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua.
During Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua’s reign as Vishnitzer Rebbe, Vishnitzer chassidus would grow at an unprecedented rate, with Vishnitzer Torah institutions established around the world. He reached out to descendants of Vishnitzer chassidim wherever they were and invited them to join and rejoice in the warmth that their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers relished.
He exuded magnetism, and the number of those who joined his tefillahs, tisch and shiurim multiplied with each passing week. The sweet joy of his Shabbos was particularly contagious. Torah scholars imbibed with relish his divrei Torah. Other chassidishe rebbes came and found inspiration.
Sadly, his health had been in decline for the past few years, and he was only occasionally able to make public appearances.
The news of his passing last week at age 95 spread instantly to all corners of the Jewish world. Fleets of buses were immediately deployed to bring more than one hundred thousand mourners to the funeral in Bnei Brak. His sons-in-law the Skverer Rebbe and the Satmar Rebbe and their immediate families left New York immediately. Thousands of others came from Europe and elsewhere.
The Vishnitzer custom is not to have any eulogies at funerals. Tehillim were recited and the Vishnitzer Rebbe was interred in the ohel where his father also rests.Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
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