Radomsk was an old city, but it was not an old Jewish city. Until approximately 1780 no Jews were permitted to live in [Radomsk]. Moishe Ofman, a tailor, was the first Jew who lived near the city of Radomsk, in the village of Mlidzew, where Winche had his estate and which was known in all of Poland as ‘Winche’s Crown.’ There is a legend told that the Prussian Emperor once traveled through Radomsk. He needed a tailor who would make clothing for him and he asked that the tailor be summoned to him. The Emperor was told that there were no tailors living in the city, only in the village of Mlidzew. [The Emperor] asked that the tailor be brought to him. When the Jew came, the king asked him, ‘Why do you not live in the city?’ The Jew answered that it is forbidden for a Jew to live in the city. The Emperor issued an order that the Jew be permitted to live in Bugaj, in the countryside where the movie theater later stood. Between the hillside and the theater stood a couple of old houses – the first Jewish houses in Radomsk.
Reb Moishe Ofman had two sons; one was named Rafael (he was an oil-presser), the second – Shimon (he was a butcher). He also had a son-in-law who was named Yekele Bugajski. All of the oil-pressers are descended from Rafael Oleinik (oil presser). Rafael had a son who was named Yitzhak. He was called Yitzhak Oleinik. Yitzhak Oleinik had a son Berl Oleinik and a son-in-law in Krakowski Street, who was named Leibel Oleinik, too. All of the butchers in Radomsk were descended from the son Shimon, who was a butcher. There were fifty-two butchers in Radomsk and they were all one family.
There were seven butchers who were named Shimon Ofman and my grandfather Reb Mikhal, of blessed memory, a shoykhet (ritual slaughterer), had given every one of them a nickname in order to know who was meant. The butchers who were not named Ofman, Tzvi”sh Yekil Melman and the butcher Szklarcyk, were from the same Ofman family of the well-known wood merchant Ofman. Their wives were Ofmans. The wood merchant also was descended from the butchers.
From the son-in-law Yekele Bugajski came the well-known Bugajski families. Yekele had a son – Feivele Bugajski, who had four sons. The oldest was Abraham Bugajski, a sickly, good-looking Ben-Torah (Jewish scholar). The second son was Yitzhak Bugajski, who had a shenk (tavern) in the market. The third was the well-known longtime watchman in Radomsk, Dovid Bugajski, who had the ‘Hotel Polski’ (the Zionist school was on the second story). The youngest, Pinye Bugajski, lived on Strzalkowska Street and was a wheat trader. The above mentioned Feivele also had a son-in-law named Yoske Larye.
My father Reb Ezekiel Shoykhet, of blessed memory, who was born
in 1852, told me that when he was seven years old, that means in 1859, my grandfather Mikhal Shoykhet, of blessed memory, lived in a house on Krakowski Street next door to Rafael Oleinik. At that time Rafael Oleinik was already 105 years old. He once had a fight with his wife who was already 103 years old. He called my father in and said to him: “Do you see, Haskele, the way you see her now, that’s the way she looked as a young girl. I didn’t want the shidekh (match) at first, but the Kaczeniecer magid (preacher) forced me [to accept it].” The wife seized my father by the hand, led him into the kitchen, opened the shenk and said, “Look, Haskele, what kind of baleboste I am (how responsible am I). All of the pots are still from my wedding (the pots were as black as coal), that means already over eighty years old and he says, that I am not a proper wife.”
Rafael Oleinik worked and earned with his own hands until his end (he was over 105 years old when he died). He said that he received a blessing from the Kaczeniecer magid, that he would have longevity and until his end would not have any [confrontations] with death.
