Together with klal Yisrael we mourn the petirah of the Skulener Rebbe, Rav Yisroel Avrohom Portugal, zt”l, the great tzaddik and kadosh who was niftar this past Monday afternoon at the age of 95. There are no words that can adequately describe our loss, as no words can adequately describe the Rebbe’s avodas hakodesh and mesiras nefesh for others.
It is written in sefarim that the neshamah of a true tzaddik contains within it elements of all the souls of klal Yisrael. This is referred to as a “neshamah klalis,” a neshamah that encompasses all other neshamos, so that everyone finds inspiration through the avodah of the tzaddik. Such was the neshamah of the Skulener Rebbe. His passing has therefore left the Jewish nation bereft. “Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can ever heal you?” (Eichah 2:13).
Chazal, however, say in Bava Basra (116a) that if someone leaves behind a son as great as himself, the term “death” is not used to describe his passing. We of course cannot estimate any tzaddik’s greatness, nor can we dare compare one tzaddik to another, but we can say without hesitation or fear of contradiction that the Skulener Rebbe left behind most chashuve sons.
I personally know his eldest son Rav Yeshaya Yaakov Portugal, shlita, and have been privileged to befriend him from his very early youth. I can affirm that even during his childhood years his level of tzidkus and his madreigah of kedushah were without equal. May we find comfort and healing through his piety and leadership.
-Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter