Chapter Two The Mystery of Hasidim
From the tales of the Hasidim
By Lev-Dov Weinman
A Disrupted Wedding...*
There lived in Radomsk Reb Shimshon Krakowski, may he rest in peace, an intelligent*
*The fragments consist of two passages written in Hebrew and two passages written in Yiddish. All are written by the author. The editorial staff decided to insert the full text as written. (Translator's note: Only the two Yiddish fragments are translated here.)
Jew and a wealthy man, one who excelled in good virtue. He had a good-looking daughter to give in marriage. There lived in Pszenek**, a shtetl not far from Radomsk, Reb Avigdor Kaminski, of blessed memory, a Hasid and a scholar as well as a G-d fearing man with a rabbinical appointment. He had a son to give in marriage, a highly accomplished man with good qualities. They arranged a marriage; a contract of engagement was written and then, a rich man's joyous wedding was celebrated in Radomsk, a real Hasidic [wedding].
(**Translator's note: I have been unable to find a shtetl anywhere in Poland with this name.)
After the wedding, the groom's father Reb Avigdor Kaminski and his wife went to Reb Leizer Tencer's hotel where they were lodged. Early in the morning, the groom's mother, as was the custom, went to the bride to put the sheitl on her head. However, she quickly came running back to the hotel, not dead and not alive. She threw herself on Reb Avigdor screaming, An unmentionable sin, the bride has not shorn off all of her hair
" Reb Avigdor did not think for long. He sat down at the table and wrote the following note to the bride's father:
"Dear in-law Reb Shimshon, you have know me for many years and you know that when I give my word I keep it. I say to you that if the whole hair is not shorn off...I will take the groom from the bride and we will travel back home today..."
Reb Shimshon Krakowski called over his daughter, the bride, showed her the note and banged his fist on the table, so that the table almost split. Nothing more had to be said to her. The bride quickly disappeared into her room and shaved her whole head, not leaving any trace of her beautiful hair...
To the "Kheifetz Haim" for a Remedy
Reb Mendel Lakhman was the son of Reb Yerahmeel and a grandson of Reb Izrael the Dzialoszyner and Reb Yakov-Aron the Aleksandrer (the author of "Beis Yakov"). Reb Mendel was holy and pious, a greatly hospitable man in his own home and besides had built a large hotel-like building for the city [to give] hospitality for strangers. Every Shabbos night he would arrange a feast for the conclusion of Shabbos for all the visitors to the city. He himself would sit at the table and his face shone like the face of an angel. His concern for charity and interest-free loans were unimaginable, and he did this all for the glorification of G-d and for his eternal soul, because his body was very weak.
Once his wife and children insisted that he [spend a little time in the] curative baths to cure himself. Reb Mendel packed his clothing and took leave of the members of his household and intimates and left home. However, later it was learned that he had not traveled to the curative baths, but to the Kheifetz Haim, of blessed memory, in Radun. There he drew in spiritual air and acquired purity and holiness from the holy Tzadik. Reb Mendel returned from there refreshed, encouraged and almost healthy.
Reb Shlomohle Radomsker
By Gershom Bader
Radomsk, the old Polish shtetl, which for the last hundred years played a significant role in the spiritual life of the majority of Polish Jews, would not be known at all. It would not even be on a map, if Radomsk would not have been the seat of a Hasidic rebbe, Reb Shlomohle, the author of the sefer "Tiferes Shlomoh."
As in all other small shtetlekh in Poland, the Jews lived with their old ways, as if locked off from the rest of the world.
The Rabbi of the shtetl had his goods just for the scholars, who would be delighted with his profundity and the simple folk-Jews would listen to his words with open mouths. However, they did not understand anything of what the scholars discussed and over which they split hairs.
There developed at that time the so-called Hasidism, which brought in a new religious philosophy for simple people, adjusted to their comprehension. In such a way, the Hasidic Rebbe was the guide for all the needs of life and he no longer limited himself to questions of tepl-lefl' (pots and spoons minor questions) or the disputes over eighteen pennies.