There was no cemetery in Radomsk until 1829. The dead were taken to Sulmierzyce. In 1829 the terrible disease cholera [spread through Radomsk]. The city buried all those who had died of the disease, Jews and non-Jews, on a little hill near the future Jewish cemetery. Then the Jews bought the cemetery. The oldest headstone that I have found is from 1829. It should be known that there were very few Jews in Radomsk then. My grandfather, Reb Mikhal Shoykhet, of blessed memory, said that when he came to Radomsk [to be] the shoykhet in 1859, there were not yet any businesses. When one wanted to buy goods or clothing, it was necessary to go to Plawno. The Plawno proprietors were against having the railroad go through their city out of fear that it would disturb the quiet of their city. That is how it happened that it became necessary for the railroad go through Radomsk. Right after that, when the railroad began running, most of the Plawner businessmen moved from Plawno to Radomsk where commerce started to develop. It can be said that thirty percent of Radomskers originated in Plawno. I will mention only some of the well-known rich families that originated there: the Rikhtermans, Reikhmans, Grosbergs, Radoszickis, Rozenboims, Fiszmans along with many families that were not so well known. From then on Radomsk started to develop as a city.
The First Rabbi
The first Rabbi in Radomsk [in Bugaj] was Reb Nakhum Hakhohan. He wasn’t called the ‘Rabbi,’ but the Moyre-Tzadek (Learned and Judicious Teacher). He established the first Kehile (Jewish community) and he was a very great gaon (genius). It was said of him that he knew the whole Talmud and all of the commentaries of the first and second books of the Prophets by heart. In addition, he was a very modest and simple man and very much a man who liked to keep to himself, a Kabbalist. He was engaged in the Kabbalah all night. It is enough to remember that in the city it was said of him that he [was a mystic and that he] had revelations from Eliahu Hanovi (the Prophet Elijah). I knew one of his grandsons in Radomsk. His name was Rubinsztein [and he] had a food store on Stacjia Street and was a Gerer Hasid. The Moyre-Tzadek died in 1829. His grave was near the oyel (tomb) of the Rebbes. When I would come to the cemetery with my father, of blessed memory, he would always stop by the grave of the not so well-known rabbi and Tzadek (pious man), may his merit stand by me.
After the Moyre-Tzadek, the first rabbi arrived, [the Hasidic] Rabbi Shlomoh Hakhohan Rabinowitz. Through him, Radomsk became known throughout all of Poland.
The Tiferes Shlomoh (The Magnificent Shlomoh)
[The Hasidic] Rabbi Shlomoh Hakhohan Rabinowitz was born in 1801 in Wlochow. His father, Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Hakhohan, himself a merchant, was descended from Rabbis. The ‘Tiferes (Magnificent) Shlomoh’ was a student of the eminent [Hasidic] rabbis, Rebbe Meir’l Apter, Reb Fishele Strykower, of Rebbes Reb Ber of Radoszcye, Reb Haskele Kuzmerer, Reb Yeshayah’le Przedborzer and also of Rebbe Moshele Lelewer. It is told that when Rebbe Moshele Lelewer, who lived in Przedborz, left for Eretz-Yisroel the Hasidim asked him: ‘Rebbe, who are you leaving us with?’ He told them: ‘I leave you with the Radomsker Rebbe.’
There remained in Radomsk many tales and legends about this Rabbi. People told stories about him and [stories came] also from [his] scholarship and [there are stories of his] worthiness. It can be seen [that] in addition to [being known by the titles] Rebbe and Rabbi, he was also [considered] an extraordinary ‘groiser mentsch’ (great human being) and Jew and one of Jewry’s biggest manhigim (leader of a movement). He led the city of Radomsk, as well as a thousand Hasidim, with extraordinary wisdom.
How great his love of the Jewish people was we can see from the following: With the Tiferes Shlomoh there wasn’t any difference between the rich Jews and the poor Jews, or, as is said, between a beautiful Jew and a simple ‘folks-Jew.’ In this sense he interpreted the pusik (verse from a sacred book), ‘The followers of Aron, let them live and be well, are all equal in the eyes of G-d.’ All Jews have to be [equal to] the khohan (Jewish priest, descended from Aron), that means with the ‘leader of the Jewish people’ or alongside the rabbi, as a brother.
