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Rabbis, Religious Leaders and Scholars (Cont'd)

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And every year on the anniversary of his death, hundreds of Chassidim and admirers come to the grave of their righteous one, light candles and leave notes upon the tombstone and give “redemptions” to his widow, the Rebbetzin, the righteous woman, who lived many years after her husband's death.

The Kielce cemetery was significantly elevated by the “tent” of the first Tzaddik that was established there. The soil of Kielce was honored that in its dust a pure and holy body lay, and with this the city, which had earlier been considered an impure city by other Jews, was also sanctified.

After the death of the Admo”r of Checiny the Chassidim crowned the son of the deceased Z”L, Rabbi Eliezer, to take his place. His eldest brother, Rabbi Heszel was appointed to the rabbinical seat in the city of Olkusz during their father's lifetime.

However the rebbe Rabbi Eliezer didn't live long, the war years impoverished the house of the Admo”r, shortage was a constant visitor to his family. At this proximity to the battlefront, which was close to Kielce, the support of the Chassidim ceased. Although the homeowners in the city sent their donations to nourish the rebbe's house, but “the pinch did not satisfy the lion”, and donations could not supply the wants of a house with many people in it. The rebbe's house, which in former days had been generously fed began to slide down and down. And the rebbe, Rabbi Eliezer, died on the even of Shavuot, 5679 [1919], and his honorable rest is in his father's tent, and upon his tombstone the following words were engraved:

        Beloved and pleasant in their lives
Death cleaved and connected the holiness of both;
A righteous man has been lost from Israel, and a man of God from humanity
Heart rends the space, for the pious have lost their honor
Water shall drip from every eyelid, and the cry of God's congregation be
For a righteous one and leader of thousands has fallen in Israel
Qualities and attributes cry out, who will guide us in the future?
Our rabbi, a man of goodness, who will allow us to hear your pleasant words?
        Hurry his candle
His chimneys are seen to be darkened
The sky is overcast and his sons are extinguished.
Wisdom is here, old age is not, for this our hearts are woe!
The days of his life are a garden, from the garden of Torah order he has gone
        to his Garden of Eden.
The day of the eve of Shavuot, year of “Ateret” [acronym of year rearranged
        means “crown”], the crown has been removed from our heads.
49 to the counting he prepared himself in purity to receive your Torah.
Heavens – be destitute, may the earth grieve, for there is no defender in
        our midst
What shall I testify? How shall I console thee? For as great as the sea have
        we lost
And all those who know of his righteousness and beloved attributes call out.
A tombstone is too small to contain his good deeds.
May his merit stand forever, and that of his holy forefathers.
The memory of righteous and holy ones as a pleasant incense, as a sacrifice.
        Who comes to the tent and his soul speaks, the prayer and the merciful
        one will raise his redemption.

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After the death of the Admo”r the Chassidim crowned the brother of the deceased, Rabbi Szalom; but he too didn't live long. In 5680, the 18 th of Cheshvan [Autumn, 1919], he died and they dug him a grave in the tent of his father and upon his tombstone the following is engraved:

The earth shook on the day that the guards of the house of martyrs perspired,
His lesson was completeness and staying with his deeds of holiness, they were
        the glory of martyrs
Son of his father and an authority on the three sections of the Torah, from
        a lineage from the holy of holies
A great and holy prince and righteous man has fallen, in a family of
        holy sheep.
The skies darkened, flickered and went out; who controls his commandments
        in the earth and heavens.
The grace of his awe, the uniqueness of his respectful action, his sanctification
        to the God of the heavens.
Roaring, shaking, and calling out his loss to the Jews.
Those who accompany the righteous and who crowd together in the shade of
        holy ones.
May his merit protect us, he went up to the heights in the midst of his days.
The memory of righteous and holy ones above to the heavens elevated
        father and sons.

After the death of Rabbi Szalom, his brother-in-law Rabbi Icak Szlomo Z”L was elevated to the position of Admo”r. However, during his life his glory fled, the magnificence of the house of the Admo”r of Checiny was deflected. It continued to exist; yet this existence was already miserly and unknown. The generations had changed; the younger generation did not flock after the Chassidim. The courts of the great Admo”rs pulled he congregations of Chassidim to their centers. For the less valued among the Admo”rs only the elderly artisans and old women were left, who supported the houses of the Admo”rs with their redemptions and donations.

Of the grandsons of the Admo”r of Checiny may the memory of a righteous man be for a blessing, the most well known are: the Admo”r of Piaseczna, the son of the Admo”r of Grodzisk Z”L, and the Admo”r of Pilc [Pilica], the son of Rabbi Eliezer Z”L; both of them perished in the days of the Shoah that overtook Polish Jewry.

The Admo”r Rabbi Motele Twerski z”l

The Admo”r Rabbi Motele Twerski also came to settle in Kielce as well, who was known as “The Rebbe of Kuzmir”. He was:

One) the son of Rabbi Awraham, the Magid of Trisk, author of “Magen Avraham”.
Two) the son of Rabbi Morechai Motel, the Magid of Czernobyl, author of “Likutei Torah”.
Three) the son of Rabbi Menachem Nachum, the Magid of Czernobyl, author of the book “Ma'or Einayim”.
Four) the son of Rabbi Cwi Hersz
Five) the son of Rabbi Nachum Gaon.