The wider common people, who would be afraid to approach a Rabbi, lest they be singed by the Rabbi's learning, found with the Hasidic Rebbe a sympathy for their daily needs and they would ask for advice on all questions about their existence, the spiritual equally with the economic.
Reb Shlomoh Ber Dovid Tziv Hakhohan was born in 1796 in the shtetl Wloszczowe, and as the Jews in Poland seldom had surnames at that time, Reb Shlomohle was only referred to with the name Radomsk. His children were the first to take the name Rabinowicz.
As soon as Reb Shlomohle came to Radomsk as Rabbi, the emigration to Radomsk from near and far began. Hasidim even came from the Austrian lands. The political boundaries, which had been erected with the division of the Polish Kingdom, did not interfere with the development of Hasidic life.
At that time it was a great struggle for Jews in the Polish shtetlekh to earn a livelihood and the needs of the people became more complicated every day. Everyone was sure that the Rebbe had concern for them, their children, their lives and their livelihood. Everyone would throw their concerns onto the Rebbe and the Rebbe had to carry around every need in his thoughts.
For a long time, Reb Shlomohle was against the idea that he become a rebbe and take payment for his advice. In his great modesty, he was afraid to take the responsibility of a leader. However, the Kehile would not give up and the more he drove people from him, the more they would come to him, until he had to bend to the will of the common people.
The great enthusiasm for Reb Shlomohle began with the people hearing him daven. The simple person was left standing amazed when Reb Shlomohle gave the blessings on Rosh Hashanah. Whoever heard him say "make a good living" was certain that Reb Shlomohle had obtained life and livelihood for all Jews.
Everyone who had the honor to be present at his Kidesh Levone (blessing of the new moon) felt lucky. Those who heard his Musif on Rosh Hashanah or his 'service' on Yom Kippur felt luckier. Those who heard him daven on Shavous obviously saw the whole story of welcoming the Torah and clearly heard the thunder and lightning from Mount Sinai.
As was then the custom for all good Jews, each Hasidic rebbe traveled to a rebbe who he held as greater than himself. When Reb Shlomohle was a child of five, his father took him along to Pszczolki, and when he was a grown young man, he would travel to Reb Yehezkeil Kazmirer. Later, he would travel to Sandz to Reb Haim Halberstam.
It is told that he remained in Sandz for Shavous and he did not recite pyetim (liturgical poems) on yom-tov. In Sandz it was not permitted to give up the least bit of pyet, so the old Tzadik saved all of the pyetim for the other yom-tov, so that Reb Shlomohle could daven at the lectern. After, the Sandzer, himself, declared that with Reb Shlomohle's davening he felt the entire pleasure of the welcoming of the Torah.
Crowds would turn to Reb Shlomohle with [tales of] different events with demons and ghosts, evil spirits and dibbuks, who would in those times, increase and multiply in every Polish shtetl. It is even told that in this respect Reb Shlomohle had a great effect. With his eyes he would hypnotize the sick, before the system of hypnosis was known in the medical world. The sick themselves believed that his word had the power to drive out every bad spirit from Jewish houses.
Principally, Reb Shlomohle Radomsker was widely successful with his melodies. He would serve G-d with joyfulness and song. He would have the best effect on the masses. At times he would tell stories of G-d fearing people, of human goodness and of giving charity. In the matter of charity, he had learned from the old Sandzer Tzadik, who gave away the last penny to the poor.
After his marriage, Reb Shlomohle Radomsker was a businessman. That means his wife ran a business to support the house and he sat all day and night in the Beis-Midresh. And when the Radomsker Jews wanted to hire him as Rabbi, he did not want to take the rabbinate at first. He
was afraid that as Rabbi his studying would be disturbed. Reb Ber Radoszycer told him to take the rabbinate and he obeyed.