The Tiferes Shlomoh was also a great musician and composer. In the whole Hasidic world right up to the present, the Hasidim recognize the sweet and rapturous melodies, which were sung in the Radomsker court on Shabbos. All of the melodies were composed by Tiferes Shlomoh, himself. Which Radomsker doesn’t remember the completely rapturous melodies of the Rebbe’s Friday night “Sholem Ale’ykhem” or of “Eyshers-Kha’yel” (Woman of Valor) or the melodies of Shaleshudes (the late afternoon meal on Shabbos)? This was truly heavenly singing that moved every Jew to the heart.
He was a Rabbi from a frumen kheder (in Poland the Hasidim were divided into three parts: the philosophical Hasidim, such as Kock, the joyous and ‘lovers of Israel’ Hasidim, such as Warka and the frume (pious) Hasidim, such as Mogielnice, Przedborz, Radoszyce, Szydlowiec and Radomsk). The Tiferes Shlomoh was an exception. He incorporated Hasidic piety within
the philosophical and also the religious festivity. This we can see from the following story:
It is known that the Tiferes Shlomoh was a big wit, i.e. a wise-cracker. Every Friday when he sat in the bath before going to the mikvah, he kept saying jokes (it is known this was so that he would not think about Torah subjects that are forbidden in the mikvah). Once sitting in the bath, a frumer Hasid came in and as he usually did, he kissed the wall of the mikvah’s old mezzuzah. The Tiferes Shlomoh [was] exasperated with the Hasid and screamed: “Cow, nothing displeases me more than having the Kock Hasidim laughing that my Hasidim kiss the wall of the mikvah.”
He once said: “What did the Reboine-Sheloilem (‘the Lord of the Universe’) want of me that he gave me all such pious Hasidim? If he had given me Hasidim [such as] the Kock, I would be able to [have] a nice Rabbinical position.”
In this sense he referred to foolish Hasidim whom he disliked by citing the quote: “And I will inspire him with saintly spirit, wisdom, knowledge and understanding” (Parshat Tissa, 31, line 3). Wisdom is frequently praised and there is nothing more loathsome than a religious person who happens to be a fool. There is a saying that before a child is born, his qualities and disabilities are announced in the heavens, in other words, if the child will be smart or stupid (Nida 16). Thus if someone is stupid or a fool nothing that he will do will remove this stain from him.
The Tiferes Shlomoh was a strong opponent of assimilation and this we can see from the following history:
“In Radomsk in the past there lived a rich woman named Sheindel-Miryam Ferszter (her son, the well-known Mr. Berish Ferszter, built the ‘Hotel Polski’ and put a shul on the top. At that time it was called ‘the German shul’ and later it became ‘the Zionist shul’). The Ferszter family considered itself part of the Radomsk aristocracy. Sheindel-Miryam had her daughter and her cousin sent, even then, to the Polish school and the two girls fell in love with Russian officers. On the day of Yom Kippur the two girls ran away with the Russian officers. One can imagine what kind of stir this made at that time in a city as religious as Radomsk that two Jewish girls went away with Russian officers. They converted and married the gentiles. [People] ran screaming to the Rabbi; he said “Why didn’t my Nota-Feivel’s daughters run away with officers? [Because] my Nota-Feivel’s daughters sit at home, learning Yiddish and running a Jewish home. They don’t know any officers. But Sheindel-Miryam sent her daughters to the gentile schools, so they had the opportunity to meet Russian officers.”
(Nota-Feivel also came from Wloszczowa and was a relative of Tiferes Shlomoh. He was a relative of the father of the old Grosberg, who was called “Bertek,’ owner of a tavern on Strzalkowska Street.)
(Translator’s note: Commentary on a pusik by the Tiferes Shlomoh has been omitted.)
Another good word about Tiferes Shlomoh, the Oyev-Yisro’el (friend of Israel), [was that he] sensibly characterized his conception of the am-haseifer (people of the Book). He said in the prayer for Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur, “Our Father, our King, inscribe us in the book of prosperity and success. Give us Reboine-Sheloilem the ability to remain with both things – with the Holy Book and with the earning of a living. We should not be so weary with toil from work that we will not have any time to learn and look into the prayer book. The opposite, too, that we should not need, G-d forbid, to sit with the Holy Book only because there is nothing to do, because there is not any income. It should be the book of prosperity and success.”
