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The Heritage Of The Dynasty Of Kozienice

by Yissokhor Lederman, Rio de Janeiro

Kozienice was not a great city, but the reputation of the Kozienicer Maggid, the Kozienicer rebbi'im, and Kozienicer hasidism extended throughout Poland. We Kozienicer, though scattered throughout the world, take pride in our heritage and sanctify it.

It is already [1969] thirty–five years since we began to immigrate to various countries on account of unemployment, hunger, want, the boycotts and antisemitism of the Poles, Grabski's taxes, and the faithlessness of the government and its Jew–politics. And, more than all of these, the last great Destruction.

Although we have been dispersed for so many years, the longing for our home .town, where we lived through all of life's joys and sorrows, still lies rooted deep in our hearts.

I consider it a sacred obligation to pass on the heritage of our Kozienice to future generations. This heritage is bound up with the holy Maggid of Kozienice, the rebbi'im of Kozienice, and Kozienice hasidism, which have all been treated by various writers, myself included. In my youth, I lived and experienced Kozienicer hasidism with all its legends and tales, and I wish to immortalize it all in our memorial book.

 

A World That Is No More The sanctity of the Maggid

There was once a town, a Jewish town with traditions of hasidism bearing witness to two hundred years of hasidism in Kozienice: the Maggid of Kozienice, the Maggid's street, the Maggid' s shul and bes–medresh, his mikve, the houses of the rebbi'im and the Maggid's shtibl, sanctified by Jews and Christians, in which for 150 years there stood his tester, table and chair,an ark with sefer torahs, a tin chandelier with candelabra, a small kerosene lamp and a candlestick, a small cabinet containing a pen, a staff , a shofar, a withered esrog, a pair of tefillin, a white cloak and a white yarmaluke, as well as a siddur and makhzor which the Kozienicer rebbi'im used twice a year––on Shavuos for Akdamus and the reading of the Torah, on the Days of Awe for Kol Nidre and Ne'ila.

The rebbi' im used to go into the shtibl for the reception of the Sabbath and for havdole. They played and sang Ha–Mavdil there. The shtibl was closed the rest of the week, save for such emergencies as difficult births or grave illness, when candles were lit and Psalms recited.

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The Cemetery of Kozienice

The cemetery, too, is sanctified. There stood the Maggid's tomb, in which six generations of tzaddikim were laid to rest: the Maggid, Reb Moishele, Reb Eliezer, Reb Yekhiel, Reb Yerakhmiel–Moishele, and Reb Asher–Elimelekh the last Kozienicer Rebbe, who is still remembered by everyone from Kozienice. He passed away two years before Hitler, may his name be blotted out, annihilated Poland, but his family was killed together with the rest of the Jewish community.

In the first room of the tomb, near the entrance, lay two rebbi'im of another dynasty, Rebbe Reb Zelig–Loser Shapiro, a son of the Blendower Rebbe, and Rebbe Reb Yissokhor, a son–in–law of Rebbe Moishele.

Around –the tomb lay the Maggid s students, great hasidim scholars rabbis, judges, and slaughterers from Kozienice and the neighbouring towns who had left wills directing that they be interred in the cemetery of Kozienice.

The rebbetzins lay to the side of the tomb. Their graves were surmounted by brick chests and tombstones, which were not permitted on the other graves. Only women of great piety and rebbi'ish line lay near them.

 

The Rebbetzin Perele

Legend has it that the Rebbetzin Perele, daughter of the Maggid, and the Rebbetzin Tzipoyrele, wife of Rebbe Moishele, belonged to that circle of holy women who gained renown for their piety and wonder–working. While still a child, Perele went along with her father to the Rebbe Reb Elimelekh of Lizensk. She wore tzitzis and dipped herself in the mikve every day before davening. She wrapped herself in a large tallis to daven, laid tefillin, and, while davening, wept bitterly for the Redemption to come for the community of Israel and for the Jews to be delivered from their exile.

She fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. She also wore a silken capote tied with a silken belt. The Maggid told his hasidim to pay attention to her, for she had a great soul.

There was also a legend circulating that the famous legal authority, Rav Yoysef Te'umim, author of Pri Meggadim, who wrote digests of sections of the Shulkhan Arukh––viz., the Qyrakh Khaim and the Yoyre Deah––besides other works, passed through Kozienice in the eighteenth century, fell ill, and died there. His grave was not far from the Maggid's tomb, but the stone sank into the earth, leaving no precise indication of the grave's location. The affair had, however, been noted down in the register of the Kozienice community, which was kept in the Maggid's shul.

Elderly Jews who still remembered the Rebbe Reb Moishele said that they had heard the story of the Pri Meggadim from their parents. A circle within which no one was allowed to be buried was made around the site of his grave. During the month of Elul, people used to light candles and leave kvitelekh on the grave.

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In discussing the cemetery, it is important to mention that it had no fence and was open on all sides, save for two hills on either side of the entrance. The other three sides were low–lying and open.

On one side there ran a river called the Hammer; a road to Radom with great forests around it ran along the second side; and on the third side were the houses of poor Christian workers and peasants. As the cemetery had no fence, the Christians used to pasture their animals on its grass; even pigs roamed there, often committing profanations. They would dig up new–made graves.

A question arises: Where was the congregation, where the rebbi'im? How could they have permitted such profanation of the Name and shaming of the dead? Yet there was an excuse in the form of a legend going back to the old days which was inscribed in the city register.

The cemetery was presented to the congregation in the days of the Maggid by a nobleman who was among his non–Jewish admirers. There was also, at that time, an old cemetery by the shul. Jewish law prohibits the fencing–off of an old cemetery from a new one, in order not to shame those lying in the old one. The legend has it that some years back the congregation wanted to put up a fence. It was put up during the day, but fell down at night. Guards were posted at night–they fell asleep, and when they woke up, the fence had fallen down. They ran away in fright. It was ruled that no more fences were to be made.

There was no fence up until the time of my departure from Kozienice. Landsmen have reported that a fence was put up on three sides in the last years before the war, but the fourth, towards the river, remained open. Whether this fence is still there–that I do not know.

 

The Maggid's Street

The Maggid's house was a low, wooden building roofed with shingles and enclosed by two high walled houses which were called the rebbi'ish houses of Rebbe Reb Shmelke. A few steps further stood the bes–medreshand the shul, which was called the Maggid's shul, for he had built it two hundred years earlier. From the outside, it looked like a fortress, high and stout–walled.

It is said that the Maggid went around collecting money for the shul, and that whoever gave him a donation was blessed with the life to come.

The house of Rebbe Reb Zelig Shapiro stood on the other side of the bes–medresh and shul. The same road led to the cemetery, and was called mica Magitowa, the Maggid's street.

On this street and the smaller streets around it lived all the clergy, rabbis, judges, scribes, beadles, as well as people plain and simple. The houses had all been Jewish for generations. On Shavuos and the Days of Awe the streets were filled with thousands of hasidim from all over Poland.

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The Fire

I remember the great fire which broke out when I was nine years old. Almost half the city burned, including the shul and bes–medresh, as well as the Maggid's kloyz. The walls of the shul remained unscathed. The shul and bes–medresh were later rebuilt. It is interesting that the houses around the Maggid's house, as well as the Maggid's house itself, remained unscathed by the fire.

A legend made the rounds that during the fire white doves flew like faithful guardians around the Maggid's and the neighbouring houses, driving off the fire with their wings. This legend convinced every believing Jew that something holy rested in the house where the Maggid sat day and night studying the concealed and revealed teachings.

 

The Legend of the General

My grandfather, Itche–Meyer Lederman, told me the following legend. At the time of Rebbe Reb Eliezer, there passed through Kozienice in the month of Elul an elderly Russian general of distinguished family and with many medals on his breast. He went straight to the house of the Maggid in his coach. At the threshold, he took off his shoes and hat, and put on a yarmulke which he had ready in his pocket. He entered the house respectfully, and with tears in his eyes he examined everything but dared touch nothing.

On his way out, he sighed and took out a bag of gold pieces which he gave to Reb Eliezer, the gabbai, saying in a broken Yiddish, ”Take this.”

Finally, he ordered that the money be used to fix the walls and roof, and to pave the entrance to the house.

It was told afterwards that the general was descended from Jews, from the Russian Cantonists.

 

Who Was The Maggid?

The Maggid of Kozienice, Reb Yisroel Hoffstein, was one of the greatest scholars and rebbi'im in the Poland of his day. He was a student of the Maggid of Mezritch, Rebbe Shmelke of Nickolsburg, and Rebbe Levi–Yitzkhok of Berdichev. He was one of the few ge'onim of his generation and it was he who disseminated hasidism in Poland. His name was intertwined and bound up with a large number of tales and legends.

He wrote many books, among them Tehillat Yisrael, Avodat Yisrael, Ner Yisrael, and Or Yisrael.

Just as Rebbe Levi–Yitzkhok of Berdichev did, so the Maggid chatted with God in Yiddish. On Yom Kippur he went forth as an intercessor for the Jews.

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The Maggid devoted a great deal of thought to the lot of the Jews. On the one hand, he realized that the Jews were the teachers of the nations; on the other, that the nations made the Jews to suffer. He cried out, “Master of the Universe, deliver the Jews from the goyim, and if you can't do that, deliver the goyim from the Jews” (Megillat Polin).

A great many tales and legends about the Maggid and his immense greatness and devotion to the people were current among the Jews as a whole.

He was small, weak, and thin from continual fasting. He was confined to his bed, and could barely stand up; nothing more than a bag of bones. Yet when he prayed or davened before the amud his tongue became flaming fire–

On Yom Kippur, he stood before the amud and davened the entire service. Tzaddikim said that he tore down heavens with his prayers.

He received his way of khasidus from the Maggid of Mezritch and Rebbe Elimelekh of Lizensk. The Maggid said that before he went to Mezritch, he had learned eight hundred books of kabbala.

He was sparing of speech in day–to–day affairs, but when it came to helping the Jews, he sacrificed himself completely.

 

Legends

Many tales are told of his longing for the Messiah, among them that of the three great Polish rebbi'im who locked themselves up in a room and made a solemn pact not to rest until they had brought the Messiah down by force. The three were the Lubliner, the Kozienicer, and Rebbe Mendel of Rimanov.

This happened on Sukkos, 1815. All three passed away that same year.

The Rebbe Reb Naphtali of Ropschitz, a student of Rebbe Mendel of Rimanov, once heard an oracular voice saying that he who did not see the Maggid of Kozienice would not be found worthy to see the fact of the Messiah. Hearing this, he put his sack on his shoulders, his stick in his hand, and ran breathlessly to Kozienice to look upon the Maggid, lest, God forbid, he tarry a minute and the Messiah come in the meantime.

Many legends and tales of the Maggid's longing for the Messiah are found in hasidic books.

Polish aristocratic circles also used to tell each other about the Maggid's wonders. The noblemen used to bow their heads respectfully before the Maggid and ask for his blessing and advice. He blessed these highly placed noblemen and princes on the condition that they show favour to the Jews, and they promised to do so.

When the Maggid built the shul and bes–medresh, the noblemen supplied all the wood and bricks for their construction.

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The nobleman Czartoryski of Pulaw was childless; he turned to the Maggid with a fervent request that he persuade heaven to give him a son, in return for which he would exempt his two Jewish leases from five years' rent on their inns. The Maggid raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Master of the Universe, you have so many goyim in the world, one more won't hurt.“

Within a year, the duke from Pulaw had become a father in his old age, and he kept the promise about his leases.

Another Polish Nobleman also came to the Kozienicer, this time through a Jewish lessee, and asked him to give his mute son the power of speech. The nobleman said that in return for this he would give his tenant the inn. He brought his son to the Maggid, who cried out, “Master of the Universe, there are so many goyim in the world who speak that another one won't hurt.” He then struck the mute shaygetz, who winced and suddenly cried out in Polish, “Father, the Jew is beating me.” From that time on, the mute boy regained his ability to speak, and, in fact, talked a blue streak.

 

Napoleon, You Will Surely Fall!

There are still other such tales and legends in circulation, recorded in the books of the hasidim.

It is told that on Purim the Maggid read the Megilla and shouted out, “Napoleon, you will surely fall!”

Napoleon himself came to the Maggid and asked him why he was opposed to him, when he (Napoleon) had so great a guardian angel who wanted to give him the rulership of the world.

The Maggid answered that the guardian of the world was greater than Napoleon's and wanted to save mankind from wicked men who shed innocent blood in order to conquer the world.

Napoleon left the Maggid's in a rage.

I heard this from Yisroel–Yankele Zeigermacher and Pinkhas the frum, the oldest table–companions of Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishele.

It is likely that the Polish defense minister, Josef Poniatowski, was one of the Maggid's Polish adherents, and thanks to this succeeded in annulling many decrees which the nobility imposed upon the Jewish population.

The Maggid of Kozienice, Reb Yisroel Hopstein, was the son of a simple bookbinder named Shabsi. He was born in 1737 and passed away in 1815.

There are legends concerning the place of his birth. Some have indicated that he was born in Apt and later came to Kozienice as a preacher, and then revealed himself. However, his descendants, the later rebbi'im, have attested that he was born in Kozienice and that even Reb Shabsi the bookbinder lies in the Kozienice cemetery, where a structure has been erected over his grave.

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His descendants base their claim upon a legend passed down in the book Shivkhei Ha–Besht. One pitch dark Saturday night, the Besht came into Kozienice and made straight for the home of Reb Shabsi. After a long conversation, the Besht revealed that because of Shabsi's great faith in God, he would finally have a son who would illuminate the world and spread hasidism in Poland. The Besht stipulated that when the child was born, he was to be its godfather and hold it at the bris.

When the child was born, it was named Yisroel.

By virtue of this legend, the Maggid's descendants had no doubt that he had been born in Kozienice and gone out into the world as a child to study. When he returned to Kozienice, he was already a giant in Torah, and was crowned with the title of Kozienicer Maggid.

 

The Story of the Khidushei Ha–Rim

It is an honour for us Kozienicers to record in our memorial book that the first Gerer Rebbe, the Khidushei Ha–Rim, Rav Yitzkhok–Meir Alter, grew up and was educated in Kozienice. His father was rav of the town Magniszow in the district of Kozienice, eight versts from Kozienice itself.

Hasidim tell that when his mother became pregnant with him, she went to the Maggid on foot to ask for a blessing that her son be a pious man and a scholar. The Maggid promised her that her son would adorn the world with Torah and righteousness, and would not remain a mere Kozienicer hasid, but would himself become a rebbe of hasidim.

Yitzkhok–Meir's mother died when he was three years old. Before her death she left a will stipulating that her child be given to the Maggid to be brought up. His father then went to Ger, remarried, and became the town's rav.

The boy grew up in the house of the Maggid, and the Maggid himself learned with him every day. He prophesied that the child would grow up to be an outstanding figure. Yitzkhok–Meir's sharpness of mind, proficiency in learning, and good qualities of character aroused love in the Kozienicer environment.

After the Maggid's death, the Khidushei Ha–Rim became a hasid of his son, Reb Moishele, who had taken over his father's position, and he was married at Reb Moishele's in Warsaw.

The young Yitzkhok–Meir Alter was renowned for his learning and acuity, and he was known as the ilui, or prodigy, of Warsaw and Kozienice. He demonstrated his genius in the writing of responsa, as well as in pilpul, and people from many lands turned to him with difficult halakhic questions–even the misnagdim proclaimed him a genius. He was crowned the premiere rebbe of Poland with the title Khidushei Ha–Rim, The Novellae of Rav Yitzkhok–Meir, after one of his books.

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Kozienice Before World War I

Until the first World War, our town was supported by the merit of the holy Maggid and the six generations of rebbi'im who spun the holy chain of hasidism. Three times a year, thousands of hasidim from all over Poland would come to Kozienice: Shavuos, the Days of Awe, and the twelfth of Elul, for the yorzeit of the Maggid's son, Reb Moishele. At such times Kozienice was transformed into a giant hotel for the Jews who had come to the Maggid's grave to plead for a good year for themselves and for all Israel. This was the major source of livelihood for many Jews in Kozienice.

 

Three Courts

It must also be noted that before World War I there were three rebbi'im in our town: the previously mentioned Reb Yerakhmiel–Moishele Hopstein, a descendant of the Maggid who had thousands of hasidim throughout Poland; Rav Zelig–Eliezer Shapiro, son of Rav Yaakov Blendower and author of Kehillat Yaakov, a commentary on the Torah. He considered himself one of the elders of the Polish rebbi'im, and was renowned in the hasidic world for his healing powers and amulets. Wealthy hasidim, scholars from Warsaw and other towns, used to come to him.

The third rebbe was Reb Shmelke Rokeach, a Galician from the Belzer dynasty and a son–in–law of a descendant of the Maggid. He was called the women's rebbe because he had no hasidim. Simple Jews, craftsmen, shoemakers, tailors, butchers, and peddlers came to this table. They were called Reb Shmelke's would–be hasidim.

In Elul, people from all Poland came to Kozienice to pray for a good year. All three courts were filled with hasidim and women, all of them running from one rebbe to the next with kvitelekh. Many rebbi'im, hasidim, and rabbis from nearby villages used to come for the Maggid's yorzeit on erev Sukkos, some of them staying for the holiday.

 

The Rebbe's Daughters

The rebbe's daughters, who furthered the progress of culture in our town, must also be mentioned and commemorated.

The Rebbe Reb Yerakhmiel–Moishele had four daughters, famed for their beauty, wisdom and intelligence. They took secret lessons in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Russian from the educated soldiers serving in the Smolensker regiment in our town. They also had connections with the “enlightened” students in the bes–medresh and helped found the town's first clandestine library in 1905 in the home of the town maskil (follower of the Enlightenment) Yitzkhok Krishpel, who ran a food shop near the rebbe's house.

Every night, with the shutters of the maskil's single, cramped room drawn shut, we–bes–medresh students, a few craftsmen, and the rebbe's daughters–would read Peretz and Mapu, study Nakhman Krochmal and A.H. Weiss and discuss such matters as socialism and Zionism which had a bearing on Jewish life in that turbulent epoch.

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Of course, there was no lack of indignities and outrages from the side of the Jewish clergy, but the more our work expanded, the more readers and listeners it attracted among hasidic circles and young artisans.

All the daughters married in accordance with their station, but only one, Khavele, the middle daughter, became a rebbetzin. Her husband was the Piaseczener rav. The other three and their husbands went to Israel after World War I and led the lives of pioneers. A few months before the outbreak of World War II, the eldest daughter, Khanele, returned to Poland to visit her family and was unable to get out. She shared the fate of Polish Jewry.

 

The Last Kozienicer Rebbe

The last Kozienicer Rebbe, the sixth generation from the Maggid, was Reb Aharon–Yekhiel, a son of Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishele Hopstein. On becoming rebbe, he initiated a new path of khasidus: he drove the old adherents from his table, gave no respect to wealthy and learned hasidim, took no kvitelekh or pidyoynes from women, and surrounded himself with common people, tailors, cobblers, porters, wagon–drivers, market–traders, and messengers. He devoted himself chiefly to the young, and carried on his tables with them. He left the court's headquarters in Kozienice and divorced his wife, with whom he had no children.

For a time he was a partner in a linen warehouse in Lodz, but the business went bankrupt after a short time because the customers were poor shopkeepers who did not pay.

After this, he went to Warsaw, travelling through different towns and carrying on in his new path. From time to time, he came to Kozienice, and each time he did so he threw the town into turmoil. Fistfights almost broke out between his hasidim and those of his brother Elimelekh, who died two years before Hitler annihilated Poland.

I cite the Yiddish writer S.L. Schneiderman, who describes the Kozienicer Rebbe, Reb Arele, as follows: The Kozienicer has taken as his constituents wagon–drivers, porters, and the merchants of the Warsaw markets, who see to it that his table lacks neither carp nor fat geese.

The wagon–drivers take the rebbe for long drives in their coaches, for which he blesses their horses with long life and usability.

The Kozienicer Rebbe is a descendant of the holy Maggid, Reb Yisroel Hopstein, who foresaw the fall of Napoleon, as well as the great world war after which the Messiah had to come: (Literarishe Bleter, Warsaw, 1934).

In the memorial book of Korev, a hasid writes thus of Rebbe Aharon Hopstein: There was a Kozienicer shtibl in Korev in which common folk, for the most part, prayed. They did not go to Rebbe Aharon, but he came to them.

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The rebbe was a good fiddler, and would not move without a fiddle. He davened minkha late at night, and mayriv just before daybreak. He distanced himself from scholars and the pious, while befriending violators of the Sabbath and plain Jews who scarcely knew how to daven. These sat at his table; with these did he go walking; and it was these whom he returned to the proper path.

“Seventy of his hasidim were registered in the town, the majority of them artisans. The Kozienicer shtibl was at Hersch YosseFs on the hill. The rebbe called him “colonel”, and Abba the gabbai, Shashi's son, he called “adjutant”. When the rebbe came to town, everything went topsy–turvy.”

Reb Arele was in Zelechow at the outbreak of World War II, and he shared the fate of all Jews. His death made a great impression in Poland. His death and funeral are described in the Zelechow memorial book: “The Kozienicer Rebbe had been sent from Warsaw to Zelechow by his hasidim. At the time, many Jews believed that Zelechow would be saved, because the cruelties of the Germans there had been small in comparison with other towns.”

“The Kozienicer Rebbe brought a certain hominess to the town. Crowds came to his table, which he observed after his own fashion. Although travel–passes were hard to come by, many hasidim yet came to the rebbe.”

“On erev Rosh Ha–Shana, 1941, the rebbe became ill with typhus. He asked that everybody daven at his place. They did so both days of Rosh Ha–Shana, and recited Psalms in his house.”

“His condition worsened all the time. He would lose consciousness frequently. His hasidim in Warsaw were notified at once, and even though the Warsaw Ghetto was then closed, they did everything they could to get to him, and brought two eminent doctors. Every possible remedy was applied, but to no avail: the rebbe passed away.”

“They began to consider where the rebbe should be buried. Some thought that he should be taken to Kozienice where his ancestors were buried, but the householders of Zelechow protested and demanded that he not be given up. A rabbinical court was convened, and it was decided that the rebbe be buried in Zelechow.”

“Almost all the Jews then living in Zelechow took part in the funeral.”

*****

Thus ends the chapter–two hundred years of the Maggid and his dynasty, six generations of rebbi–im.

The last branches of the dynasty are in Israel and America. Reb Yisroel–Eliezer Hopstein, the youngest son of Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe, has established his court in Brooklyn, New York.


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The Rebbetzin Perele Davens in a Talus

by Menashe Unger

In the history of hasidism, there have been women who were canonized, as it were, by hasidim. The first of these was the Baal Shem Tov's daughter, Hodel. Various courts had rebbetzins who accepted kvitelekh and functioned as rebbi'im. The Maid of Ludomir is famed in hasidic history: she was, for all intents and purposes, a rebbe with hasidim and gabbaim.

The rebbetzin Perele, eldest daughter of the Kozienicer Maggid, was well–known in Poland. She was married to the pious and eminent rabbi Aviezer–Zelig Shapiro, the ray of Grajec, who is quoted by the Maggid of Kozienice in his book Beit Yisrael, in which the Maggid describes him as “my son–in–law, our teacher Aviezer–Zelig, head of the rabbinical court of the holy congregation of Grajec”. The Maggid's son, Reb Moishe–Elyakim, likewise quotes him in his book Da'at Moshe, in which he writes, “These are the words of my brother–in–law the rabbi, my teacher, Aviezer–Zelig Shapiro, may his light shine on”.

 

Hasidim Gave Her Kvitelekh

It is Perele, however, and not her husband who has been commemorated in hasidic history. She was famed for her learning, and behaved like a man, davening in a tallis, a gartel wound about her dress, and fasting every Monday and Thursday.

The Maggid held her in great esteem, and he used to send hasidim to her with kvitelekh so that she could pray for them. Hasidim referred to her as they would to a tzaddik, and used to come to her with pidyoynes, asking her to pray for them.

She had many children, but they died young. Only one survived, Khaim–Meir–Yekhiel, known in the hasidic world as the Seraph of Mogielnica.

The Maggid, renowned as a wonder–worker himself, took his daughter with him to rebbi'im to be blessed with children who would live.

 

Moishele had the Soul of Moses

Hasidim say that before she gave birth to the Seraph, Perele had another child, Moishele. This Moishele was a prodigy, a wunderkind, but lived only seven years.

On the Sabbath of parshas khukas little Moishele was sitting at his grandfather's table at the shaleshides. The Maggid was giving toyre, and he mentioned the waters of Meribah on account of which Moses smote the stone, which episode was found in that week's Torah portion.

The seven year old Moishele stood up and said, “Zeide, I can solve the question of why Moses smote the stone.” He then began to give toyre, and the Maggid took great pleasure in his grandson's words.

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Three days later, on Tuesday morning, little Moishele spent a long time over the silent shmone–esrei. When he had finished, his grandfather asked him why he had taken so long. Hasidim say that the child whispered into the Maggid's ear that while he was davening, he heard an oracular voice proclaiming that he was going to die; he then began to weep before his grandfather to be allowed to live.

 

Moishele Passes Away

As soon as Moishele got home from the bes–medresh, he complained to his mother of a headache. He was put straight to bed– He developed a fever. A doctor was sent for, but he said he could find no cause for the illness, and the child died two days later.

After Moishele's death, the Maggid said that his grandson had the soul of Moses, and had come down to the world solely to solve the question asked about Moses: Why had he smitten the stone? This answered, Moishele needed redress nothing more in the world, so he passed on.

In speaking of Moishele, his brother, the Seraph, used always to call him, “My dear brother, Moishe rabbenu” (Moses our teacher).

Hasidim have said further that since the Rebbe Reb Elimelekh of Lizensk, author of No'am Elimelekh, had blessed Perele with a child–Moishele–the child would be able to live only so long as Rebbe Elimelekh did, and that when the No'am Elimelekh passed away in 1805, the child, too, died shortly thereafter.

 

The Maggid's Advice

The story continues that Perele wept bitterly after the death of her son. The Maggid came to her and said, “My daughter, if you seen the great joy in heaven when your son went in, you wouldn't cry!”

Perele had no wish to be consoled, and she told her father that her only consolation would be his promise that she have a child who would live.

“Know, my daughter,” said the Maggid, “that you have great thoughts, and that at the time of your coupling you bring down exalted souls which cannot endure our world. You must put on a silk dress in the latest style so that people will talk about you in town and say that you are impudent and dissolute. Then you will be able to bring a less exalted soul down, and it will be able to stay alive.”

Perele did so, and afterward gave birth to her son Khaim–Meir–Yekhiel, the Seraph.

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The Seraph himself used to tell this story. His mother had a silk dress with twelve silver buttons made, according to the style of the day, “and then she gave birth to me…She had brought down an impudent soul. So am I not impudent then, when I stand myself up to pray for Jews? Isn't this really khutspe?”

The rebbetzin Perele mourned her son Moishele a long while.

 

Mama, Don't Cry!

Hasidim say that a day before she gave birth to the Seraph, Perele dreamt that she was led into a great palace in which her son Moishele sat at the head of a table of elderly Jews with beards and payes. At her entrance, Moishele stood up, and the old Jews after him. She wanted to go up to him and give him a kiss, but he said, “Mama, I beg you. Do not approach me and do not touch me.”

She began to lament that she had not merited to bring him up on earth. He said, “Mama, don't cry! I promise you that tomorrow you will give birth to a son whom you will raise and who will be long–lived and illuminate all the worlds with his righteousness!”

She gave birth to the Seraph on the next day.

All the rebbi'im of her day used to say that Perele had the spiritual level of a rebbe. Her son, the Seraph, said, “My mother is a woman of exalted spiritual level who has merited a revelation of the souls of the righteous in Eden.”

 

It Is Told By Hasidim

The hasidim say that one morning during the shakhris service, Perele, wrapped in her tallis and ringed with her gartel, asked the hasidim if that day were the yorzeit of such–and–such a rebbe.

They investigated the matter and discovered that Perele was right, it was indeed that rebbe's yorzeit. “Do you know how I knew it?” she said. “Today while davening I saw the rebbe, so I understood that it was his yorzeit.”

She often used to go to pray at the graves of tzaddikim. Once she was going to Lizensk to pray at the grave of Rebbe Elimelekh. On the way, she stopped at the home of the Ma'or Va–Shemesh in Neustadt. He dissuaded her from continuing her journey, but the next day he told her that he had seen Rebbe Elimelekh in a dream, and that the rebbe had reproached him for not letting Perele journey to his grave. The Ma'or Va–Shemesh therefore asked her to go to Lizensk quickly, and he himself endeavoured to get her a horse and wagon.

Hasidim say that her son, the Seraph, was brought up by his grandfather, the Maggid, who once said to Perele, “You should know, Perele, that your son will be greater and better than I.”

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“If he were only like you–that's all I ask.”

“No, I tell you that he will be greater and better than I,” reiterated the Maggid.

The Maggid died in 1815, and his daughter thought that her husband would assume his position, but it went instead to her brother, Reb Moishe–Elyakim.

 

I Am Crying for the Sake of Mitzves

Perele's son, the Seraph, thought very highly of his mother. It is said that when she became sick and was about to die, the Seraph found her crying, and said to her, “Of course you know what the Gemore says: ’If one dies with laughter, it is a good sign; with tears, a bad one.’ So why are you crying?”

“My son,” she replied, “You must certainly recall that the Gemore says (Kesubos, 103) that when Rabi was sick, Rav Khiya came in and found him weeping. He asked him, ‘Why are you crying, Master?’”

“Rabi replied that he was crying for the sake of Torah and mitzves.”

Speaking thus, she died. It was the winter of 1849.

The Seraph delivered a eulogy at her funeral and wept greatly.

 

The Hasidim Try Out Reb Moishe of Kozienice

The Rebbe Reb Moishe–Elyakim Beriah was the Maggid's second son, and was born about 1757 and died on the twelfth of Elul, 1828. The name Beriah is unusual among Jews, but it is found in the Torah (Gen. 46:17) as the name of one of the sons of Asher.

 

Moishe–Elyakim was Beloved by the Maggid

The Maggid's elder son, Mottel, passed away during the Maggid's lifetime, and so his second son, Moishe–Elyakim was particularly dear to him. The Maggid took the boy into his bed every night so they could sleep together, and he used his cap to cover the sleeping child's head.

Reb Moishe fell ill in his youth, and the doctors gave up on him. Hasidim say that he was rescued by the prayers of Rebbe Levi–Yitzkhok of Berdichev.

This is the story: The Maggid was very worried because his only son was so dangerously ill, but when he stood up to pray, he wanted to forget about the child, in order to be able to pray with devotion. “It is written,” he said, “‘And she cast the child under one of the bushes [sikhim]’ (Gen. 21:15). One can interpret the si'akh [singular of sikhim, bushes] as having to do with prayer [si'akh can also mean talk or conversation], what is, that it is worthwhile to abandon the child for the sake of one word of davening.”

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The Berdichever, who was a close friend of the Maggid's, sensed his feelings on this matter. He went straight to the mikve, saying that he had thus prevailed over the Maggid. The Maggid's child would not distract him from his prayers, for he, Rebbe Levi–Yitzkhok, would pray for the boy. This is the fashion in which the child was saved.

 

Reb Moishe in Onipol

When Reb Moishe–Elyakim had grown up a bit, he married the daughter of the kabbalist Yehuda–Leib Ha–Cohen of Onipol, the author of Or Ha–Ganuz and a student of the great Maggid of Mezritch. He was among the best–known tzaddikim of his generation, and is mentioned in many books. In the laudatory introduction to Or Ha–Ganuz Rebbe Mottele of Czernobyl writes that his father, Rebbe Nakhum of Czernobyl, was a close friend of Rav Yehuda–Leib Ha–Cohen, and that when they used to meet “righteousness and peace kissed each other.”

After the wedding, Reb Moishe–Elyakim boarded with his father–in–law in Onipol. At the time, the Rebbe Reb Zishe, a friend of the Kozienicer Maggid's, was living there, and the Maggid asked him to watch over his son and guide him in khasidus.

Reb Moishe–Elyakim had always been gaunt and emaciated. The Rebbe Reb Zishe used to say, “Moishele! Stick a feather on you and your weight goes up. What will I tell your father?”

Reb Moishe learned his way of khasidus from Reb Zishe, and he includes what he heard from Reb Zishe in his books.

After Reb Moishe had completed the boarding period of his father–in–law's, his father, the Maggid, came to Onipol to fetch him and to thank Rebbe Reb Zishe for his guidance. As they were saying good–bye, Reb Zishe asked the Maggid, “What will you say about your son? He is on a higher rung than he was when he came here to board.” The Maggid agreed that his son was on a higher level than he had been before.

A misfortune befell Rebbe Moishe–Elyakim when his young rebbetzin died, leaving him with a son named Yissokhor. Reb Moishe remarried a while later. His wife was the daughter of Rebbe Elazar of Lizensk, who was a son of the Rebbe Reb Elimelekh. Rebbe Moishe makes frequent mention of both of them in his books.

 

How Reb Moishe Became Rebbe

Reb Moishe studied with his father, the Maggid. He was very modest, and none of the hasidim knew of his greatness. When the Maggid passed away on erev Sukkos, 1814, the hasidim wanted to elect his son–in–law, Rav Zelig–Aviezer of Grajec, as rebbe, and make Reb Moishe, who had a fine voice, khazan, and put him in charge of the bathhouse. There were also hasidim who held that after the death of the Maggid they would begin to go to the Seer of Lublin.

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When these important hasidim arrived in Lublin, they found the Seer lying in bed. He was sick after “the great fall” on Simkhas–Toyre of 1814. When the hasidim came in to greet him, the Seer quoted to them from his sick–bed, “And when the ark set out, Moses said”.

The hasidim understood that the Seer meant that after the ark–the Maggid–had “set out”, the time had come for Moses to say toy re, to be the leader.

When his sister, Perele, came with her husband, Rav Zelig–Aviezer, to Kozienice, she went into the room where her brother Moishe was sitting, and said, “I see my father sitting at his side, as if he were alive. This is a sign that he should be our father's heir.”

The hasidim, however, were still not agreed that Reb Moishe should become rebbe, so they gathered together a group of aged hasidim, who were to find out whether Moishe was worthy to be their leader.

As soon as the hasidim came in to him, Reb Moishe got up from his chair and said, “It is written: ‘For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he knows from afar’ (Psalm 138:6). This means that the Lord is very high, and whoever considers himself lowly and seeks no raising up–him will God regard; but ‘haughty’, whoever thinks he's big and seeks raising up–to him God says, ‘he knows from afar,’ I will regard him only from a distance.”

When he had finished, he reached out his hand to welcome the hasidim and asked them, “Did you hear what I said?”

“Yes, we heard,” they replied, “and we are your hasidim.” And Reb Moishe became the rebbe of the Kozienicer hasidim.

 

His Path of Hasidism

The greatest men of the time, among them the Khidushei Ha–Rim who had spent seventeen years with the Maggid and was a member of his household, began to come to Rebbe Moishe.

Rebbe Moishe's path of hasidism was that of the perfection of humility. He himself was a very humble man.

Hasidim say that one of his hasidim was once engaged to the daughter of the scholar, Rav Shmuel Landau, a son of the Noyda Bi–Yehuda. Many rabbis and giants of Torah, misnagdim among them, were invited to the wedding, as well as Rebbe Moishe. Several of the rabbis agreed to ask Rebbe Moishe a difficult Rambam, in order to shame him when he proved unable to solve the problem.

When the rabbis had reached Rebbe Moishe's place and put the difficult Rambam to him, the Khidushei Ha–Rim suddenly appeared near them and said, “You come to the rebbe with such a little question? I, who am the least of his hasidim, can answer such an easy question,” and he proceeded to do so.

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The hasidim also tell that Rebbe Moishe was once giving toyre full of kabbala and gematria. He afterwards asked one of the hasidim to work out the gematrias to see if they were right. It turned out ninety short. Now, the letter tzaddik has a numerical value of ninety, and the Khidushei Ha–Rim said, “There's a tzaddik missing. If we include the rebbe, there'll be a tzaddik.”

The rebbe was very pleased with the Rim's statement, and he kissed him on the forehead and cried out, “You have delighted me!”

Nevertheless, the young genius Itche–Meir left Kozienice. “I don't need a rebbe who pets me and kisses me; I need a rebbe who will porge my veins” [i.e., make him kosher], he said. He was punished for this: thirteen of his children died because he abandoned Rebbe Moishe, but the Khidushei Ha–Rim would not stray from Rebbe Moishe's way. When Be'er Moshe was published in 1858, thirty years after Rebbe Moishe's death, the Rim never took the book from his table, and he consulted it constantly.

 

Rebbe Moishe Preached Humility

Rebbe Moishe used various means to express the quality of humility. He interpreted the verse, “and his mother made for him a little robe” (1 Sam., 2:19), as meaning that his mother made him a garment of the quality of humility, so that he would not have a high opinion of himself. Rebbe Moishe credits this insight to his father (Be'er Moshe, p.58).

He likewise brings forth an interpretation of Numbers 19:2: “in which there is no blemish, and upon which a yoke has never come,” credited to his father. He who considers himself a person of importance and thinks that he has no faults and is completely holy and pure, gives a sign that he has not yet attained the level of taking the yoke of the kingdom of heaven upon himself.

Rebbe Moishe–Elyakim Beriah also inherited his father's great love for the land of Israel.

The Kozienicer Rebbe Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe became rebbe at the age of twenty–six. At the beginning, he did not want the position, but his grandfather, Rebbe Elimelekh of Grodzisk, influenced him to accept it.

 

Rabbi Yerakhmiel–Moishe Travels to Czortkow

Even after he had become rebbe, Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe was in the habit of going to other rebbi'im.

When he went to Rebbe Dovid–Moishe of Czortkow for the first time, he did not go to the mikve. He said that a mikve served to cover things, and that when one came to such a tzaddik as the Czortkower Rebbe, one should not disguise himself; and when one had shaken hands with the tzaddik, he naturally could not go to the mikve afterwards.

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The Czortkower wanted to find out what sort of a man the Kozienicer was, so he asked him who his friends were. The Kozienicer replied that he was particularly friendly with the children of Rebbe Nossen–Dovid of Szidlowca, the rebbi'im Yaakov–Yitzkhok of Biala, and his brother Pinkhas of Konsk, and also with Rebbe Simkhe–Yair of Bialobzeg, a grandson of the Yid of Pshiskhe.

“A fine circle of friends,“ said the Czortkower Rebbe.

 

Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe Guarded Against a Lie

The rebbe guarded himself against lying. When writing a letter, he would but sign it, leaving his title to be added by the gabbai lest he give himself a title he did not really hold.

For the same reason, he never wanted to eat with silver–covered utensils if he was not certain that they were really pure silver. If they were made of some metal that merely shone like silver, he would be deceiving people.

He was not in the habit of saying toyre at his table. Instead, he told stories of his ancestors in the Kozienicer line, of his step–grandfather, Rebbe Aharon of Stolin, and of Rebbe Asherl of Stolin, his step–father.

One of his hasidim and his children*s melamed, Reb Elazar Dov ben Reb Aharon, recorded the rebbe's stories, publishing them in \9\f– in a book called Safran Shel Tzaddikim (Librarian of Tzaddikim).

Although the rebbe did not give toyre at his table, he did give brief and acute toyre at home.

 

He Hated Scoffing

Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe hated scoffing, and he used to say that, “A scoffer will never return in repentance, for even if he does repent, the penance itself is a type of scoffing.”

The rebbe was always happy, and he brooked no gloom. Thus he interpreted the verse, “I shall not die, but live” (Psalm 118:17): When I am living, let me not be a dead man.

 

The Rebbe Plays the Song of Elijah the Prophet

The rebbe knew how to play the fiddle and the flute. The flute had been present from his step–grandfather, Rebbe Aharon of Stolin.

Every Saturday night after havdole, he would go into the Maggid's chamber with a crowd of hasidim and play the song of Elijah the prophet for them. When he came to the words, “As it is written, Behold I send you the prophet Elijah before the advent of the great and terrible day,” he would put down the fiddle and begin to play the flute.

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The melody was known as The Melody of Elijah the Prophet. The rebbe had it from Rebbe Aharon of Stolin.

 

The Rebbe Befriended Hasidim

The rebbe befriended every Jew, and even hasidim who had already been infected by the Enlightenment movement.

He also followed the path of Stoliner hasidism which held that the most important thing was not to fall into sadness.

Once, a hasid came to him and revealed that he had committed a transgression and was very worried and unable to repent. The rebbe said to him, “When a man has committed a transgression and then feels remorse, he must see that he does not fall into sadness, for sadness does not let one repent.”

He believed that one should love every Jew. By “All Israel are arevim for one another” is meant not that they are responsible [arevim] for one another, but–arevim coming from orvah la–Ha–Shem [sweet unto the Lord]–that they are sweet. That is, each Jew makes his fellow sweet.

 

A Man's Got To Do What A Man's Got To Do

The rebbe often used to make use of sayings he had heard from his step–grandfather, the Stoliner Rebbe. Rabbi A.Y. Bromberg mentions in his book Beit Kozienice (p. 160), that the elderly hasid, Reb Avner, told him that he (i.e., Avner) once went to ask the rebbe's advice.

The rebbe said, “I will tell you a story about my step–grandfather, the Beit Aharon. A hasid once came to him and asked him to draw up an agenda of how he should conduct himself every day.”

“The rebbe asked him, ‘Is every day the same, then? There are days when you have to eat, and days when you have to fast. But you want to behave according to one rule: A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and what he ain't gotta do–he better not.’”

Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe indicated the Beit Aharon's meaning: What you have to do–what the Torah commands; what you must not do–a matter of volition–that you cannot do.

 

His Love for the Jews

The Kozienicer Rebbe also told of his step–grandfather's love for the people of Israel. When his step–grandfather recited the Shema and came to the verse, “And the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, and there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit,” he would divide the words thus: “And the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, and there will be no … It will yield its fruit,” so that nothing but blessings came out.

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Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe inherited this quality of his step–grandfather's. He used to say, “If one of my hasidim is sick, it is as if my own child were ill. The difference is one of distance only: the child is at home, and the hasid somewhere far away.”

The Kozienicer Rebbe also worried about the prosperity of his hasidim. According to him, the saying of the sages that, “This is the way of the Torah: you will eat your bread with salt, drink a little water, sleep on the ground, and live a life of sorrow,: applied only until one has come to the Torah. Thus it is until one does so; but if one fulfils the Torah, he should lead a life of prosperity.”

The rebbe used to say, “There are two verses in the Psalms which appear to contradict each other, but which are in truth bound up together. It is written: ‘I keep the Lord always before me’ (Psalm 16:8). One thing depends upon the other: when a Jew keeps the Lord always before his eyes, he then has some redress from the fact that he sees sin always before his eyes, and he will not commit the sin.”

 

His Mother Sarah–Dvoire

The rebbe accorded his mother, Sarah–Dvoire, great respect. She came to live in Kozienice after she left Stolin in 1884.

The rebbe's wife, Brokhe, always used to wait meals for her, and whenever the rebbe heard his mother's footsteps, he stood up from his chair and waited until she had come in. Even if he were sitting among a group of hasidim, he would show his mother this respect.

On Friday nights after his table, the rebbe would go into the women's room where his mother and his wife and children would be sitting. He would sit down with his mother at the head of the table and distribute fruit to everybody.

The old rebbetzin would tell stories of tzaddikim, and the rebbe would listen like any other hasid.

Every Friday, the rebbe would go in to his mother, kiss her hand, and say, “Gut Shabbes”. Afterwards, he would go into the Maggid's room with dainty steps, approach the Maggid's chair, say something softly, and walk out backwards, bowing as if he were leaving a king's chamber, and saying, “Gut Shabbes” at the door.

 

His Love for the Land of Israel

The rebbe had a great longing for the land of Israel. There was always an Eretz–Yisrael pushke on his table, and any hasid coming to give the rebbe a pidyen had also to throw a coin into the pushke. If he neglected to do so, the rebbe would put the pidyen into it.

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The rebbe used to make kiddush on Israeli wine, and bentsh with an Israeli esrog. Everything which came from the land of Israel was holy to him.

He once received a letter from Israel. The envelope fell to the floor, and the rebbe ordered that it be picked up, saying, “It's from Eretz–Yisrael, you know.”

When he became sick, his hasidim wanted him to go to a doctor in Germany, but the rebbe would not hear of it. He said, “Germany is an impure country, the air there is impure.”

When his sister, the Parczewer rebbetzin, went to Germany for medical treatment, he did not want to visit her. He said, “I will not cross the borders of that impure land.”

 

The Rebbe's Death

At the end of the summer of 1909 the rebbe went to Krinic, Galicia, for treatment, but it did him no good. He then went to a hasid of his grandfather's in Kszanow, but he did not succeed in returning home, and passed away on the thirteenth of Elul.

Hasidim say that before his death he said, “I am God's and God is mine.”

Hasidim had difficulty in obtaining a permit from the Austro–Hungarian government to take the body back to Poland. Permission was finally granted, and the coffin was brought in a sealed car to the railway station in Garbatka. Thousands of hasidim awaited it. They carried the coffin the fifteen kilometres to Kozienice and interred the rebbe in the Maggid's tomb.

Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe was survived by three sons and four daughters.

 

The Kozienicer Rebbe in the Warsaw Ghetto

Rebbe Aharon–Yekhiel Hoffstein, who lived in Otwock in the last years before World War II, followed a unique path of hasidism. He was affectionately called by the pet name, Reb Arele.

 

Reb Arele Settles in Otwock

At first, Reb Arele lived in Kozienice, where he ran his court in regal fashion. Suddenly, he changed his mode of being: he left the town and began wandering from place to place; he no longer befriended respected citizens, but the masses instead. He began to befriend simple people, and he finally settled in Otwock, where he conducted this court.

Reb Arele was born in 1889, and named for his grandfathers, Rebbe Aharon of Karlin and Rebbe Yekhiel–Yaakov of Kozienice. He was a son of Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe of Kozienice.

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A few months after Reb Arele's birth, Rebbe Elimelekh of Grodzisk passed away, and Arele's father became rebbe in Kozienice. The old hasidic town of Kozienice was resurrected by the hundreds of hasidim who used to come to the rebbe on Shabbes and yontif.

After the death of Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe, there was a split among the hasidim of Kozienice, some of them taking Reb Arele as their rebbe, and some Reb Kalonymus Kalman of Piaseczna, Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe's son–in–law.

After a few years, Rebbe Aharon–Yekhiel began to go his own way. He drove away the old hasidim, the scholars, the good Jews and wealthy men, and began to befriend simple people, artisans and labourers. He left Kozienice and settled in Lodz, then Warsaw, and finally in Otwock, where he established a court.

 

Reb Arele Befriends the Vulgar

The Kozienicer Rebbe's court was a place of refuge for the poor and sick. Every pauper knew that he could find a hot meal and a warm bed at the Kozienicer's.

I remember being at the rebbe's in Otwock in the early thirties along with Menakhem Kipnis of the Haynt, with whom I had gone to Otwock to collect hasidic melodies. We went in to the rebbe. It was Purim, and the bes–medresh was packed with porters from Warsaw and a large number of paupers. The rebbe sat at his table and ordered a hasid, a simple Jew, to sing Shoshanas Ya'akov. The crowd backed him up, the rebbe threw Yiddish sayings into the song, and a merry time was had by all.

Many Kozienicer hasidim could not abide the rebbe's strange path and began to go to other rebbi'im.

Reb Arele divorced his wife, and remained a childless divorce.

Hasidim told of Reb Arele's bizarre miracles, and of how he used his path to attract the vulgar and make them repent.

 

In Warsaw

When Reb Arele had been rebbe for thirty years, the Nazis marched into Poland, and he went from Otwock to Warsaw.

When it was already dangerous to go outside, the rebbe used to run about the streets of Warsaw under a hail of bullets looking for food for poor 3ews. He did not want for money, for rich Jews gave him as much as he needed.

As the book Eleh Ezkera (vol.3, p.81) mentions, the rebbe used to go hungry, but he worried that the Jews should have a bit to eat.

When our curses began, the rebbe changed his way completely. He sat learning in the bes–medresh day and night.

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Once, while sitting over his open gemore, he said, “I don't want any more.” At that moment, his soul left him. This was the day before erev Yom Kippur, 1943, after the Nazis had already begun their slaughter of the Jews of Warsaw.

His devoted hasidim, who did not leave him for a minute, hurried to bury him in sanctified ground. He was buried clandestinely in the middle of the night in the Warsaw Jewish cemetery.

 

Where Did the Kozienicer Rebbe, Reb Arele, Die?

To the Editor of Unser Vort:

In Unser Vort of September 5, I read an article by a certain Dr. Orenstein concerning the death of the Kozienicer Rebbe, Reb Arele. He writes that he died in Otwock.

He also writes that a certain Moishe Borochovitch of New York states in the Zelechow memorial book that the rebbe passed away in Zelechow; but he does not mention Reb Arele's name.

He writes also that there was another Kozienicer Rebbe called Kalonymus Kalman, and that Reb Arele would have died in Otwock, and the other in Zelechow.

As one who both knew Reb Arele well and lived in Zelechow after the twenties, I confirm the statement of Moishe Borochovitch.

I saw Reb Arele when he was ill, and I was at his funeral. He lived in the same house as the Zelechower rav. He died there, and was taken from there to the cemetery. It is true that he had a white beard, and that almost the whole town attended his funeral. If possible, send my testimony to Dr. Orenstein, in order to release him from his error.

It is possible that there was a Kalonymus Kalman. I knew no such person. It is possible that he died in Otwock.

Respectfully,
Y.Y. Bialobroda

* * * * *

Editor's note: We would be glad if others who were personally acquainted with the Kozienicer Rebbe would speak out on this question, in order to establish whether the rebbe passed away in Otwock or in Zelechow.


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Still Greater In Death
In memory of the Kozienicer Rebbe, Reb Arele
(A prose translation)

by Yitzkhok Gochnarg, Sao Paolo

I see him before me as he used to be, pensive at the head of the table in his kloyz on Saturday nights. The rebbe's eyes immerse themselves in pure springs, as if nothing were hidden from them, nothing concealed. Consumed, he beholds dark tomorrows, so he drives off the gloomy storm clouds which hover above with faith in the Creator – they, too, will be lived through.

The rebbe's path is joy and song – the music brings him closer, unites him with the shekhina. He conjures up notes with bows upon strings – wordless teachings, exotic and fair.

