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{Page 103}

Hassidism in Rzeszow

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Note from the translator.

Many of the Hassidic dynasties mentioned in this section are named after cities and towns of Poland and Ukraine. For the most part, I have used the Polish spelling of these locations. However, I have also used the Yiddish version of these names on some occasions, in particular for those Hassidic dynasties which are well known today (i.e. Belz, Bobov, Sanz). However, I was not completely consistent in which spelling I used. Some examples of the localities mentioned here are as follows, with the form Polish name - Yiddish name: Ropczyce - Ropshitz, Rzeszow - Reisha, Belz - Belzyce, Sadigora - Sadagora, Novy Sacz - Sanz or Tzanz, Dzikow - Dzikov, Rymanow - Rimanov, Ryboczyce - Ribatitch, Blazowa - Bluzhov, Ruzhin - Rizhin, Lezajsk - Lizhensk (Lizensk), Kolbuszowa - Kolbushow.


 

Rzeszow in Hassidic circles

by M. Sh. Geshuri

Translated by Jerrold Landau

  1. Early Hassidism in Galicia and Rzeszow

    Galicia was well known as being the cradle of the Hassidic movement. The name of the Besht[1], the founder of Hassidism, is closely intertwined with the Galician cities of Brody and Tlost. His associates and students are named after cities in Galicia, such as Rabbi Avraham Gershon of Kitow, Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Premishlan, Rabbi Yitzchak of Drohowice, and his son Rabbi Yechiel Michel of Zolochow, Rabbi Baruch of Kostow, and others. The focal point of Hassidism during its early years was in Eastern Galicia, and perhaps that is the reason that the name of the city of Rzeszow is not to be found in the first generation of Hassidism. The Besht had sixty students, among them many from Galicia, yet why is the name of “Rzeszow” not included? That is because not one of those students was from Rzeszow. Perhaps the name of the city is not mentioned because only the names of the most important and prominent students became well known, while the names of the average students did not become famous. The name of Rzeszow was well known in the world of Jewish learning. Its Rabbis were well known, and it was considered a city which pulsated with Jewish life from the earliest times. It was full with Torah, wisdom, teachers, and some of the greatest Rabbis of the generation. As well, the city sent representatives to the “Council of Four Lands”. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that in the first and second generations of Hassidism, Rzeszow did not play a recognizable role.

    During the time of the Besht, several Rabbis who frequently moved from city to city served in Rzeszow. Rabbi Aryeh Leib occupied the Rabbinical seat in Rzeszow for several years, and from there he went on to the Rabbinical seat of Lvov. His place was filled by Rabbi Moshe Nathan the son of the great Rabbi Yisrael, who on Wednesday 22 Elul 5513 (1753) signed the approbation of the book “Maane Eliahu” (Zolkowa 5518 – 1758) that was written by Rabbi Eliahu the son of Moshe Gershon of Pinczow. After him Rabbi Dov Ber the son of Rabbi Aryeh Leib the head of the Rabbinical court of Zamosc served as the head of the Rabbinical court of Rzeszow. In 5517 – 1757 (23 Kislev), he also signed an approbation for the above mentioned book “Maane Eliahu”. Rabbi Dov Ber also continued on to be a Rabbi in Lvov afterward. These Rabbis were great and famous scholars and Rabbinical leaders, and they represented the city of Rzeszow on various councils. What was their relation to Hassidism? This movement was still held in contempt, and its influence had not yet spread far and wide, and these Rabbis were not yet able to vouch for its legitimacy. From that time on, Rzeszow also was included among those cities who fought against Hassidism, however not with the same vengeance as the cities of Tarnopol and Lvov. Nevertheless, the representatives of Hassidism certainly did not pass over Rzeszow. They did their best to fulfil their obligation, and certainly realized that the time had not yet arrived.

    After the first period of Hassidism, that of the Besht and his students, concluded, the second period began, which was the period of the students of Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezerich. One of the leaders of this period, whose influence was not only felt during his lifetime but afterward as well, was the Tzadik[2] Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk. Lizhensk was in the same region as Rzeszow. Rabbi Elimelech and his brother Rabbi Zusia were influenced by the traditions of the Ari [3]. It is told about them that in their youth they decided to go into “exile” and to suffer the trials and tribulations of an exile within an exile in order to sweeten the divine judgement and to merit a pure and holy heart. They wore the clothing of paupers, and wandered from town to town. Certainly, they would have also visited Rzeszow as anonymous Jews whom nobody would pay attention to. In the town of Tyczyn near Rzeszow, the Jews knew of a house where Rabbi Elimelech lived for several years. This house served as a prayer house in memory of the great Tzadik and his parents who had lived nearby.

