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II. Tmimei Derech, The Innocent Ones

To the memory of my parents, my brothers and my sisters and their families, who perished in the holocaust.

In the course of all the years that have passed since the extermination of the European Jews by the devil Hitler and his soldiers, may their names be blotted out, my soul has not found rest. A higher power urged me to draw an accurate image of those beloved Jews, survivors of the last decades, whose existence is known to me, as among them I grew up, with them I spent the days of my youth, and from their mouths my soul gathered words more precious than gold that were inscribed deep in my heart and go with me in all the ways of my life.

In no way could I make peace with the idea that all this would be forgotten as though it had not been. To quiet my conscience I tried as well as I could to delineate images and to tell of interesting events from their pure and honest lives. The congenial atmosphere of Hasidism and the ways of the Sasover Rabbi and his miracles, his manner with his many friends, and his influence on his many admirers added dimension to this existence.

The images I drew in this book lived and worked, and their exalted spiritual influence quickens the hearts of the only ones who were saved in a miraculous way from the holocaust.

Commemoration of these pure and innocent souls will be

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strengthened in the reading of these stories and will strengthen us. We will guard their dear memory so that it does not leave us.

This thought consoles me and heals the pain of the loss of the beloved members of my family in the Nazi hell. It is a pleasant obligation to air here my appreciation and thanks to my beloved wife Mina, the Maskila (learned) daughter of a wise scholar (Israel Bruckenstein), who was of great help to me and who encouraged me in this lofty task.

To my fellow-townsman, the esteemed Member of Knesset (parliament) Yitzchak Raphael, who strengthened and encouraged me in erecting this monument to our town, Sassow, are given my thanks.

The Author


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From the Wantonness of Life

They called him Rev Pinchas'l Krohover, for the place where he lived was the village of Krohov, which is near Sassow.

Of medium height he was, with a long face, a curly beard, high forehead, and his cheekbones protruded slightly. His dress was Hasidic; a long kapota (caftan), velvet hat, and altogether the costume of the religious Jews of the town, differing in one detail- that unlike the townspeople, who in the days of summer wore shoes and white stockings, even in the summer he wore boots. This was a readily recognizable sign that was noted among the people of the village of Krohov, a place where the swamps did not dry up, even in the summer.

In Krohov he rented the tavern from Lord Pototski, the owner of the village. Besides this he also rented a piece of land that he worked with his household. Townspeople who came to the village would tell amazedly of the rare vision how this Jew would walk behind his plow, really, “Just like a Goy.” The tails of his coat were stuck in his belt, his long sidelocks waved in the wind, and the front fringes of his talit k'tana trembled with every movement.

In town he would appear in his two-horse wagon, which was full of good things from the produce of his fields and his cowshed, and although his prices were a bit higher than usual, housewives chose his wares and especially fancied his

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varied dairy products; the tasty cheese in white cloth sacks, and his fragrant butter that was made in a round mold and on it a seal done with a wooden spoon dipped in water. The fresh green leaves that were used as wrapping for the butter added both taste and fragrance together. After selling his wares he would turn towards the synagogue's Beit Midrash, to stay there until sunset, mingling with the students, and were it not for his hardened hands and the rustic boots, no one would have recognized him for the villager that he was.

Truly, no mere villager was Rev Pinchas'l. His father was one of the old Hasidim of the Rabbi Henich'l, of righteous and blessed memory, from Aleski. A heaven-fearing Jew he was, healthy of body and happy in his lot. As was the custom of many like him in those days, he made a habit of immersion in the river even on winter days, after the ice was broken, folkishly called “polomka”. Once, after such an immersion, he caught cold, became ill, and died, leaving the members of his family with no means of support. His oldest son Pinchas'l was a talented young man and energetic, and on him was placed the burden of providing for the family. He knew that but for him there was no one to concern himself with the upkeep of the members of his family and so he decided, and insisted on this, that his wife should bring him a dowry that would serve him as capital for establishing his livelihood. In Krohov the tavern was in those days in the hands of a simple Jew, who,

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although not of “good,known” family, was rich, and he had a single daughter. His soul yearned for a son who would know how to purify his spirit in prayer and in interpreting Mishnayot. Pinchas'l's hardship was for him a real opportunity to benefit both in “good family” and in one who was learned and talented. He did not pass up the chance and sent matchmakers to Pinchas'l, offering him as dowry the “holding” of the tavern and besides this a pot of clay full of gold dinars. Miraculously they agreed and the match was carried out. Pinchas'l, his mother, and his sister moved immediately after the wedding to live in the house of his father-in-law in Krohov. His father-in-law did not live long, and Pinchas'l inherited all his wealth and became a 'lord among his people'. His businesses blossomed, his livelihood was abundant, and thanks to his diligence he gathered riches and his wealth grew. In the course of time he also bought pieces of land besides those that he rented, and he saw blessings on his work. To all appearances he could have been happy in his lot.

