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[Page 102]

The Rov of Kałuszyn[1]

(On the personality of Reb[2] Shmuel Kopl Ha-Kohen[3] Kligsberg)

Moyshe Berl Dechnevers / Tel-Aviv

Translated by Gooter Goldberg


kal102e.jpg R. Shmuel Kopl ha-kohen Kligsberg
R. Shmuel Kopl ha-kohen Kligsberg


It happened after the Beilis[4] trial, a sad and painful experience for Jews under the tsarist regime. Reb Berl Dechnever arrived then from Warsaw late at night with the newspaper “Moment” and rushed into the room, exclaiming: “Great news, children – Mendl Beilis is free!” and started kissing everybody.

In the other room – unnoticed by Berl Dechnever – sat at an open sefer[5] Reb Yeshy'ele Mordche Volfs, a grandson of the Yid Hakodesh[6], a great scholar and good Jew. “Why are you screaming so, Berl? Come here, Berele, I want to show you something. In Targum Onkelos[7] in this week's (Torah) portion there is an allusion to Mendl Beilis' release, even (indicating) the year and the day”…The sparkle of Reb Yeshy'ele Mordche's eyes could have then lit up years of darkness of Jewish existence in Poland…Of course, afterwards we toasted one l'chaimafter another. It was a stay-awake night.

I was then eight years old – a fully-fledged Jew… So, I sat with the grownups all night and listened.

After the Beilis matter had been put to rest, the guest enquired: “Berl, what's going to happen regarding a rabbi?How much longer can a town like Kałuszyn remain without one?”

Berl Dechnever, as was his manner smiled: “As you know, I am content with a Rebbe[8]. However, there are rumours that RebShmuel Kopl Hakohenwould be our rabbi”.

Oh, oh! A true tsatske[9], a distinguished scholar, and Uncle Berish from the Holy Land is indeed his uncle” – was RebYeshy'ele Mordche's response, after which the two interlocutors departed to the Porisov shtibl[10] to pray and study, leaving me home hoping for the new rabbi,who has an uncle in the Holy Land, and who would soon arrive in shtetl…Thus, when the Rabbi a year later, in 1913 did arrive in Kałuszyn, I was already, in my child's mind, acquainted with him and followed him everywhere.

The new rabbi lodged with Reb Lozer Pesach Yoyne's[11]. I remember him – a man of medium height, a delicate face, a long beautiful beard and endearing, deep Jewish eyes – a delight to behold. The Rebetsin[12] too, was a beauty with delicate features, a pale face and full of grace.

I remember an episode: During the first few days all sorts of people used to drop in to see the Rabbi.The room was very crowded when the Rebetsin came in (on her way to another room). The men stood up, and one of them said: “it is written: eyshes chovis k'chovis”. What he wanted to say was: eyshes chaver k'chaver[13]implying that the wife of a scholar is like a scholar (herself). What came out instead, was that the wife of a barrel is like a barrel. The crowd broke down in spasms of laughter. When the Rabbi asked for the cause of the merriment and was told what had transpired, he lowered his dove-like eyes and said: “(he is) a precious Jew - one must not laugh”.

In that moment he himself became more precious to me, it all fitted well with the understanding of a child… And in fact, I had been close to him since.

When the Rabbi moved into the residence adjacent to the synagogue, which also housed the shtiblsof the Porisov and Alexander[14] chassids, his extensive family arrived. Every corner of the dwelling brightened up by the presence of his beautiful daughters, his son Dovidl and his sons-in-law (also rabbis) – veritable gems, each one: the rabbi of Makov (his wife, our Rabbi's daughter, at present in Israel); the Sertsin[15] rabbi, Reb Yosele, the Bright - a Parisov chassid, full of fervour, a coffee drinker and a smoker(?)[16]…; the rabbi of Bobinki (?) and another son-in-law, Reb Mendl Taychman and his wife Ryvka and their only son, Moyshele. You felt like being in the presence of royalty! The Rebetsin in her finery walked round the crowd, always with a little velvet tie around her head-covering. The velvet tie seemed to converse with her velvety eyes: “we are related”…

When the Rebetsinused to enter the room in which the Rabbi sat and studied, and I while perusing a sefer,cast a glance at the Rabbi's face – I saw there the divine presence.