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kie172.jpg [15 KB] Rabbi Twerski
Rabbi Twerski

This Admo”r was a totally different character than the Admo”r of Checiny. The Tzaddik Rabbi Motele Z”L mostly dealt with mysticism. His teachings were filled with acrostics and gematrias. His Chassidim were noted not for their studiousness but for their enthusiasm in worshiping God; their prayers were extremely devout. Also their feasts to celebrate a mitzvah – had an element of divine worship in them. Prayer, song, eating and drinking – everything for them was a kind of holy service. In every action and endeavor one must direct one's intention. In every word, in every letter and symbol – in everything there are secrets and mysteries. A person must always take care lest he damage the upper worlds, God forbid, by a foreign thought, a careless word or a dishonest action.

This rebbe was very careful of purity, purity of the body and soul. He would lecture to those who came to him with “notes” of great redemption. A blessing, request for mercy for someone ill would cost those who needed them a high price. He gave no aid for free, it was difficult to get even advice out of him without paying for it.

Many were amazed at this manner of his. They would ask: “For whom is he hoarding the money? He has no sons? Perhaps, his admirers said, that there is a deeper intention hidden in this policy. The rebbe said that a man who has some desire, a request from God, and who cannot make a sacrifice of money for this thing he is requesting, this is a sign that his request isn't serious, since it isn't worth it to him to sacrifice even a small part of his money for it, therefore, he isn't worthy of the blessing or the request for mercy on his behalf. “God is close to all who call him, to all who call him truly,” says the Scripture [Psalms 145/18]. This addition “to all who call him truly” comes to instruct us that the call must be from the soul and spirit and not just with the mouth, for then the blessing and the prayer will be for naught.

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The “redemption” the rebbe received was not for his own benefit. He himself was satisfied with little, but for the good of the petitioner. “A pure and broken heart, God, won't despise”. The thought, the true and serious intent do their work and do not return empty handed.

No one knew for what purposes he used the redemption monies. But after his death, when the Chassidim went to search in the drawers of his closets, to find the treasure, the hoard, which he left behind him, they found barely anything.

The clowns in the city said that one of his Chassidim, who slept in the house of his rabbi at the time he died, had taken the treasures, which were hidden in a place known to him, without anyone noticing.

A tent for the Admo”r of Kuzmir Z”L was built in the Kielce cemetery as well, the land next to the graves of the holy ones gained sharply in value, for many wished their bones to be laid next to the righteous ones after their death and jumped upon the plots which were next to their tents.

The Admo”r of Pinczow

At the beginning of the war, the Admo”r of Pinczow, Rabbi Chaim Mejer Finkler, brother of the holy Rabbi Hilel of Radoszyce arrived in Kielce. The two were the sons of the rabbi Gaon Rabbi Icak, who was the son-in-law of the holy rabbi the famous exemplary Rabbi Isachar Ber of Radoszyce. The Admo”r of Pinczow was a genius of Torah, of the revealed and the hidden. A righteous man, foundation of the world, he fasted and mortified himself for decades. He composed many articles on mysticism. He did not live long in his new dwelling place. He died on the 29 th of Shevat 5677 [1917]. A tent was set up in the cemetery for this Admo”r as well.

After his death, his place was taken by his son, the righteous rabbi Eliezer. A few years before the outbreak of the war he moved his household to Sosnowiec, where he died in 5696 [1936]. This Admo”r had two sons, well known public activists in Kielce. The elder, Rabbi Pinchas (Pinja), a scholar and man of excellent attributes who later took his father's place, and the younger, Rabbi Icak.

When parties were established in Israel, the Finkler brothers devoted themselves to public-party activity, Rabbi Pinja Finkler turned to the right and was active in “Agudat Yisra'el” which was founded in Kielce at the time. Rabbi Icak Finkler turned a bit to the left and became a Zionist, a “Mizrachi” Zionist.

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The two brothers began competing with one another; when Rabbi Icak founded the “Mizrachi” cheder, called “Yavneh”; Rabbi Pinja founded the “Yesodei Torah” cheder. One recruited souls for the “Yavneh” cheder and the other for the “Yesodei Torah” cheder.

At the community elections they both appeared on different lists, one on the list of the ultra-Orthodox and the other on the Zionist list. And since they were in the first places on the lists of candidates, they were both elected to the community council. And there the two brothers would knock heads over public affairs. The elder brother would demand that the community authority pay attention only to the religious needs of the Jewish inhabitants of Kielce; the younger brother, contrariwise, demanded that the community authority take care of all public matters and needs, aside from local matters, which took first place in the tasks of the community, the council must also notice national affairs, allot financial budgets to the Zionist funds, aid and support the impoverished pioneers who were planning on moving to the Land of Israel, etc.

kie174.jpg [11 KB] The righteous Rabbi Eliezer Finkler, may the memory of a righteous man be for a blessing
The righteous Rabbi Eliezer Finkler,
may the memory of a
righteous man be for a blessing

The tongue of Icak Finkler, who was active in party affairs from his youth, was quite acute. In debates he would speak at length. When he spoke about the tasks of the community he would lecture the council members about his demands for the entire group that had sent him.