But in the heavens it must have been decreed otherwise. His orphaned sister grew up and became a beauty. After a time of living in poverty and difficulty, she delighted in a life full of pleasure. Not having had another opportunity to spend her time pleasantly, she became attached to Gentile girls and missed no opportunity to take part in their festivities. To the eyes of her brother, who was busy in

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matters of business, this was not apparent, and he did not know that a storm was nearing and that danger was awaiting his sister. And it came to pass that when finally his eyes were opened to see the situation as it was - it was already too late. A “love” developed between his sister and a Sheketz (non-Jew). In the home of Pinchas'l despair and agony broke out; sounds of bitter argument and crying burst forth from there morning and night, until one bright day the rebellious daughter disappeared from the house, and it was known that she had fled with her “lover” to Lvov. The mother became sick with grief and shame and within a short time died, overcome with pain and disgrace.

But the wicked daughter was not contented with her Gentile ”lover”. Not many days had passed when he became tired of city life with the “Jewess”, left her to sigh and returned to his village. She suffered the shame of hunger, wandered helplessly in the streets of the city and from her despair lost her mind. Pinchas'l even at this stage did not abandon his flesh. His pity for the miserable one was aroused, and one day he brought her to the courtyard of the Rabbi Shloimele in Sassow.

To Sassow hurried the incurably ill, consumed by des~ pair. Especially was Rev Shloimele renowned as a healer of the insane, and the people of Sassow were accustomed to seeing people ill with various illnesses who were brought before their

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Rabbi and who for the most part found their cure and were healed by his hand. That i11 one, the sister of Pinchas'l, attracted especial attention by crawling on all fours, wailing, and barking like a dog. When they told Rev Shloimele that Pinchas'l wanted to appear before him with his mad sister, he refused completely to receive them and forbade their admittance to him. For a month Pinchas'l sat with his sister in the Rabbi's courtyard and did not succeed in coming before him. Each time that the Rabbi had to pass from his house to the Beit Midrash, some of his attendants would move Pinchas'l and his sister away from the exit door. In despair, Pinchas'l did not move from the corridor before the Rabbi's room and waited for the moment when finally he would be pitied and received.

One morning, before prayers, he brought his sister and spread himself out on the floor before the threshold of the Beit Midrash beside his sister and let it be known that he would not move from there until he was received by the Rabbi. When the Rabbi appeared in the fullness of his splendor and impressive appearance and saw before him the madwoman, a fire of wrath was kindled in his countenance. Three blows he pounded with his stick on the floor and commanded in a terrible voice, “Get up, insolent one!”. A trembling seized all the spectators, and Pinchas'l burst into heart-rending sobs. All around was quiet and only the poor brother's weeping filled the silence.

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Then came the miracle. The madwoman, who for many months had not straightened her back- suddenly rose to her feet and stood straight and terrified, trembling all over. All this happened within a few moments. The Rabbi stepped forward, came towards her and in the presence of everyone slapped her two slaps across the cheeks and in a terrifying voice shouted:

“Insolent one that you are; you sent your mother away from this world, your father's spirit is wandering in the heavens wrapped in sorrow and shame, and your poor brother's life is darkened because of you. I now command you to repent and to mend your ways.”

While he spoke he added after each word a hard blow with his stick, on the floor. Afterwards he turned, went to the sink, washed his hands and proclaimed,” Let us stand and pray and give thanks to our Father in Heaven for saving a soul in Israel.” And while he took out his prayer-shawl from its satchel he said:

The Maggid of Koznitz, may his memory be with us, said of the Mishna “Whoever is brave - controls his impulse” (Ethics of the Fathers 4:1) why does he say 'his impulse,' it should have been 'the impulse,' except that every person has a different evil impulse, his own lust, so to speak, and it may be that the lust of his friend appears absurd to him because his friend's impulse is expressed in an entirely different lust, therefore says the Mishna 'He who controls his impulse' - meaning his own impulse.”