Reb Shmuel Kopl used to sit and write almost the entire week. The items on his bookshelf kept on multiplying with his writings which he never submitted to print.

I see before my eyes image after image of the Rabbi's life. I remember (each) shalosh-suda[17] presided over by him…sitting among the others. Around him Yechiel, the Rebbe's (son)[18]; Lozer, the shochet[19]; Berl Dechnever; Reb Yecheskel Hendel (used to bring along two sons – Boruch and Dovid); Nochem shochet[20] ( subsequently became the Rabbi's son-in-law); Reb Yehoshua “Ovies”[21]; Sholem of Sertsin; Moyshe Boruch - Osher, “the bolshevik”s father-in-law; and others, may they all rest in peace.

[22]בני היכלא דכסיפֿין” – the Rabbi would intone quietly and then he would proceed to “zogn Toyre[23]. I remember an episode that weighed heavily on my childish spirit. Reb Yechiel sat on the Rabbi's left and used to repeat him word for word. Now and then, however, he used to anticipate him. On one such occasion the Rabbi said to Reb Yechiel: “well then – you say it!”, but the latter desisted. I felt embarrassed and when I brought this up at home with Reb Berl Dechnever, he excused the Rabbi on the grounds that such forestalling by Reb Yechiel interrupted the Rabbi's train of thought and made him lose the sequence… Thereafter I understood the Rabbi better. During the shalosh-sudoswe children indeed used to help with the Sabbath hymns and enjoyed this immensely.

During Sukkes[24] the Rabbi wouldn't spare any effort to beautify his sukka.The daughters would prepare the ornaments. With trembling hands he would pick up the esrog[25]. With joy on his face he would plead: “careful, careful!” whenever he would treat someone with the blessing of his (the Rabbi's) esrog. My father and I would always make the blessings on the Rabbi's esrog.

If ever we came into his sukka after the meal, he used to treat us with fruit. As was his manner with important matters he would begin speaking softly: “now I would like to treat you to a fruit that was sent from the Land of Israel by uncle Berish”. Everybody would receive a thin slice which became even more delicate from the tenderness induced by its coming from the Holy Land.

Everything about Reb Shmuel Kopl signified quietude, whether his praying or singing zmires[26]. He once said to Nochem, the shochet,that there's no need to shout to the Merciful and Compassionate One – He hears better when one pleads quietly…

When Avrumke Vaynmacher from the Parisov rebbe's court came to Reb Berl Dechnever to instruct (in Scripture) his sons, the Rabbi said in a conversation with Reb Avrumke: ”do you know, Avrumke what a jewel of a pupil you have in Avrohom Yosef – he learns and knows as well as I”. (The Rabbi meant Yosele, Berl Dechnever's son who later became a lawyer). Replied Avrumke: “Don't I know it”?! When they used to learn[27] late into the night, I used to look in to them and think with admiration: what greatness!

I recall when the Rabbi came visiting the ailing Reb Yitzchok Palma (of blessed memory) – the degree of loving kindness and tenderness he showed to the diseased while saying to me: “Moyshele, keep an eye on Yitzchok”. The latter, in fact, passed away holding my hand in his, but the Rabbi's words gave strength to my fearful soul…