Reb Shlomohle arrived in Radomsk in March 1834. He was then 34 years old. (Translator's note: Earlier in the text it is stated that Reb Shlomohle was born in 1796.)
The salary was then 15 Polish gilden a week (2 rubles and 25 kopeks) in addition to an apartment and an ethrog for Sukkous. Later, the wages grew to 6 rubles a week and the rebbitzen was permitted to run a separate business.
That is how Reb Shlomohle lived in Radomsk for 32 years until he died on the 16th of March 1866.
As mentioned, Reb Shlomohle had the greatest respect for the feelings of the simple people. With every question of communal life he would quickly listen to the advice of the people and it did not bother him when the scholars of the shtetl frowned upon this.
He was regularly given the office of the sandek (holding the baby during circumcision) at every bris in the city. It was told that a non-observant Jew once came to honor him [by naming him as the] sandek. The Rebbe's household did not want him to accept. The rabbi answered, This man does all bad deeds by himself. The first opportunity he has to perform a mitzvah, he brings it to me. Can I refuse to perform a mitzvah? Obviously, not. But I am willing to refund to him his payment to me if he promises to improve his behavior or tries to observe more mitzves!
The Radomsker dynasty
By Y. Feinkind
The Radomsker Dynasty, [founded by] the Tiferes Shlomoh, is as old as the Jewish kehile in Radomsk. At the beginning, Jews were not permitted to live in Radomsk. This privilege was granted by King Wladislaw IV in 1643 and legally applied until 1862. Before, the Jews had settled in the fields around the city, so that a Pale of Settlement was created in Bugaj, which was a suburb separated by a gate with a tollgate at the bridge.
The first Jewish inhabitants consisted of the newcomers arriving from the surrounding poor areas. In 1832 the local Jews, who earlier belonged to the kehile in Przedborz, obtained an independent kehile with its own cemetery from the administrative powers. Until then Radomsker Jews would bury their corpses in Sulmierzyce.
In 1834 the Radomsker Kehile invited Rebbe Reb Shlomoh'le of Wloszczowe as the first town rabbi, Reb Hirsz Wloszczower's son. He was the first rabbi in Radomsk and received the salary of 15 gilden (2.25 rubles) a week. In the rabbi's letters, Reb Shlomoh'le discussed with the businessmen that his Gitele, the Rebbitzin, should be able to maintain a store. He did not want to be entirely dependent on the businessmen...
In Wloszczowe, the Rebbitzin had a little store, but she did not have a great success in selling. It was because of this that Reb Meir'l Apter and "The Mogilinicer" advised Reb Shlomoh'le that he should accept 'G-d's Throne' in Radomsk, although the city was still small. In Radomsk the Rebbitzin did business in the market with troughs and thus helped the Rabbi with income, although the Radomsker shopkeepers did not like the Rebbitzin's competition...
From the time of Reb Shlomoh'le, the author of "Tiferes Shlomoh," Radomsk grew in both esteem and wealth and in [the number of] Jews. However, Tiferes Shlomoh was not very satisfied with the members of his community. Because of his prominence in learned and Talmudic circles, the rabbis crowned him as Rebbe and thanks to this he began to draw a means of support for his household. The great rising star, Reb Haim Tsuncer and still other prominent men strongly supported him; Reb Moishe Lelewer, before his departure for Eretz-Yisroel, asked his congregation to travel to Radomsk.
At first, Tiferes Shlomoh had to put up with a lot from the Kotsker [Hasidim], but later his greatest opponents and enemies became his best friends and followers. The Tiferes Shlomoh conquered them with his great piety, scholarship and Hasidism.
The great Polish Gaon, the great rising star,' strongly befriended Tiferes Shlomoh. He would send his followers to him in cases of despair, so that the Tiferes Shlomoh would bring salvation and consolation from heaven with his prayers for [these] Jews. Thousands of people would besiege his Beis-Midresh in Radomsk, seeking his help. Although the Tiferes Shlomoh would be very angry and often even would push the crowd from him and scream, the crowd would rush his doors. His screaming was taken as a remedy for the evil decrees, which hung over their heads, and they were helped.
