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[Page 95]

The Pleasant Singer Rabbi Shlomo

by Meir Shimon Geshuri

Translated by Sara Mages

The Radomsk dynasty excels more than other branches of tzadikim[1] in Poland because it was founded almost entirely on the purity of music and work, and attracted to it many Hasidim no less than Hassidut Kock. And there is reason to think that the influx came as a reaction to the negative attitude towards music in Kock and Ger. It is clear, that neither the Hasidic system nor the scholarly and literary legacy, are the main admiration of the Radomsker Hassidut, but rather the music that was introduced in Radomsk. Indeed, most of the Hasidim of this dynasty knew to play music or were music lovers, as if they recognized t their musical vocation.

Radomsk's old tunes know how to keep their freshness and their attractive force and aging does not control them. They are always current among the Radomsker Hasidim, wherever they are, and serve as an elixir of life and spiritual pleasure. And when they get together they sing them with the enthusiasm and joy of youth, as if they were new songs, and feel the greatest natural pleasure in them. In these gatherings, the Hasidim's eyes are fixed on the veterans among them, and the traditionalists who can be trusted to guard the tunes so that they would not be forgotten. They practice the tunes and recall forgotten tunes whose grace has not yet faded.

Such traditionalists also live among us in Eretz Yisrael, and the Radomsker Hasidim gather from time to time and revive the old tunes. In doing so, they bring up the endearing and warm image of the founder of the dynasty in Radomsk, R' Shlomo HaKohen Rabinowicz, and return to him, and his pleasant melodies, with love and longings. Such an intense love of the Hasidim for their singing Rebbe - is rare among the Hasidim.

A great deal of attention was paid to the Radomsk tunes in the entire Polish region that was inhabited by the Radomsker Hasidim, starting from the German border on the coal districts Dabrowa-Bendin to Piotrkow. There was almost no town or village with a Jewish settlement that the Radomsker tunes did not reach them. Radomsk itself - located near Częstochowa - was the center of the Hassidut Polin, and after R' Shlomo founded the dynasty in it many were interested in the Radomsker tunes. And indeed, there's no denying, that the music in other large tzadikim courts in Poland, in Kock and Ger, did not excel in terms of musical taste and emotion. There was a justified reason for the prosperity of the Radomsk music, which appeared as a precious stone in the chaos of tunes without order and beauty, until it was acceptable that every tune that came from Batei HaMidrash of Ger and Kock was unacceptable.

The tunes have one style that immediately apparent in its specific Radomsk character. It is full of grace and simplicity and comes in the simple way of a song, and it is one of the most independent styles in the Hasidic music in Poland. The fundamental tone in his tunes has mostly a lyrical tone of sadness. Most of the tunes transfer the listeners to thoughts of rest and seriousness that speak straight to the heart. There is a lot of heartbreak and depression in them and a special pleasure for Ba'alei Teshuvah[2]. Even in the spiritual uplifting of the cheerful tunes, one can hear the sad note that reminds us that the “Shechinah is in exile.” In addition to this, Radomsk music has an intimacy that increases its warmth, and warms the Hasidim to this day.

There is not much distance between the end of the days of R' Shlomo and our days. He passed away in 5626 (1866). R' Shlomo's teachings and learning are stored in his book Tiferet Shlomo, which had become a classic book in the literature of Hassidut Polin and an asset in Hassidut Radomsk, and it is placed on the table of each Hasid of this dynasty. But the Hasidim's attitude towards his memory has not changed at all, and the distance between the year of his death and our time has not found any echo. And indeed, he taught more tunes than the words of the Torah, and with the power of his melodies he struck many roots in the hearts of his Hasidim. He was appreciated in his days by the tzadikim of his generation and left his tunes as an inheritance for the generations that came after him.

R' Shlomo's was one of the few tzadikim in Poland who bought with his tunes the hearts of the Hasidim to love and adoration. Music was a subject of admiration for him and he worked on it with bravery and devotion. His tunes captured the hearts and increased his name and fame. The city of Radomsk also grew, and together with R' Shlomo became famous throughout Poland and Western Galicia. He himself had a musical talent and the music was inherent in his soul and spirit.

He was a third generation to Hassidut Polin. He learned music from his rabbi, R' Meir of Apt who together with his friend, R' David of Lelow, were the disciples of ha-Chozeh[3] of Lublin. Both were renowned musicians and cantors in the Hasidic world. It is told that R' Meir boasted that he was ready to give a gold dinar to anyone who will succeed to imitate him in Malchiyot, Zichronot and Shofarot[4].

Wloszczowa was his birthplace and from there he moved to live in Radomsk after he was appointed the city's rabbi. It seems that already then he was famous as a cantor with a pleasant voice capable of attracting the hearts. In the rabbinic letter given to him on behalf of the Radomsk community it stipulated, among others, that he would not be allowed to travel to one of the communities on the High Holidays and the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, and pray with them in the synagogue (Ohel Shlomo, by R' Yitzchak Mordechai HaKohen Rabinowicz of Plawno, Piotrkow 5684). It is possible, that already then many wanted him to serve as a cantor on the High Holidays in the cities outside of Radomsk, and the community management was forced to use the means at its disposal.

We have no information about his musical inclination in his childhood, but from a tradition in his city Wloszczowa, we learn that he was gifted with a pleasant voice. In the past, it was customary that on Shabbat eve, before dusk, the pious homeowners came to Beit HaMidrash and each one sat in his place, and whoever had a young son, was tasked with reciting the verses of Shir Hashirim [Song of Songs] in a loud voice before his father. R' Hershele, R' Shlomo's father, was already sitting in his place in the east near the Holy Ark, and his young son recited Shir Hashirim before his father in his pleasant voice. When the “Holy Jew” came to Beit HaMidrash and sat in his seat in the east, he listened attentively to the tune of Shir Hashirim the young Shlomo said before his father. He turned his face to him, listened for a few moments and said, this little one says Shir Hashirim like King Solomon.

Already at a young age his pleasant voice aroused the attention of R' Meir of Apt [Optowa], who was well known as an elderly cantor and excellent musician. Once, when he was a yeshiva student, he visited Apt on the holiday of Sukkot. After they shared the food and the wine he said to him: I've heard about you that you can sing. Please sing the hymn Kol Meqadesh Shevi'i [“Whoever sanctifies the seventh day”] (because the first day of Sukkot fell on the Sabbath). R' Shlomo, out of “one doesn't refuse a great man” agreed and sang. His voice poured out pleasantly and powerfully, and the echo of the voice responded to him until the whole space was full of clear sounds that have the power to forget any other pleasant tunes. R' Meir listen to his singing with his eyes closed, and when he sat on his chair he made movements with his body as if he was leaping and dancing out of his devotion. When he finished the song with the words Tshu'at Olamim [“Everlasting Salvation”], everyone was filled with admiration as if “they really saw the voices of Tshu'at Olamim,” and R' Meir said to his son R' Pinchas: “hymns should be sung in such a way, and you must know that while this yeshiva student sings

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hymns, the name of God is placed on the tip of his tongue, and he sings just like the sound of the angels wings in the sky.”