Thus I remember the Rabbi – a great, quiet soul, not one that roamed the earth without a purpose, but one that came from the very depth, from the sources of wisdom and affection.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of דער קאַלושינער רב, an article in “Sefer Kalushin”, Published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961.
    Rov, alternatively - Rav is a job description corresponding to a present-day Rabbi hired by a small town (shtetl)or a congregation to advise on matters of Jewish law (halacha). This translation will use thereafter the more commonly known “Rabbi” Return
  2. A respectful form of address. Return
  3. It wasn't part of the Rabbi's surname, but indicated that he was a cohen (a descendent of the priestly tribe). Return
  4. Menachem Mendl Beilis was an ex-soldier and the father of five children, employed as a superintendent at the Zaitsev brick factory in Kiev. In 1911, a thirteen-year-old Ukrainian boy disappeared on his way to school. Eight days later, his mutilated body was discovered in a cave near a local brick factory. Beilis was arrested on July 21, 1911, after a lamplighter testified that the boy had been kidnapped by a Jew. Beilis spent more than two years in prison awaiting trial. Meanwhile, a vicious antisemitic campaign was launched in the Russian press against the Jewish community, with accusations of blood libel and ritual murder. In 1913 Beilis was acquitted by an all-Christian jury. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  5. Literally – book, but used for Scripture. Return
  6. Yid hakodesh (The Holy Jew) – Yakov Yitzchak of Pshische (Przysucha in Polish), born around 1762, died in 1815, famous Chassidic rebbe (spiritual head of a Chassidic branch) and (Judaic) scholar. (Based on The Jewish Popular Encyclopedia, revised second edition, The Gilead Press, Inc. 1949, New York, N.Y.) Chasidic Judaism (from the Hebrew: Chassidus, meaning “piety”, from the Hebrew root word chesed meaning “loving kindness”) is an Orthodox Jewish religious movement. The movement originated in Eastern Europe in the 18th century (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  7. Targum literally means “translation” but usually refers to the translation of Scripture into Aramaic.
    Onkelos is the name of a renowned convert to Judaism in Talmudic times (c.35-120 CE). He is considered the author of the famous Targum Onkelos (c.110 CE). His real name is generally accepted as being Aquila, or Aquilas, the name “Onkelos” being the Hebrew transliteration of the original. According to the traditional Jewish sources, he was a prominent Roman nobleman, a nephew of the Roman emperor Titus. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  8. Rebbe (My Master, My Teacher) – an honorific for a leader of a Chassidic movement. Return
  9. From Polish cacko, (tsatsko – sparkle) – an ornament, a gem. Return
  10. Shtibl - literally a small dwelling, but used in the sense of a small house of prayer.
    Porisov (Yiddish for Parysów, a town in present-day Poland) is the name of a Chassidic branch founded by Rebbe Yehoshua Osher Rabinowicz. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  11. The son of Yoyne. Return
  12. Wife of a rov, rebbe, Rabbi. Return
  13. Chaverliterally means “friend, companion” but is sometimes used as a title for a learned man. Return
  14. The founder of this branch of Chassidism was Rabbi Yechiel Dancyger (1828–1894). It was based in the village of Alexander, near Lodz (in Polish: Aleksandrów £ódzki). (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  15. The “sertsiner” rabbi - could it be Serock (pronounced Serotsk in Polish; also pronounced Sertsk in Yiddish)? Return
  16. In Yiddish “an ontsinder” – one who lights up or starts a fire. Return
  17. The third of the three meals of the Sabbath. Return
  18. Yechiel Unger, the rebbe's son - the rebbe being most likely Rabbi Avrohom Elchanan Unger, known affectionately as Reb Avremele. Return
  19. Ritual slaughterer. Return
  20. Nochem Unger, the son of Yechiel. Return
  21. Ovies - in Polish “owies” - means “oats” – a nickname (?) of Reb Yehoshua who may have been a grain merchant (?) Return
  22. Aramaic - “Bnei Hacholo Dichsifin”. It is part of the zmires (hymns) of Sudah Shlishit (third meal) on the Sabbath and means: “Members of the sanctuary who yearn” ... it refers to those who yearn to see G-d's splendor. (I am indebted for this note to a learned friend from Israel who prefers to remain unnamed). Return
  23. Literally zognmeans “say”, “talk”, but the phrase is used for “expounding on Scripture”. Return
  24. Feast of Tabernacles Return
  25. Esrog is the Hebrew name for the citron or Citrus medica. It is well known as one of the four species used in the rituals associated with the Jewish holiday of Sukkes. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  26. Plural of zemer –literally song, tune but here referring to Sabbath or holiday hymns. Return
  27. Study by discussion and explication. Return

[Page 105]

The Rebbe Naftole[1]

By Yosef Zis'holts

Translated by Gooter Goldberg

Naftole Shapiro became rebbe in Kałuszyn after the passing of his father-in-law, the Rebbe Reb [2] Zeligl z'ts'l [3], and quickly gained the affection of his Chassidim in Kałuszyn and in other towns and townlets thanks to his affability, his love of the Jewish people, his bearing. All this evoked love and respect.

