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I. The “Divrei Chaim” [“The Words of Chaim”] (cont'd)

It is clear that despite his great admiration for Maimonides, the “Divrei Chaim” accepted only those concepts from the rational philosopher that he could fit into his perception of Hasidic Toyre. The basic principles of Hasidism as in mysticism in general, were in complete disagreement with the rationalism of the Rambam regarding individual faith and belief, a cornerstone of the doctrine of Hasides just as it is for Orthodoxy. The “Divrei Chaim” felt it necessary to constantly reinforce this. He even said: “As is known, the Rambam had another interpretation” on a particular point[80]. The Rambam's views on the eternity of the soul are well known and express themselves in the ability of the soul to reach a high level of understanding Creation. Regarding Creation, Rambam, as is known, had an expression, that only those who reach the level of understanding Creation remain an immortal individual at the highest sphere of eternity that the soul will reach. Most of the people will pass on for their level of understanding is rather low. The “Divrei Chaim” did not attack the Rambam's theory only the extreme rationalists (the philosophical fools) that suggested that the soul has no use for those commandments that the mind does not perceive. The “Divrei Chaim” retorted: “In truth, that is not so because you cannot come to any truer enlightenment, according to the Toyre Kdushe [holy Torah] only by purifying the flesh and through good deeds that are beyond people's ability”[81].

Basically, the Rambam could also have formulated the same reply. He too stated that the observance of all commandments leads to human fulfillment. They however, disagree on the last few words of the former statement that the Toyre is beyond human understanding. These words showed the great difference between the views of Hasides and the Rambam. Even the “Divrei Chaim” could not bridge this gap. The Rambam maintained that the entire Toyre in all its details could be rationally explained and this should be the human goal: to explore the rationality of each commandment. Hasides, the traditional religious authorities maintain that the Toyre is above nature and mind. It is an article of faith. Maimonides maintained that the laws of nature cannot be broken and the several miracles that are mentioned in the Toyre are exceptions. The “Divrei Chaim” and other religious leaders maintained that believing in miracles is fundamental for faith.

Although the “Divrei Chaim” found problems between Hasidic rite and Rambam, he could identify wholeheartedly with “Kuzari” [name of an important philosophical work] by R' Yehuda Halevi. The “Divrei Chaim” drew from “Kuzari”, his main arsenal of philosophical arguments against the “accursed philosophy”[82], which he, like the great author, regarded as heretical and the antithesis of Judaism.

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The “Divrei Chaim” gave his Hanukah sermon especially against heretics and philosophy. The miracle of Hanukah was Israel's triumph over Greek philosophy, the triumph of Toyre over nature, over the heretics; the victory of faith[83]. There are also those discoursers who admit that there is a Creator of the world but they do not believe the Creator has custody of good works of people, not in the holy Toyre and not in miracles and in the Prophets[84]. The defeat of the Greek philosophers also applied to today although it underwent modifications. Soon we will apply it to the evil minds that keep mocking our holy Toyre[85]

There was total opposition between the Toyre and the Greek philosophers according to the “Divrei Chaim”. The latter therefore, sought inspiration from the writings of Yehuda Halevy, especially from his book the “Kuzari”. According to it, the philosophers are incapable of understanding truth. In order to reach this level of understanding, the philosopher must divest himself of all human impulses. Some philosophers understood this point of view and adopted a modest life style and kept away from extremes. But according to Yehuda Halevy and the “Divrei Chaim” this did not help them understand truth since man is born in lust and lust is part of his nature. Only the people of Israel received the Toyre to guide them in their life and protect them from lust in order to unite with the heavenly spirit[86].

The “Divrei Chaim” not only belittled philosophy but was against all worldly sciences for they merely darkened the divine light that is part of Creation. The “wisdom” including arts was merely skins or layers that darken God's light. It started with Adam who engaged in worldly science following his sin. With this, he created the first klipe [evil spirit]that was also the greatest worldly wisdom. Over time, with this evil spirit, even more evil spirits grew. According to his mystical historiography of regression, the “Divrei Chaim” clarified that all those who came successively after Adam occupying themselves with devising branches of science and art, have not developed the worldly wisdom, it is only more shrunken; every new evil spirit covering the earlier one, that was bigger than later one. Thus, Adam was smarter than Cain who invented music according to the verses of B'reyshes [Genesis]. The latter was smarted than the builders of the tower of Babel who were smarter than the thugs of the Second Temple period and so on…

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The things that we consider in our times as new inventions are mere illusions. For example, an English aristocrat invented something new this is merely an illusion and is the opposite of the truth. Our period is considered the repentance period and more and more of the divine light is revealed. Thus, more layers fall by the way side and we reach the original layers that still shield the divine light. Therefore, all new inventions are in essence merely old illusions[87].

The “Divrei Chaim” felt threatened by all that was based on scientific rational study and feared its clash with the mystical concepts of his Judaism. As a conservative person he also feared the capitalistic technical progress that seriously undermined the traditional Jewish trades such as inn keeping, merchandising and arende [supervising an estate]. These occupations were part and parcel of the backward feudal system and the “hamtsoes” [ideas, devices]. The modern means of transportation, the railways and roads began to undermine the economic system even more. R' Chaim expressed his reactions to this technical and scientific progress on numerous occasions: “The new wisdom that comes over this world these days – destroys today's ways of earning a living. In the past, jobs were protected while today the opposite is true”[88].