His words, which were spoken with tremendous enthusiasm and with incredible pathos, influenced their audience, especially the gallery, which gathered to hear the arguments at the meetings of the community council, which had been elected democratically. Their ears heard things that until then had never been heard within the walls of the community building.

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In his energy, in his fierce desire and with the help of the representatives of the artisans union he was able to institute new procedures in the community authority, to entirely change its face.

In general, the younger Finkler was a man of initiative and energy. When he was planning to execute some endeavor, he did not rest or sit quiet until he had brought the matter to fruition.

To a certain extent he had an influence on the formation of the public life in Kielce during the years after World War I. He was one of the enthusiastic supporters of I. Grinbaum in his project to create a bloc of national minorities in the Polish Siem and conducted energetic propaganda during the elections to the Polish Siem in favor of the national list. Rabbi Icak Finkler was the type of activist who cannot remain limited in a narrow sphere, and who seeks activities with a grand scope; he desired to break out of his frameworks; however his strengths were concentrated and his abilities limited. Every time the desire awoke in him to take off to new heights, his wings were clipped and he remained in his place. This was the tragedy of his life, as he once confessed to the writer of these lines. Aside from this, he was oppressed by loneliness. He would eat at the table of his father, the Admo”r, he hadn't a family of his own, no wife, no children. After the death of his father, the Admo”r, his fans and those who followed his advice began to treat him like a man of influence and an Admo”r.

The Admo”r Rabbi Dawid Goldman (the Rebbe of Chmielnik)

A third Admo”r lived and was active in Kielce, the Rebbe of Chmielnik of the Goldman family. This Admo”r was the son-in-law of the Gaon Rabbi Awraham, head of the rabbinical court of the holy congregation of Bialobrzegi, son of the Gaon Rabbi Jeszaja of Prague and the grandson of the righteous holy rabbi, exemplar of the generation Rabbi Icak, the old Rebbe of Worki.

Aside from his ancestral lineage he also had his own lineage. He was a great scholar and was blessed with generous and exemplary attributes.

In his youth he was a merchant and owner of the “Radislaw” estate. However, the outstanding Chassidim of Worka had their eyes on him, they recognized his holiness and began treating him like a man of inspiration. They turned to him in times of trouble, gave him notes and redemptions, learned gracious attributes from him and the ways of worshipping God.

Finally, he moved his dwelling to Kielce, bought himself a house on Neue Welt Street and began holding “tables” like one of the great Admo”rs. As a merchant, he was well versed in the ways of commerce; therefore, for the most part, merchants would turn to him to consult with him about their business affairs.

One of his sons, Rabbi Jeszaja'le was a rabbi in the nearby city of Bosk [Busko-Zdroj], known for its healing springs. His second son, Rabbi Mendel, continued to work in commerce, he was a merchant of “Finland” wrapping paper. He died in a train accident near Lublin during World War I and was buried in Lublin. The Admo”r of Chmielnik died in 5684 on the 16th of Cheshvan [Fall, 1923]. after the death of the Admo”r, his son, the rabbi from Bosk came to Kielce to take his place. His grandson, Simcha Bunem, the son of Rabbi Mendel Goldman Z”L, was elected, a few years before World War II, as chairman of the Jewish community committee in Kielce.

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These Admo”rs were famous to a well known degree even outside of their own regions and they had an influence upon broad circles of admirers. Aside from them, Admo”rs of lesser weight also came to settle in Kielce, who did not so much influence as they were influenced. All of their merit was the merit of their forefathers. On the strength of this merit they were granted the title “Tzadik” and received notes and redemptions mainly from women, who were not used to discriminating between one “Tzadik” and another. They would congregate around the gates of the “Tzadiks”, whose managers and aides knew how to spread miracles among the masses of the people.

The Admo”r of Suchedniow

The Admo”r of Suchedniow also came to live in Kielce. Suchedniow was a small settlement which was no longer a village, but not yet a city. During World War I living in small places was dangerous because of their proximity to the battlefront, which kept moving from place to place.

It was especially difficult for the Admo”rs to live in rural cities. They got most of their income from “redemptions” that people from other places donated to them. However, during the war, travel was restricted and the income of the “righteous ones” suffered as a result; therefore, they moved their dwellings to the large city which had a major concentration of Jews. In the large cities there was more security for one's life as well as more readily available income.

kie176.jpg [15 KB] The righteous Rabbi E. Rabinowicz of Suchedniow
The righteous Rabbi E. Rabinowicz
of Suchedniow

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The Admo”r of Suchedniow of the Rabinowicz family was descended to Rabbi Natan Dawid, the Admo”r of Szydlowiec, and his lineage even reached Rabbi Jakob Icak of Przysucha, famous as the Holy Jew.

He married off his eldest son, Natan Rabinowicz, to the daughter of a wealthy man from Checiny named Mosze Szif. This wealthy man, who had accumulated a great amount from the grain trade, was known all over the region as a great miser. He had a large estate next to Kielce called “Markowizna”, and a large steam mill. He also had a stone house and garden in Kielce.

Mr. Szif had an only daughter, who stood to inherit this entire fortune. Since he wished his fortune to be in faithful hands, he married his daughter to the son of the Rabbi of Suchedniow.