    Rabbi Elimelech (5477-5547, 1717- 1787), who was considered the prime student of the Maggid [4] of Mezerich, a lion amongst the group, was primarily responsible for the spreading of Hassidism. His students became the fathers of the Hassidic branches in Galicia and Poland. They included Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak of Lancut and later Lublin, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanow, Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel the author of “Ohev Yisrael” of Kolbushow and later Apta, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Halevi of Krakow the author of “Maor Vashemesh”, and many more. Rabbi Elimelech was in his forties when the Besht passed away in the year 5520 (1760), and most probably knew him personally. However, at that time he still stood in the camp of those opposed to Hassidism, and only later submitted himself to the authority of the Maggid of Mezerich. Lizhensk, near to Rzeszow, was the smallest of the Galician villages that became a center for myriads of faithful followers of Hassidism. During the days of Rabbi Elimelech’s life thousands would stream to him, and even after his death myriads would travel to Lizhensk to pray at his gravesite. His book “Noam Elimelech”, which he left as a legacy, is considered one of the principal books expounding Hassidism, and until today his memory is revered and sanctified as the molder of Hassidism in Galicia and Poland.

    Opposition to the Hassidic movement, which began to ferment in the hearts of the Misnagdim [5] during the lifetime of the Besht, began to spread to the open during the years after the death of the Besht. This opposition spread to Galicia as well. It is important to point out that during the time of the leadership of Rabbi Elimelech (5533-5546 1773-1786), the opposition was reasonably well confined. In the final year of his life, 5546 (1786), a ban of excommunication was declared against Hassidism in Krakow, and the Rabbis of Rzeszow stood at the fore of the opposition. The resentment that Rabbi Elimelech bore toward the Misnagdim was obvious from his teachings, in which he encouraged his followers to take a stand against the persecution. He cursed bitterly the “low and evil people, who when they see a Tzadik following in the path of righteousness are jealous of him, and start up against him, while they claim that their intention is to act zealously, for the zeal of L-rd of Hosts that is burning in their hearts”.

    Rzeszow was not as open to the spread of Hassidism as were other cities. The power of the Misnagdim was quite strong, and they did whatever they could to prevent the spread of Hassidism. In the communities of Galicia which accepted the decrees against the spread of Hassidism, the Misnagdim did not use intermediaries in their battle against Hassidism, and at times the situation resulted in personal castigation of Rabbi Elimelech. As Hassidism took root in smaller communities, and the Misnagdim relaxed their opposition, the heads of the larger communities such as Brody and Lvov, remained steadfast in their opposition. Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik of Komarna relatthat the opposition to Rabbi Elimelech reached such extreme proportions that one of the Misnagdim actually slapped him on his face. Nevertheless, Rabbi Elimelech forgave his opponents with a full heart, and he prayed about that specific Misnaged: “Master of the Universe, I forgive him with a full heart and a joyous heart, and no man should be punished [6] on my account” (“Netiv Mitzvotayich” [7] by Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik of Komarno, page 14, folio a.)

    Mention of the Misnagdic movement in Rzeszow can be found in the book “Zot Torat Hakanaot” [8] by Rabbi Yaakov Emden. According to that source, a discussion took place between Rabbi Elimelech and Rabbi Aharon Itinga, the Rabbi of Rzeszow, about the issue of whether the Divine Presence manifests itself outside of the Land of Israel, and about the issue of the lateness of prayer times practiced by the Hassidim [9]. From the words of Rabbi Yaakov Emden, it is evident that the Rabbi of Rzeszow, Rabbi Aharon Itinga, was in conflict with Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, that he passionately hated the Hassidim of the Besht, and that apparently he stood at the head of the opponents to Hassidism in Rzeszow and the surrounding area.