When the Tiferes Shlomoh was still a young man in the Piotrkower Yeshiva he had a reputation as a great prodigy. At thirteen years of age he already knew the whole "Urim-Veumin"of Reb Yohanos Eibeshitz and had himself written "Khudushim." At night when he remained alone in the Beis-Midresh, he would deeply immerse himself in the Kabbalah seforim and devoted himself to Hasidism.
There is a story that once standing so immersed at
the dark window of the Western Wall of the Beis-Midresh, looking out to the old cemetery and reciting the Zohar, he had a strong yearning for mercy and he became troubled in his heart. Tiferes Shlomoh took the shofar out of the reading desk and began to blow 'tekiah' (one of the three sounds of the shofar). Suddenly he saw the corpses in shrouds besieging the window and yelling to him, "Is this the shofar-call of the Meshiekh (Messiah) and of the resurrection of the dead?" This vision so frightened Tiferes Shlomoh that he immediately threw down the shofar and left the Beis-Midresh and ran where his eyes carried him. The corpses, alas, had to return to their eternal rest. When he told the story to Bris-Abraham, with whom he had studied, he was strongly berated because he devoted himself to Hasidism instead of to the Talmud and the commentaries.
However, Tiferes Shlomoh went further on his well-worn way, and, when he became rebbe, he, it is told by the Hasidim, literally resurrected the dead and [manifested] other great miracles.
In the time of the Polish rebellion, in 1863, the Jews found themselves between two fires. Every minute other people came and caused a stir with the Rebbe. Here the Cossacks had captured a Jew and led him to the gallows; here the rebels wanted to hang a Jew. Without any reason, etc., etc. Tiferes Shlomoh rescued many Jews from death.
When the rebels occupied the local estate of the Jewish owner in Plawno, the relatives created a great commotion in the Rebbe's Beis-Midresh and did not want to leave. Tiferes Shlomoh sharply rebuked them, as was his nature, and told them to go home. "It will all come to money and the money will not be lost," he said. The children of the estate owner took the advice of the Rebbe and bought their father's freedom for 8 thousand rubles. The lord, who managed the group of rebels, was aware that the Radomsker prophet, whom he knew well and was often reminded of by his Jewish lessee, had told them to give the money. The lord did not give the money to the revolutionary committee, but he placed it in an envelope and sealed it. He wrote on the envelope from whom and how much he had and hid it in his home.
Suddenly, the lord's house was attacked by General Bremzen, who operated in the other area with General Wagner's Cossacks. The envelope with the money and the inscription was found during a search of the lord's house. General Bremzen ordered that the Jewish estate owner from Plawno, whose name appeared on the envelope, be brought to him. Again, they ran to the Rebbe in Radomsk, and Tiferes Shlomoh, angry with the children, immediately left to take the money from the general. The general listened to the whole story about the money and not wanting to pick a quarrel with the Rebbe, about whom he had heard a great deal, freed the rich man from Plawno and gave him back all of the money. Thus was fulfilled the promise of Tiferes Shlomoh.
In Radomsk proper, Tiferes Shlomohle took a deep interest in the population. It was necessary to redeem Jews from Czarist Russian military conscription. He went house to house with Reb Tuvia, his gabe, to collect the money for redeeming the prisoners. During the winter, he again collected donations for wood for the poor; for Passover - flour for matzohs for the poor; and in an emergency - for the poor, for the sick, etc.
On the other hand, Tiferes Shlomohle opposed every phenomenon that was not to his liking and got involved with everything and everyone. He even involved himself in the fashion of the women's world and struggled against it with all of his energy. He proclaimed a ban on the style of hooped skirts, which appeared in 1862, that Jewish women should not wear them. When a certain rich woman in Radomsk, not paying attention to the Rebbe's ban, presumed to appear in the street in a hooped skirt, she lacked for no distress. Tiferes Shlomohle placed a real curse on her and it did come true. Her children, Heaven preserve us, died the same year.