After the death of the wealthy man, his son-in-law inherited his entire fortune. The family of the heir was great. His wife was blessed in the fruit of her womb. His household expenses were great. The rabbi's son was not at all capable of managing the estate economy. His servants became wealthy at his expense. The fortune, which his father-in-law accumulated over decades grew smaller and smaller. Rabbi Natan began to work in commerce; however, he was not successful at this either, he sank into debt, and in order to pay off his creditors he began selling off parcels of his great estate.

After his father's death, he saw no other way but to take the place of the deceased, to be crowned with the crown of “Rebbe”, and he was a studious man of character.

Kielce received into its gates the Tzadik Rabbi Ozer Awraham Josef of Rakow as well. He was of the same family as the Admo”r of Suchedniow, the Rabinowicz family.

In the line of Admo”rs who chose Kielce as their seat, this Admo”r stands towards the end. He had no Chassidim worthy of the name. Country people came to ask his opinion and to lay before him the troubles of their heart and to request a cure for all of their ills. Righteous women were his main admirers and would bring him their redemptions. They said: “For he is a Tzadik from a line of Tzadiks, and he has the power to save.”

On the 24 th of Iyar, 5685 [Spring, 1925], the Tzadik of Rakow died. His eldest son, Rabbi Cemach put on the cloak of Admo”r after his father's death. For every affliction and every trouble that might come he had a special cure. A book of cures, he said, which he received in an inheritance from his holy ancestors. He used these cures the way a physician might use a medical text, and on the strength of them he performed wonders and signs.

Aside from these people mentioned, Rebbe Lajbeniew Twersky was in Kielce. He was from the famous family of the Czernobyl Admo”rs, which drew its lineage from Rabbi Nachum of Czernobyl. Rabbi Lajbeniew was the son-in-law of the wealthy man of Kielce, Reb' Chaim Kaner, a merchant in leather and overshoes, this merchant was an enthusiastic Chassid who crowded into the shade of the Rebbe of Kuzmir. He had an only daughter and he married her to the son of holy ones.

His son-in-law was a man who enjoyed life. He did not mortify himself with fasting. He kept the saying of the sages: “A man will yet have to answer for not taking pleasure in the things he saw with his eyes.” Therefore he would spend most of the hours of the day on the rules of the meal in the company of young Chassidim who wished to worship God with joy.

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Even after the death of his wife, he remained in Kielce in the home of his father-in-law in order to educate his orphaned daughter.

After a short time, he married the daughter of another wealthy man, the daughter of Mejerczik of Dzialoszyce. Then he left the home of his former father-in-law for an apartment of his own and began to behave like and Admo”r, as the next in line of Rabbi Motele Z”L.

His name immediately gained repute in the area and Chassidim began flocking to Rabbi Lajbeniew, to the Kielcer Rebbe. Afterwards, he also traveled to America. The American Jewish newspapers gave him a lot of publicity. This trip overseas brought him much blessing.

With this Rebbe Lajbeniew the line of Admo”rs that Kielce housed in its midst is ended.

On their account the Jewish population of Kielce was increased; they attracted the inhabitants of the surroundings into their circle by virtue of their holiness, and they gave the Kielce community a unique form, because the added their own characteristics to its general shape.

Formerly, Kielce was considered an unclean city. The appearance of the righteous men within its walls sanctified it and gave it an added gravity, which acted upon certain circles of the surrounding communities.

Kielce continued to grow at the expense of the small communities, which shrank socially and culturally.

Chassidim, Scholars and Men of Action

Let us mention here the names of several of the outstanding Chassidim and the excellent scholars, who were worthy of the name and title with which their fellow citizens crowned them. Their piousness and studiousness were not superficial, just for show, but they represented the true Chassidic type. In their Torah, in their divine service, in their business affairs, in their behavior in their own homes it was evident that their souls were hewn from a noble world. They didn't use the cloak of Chassidism and the label of the Torah in order to browbeat others; but, on the contrary, in order to benefit others, to serve as an example of a Jew who is whole in his qualities. Zealousness was far from their hearts. They never participated in activities that could cause dissent; they did not annoy their opponents, but tried to draw near them and influence them. They did not push among those who leapt to the head of the congregation; they were withdrawn, modest, their entire honor was in hidden things.

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Rabbi Emanuel Sowkower

Rabbi Emanuel was one of the greatest of the true Chassidim and of the great Torah scholars. A man who adopted the qualities of his teacher, Rabbi Mejer Jechiel of Ostrowiec ZTZ”L. He enjoyed this world little. He and his family lived in poverty and want. But his soul was glad, a smile was always playing about his lips. The pleasures of life were strange to him, for he found the satisfaction of his soul in the innovations of the Torah. For him, the affairs of the Torah were the pinnacle of pleasure in life. The rest of the affairs of the world with all of the material pleasures and enjoyments were mere vanity in his eyes, empty of meaning, that are can only distract the mind from the true pleasure, which he found at moments when some difficult matter in the Gemara became clear to him or he thought of a way to mitigate some severity of Maimonides.

He was beloved by people, for they saw in him a man whose soul is pure and elevated above other Torah scholars. He truly learned Torah for its own sake, since he saw in it the purpose of man.

Rabbi Jechiel Szajnfeld

Rabbi Jechiel was a textile merchant, an agent of Poznanski, owner of a large factory of textiles in Lodz.