This idea inspired one of his grandsons to prove that such a matter is implied in the Torah - “Is there anything that is written in the Writings that is not alluded to in the Torah at all?” (Taanit 9a). It has been said about David: “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who knows how to play, a mighty man of valor, and a warrior, and prudent in affairs, and a handsome man, and the Lord is with him” (1Samuel 16:18). The last sentence, “and the Lord is with him,” provoked an argument and Hazal[5] saw it fit to explain its meaning: “his opinion is in every area of the Halacha.” And the grandson came to add that (also) King David sang in such a way that God's name was placed on his tongue, and he put “and the Lord is with him” next to “knows how to play” to say, that he sings with the name of God on his tongue, which is a wonderful virtue. There is also a hint to this in the Nishmat [“The breath of”] prayer: “and the tongue that you place in our mouth shall sing praises to Your name” (Sefer Niflaot HaTiferet Shlomo, on R' Shlomo KaKohen of Radomsk by Avraham Shemuʼel Tsevi Zilbershá¹­ain, Piotrkow 5683).

R' Shlomo was humble by nature and only agreed to sing after many pleas. Once, he came to Wloszczowa for the Sabbath when R' Yeshaya of Widoma lay on his deathbed. When he was invited to the tzadik for seudah shlishit[6], they planned to ask him to sing a song after he was already famous and knew to sing in a loud and pleasant voice. And there was another rabbi there, who knew how to sing, and he started to sing B'nei Heichala [“Children of the Palace”] and other songs and did not leave a song for the guest to sing. R' Yeshaya lay in bed and did not respond at all, and R' Shlomo did not sing a single song. After they prayed Maariv [evening prayer] the tzadik said to R' Shlomo: since you did not sing at all during seudah shlishit, please sing HaMavdil [“Who Distinguishes”] now. R' Shlomo sang HaMavdil in a loud and trembling voice, and all the listeners were moved by the pleasant emotion. R' Shlomo was also influenced by the joy of music on Shabbat evenings. At the end of the song R' Yeshaya put his hand into his pocket and found a small silver coin there, and according to his words, Elijah the prophet came and put the coin in his pocket as a sign of thanks and recognition for R' Shlomo's singing of HaMavdil. The agile rabbi, who managed to sing all the songs of seudah shlishit, fell silent in astonishment. R' Yeshaya turned to him and said: “you should know that those who are not among Shomrei HaBrit [guardians of the covenant] cannot sing in such a way.”

The test of Shomrei HaBrit was probably not easy. It is said about R' Kahana (Kiddushin 40a 3) that he withstood the test of Shomrei HaBrit and Elijah gave him a basket full of gold dinars. And on the other hand, it turns out from the books that Shomrei HaBrit have a good and pleasant voice. R' Shlomo's grandson, who tried to find a written proof for every idea expressed in relation to his famous grandfather's singing, found a clue in the verse: “My heart and my flesh pray fervently to the living God” (Psalms 84:2). Accordingly, he interprets the verse: “Fortunate is the people that know the blasting of the Shofar”(Psalms 89:16), meaning, he “who walk in the light of Your countenance,” the light of God is seen in his face from the preservation of the foundation, such a person is from among “the people that know the blasting” and knows to play music with a fanfare. And according to this, the explanation is simple, for your voice is pleasant, meaning, if you voice is pleasant it is a sign that your appearance is comely.

It is easy to assume that if tzadikim, who knew to play music, were greatly influenced by his singing and expressed their admiration with kind remarks, it is a sign that R' Shlomo knew how to elevate his listeners with the quality of his singing. His contemporaries who knew to play music testified that his voice “was thin and high and very pleasant,” a short but comprehensive sentence, because each of the aforementioned qualities prepares the voice for influence, and if all three qualities come together in his voice, it is easy to estimate the magnitude of the influence. It has been said, that his pleasant voice touched the heart of each of the listeners and inspired it to complete repentance. The great tzadikim of the generation said of him that his voice was like the voice of the Levites in the Holy Temple.

* * *

Great was his work with joy, during Torah and prayer he studied and prayed with great and immense pleasure, and when he opened his mouth singing, he breathed life into his listeners, until even the oppressed woke up and forgot their sorrow. He revived souls with his joy, and looking at his happy face also had a positive effect.

The joy in Radomsk, as everywhere, was an important factor in inspiring the soul, in understanding the music and distracting the mind from the hardships of exile and livelihood that were not lacking in any Jewish settlement. If the Hassidut came with the sole purpose of bringing joy it would have been a good virtue, and all the more so, renewal and awakening and increasing the hope in the hearts for better days. Radomsk's music amplified these elements, and even after music became a prominent element in this Hassidut, R' Shlomo did not distract himself from the joy and quality of its influence.

Once, when he spoke about the qualities of joy, he told the Hasidim that the days once came with a claim in the upper world before the Holy One, Blessed be He, that they have no joy from the time of the creation of the world until now, because in the creation of the first man, on the day he was created - on that day he sinned and was cursed. And later came the flood generation, the sailing generation, and from where the joy will come? Until they were told in the heaven to wait a little, and they waited until Avraham Avinu came and began to spread the belief in one God in the world. Then, came days of joy, and they came every day with thanksgiving and joy before the place. And he explains the verse: “and Avraham, who was old advanced in days, came together with the days, and the days came with the joy before the Creator of the world.” And R' Shlomo ended his conversation with these words: give me days of delight and eternal years, because the days themselves had joy beyond the years of eternity, because all the days and years that have passed, from one world to the next, brought joy to all. And he finished with a loud voice: days of delight (the days themselves were happy). When the Hasidim heard his words they woke up to great joy, they jumped up from their seats and began to dance around, until they did not know where they got the strength to dance without limit (Niflaot, HaTiferet Shlomo).

His main music - apart from the Sabbath, was centered on the High Holidays prayer. He spared no effort to arrange every year a cycle of new tunes for prayers and piyyutim for the High Holidays. His anxiety for new tunes is quite evident in the words he once said to the Rabbi of Piotrkow who stayed with him: believe me, it is my duty to play new tunes for the High Holidays just as a Jewish man is obligated to take etrog and lulav[7] on the holiday of Sukkot. And this concern was accompanied by actions and treatment.