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The Rabbi instructed Pinchasl to close down his business in the village. The sister, who was cured and became like all the women, stayed in Sassow and appeared every day in the women's section at prayer time and prayed together with the women of the courtyard. These were the orders of the Rabbi. Pinchas'l moved to live in a nearby town, his business again prospered, and he married off his sister, giving her a dowry with a generous hand. The one who performed the marriage was Rev Shloimele. The couple prospered finely, the young man joined Pinchasl's business, and peace and plenty again prevailed in the family.


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The Doctors of the Town

Three “doctors” there were In Sassow, and they bore the work of maintaining the health of the Jewish citizens and also that of the peasants of the area. The medical occupations In which they were involved and in which they specialized were the removing of teeth, the letting of blood, the opening of ulcers and treatment with leeches and cupping glasses. One of them even knew the secret of charms… The main part of their livelihood was barbering and shaving.

And if it happened that they sent a wagon to the suburb Zlotchov to bring a real Doctor, this was almost always for a terminal case. For the most part the Doctor got there after the patient had meanwhile stopped breathing. In the case of a broken arm or leg they turned to an old peasant called Kromtche, who was said to be a great mumche (expert), who had it in his power to do miracles and wonders. Not only did the peasants from the area depend on him and on his expertise; even the Jews of the town came to him with their wounded ones and not once waited until Kromtche would deign to arise from the table in the tavern, stop for a minute his drinking, and between gulp and sip take the trouble to put the broken bone back in its place. In spite of the “great name” that preceded him it happened , of course, not once, that the wounded ones stayed crippled all the days of their lives.

Of the “doctors” the people of the town told innumerable

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jokes and it happened sometimes that by their appearance alone, by their good temperament, they improved the condition of the patient who depended on them.

Menasheh the doctor succeeded in acquiring his good name among the peasants of the area by a crafty device; when a peasant came to him in a one-horse wagon, to take him to a sick relative in a nearby village- Menasheh refused to ride until a second horse was harnessed to the wagon. Some kind of principle he had; with one horse he would not ride. This device served to ennoble him among the villagers and served as fine attribute to his expanding practice. Menasheh was clever and sharp and his jokes grew wings. There was a Polish priest in the town and his “Jewish name” was Moishe Bas. His true name I do not know, but since with the Jews he talked fluent Yiddish and was also well versed in all the Jewish customs, we, the boys of the cheder, crowned him with this pleasant name. And the name stuck to him so well that even Goyim forgot his real name and sometimes called him by this name. With this priest Menasheh had endless arguments and in taunts hit him tit for tat. Once Moishe Bas pressed Menasheh right up against the wall, presenting him with this question:

“Well, if your God knew that you were destined to be born a Jew, why didn't he bother to save you the pain of circumcision? He should have seen to it that you were born circumcised!” Menasheh did not hesitate and answered him thus:

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“If your God knew that you were destined to be a Polish priest and you would be forbidden to marry a woman- why didn't He save you all the trouble; shouldn't you have been born without a sexual member!.” That's how Menasheh was.

The second in the trio was Baruch Yakir. Neither shrewd was he nor clever, but he did his work loyally. He pulled teeth, cut hair, and shaved the cheeks of the peasants. His specialty was leeches and he always boasted that it was on his leeches that he depended, since they did not leave one murderous drop of blood in the peasant's body. His opinion was that if the peasants of the neighborhood were quiet and restfully healthy, one had only his leeches to thank.

And the last and final one, the third, the best-loved among them, was Mordechai Ya'akov. An old Jew, shrewd, thin, bent, and with an enormous nose. He was, unlike his colleagues, very pious and refused to shave a Jewish beard. His yearning after brandy was great, and before each treatment of a patient he took a sip. Even when he went to the synagogue there could be found in his pocket a bottle ready for imbibing. Hasidim and working people were his customers for hair-cutting. The shaving of peasants he stopped in his old age, for his hands would not serve him, but in spite of this he made a living, with much thanks to his “insight”. It was accepted that his gaze on a patient brought about a cure and that he supposedly knew all the secrets of medicine. When a child