Rabbi Jechiel was the son-in-law of Rabbi Judel Kaminer of Checiny, the father in law of the Admo”r of Gur, author of the “Sfat Emet”, ZTZ”L. Of course he was an outstanding Gur Chassid. Aside from his lineage, he was the son of a respected family, and was himself an exemplary man. A great scholar, well read in all of the treasures of the great sea of the Talmud and spent nights and days on affairs of the Torah and divine service, on prayer, purity and attempted to everything in a whole manner. He would scatter charity as much as he could. He especially supported Torah scholars.

In the city he was considered an upright man, who regarded the money of others as dearly as his own. He was careful in his speech, lest a falsehood escape his mouth even by accident. With these qualities he acquired the trust of the members of his faith and those who were not members of his faith. Poznanski the manufacturer entrusted him with goods worth one hundred thousand rubles; and he was certain that he was putting them in trustworthy hands, for a man like Jechiel Szajnfeld would not be irresponsible with the money of strangers.

All the members of the community, whether Chassidim or enlightened, respected him, even though he himself ran away from honor.

The director of the Lodz bank branch in Kielce, Mr. Merber, said: “I respect the opinions and outlook of Mr. Szajnfeld, for they are serious and are not just for show.”

“I,” he continued to say, “according to my education, according to my social status, even because of my knowledge cannot be of one mind with him; however this does not prevent me from respecting the opinions of others, when I see that they are a part of their essence, they flow from the root of their soul, and there isn't any hypocrisy or counterfeit in them.”

With these attributes and other excellent characteristics Jechiel Szajnfeld Z”L acquired the affection of all the inhabitants of the city. Even his opponents didn't dare to insult his honor.

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Rabbi Szmuel Hakatan [the Small]

Among the Gur Chassidim Rabbi Szmuel Hagerman was also notable, and he was called “Szmuel HaKatan”. He passed away in middle age.

This was a type of unique Chassid, he stood out in his retirement from the matters of this world; his eyes were always cast down to the ground so that he not, God forbid, look at a woman. His side-locks were wet from the waters of the mikveh [ritual bath], for his was very careful in immersion and purity. His heart was full of love and affection for every Jew and he was always ready to help anyone needy with his own money and with charity he collected from others, who were moved to open their hands and give their donations by his words which came from the heart. He could not imagine that a man could eat and be satisfied, could fill his own belly when another was suffering from hunger.

And therefore one could often see Rabbi Szmuel HaKatan walking around and collecting charity in order to satisfy the soul of hungry people, to purchase necessary medicines for impoverished ill people, to host guests. He himself observed the saying of the Mishnaic sage: “All whose actions are greater than his wisdom – his wisdom will last.” He was not satisfied with the study of Torah alone, but wanted to keep the intent of the Torah, to multiply charity, mercy and tenderness among human beings. He was also beloved by all circles of the inhabitants. Even though the clowns of the city sometimes teased him for his excessive retirement and would treat him like a “pious fool”, in fact, he was not a fool at all; his intelligence was always evident in his words. But since his innocence reached an extreme, the name “Szmuel HaKatan”, which, by the way, he received because of his height, became the nickname for an idler.

Rabbi Eli Nachum's (Rotenberg)

Rabbi Eli', also an outstanding member of the Gur Chassidim, a scholar and exalted soul, merchant, owner of a dry goods shop, was scrupulous in observing the commandments, being strict with himself even on permissible matters. In his shop he would not take money from the hands of a woman in order not to touch her flesh.

He ate only meat purchased from a reliable butcher, one he trusted not to feed him meat from an animal that had suffered from adhesion of the lungs [which would render the animal's flesh unkosher]. He was careful to pray at the proper time and set aside a regular time for the study of Torah. People said of him that he was “pious in all his actions” [Psalms 145/17]; comfortable with people, he was not one who searched out other people's misdeeds. He would say: “instead of looking at the flaws of others, look at your own”. “Know that if there is no flaw in your behavior, if you continue this way, you will influence others in any case and serve as an example to many.” – And truly the man was an example and model for many others.

Rabbi Szlomo Icak Binental

Rabbi Szlomo Icak was the son-in-law of Rabbi Mejer Jechiel Gotfrid, ritual slaughterer, Z”L. He was one of the Grodzisk Chassidim, a pious man whose piousness was not evident. At first glance he was a simple Jew, a tradesman, buying and selling, a man of modest habits. Many did not know how far his piousness reached.

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He had a small grocery shop and aside from this he also was a grain merchant on a small scale. From the farmers who came to his shop to buy kerosene and salt, he would buy the sack of grain that they brought with them to the city to sell. From this trade he made his living and raised children in the manner of all of the Jews.

This was his habit on secular matters; but his habit on holy matters was not visible. Before dawn, when the inhabitants of the city were sunken in sleep, he would rise early for a “Tikun Chatzot” [Midnight Learning Vigil] and afterwards he would study Torah until daybreak and the time for prayers.

During the day he was concerned with the cares of a livelihood, therefore he stole the sleep from his eyes and dedicated the hours of the night to the study of Torah. His face always expressed a sort of sadness; laughter never appeared on his lips; from his chest from time to time deep sighs burst forth, as if he was worried about the exile of the Shechina [presence of God] or the tyranny of the Diaspora, which distracts the hearts of many from divine service; and it could be that he was troubled by his own deficiencies in prayer and the study of Torah. But in truth, he was not deficient at all, and when an opportunity to observe a commandment presented itself, he never missed it; he always ran to perform any commandment, great and small alike.