The cantor of Czestochowa, A. B, Biranbaum, told about his diligence and promptness in providing new tunes (“The World,” first year, 1907: “The singing and music in the tzadikim courts in Poland”). He testified, that before the before the High Holidays R' Shlomo arranged the prayers among his Hasidim, his singers. Each Hasid had a kind of moral obligation to go to his city's cantor and to learn from him his best songs… He testified, that before the before the High Holidays R' Shlomo arranged the prayers among his Hasidim, his singers. Each Hasid had a kind of moral obligation to go to his city's cantor and to learn from him his best songs… The cantor, who gave them his song, was certain that they would spread his music in faith throughout the world, without subtraction or addition, and after they had learned a few songs well they gathered every free day in one of the homes to sing the songs in a choir, and later traveled to Radomsk with their sifted and clean goods. And there, they sang the songs before R' Shlomo and the work was done. And out of concern that the Hasidim would neglect their duty at home, R' Shlomo sent every year, about six weeks before the High Holidays two emissaries to supervise their work. This testimony proves the quality of the organization in obtaining new songs.

R' Shlomo had one assistant, R' Tuvia, who helped him in the performance of his melodies. Once, after he returned to Radomsk from a summer home abroad, he invited R' Tuvia and said to him: “take out the goods you brought with you from Lodz.” During his rabbi's absence, R' Tuvia spent his time in Lodz with R' Liserka the cantor and learned new melodies from him. And with the

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return of his tzadik rabbi he called several young men, who knew how to sing, and came with them to R' Shlomo's room to repeat the tunes he learned in Lodz (Ohel Shlomo).

The invitation to his Hasidim to take care of preparing new songs for the High Holidays was one of a kind. In the introduction to the book Pele Yoetz the author, R' Yitzchak Shlomovitch, that his father was one of Tiferet Shlomo Hasidim and associates. Once, R' Shlomo sent a specially messenger to his father with a letter and in it an instruction to “prepare zemirot for the Gods of Israel,” because he knew how to compose pleasant and beautiful tunes that earned the love of R' Shlomo. He obeyed R' Shlomo' command and went to Radomsk before Rosh Hashanah and arranged new tunes for the prayers on the High Holidays, and R' Shlomo cooperated with him. And everything was done in holy purity with the right intention to thank and praise His great name.

His prayer before the Holy Ark during the High Holidays was considered a tremendous event in the Hasidic world, and many Hasidim flocked in those days to Radomsk to greatly enjoy his pleasant prayer. The fact that among the visitors were also Hasidim and leaders from other circles, proves the appeal of R' Shlomo's music and work. He led his prayer before the Holy Ark like an old and ordinary cantor. His way was to pray the Mussaf[8] payer on the High Holidays, and those who heard his prayer said that they had never heard such prayers of reverence and exaltation. In his tunes and pleas in prayer he caused a great awakening among the listeners and, above all, to thoughts of repentance, because all his prayer was in an outpouring of the heart and soul. He knew how to revive the prayers with his melodies, each prayer with a melody worthy of its character, if it is a plea - in a tone of weeping and mercy, and if it is a consolation - in a tone of reconciliation and hope. He reached the peak of crying with the recitation of Zichronot, and in its center the verse: “Is Ephraim a son who is dear to Me? Is he a child who is dandled? For whenever I speak of him, I still remember him: therefore, My very innards are agitated for him; I will surely have compassion on him,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 31:19). This verse came out of his mouth with great enthusiasm. His eyes shed tears like water, and crying continued until “Because you remember all the forgotten things.” The end of the blessing was said with great joy that aroused joy in the hearts of all who heard his prayer. Eyewitnesses testified that R' Shlomo had devotion in his prayer, especially when he reached “Dari Ma'ala with Dari Mata.” One of his grandsons, who was privileged to hear his voice in his prayer (when I remember my grandfather's prayer “my very innards were agitated and l I still remember him”), tells that when heard his recitation of Keriat Shema: Shema Yisrael [Hear, O Israel] the voice came out of him with such holiness, purity and great enthusiasm that is impossible to describe in writing (Ateret Shlomo by R' Yitzchak Mordechai Rabinowitz presiding judge in Plawno, Piotrkow, 5686). And he adds, that those who heard his voice, even though sixty years have passed since his death, still remain with them as a holy impression, and blessed are the ears who were privileged to hear such a thing,

He said the chapter of praises “A song of ascents from the depths” before Bar'chu [“Let us bless”] verse by verse, and prepared himself by remaining one hour beforehand in terror and awed. Those, who have heard his voice, immediately awoke to complete repentance in terror and awe.

But, usually, all his prayer was with great joy. It contained the messianic vision and the great goodness that implies a good future.

On weekdays he also prayed out loud, and when he reached the verse: “And the Lord shall become King over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be one, and His name one” (Zechariah 14: 9), he raised his voice and said the words with great enthusiasm. When he reached “and You made the covenant with him” (Nehemiah 9:8), It was his way of untying the knots of his slippers and tying them again later, and he had a great interest in this according to the secret in the writings of Ha'ari [Yitzchak Solomon Luria Ashkenazi]. He practiced this custom several times during the prayer, and each time he washed his hands. He had even more enthusiasm and devotion for his prayer and music on the Sabbath.

He said the Neshama [soul] prayer with such pleasantness that all his listeners were drawn to love and piety, and his voice descended to the chambers of the stomach. The elders of the dynasty tells that whoever heard the voice of R' Shlomo became ba'al teshuvah[9]. At the conclusion of a the Neshama prayer, he went outside, washed his hands, returned to Beit HaMidrash and sat on his chair, and again he untied his slippers' knots and tied them again.

And so it was when he sang Yedid Nefesh [“Beloved of the Soul”] and El Mistater [“The God who is hidden”] in the seudah shlishit, which lasted several hours, and those who sat in darkness saw a great light. The inspiration of the tunes and chants, which graced the party, aroused a Neshamah Yeterah[10] in the participants in the meal and the night was bright as day.

Under his influence a musical atmosphere was created in Radomsk, and was expressed on every occasion, whether on the Sabbath and holidays, or on weekdays. R' Shlomo invested a lot of attention that the people closest to him will be qualified musicians and will be able to enrich the mind with music. Among the Hasidim of Radomsk were excellent cantors who occasionally visited the city. Among them were the cantor of Lodz R' Leizer'k and the cantor Abosch Meir of Krakow, and they were also the main agents for the Radomsk tunes.