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complained of a stomach-ache they called Rev Mordechai Ya'akov. He arrived importantly, was seated on the chair near the bed, and required first of all a small glass of brandy, in order to get warm. (One should not touch a sick child with cold hands!) For the most part the request was seconded and thirded. Finally he lifted the child's nightshirt, examined him, and announced: “There is nothing to do until tomorrow morning. In the early morning take a little spit from the mouth on an empty stomach, spread it on his stomach and after an hour send the boy to the cheder.” Before he parted from the patient his lips murmured a charm against the evil eye. When a mother appeared before him, wringing her hands in her despair, her only son was burning with fever- “Rev Mordechai Ya'akov, save him,” she pleaded. Rev Mordechai Ya'akov put on his kapota, buckled his belt, and already holding his silver-headed stick in his hand, sipped a bit of brandy and went with the mother. At the patient's bedside the same performance was repeated; first of all he had to get warm and after passing his hand lightly over the boy's body he said: “Go to the pharmacy and buy some lozenges against worms; the boy should suck on them and tomorrow he can go to the cheder.” With a charm against the evil eye the visit ended.

The common side among this trio of doctors was their love of sipping, but without exaggeration; the lion of the group, in all senses, was Rev Mordechai Ya'akov; he was distinguished

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in his advanced age, in his vast experience and above all - in drinking. The people of the town wondered always at the great miracle- how could a Jew, shrunken in body and so small, put into himself quantities of brandy as great as these and with all this not be drunk ever.

And it came to pass one day that his colleague, Baruch Yakir, became sick and fell into bed. They roused Rev Mordechai Ya'akov, of course, and when that one appeared and wanted to take with his hand the pulse of the sick man, Baruch said, “Rev Mordechai Ya'akov, are we not brothers and there are no strangers with us in the house, why all this performance of taking the pulse, shmulse, just for show?” Rev Mordechai Ya'akov, whose hearing was impaired and who besides this had sipped a bigger sip than usual, did not hear his friend's words, and sitting next to the bed, as Baruch took his hand from the other's, fell asleep a little and so held between his fingers his own pulse, in his left hand. After a minute he lifted his head, yawned, and announced: “Baruch you lack nothing; you're healthy; you just drank a little more than usual and that will pass.” And it passed; the patient was cured.

And is it not a wonder, that in the care of these doctors generations were raised, reached a good old age, succeeded in raising grandchildren and great-grandchildren, healthy and whole in body and soul?!


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Know Your Place

Hertzele S. was a horse-trader, son of a horse-trader, from the womb and from birth. His forefathers had dealt in this trade for generations and he did not shame his predecessors; he was diligent in his trade and a great expert in horse matters. Taking a quick glance at a horse's jaw, measuring it with a look from head to hooves, and passing the fingers of his right hand easily, as if carelessly, over its mane - he knew the horse “inside and out”. The gypsies, the horse-traders at the fairs, knew that there was yet to be born the gypsy who would succeed in outwitting Hertzele. The waggoners of the neighborhood delayed every purchase and change of horses until they had consulted with Hertzele.

With the spread of his name as an expert in the neighborhood, he came in contact also with nobles and property-holders in all having to do with horses, and from then on his business grew and flourished.

Healthy in body he was, “like a horse,” his features handsome and sculptured, elegant in his dress, and added to that there was always a “fair amount” in his pocket. It is no wonder then, that this situation brought him to an open feeling of self-confidence and feeling of importance that projected itself in his entire manner.

The matchmakers knew that Hertzele had decided to betroth him a well-born girl, no less, and there was no one like him for sticking to his decisions.

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“Labor and you will find; you can believe it.” There was a well-born Jew in Sassow who had lost his property and who had one daughter who was of marriageable age. None of the offers by the matchmakers to his daughter fit, because if the talk was of a fitting young man from a distinguished family, the dowry was not enough, and if it was someone who was satisfied with a small dowry- his status was defective.

But since forty days[1] before the conception of a baby it is proclaimed “Daughter of so-and-so to Son of so-and-so” - one matchmaker suggested this match and the glue was pronounced good. Both sides were satisfied; Hertzele acquired what he wanted, a well-born girl, and also the reduced rich man got a rich son-in-law, who fulfilled all the needs of the wedding and gave up the dowry also.

And so the aforementioned young gentleman, Hertzele, became a “Ba'al bayit” in the town, bought himself a Turkish prayer-shawl with an expensive and beautiful silver collar, and a choice shtreiml, and he ran his household with a generous hand. He contributed to the needs of the community and did not neglect any charity.