Rabbi Szymon Tenenbaum

Rabbi Szymon was the son of Rabbi Benjamin Tenenbaum, or Benjamin “Buzek”, as the inhabitants of his city called him. His maternal grandfather was Rabbi Mordechai Fiszel, one of the great Chassidim and scholars of the city of Checiny. This Rabbi Szymon was a Gur Chassid. But in his opinions and outlook he was their total opposite. The Gur Chassidim were known in Poland as zealots who ignored those who were not their supporters, and considered themselves the creme de la creme of Polish Jewry.

Rabbi Szymon took issue with them and would expose their flaws in front of them. He would say: “Every single Jews is a limb of the national body; we must treat every Jew with affection and love. Pride is the worst attribute.”

His heart held a great affection for the Zionists, especially the pioneers who were devoting their lives to the homeland, who were saturating the soil of the holy land with their blood and sweat. “What great merit they have,” he would say, “that they themselves accepted the obligation to live and make fertile the wastelands of our country, from which we were exiled, and to prepare a homeland for the children of the Diaspora for whom the ground of the lands of their dispersion has begun to burn beneath their feet.” And when people scorned him and said: “But the pioneers are those who have thrown off the yoke [of the commandments], who violate the Shabbat, eat unkosher foods – and how will they bring about the redemption?”

He would answer and say: “Whoever is busy building the land – is exempt from the commandments.” And immediately bring a proof to his words: “For also during the fourteen years of the conquest and division of the land during the days of Joshua bin Nun the children of Israel were exempt from the commandments.”

In spite of straightened circumstances and lack of livelihood, he was always in a calm and merry mood. A smile never left his lips. The joy of life came to him from his love of Israel.

[Page 182]

His friends, the Chassidim in the “sztibl” once wanted to excommunicate him because of his strange opinions, but they didn't dare to carry out their plot, because in his actions and customs he was as one of them, they couldn't find in him any deviation from the ways of the Chassidim, for he was careful with even a tiny bit of anything forbidden; he was scrupulous to a hairbreadth's degree with each and every commandment that fell upon him to perform; they could not find any flaw in his actions. Therefore they contented themselves with putting about the lies that he was not entirely sane and that he had some problem with his brain and they it is not worth dealing with him and paying attention to his nonsense.

However Rabbi Szymon was one of those early Chassidim whose Chassidism was not counterfeit, acquired by imitation, but was the essence of their soul, their soul was quarried from the world of love, the world of loving-kindness. They had to be what they were - true to their nature and soul.

Eli' Rebbe'le

I will mention here the name of a Chassid who was known in the city of Kielce as Eli' Rebbe'le. He was the son-in-law of a baker in Checiny, a town close to Kielce. This baker had an only daughter and he married her to a Torah scholar. The strength of this son-in-law of his was not in the disputations of Abaye and Raba; in contrast, his strength was great in Chassidism. Serving the Creator with prayer and beseeching was to him the main task of a Jews.

And thus his prayers were lengthy. His prayers were not like the prayer of Hannah in her day, in the sense of “only her lips moved and her voice was not heard” [Samuel I, 1/13], but he shook worlds with his prayer. All of his limbs participated in it, in the sense of “all of my bones shall say” [Psalms 35/10]. He would stamp his feet, clap his hands in the air, on the wall, on the table, blink his eyes, and his entire body would tremble and shake. From his mouth came all sorts of sounds: yells, screams, shrieks, groans and sighs, grinding teeth, wails, cries.

It seemed to those who watched him from up close that this man who was standing at prayer wrapped in his prayer shawl was doing a vicious battle with all of the forces arranged to block the path of his prayer and prevent it from going straight up to the heavens. However, truly his worship was aimed at another purpose: to reach the level of “cancellation of what is”, to drive away the evil thoughts, which arrive during prayer to confuse his mind and heart.

People, when they saw the manner of his behavior, began treating him as a Tzadik [holy man] who is destined to be revealed over time in all of his greatness and glory. Artisans, Torah scholars and old men began gathering around him on the Sabbath for the third meal. In the dark evenings his movements and grimaces had an even stronger effect upon those gathered. Women came to him with “notes”.

Among the common people he was already bestowed with the title of “Rebbe”. But since he was short and young, they used the diminutive “Rebbe'le”. Who knows if he wouldn't have really reached the level of Tzadik and Admo”r if not for one incident, which all at once took him down from his status and holiness. And this was the incident the decided the fate of Reb' Eli' in life.

[Page 183]

On Friday nights it was Eli' Rebbe'le's custom to remain in the study hall where he prayed, about an hour after the service, in order to go over special Sabbath learnings [Tikunei Shabbat] and read the chapters of the Zohar and he would arrive home when the Sabbath candles were already dying and flickering in the candlesticks.

His father-in-law, a simple Jew, a baker, who was up at night all during the week because of his profession, would sit next to the set table and doze. His mother-in-law and wife would read “Tzena Ureina” and wait for him to arrive from the study hall in order to eat the Sabbath meal with him.