    Rabbi Aharon Itinga was from a renowned family of Rabbis. He was the son of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Itinga. Previously he was the Rabbi and head of the Rabbinical court in Jaworow, and he was the son-in-law of Rabbi Chaim Hakohen Rappaport. From there he came to Rzeszow. He wrote approbations for several books, including in 5523 -- 1763 the “Second Book of the Responsa of the Gaonim” (Turka 5524 – 1764), “Ginat Veradim (Papada 5527 – 1767), at the same time an edition of the Latter Prophets (Berlin 5530 – 1770), in 5537 – 1777 on “Birchat Yaakov” (Lvov 5546 – 1786), in 5538 – 1778 on “Korban Reishit” (Papada 5538 – 1778) . He also arranged glosses [10] for the Responsa “Har Carmel” (Papada 5542 – 1782). He passed away on Tuesday the 19th of Sivan, 5541 – 1781, as is written on his gravestone in Lvov. Nevertheless his own opposition did not prevent later Rabbis of the Itigna family from joining the Hassidic movement, and becoming staunch Hassidim.

    After the death of Rabbi Aharon, Rabbi Yitzchak Chaim Blumenfeld, the son of Rabbi Yehoshua Heschel the head of the Rabbinical court of Zmigorod, became the Rabbi of Rzeszow. He was the son-in-law of the Parnas Rabbi Shlomo Zalman of Rzeszow. Rabbi Yitzchak Chaim was also a great opponent of Hassidism, and with the sharpness of his anger he slandered to the regional court the followers of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak of Lancut, Rabbi Mendele of Rymanow and Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Kolbushow (later of Apta) “that the three of them are misleading the people with their deceit”. Due to this Rabbinical slandering, these three Hassidic leaders were arrested by the Austrian Gendarmes at the conclusion of the Sabbath, as they were still sitting at the third Sabbath meal in Lancut, and thrown into prison. The Jews of Rzeszow, including the respectable Hassidic community, saw in the actions of Rabbi Blumenfeld a major desecration of the divine name, and on Sunday morning following the event they organized an assault on his home in order to punish him. The Rabbi regretted his hasty actions, however he could not do anything, since the courthouse was closed on Sunday. The three righteous men had to remain in jail until Monday morning, at which time they were freed due to the intercession of Rabbi Blumenfeld. The excommunications and slander were not able to stem the tide of Hassidism, which overtook like a storm the majority of the Jewish communities of Galicia and Poland. Finally, Rzeszow was also overtaken by the tide of Hassidism, and resembled its sister cities. The Rabbis of the city were adherents to the Hassidic movement.

    From amongst the numerous students of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, many became famous in the Hassidic world and led the movement for many years. These included Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak the Seer of Lublin, Rabbi Yisrael the Preacher of Koznitz, Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sasow, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanow, Rabbi Kalonymos Kalman of Krakow, Rabbi Naftali of Ropczyce, and other persons of renown. These students gave themselves over to their master with all the warmth of their hearts, and believed in him no less than did the students of the Besht believe in their Rabbi. His influence also reached Rzeszow by means of the Hassidim who gathered in the “Shtibel” [11]. In a later generation one of his appointees, Rabbi Elazar Weissblum (who was known as Rabbi Lozer Reisher), settled in Rzeszow, and lead it as a Tzadik.

    Rabbi Elimelech passed away in the year 5547 – 1787 in Lizhensk, and about a year after his death his book “Noam Elimelech” was published by his son in Lvov. This book caused a great tumult in the Misnagdic world. However the Hassidim accepted this book with joy, and throughout the next few years several editions appeared. His students found many wonderful things in the book, and told many great and wonderful things about it, just as they did with the personality of Rabbi Elimelech himself. One of his disciples related “The holy book Noam Elimelech is all the purest of bright light, extremely deep, if you merit to understand one of its concepts” (“Ten Levels of Brightness”, page 26). Another disciple describes that “The book Noam Elimelech cannot be understood fully by anyone, as it consists of very high degrees” (“The Way of Faith and Deeds of the Rabbi”, page 71). One holy man said “The book Noam Elimelech cannot be taken at face value, and an entire book of commentary can be written about the book Noam Elimelech, where upon each page there would only be one line of the text of Noam Elimelech, and the remainder of the page would be completely full of explanations” (“Ohel Elimelech” paragraph 191). Another Tzadik wrote “several pages of explanation on the holy book Noam Elimelech, and he heard a heavenly voice declare: How did you dare to write a commentary on Noam Elimelech! The angels and Serafim [12] struggle to understand even one letter of this book, and your heart inspired you to write a commentary!” (Ohel Elimelech paragraph 574). Many other such statements were made about that book.

    Thus did the rich Hassidic imagination decorate with a crown of glory, woven with a floral wreath of legends and wonderful stories, the head of one of its great leaders, who dwelt nearby to Rzeszow.