In his steadfast conservatism and bitter opposition to worldly knowledge, the “Divrei Chaim” believed it was not right to teach children “writing”, that is, elementary worldly education, even writing Yiddish… he was convinced that a child who learns “writing” gets a farshtoptn kop [literally, a clogged brain]…[89]

A determined opponent of philosophy and the world of science, he also strongly opposed to any change at all to traditional Jewish religious way of life. The “Divrei Chaim” answered a shayle [religious inquiry] (the city and the date of the question are unknown) that he received about a malamed [religion teacher for young children] in the following manner. The inquiry concerned a melamed who had insulted the “Or HaChaim z”l” (Rabbi Chaim Ater [Reb Chaim ben Atar, the Or HaChaim Hakadosh, {the Holy} 1743]) by stating that the book was not written with divine inspiration. The “Divrei Chaim” responded by stating that without any doubt, the Ruakh HaKodesh [divine inspiration] exists even today amongst people that are deemed worthy of it. It is suggested by Gemara (Baba Batra 12, 71) that states that since the destruction of the temple, prophecy had been taken away from the prophets and given over to the wise men “also in our own time there are among us, Ruakh HaKodesh with Wisdom and Truth who do not follow khoymer [the flesh]” .The “Or HaChaim” was certainly the divinely inspired author of “Or HaChaim z”l” and the teacher that denies this factor is nothing but a heretic.

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Furthermore, the melamed does not believe in the testimony of the great rabbis of our time who stated that the “Or HaChaim” was divinely inspired. The teacher offends the essence of the Divine Spirit and mocks the above quoted passage of the Gemara. You did very well in refusing to put your children in his hands. Continue the good work. With regards to the salary that was owed the teacher, the “Divrei Chaim” refused to discuss the matter since the man was not before him and he was not familiar with him as a teacher. Perhaps he was a very good teacher and behaved in a very traditional manner except for the mistake that he made”. R' Chaim decided to leave the matter of salary to the local religious authority that was more familiar with the entire situation[90].

Another shayle on heresy, also without a date, was reported to the “Divrei Chaim”. Rabbi Meir Rokeach of Korytków[91] wrote this inquiry and he asked what is to be done with a book entitled Malot HaHagion” with a peyresh [commentary] from…[92] that had been transcribed by a heretic. The Sandzer Rabbi paskent [ruled] in his tshuve [response] that according to the “Shulhan Arukh” (Yore Dea, Si', rp”a), there is no distinction between a Seyfer Toyre [The Five Books of Moses] and just any book written by a heretic, and it has to be burned. However, the Rabbi knew of a ruling made by his father-in-law, (the Lipniker Rov) that in such a situation he had ruled that the book should be placed in a new earthenware pot and hidden in the beysakvores [cemetery]. The “Divrei Chaim” gave the petitioner a choice…

A third case addressed to the Rabbi about heresies, again undated, was handled with a short response. The Kalisher Rov, Chaim Eliezer Waks asked advice about “those who revolted against the Toyre HaKodesh {Holy Torah] as we know”; we can assume here that this had to do with the trend of the radical maskilim. The “Divrei Chaim” advised him “to do everything in his power to destroy their plans and eradicate their bitter thoughts.” But he warned, “He should do everything very carefully so that they, God forbid, cannot spread their ideas even further; their words would be heard only faintly, and the good God would not abandon His people and his Toyre”[93].

With that sort of uncompromising position in the “Divrei Chaim's” fight against all kinds of heresy, it was only natural that he fought in the sharpest manner against the religious reform movement that spread at that time in neighboring Hungary. In 1864, the Divrei Chaim received a shayle from the head of the kehile and the businessmen of the Hungarian Mishkoltz kehile about a temple with a choir that they had established in their city. The reply was written with great anger. The essence of the Holy Torah, he stated, is based on the Toyre shebalpe [the oral Torah]. Any change or alteration of this belief would lead to the crumbling of the entire base for the people who are scattered amongst so many nations.

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Therefore, you cannot build any synagogue in a style other than the one that was used in building synagogues in the past in this country, and it must not resemble the “place of worship of others” with “a Hasan [cantor] who sings songs of others…” Using good psychological communication methods, the “Divrei Chaim” explained that the intention of building the temple was their shame over the Jewish customs before non-Jews, and he added to the point: “and we will also not shame ourselves before our blasphemer and those who mevase [degrade] our das [religion] and our khukim [laws]; it is known that in all non-Jewish religions there are ceremonies and laws that are not proper for non-believers of that religion. Though those laws are shameful in the eyes of other religions, it surely does not trouble the believers of that religion that one is degrading their religion. They do not want to destroy their ceremonies for those who mock them; all the more so, we who believe in the religion of Toyre HaKodesh will not abandon the correct laws because of the blasphemer…”

The builders of the temple in Mishkoltz were not members of the reform movement but the Divrei Chaim warned the people that the slightest change in the traditional Jewish religious observance was bound to destroy the Jewish religion. The path chosen by the builders of the temple in Mishkoltz may lead to the path of reform. The essence of reform is the fact that it has no religious feeling and no tradition. Thus they approach the Jewish religion without a religious feeling and select the things that they prefer on a non-religious basis. The “Divrei Chaim's” point was well taken and very original. He continued: ''Come and see what happened to the new faith that mocked the words of the Rabbis and was distanced from the Jewish people since they committed many sins. The rule is that people who do not believe in the words of the Rabbis who accepted Rabbinical Judaism, and do not follow the customs of our ancestors and the words of our sages, demean themselves when they select those rules that make sense to them. These people are not part of our holy religion; they also have no compulsion to follow all parts of other religions. He does not behave with any intention toward that religion's ways. He only does what pleases him, and if so, he is in general not within the boundaries of a man of religion…”

The “Divrei Chaim” finally explained gently why he did not quote texts in the above answer, firstly, the answer is clear in Tanakh [The Five Books of Moses] and Talmud and there is no need to elaborate on these sources.