In time he was considered one of the respected ba'alei bayit and no one ever reminded him of his past and his origins. He stopped also trading horses at fairs and among the simple folk he never appeared, for his trade developed and flourished in the oourtyards of the noblemen and property

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- holders. The main part of his business was mediation in large concerns like forests, properties, and so on, and other trading in the courtyards of the property-holders. In the synagogue he bought himself with many coins a coveted place at the east wall, was noted among the leaders of the congregation, and they began calling him by the name Rev Hertzel. And because the needs of the people were many and he never turned away those who came to him unanswered, if he gave whatever he gave not with a gentle hand, a little coarsely, in any case the simple folk became accustomed to relate to him as to their superior, knowing that with a little flattery they could get from him a good portion. In time he began to appear even at the Beit Midrash, between Mincha and Ma'ariv, and to listen to explanations of Mishnaiot or “Ayin Ya'acov.” And there was a custom in those days, that learned Jewish students would turn from time to time to one of the young frequenters of the Beit Midrash and test them, in their studies. Hertzele decided to imitate them also in this custom.

This thing caused a reaction in Rev Michal the Long (the nickname because of his great height), the son-in-law of Rev Shloimele from Sassow, the son of the rabbi Leibish Halperin from Bzhezhni, who was clever and shrewd and knew how to hit a target with a witty joke or pleasant tale, an example or maxim that he always had ready. Seeing once how Hertzele allowed himself, acting as a learned student, to

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sit himself down by an innocent young man and to require him to recite to him his lessons, he told the following story:

Once there was a wealthy nobleman, rich in property, who spent his days in hilarity and fun. Once he went out for a ride in his carriage, harnessed to four horses, attended by servants. On the way he ran into a beggar sleeping on the side of the road. This beggar was one of those who sat near the gates of the church or in the fairs, adding penny to penny, to take them out later in the tavern to drink brandy. When he had drunk to drunkenness, he fell asleep on the side of the road. He had a long wild beard, was dirty, was dressed in rags, and his two knapsacks, the tools of his begging, were at his side. The nobleman, with the sense of mischief that was in him, ordered his servants to raise the sleeping beggar to the carriage. They brought him to the castle, shaved him, washed him, sprayed him with perfumed water, dressed him in beautiful clothes, and laid him on a beautiful couch in a room that was marvellously furnished. All this care was done of him while he was still sleeping the sleep of a drunkard. The nobleman hid behind a curtain and waited to see from his hiding-place how the beggar would react to the change that had happened to him without his knowledge — when he would awake.

And so the moment arrived; the beggar awoke from his sleep and began to wonder at his state and to express his

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astonishment aloud. He knew that he was only a wandering beggar and here he was dressed now in beautiful clothes and finding himself in such a wonderful place. Maybe he was really rich and had only dreamed that he was a beggar?! Was it possible that the opposite was true? But anyway he remembered well that he was a beggar and so this state of richness was only a dream? He went to see his image in the mirror and was even more shocked; he had no beard, had no long hair, had no knapsacks and a good smell wafted from him. At any rate he remembered for sure that he had been a beggar. What had happened? In his worry he noticed a book that was lying on the table. An idea sprouted in his mind; he would try to read in that book, and so if he could read it, it would be a sign that he was a rich man and had only dreamed that he was a beggar, but if he could not read it was a sign that he was really a beggar, dreaming that he was a rich man.

He said so and did so; opened the book and behold ruin and calamity - he could not read it!. Again he wondered to himself, not knowing whether he was a beggar, but here he saw that he was a rich man, and now he had to decide... It was very hard for him to return to his beggarly state...he took a few steps, touched the marvellous furnishings, stole another glance in the mirror and decided aloud: “To the world I am a rich gentleman and the beggar-business is only a dream, but how is it that I don't know how to read! The other

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gentlemen don't know how to read either and only make as if they read!”.

Hertzele understood the maxim and from then on ceased to involve himself in matters that were beyond his reach.


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Love Covers All

At that time Jews, Hasidim and Mitnagdim, were involved in solving a deep riddle that aroused their curiosity, and that was: How was a close tie of friendship created between the great Rabbi of Lvov, Rev Yitzchak Shmelkis, the head of the ”House of Yitzchak” who was noted among the heads of the Mitnagdim of his generation, and Rev Shloimele, the rabbi from Sassow, who grew up in the courtyard of his grandfather, Rev Shalom from Belz and was the son of the rabbi Rev Henich'l from Aleski. The fact that these two great people were tied with ties of love and friendship amazed both the camps together and caused confusion among the Hasidim as among the Mitnagdim. The war that was waged until then was forgotten and the battles between the two camps ceased and in the Jewish street thereafter there prevailed a sort of “cease-fire.” In the Batei Midrash the students stopped their studies at frequent intervals to talk over from time to time that particular matter.

