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[Pages 60-63]

Gombin and its Rabbis

by Michael Rozenblum

Translated by Clarice Gostinsky Horelick

Edited by Ada Holtzman

Many cities and shtetls in Poland became famous all over the entire Jewish world because of the greatness of their rabbis, scholars, writers, spiritual people, and political activists. Our Gombin once became famous all over the world because of its native son, the famous rabbi and interpreter of Bible laws pertaining to current issues, Rabbi Abraham Abele.

 

gom060a.jpg
Rabbi Abraham Abele Gombiner
author of “Magen Abraham”

 

Abraham Abele, the author of the famous interpretation of Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, was known as “Magen Abraham”, the Shield of Abraham. His original name was Ner Israel, the candle of Israel, but because of certain reasons his son, R' Chaim Segal, with the agreement of the Council of Four Lands in Lublin, changed the name from “Ner Israel” to “Magen Abraham”.

The “Magen Abraham” always wrote his name: Abraham Abele son of the holy man, R' Chaim from Gombin. About his father R' Chaim we know very little. We do know however from the chronicles of his time that he died by Kiddush Hashem, for the Sanctification of the Holy Name, at the hands of Chmielnicki's Cossacks. His great son, Abraham Abele was then 9 years old (sic).

The Magen Abraham was born in Gombin in the year 1635 and died in Kalish in 1683 (we write about him separately).

The later rabbis, a hundred years after the Magen Abraham were R' Alexander Yehuda Leib the author of the book “Midrash Ktuba”, on the tractate “Ktubut”, the set of “Ktubut” in big format, like a Sh“s (the six orders of the Mishna or Talmud) Gemara (“completion”, the second and supplementary part of the Talmud, providing a commentary on the first part i.e. the Mishna), 300 large pages of interpretation and elaboration of the Bible written by Rashi script.

After him, but not for very long, the rabbi in Gombin was R' Israel Jehoszua Troonk, the very well known Gaon who was wooed from Gombin by the Jewish community in Kutno, who went under the name R' Jehoszele Kutner. He was the author of the rabbinical books, as Yeshuot Israel, (the Salvation of Israel) about Hoshen (the fourth part of Shulchan Aruch by Joseph Caro), “Yeshuat Malko” (the Salvation of His King) - questions and answers on the Arbel Shulchan Aruch. “Yavin Shmua” (the Rumor of Yavin), and other books.

After R' Jehoszele Kutner, there served as rabbi for a long time, R' Simchale Gombiner, so they called him. He is the author of the book, “Ramzei Ash”, (the hints of the fire), a commentary of “Tanna (an authority quoted in the Mishna) Eliyahu”. He was a Kocker and a Gerer Hassid.

After the R' Simcha Gombiner there was for a long time R' Natan Neta Natanowicz. He was known as a highly learned man and a Gerer Hassid. His grandchildren, the brothers Mazur, (children of his son Rabbi Meir Mazur, the rabbi of Nieszawa) became known as the Brothers Mazur who were wealthy and famous (“Gvirim”) in Warsaw. One of the brothers, Elijahu Mazur at the end of the 30s, before the war, was head of the Jewish community in Warsaw. Now he is in Israel, one of the biggest merchants in the diamond industry.

 

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Rabbi Yehuda Laib Zlotnik.
“EL ZET”

 

After the R' Natan Natanowicz served as a rabbi the famous R' Yehuda Leib Zlotnik, who was popular in Poland under the name “the Gombiner Rabbi Zlotnik.” He was an important public leader and a speaker. He was among the first founders of the Mizrachi organization and later of the “Histadrut Hazionit Haklalit”, the General Zionist Organization. He became famous under his pen name “Yehudah Elzet”. Under this name he published his book, “The Wonderful Treasure of the Yiddish Language”, also a large work -“Jewish Traditions”, and “Reshumot”, edited by A. Droianov, and individual books such as “the Beginning of the Hebrew Rhetorical Language” printed in Israel. R' Zlotnik was the Gombiner rabbi for about ten years until the year 1921, when he left Poland for Canada. In Canada, he was the Secretary General of the Zionist Organization. Later he was invited by the Jewish community in South Africa to serve as the head of the Jewish education and he acted much for Hebrew education in South Africa. From South Africa he immigrated to Israel and for many years was active in literature and published notable works in the periodical “Yeda Haam” ( Knowledge of the People). Also from time to time he wrote in the daily newspaper “Hatzofe” (“)The Spectator”).

The writer of these words remembers when he was a little boy, during the first years when the Rabbi Y. L. Zlotnik came to Gombin. The Hassidim were not at all pleased; in fact they worked hard he should not be elected; and when the Rabbi Zlotnik was elected with a large majority of votes, the Hassidim appealed to Gostynin (the jurisdiction to which Gombin belonged) with the complaint that the vote was not “kosher”. And the authorities' representative Naczalnik ordered new elections with stricter supervision from the government. In the second election the Rabbi won with an even larger majority. There passed a short time and the Rabbi received recognition also from the Hassidim. They saw his dedication to the Jewish community in general, and particularly to the Jewish community of Gombin.