The Jews of Kałuszyn used every Friday night to observe the Rebbe walking quickly, flanked by his sons and Pelte the beadle to purify himself for the Sabbath. Soon after, everybody hurried to the Rebbe's all dressed in finery.

The touching rapturous voice of Rebbe Naftole: “hodu la ki tov ki le'olam chasdo[4], and “lechu neranena[5] from the bal-tefila[6] Reb Shmul Eli Fraylich called forth ecstasy and spiritual awakening. When the Rebbe lifted his arms, it seemed as if his entire body soared up to heaven.

After the prayers the Chassidim used to gather around the Rebbe's table. Shmul Mendl, Akiva Mayer's son always used to help cover the table and set the twelve chalas [7]; the vocalists – Reb Shmul Eli Fraylich, Tanchum the cantor, and Pelte Yankl and his son sang Sabbath songs. It used to end with Torah[8] exposition by the Rebbe and the distribution of Leftovers.[9]

During the Days of Awe[10] many Chassidim used to come to town. Rebbe Naftole, standing at the pulpit, wrapped in a Turkish prayer shawl shook the congregation with his (rendition of the) Kaddish[11], and when he came to the prayer: “Adam eich yizkeh b'chol Yom Lamovat M'chake”[12] - he would shed heavy tears. During the Penitential prayers and at Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur he became on the pulpit the spokesman for the community, and his supplications overwhelmed the entire congregation.

During Simchas Torah[13], at the procession with the Torah scrolls, the Rebbe's joy knew no bounds. Then one could hear the praise (being heaped on) the Rebbe, as well as citation of his pedigree, which went back to Reb Simcha Bunim of Pshische (Przysucha, Poland)[14] and the Yid Hakodesh (the Holy Jew)[15]. Shmul Busman, the Yeshiva student looked after the drinks.

During prayers, at the incantation of “Next year in Jerusalem” you could sense the Rebbe's great love of Eretz Israel (The Land of Israel).

In 1930 when I arrived in Kałuszyn on a visit from Eretz Israel, the Rebbe welcomed me: “When a Jew of ours comes from the Holy Land it is a rare privilege for me to speak with him”. When I gave him presents from Eretz Israel – spices, tsitses [16] and a box of cigars, and he noticed on the wrapper the Hebrew writing – tears welled up in his eyes, and he said: “Oh, what merit you have earned to live there!”. In similar vein and with great enthusiasm he examined the few coins from Eretz Israel, and said: “I envy you”.

The great lover of the Jewish people Rebbe Naftole always hoped: “Next year in Jerusalem”. He shared with his congregation the sufferings at the murderous hands of the Nazi abomination.

His memory – (may) the memory of a righteous person be blessed!

Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of דער רבי נפֿתּלי, an article in “Sefer Kalushin”, Published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961.
    Rebbe - an honorific - teacher, leader of a Chassidic stream.
    The name here is spelled to approximate its Yiddish pronunciation.
    Chassidic Judaism - from the Hebrew: Chassidus, meaning “piety” is an Orthodox Jewish religious movement. The movement originated in Eastern Europe in the 18th century. As compared with other Jewish movements, it tends to focus on the role of the rebbe as a spiritual conduit of God. Chassidic Judaism is not one movement, but a collection of separate individual groups with some commonality. (Based on Wikipedia).
    Chassid (plural Chassidim) follower(s) of Chassidus. Return
  2. An honorific. Return
  3. Zaycher tsadik livroche – may the memory of a righteous person be blessed. Return
  4. “Give thanks to Hashem, for He is good; for His mercy endures for ever”. Return
  5. “Go and rejoice”. Return
  6. Non-professional cantor, synagogue reader. Return
  7. Jewish bread used on Sabbath and festivals. Return
  8. In the narrow sense – Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses; in the broader sense - Jewish biblical and rabbinic literature. Return
  9. Remnants of a Rebbe's food, of which Chassidim partake as a matter of honour. Return
  10. The ten days from Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) to Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). Return
  11. The mourners' prayer. Return
  12. “How does man merit or gain when every day death awaits him”. (I owe the translation of this sentence to a friend). Return
  13. Holiday celebrating the completion of the annual reading cycle of the Torah. Return
  14. Rabbi Simcha Bunim Bonhart of Pshischa (1765-1827) was one of the main leaders of Hasidic Judaism in Poland. (Based on Wikipedia) Return
  15. The first rebbe of the Pshische dynasty was Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Rabinowicz (the Holy Jew) (1766-1813) (Based on www.absoluteastronomy.com ). Return
  16. Undergarment (also the four tassels of it) worn by Orthodox Jews. Return