     

  2. The Prayer Houses of the Hassidim (Shtibels and Kloizes).

    The Hassidism of Rzeszow was the continuation of the Jewish and Torah oriented life that preceded it. Rzeszow was already a well known Jewish community by the 15th century. Its Rabbis included such people as Rabbi Aharon Shmuel Kaidenower the author of “Birchat Hazevach”, who was later a Rabbi of Amsterdam, Rabbi Yaakov Reisher, the author of “Shvut Yaakov” and “Chok Yaakov”, and other well known great Rabbis. In later times, the renowned Gaon [13] Rabbi Hershele Orenstein served as the Rabbi of Rzeszow. He later became the Rabbi of Brest Litovsk.

    After Hassidism began to spread in Galicia and set up roots in Rzeszow as well, even though there were opponents to it, the city became a central station for almost all of the Tzadikim of Galicia, who lived in cities between Lvov and Krakow, such as the towns of Tyczyn, Blazowa, Sokolow, Majdan, Kolbuszowa, Glogow, Czycz, Frystak, and many other towns and villages. Eighty percent of the Jewish population of Rzeszow was Orthodox. They wore traditional Jewish garb, including a long black coat, and a black velvet hat. The zealous Hassidim wore long payos [14] and long beards, in some cases unkempt and in other cases neatly trimmed. All Jews wore a streimel [15]on the Sabbath and festivals as well as a black silk cloak. In Rzeszow nobody was ashamed of their Judaism. The Hassidim went out in the streets on Sabbaths and festivals enwrapped in their woolen prayer shawls. On the days of Sukkot, they would carry their lulav and etrog with pride [16]. On the Sabbaths of the summer, during the Sabbath meals, the sound of the table hymns would break out from the Jewish homes and spread inall the streets where Jews dwelt. They would sanctify the moon with a loud voice in the streets, and nobody would bother them [17]. The Hassidim held an important place among the important and honorable personalities of the cities, and from time to time they would travel to visit their Rebbe. There were many synagogues and Hassidic shtibels in Rzeszow. The Hassidic Kloizes did not depend at all on the community, for they were maintained by those Jews who prayed in them. The greatest expense was the rent. The money for rent came from vows and the sale of synagogue honors. The second largest expense was the purchase of several liters of candles each week for light, and the heating of the synagogues in the winter. The sale of synagogue honors also covered those expenses.

    The Hassidic shtibel in Rzeszow also had its own history. In earlier times, there was one large Kloiz, wherein all worshipped, or at least most of the Hassidim of the city worshipped. Only after the controversy between the Sanz [18] and Sadigora [19] Hassidic groups became more severe, did a division occur, and separate Kloizes were established for each Hassidic group. The Sanz Hassidim were the first to leave the general Kloiz, and they left the Sadigora Hassidim to take control over it according to their wishes.

    The Kloiz of the Sanz Hassidim stood on the second side of the entrance to the study hall. This was a rented room in a large low house wherein dwelt several artisans. The windows of the Sanz Kloiz looked out on the open “mikushka”. The Hassidim of Sanz were very proud of the founding Rabbi of their dynasty, and they would often travel to visit the Tzadikim of that dynasty. The young men of the Kloiz would often hold discussions on Sanz Hassidism, as they would try to prove the greatness of Rabbi Chaim Halberstam and his sons.

    During the time of the controversy between the Hassidim of Sanz and Sadigora, there were two main dynasties of Hassidim that were dominant among the Hassidim: the Hassidim of Sanz and the Hassidim of Sadigora. In Rzeszow, there were also Hassidim of other branches -- In fact of nearly all the branches of Hassidism -- however the main power was in the hands of the Hassidim of Sanz and Sadigora. The Hassidim of Sanz were the Rabbis, sages and zealots; the Hassidim of Sadigora were more enlightened, younger, and newer adherents to Hassidism. The Orthodox people of Galicia viewed Rabbi Chaim as one of the great men of the nation in whom Torah and Hassidism were merged together, and his words were like lights in the eyes of thousands of people. On the other hand the Hassidim of Sadigora believed with true faith that their Tzadikim were the chosen of G-d, whereas the other Tzadikim were like garlic husks [20] compared to their Tzadikim.