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Secondly, why bring more quotes from the works of our Blessed Sages that would merely serve the detractors “the fools”, the new faction, to mock the religion. They are not interested in religion so there is no need to provide them with more information. Even the Toyre itself does not often provide clear choices but presents sentences of the “Living God”. However, these people do not accept the Toyre and certainly will not accept the interpretations of the Rabbis. On the contrary, they may even interpret the Toyre in their own light and thus deny the existence of God. The “Divrei Chaim” does not however close the chapter without stating that everybody can find the rules of the commandments in the books “Sefer Hamitzvot”, “Sefer Hamada”, the “Shulchan Aruch” and the Talmud [94].

According to that same principle, that one may not alter the traditional customs of prayer, he even objected categorically to the introduction of cantors with choirs in synagogues. In a letter to an esteemed old friend, the name, place and date are omitted; he compared a synagogue with a cantor and a choir to the theatre and even compared it to a “living statue”. The “Divrei Chaim” commented with irony and bitterness that apparently the preacher accepted these modernizations “because he had long not visited pious or righteous Jews that are mocked by the modern Jews who, in their eyes, compare them to beasts. These modern Jews must have influenced him…”[95]

A temple in a kehile in Galicia is mentioned in one of the “Divrei Chaim's” Shayles v'Tshuves. On answering the letter from the “holy religious community” in a city in Galicia, the “Divrei Chaim” supported the addressees for their resistance to the shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] who was accepted in spite of the prohibition “of the religious leaders of the community and the wise men”. The “Divrei Chaim” replied that they want to distance the Jews from their true faith… He urged them to abstain from eating meat that was slaughtered by this evil person. He also urged them: “to chase the so-called rov of the temple out with a strong hand”[96].

The conservatism of the “Divrei Chaim” was so extreme that he even objected to the slightest change of clothing. In answer to a shayle, “may a basyisroel [Jewish woman] wear a dressy ladies' hat, the same way non-Jewish women dress” He answered absolutely not and wrote a full page to back up his decision. He even wrote a long introduction to the decision by stating that the sages forbade Jews to imitate, God forbid, the ways of the non-Jews, but “aderabe [on the contrary] Jews must also respect and abide by the rules of the society in which they reside”.

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The Torah warned us not to defame the Egyptians among whom the Jews had lived and enjoyed their existence, “mikolshkn [all the more so] the people who find protection in their shadows, and the Lord gave us charm in their eyes to lighten our burden and they spread their wings over us to protect us from evil people, and they showed mercy and honored the Torah; the Lord pays them good wages. Therefore we certainly must… respect them and obey their laws. We are not forbidden to meet and interact with them, on the contrary, some of our great sages visited in the homes of the king and his duchess, just as R” Abbahu [lived c. 279-320 in Eretz Yisrael; encouraged the study of Greek by Jews. He was famous as a collector of traditional lore, and is very often cited in the Talmud-Wikipedia] and R' Yehoshua at the home of Caesar and Samuel and Rabba (Rabba, the son of Nachmani {270-330}), as mentioned in the Talmud”.

According to the theory of the Talmud, the “Divrei Chaim” stated the difference between Jews and other peoples concerning mitves and sins is that the nations refused to accept the Torah and the Jews alone accepted it. Thus, the Jew is not only punished for transgressing one of the 613 mitzves but is also punished for breaching the wall of the mitzve on the basis of the Talmud ( Beitza, 25, 72). The Toyre was given to the Jews because they are strong (in character). The “Divrei Chaim” further asked why the Jews needed the Toyre when other people did not: in order to restrain them even more from conceit, debauchery, cheating and to bring them to the “middle road of life”[97]. The Gentiles have no such strong urges and therefore the seven mitzves of the prophet Noah were ample for them… Furthermore there is no need to offend the Gentile and when the Jews will be liberated “the Gentiles will also receive their deserved payment as stated in all the books of the hz”l [Blessed Sages of Memory]”. The “Divrei Chaim” further stated that he did not intend to force his ruling on any woman, cause embarrassment to anyone. The application of force belongs to the rules of the country. His ruling only applies to those that willingly accept the law of Torah and only aims to learn what the rule is in Torah.

All of these reservations of the “Divrei Chaim” regarding the respect that must be granted the Gentiles for protecting the Jews, the compliments paid to the Gentiles about their humanity and their worthiness and even better nature (!) and vealkulem [and above all] the last warning, that nobody forces Jews to adhere to their laws of the Torah and nobody has a right to punish Jews for transgressing the mitzves [98]

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All of these statements imply that the Sandzer Rov tried to protect himself from acts that had previously caused him a great deal of trouble, as we will see in the case of an excommunication that he issued in 1872 against a Jewish businessman from Sandz, Yossef Meizen for obeying a ruling of the government (not Kaiser Josef the Second). This was a clear example of forcing his order to come true. Just like disobedience in relation to the laws of the land, it stands to reason that the “Divrei Chaim” felt all these preambles were necessary to show his loyalty which was surely because of his deep political understanding.

Following all these warnings in a light tone we reach the ruling itself on the shayle of may Jewish women wear hats like the Gentile women. The “Divrei Chaim” ruled that a Jewish woman that wears a hat is not only guilty of the sin of profligacy but also of an explicit prohibition in the Torah that states, “You shall not follow their customs”. Even when this woman wears all the clothing that is worn by Jewish woman but she wears one item that has a connection to modesty or profligacy like a Gentile woman, she is guilty according to the law of the Torah, and according to the Torah she should be whipped. The “Divrei Chaim” concludes from his own personal experience that to wear a hat is not appropriate for a Jewish woman and is against custom: when he studied in Lipnik in his father-in-law's house, the Jewish women in the area did not wear any hats[99].