[Page 108]

Three Benevolent Societies Combined[1]

By Shlomo Kuperhand /Ramle (Israel)

Translated by Gooter Goldberg


The Society “Hachnoses Kala” [2]

The “Hachnoses Kala” society which had functioned for many years interrupted its activities during World War I. It was revived in 1923 under the leadership of Moyshele Aynbinder (the “chief”) and Efraim Shliep.

Each impoverished bride used to get from the society a subsidy of 50 z³otys if she went under the canopy only, but if she also arranged a wedding reception, she would receive 150 to 200 Zl. These expenditures were covered by collections at celebrations. In the first year alone after the renewal of its activity the society saved around 1,500 Zl. The idea was broached of building a house for the society. The dozor[3] Ruven Michlzon, who always assisted the society, promised a site near the old beis-medresh [4], on the spot where once stood the old synagogue. Work on the building soon began.

The day after Passover they laid the foundation. Klezmers[5] were playing and Jews in town made generous contributions. Every householder that had bricks in his backyard brought them in as a gift, the balegoles[6] carted building material for free, shingle makers donated for the roof. Artisans and workers each donated days' work. Moshe Tchernitski pledged to cover for the exterior of the structure. The “income” generated by the shishis, achrons and maftirs [7] provided for the ceiling. Thus, the work continued in keeping with the desire of the Jewish public, so that on Rosh-Hashana (Jewish New Year) people were already worshiping in the newly built structure.

Soon after the building was erected, work on an additional level commenced. Once completed, it accommodated the yeshiva[8] of Reb Tsvi Dantsiker and his assistant Reb Naftole Rafalovitch. Reb Tsvi was a great Talmudic scholar and he attracted to his yeshiva many young men from all over Poland. He used to befriend Jews from the ranks of “amcho”[9] and was therefore not very popular with the Chassidim[10] in town. The people, however, supported the yeshiva and the bocherim (students of a yeshiva) used to “esn teg”[11]. One of these bocherim – Shmuel Minsker from Minsk-Mazovyetsk used from time to time to travel to the larger towns, make there fiery speeches and bring back money for the yeshiva. This bocher died in Ka³uszyn and left a testament – a plea to the Jews of the town to linger a moment whenever they went past his tombstone. The whole town mourned him.


The Society “Hachnoses-Orchim”[12]

After the entire “Hachnoses Kala” building was completed, space was allocated on the ground floor for night lodgings for out of town guests. The guests were attended to by the shames (beadle) Reb Perets, who had in the building a room with a kitchen.

Thus the Hachnoses Kala society was actually also a Hachnoses Orchim society. Money was being collected for both – from Purim[13] till Yom-Kippur[14] the income went for Orchim, thereafter for Kalas.


The Society “Nosai-Mita”[15]

The very same society also acted as the Nosai Mita society which in turn was connected to the Chevra Kadisha[16]. All members of the former had, in response to a request of Reb Moyshele Aynbinder, show up on time to perform the mitzvah (commandment) of Chesed-shel-emes[17].