    Most of the Rabbis and judges of the city belonged to the Hassidim of Sanz. Among them were the instigators of strife, on whose account the entire controversy within Hassidism in Galicia was caused – namely the Rabbis Nachum Reuven Pelsker and Chaim Wallerstein. To this camp also belonged the judge Rabbi Michla who lived in Wellia, the judge Rabbi Menashele Eichenstein who was known as “The Rabbi Hortzki” the son of Rabbi Yissachar Dov Mortzki, the author of the book “Alfei Menashe” and “Torat Haasham”. Also associated with the Sanzers was Rabbi Avraham Shindler, one of the sages of the city, a preacher and great author, and extremely pious. He prayed in the Sanzer Kloiz, which he lead. The Jews of the Kloiz honored him greatly, and he taught them a class in Gemara several times a week. He was also a very good prayer leader.

    The Boyaner Kloiz was found on the potters’ lane (Tepper Gesl) in a room in a half destroyed wooden house. The furnishings of the room were very poor – the benches and tables were half broken. However among the Hassidim there the spirit of Sadigora Hassidism rested. Love of one’s fellow played a great role there. During the times of prayer, a warm feeling inspired every one of them, as if they were sitting in a magnificent palace. Several well to do men were found among the Boyaner Hassidim, including Reb Berel Meller, a wealthy merchant in hides. Reb Yitzchak Landau, one of the rich men of the city, served as the prayer leader in the Kloiz. The head of the Boyaner dynasty at that time was the founder Rabbi Yitzchak Friedman, the son of Rabbi Avraham Yaakov of Sadigora.

    The Hassidim used to observe the yahrzeits [21] of the Tzadikim. The Hassidim of Rizhin-Sadigora were very meticulous with this observance, and they would frequently visit the Rymanow Kloiz. Many Sadigora Hassidim prayed there, since the Rizhiners had become associated with the Rymanowers in that a covenant of marriage was sealed between Rabbi Tzvi the Rabbi of Rymanow who had a three year old daughter, and Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhin who had a grandson Reb Asherel. This match merged these two dynasties. In the Boyaner Kloiz they would drink “lechayim” [22] in such a spirit of brotherhood that was only among the Hassidim of Sadigora. It was a spiritual delight to participate in this type of camaraderie, when all eyes were focussed on the chief person who was speaking. Once in a while, one could hear the deep groan that was typical of the Hassidim of Sadigora. The elders of the Hassidim of Boyan still knew how to tell the story of the death of the Boyaner Tzadik Rabbi Yitzchakel. One Jew of Rzeszow, the father of the poet Nachum Sternheim, was at that time in Boyan. Each day he would receive telegrams asking about the state of the Rabbi. The Hassidim of the Rabbi were extremely distressed about the illness of their Rabbi, and they went daily to the Boyaner Kloiz to inquire about the situation, and to recite Psalms for his recovery. Once during the recitation of Psalms the daughter of Sternheim suddenly entered with a telegram in her hand. Reb Berel Meller, the spokesman of the Hassidim of Boyan hurriedly scanned the telegram, upon which was only written two words “gevald rachamim” [23]. Wailing broke out among those in the Kloiz, and they began immediately to recite Psalms with broken hearts. The next day a second telegram arrived with the news that the Rabbi had passed away. The faces of the Hassidim of Boyan were covered with mourning until after the thirty day mourning period (shloshim).

    The Kloiz of the Hassidim of Rymanow stood on the field of Reb Asher Silber, the biggest distiller of whiskey in the city, and an enthusiastic Hassid of Rymanow. At the entrance of the house stood two barrels of beer with many legumes, as well as large amounts of bread and fish. Immediately after the evening services several adjacent tables were set up, and people were seated around the tables. The atmosphere was warm as was the custom among the Hassidim of Rizhin-Sadigora, with everyone drinking “lechayim”, and wishing that the Rabbi may he be blessed should merit to a long life, and that the merit of person observing the yahrzeit should protect them all. After the “lechayim”, one of the prominent men would tell wonderful stories about the departed, and everyone would listen carefully, and absorb each word of the stories of the Tzadikim.


    Photo page 106: The Rabbi of Rymanow and his Hassidim on the way to the synagogue. From the right: Asher Silber, Rabbi Hershenu Horowitz, two trustees, Shlomo Zalman Vilner of Frysztak, Eliezer Lev and Mordechai Schmid of Frysztak.