The “Divrei Chaim's”' strict rule regarding female hats not only came from hats alone as a part of Gentile apparel. The guardian of all the old traditions had trained him well and he understood that in order to wear a hat, a woman had to wear a wig that was made of hair. He considered wigs a downright violation of Jewish law. Also, in the above question and answer, the “Divrei Chaim” joins hats and wigs into one. He again points out that in his days in Moravia, Jewish women did not wear wigs, only the lower elements wore them and they were mocked. Only lately did the style of wigs come into the fore, no doubt under the influence of the heretics.

Regarding wigs, the “Divrei Chaim” received another inquiry from the Rabbi Pinhas of B³¹dzin in Bukovina as to whether a Jewish woman can wear a wig in the street. The reply was as follows: according to the poskim or interpreters of the Halokhe a woman is not even permitted to wear a small portion of a wig for the back of the head, not even silk that gives the impression of hair. Thus the answer was obvious: a Jewish woman may not wear a wig or part of a wig.[100]

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In another question and response, the “Divrei Chaim” not only forbade the wearing of wigs but also streamers intertwined with hair since that style kept some hair on the head, that is, kosher to him meant only pointed kerchiefs with some decorations made of silk. The Rabbi of Staszow, R' Natan Frenkil, asked the Sandzer Rabbi the following question: in his city the kehile signed this agreement: that their daughters and wives would not wear the latest fashions called crinoline[*], nor would they expose their hair nor wear silk headdresses similar to hair. Anyone whose wife and daughters did not abide by the agreement would not be permitted to be part of the regular minyan [ten men needed for prayers]. This would also apply to those family members who had not signed the agreement. It was their duty to comply, and if he or his female family members did not comply, no one, God forbid, would be able to pray with him. This decision resulted in a great uproar and prayers were interrupted twice.

In his response the “Divrei Chaim” stated that the majority has the power to impose its decision, especially with regards to the restraints surrounding the mitzve. In this particular instance, it is logical to impose such ruling since a headdress similar to hair is a violation of Jewish religious law. However, if the ruling was not made by a majority of the members of the kehile then it cannot be imposed on the kehile. The majority has the right to forbid someone from praying in the minyan. The “Divrei Chaim” concluded with a characteristic remark: “But bavoynese'ynu-horabim [in view of our many sins] the flatterer has become stronger and no one makes the effort, no one strives and no one is careful, and therefore we should quietly, in any event, withdraw the truth from those who do not carry out the rule of the majority of the city.[101]. The “Divrei Chaim” revealed his cautious consideration that even those who signed the agreement would not explicitly prohibit members from praying. It may be that the “Divrei Chaim” considered the eventual consequences of possible government intervention. In any case this decision was written some ten years before the scandal over the Sandzer excommunication. In 1851 a law was issued in Congress Poland explicitly prohibiting Jewish women from shaving off their hair and wearing a headdress that non-Jews wore.

* decorated with crinoline Return

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The severe penalty was a jail term if, at a wedding, the rov was not careful[102]. Only in Galicia and the neighboring countries under Austrian control, Bukovina, Slovakia and Hungary, did the wearing of special Jewish women's clothes and also the men's clothes of the Orthodox masses, particularly Hasidim, continue well into the twentieth century.

V. The Economic Principles And Social Methods Of The “Divrei Chaim”

Despite his extreme conservatism in everything that had a connection to tradition and customs, the “Divrei Chaim” exhibited a significant elasticity in relation to customary tradition when it came to the question of Jewish farmers and Jewish lease holders of farms. During the first half of the 19th century under the era of the Metternich reaction, law forbade Jews from purchasing land or lease land in Galicia and all of Austria. After the great of 1848, equal rights had been granted and all restrictions had been abolished in connection with this. The reaction in 1851 re-instituted restrictions against the Jews in connection with buying estates, but they exerted their constitutional rights and wealthy Jews very often purchased estates from the nobility[103]. Thus, the problem of Shabes observance arose for the Jewish owners or estate managers since according to Jewish law, a Jew cannot allow anyone to work on Shabes, and even the animals have to rest on this day.

This problem had existed in Poland as far back as the 16th century when Jews used to manage large estates. The Rabbi of Krakow, R'Meshulem Feibush, advised the Jewish managers to arrange with their workers to work another day in the week instead of Shabes[104]. The “Divrei Chaim” did not like the idea of renting the estate to a Gentile for Shabes. The “Divrei Chaim” would prefer to outlaw selling an estate for Shabes with a Shtar-mekhire [purchase document, bill of sale] since such an isur [prohibition] came from the Gemore and Shulkhan Arukh (so that no one who did not know about the bill of sale could have the impression that a Jew permitted someone to work on Shabes). But as he said in the answer he sent his son R'Yekhziel, “since Jews were granted the freedom, not long ago, to live every place, many more Jews have become lessees of estates and many have bought estates”.

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It was a great violation of Shabes bavoyneseynu-ho-rabim [in view of our many sins {said in reference to the inevitability of an unfavorable development}]” and the outstanding leaders of the generation permitted Jewish estate owners to work on their estates provided they had a bill of sale for their property for Shabes. This was always the procedure, according to the principle: better to violate a simple law in order to preserve a major law. The “Divrei Chaim” also worked out a version for such a bill of sale or a “bill of lease”[105]. Jewish estate owners in Western Galicia and Hungary still used such formulas in the 20th century. The oldest son of the “Divrei Chaim”, R' Yehezkel Sziniawer, fought with his father his entire life over this “bill of sale” that he considered a violation of the law in Shulkhan Arukh[106].