How could it be? What caused it? The wonderment grew even more when it appeared that this was no matter of concessions on either side, but rather personal friendship indeed.

This fact can serve as proof to the writers of the history of Hasidism, that it was definitely possible to bridge the

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abyss that was gaping between the two camps of the Hasidim and Mitnagdim by friendly conversations between the representatives of both sides.

The Rabbi Rev Shloimele often traveled to the city of Lvov to ask the advice of a doctor, but it was an open secret, that the second purpose of these journeys was the personal attraction and the desire to meet with Rev Yitzchak Shmelkis.

Matters evolved in such a way that in their life and in their death the two were not separated.

Rev Yitzchak Shmelkis died on the eve of Yom Kippur in the year 5666 (1906) and although the Admor (initials Master Teacher Rabbi) of Sassow, Rev Shloimele, died thirteen years after him, on the twelfth of the second Adar 5679 (1919), in spite of his wandering state in the days of World War I (he dwelt with his large family and the people of the courtyard, in the days of the Russian conquest, in Lvov and after that in Oshpitzin) he continued to the end to keep his second apartment in Lvov. He urged his people to look for a place for him to live there and when they were hard pressed to do so, he even consented to live in a hotel. A short while after he moved to live there he died and was buried in the place that had been kept for him, next to the grave of his friend the Gaon Rev Yitzchak Shmelkis.

In those days I approached Rev Avrahamtche, the Rabbi's

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attendant-official, the confidant of the Zadik Rev Shloimele until his last day, for thirty-five years, who was in charge of admittance to and expulsion from the courtyard and was also present at all the meetings of Rev Shloimele, and I asked to hear from him the explanations of the amazing friendship of the two. And this is what he told:

In Lvov there dwelt one of the Hasidim of Sassow, Rev Yehoshua Landoi. Greatly wealthy he was, an owner of property and well learned. As one of the wealthy of Lvov he kept in close contact with the Rabbi of the city in matters of commu~nity need. So it was his custom to consult with his Rabbi, Rev Shloimele, in his many and varied business matters. Rev Shloimele had a habit, in his frequent visits to Lvov, of staying with him,and it happened, not once, that he was present at the time of consideration of the community affairs of the congregation of Lvov. Once Rev Shloimele arrived at his lodging at the dwelling of Rev Yehoshua Landoi at the time of a meeting of the businessmen of Lvov, in which Rev Yitzchak Shmelkis was also taking part. In this meeting they were considering the matter of the Eruv[2] (Sabbath limits) of Lvov, that anti-semitic youths caused at frequent intervals to be stricken down and destroyed. Also checking the Eruv- line on Sabbath eves was difficult for the area of the city was immense. They looked for a plan and a device to overcome the obstacles and did not find one. When they told Rev Shloi

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mele of the affair, he advised them to arrange the “line” in the form of a special telephone line around the city. The advice was excitedly taken, and from then on the obstacle was removed. Every Friday it was a custom to check, using the telephone receiver from the rabbinic courtroom, whether the ”line” was in order. It turned out also, that no one dared from then on to destroy state property because the thing would have caused severe punishment by the law.

And so the advice about the line was the start of the acquaintance, and in the course of tine of a great fondness between the two great ones of the generation from the two camps of the Hasidim and the Mitnagdim.

At the time that a party was held in honor of Rev Shloimele, Rev Avrahamtche, first attendant of Rev Shloimele, related and described the dialogue that was held between them in these words: We who were present and witness to this meeting felt as though we were in the presence of Mount Sinai. It was hard to absorb and to understand all that was said between them. When afterwards the fish were served on the table Rev Shloimele explained that the origin of the tradition of eating fish on Sabbaths and holidays was in that fish were not corrupt[3] in their ways before the flood, as our Rabbi, may his memory be blessed, said, “For all flesh was corrupt in its ways, except for the fish”. For this reason fish do not need special slaughter and inspection, for they are in perfect condition.

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Rev Shloimele told in the same vein that he knew from his grandfather, the Rabbi Shalom from Belz, that sucking the eyes of fish is a remedy and medicine for diseases of the eyes, for the eyes usually lure one to matters of sin and because the fish have not sinned, their eyes are pure.