* * *

His name as a musician, and admirer of good musicians, was famous throughout Poland. The greatest musicians responded willingly to visit Radomsk and to please him with their music without being paid, and without even receiving their travel expenses. He especially liked to hear the sound of the violin and the best Jewish violinists of Poland in his generation, such as Yontil of Lublin, Holland of Plock and Tzadok Steinhour, played at his table. Among the cantors who visited Radomsk were some who did not socialize with the Hasidim that treated them with suspicion during prayer. In the Hasidim courts in Kock and Ger the musician was strictly tested, and not everyone was invited to the tzadik table. On the contrary, these musicians were not rejected in Radomsk, R' Shlomo graciously brought them closer and they adhered to him and became his Hasidim.

In his visits outside the city of his residence, R' Shlomo was in no hurry to serve as a cantor, and only responded after many pleas. But in Radomsk he loved to entertain in his prayer the important guests who came to visit him from time to time. R' Yosef Baruch Epsein the tzadik of Neustad, author of Maor VaShamesh [“Light and Sun”], who is known by the name Der Gutter Yid [“the Good Jew”], visited Radomsk a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah. In honor of the great guest, R' Shlomo served as a cantor saying that he wants to please the rabbi with singing and praises. He said the Nishmat (“The breath of”) prayer in a pleasant voice that drew the heart to work in awe, and the rabbi of Neustad did not move his eyes from R' Shlomo. When he arrived to the words “Eternal God, in Your abundant mercy,” he caused an awakening until everyone felt a light of purity and sanctity within him, and until tears flowed like stream flowed from the eyes of all the people who were in Beit HaMidrash. The crying was as great as when the Untanneh Tokef[11] is recited on Rosh Hashanah. Also his assistants cried from the magnitude of the awakening they had felt in their hearts.

Once they asked the Tzadik, R' Natan David of Wloszczowa, for the reason of his visit to Radomsk. He was a well-known tzadik that thousands of Hasidim flocked to him and sheltered in his shadow. And he said that he came to Radomsk to learn from R' Shlomo the work of joy that was more common with him than with all the tzadikim of the generation.

In his visits outside Radomsk, he was interested in the singers he had the opportunity to hear. In his visit to R' Yehezkel of Kuzimyr he heard his tzadik son, R' Shmuel Eliyahu from Zvolin, sings Ki Eshmera Shabbat [“As I keep the Sabbath”]. R' Shlomo asked his assistance, who is the singer, and to the assistant's counter question, why are you asking, R' Shlomo replied that he knows that the singer “is [one] of the children of the Hebrews” (Exodus 2:6). R' Shmuel Eliyahu was the brother of the tzadik R' Yisrael of Modzitz who achieved fame in glory in his life with his clear voice and beautiful melodies.

The tzadik of Neustad [Germany] had a close relationship with R' Shlomo and the visits were mutual. He was one of R' Shlomo's greatest fans in the musical work, and each time found the appropriate expression to expressed his admiration for his music. The geographical situation of the town of Neustad, on the border between Galicia and Poland, near the Vistula River, allowed the tzadikim of the two countries to meet at “The Good Jew,” R' Yosef Baruch. In one of these meetings, R' Shlomo and R' Chaim Halberstam of Sanz met there on the Sabbath. The tzadik of Neustad gave R' Shlomo the honor to serve as a cantor and to R' Chaim the honor of reading the Torah. As usual, R' Shlomo prayed by the amud with singing and chanting, and aroused the admiration

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of his listeners. “The Good Jew,” in his great admiration, turned to the tzadik of Sanz in these words: what would you say to our cantor that his prayer today is wonder upon wonder, “he gives forth with his voice a voice of strength until the voices could actually be seen” (Ohel Shlomo).

His prayer-singing was also admired in the court of the tzadik of Kuzimyr [Kazimierz]. R' Yehezkel himself was a music lover, and the patriarch of the righteous Taub family of Zvolin and Modzitzm whose descendants were famous musicians. R' Shlomo of Radomsk occasionally visited R' Yehezkel. R' Emanuel, son-in-law of the tzadik, always wanted that R' Shlomo will serve as a cantor and entertain the audience with the pleasantness of his prayers and his voice. But the tzadik of Kuzimyr was in no hurry to fulfill his request by saying: “has he come here to show his strength in prayer as one of the cantors!” R' Shlomo did not refuse to serve as a cantor and his assistants, the musicians Tuvia and Yosel, stood ready by his side and the audience stood crowded eager to hear. R' Shlomo started with the Mussaf as a regular cantor without music, and finished the prayer with Aleinu leshabei'ach [“upon us”]. And here, R' Emanuel approached him and whispered in his ear that it is customary in Kuzimyr to sing Anim Zemirot [“I shall sweeten songs”]. Then, he turned to his musicians, and after exchanging words with them about the music, he opened with a resounding voice and sacred enthusiasm. The song lasted almost an hour, and Beit HaMidrash was very crowded from the many people who flocked from outside to hear. And when he reached the last lines of the song “Because I yearn for you,” he almost blew the roof off with so much pleasantness, and this singing remained in the memory of the listeners for a long time (Niflaot HaTiferet Shlomo)

R' Shlomo was also on friendly terms with the founder of the Ger dynasty, R' Yitzhak Meir Alter, and although the latter was far from the music world, and Ger's music was of a very low quality, he knew how to respect R' Shlomo and his pleasant singing. The Hasidim of Poland tell this legend to this day: R' Yitzhak Meir Alter of Ger and R' Shlomo once met at a Rosh Chodesh meal in Warsaw. R' Yitzhak Meir Alter asked R' Shlomo to sing the prayer “Our God and the God of our forefathers renew this month upon us,” and R' Shlomo granted his wish. When R' Yitzhak Meir Alter passed away at the conclusion of the Sabbath, and the bad news reached R' Shlomo on the following Thursday evening, he clapped his hands and said: I will surely be invited to the heavens to welcome the Shabbat in honor of the exalted guest, and although R' Shlomo was in good health, less than half an hour had passed, and R' Shlomo also ascended to the heavens (“The World,” first year, 1907: A. B. Biranbaum; “The singing and music in the tzadikim courts in Poland”).

The holiday of Shavuot, the Festival of giving of the Torah, did not give R' Shlomo enough satisfaction among his Hasidim in Radomsk, and he usually spent the holiday with other tzadikim and with them he also found himself. At that time he was both influenced and influential and possessed the right to sing Akdamut Milin[12].