Not long after that, when Tiferes Shlomoh became the [full-fledged] Rabbi of Radomsk, my grandfather Mikhal arrived from Rozprza as the shoykhet. He wasn’t a Radomsker Hasid, but a Warker and later an Amszinower Hasid. This [placed no obstacle in the way of them becoming] the best of good friends and Tiferes Shlomoh almost never decided a shayle (religious question) without the shoykhet Mikhal. It is told that the following happened in a restaurant erev Yom Kippur where one hundred Hasidim were staying. A shayle was asked about a chicken, a hen that was already salted and was mixed up with another one hundred [unsalted] hens. The innkeeper asked a shayle of the rabbis who came to Tiferes Shlomoh for Yom Kippur. All of the rabbis decided that all of the hens were treife (unkosher). But a sharper Hasid was in the inn, not a rabbi, but a respected Jew. He resented how the strange [i.e. not from Radomsk] rabbis decided the shayle. He said, “What right do you have to decide? There is a rabbi here in the city; he should decide.” When the innkeeper heard this, he immediately went to Tiferes Shlomoh [to ask him] the shayle. [Tiferes Shlomoh] immediately woke up from his sleep and he said, “Go and bring the shoykhet Mikhal to me. Reb Mikhal came straight from the slaughterhouse. The Tiferes Shlomoh said to him: “Look after the shayle.” Reb Mikhal searched in different seforim, Poskim-Risyoinim Yahrinim (commentaries on the Talmud from the 10th to 16th centuries) and [through] all the decisions concerning treife. “There is only one author, an Aron – who says, if [it causes damage to the many, consideration must be given to the interest of the many]. Can we make it fit?” The Tiferes Shlomoh had just washed and my grandfather
told him the opinions of all great men who say treife and [of] the lone author who says: if [it causes damage to the many, consideration must be given to the interest of the many]. Can permission be given (i.e. Can the hens be considered kosher?)? The Tiferes Shlomoh said: ‘Tell me the language that the author uses.’ My grandfather explained the precise language that the author used. The Tiferes Shlomoh answered: [It causes damage to the many] and a great necessity is now surely here. [Now] it is erev-Yom-Kippur. We will both be included with the author, that way we are a Beth-Din (religious court) of three – the author, the Tiferes Shlomoh and Reb Mikhal (three [make] a Beth-Din) and we say, kosher. And to the restaurateur he said, ‘Go home and make yom-tov for the Jews. This shows how broadly he was [as one] with Reb Mikhal, the shoykhet, and how great was his love of the Jewish people. He [decided] such a difficult shayle [and said kosher to what] almost all had said treife. [He did so,] because he felt what ‘damage to the many’ meant to such poor people and what [was meant by] ‘a great necessity’ to have meat for an honored Jewish yom-tov.
The kind of great thinker that Tiferes Shlomoh was can be seen by the following story: “When Reb Mikhal Shoykhet, became the shoykhet, he lived in the house that later belonged to Reb Yosel Najkron. He conducted himself so that Shabbos in the afternoon, right after the Shabbos meal, he closed the shutters and went to sleep until an hour before nightfall, [getting up just in time] to daven Minkhah (afternoon prayer) and to eat the concluding Shabbos meal. Then right after Havdalah (the end of Shabbos) he went to the butchers to slaughter cows and calves early Sunday morning (At that time there was not yet a slaughterhouse, but every butcher had the slaughtering done in the stall). That is how he went, from one butcher to the next butcher, until midnight. He had a neighbor, a simple man who resented that the shoykhet slept the whole day on Shabbos. The [neighbor] couldn’t endure such a matter anymore, [particularly] watching the shoykhet sleep the whole of Shabbos. Sunday in the morning, he went to the Rabbi in order to report the act. He came in and the Tiferes Shlomoh asked him: ‘What news do you have so early in the morning?’ He said, ‘Rabbi, I am not any kind of moralizer, but I cannot endure it anymore. [Immediately] after [the Shabbos meal] I go lie down to sleep. Then I wake up, say my prayers. I give food to the cat: I bring the horse to drink. Then I go to Minkha [and] I hear a drosh (sermon) by a magid (preacher), or I hear the Chumesh (Pentateuch) being read. Then I eat the concluding Shabbos meal and the new shoykhet is still sleeping. How can such a Jew, especially, a shoykhet, sleep the whole Shabbos and not look in a Jewish sefer?’ The Tiferes Shlomoh called in his wife and said to her: ‘Gitele, go buy meat’ and he gave the man a brotherly slap on the back and said: ‘You have kept me alive. While I have never used any meat on Sunday thinking how can a shoykhet go on Shabbos at night to slaughter. He is surely still tired. Then on Shabbos one eats heavy foods, mainly onions. One eats cholent, a kugel and after this, one drinks a little whisky, a little beer. How then can the shoykhet go to slaughter? Nu, the way you have told me, that the shoykhet sleeps on Shabbos through the whole day, he is well rested Shabbos at night after Havdalah the way another person is on Sunday in the morning. [As a result what he slaughters] is completely legal [and as a result] you deserve a big yahser koyekh (well done!).’’”
