Moshe Leib Erblich
1912 – 1991
Chazzan Reb Moshe Yehudah Leib Erblich, better known as Moshe Leib Erblich, was born August 18th 1912 in Jerusalem as the sixth generation of Chassidic pioneers in the Holy Land. He was a direct descendant of the first Sassover Rebbe, whose name was also Reb Moshe Yehuda Leib Erblich. Chazzan Erblich would also function as the Sassover Rebbe for the majority of his life, besides being a Chazzan.
Chazzan Erblich’s mother was the daughter of Reb Shimon Nuta Biderman, the Lelover Rebbe. At three years of age his mother died of typhus. His father, Reb Yaakov Tzvi Erblich, the Porosover Rebbe, remarried, but little Moishele was raised by his grandfather, the Lelover Rebbe, his uncle Reb Moshe Leib Erblich of Yerusholayim, his uncle Moshe Mordechai Biderman of Lelov, and by his great-grandfather, Reb Dovid’l Biderman, the Grand Rabbi of Yerusholayim.
In his youth he was already recognized as having an exceptional voice. He was a student of the Sfas Emes of Gur, and he became Magid Shiur in Chaye Olam Yeshiva in Jerusalem specialising in the subject of Mitzvos Hateluyot Baaretz. It wasn’t long before he was offered a job as a Chazzan. His first position was at Beit Haknesset Hanassi in Rechavia, where he was accompanied by a Charedi choir. Congregation Beit Hanassi had such illustrious congregants as Rebbes Herzog, Rakovsky and Silver, and Presidents of Israel like Yitzchok Ben Tzvi and Menachem Begin. After performing in may venues all over Israel his name and fame spread around Israel. In 1953 he gave a major performance in ‘Meah Shearim’, the Yeshiva of Heichal, where the entire population of ‘Meah Shearim’ was present, including all circles of Jerusalem.
He married Bracha Leah Batsheva Ashkenazi, the daughter of Reb Yoel Ashkenazi of Tiveria and Bobe Charna Weinberg of Slonim (daughter of Reb Noach Weinberg of Slonim, the direct descendant of the “Yesod HaTorah”). They had seven children: 5 sons and 2 daughters.
In 1954 the President of one of London’s leading congregations, Dr. Hirsch Brody of Hendon Adas Yisroel, and his representative heard Chazzan Erblich daven in the Beit Knesset Hanassi and they offered him the postion of Chazzan in London, which he accepted. In 1956 Chazzan Erblich gave a massive perfomance with the world renowned choir leader, Chazzan Reb Zalman Rivlin and his choir, where Chazzan Erblich was crowned as the Yossele Rosenblatt of his time. This Shabbos was especially organized as a farewell performance, as it was the final farewell to the Erblich family before they left to England. On the boat (with the name ‘Jerusalem’) to England Chazzan Erblich lit the Chanuka light before all the passengers, the entire crew and its captain.
On his arrival in London at Victoria Station the shul members of Hendon Adas Yisroel welcomed him and brought him to a brand new house across the street from the shul The first Shabbos in the U.K. however he went to daven at the Stamford Hill Synagogue on Grove Lane. Chazzan Erblich made such a big impression on its members, that this shul also became interested in having him as its Chazzan. Both shuls began to bid for his services, but Chazzan Erblich settled the argument by deciding that the shul that brought him, Hendon Adas Yisroel, would be the shul that he would daven for. Soon after he was officially appointed Chazzan Rishon of the shul, his family was brought over from Israel to settle with him in their new house. Not to disappoint the members of the other shul Chazzan Erblich eventually did become Chazzan Rishon of the Stamford Hill Synagogue. Chazzan Erblich’s character was refined and honest.
In August of 1964 Chazzan Erblich was offered the position of Chazzan Rishon of congregation Adath Jeshurun Hadrath Kodesh in Montreal. The position was left vacant after the sudden passing of the great Chazzan Yehoshua Wieder. Chazzan Erblich accepted the esteemed position and left the U.K. for Canada. From Montreal he went back to Eretz Yisroel in 1968 to officiate in Tel Aviv. From there he went to New York to serve at the Mosholu Jewish Centre in the Bronx. Here he replaced his son Yaakov, who left that shul to serve as Chazzan in Los Angeles. After a few years at the Mosholu Jewish Centre Chazzan Erblich followed his son and went to Los Angeles too, where he served at Congregation Etz Yaakov.
After a successful career Chazzan Erblich retired and settled in Monsey to be nearer to some of his children and grandchildren that lived in that area. He really felt at home in the Chassidic environment there, where he could once again wear a shtreimel and begisheh. After a life of traveling around the world he finally found a new home where he could be himself. He passed away in this beloved new home town on June 14th 1991, due to complications caused by asthma (a disease that had plagued him a great deal of his life).
Chazzan Moshe Leib Erblich was not just a great Chazzan, but as Sassover Rebbe he set an example for his followers as a truly genuine pious and learned man. For example his sincerity of davening; one of his students remembered that at Shacharis services he would put on t’fillin with such devotion and precision that it would take quite a long time for him to prepare for davening. He was a true Sh’liach Tzibbur and was not seeking to entertain or show off his vocal prowess, but to purely daven to the best of his abilities.
Fotunately there are several recordings of Chazzan Erblich, which show the sweetness of his style and the full range of his voice. His compositions show great musicality and many of them have beautiful Chassidic melodies interwoven in them.
(With many thanks to Jeffrey P. Liewen for this biography)