Kuzimyr took first place in his visits for the holiday of Shavuot, and each time he was honored to serve as a cantor. R' Shlomo stipulated one condition, which was contrary to the local custom, and it is: to skip the piyyutim. This stipulation was not convenient, because the piyyutim were loved by the tzadikim in every place because of their varied content and the beauty of the description of the giving of the Torah and Ma'amad Har Sinai. The piyyutim were recited in a pleasant, uniform traditional way, and sometimes in the Hasidim's tradition. And yet, they were omitted from R' Shlomo's prayer, maybe because it took a long time to recite them and they could dissipate the power of the prayer itself. The tzadik of Kuzimyr agreed to the condition and R' Shlomo served as a cantor and prayed the Morning Prayer and Akdamut Milin. R' Yitzhak of Kuzimyr enjoyed his prayer and did not take his eyes and ears off the entire prayer time. After the prayer he told his Hasidim that after the passing of ha-Chozeh of Lublin he traveled to the tzadik, R' Shmuel of Makow, who was a great singer. Since then, he has not heard a prayer like R' Shlomo's, therefore he bowed his head and happily swallowed the melodies and prayers that came out of R' Shlomo's mouth.

One Shavuot holiday, which fell on a Sunday, is especially famous in the Hassidut world. The elders of the generation used to say, whoever was not there on Shavuot never tasted the taste of Shavuot. The tzadik of Kuzimyr honored R' Shlomo with the singing of Akdamut Milin, and the first reading of the Torah because he was a Kohen. R' Shlomo agreed under the stipulation that they will send him men who can sing, and then “he will prepare songs for the “God of Israel.”” He sent him eighty singers and musicians, among them the son of R' Shmuel Eliyahu of Zvolin who was a great singer, and all of them got on the bimah to sing Akdamut Milin. When R' Shlomo opened his mouth in praise and song, everyone felt the joy of holiness and religious enthusiasm. The voices of the eighty singers united into a very strong voice until “the walls of Beit HaMidrash and the windowpanes trembled with great anxiety.” And above them all the voice of R' Shlomo roar like a lion, the voice of joy and jubilation, and when he started to recite Akdamut Milin, he began to dance awakening dances. His dancing and singing made a great impression on the tzadik of Kuzimyr, who ran around in Beit HaMidrash, which was full with the sounds of light and joy, and with admiration and wonder called to his Hasidim: Have you seen such a thing? Have you heard such a thing? (the description of the story comes in several differences in the two books: Ateret Shlomo and Niflaot HaTiferet Shlomo).

In his old age, when Radomsk reached the height of publicity, when many flocked to the city for the holiday of Shavuot to enjoy the heavenly atmosphere created by the sounds of Akdamut Milin, he once chose to spend the holiday with the tzadik, R' Chaim Halberstam of Sanz. This day, and the singing of the details of Hallel [“Praise”] and Akdamut Milin, which sounded like the music of Malachi Ma'ale [heavenly angels], were not forgotten by the worshipers in Beit HaMidrash.

His pleasant voice rejoiced the hearts also when he said Torah innovations at his table, no less perhaps when he sang and prayed before the Ark, or when he sang at the table's parties (“The Hassidut” by Aharon Marcus). The flow of his pleasant and cheerful words attracted a large crowd of listeners, and had a share in the spiritual uplifting of the Radomsker Hasidim.

In his book, Tiferet Shlomo, his ideas about singing stand out here and there. The singing works in any place, and at any time, for the resurrection of the dead and the healing of the sick. He expressed this idea in several places in his book. In one place he expanded the speech in the same direction.

1. Singing acts to pass from death to life, therefore there is a hint for the resurrection of the dead in the song, to say that singing brings about the resurrection of the dead in its virtue, the words of Ha-Zohar (Parashat Beshalach 54b): “Every person who sings a song every day and meditates on it, is entitled to say it for the future to come, for in it there is a world that has passed, and in it there is a world to come, and in it there are bonds of faith, and in it are the days of the Messiah King” - are suitable for the Gemara commentary about “from death to life.” If we want to perform an act from death to life we sing a song, because this is the virtue of singing. That's why we sing about the wine, since we drink it to life and it also works to resurrect the dead like singing. Therefore, singing about wine is like an outburst of emotions, from death to real life. Both are equal, one matter and one virtue. And wine is drunk from death to life.

About Esau's guardian angel, that according to the Midrash[13] (Parashat[14] Vayishlach: “and a man wrestled with him until the break of the day”) from the day he was created, his time did not come to sing until the time of the wrestling with Yaakov, he asked, how our Rabbis of blessed memory knew that this man was Esau servant. And what injustice is found in him in that he asked to sing a song, rather, to lighten and strengthen it since it was a good angel, which is not appropriate for Esau's servant. And he excuses himself, that it was difficult for our Rabbis of blessed memory. If the angel had been with Jacob in the choice of the ancestors, if he had been a good angel he would not have gone to sing, but would have stayed with Jacob and received from him perfection. And maybe the matter of singing was just a pretext for the angel, while he did not say singing the whole time.

King David's virtue is greater than that of Aharon HaKohen, on which it is written (Parashat Acharei Mot) “and Aaron was silent” (Leviticus 10:3), and it was said about David: “So that my soul will sing praises to You and not be silent” (Psalms 30:13), meaning, that at a time of trouble he sang, believing that in the spirit of the song is the power to overcome harms and troubles (R' Mendel of Kock praised these words of the Torah).

2. This idea has something to do with the custom of saying the song verse by verse on the day of circumcision, and the purpose is as explained

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The Radomsker Hasidim tunes
(restored by N. Hoffman, G. Grossberg and M. Chatomi)

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(Megila 17b 14) “Why did they see fit to institute that one says the blessing of healing as the eight blessing, since circumcision was assigned to the eighth day of life, and circumcision requires healing.” Meaning, singing has a medicinal virtue and for this reason this verse was added at the end of the Torah portion: “all the sicknesses that I have visited upon Egypt I will not visit upon you, for I, the Lord, heal you” (Exodus 15:26). To instruct, that after singing comes healing, therefore also on the day of the circumcision,, the mohel [circumciser] and the congregation say the singing verse by verse with a special intention, and it is a virtue for the healing of the circumcision. And so they sing the song Yom Layabasha in circumcision, which is a poem of praise, and everything with the intention that singing is a virtue for circumcision, and the custom of Israel is law.

On one of the holidays R' Shlomo sat on the table and the Hasidim danced in a circle and rejoiced in honor of the holiday. Suddenly, he ordered the dancers to stop. They stood in a circle and were silent, and he started to explain the words of the Gemara (Ta'anit 31a 9) “In the future, in the end of days, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will arrange a dance of the righteous.” And he asked, why the righteous have to dance do, after all they enjoy the glory of the Shechina. He explained it that the word mahol [dance] is from the word Mehila [forgiveness], and in the future the Holy One, Blessed be He, will ask the righteous to forgive him for the suffering, poverty and oppression they that they always had the sorrow of the Shechina and the sorrow of the Jews in the Diaspora. Because the righteous have claims before him, why such trouble for the Jews, and for that the Holy One, Blessed be He, will ask forgiveness from the righteous. And, “in the future, in the end of days, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will arrange a dance of the righteous,” that He, so to speak, will, ask for forgiveness from the righteous. And then, the Hasidim began to dance more strongly and more vigorously.

Among the ideas he expressed about singing, he once compared it to a king who is sitting in prison. The king's son came to him and wanting to please him he played the violin and a harp, and told him how he explained Rambam's difficult problem in a longwinded debate. All these pleasures did not please the king, and he said to his son: what do I care about your music and your in-depth study. It would be better if you try to get me out and rescue me from prison and then we can make love with debates about the Torah and playing music (Tiferet Shlomo, Vol. 2 pp.310 and Parashat Re'eh and Parashat Toldot).

Radomsk tunes gained a reputation in Hassidut Polin. They took a place of honor in the tunes music hall of Hassidut Polin. R' Shlomo passed away, but his lips are singing tunes in the grave that have not yet been forgotten.

His descendants tried to expand the framework. R' Shlomo's successor, his son R' Avraham Yissachar (5603-5652) author of Chesed L'Avraham, remembered with love his father's music and added to them, with the help of R' Shlomo Hazan whose name was famous in the entire region of Piotrkow as the creator of prayers. His songs were also sung at R' Yehazkel (author of Keneset Yehazkel) of Radomsk who also continued with this activity. Radomsk music branched out and the folk tones were added to it with folk songs. To this day, Radomsk Hasidim sing religious folk songs of which I mention one as an example:

He is mighty and will not sleep
He is blessed and will not sleep
Have mercy on us, have mercy on us,
Redeem us, redeem us,
Both in the city and in the village,
Both in the field and in the forest,
Both in the valley and in the mountain,
You'll save us from the bitter exile.
Rise up and come to our aid
Redeem us for the sake of Your kindness.
Why do You hide Your face,
Forget our affliction and oppression,
Oy gevalt, oy gevalt [Oh, God]
Oy gevalt, oy gevalt
Master of the Universe, you are alone,
For our soul is cast down to the dust,
Our belly clings to the earth,
In addition, we ask you
Rise up and come to our aid
Redeem us for the sake of Your kindness.

The Radomsk dynasty established history stations in Kromolow near Zawiercie by R' Natan Nachum, and in Sosnowiec by R' Shlomo Chanoch, and they remained faithful to the traditional tunes of Radomsk.

(From the book “The Hassidic Music”)

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Tzadik (pl. tzadikim) a title given to people considered righteous, such as biblical figures and later spiritual masters such as Hassidic rabbis. Return
  2. The term Ba'al Teshuva literally means “master of the return” and in Talmudic times it was used to describe repentant sinners. Return
  3. Yaakov Yitzchak HaLevi Horowitz, known as ha-Chozeh of Lublin (“The Seer of Lublin”) 1745-1815, was a Hasidic Rebbe from Poland. Return
  4. Rosh Hashanah Musaf (“Additional”) prayer is divided into three distinct sections: Malchiyot (Sovereignty), Zichronot (Remembrances) and Shofrot (Sounding of the Shofar). Return
  5. Hazal is an acronym for the Hebrew words Ḥakhameinu Zikhronam Liv'rakha (our sages of blessed memory and refers primarily to the rabbis of the Talmudic period. Return
  6. Seudah shlishit is the third meal customarily eaten by Sabbath-observing Jews on each Shabbat. Return
  7. The etrog (citron), lulav (palm branch), hadass (myrtle) and aravah (willow) - are the four species the Jews are commanded to bind together and wave each day of the holiday of Sukkot. Return
  8. The Mussaf (lit. “Additional”) Service is the name of the extra section of liturgy recited during morning services on Shabbat, festivals, and Rosh Chodesh (“head of the month”). Return
  9. Ba'al teshuvah (lit. “Master of return”) is a Jew who adopts some form of traditional religious observance after having previously followed a secular lifestyle or a less stringent form of Judaism. Return
  10. Neshamah Yeterah (lit.“Additional soul”) is a popular belief that every Jew is given an additional soul from the entrance of each Sabbath until its termination. Return
  11. Untanneh Tokef (“Let us speak of the awesomeness ”), is a piyyut that has been a part of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgy in some traditions of rabbinical Judaism for centuries. Return
  12. [1]Akdamut Milin (“In Introduction to the Words,” i.e. to the Ten Commandments) is a piyyut (liturgical poem) written in Aramaic recited annually on the holiday of Shavuot. Return
  13. Midrash is a form of literature that interprets and elaborates upon biblical texts. Return
  14. Parashah is the weekly Scripture portion taken from the Torah. Each parashah is given a name and is usually referred to as Parashat. Return

Great Rejoicing in the Hasidim Tents

by Shimon Friedman

Translated by Sara Mages


A. R' Kalman Bendiner - the comedian of Tiferet Shlomo[1]

R' Kalman Bendiner (Friedman) was one the great personalities among the Radomsk Hasidim in Będzin.

He was born in 5562 in a village near Będzin, and as a villager he mastered the Polish language and sometimes used it in his jokes. He studied the Torah from HaGaon R' David Deutsch zt”l of Hungary. After his marriage, he opened a shop for iron products in Będzin. It was the first shop of its kind in the city. At that time, Będzin was subordinate in matters of trade to the town of Czeladź, which (until 1918) was located near the German border. When the heavy industry was developed in the vicinity of Będzin, headed by the Huta Bankowa factories, the Huldschinsky factories, and others - the city of Będzin also developed and surpassed Czeladź. And with the industry, commerce opened up, and important trading houses were opened by the Jews, most of whom were Hasidim.

However, R' Kalman remained unchanged. He was not in a hurry to get rich and stated clearly - that he did not want to leave property to his sons, so as not to cause too much disagreement between them. He sat in his shop and engaged in collecting money for the Holy Land Fund along with R' Nachman Beitner the gabbai. Every week he traveled to the fairs in the towns of Schiewer and Sławków. From time to time he also traveled to Tiferet Shlomo and became one of his devoted Hasidim in heart and soul. He was also a mohel, and for this purpose he traveled to the villages where he stayed overnight. It is unknown to which rabbi he traveled first. However, he complained that his wife has more faith in the tzadikim than he did, because she used to claim that it is enough to travel to the rabbi once every six months, or a year. Whereas he said, that to be a Hasid it is necessary to travel at least once every three months.