During the early months, his father-in-law bore his odd behavior with much patience, even if in his heart he was annoyed with him for the disturbance he caused him in the Sabbath rest he yearned for all week. The baker would make light of any insult to himself by saying: “If my son-in-law has lengthy prayers, it is all for the sake of heaven and there is no place to complain to him.” And in order that they not eat in darkness, they would light large candles.

However, once on a Friday night his son-in-law tarried in the study hall longer than usual. The baker had already had time to awaken from his sleep, the mother-in-law and her daughter had already gone over the weekly portion in “Tzeina Ureina” – and their “Kli Yakar” [Precious Vessel – also the name of a commentary on the Pentateuch] had still not arrived. Finally the candles also went out, the room was dark and black, the challahs and the wine are ready on the table – and waiting for a blessing.

And then the door opened – the scholar enters. “Good Sabbath!” “Good Sabbath!” The “Shalom Aleichem” song, etc, his voice is heard in the darkness of the room in a joyful gladness, as if light and glory were spread around him.

The baker did not contain himself and with some annoyance asked his son-in-law: “Why did you spend such a long time in the study hall? The candles went out and now we must eat in the dark.”

“You have darkness, for me it is light”, - Rebbe'le answered surely and continued to read the “Ribon Olamim” by heart and sang “Woman of Valor” fervently and earnestly read the Zohar for Friday night. Sanctified the wine and in the light of the moon he and his household ate the Sabbath meal according to the law. Between each course he sang Sabbath songs.

His mother-in-law and his wife were simple Jewish women, innocent and didn't say a thing. In their innocence they thought that it was supposed to be that way. Who can understand the secrets of holy men.

However the baker was not light-minded like gullible women who believe anything. A doubt crept into his heart, if all of the deeds that his son-in-law does weren't in fact some sort of distraction in order to be considered a miracle working Tzadik by others. And he decided in his heart to test him, if his words were honest, that even in the darkness his son-in-law was in light or whether he was just fooling people.

The following Friday night, his son-in-law was again late in returning from the study hall, the candles went out, the darkness wrapped itself around the room. The baker whose nerves were very aggravated, went and opened the door to the cellar, which was in the middle of the room under the floor. The women didn't notice this.

The door opened. “Good Sabbath!” he didn't have time to repeat his greeting again when – “Trach!” an abyss opened at his feet, and he fell and went down to the cellar. Fortunately for him, it was not a deep cellar, and the Rebbe'le was not physically injured, he only received a small blow.

[Page 184]

The baker, with a cry of victory and satisfaction that this experiment worked out, called to his son-in-law: “This is the result of stubbornness; the stubborn man damages only himself. On the Sabbath there should be light and joy for the Jews, not darkness and sadness. This is a punishment from heaven; now you won't say: “It is light for me!”

Embarrassed, the Rebbe'le came out of the cellar, didn't say anything, he realized in his soul that his father-in-law had set a net at his feet to trap him. The matter became known outside the walls of his home as well; the entire city was talking about the event.

From then his honor descended in the eyes of the masses, they stopped coming to him for the third meal on the Sabbath; the women also stopped coming to him with notes. He himself learned that he was not worthy of the degree of a Tzadik if such a small matter could all at once remove him from his stature in the eyes of the people.

But even afterwards, he did not change his behavior, he continued to pray with a noise and a ruckus, he read much in the Zohar and did not speak of daily matters on the Sabbath.

When he ceased to be supported by his father-in-law, he became a matchmaker, would make matches and over time would also sell fortunes. In his praise one can say that until the end of his days people respected him for his exaggerated piety.

A quality of security was instilled in his heart to a great degree, which was communicated from him to people who came in contact with him.

He had an only daughter and he married her to a Torah scholar. The father-in-law crowded into the shade of the Admo”r of Radoszyce and the son-in-law – in the shade of the Admo”r of Alexander.

This son-in-law, whose name was Mosze Chaim Jakubowicz, made an effort to attain the qualities and habits of his father-in-law as well; however he was not successful in his endeavor to echo him in all details. For the former, his behavior was like a second nature, the attribute of his soul, from which he could no longer be released; however for the latter this behavior started only after battle, effort and strain. It was clear that he wanted to imitate his father-in-law without having any emotional need for such behavior himself.

The Alexander Chassidim found in him nothing lacking and included him in their ranks, gave him a position in life, the position of a “melamed” in their congregation. They gave their sons to him and he taught them Gemara and commentaries. And in general they respected him and considered him one of the outstanding Chassidim of their community. He succeeded in his holy work, the teaching bore him fruit. As he was without children and had little expenditure, he also saved himself a bit of capital. The citizens of his city considered him a well-to-do man.

In the city of Kielce there were many other Chassidim. Some of them did not expose their piety to public view and some of them did not enter into my sphere, and their names did not reach my attention. I have mentioned here, therefore, only the names of the Chassidim who were closest to me, and whose homes I visited. I saw their behavior with my own eyes. I have noted here in an objective manner the impression they made upon me and did not come to make any value judgements. I described them as they were. My intention is to hand on to the generations a sketch of the face of the Kielce community, therefore I chose from each and every class a few characters that were selected not just to teach us about themselves, but about the whole from which they were extracted.