It is told in the Hasidic storybook about the quarrel that he had with the Radomsker official paid to arrange exclusions from army conscription to whom Tiferes Shlomoh himself went to discuss a donation for the ransoming of soldiers. The official did not want to give [up as many soldiers] as the Rebbe asked him to, and therefore [the official] did not want to take the money. The official argued with Tiferes Shlomoh and said he would denounce him to the authorities, because he was freeing Jews from the military. A short time later, because the Jews boycotted him, the official who was a very rich man [lost the privilege of taking the money]. He became a common beggar. The Rebbe did not want in any case to forgive the threat of denunciation.
Tiferes Shlomoh died erev Rosh Khoydesh Nisen (1866) at the age of 63. (He was born in Wloszczowe in 1802). He was the town rabbi in Radomsk for 32 years.
Eight days earlier, (at the close of Shabbos, the 23rd of Adar [March]) [Reb Haim Tsuncer], Khidushi-Hrim died, saying before his death, that the coming Friday, they will have in heaven a dear Bel-Tfile (person who recites the prayers) to welcome the Shabbos. He meant by that, Tiferes Shlomoh, who was also a great Bel-Menagn (person with great musical talent). Another version relates that when Tiferes Shlomoh learned of the death of [Reb Haim Tsuncer], he then folded his arms and said, In honor of this guest, they will surely invite me to welcome Shabbos in heaven. A half an hour after this, the great priest to the Lord up high died.
Of his six* sons, G-d chose a successor to the great man of the people, the Rebbe Reb Abrahamle (Khesed Abraham), who died the 13th of Elul 1891. His son, Reb Yehezkeile, the Knesset Yehezkeil, was the successor to his great father and he died young (18th of Khesvan 1911).
*Translator's note: This number conflicts with the information in the previous chapter and with the information that appears on Tiferes Shlomoh's death record filed in Radomsk in 1866, which list three sons and three daughters. Perhaps six sons includes both his sons and sons-in-law.
All three rabbis from one dynasty were buried in one oyel (tomb), which symbolizes the three generations of Radomsker Hasidism. Near the oyel is found the grave of the Rebbitzen
Gitele, the wife of Tiferes Shlomoh. She fasted every Monday and Thursday. She died at the age of 92. It is told that Gitele once became ill, during the lifetime of Tiferes Shlomoh. He prayed for her health and said thus, G-d in heaven, so many nobles have large giter (estates) and You leave them alone. I have only a small Gitele, so leave her alone. With that prayer, Tiferes Shlomoh obtained for his wife long life, and from then on she did not get sick.
A generation of rabbis and rebbes in Poland came from this pious woman. The last Radomsker Rebbe, Reb Shlomohle Rabinowicz, was the fourth generation of the Radomsker Dynasty, which is regarded at the third most eminent dynasty in Poland (Ger, Aleksander and Radomsk). The Rebbe, Reb Shlomohle was a millionaire, he supported several yeshivas in Poland with his money and he also was a great host to poor men on Shabbosim and yomim-toyvim (his businesses paid for it
From all of the legends, with which the Radomsker Dynasty captivated the Hasidic world, I will relate the following.
Tiferes Shlomoh would travel to Lazinsk for the yahrhzeit for the Rebbe Reb Elimelekh. In as much as he was a khohan, he would always stop at a place near the cemetery, in front of the holy grave, and there he studied and prayed. The peasant to whom this spot belonged, treated this as an honor, that his field were blessed by such a pious and godly man, for whom he had great respect and he did not work this field or plant it. Several nut trees grew out of this spot. Tiferes Shlomoh would study and pray under their shadows. The trees were very fruitful and the peasant had income from them for the whole year
It is possible that these nut trees still stand today, and are abundantly fruitful
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