He was among the first Hasidim to travel to Tiferet Shlomo when he began leading in righteousness in Radomsk. At first, the Tzadik[2] refused to accept the leadership and on the first Sabbath, when the Hasidim came to him, he shouted: I am not a rabbi, let the crazy people be rabbis. Go home.

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R' Kalman extend him his hand to him and said: rabbi, I am going. Please bless me with a farewell blessing… Once, Tiferet Shlomo issued an order to the Hasidim to conduct Tikkun Chatzot[3] and then to study Reshit Chochmah [The Beginning of Wisdom] and Shaarei HaKedusah [Gates of Holiness] chapter 17. Later, when R' Kalman came to the tzadik he said to him: I've heard that you are not following my instructions. R' Kalman answered him: it is explicitly stated in the Mishnah: that when the Sages said until midnight, the mitzvah may be performed until the break of dawn…

Once, on a Shabbat, the tzadik did not allow the Hasidim to be present at the “table,” and ordered that only the selected ones will sit with him. Meaning: R' Aharon of Krakow (son of the author of Maor VaShamesh), R' Chaim David of Piotrkow (a former doctor who repented and became a Tzadik), and others. R' Kalman called the rabbi's assistant and said to him: please tell the rabbi that I want to ask him a question. He is the city's rabbi and he must allow me to enter. When he was given permission to enter, the tzadik asked him: “What kind of questions do you have on Shabbat?” He said: I have a question, why on every Sabbath in the summer we read one chapter in Pirkei Avot [Chapters of the Fathers], and only at the end of the summer, when it is not possible to finish all the chapters, two, or three chapters, are attached to each other. And in reading the Torah, the weekly Torah portions are not joined together at the end of the year but in the middle of the year. What is the reason? We can read one parashah [portion] every week, and in the end we will join two parashot or more. The tzadik said to him: I think you have a ready answer to this question. R' Kalman said to him: if we only said one parashah every week then it would always be Kedoshim separately. After he had heard that, he told his assistant, R' Tuvia: open the door and let everyone in.

And once, on weekdays, the tzadik was in angry mood and didn't let anyone to enter for a farewell blessing. R' Kalman took his son in his arms and asked: rabbi, does the decree also apply for under the age of twenty?

Once, it happened that only poor people sat at the tzadik table. The tzadik said: there is no one to stand [sponsor] the wine. R' Kalman said to him: “your great name will stand for us.” He immediately ordered his assistant to bring wine to the table.

The veterans in Radomsk Hasidim in Israel tell that once the tzadik, R' Shlomo, visited Będzin. Then, there was not a train station in Bedzin, and it was necessary to travel to the last stop in Dąbrowa to welcome the tzadik. In the station the Hasidim gathered on two roads leading to the station in Dąbrowa, because they did not know which way the tzadik would arrive, directly from Dąbrowa to Będzin, or the other way - through Gzichów. R' Kalman, who lived in Będzin, was among those who strayed from the road by which the tzadik arrived. Meanwhile, the tzadik arrived and R' Kalman hasn't arrived yet, and when the latter came, the tzadik said to him: R' Kalman, I already wanted to study a chapter of Mishnayot from you.” The latter answered him: “thank you, rabbi, a mitzvah in is more than a mission….”

R' Kalman fulfilled the role of an honorary comedian for R' Shlomo of Radomsk, like R' Mordechai Rakover for ha-Chozeh of Lublin. In general, his jokes were always prepared for him. There was a joke in every letter he wrote to his son. The latter once complained to his father that that there was no income in his shop in the days leading up to Passover. R' Kalman answered him: enough work to be a rabbi, “if God does not want to solve, do you want to solve? And once, when R' Yisrael Danziger was appointed rabbi in Bedzin before the days of Purim, he wrote R' Kalman's son: “regards to my friend and I wish him that he wouldn't rule incorrectly in matters of Halacha,” and he who prays for his friend is answered first. “Since I will be a rabbi on Purim, I will not fail.”

R' Kalman knew how to set the time. Once, on the eve of Yom Kippur, a Hasid brought him a letter from his son, who lived in the town of Żarnowiec, with a note to immediately go to Tiferet Shlomo concerning a girl, his granddaughter, whose hand was burnt and mention her to the rabbi. It was well known that on the days of Purim, and the eve of Yom Kippur, the tzadik was a burning torch, and did not allow anyone to approach him. R' Kalman wandered around the room and looked for advice - how to enter. In the meantime, the postman brought a letter from Eretz Yisrael. Since R' Kalman knew that


From the Radomsk tunes
(restored by N. Hoffman, G. Grossberg and M. Chatomi)


that the tzadik was fond of Eretz Yisrael, he took the letter and entered. He stood and waited for the rabbi to read the letter. And when he saw that he was in a good mood he gave him his son's note. The tzadik said: it is written in the note, “his daughter, Esther Binah, suffered burns to her hand.” Kalman! Do you remember the saying - “in the future each person will be burnt in his friend's wedding,” this is a sign that you will be granted to be at her wedding. And so it was. The grandson of R' Shimon Friedman from Ramat-Yam, near Bat-Yam, attended this wedding. When his grandfather, R' Kalman, started to dance he told the secret of the tzadik's promise twenty years after the passing of Tiferet Shlomo. And R' Kalman added: there is measure below and no measure above. Therefore I pray that the blessed God will give him more and more years. He left his words to his family in writing: “so that you may tell your children, and your children's children, about the works of the tzadikim etc. etc. It was in the year 5646 [1885/6]. He passed away in 5648 [1887/8].

R' Kalman had a witty mouth, a kind of a “sharp-witted person.” He loved edgy jokes and sayings. Everyone forgave him and was always a kind guest. He was always surrounded with yeshiva students and young men who listened to his jokes. And when he told a joke they rolled with laughter, but he himself stood in equanimity, and after everyone laughed “to their heart's content” - he continued to tell jokes.

His jokes were well known in the Radomsk kloyz[4] and were repeated at every opportunity. He was like an overflowing spring, and every time he came he brought new jokes with him.

Once, in the winter, he approached a newly arrived young man, who did not know about his inventions, and said to him with a pitiful face - look, I have a frozen tooth… a frozen tooth? The latter wondered - what is that? Here, here. R' Kalman opened his mouth - put your fingers in and you will find out. And when the new young man put his finger in his mouth, he bit him so hard until the young man saw sparks of fire before his eyes.