Reclining at his table, plain working–class Jews – fishermen and smiths from Kuzmir and Pshiskhe, carters from Konsk, butchers from Stila, without shtreimelakh, without satin, without even velvet. At the rebbe's observances no pidyoynos are paid, no remnants of his food eaten at his table. He makes no matches, bestows no prosperity, but introduces a new melody.

Bows vibrate ecstatically on strings. A minyan of fiddlers accompanies the rebbe. The notes float up to the gates of heaven, and the Cherubim take up a new song.

So acted the rebbe for years, until Poland was invaded by bloody executioners; until their hordes brought violent death to the Jews.

In a small room on Gzibow Street in Warsaw the rebbe keeps a vigil together with the congregation. He cheers and consoles, allows no despair. The blessed Lord will help – despair is ugly/

Until once the heavenly sounds reached the ears of the Nazi serpents. They gnash their teeth – Jew impudence! They won't allow this in the ghetto. With skulls on their caps, their uniforms black, the S.S. – destroying–demons – march into the ghetto, forever to silence the Jewish sounds, to warn the rebbe that their turn has come.

The rebbe doesn't bat an eye. He mocks the destroyers with loud, bitter laughter. No power on earth can get in his way, nothing stops him from serving the Creator.

The hangmen continue to mock the rebbe. They order him to play a “Jewish” freilakh – “Take up the fiddle more quickly so we can hear a Jewish song!” The crowd stands frozen, the demons wait. The rebbe reaches his hands out dreamily, strokes the fiddle a long time with his delicate fingers, as if he were waving good–bye to a group of children.

Soon his glance becomes brilliantly sharp. Out of it shines, like a flash of thought, his courage, his tempted pride. His word is sharp as a sword with hate: “No!” He will not desecrate the sacred notes; rather smash the fiddle to pieces. He rips out the strings with tears in his eyes. He smashes the fiddle, he smashes the bow.

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At dawn, two horses hitched to a wagon drift through the streets like chattering winds. The rebbe is drawn after, lashed to the wheels. His body crushed. Blood pours from his wounds.

The streets are stained with the blood of the martyr. The sun rises red, and a heavenly voice drifts through the world: “He was great in his life, still greater in death.”

 

The House of Rebbe Yekhiel–Moishe

The rebbe tzin Sarah–Dvoirele, the mother of Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishe of Kozienice, was distinguished for her fine qualities of character and good deeds, in addition to which the Lord had granted her wisdom and vitality. She was known as the estate–owning rebbe tzin, and rightly so, for she not only put her hand to business, but even purchased a large estate called Kolodna in Russia, sold it and bought another one, called Strikowic, near Kozienice.

 

She Sells the Estate

Naturally, she hired managers and overseers for the estate, but she herself supervised and managed all its affairs with great intelligence.

She had connections with the largest estates in Poland in matters of marketing produce, buying and selling livestock, and the marketing of fish from her fertile ponds, but the hasidim of her father, Rebbe Elimelekh of Grodzisk, as well as the hasidim of Kozienice, did not approve of her business. They claimed that it was not fitting for a rebbe tzin to engage in commerce as gentile landowners did. The hasidim not only disapproved, they beset her, forcing her to sell the estate.

This sorrow did not leave her heart or the hearts of her children and grandchildren for a long time.

With great wisdom and refinement, her daughter–in–law, the rebbe tzin Brokhele, gave all the administration of the house of Kozienice over to her, in order to take the pain from her heart. Brokhele was a good daughter to her.

These two great women exerted themselves to ease the suffering of the town's poor. They established a benevolent fund, and gave loans to small merchants who could not afford merchandise. Many were helped by these loans. When the fund was depleted, the two women would give to the needy from their own pockets.

 

Rebbe Yekhiel–Moishe Gave his Salary Away

Rebbe Yekhiel–Moishe, the fifth generation of the dynasty, was both rabbi and preacher. The Maggid's aptitude for preaching had been passed down from one generation to the next. As with his predecessors, hasidim flocked to him from all over Poland. Rebbe Yekhiel–Moishe distributed his salary among the slaughterers: he claimed that a shoykhet should be provided with a good living, in order not to have to worry about his needs and to be able to keep his mind on his work.

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The rebbe derived no pleasure from his salary, but gave it away for charitable purposes.

During the fire which levelled Kozienice, the rebbe's house was also burnt. The hasidim collected money to build him a new mansion. The hasid Reb Yankel Heschels, who was in charge of the construction, said that the rebbe gave the building materials to the poor to fix up their houses, rather than to the synagogue, which remained in its burnt–out frame. When Reb Yankelprotested this, the rebbe replied that so long as the town's poor remained in poverty and want, he did not want a mansion.

Ten years were spent in building the rebbe's court, during which time the rebbe because sick and died at the age of forty–some years. The rebbe was a great scholar, upright and just, a lover of the people and the land of Israel

 

Rebbe Yekhiel–Moishe's Children

His wife Brokhele was a righteous woman, learned and intelligent. They had three sons and four daughters, all of them holy and pure, great in Torah and secular knowledge.

Their eldest daughter, Khane–Golda, combined Torah and secular knowledge. She was among the first settlers of Avodat Yisrael – Kfar Hasidim. In the early years of the settlement, when its residents were visited with illnesses, she ran about among the sick and was a help and support to them all. Afterwards, she became one of the first female students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

She did not succeed in returning from her visit to Poland, for the German invasion of 1939 was imminent, and she was killed along with the thousands of Jews of Warsaw on a rash and bitter day. May the Lord avenge her blood.

The eldest son, Rebbe Aharon–Yekhiel, was great in Torah, great in reputation. He used to give money to the poor; he took no pleasure in this world and sacrificed himself for the sake of every Jew. When the slaughter began in Warsaw, he went into his house and sat upon in his chair, slumbering in purity and holiness.

Rokhel–Khaye–Miriam, their second daughter and the wife of the rav of Piasczenca, may the Lord avenge his blood, excelled in learning and good deeds. She distributed her wealth to the poor of Warsaw, and ran the kitchen in her husband's yeshiva. Her door was open to all the suffering and wretched. She and her husband bought land in Israel but were not fortunate enough to see it. They were killed together with their children in the Holocaust. May the Lord avenge their blood.

The second son, the Admor and maggid of Rika (Lublin), Reb Asher–Elimelekh, was upright and just. The love of Israel and the land of Israel burned like a fever in his heart. He died following a serious illness while still young.

His wife Khaye was killed with their children in the Holocaust. May the Lord avenge their blood.

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Those Who Survived

The third daughter, the rebbetzin and well–known author Malka, was one of the first settlers in Kfar Hasidim. She is a highly cultured woman, and is married to the Admor from Grodzisk. Their house is open to all the needy.

The fourth daughter, Khave Shapira, was among the founders of Avodat Yisrael. She is well educated in both Torah and secular learning. She was in charge of the settlement's social welfare program, and provided clothing for new arrivals. She is married to Rav Shalom–Yoysef of the dynasty of Sadagora, a scholar, a lover of the land of Israel and of mankincd Their house is open to all the suffering and wretched.

The third and youngest son, Rebbe Yisroel–Elazar, is the founder of Avodat Yisrael, now Kfar Hasidim. He is great in Torah and wisdom, loves mankind, and is loved in return. He distributed all his wealth to the settlement's poor and sacrificed himself for the sake of the land of Israel. He is married to the daughter of the rebbe of Zlotopola, who is known for her charity and philanthropy.

 

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