Remembering The Kossover Rebbe, Rav Shraga Feivish Hager

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The neshamah of Rav Shraga Feivish Hager zt”l, the self-effacing Kossover Rebbe, returned to the Olam HaEmes this past Shabbat night, June 29, around midnight, at 66 years of age, following a valiant battle with yeneh machalah that took the Rebbe to the best local and German medical facilities. The Rebbe was a respected leader with batei midrash at 55th Street and 13th Avenue in Borough Park, Williamsburg, Lakewood, and Yerushalayim, dayan of the Vizhnitzer-Monsey kehillah, based in Borough Park, poseik for Chesed Shel Emes, sought-after darshan, and sent regular support to the Kossov institutions of Tz’fat.

Born on January 10, 1958, as the b’chor of Shoah-survivor Rav Avrohom Yehoshua Heshel Hager, the Kossover-Zalishchiker Rebbe of Borough Park, in 1999 upon the p’tirah of his father went on to honorably continue the Kossover legacy, impacting tens of thousands globally, including parents of those with children who struggled with Yiddishkeit.

The Rebbe was a distinguished product of Borough Park’s Yeshiva Be’er Shmuel, where he learned under the Unsdorfer Rav, Ponevezh’s Chachmei Lublin Yeshivah, and Lakewood’s Beth Medrash Govoha, and following his marriage to Rebbetzin Sarah Rechil, the daughter of the Zichron Meir, Bnei Brak’s Rav Chaim Meir Wosner, a son of the great poseik Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner zt”l, took up residence in Bnei Brak, as a neighbor of the Sar HaTorah, Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l, where he basked in the glory of Shikun Vizhnitz in the presence of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Rav Moshe Yehoshua Hager. To this end, the Rebbe held his Shabbos meals at home and only later added a tish at the local shul to his Shabbos schedule, but never maintained an appointed gabbai.

Once in New York, the Rebbe found a home in the Tartokover Kollel and Beis Din, and at the Beis Horaah of the Debrecener Rav, Rav Moshe Stern. Rav Fishel Hershkowitz of Williamsburg was the rebbi muvhak for the Rebbe where with his lineage gained the exceptional talent to bridge varied customs in the Torah world.

The Rebbe was a descendent of the Vizhnitz and Rizhin dynasties, as well as connected via his mother to the Sandza Rav. Rav Shraga Feivish Hager, the Zalishchiker Rebbe, was his grandfather, and Rav Boruch Hager of Vizhnitz was his great-grandfather. The original Zalishchiker Rebbe was a son-in-law of Rav Moshe Hager, the first Kossover Rebbe and author of Leket Oni. In 1996, together with his younger brother, the current Zalishchiker Rebbe, he republished the Leket Oni.

Most notable was the Rebbe’s mystical connection, highlighted each Lag BaOmer with frequent visits to Meron and public exposure of thoughts based on Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Reb Alexander Rapaport notes that the Rebbe participated in three historic events at Masbia Soup Kitchen Network where he is Executive Director. In 2005, the Rebbe joined the official grand opening ceremony, a subsequent melaveh malkah some years later, and the formal establishment of Masbia Borough Park HQ.

The Rebbe’s legacy lives on through his Torah teachings, including many in English, and written text including both volumes of both Shabbos Malka Kadisha, and Avda D’Malka on t’filah, as well as a sefer chasidut, Maayana D’Malka.

Following a l’vayah at the Vizhnitzer Beis Midrash in Kaser Village in Monsey, k’vurah at the Vizhnitzer Beis HaChayim in Monsey was held beside his father, all per the Rebbe’s request without hespeidim. Y’hi zichro baruch.

By Shabsie Saphirsten