The Rabbi from Lvov aired his remarks and the Rabbi Rev Shloimele answered him in these words: “The difference between an admor and a prophet is in that the prophet tells the future, but it is the task of the rabbi to investigate and to see truly the present.”

Before the blessing on the food Rabbi Shloimele cited ”the Good One who does well with the bad and good” and said: “Why do we put the bad ones before the good ones? There are steps in matters of repentance. Some think of it all the days of the year, some awake to it at the beginning of the month of Elul, and some start on the Days of Penitence. The simple people, who are absorbed, for the greatest and largest part in their livelihood, difficult as the rending of the Red Sea, remember in the evening of the New Year that the Days of Awe have come and they go out fearfully to pour out their hearts before their Creator. On them the Holy One, blessed be He, has mercy and he does good to them immediately.”

More like this I heard from the mouth of Rev Avrahamtche about that party. Afterwards the two Lights of the Exile met in a separate room for several hours, and when the door

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opened they came out arm in arm, and the company, that had been awaiting them, was astounded at their warm leave-taking. >From then on, at the times of Rev Shloimele's visits to Lvov, the meetings in the special room were repeated time and again for many hours.

This was a love for which there was no precedent in the tales of the interaction between Hasidism and its Opponents.

Rev Avrahamtche ended his story in these words: “The heart of the matter was that in the course of events there followed the world war and the wanderings of the Rabbi; the two friends succeeded in any case in finding their rest, one within sight of the other, for in heaven it was agreed to this tie of love between these two great ones from the two camps.”

In their life and in their death they were not separated.


[Page 42]

They Were Not Separated

Rabbi Shloimele of Sassow was the Rabbi of many. On week days the simple folk, who thirsted for his blessing and his advice, hurried to him, and even for the holidays came Hasidim like him for exaltation, redemption, and spiritual influence.

His way of caring for his Hasidim he learned from his grandfather, Rabbi Shalom from Belz. He had an amazing strength of memory, and to whoever visited with him for the second time it became plain that the Rabbi remembered his name, his mother's name, and every particular that was mentioned in the “note” at the time of the first visit. Also his way with his company of visitors was wonderful. Sometimes he dismissed his visitors with a blessing and a counsel, but not once it happened that he referred them to the care of Rev Avrahamtche, his first attendant, for care that had to do with matters of trade, matchmaking, and the like. In special cases both worked together. Factories have been set up as a result of a partnership between a man of capital and a man of enterprise. Trading houses have been saved from bankruptcy when they acquired the partner who succeeded in his cleverness in saving the trading-house from collapse. Many saw a blessing on their efforts as a result of this partnership in the Rabbi's house. Many were even betrothed as a result of the intervention of the Rabbi's house. A well-born

[Page 43]

daughter lacking a dowry, a young student who was dependent on a wealthy family to reach the chair of the Rabbinate, a young Hasid who was caught up in the Haskala and was dependent on a progressive yet tradition keeping family, all of these the Rabbi's house succeeded in joining. There were those who believed in miracles that were done for them by the Rabbi and there were those who attributed this to the Rabbi's shrewdness and knowledge of the ways of life.

In all this the Rabbi was aided by Rev Avrahamtche, so much so that even after the Rabbi's passing, he continued to serve as a trusted adviser to many of the Hasidim of Sassow who reremained temporarily without Rabbi or guide.

And there was another occurrence in the life of the Rabbi that caused Rev Avrahamtche to be blessed with a blessing that was confirmed in a miraculous way.

There was a pious man in Sassow, innocent in his ways. His livelihood was meager. Each day he went out to one of the villages and returned from there with a full sack on his back and two baskets in his hands. The skin of a hare, a few eggs, some chickens and the like, things that were sold in the village, he would bring with him, and this was his livelihood, not extensive, but it was enough, and he was happy in his lot. Each day in the summer and in the winter he would finish his trading in the early evening and between Mincha and Ma'ariv he would say a lesson in “The Well of Jacob”