The “Divrei Chaim” was also more flexible in another area of economic activity than his son Yehezkel who sent him a shayle regarding the Jews who managed liquor distilleries for landlords and permitted work on Shabes oyf dem “dreydl” [in secret]. The arrangement with the landlord was to the effect that they were partners in the hundredth percentile of the place. If he did not come to the factory to settle accounts, he would be paid 20 Rhenish as his share. Although some of the leading Halokhe interpreters were in agreement since one could interpret it so that the workers were working for the landlord, his partner in the enterprise. Rabbi Yehezkel said this was prohibited. The “Divrei Chaim” explained in his response to his son that the decision of the leading interpreters was correct, but this was justified only if the closing of the distilleries would cause greater harm. Certainly in the neighborhood of Sandz the situation was different: “according to what I heard from the wealthy people that live in our neighborhoods, for those who have many breweries and earn a significant sum, it is clearly not necessary to work on Shabes”[107].

It is very characteristic of the R' Chaim Sandzer to have a point of view on questions of economics as well as the economics of Jewish life. These issues appeared frequently in the Shayles v'Tshuves that came before him. There were questions of permission for free enterprise against the complaints of harming or actually taking away the means of making a living from others. The “Divrei Chaim's” time was the era of the penetration of capitalism into the backward, feudal economy of Galicia. The feudal economy with its organization of guilds and other corporations supported the principle of traditional rights and the keeping of competition to a minimum in order to protect all their merchants, storekeepers and artisans. The Jewish sector had a system parallel to the corporation system that followed the rule of “khazoke” [the right of possession]. Forward marching capitalism was based on the opposite principle, the principle of free competition, where everyone had the right to use all economic means, such as lower prices, better quality and so forth, in order to benefit his interests, without taking into account the harm done to his competition.

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As a rule, without voiding the law of khazoke, the “Divrei Chaim” demonstrated in his responses to free competition, as he told it himself, that he took the direction of his father-in-law, the Lipniker Rov. Here are examples of his decisions on the principle of free competition:

The Rov of Gumieniec, R' Rabbi Dow Berish Frenkil sent the following question: someone in a dorf that belonged to a landlord, wanted to lower the price of whiskey. His neighbors in the area protested the decision and claimed that it would deprive them of their livelihood. He sits in a small dorf and pays less for his lease, he can charge lower prices. The small lessee answered, “everybody does what he wants”. The “Divrei Chaim” with many citations from Poskim, responds that one cannot be prevented from lowering prices[108].
How free competition works in this system, can be seen in a question-and-answer decision: in a kehile. Non-Jewish weavers worked for Jewish merchants as khalupnikes (home workers). The merchants brought them wool and picked up the final products. Now, two Jewish merchants arrived and talked all the master weavers into signing a contract to the effect that, under a penalty if broken, that they would only buy wool from them. 15 weavers filed an action and went to court stating that they were free of the contract and could buy wool from whomever they wished. The rest of the weavers, however, adhered to the contract. The businessmen, the wool merchants in the city claimed that the two Jewish merchants had monopolized the wool trade and have ruined their business. The “Divrei Chaim” gave the assistants to the Rabbi a free hand to decide according to the provisions and improvements that they felt were needed. However, he gave the two merchants the right to proceed with this characteristic justification: “the merchants have the right to say: all of us have the right to negotiate with the master weavers and each one should figure out his own ideas in order to be able to buy. If we made this plan, you also have to figure out a plan and everyone does as he wishes”. In addition the “Divrei Chaim” declared that in this case the wool merchants cannot come with a complaint since they are the majority, and individuals and rebes have the same right; the “Divrei Chaim” added that especially according to what he himself knew when he lived with neighbors in another city[109], the “rebes” were not a majority and most of the Jews were not engaged in the wool trade, only a few Jews dealt with wool[110].

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Although the “Divrei Chaim” adhered to the theory of free competition in accordance with Jewish law, in practice he was decisively against it in certain cases when custom was different. Such a contrary situation is found in the question from a city in Galicia, where a man wanted to open a competing neighboring inn: someone had bought land behind his house in order to build, and confided the plans to someone in writing: (because he did not want to have any competition near his own inn). Then both buyer and seller died, the land was sold to a new owner. The new owner, who had bought the land from the original owner, wanted to build an inn, complaining that the limitations was only connected to the original buyer, not to his inheritors. The “Divrei Chaim” stated that according to Jewish law the inheritors had absolutely no right to prevent the customer from opening an inn. However, according to tradition they may: citing his father-in –law (R'Baruch Teumim Frenkel) who, according to the law, also saw no objection “to the division of income”, but he would not oppose the custom[111]. Also, in another case the “Divrei Chaim” ruled that according to the law of the Toyre “one cannot prevent someone from opening an inn just as one cannot prevent someone from opening a new shop”, but if there is a active custom that there cannot be a new inn, the besdin must not discredit the custom, but two innkeepers may be able to come to an agreement and allow two inns[112].

The “Divrei Chaim” also did not support free competition when both sides were not matched, that is one side was bound to lose its livelihood completely. In 1870, the Rov of Horodintze (in Vohlyin) wrote to the “Divrei Chaim” the following question: a factory had existed in the city for 79 years where Jews and non-Jews worked. The workers used to buy their food at the Jewish stores in the city. At the end of the month, when they got paid, they settled their accounts. Now, some Jews rented the factory from the owner and wanted a system where the workers would buy their food from the factory store and this would be taken off their salaries[113]. The Jewish shopkeepers in the city protested against this because this would take away from their livelihood and they have a right to their clientele[114]. The “Divrei Chaim” answered in his response that according to Jewish law, the new factory owners have the right to devise their own system in accordance with the principle “everyone may conduct business the way they want” but in as much as the shopkeepers loss is certain, we certainly cannot take away the livelihood of the shopkeepers[115].