My grandfather Reb Mikhal Shoykhet was known in the whole town as an
old time physician (not formally trained). His recipes were accepted in
all the pharmacies. When a poor Jew, a poor butcher, a tailor, a shoemaker
or someone from their families became sick
My father Reb Ezkeleil Shoykhet, of blessed memory, told me that my grandfather Reb Mikhal Shoykhet would every Friday, when he left the mikvah, stop off [to visit] Tiferes Shlomoh to savor the Shabbos
in the house, drink a small glass of whiskey, eat a little cookie with fish. The Hasidim say, that one must already savor Shabbos on Friday because it says, this is a taste of what is to come.
A week before the death of Tiferes Shlomoh my grandfather took along my father to the rabbi. He was then six years old. The Tiferes Shlomoh gave my father a little pinch in the stomach and said to him, “Haskele, you will also be the shoykhet of this place.” And that’s how it was. My father was a shoykhet all his life in Radomsk. My father had as a child a little bit of a bent foot as almost every child has. The Tiferes Shlomoh asked my grandfather, “Why don’t you do something about it?’” My grandfather said, “Maybe, it would be good for [keeping him out of] the Russian military conscription.” The T. S. said, “You are right. He will be excused from the military because of this fault.” And, indeed, my father was freed because of this fault. When he was called to be conscripted by the Russian military, the Russian doctor said, “Indeed, again another lame Jew.” If he had known my father, [he would have known] that my father had normal feet, just a little bit bent, but he walked the same as everyone else.
The Sons and Grandsons of the Tiferes Shlomoh
It is told that the Wednesday evening before the death [of the Tiferes Shlomoh], Rabbi Reb Zemmah of Siedlice and Reb Ahron came to Radomsk. When the Tiferes Shlomoh greeted Reb Ahron, he told him, “The wise woman, of blessed memory, says, ‘Aron carried his bearers.’’” Reb Ahron was a very wise man and a man of achievement. He immediately understood the intention of the words. He was frightened and again asked what was the rabbi saying. But the Tiferes Shlomoh had immediately begun to speak of something else. On the same night, Wednesday 29 Adar, at three a.m. sitting by the Zohar (the holiest mystical book of the Kabbalah) opened to the account of [the time] after the death of Ahron’s two sons, [the Tiferes Shlomoh] died suddenly. He died and was buried on the 29 of Adar.
The Tiferes Shlomoh had three sons, Reb Leibusz, Reb Hirsz-Meir and Reb Abraham-Yisokhar. He also had three daughters, Sarah, Rebekhah, and Rokhel. The sons-in-law were Reb Lipman Litmanowicz, Reb Yehieil Landa and Reb Izrael Kron.
Reb Leibusz was a strongly observant Jew and a very honest businessman. He had a manufacturing business in the market. He sat day and night at the large business studying the Torah. A true man of righteousness! Reb Leibusz had four sons, Reb Yehezkeil, Reb Aleizer, Reb Ithamar, Reb Yitzhak and a daughter. The son-in-law was Reb Moshe Warczatski.
