Living Legacy: Rebbe Dovid of Skver, zt”l
By: Yehuda Alter
Friday, 15 Kislev, marks the 103rd yohrtzeit of Rebbe Dovid of Skver, the second in this dynasty.
He was born to Rebbe Itzik’l of Skver, a son of Rebbe Mottele of Chernobyl, who was a son of the Me’or Einayim, on Erev Pesach of the year 1848. His father remarked about his son, “He was born to me when there was no Chometz to be found in my home,” alluding to his purity.
When he was a child, it was noticed that he conducted himself with extraordinary aestheticism, eating very little of what was served to him. When his mother looked after which seforim he was learning, she saw that he learned a lot of Reishis Chochma and other strict mussar works. Concerned for his health, she implored him to begin with other, easier seforim. This is but a glimpse of the kedusha for which he would be known throughout his life.
After the passing of his father in 1885, he assumed the leadership of the chassidus in nearby Chmelnick, where chassidim built him a court and shul.
A few years later, a fire broke out and consumed the entire shul. Following this, the Rebbe returned to Skver, where chassidim purchased an old estate for his use. He would remain in Skver until he was forced to leave due to persecution from the Ukrainians.
His son and successor, Rebbe Yaakov Yosef, the previous Skverer Rebbe, would describe the kedushah of his father that was so palpable: “When he would enter the Beis Medrash on Erev Shabbos for davening, with his payos wet from the mikveh, the flow was so great, that I believe there was no one who did not do teshuva in that moment.” Similarly, when asked why there was no droshoh before tekia’as Shofar in Skver, Rav Yaakov Yosef explained: “Anyone who caught a glimpse of my father entering the shul for Tkias shofar received the greatest awakening.”
The rebbe was known for his silence. He could sit for hour upon hours in complete silence—wrapped up in his thoughts—and secular writers would come to observe this and write about this very silence. In later years, when the previous Skverer Rebbe lived in Williamsburg, people would ask him to speak about his father. He would answer, “My father worked for seventy years that there should not be anything to say over about him, and you want me to speak of his greatness?!”
Despite all of his hiddenness, his greatness shone forth in his exceptional character, and he led the chassidim in Ukraine during terrible times of suffering.
Bands of Bolsheviks and marauders would tear through the small shtetlach of Ukraine and wreak unfathomable suffering on the people, especially Jews. The Skverer Rebbe was finally convinced to move to the big city of Kiev. He experienced much suffering in Kiev with the loss of a number of his children and grandchildren—but he accepted it all with ironclad faith.
The rebbe was niftar 15 Kislev of 1920, and was interred on the old cemetery in Kiev. When the government was preparing to raze the area for a road, his resting place was moved to the new cemetery, with a new ohel erected.
His legacy was continued by a number of his sons, including Rebbe Yaakov Yosef, through whom the Skverer dynasty continues to this day.