In this case as in the case noted above with the wool merchants' council, the “Divrei Chaim” thought about this besdin, but he brought out all the arguments in regard to the two entrepreneurs against the wool merchants, here, he decidedly agreed with the shopkeepers against the factory owners.

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However, in the wool merchant case, it is clear that the distinction in the status of the “Divrei Chaim” in these two cases is not as a result of his becoming soft in his later years, but only the different circumstances in the two questions: in the first case the upper hand of the two entrepreneurs was in substance a victory of competition for the two merchants against the other merchants in the city, while in the case of the factory in Horodintze, the factory owners through their new borrowing system would have taken away from the shopkeepers the livelihood that was their right.

In general, the “Divrei Chaim” followed the theory of free competition but with limitations or exceptions, that is, when there was an established agreement or a traditional alliance. The traditional alliance had the force of law according to the “Divrei Chaim” and could not be transgressed. The rabbi maintained that the arende did not have a traditional agreement and therefore was subject to the law of the Toyre and does not have a claim. However, if the claim was according to custom, practically a regulation, then the custom cannot be violated and certainly not the regulation[116]. In one of his question-and-answers, the “Divrei Chaim” explained the historical development of the right of Kazakh [claim] of others in Poland: during the time of the MaHaRaSHaL [Solomon Luria (1510 – 1574)] and RAMA [Rabbi Moshe Isserles (1530 – 1572] in the sixteenth century, according to his understanding

the concept of Kazakh was not recognized as the law, only in the last generations has this instrument been accepted and become the rule[117], and in this era in every separate district this correction was made, and so it was not uniform. As an example, he points out his own circle, that is, Sandz, where it was granted in one year, and on the other side, in the neighboring district of Wisnice where Kazakh was granted only after three years. In that same way there was a custom in Sandz district, that if anyone earned claim against another, his claim remains for several years, while in other areas the custom was different[118].

Where there was a conflict of interests between that of the majority of the kehile and the individual, the “Divrei Chaim” usually sided with the majority over the individual. This is how he decided whether the lessee of the liquor-selling monopoly in a particular city, should hire (from the landlord or the government) the kehile or the individual entrepreneur. He usually sided with the ones that benefited the community at large. The “Divrei Chaim” however, had a deep understanding of social economic questions and was aware that behind the community often stood cliques of the wealthy who followed their own interests and not the interests of the community. They oppressed the liquor merchants a lot worse than the private entrepreneurs. He had the courage to stand up against giving over the lease into the hands of the kehile. In a similar matter, in one of the “Divrei Chaim's questions-and-answers, his reply was a classic with its sharp criticism, irony and bitter satire in describing the community leaders with their “yires shomaim tsvies” “God-fearing hypocrisy”

[Page 282]

Rabbi Yehazkel Sziniwar asked his father about an instance with a city lease that had been owned until then by two partners, and now they want to lease it with the motive that the entire community would benefit from this. The “Divrei Chaim” answered: it certainly is the custom in the entire country that the majority comes before the individual. The majority can even purchase a business that brings earnings to the community. There is also the motive that some are rich while the majority is poor and earnings for the poor are the first right.

“But”--- the “Divrei Chaim” continued his answer ---“dear beloved son, I will state one rule about this and from which you should not budge, “if khakhme [wisdom] is not there, old age will talk”. As you know, I always tried to obtain the leases for the city dwellers but have learned from experience that most of these events end in a swindle: some individuals got rich while holding the lease for many years and did not impose high prices on the innkeepers but treated them with kindness and did not burden on them. There are others who try by any means to acquire the lease but they are ashamed to take it by force, and so use subterfuge, stating that their intentions are on behalf of the community. Since and [inasmuch as][*] most of the innkeepers were poor people and needed loans, they would give them all the loans they needed saying it was for the benefit of the community. Once the event took place, the rich men ran things and incurred huge expenses added to the purchase price, all leshem-shomaim [for the glorification of God] and community. They rob and steal from the poor and take the skin off their bodies and nobody says a single word, since everything is done in the name of the community. I have seen with my own eyes how deep the oppression was in the city and all for leshem-shomaim; and even if, maybe, someone was appointed, he probably leaned toward the rich men as expected. Even if, as happened once in a while, that two or three men negotiated between both sides, it always came down to skinning the destitute and nominating someone to carry out the task. Remember the saying of the Bal Haturim [Torah commentator (Germany/Spain, 1270-1340)]: “a man is not appointed to be a clerk on earth until he appears on the evil list in heaven”. Therefore, my son that I love, I urge you to deliberate whether it is in the interest of the innkeepers who are, as is known, mainly poor, and not in the interest of the rich who may proclaim their pious intentions. These facts cannot be investigated at a general meeting where, as is known, the fear of the destitute toward rich would be a factor, and therefore, it would be right that a besdin [court] with three dayanim should thoroughly investigate…”

* probably inaccurate; instead: heyoys [inasmuch as] Return

[Page 283]

Also, the “Divrei Chaim” said to his son, “you can no longer depend on the rabbis to give a verdict since the rabbis of the small communities are only interested in showing off their scholarship while the rabbis of the larger communities do not take the trouble to examine the issues to the full extent since they rush with their questions-and-answers and write it out cursorily.

His destructive satire written with great emotion can be compared to his ben-dor [contemporary] Mendele Moykher Sforim who also criticized “gang of community bale-toyves [benefactors]”. The Sandzer Rov ended with the warning: do not compare the community leaders of today with earlier respected Roshi-haKol [community leaders]: they were virtuous and at all events had respect for scholarship; today it is almost meshiekh's tsaytn [the millennium] according to the impertinent leaders who are devising the rules of Sodom “for the glorification of God”…the only hope is that God will soon lead us to our land[119].