The second son, Reb Tzvi-Hirsz Meir was the city rabbi after the death of his great father. He was counted as one of the most prominent men. He led a great Yeshiva, was a great rabbi who popularized learning of Torah and, in addition, a great Kabbalist. He sat studying the Torah day and night. All the teachers in the city gathered with him every evening to talk, to sharpen their learning. He never tired of all of the people who came to him. He was a plain, kind person. He had a good word for every person who came to him. He had friends from all strata of the Jewish population; everyone loved him. When I say, all, I mean frume as well as free-thinking Jews. All kinds of Hasidim were his followers.
After the death of his great father, he traveled to the Trisker Magid (preacher), where he was counted as the first Trisker Hasid. Later he traveled to Rebbe Reb Motele of Kusmir (Translator’s note: possibly Kocmiery). Yet, many Radomsker Hasidim who came to Radomsk to the Rebbe, his brother, went to see Reb Hirsz-Meir to be favored with a glance from him.
He left four sons. The oldest, Rabbi Reb Izrael-Pinkus Hakhohan, became his successor as the city rabbi. The second son, Rabbi Reb Gerszon was the rabbi in Majicz (Translator’s note: possibly Mojusz). The third son, Rabbi Reb Yitzhak-Itzel was the rabbi in Plawno and the youngest son, Reb Yehoshua’le lives in Israel. One son, Reb Dovid died during his lifetime.
The son, Rabbi Reb Izrael-Pinkus Hakhohan was, alas, the last rabbi in Radomsk, up to the coming of the world murderer Hitler. The last rabbi of the great rabbis was deported together with the whole Jewish population of Radomsk. Two of the last rabbis’ sons remained in Israel, Reb Shlomoh who lives in Kefar-Hasidim and was one of its first founders; the second son, Reb Yehoshua Aleizer (a son-in-law of Reb Aleizer Strawinski) died in Haifa.
The youngest son [of Tiferes Shlomoh], Admur (Teacher and Master) Rabbi Reb Abraham Yisokhar was the successor as Rebbe after his great father. He was born in 1847. He was referred to as ‘Hasid L’Abraham’ [which was the name of] his Sefer published on the entire Torah. He was one of the smartest and noblest rebbes in Poland. Those who once had studied and delved a little into the Sefer ‘Hasid L’Abraham’ can understand his knowledge of Torah. In addition, he was an extraordinarily refined person and a very modest person. He paid attention to everyone as if with his own child. His great modesty can be seen in the following story, which was told about him. While the Hasid L’Abraham became connected to the Gerer Rebbe through marriage (Rabbi Reb Mendeli, the Pabianicer, and later the Kaliczer rebbe, was a son-in-law of Hasid L’Abraham. His wife died while still very young, leaving a child, Reb Abrahamli, who later became the Pabianicer rabbi.), he sent one of his Hasids, a great teacher, to Ger to ‘examine’ the husband as was the custom in Poland. Later, at the rebbe’s court, when the Hasid returned from Ger, Hasid L'Abraham asked him if it is really true that the people in Ger strongly embrace a modest manner and bear themselves there as nonentities with great modesty? The Hasid answered him, “Yes, this is true. In Ger, people do bear themselves as if they were nonentities. The story is, however that others there regard them as even greater nonentities.”
Hasid L’Abraham died on the 13th of Elul 1892
The Hasid L’Abraham had five sons and five daughters. The sons were Reb Elimelekh, Reb Yehezkeil, Reb Shlomoh, Reb Yekeli and Reb Natan, who was called Reb Notke.
Reb Elimelekh was a very noble Jew and a great teacher. He died while his father was still alive. Reb Elimelekh’s wife was known throughout the city. Who did not know Minche? She had a large wholesale manufactured goods business on Przedborzer Street.