[Page 185]

To complete this, I will present to the readers also several characters of scholars for whom the Torah was their art, and who were the glory of the Kielce community.

Rabbe Isachar [Ritual Slaughterer] Goldrat z”l

Rabbi Isachar was the son of Rabbi Mordechai son of Rabbi Szlomo Z”L, a rabbinical arbiter in the Kielce community. Rabbi Isachar was a high class scholar and teacher. He publicized his innovation on the Torah in writing and orally. His articles on the laws of ritual slaughter gave him a reputation in the rabbinic world, especially his book “Minchat Isachar”.

kie185.jpg [8 KB] Rabbi Isachar Goldrat
Rabbi Isachar Goldrat

However, he was not famous just among scholars, whose profession it was, he was well known for his great expertise in the treasures of rabbinic literature; but even those who devoted most of their time to work, labor and commerce enjoyed his talks on Jewish law and lore. On Sabbaths and holidays he would interpret the weekly portion, “Midrash Raba”, “Midrash Tanchuma”, The Sayings of the Fathers in excellent taste for the householders and artisans and inspire in the hearts of his audience faith in the holiness of our Torah, in our national mission, hope for our future and in doing so elevated their low spirits, strengthened the hearts of those who suffered from the enslavement of exile, from the yoke of a difficult livelihood.

Even though he was not an open supporter of the Zionists – his stature in the community did not allow him to be counted with any political party – in spite of this a strong love for the land of Israel beat in his heart as well as for those who were occupied with and taking care of rebuilding it. He expressed to me many times his fervent desire to move and settle in the Holy Land. To this purpose he sent his son, Awraham Goldrat, to the land of Israel, a member of the first Knesset and one of the leading spokesmen in the camp of religious labor in Israel, to make a place for him and pave him a path for coming as well.

However, this desire of his did not come to pass, for death came first. The inhabitants of Kielce gave him great honor at his death and his memory remained as a blessing among those who he had influenced with his Torah, and who had an opportunity to sit in his company.

[Page 186]

Rabbi Alter Josef Baruch Horberg

Rabbinical arbiter and head of the rabbinical court in the Kielce community until the arrival of the Shoah. Great in Torah and an excellent sermonizer, he attracted the young men and taught them rabbinical debate. In his speeches and sermons he influenced the Jews of Kielce greatly. He was the son of the righteous Rabbi Icak Becalel, who was the head of the rabbinical court of the holy congregation of Bosk.

Rabbi Alter Horberg was also expert in matters of commerce and the merchants would bring him their arguments and disagreements, and he would mediate between them to the satisfaction of each and every one.

Rabbi Szmul Blumenfeld, son of Rabbi Izrael Sofer Z”L, also came from Kielce and he served as a rabbi in several communities in Polish towns and was famous for his expertise and the sharpness of his mind and could settle every difficult matter in the Talmud.

His son, Rabbi Josef Baruch Blumenfeld moved to the land of Israel and served as the head of the rabbinical court on the community committee of Tel-Aviv. His second son, Szlomo Blumenfeld, also moved to the land of Israel and he serves as a member of the Kashrut committee of the community committee in Tel-Aviv.

kie186.jpg [20 KB] Rabbi Icak Mejer Tauman and Rabbi Josele Chelmner and 	others deep in a Chassidic discussion
Rabbi Icak Mejer Tauman and Rabbi Josele Chelmner
and others deep in a Chassidic discussion

If I were to try and make a note of all of the names of those who were famous in the Kielce congregation and its environs as great in Torah, the list would be too long. I will only mention a few of the most outstanding ones, Rabbi Mosze Trajman or Rabbi Mosze Aharondl's, the son-in-law of Rabbi Aharon Cytron HaLevi Z”L, a rabbinical arbiter in the Kielce community. Rabbi Cwi Grinszpan, a rabbinical arbiter and member of the rabbinical court of the community. An innocent man who spent days and nights studying the Torah. Rabbi Mordechai (Motel) Nachum's (Rozenberg) a great Torah scholar and a Chassid and the son of Rabbi Izrael. Rabbi Mosze Gutfrajd, ritual slaughterer, who had a sharp mind, of the Chassidim of the Admo”r of Ostrowiec, in whose shade scholars gathered who were able to enjoy his sophisticated innovations, which amazed his listeners. Rabbi Jehoszua Heszel Ajlenberg, son of Simcha Bunem the “melamed”, principal of the “Yesodei Torah” cheder in Kielce. Rabbi Gerszon Zew Wulf, principal of the “Torat Chesed” yeshiva in Kielce, the son in law of Rabbi Chaim Dow, Z”L.

As well, one must mention among the Chassidim and men of action, Rabbi Icak Mejer Tauman, the grandson of the author of “Chidushei HaRI”M” and the brothers Rabbi Mosze'le and Rabbi Josele Chelmner (Chenciner). Both were excellent in their qualities and good musicians, famous prayer-leaders. The younger, Rabbi Josele, had a reputation in Poland as a “Ba'al Musaf” [one who leads the “Musaf” prayer on Sabbaths and holidays] in the court of the Admo”r of Gur. He perished in the Shoah in the Lodz Ghetto.

These scholars and Chassidim and their many friends made sure the coals were not extinguished, shared their wellsprings with others and were a valuable addition to the Kielce community.

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