    When the Tzadik Rabbi Yosef of Rymanow visited Rzeszow as a guest in the year 5662 (1902) nearly half of the Jewish population of the city waited for him at the train station. He stayed at the home of Reb Asher Silber, one of his Hassidim. Many Tzadikim and great men of the generation would frequently come to Rzeszow to visit with the powerful mighty Hassid, Rabbi Zeev Wolf Frankel, the author of the book of responsa “Meishiv Kehalacha”. He was the first of those who donated money to build a mansion for the Tzadik Reb Tzvi of Rymanow. On one occasion, Rabbi Zeev Wolf spent the Sabbath with the Rabbi, and ate at his table and sat at his right side. After they cleared the table and the Rabbi got up and htoward his room, Rabbi Zeev Wolf turned his head and said “Rabbi, please bless me”. The Rabbi looked back and said: “who am I that I should bless the Rabbi and Gaon”. Nevertheless, he entreated him very much. Then he lifted his hands and said: “I am a Cohen – and he blessed him”. [24] On another occasion, the Tzadik of Rymanow visited Rzeszow, and stayed once again with Rabbi Zeev Wolf, who prepared his table as a table of kings. After the conclusion of the meal and the grace after meals, the Hassid Reb Alter Anker wished to clear the table, however Rabbi Zeev Wolf would not let him, since he said that “the removal of the pan and censer is a divine service, and requires a Cohen”. [25]

    The large Kloiz of the Hassidim of Dzikow was found on the road named after the King Kazimiersz the Great. One of its members was Reb Motish Eckstein, a rich man and the owner of a large electric flour mill, one of the most modern in Galicia. Dzikow Hassidism began with the son of Rabbi Naftali of Ropczyce – Rabbi Eliezer of Dzikow – and lasted for four consecutive generations. This branch of Hassidism continued in the pure path of the founder of Ropczyce Hassidism, without any deviation. The nuance of “Dzikow” became almost synonymous with the nuance of “Ropczyce”. All of the Admorim of Dzikow stressed at every opportunity that they saw themselves as continuing in the path of the great founder the “Saba of Ropczyce” [26]. The wit and wisdom which flowed from the intellectual sharpness which was clothed in a cloak of modesty and popular appeal, these were the outstanding characteristics that marked the founder of Ropczyce Hassidism – these were also the foundations of Dzikow Hassidism . In the Hassidic world, there abound Torah sayings and discussions that demonstrate these characteristics.

    During the First World War, the Rabbi and his family left Dzikow and went to the house of the Rabbi of Vishnitz due to the fear of a Russian invasion. They remained there until the end of the war. After this, the Rabbi did not return to Dzikow, but rather he settled in Tarnow, and there he reestablished Dzikow Hassidism. The Dzikow courtyard in Tarnow turned into a strong fortress in the struggle of Torah Judaism in Galicia and a was a powerful attractive force for hundreds of youth who were captivated by the great personality of the Admor. In the Dzikow Kloiz in Rzeszow many young men occupied themselves with Torah and communal work, and they would come to Tarnow for festivals along with the older Hassidim to learn the ways of Hassidism and worship of G-d. Even those youths who were not able to devote all their efforts to Torah, and were forced to occupy themselves with business or a trade, also numbered among the Hassidim of the Rabbi from Dzikow, and found in him a supporter. The Dzikow Kloiz in Rzeszow was one of the most important in the city.

    The Belz [27] Hassidim also occupied an honorable place in Rzeszow, and they were scattered among the different Kloizes. Avraham Shochet would worship in the general city Kloiz, and he would lead the Musaf [28] service there on the High Holydays, even though his voice was hoarse and weak. He did not receive any payment for his leading of the prayers – in those years the job of prayer leader was considered to be a great honor. Avraham Shochet was a great Torah scholar, and conducted himself in the ways of Belz Hassidism. Reb Hirsch Shochet also worshipped in the general city Kloiz. He served as the reader of the Torah, and was also a very good prayer leader. His prayers and reading were saturated with sweetness. He also was involved in the weekly newspaper “Machzikei Hadas”, which was the mouthpiece of Orthodox Judaism, and was founded by the Rabbi of Belz. Reb Hirsch Shochet was one of the Hassidim of Belz, and did much to spread this brand of Hassidism in Rzeszow. Reb Eizi Shochet was also a prominent member of the local Shochet family. He was one of the local Torah scholars, and was a Hassid of Belz as was Hirsch Shochet. Reb Eizi Shochet was a very short man, and when he served as a prayer leader in the Kloiz, the lectern would be taller than him. He taught a class in Talmud each evening to the Belzer community.