The style alone and the extraordinary sharpness of tone in this response by the “Divrei Chaim” demonstrates in itself that taking on the avle [injustice] of the innkeepers was not just an episode to him, but grew from his basic approach and in addition, his innate concept of justice. R' Chaim Halbershtam not only in his experience, as we have seen, did he mekayem geven [fulfilled] the mitsve of tsdoke [charity] at every opportunity, but in addition, he raised tsdoke to the highest duty in Judaism in his theories. The conservatism of the Sandzer Rov that was so was drastically fanatical in issues of belief and in the old-fashioned way of life also contained the best of the old tradition of reciprocal help and concern for the fate of fellow man.

[Page 284]

While classic capitalism put down the individual with its ostensibly natural aspiration to become rich, in the center of that world and its social issues, the individual was abandoned. The pre-capitalistic feudal-religious system considered charity a divine commandment and a solution to the question of poverty.

During this period, the concept of charity was more important for Jews in theory as well as in practice than for neighboring people, not only because of the elevated tradition of the idea of justice of the Prophets, the Tanoim [rabbis whose teachings in the first two centuries A.D. are included in the Mishnah] and the Amoyroim [rabbis of the 3rd to the 5th centuries whose discussions of the Mishnah are included in the Talmud] but also primarily through the feeling of solidarity of a downtrodden, oppressed people.

We have already shown that the “Divrei Chaim” indicated that charity was one of the most important ways to raise the holy sparks, which is the task of improving the world[120]. In agreement with the founders of Hasides, R' Chaim also clarified that tsdoke is in a position to influence the behavior of the Highest toward the world, because, if we demonstrate a feeling of mercy toward the poor, the mides-hadin [full severity of the law] is also turned into mides-horakhmim [indulgence] by the holy emanations from God[121]. According to the same system the “Divrei Chaim” together with tsdoke also underlined the separate duty to support and assist scholars[122]. The “Divrei Chaim” in connection with the matter of tsdoke developed a characteristically original theory:

Two examples are cited in the Gemore regarding feeding a poor man. One concerns a beggar that angered the king while the other one is concerned with a son that angered his father the king[123]. The “Divrei Chaim” explains the greatness of the mitzve of charity in both cases. If the beggar is compared to a royal slave and not to the son of the king, he sinned (in this or in another incarnation) and as a result God punished him with poverty. The logic here is as follows: “because we the people of Israel are all one person and each and everyone feels the pain of his fellowman, and the pain of the poor man also affects the rich, for how can be unaffected by the poverty of his next of kin. Furthermore, the giving of charity is the highest religious value and goes along way to still his own pain. Besides, the most important thing is to give charity as we are ordered by God. Even though the poor man sinned - still his state of poverty because of that sin recalls the example of the king's anger at the royal slave - but also the rich man who had not sinned can be compared to a son. So, we have the example of the king's anger at his son”. (Of course the king is very happy that his son is being fed. [added by the author, Rafal Mahler])

[Page 285]

This interpretation brought by the “Divrei Chaim” to the example from Gemore is merely hypothetical. It is still characteristic of his deep belief that all Jews are one person. Thus every Jew feels the pain of the other and cannot watch his desolation. The “Divrei Chaim”, however, leads us to truly believe that the poor man is the same as the king's son, since he is not poor as punishment for committing a sin, as is cited in the Gemore: “life, children and livelihood depend on merit rather than luck”[124]. Since Creation there are rich on one side and poor people on the other, and it is required that the rich person give to the poor man a portion, “and this is the custom of human existence”. Thus, the poor man is in the same category as the son, that the king had fed, not on account of his sin, and not because he is a slave[125].

The conviction of the unity and uniqueness of the Jewish people did not prevent the “Divrei Chaim” from establishing various levels of sanctity amongst the Jewish people. He presented Tte fight between Moses and Aaron on one hand and Korach and his followers on the other, as a debate between two theories dealing with the social structures, namely the philosophical and the kabalistic. According to the philosophical concept, human society is compared to the human organism; there are “brainy” or intelligent people who are very useful to society while others are “hand people” or workers that perform physical work and so forth. According to this table of human activity, every person does what he is best suited to do. Thus, jealousy and rivalry for positions should be reduced to a minimum since the physical worker knows that he needs the planner to provide him with a plan of action and the same goes for the planner. Korach accepted this theory in his argument against Moses by asking him: since all of Israel is a holy people, how come you and your brother have elevated yourselves above the people. Moses and Aaron replied in accordance with the laws of the Torah, man does nothing without divine inspiration. Divine inspiration is not distributed evenly to all people. Moses and Aaron never considered themselves above the others; they felt that they were merely tools that performed God's wishes. They answered Korach that they in themselves were nothing without divine support. Korach on the other hand believed that he deserved to be a leader since he believed in the philosophical concept that the human organism was endowed with the ability to lead.[126]

[Page 286]