 

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Rabbi Natan Neta Nutkewicz

 

After the time when Rabbi Y. L. Zlotnik left Poland, R' Natan (Nussen) Neta Nutkewicz from Rypin, served as the Rabbi of Gombin. After him came the Rabbi Unger, the son of the famous teacher, Uriah Unger of Wloclawek. He was the last rabbi up to the Holocaust. As it has been told, the Nazis tied the Rabbi to the tail of a galloping horse and that his how the Rabbi died. God will avenge his blood, together with that of all the Jewish victims.

Scholars and Hassidim in Gombin

Gombin was not as Hassidic as its neighboring towns of Zychlin, or Gostynin, where lived the Rabbi and Tsadik, the virtuous R' Yechiel Meir Lipszyc of blessed memory, known as the Gostyniner Tsadik. His influence was great also in Gombin. To him came not only Hassidim to hear Torah and Hassidism, but also ordinary people, even “Mitnagdim” opposers of the Hassidism and the Hassidim. And the Gostyniner Tsadik attended to all who had requests and those who were ill, advised them to say Tehilim, (The Psalms) and prayers in public and in private. The Gostyniner Tsadik was very popular in Gombin. Sholem Asch in his great work, “Jews of Tehilim”, the praying Jews, described the Gostyniner Tsadik R' Yechiel Meir. Sholem Asch himself was from the neighboring shtetl of Kutno. Sholem Asch in his famous book, “Dos Shtetl”, described Gombiner personalities like R' Jecheskel Gombiner, R' Shlomo Nagid, and others.

Though there were few Chassidim in Gombin, there were however famous scholars and Bney Torah, learners of Torah, in the shtetl. Already a hundred years ago there was in Gombin the famous, “the little R' Abraham”. He was known in the Hassidic world in Kock and Gora Kalwaria (“Ger”). The well known Nagid in that time R' Fajwel Orbach was the father-in-law of R' Menachem Landau, brother of whom in Gombin they called R' Mendel Rabbi. R' Mendil Rabbi was the son of Rabbi Wolf Strikower. R' Wolf was the son of the Ciechanower Gaon and Tsadik R' Abraham Landau.

R' Fajwel Orbach was in his time the “Gvir” wealthy philanthof the Hassidim in Kock and in Gora Kalwaria (“Gur”)..

The Hassidim in Gombin, about 40 to 50 years ago, did not always have their own Hassidim shtibel, (small hassidic house of prayer). On shabbes, the Sabbath, they prayed in the town¹s Beth Hamidrash, Torah school, after the prayers of the rich people, around ten in the morning. However, the Hassidim came into the Beth Hamidrash very early and studied while the rich people prayed. Frequently this brought out disagreements. The rich ones said that the Hassidim with their vocal studies disturbed their praying. When the arguments became stronger, the Hassidim rented a shtibel for themselves alone.

From the various Hassidim, the Gerer Hassidim from Gora Kalwaria were the brightest scholars. After the Gerer Hassidim were the Alexan, Radzyminer, and others. Among the scholars and also the accredited teachers were: the town rabbi, R' Natan Neta z“l, R' Benjamin the teacher of religious subject, the great Gemarah scholar R' Jerachmiel Goldszmid, and his son R' Zalmen, R' Bunim Menasze Lubinski, R' Henich Rozenblum, R' Gedalia Noach, R' Lajbl Sztolcman, R' Herszl - the son-in-law of R' Yossel Chaiek. Of the respected wealthy Hassidim distinguished in town as learners of Torah and important merchants were represented by R' Chaim Luksenberg, R' I. Sikorka, R' Yossel Luksenberg, R' Lajzer Wigdorowicz and his son Jakob Wigdorowicz, R' Yossel Chaiek, his brother R' Mosze Mendel Chaiek, R' Lejzer Mosze Tiber, R' Jecheskel Rozenblum, R' Yossef Menche and his son Mosze Menche, R' Mendel Temerson, and son Abba, R' Abraham Elia Sochaczewski, R' Haim Josef Ejli, R' Israel Shochet (ritual slaughterer), R' Lajbisz Chazan (cantor) and a Shochet, R' Josef Dawid Klapman shochet who left and became shochet in Switzerland, R' Mordchai Jarlicht, Jakob Grinboim, R' Mendil Szczewinski, and others.

There should be mentioned here Ezriel Yehudah Etinger the son of Moreh Horaa, the old teacher of religious subjects, M. Etinger. He was a Mitnaged, the opponent of the Hassidim. Even as an opponent he was a Ben Torah, a respected scholar of Torah, and maskil an educated person who practiced his religion.

The writer of these words was born in Gombin and lived there in early childhood. He left Gombin and moved to Lodz with his family when he was 14 years old. All of the aforementioned upright honorable Jews he remembers with great honor. 

 

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