    The Strolisk Hassidim did not have their own Kloiz in Rzeszow, although they had a Hassid who was one of a kind, who was Reb Shlomo Radomishler. He had a short black beard and long peyos, walked with a limp and was extremely pious. He conducted himself according to the path of Strolisk. In particular, he was noted for the fervor of his prayers in the Kloiz according to the custom of Strolisk: he would tap his feet, rest his arm on the table or the bench, and his voice could be heard from afar. His exertion during his prayers was so strenuous that he would be covered in sweat even in the winter. On frequent occasions his prayers would reach the state of “extreme yearning”, and it would be impossible to stand in his vicinity, as his hands would be spread out, his eyes would be closed, and he would be shaking and screaming. On more than one occasion he actually hurt his neighbor with his movements. He would never sit during the time of prayer or the reading of the Torah. However, even though he would bother the other worshippers, they did not put a stop to his actions, since they knew that he was acting for the sake of Heaven.

    Reb Moshe the Hassid was also one of the unique “personalities” among the Hassidim of Rzeszow. His name was Moshe Shipper, and the nickname “Moshe Hassid” was given to him due to his extreme Hassidic lifestyle. He was of moderate height and had a short thin beard, and beautiful, long curly peyos extended from the two sides of his head. They would bounce as he would walk in the street. His store on Wolia street was run by his wife and children, and from that store he made a good livelihood. Reb Moshe Hassid was well known for his special dances on Simchas Torah during the time of the hakafos in the Kloiz [29]. As all the Jews in the dance circle would be dancing normally, Reb Moshe Hassid would actually jump up very high from the floor. The Jews of the Kloiz would often wonder how he had the strength to dance in that manner during all the hakafos, without becoming tired at all. Due to his dancing, the Kloiz was full with people on Simchas Torah during the time of hakafos, more so than all the other houses of prayer.

    Various Tzadikim would come from time to time to visit their Hassidim in Rzeszow. On Sabbaths, they would arrange festivities around the table, and joy would be in their midst. On one occasion, the Rabbi of Sasow came to Rzeszow as a guest for the Sabbath. The reception which was organized for him was exceptional, and even the Hassidim who followed other Tzadikim honored him greatly. On that Sabbath, they arranged a table festivity in the Dzikow Kloiz, and before the Rabbi even arrived at the table, hundreds of Hassidim were crowded on the benches and tables.

    Rzeszow was at that time a center of Hassidism, and its Hassidim followed various Tzadikim from outside the city. On Sabbaths and festivals the Hassidim would travel to visit the Tzadikim in their local cities. During the beginning of the 20th century, Rzeszow was also the place of residence of some Admorim. Three Hassidic Tzadikim dwelled in Rzeszow, and numerous Tzadikim also dwelled in the neighboring towns, as “olive shoots” that surrounded the main branch.

    Among the Hassidim of Rzeszow there were those who excelled in their knowledge of Torah, and put their words to writing, such as the elderly Hassid Rabbi Dovrish Meir, who would visit various Admorim and absorb their words of Torah and Hassidism. He had also gathered many Torah thoughts from Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk and Rabbi Naftali of Ropczyce, and he published them in his book “Dvash Hasadeh”. This book became known as a source book for many other Hassidic works, as there was almost no Hassidic book which was not mentioned in this book. From all these books, various tidbits were gleaned.

    The Rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Yekutiel Aryeh Kamelhar was also quite well known. He was the head of Yeshiva in Stanislawow, and he lived in Rzeszow for a number of years. He was filled with Torah, knowledge, and wisdom. He enriched the Torah literature with many books that would widen the knowledge of their readers. His series “Dor Deah” left a very great impression. One of these books of this series was a general survey of the opinions of the Hassidic leaders during four different timeframes from 5500-5620 1740-1860 (Bilgorei 5693 – 1933). The other of this series surveyed the opinions and activities of the Torah leaders (published by Y. Kamelhar in Rzeszow). Rabbi Kamelhar was a lover of Zion all his days, and he merited to immigrate to the Land of Israel. He lived in Jerusalem, where he passed away to his eternal world, and was laid to rest with honor on the Mount of Olives.