Reb Elimelekh left only daughters. He had four daughters. The oldest son-in-law was Rabbi Reb Moshele of Rawa; the second daughter was the last rebbitzen (rabbi’s wife), the wife of the last rebbe, the holy Reb Shlomoh Henekh, of blessed memory. The third daughter was the wife of the well-known Mizrachi worker Reb Mendele Frenkel, a son of the Checiny Rebbe and a half-brother (they had the same mother)
of Rabbi Reb Yeshaiyahule Szpira, of blessed memory. The youngest daughter was the wife of Reb Natan (he was called Note’le), the son of the Blendower Rebbe.
The second son of Hasid L’Abraham, Admur Reb Yehezkeil, was Rebbe, the successor to his great father. He was known for his sefer, “Knesset Yehezkeil.” This was a unique rebbe, a man who lived through his good deeds, who sat day and night in the study of Torah and the service of G-d. When one arrived in the Rebbe’s court, there was always a light in the Rebbe’s window, even in the middle of the night. He would go to the mikvah (ritual bath) in the middle of the night when the mikvah was locked. He would knock out the windowpanes, enter the mikvah through the window opening and immerse himself in cold water.
The Knesset Yehezkiel was a man of unquestioning faith and a great believer that a Jew would not, G-d forbid, steal when it clearly states, ‘thou shalt not steal.’ It once happened that a prankster or a thief went into the Rebbe’s bedroom at night and stole the silver candlesticks and several other silver valuables. It was definitely known that the Rebbe had not been asleep and had seen who the thief was, but he did not want to say who it was. The mockers said that he could not scream because the thief had first taken away the negl-waser (the water used for washing in the morning) and until water is poured over the hands, one cannot speak. However, the truth was that he knew who the thief was, but he did not want to suspect a Jew of thievery. A Jew would not transgress with such a great sin as ‘thou shalt not steal,’ unless he found himself in great need and stole the things so that he could sell them or pawn them to save himself. Later, he would surely give them back.
His reading of the Torah at the table was a divine service. He read the Torah with such ardor; he could sometimes repeat a word several times. He would fall into a mighty rapture when he read a word his father wrote about the Torah. “My father, may his memory be blessed, has said,” he would repeat many times. When he fell into a rapture while davenen, he was seized by simple awe. I remember how once on Rosh Hashanah, he ‘davened’ Musef (Shabbos and holiday morning prayers) in front of the reader’s stand. He was not a musician. In general, he could not sing, but the Hasidim created an orchestra among themselves under the leadership of ‘Blind’ Yehezkiel of Bedzin, who sang very beautifully. Anyone who did not hear [Knesset Yehezkiel] daven on Rosh Hashanah, has no inkling as to what the Hasidim mean when they say, “All of my bones will take part.” When he said, “You Lord will soon rule over all of your creations,” trembling embraced every limb. Not only the Beis-Midrash overflowed, but the whole courtyard was full of Hasidim, worshipers and Radomsker businessmen who ‘davened’ with the Rebbe every Rosh Hashanah. Thus, for example, the Butcher’s shtibl (small Hasidic house of prayer) was locked on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur from the time of Tiferes Shlomoh. On the Days of Awe all of the butchers went to daven with the Rebbe. After eating, many businessmen came to daven with the Rebbe, too. After this praying, the whole congregation immediately began to daven Minkhah (the afternoon prayer). When the praying ended, it was almost five o’clock. The whole congregation of Hasidim in Polish shtreimlekh (hats worn by Hasidim), as well as in Galicianer shtreimlekh with the points, and many Radomsker Jews and women went to the Strika (a river with that name), to say Tashlik (Translator’s note: a ritual performed at a body of water on Rosh Hashanah in which the pockets are emptied of crumbs over the water as a symbol of washing away one’s sins). This was a religious procession that is not seen among Jews in Western Europe. All of the men were in silk coats with shtreimlekh on the head or in velvet hats. The women were in white shawls and the old women with white bonnets on the head. All stood by the side of the river with the makzorim (prayer books) in their hands and said Tashlik with great fervor. After saying it, most emptied their pockets, throwing their sins into the water in order to fulfill Tashlik in “the depths of the sea.” In their youthful clothing, young rascals pushed and threw stones in the water. Then the Hasidim accompanied the Rebbe with singing to the Beis-Midrash and to the table, dancing with great ecstasy. The Rebbe together with the Hasidim celebrated at the holiday table. The senior Hasidim, especially the learned Jews, the great scholars and the old Hasidim sat on two long benches on both sides of the table. Behind the benches stood the sharp young Hasidim who wanted to see each gesture of the Rebbe, how he ate, how he rocked, how he sang Shabbos songs. When the moment came and the Rebbe began to read the Torah, there was such a stillness in the Beis-Midrash that one could hear the buzz of a fly. When the Rebbe read Torah, the Hasidim would not permit themselves even to cough. Such a ‘table’ could last until three o’clock. Then, the Hasidic dancing would first start. The Galicianer Hasidim with their shtreimlekh with thirteen points stood out. The points quivered and shook as if they would be carried away with the general ecstasy of dancing.