One harsh winter the burial society wanted to introduce a custom whereby the bodies would be wheeled to the cemetery on a wagon, and only those of the wealthy and the eminent would be carried (by persons). The society Nosai-Mita rejected the proposal, insisting that all are equal and should be carried to the cemetery – rich and poor, the prominent and the common people. When the Chevra Kadisha (went ahead and) ordered a wagon, the people of the Nosai-Mita destroyed it and refused to stand for the injustice of the new rule.

This society comprising three societies was led by the selfsame Reb Moyshele Aynbinder. He did it all with devotion and self-sacrifice.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of די חברה פֿון דרײַ חברות, an article in “Sefer Kalushin”, Published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961. Return
  2. “הכנסת־כלה” – Hebrew {lit. “Income or revenue for (a) bride}.
    The marrying of orphaned or other poor girls by the (Jewish) community as a philanthropic service (U. Weinreich's Modern Yiddish-English Dictionary, Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1968). Return
  3. A member of the Kehilla board. From Polish “dozór- inspection, oversight, supervision”, hence: overseer, custodian. {Kehilla - in Yiddish the word was used for both the instrument of Jewish denominational autonomy (an institution) as well as simply for “community”}. Return
  4. Study and prayer house, small orthodox synagogue. Return
  5. Klezmer (from Yiddish כּלי־זמיר, kley - instrument and zemer - song; etymologically from Hebrew k'li zemer כלי זמר, “musical instrument”) is a musical tradition which parallels Chassidic Judaism. Around the 15th century, a tradition of secular (non-liturgical) Jewish music was developed by musicians called klezmorim (klezmers). The repertoire is largely dance songs for weddings and other celebrations. Due to the East and Central European lineage of this music, the lyrics, terminology and song titles are typically in Yiddish. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  6. Coachmen, (horse-drawn)-wagon drivers, cart drivers. Return
  7. Worshipers “buy” the privilege of being called up to read from the Torah (The Five books of Moses) or the Prophets in the synagogue by donating money for charity or other communal expenditure.
    Shishi – (Hebrew for “sixth”) is the sixth (of seven men) called up to read from the Torah; achron (Hebrew for “last”) is the seventh; maftir is one called to the reading of the Prophets; also the (act of) reading from the Prophets. (After Harkavy's Yiddish-English-Hebrew Dictionary, Reprint of 1928 Edition, Yivo, Schocken Books, New York)
    The author of the article uses the above expressions to refer to the donations made by the men so described, rather than to the men themselves. Return
  8. Yeshiva - An institution of higher Talmudic learning. (Talmud - a record of rabbinic discussions of Jewish law, ethics, customs and history). Return
  9. Hebrew – Lit. “Your people”, mainly used to denote “a member of the tribe”, but here used in the sense of “the plebs” – the ordinary “untutored” folk. Return
  10. Followers of Chassidic Judaism - from the Hebrew: Chassidus, meaning “piety” is an Orthodox Jewish religious movement. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  11. Yiddish – lit. “Eat days” – eating with a different family each day – the unique institution for supporting yeshiva bocherim away from home… a system of folk scholarship. (Jacob Neusner, “Understanding Jewish Theology” – quoting Max Weinreich). Return
  12. (Orchim אורחים - Hebrew “guests”).
    Hachnoses Orchim – hospitality; the commandment of hospitality to guests, esp. on the Sabbath and holidays; Sabbath shelter for poor wanderers. (U. Weinreich's Modern Yiddish-English Dictionary, Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1968).Return
  13. Purim (Hebrew: “lots”), is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian Empire from Haman's plot to annihilate them, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther. According to the story, Haman cast lots to determine the day upon which to exterminate the Jews. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  14. Day of Atonement. Return
  15. נושאי־מיטה – Bearers of the Stretcher (on which the dead are carried for burial). Return
  16. Lit. “Holy Society” - Voluntary burial society. Return
  17. חסד של אמת Lit. True kindness (benevolence, charity). In Judaism the highest form of benevolence is when the benefactor is unknown to the beneficiary, and the former does not or cannot expect a reward, acknowledgment or reciprocity. One obvious instance is preparing the dead for burial. Return

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