  1. N.M. Gelber ., Origins of Jews in Brody, Jerusalem 1954. Return
  2. See Shmuel Sziniawe, Ramat Tzofim, Warsaw 1881 Return
  3. See, inscription on the Sandzer Rabbi's tombstone Return
  4. Moshkowitz Tzvi., Everything about the Sandzer Rabbi, Jerusalem 1961 Return
  5. The Sandzer Rabbi on the Toyre, Krakow 1882 Return
  6. Raker, Yehoshua, the Sandzer Tzadik, Vienna-New York 1926 Return
  7. Michelson A.Ch. Bilgory 1912 Return
  8. The Sandzer Rabbi on the Toyre Return
  9. Regarding these representatives see the chapter above on cultural understanding Return
  10. The names of the 12 representatives appear on the list in the same chapter Return
  11. The letter was published in the newspaper “ Pardess” from Nowy Sandz Return
  12. See pamphlet 3. Tzvi Moshkowitz cited above Return
  13. See tombstone of the Sandzer Rabbi Return
  14. See chapter on Jewish community organization Return
  15. Shlomo Weingut was the owner of one of the wine pubs Return
  16. Michelson A.Ch., The source., p117 Return
  17. Divrei Chaim., second part of the Yore Dea Return
  18. Raker, Yehoshua, the Sandzer Tzadik, pp 52-53 Return
  19. Divrei Chaim., second part., life style Return
  20. op.cit., Return
  21. op.cit Return
  22. Raker, Yehoshua, the Sandzer Tzadik, p 53 Return
  23. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., pp7,13-14, 97 Return
  24. [Page 287]

  25. According to the poet Avraham Nahum Stencil Return
  26. Mekor Chaim., p20 Return
  27. Mekor Chaim., p110 Return
  28. Mekor Chaim., p145 Return
  29. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., p 6 Return
  30. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., p7 Return
  31. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., p 30 Return
  32. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., p 16 Return
  33. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., p 23 Return
  34. Only in the first six days. Return
  35. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., p 21 Return
  36. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., pp15-17 Return
  37. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., pp14,22,29 Return
  38. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., pp 23,24,61 Return
  39. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., pp20-23 Return
  40. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., pp, 8, 11,14,18,22,24 Return
  41. Talmud Baba Batra, R.71 Return
  42. The Fathers, chapter 3 Return
  43. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., pp59,63,64 Return
  44. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., pp25-30 Return
  45. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., p36 Return
  46. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., p 58 Return
  47. Raker, Yehoshua, the Sandzer Tzadik, p 79 Return
  48. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., p 78 Return
  49. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., p4 Return
  50. Tzimetbaum Segal., Ways of Chaim., p 83 Return
  51. Mekor Chaim., p7 Return
  52. Mekor Chaim., pp 43, 55, 111 Return
  53. Mekor Chaim., p43 Return
  54. Mekor Chaim., p112 Return
  55. Divrei Chaim, second half. Yore Dea Return
  56. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays Return
  57. [Page 288]

  58. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre Return
  59. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre Return
  60. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., p 67 Return
  61. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays p1 Return
  62. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., p2 Return
  63. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., p22 Return
  64. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays p104 Return
  65. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays p34 Return
  66. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., pp112,123,124 Return
  67. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., p12 Return
  68. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., pp71,73,111,115 Return
  69. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., p80 Return
  70. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., p46 Return
  71. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., p80 Return
  72. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., p67 Return
  73. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., p12 Return
  74. Divrei Chaim, first half. Yore Dea Return
  75. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre., p12 Return
  76. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays p100 Return
  77. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre.,p 26 Return
  78. Ohel Itzhak by Itzhak Worker Return
  79. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre.,p 27 Return
  80. Transmitted by Menachem E. Mahler in the name of his father. Also see Mekor Chaim., p43 Return
  81. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays p33 Return
  82. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays p26 Return
  83. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays p33 Return
  84. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays pp27,73,75 Return
  85. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays p25 Return
  86. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays pp71,78,80 Return
  87. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays p75 Return
  88. Divrei Chaim, second half. Holidays p50 Return
  89. Mekor Chaim., p113 Return
  90. Mekor Chaim., p113 Return
  91. All of Chaim's writings, see 170 Return
  92. Divrei Chaim, second half. Yore Dea Return
  93. Divrei Chaim, first half. Yore Dea Return
  94. The name of the commentator is printed as MR but should be MD Return
  95. Selections Return
  96. Selections, part 2 Return
  97. Selections, part 2 Return
  98. Selections, part 2 Return
  99. The Aristotelian concepts that the Sandzer Rabbi accepted Return
  100. Mahler R. The Last Generations, vol1,book 2, p65 Return
  101. Divrei Chaim, first half. Yore Dea Return
  102. Divrei Chaim, first half. Yore Dea Return
  103. Divrei Chaim, second half. Yore Dea Return
  104. Mahler R. Hassidut and Education in Galicia and Poland,1961 p240 Return
  105. Erter Itz., Halutz Origins., Hatzofe, Warsaw 1883, p18 Return
  106. Mahler R. Origins of Polish Jewry Merhavia 1946.,pp121 Return
  107. Divrei Chaim, first half. Life style Return
  108. Rakower Itz.,pp64-68 Return
  109. Divrei Chaim, first half. Life style Return
  110. Divrei Chaim, first half. Return
  111. Reference to Tarnograd or Rudnik Return
  112. Divrei Chaim, first half. . Hushan Law Return
  113. [Page 290]

  114. Divrei Chaim, first half. Hushan Law Return
  115. Divrei Chaim, second half. Hushan Law Return
  116. This is the well-known Truk System Return
  117. Merufia, traditional based agreement on certain customers Return
  118. Divrei Chaim, first half. Even Ezer Return
  119. Divrei Chaim, second half. Hushan Law Return
  120. The Rabbi did not check precisely the documents. There seems to be an error Return
  121. Divrei Chaim, second half. Hushan Law Return
  122. Divrei Chaim, first half. Hushan Law Return
  123. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre, p 22 Return
  124. Divrei Chaim, first half., On the Toyre, pp 127-128 Return
  125. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre, p22 Return
  126. Baba Batra, I.71 Return
  127. Moed Katan Return
  128. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre, pp 69-70 Return
  129. Divrei Chaim, first half. On the Toyre, pp 87-88 Return

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