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Novaradok: Spiritual Lessons

The 17th of Kislev is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz, Alter of Novardok (1849[or 1858]-1919). Born in the Lithuanian town of Plongian to Rav Shlomo Zalman, Rav and Dayan of the town, Rav Yosef Yoizel joined Kovno’s Kollel Perushim where he studied under Rav Itzele Blazer, Rav Naftali Amsterdam and Rav Avraham Shenker, spending at least 18 hours a day – most of the time standing- studying. He also spent two lengthy periods learning in solitude – first, he secluded himself in a small room for a year and a half after tragically losing his first wife during childbirth; later, learning in a room in a forest for 12 years, leaving only to visit his family for Shabbosos. In 1894, Rav Yosef Yoizel began to visit the Alter of Kelm, Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv. Later, he established a large yeshiva in Novorodok and was responsible for creating a whole network of yeshivas. During the War, in 1914, he moved the yeshiva – with its bachurim – to Hommel in the Ukraine, as the Germans advanced on Novardok. In 1918, he moved it to Kiev.

The Sayings of Rav Yosef Yozel

If you missed your train, do not say, “I came late and missed my train.” Say, rather, “I came to early for the next train – for everything is in the hands of heaven.”

“I have never concerned myself whether I can do something but only whether it has to be done. If it must be done, with God’s help, one will be able to accomplish it.”

“If you are a true Baal Bitachon, then you are truly wealthy. If you are only thought of as a Baal Bitachon, then you are only thought to be wealthy.”

“He who learns Torah only to satisfy his own need is like a snake, which may eat all the finest delicacies in the world but which perceives in them only the taste of dust and never recognizes that there is something higher than that.” (Yoma 75a)

“He who wants to compete with and to overcome his friend has already been overcome by his own self. In the end he will also be overcome by his friend.”

“The poorest and most meager present is superior to and more valuable than the most promising future.”

“Man wants to achieve greatness overnight and he wants to sleep well that night.”

Man uses his wondrous intellect for physical gains. Instead of reaching for the supernal spiritual light with it, he hitches it up to chase a piece of bread. This is like the villager who finds a remarkable sculpture wrought by a great master and, in his boorishness, thinks it perfect to serve as a scarecrow in his little garden and to frighten away wild birds from his seedlings.

Repentance is the most profitable business in the world, for it is the only one that turns liabilities into assets.

Novarodok by Meir Levin, Jason Aronson Publishers 1996

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