The Knesset Yehezkiel died at the age of forty-eight at 9:30 on Shabbos at night, 18 Cheshvan 1909. Thousands of Hasidim came from all over Poland and Galicia to his funeral, which took place on Sunday afternoon. Special trains came from Lodz, Czestochowa, Bedzin and so forth. Twenty-five thousand Jews took part in the funeral. I saw how Hasidim stood in the street crying like small children, because the Rebbe was very much loved by his Hasidim and died at a young age. Almost all of the rabbis of Poland came to the funeral, too. He left two sons, Rabbi Reb Shlomoh Henekh, who succeeded his beloved father as Rebbe. The second son, Reb Elimelekh was the rabbi in Siedliszcze.
The third son of Hasid L’Abraham was Reb Sholemele. He was a Jew, a businessman and lived in Olkusz, a fine and dear person, a person of great modesty with simple ways and a person of great morality.
The fourth son was Rebbe Reb Natan, known as Reb Notke. At first he was Rebbe in Kromolow, later in Zawiercie. He looked exactly like his father. He was goodness itself. An absolute lover of the Jewish people and his courtesy is indescribable. As Rebbe, he gave himself completely to his Hasidim and sacrificed his life for every Jew (he was very much loved by everyone). He lived when the world war broke out and he perished together with all of our brothers and sisters at the hands of the world murderers. His son Reb Elimelekh, the Zawiercie rabbi, spent a long time in
Auschwitz, worked at hard labor in Hitlerist concentration camps. When the murders cleared out the lager at Auschwitz before the arrival of the Russians, he together with all of the wretched Jews were marched to Dachau. However, unfortunately, the noble Jew and rabbi did not have the strength to march and the murders shot him on the road. This was told to me by a Jew from Paris, his follow sufferer, who survived.
The fourth son of Hasid L’Abraham, Reb Yekele was the rabbi in Klobuck. After the death of his father, a large number of Hasidim traveled to him in Klobuck. He was still very young, at most just over twenty. The Hasidim said of him “a star has risen from Yakov.” He had an extraordinarily good head and was a very diligent student. Alas, he died very young in Otwock. He left two sons and a daughter.
The Sons-in-Law of Tiferes Shlomoh
The oldest son-in-law of Tiferes Shlomoh was Reb Lipman Litmanowicz. This was one of the most eminent Hasidim, a great scholar of religious texts dealing with daily life and esoteric doctrine and, in addition, a keen Hasid. It is told that when he wanted to travel to Kock, he was afraid to tell his father-in-law, the Tiferes Shlomoh. He just knocked on the window and yelled in, ‘Father-in-law, I am going to Kock.”
The Kotsker Hasidim wanted to make him their rebbe after the death of
Rebbe Reb Henekh Hakhohan of Aleksander, but he did not want to become
rebbe. Instead he wanted to travel to Ger, where he was one of the greatest
Hasidim with Kotsker ecstasy. The Sochaczewer Rebbe, Reb Szmul, was his
Reb Pinkhas Litmanowicz had two sons: Reb Mendel Litmanowicz, a Jew, a great scholar, but a very simple
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