[Page 44]

before his usual group of listeners. And it happened that once in the winter he caught cold, became ill, and did not recover. The lesson in “Ayin Ya'acov” continued, as lessongivers were not lacking in Sassow, but in his house there were left a poor widow and grown daughter without property, lacking everything. The Goyim, who remembered the honesty of the late one, in the beginning brought their trade to the widow at home, but in the course of time the providers lessened and left and the danger of hunger was imminent for the miserable family. The grown daughter had reached marriageable age. In the nearby town, Podkamin, there was a Sassow Hasid and he had a single son and his name was Yank'l Moishe. Following the advice of the Rabbi it was pronounced a good attachment and the conditions were agreed upon. The day of the wedding arrived, the musicians and the relatives, as was the custom in those days, went outside town to welcome the coming bridegroom. Pious women worked and readied a beautiful wedding; in the Rabbi's courtyard they prepared to uphold the mitzva “to entertain the groom and bride”, but there was an obstacle - the young groom, Yank'l Moishe, stubbornly announced that he would not approach the wedding-canopy as long as the conditions were not filled, and these were: a shtreiml, prayer-shawl and collar and added to that a dowry, in cold hard cash, in the amount of 200 kroners. In vain were all approaches and efforts; he was adamant; he would go to the canopy

[Page 45]

only after the conditions were filled. When the thing was brought to the attention of Rev Avrahamtche he bought immediately a collar and prayer-shawl, chose for him a handsome shtreiml, took from his acquaintances loans in the amount of the dowry, presented them to the bridegroom, and the wedding took place. And it should be known that this in those days was no small amount, let alone that Rev Avrahamtche was not among the wealthy.

When Rev Shloimele was told of it he blessed him and his offspring in good matches, and the blessing was fully realized. There was no delay of betrothal or any divorce in the family of Rev Avrahamtche, and even in the tragic end of Rev Avrahamtche, who found his death by the Wicked Hand, there was a tie to this blessing of the Rabbi.

When the Nazi murderers took the town, the people of Sassow were moved to Zlotchov, nearby, and were imprisoned in the ghetto together with the rest of the Jews of the district. Their end was bitter and quick, for they were killed and murdered in all sorts of strange deaths and hard and cruel tortures. Part of the Jews of the district found their deaths in a “miniature” pyre that was erected in the town in the place of the ruin of Vaizer's paper factory. This fire may not be remembered by those who record the stories of the time of the holocaust, for in this fire there were burned ”only” 2000 and not millions... woe if it be forgotten!

[Page 46]

Very few were saved; these took refuge with peasants, and also a few of them hid in the forests near the town. Among the latter was also Rev Avrahamtche with his wife and part of his family.

For four years the family lived in a bunker and survived. Only he who knows of the rainy summer days and snowy winters in Eastern Europe will understand the torture that this family underwent in those years.

In the year 5704 (1944), in the month of Adar, the Russian troops began to approach the area. The city of Brody was taken by them and in the forest there echoed the thunder of cannons, and the hearts of the families buried alive were filled with hope, for one more small effort and they would be free, and would rise from their graves in the depths of the forest. But it must have been decreed that the fate of the miserable ones would be otherwise. A Ukrainian band appeared in the forest, found the living grave, and this time miraculously only stole from them the rags and tatters that they found there and left them alive. One of the murderers found among the loot Rev Avrahamtche's prayer-shawl and phylacteries, and, in order to entertain his friends, tore them up and ruined, them. When the band left the forest, Rev Avrahamtche's youngest son, Moshe, who used to sneak to the houses of the peasants in the neighborhood to get food for the family, announced that he was going to the nearby village, and besides food he hoped to acquire also a prayer-shawl and phylacteries. (And

[Page 47]

have not books of the Torah turned up in the houses of peasants!) He arose and went out.

This was on the twenty-seventh of Adar 1944, exactly a week before the Russian invasion. When he returned after several hours he found that in the meantime another band had run wild in the forest and all of his family was destroyed. The father, Rev Avrahamtche, was still entirely conscious. He asked that he put the bodies in the bunker, so as to keep them from being prey for wolves, and afterwards, with the invasion of the Russians, to move them to the family plot in the cemetery at Sassow.

The son carried out the last request of his father and after a week moved the bodies to their rest in a communal grave — Rev Avrahamtche, his wife, and part of his family.

The blessing of the Rabbi was confirmed - even in their death they were not separated.


Notes

  1. It is believed that forty days before the conception of two children their betrothal is announced in heaven.
  2. Return
  3. Eruv: a wire fixed to poles to mark area within which Jews may carry things on the Sabbath.
  4. Return
  5. This possibly refers to the Biblical description of the perversions practiced by the creatures on Earth before the Flood; they were punished by being destroyed, while the fish in the sea survived, because they had not sinned and hence need no special slaughter or inspection for impurity.
  6. Return

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