Translator's Footnotes

1. Besht is the acronym for Baal Shem Tov (literally Master of the Good Name – i.e. the divine name of G- d). It is the appellation of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hassidic movement. The Besht lived from about 1700- 1760. Back

2. Tzadik literally means "righteous person", and in the current context refers to a great Hassidic leader. Back

3. The Ari is the acronym of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Tzfat, a mystic Rabbi of the generation preceding the Besht, and upon whose spiritual legacy Hassidism was founded. Back

4. Maggid is a title given to a great Hassidic leader. The word literally means 'preacher'. The aforementioned Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezerich is usually known as the Maggid of Mezerich. Back

5. Misnagdim or Mitnagdim, literally 'those who oppose', is the term given to opponents of Hassidism. Back

6. I.e. punished by divine retribution.Back

7. The Paths of Your Commandments.Back

8. Thus is the Law of Zealousness. Back

9. In the Code of Jewish Law, specific time boundaries are placed on the three daily prayers. The Hassidim were and are still known to take liberal interpretations of these boundaries. Back

10. A gloss is a comment or a note inserted into a text. Halachic works are often replete with various glosses which indicate differing opinions and customs, source material, etc. Responsa is a genre of halachic literature where well known and accepted Rabbis publish their answers to halachic questions that have been posed to them on various subjects. Back

11. A shtibel, literally 'small room', is a small, usually Hassidic, prayer hall. A Kloiz is another term for a Hassidic prayer hall (note its similarity to the English word cloister). Back

12. A Seraf is a 'fiery angel'. Back

13. Gaon is a term for a great Rabbi. Back

14. Peyos are earlocks. Hassidic Jews generally do not cut at all the locks of hair in front of the ear in keeping with a very literal interpretation of the biblical command "do not round the corners of your head". Other Orthodox Jews refrain from cutting off their ear locks completely, but do not insist that they not be cut at all. Back

15. A streimel is a fur hat worn by Hassidim on special occasions. Back

16. Sukkot is the feast of Tabernacles which occurs in the fall, shortly after Yom Kippur. On Sukkot, it is a biblical commandment to wave the four species, which includes a palm frond (lulav), and citron (etrog). Back

17. The sanctification of the moon is a blessing recited once a month, after the appearance of a new moon. It is required to recite this blessing out in the open, with a full view of the moon. Back

18. The Sanz Hassidim originated in the city of Nowy Sacz, Poland. Back

19. The Sadigora Hassidim originated in the town of Sadgora, Ukraine, which is located in the Bukovina area. Back

20. An idiom for something of low value. Back

21. Yahrzeit, literally 'year time' is the Yiddish term used for the anniversary of death. In Jewish tradition, the yahrzeit of relatives is marked by special observances. Back

22. "Lechayim" means "To Life", which is a toast upon sharing a drink. Drinking "lechayim" over a shot of whiskey is a common practice after synagogue services, especially on the occasion of a yahrzeit. Back

23. Yiddish for "Emergency! May we have mercy!" Back

24. A Cohen (literally priest), is a member of the priestly clan of the Jewish people. The Cohanin bless the people at certain occasions, most notably during festival services. The reference here is that the Rabbi of Rymanow did not feel that he was worthy of blessing Reb Tzvi Wolf, since Reb Tzvi Wolf was such a great man himself. However, when Reb Tzvi Wolf insisted, the Rabbi of Rymanow did consent to bless him based on his own qualifications as a Cohen. Back

25. A reference to the Yom Kippur service in the Holy Temple which was conducted by the High Priest. At one point in the service, a pan of incense would be brought into the Holy of Holies. Later in the day the pan and the censer which contained the coals to burn the incense would be removed from the Holy of Holies. The removal of the pan and censer is considered a holy service on par with the placement and burning of the incense. The reference here means that Rabbi Zeev Wolf felt that clearing the table was an honor to be bestowed on a Tzadik just as much as arranging the table, and he wanted the honor for himself. Back

26. Saba means grandfather, and is a term often used for the founder of a movement. Back

27. Belz Hassidism originated in Belzyce, Poland, southwest of Lublin. It is one of the more prominent branches of Hassidism in existence today. Back

28. Musaf is the additional service recited on Sabbaths, festivals, and the new moon (i.e. any day on which the Torah prescribes a special additional sacrifice, and is therefore imbued with some degree of holiness). Back

29. Simchas Torah is the name of the last day of the Sukkot Festival in the fall. On that day, the Torah scrolls are carried around in joyous processions in the synagogue. These processions are known as hakafos, or circuits. Back

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