When he became a widower, he gave his shop to his son and settled in Radomsk in his desire to be completely in the presence of his rabbi. After the passing of Tiferet Shlomo, he stayed close to his son, the Chesed L'Avraham[5]. He fell ill when the Chesed L'Avraham sat in the healing springs abroad and wrote to his son: “I am waiting for the Admor to come to my home, I am not afraid and hope to recover.” He passed away on 5 Menachem Av 5648[13 July 1888] at the age of 86 before the Admor managed to come. On the evening after Yom Kippur, when the Admor talked on that topic, he said that he, who adheres to his tzadik in his life will be with him even after he passes, and said, “Do you think that R' Kalman is not here?”

Many jokes and sayings were told in the name of R' Kalman, and it is a shame that many of his sayings and jokes were forgotten.

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B. the musician R ' Yehezkel Friedman
(The Radomsk Hasid from Będzin)

Already in my youth, before I thought of engaging in Hassidic literature and music, I've heard the name of R' Yehezkel Friedman from Będzin. I heard stories about him that sounded like legends. About his great musical sense, the hundreds of Radomsk tunes that he sang, including many tunes that were sung in his time in Tiferet Shlomo's parties in Radomsk. About his talks with the hosts of Hassidic parties and mitzvah celebrations and his festive performances in each place. Occasionally, the Radomsk Hasidim came to our home and enthusiastically told us about the wide musical world of Tiferet Shlomo and his associates, and we willingly and happily listened to the great success of Hassidut Radomsk in the field of music. Despite my great desire to meet the wonderful musical Hasid, R' Yehezkel Friedman, I failed to do so. In the meantime, I traveled to a place of Torah, to Yeshivat Brisk de-Lita, from there to Berlin, Dresden, Vienna and more. I finally knew my destiny and made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael in 5680 [1919/20], when the country was further away than it is today. But the name of R' Yehezkel Friedman remained in my memory like the dew falling on the mountains of Samaria. I always wondered how I would be able to reward the great Hasid for his devotion to music. And with the increased immigration of Hasidim to Eretz Yisrael, and the establishment of kloyzn for the Radomsk Hasidim in the cities, the name of Yehezkel Friedman was spoken again by the Radomsk Hasidim from Zagłębie. Occasionally they asked me if I heard R' Yehezkel singing the Radomsk tunes and about his musical enthusiasm, and in my heart I felt a sense of injustice towards this great man. Indeed, I remembered the Radomsk dynasty when I approached the writing of my big book on “The music and the dance in the Hassidut” in five volumes. In volume four, devoted to the Hassidut in Congressional Poland, I dedicated a special chapter to the Radomsk dynasty, its founder, R' Shlomo HaKohen Rabinowicz, and the chief musician, R' Leizerka Perlmuter of Lodz. In the Melaveh Malkah series on Kol Yisrael [“Voice of Israel”] I did not skip over the Radomsk's music.

Hassidut Radomsk, despite its great distance from the cities of Zagłębie, was very acceptable in our environment. There were many Radomsk kloyzn in Będzin, Sosnowie, Dąbrowa, Czeladź, Niwaka and more. The Radomsk tunes were well known and brought joy to the region. Their sound warmed the hearts of the listeners, including Hasidim of other dynasties. And indeed, we can happily mention that the Radomsk music was heard in every Hassidic kloyz and dominated the field of Hassidic music. Every cantor, who approached the amud[6], was sure of the success of his prayer because of the beauty of the tunes. And secondly - due to their popularity they helped all members of the community. From a distance it sounded like a choir of Hasidim pouring its soul in singing. Hassidut Radomsk captured the hearts of the people of Zagłębie with its simple lifestyle and beautiful tunes. Radomsk took first place in the line of belonging to dynasties. It seems that the heirs of Tiferet Shlomo knew how to take into account the feeling of gratitude that the heart of the people of Zagłębie expressed for them. They appointed the great-grandson of Tiferet Shlomo, R' Shlomo Chanoch Rabinowicz, may HaShem avenge his blood, as the Admor of Sosnowiec. R' Shlomo knew how to attract Hasidim to him and give them the grace of youth of old Radomsk. Besides that, Radomsk's “genealogy” also occupied a prominent place in the cities of Zagłębie, and it is the Kromołów dynasty near Zawiercia whose founder was the grandson of Tiferet Shlomo. Kloyzn were also established in Kromołów and brought much joy with them. I knew the Radomsk and Kromołów kloyzn in the cities of Zagłębie in days of joy and days of sorrow. However, one common line always ran through them: the joy of the Radomsk music banished sorrow and grief in every place, until all the Hasidim of all camps saw it as a flexible consistency and a kind of a virtue for the overcoming of joy over sorrow. Those tunes knew how to stir up the hearts of the young and old, and unite strong emotions in the love of the Jewish people and the love of Eretz Yisrael. Radomsk's tzadikim recommended their followers to make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael and, thank to that, hundreds of Radomsk Hasidim were among the first pioneer to settle there. It seems that Hassidut Radomsk was reborn in Israel with the opening of kloyzn in the country's cities. Radomsk's activists in Israel are true honest Hasidim. They are devoted in heart and soul to the Radomsk dynasty, and spreading the Radomsk Hassidut is their life's goal. They also very interested in renewing the “Nightingale Song” (the name for the Radomsk tunes among other Hasidim) in Radomsk's kloyzn. By the way, I must mention that the Rabbi of Kromołów sent his two sons to Israel. One is R' Yeshayahu Shapira zt”l, son of R' Elimelech the tzadik of Leżajsk, who was supported by his father-in-law until he made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael and permanently settled there. He established economic and social enterprises, and helped R' Yehezkel, the Rabbi of Jabłonna, to purchase the land on which they established the religious moshav Kfar Hasidim. He established the party Hapoel HaMizrachi [Mizrachi Workers], and finally settled in Kfar Pines. The second is Hanoch Hanich Borenstein, son of Rabbi Shmuel of Sochaczew, and now the Admor of the Sochaczew Hasidim in Eretz Yisrael. He resides in Bayit VeGan in Jerusalem. The Rabbi of Kromołów had another son-in-law, and he is HaRav Yeshayahu Englard, may HaShem avenge his blood. He resided for several years in Jędrzejów near his family and later moved to serve in the rabbinate in Sosnowiec. His son, R' Avraham Englard, son-in-law of the Rabbi of Radzin, may HaShem avenge his blood. Immigrated to Israel after the Holocaust and he is planning to establish a yeshiva in Israel for Hassidut Radomsk Kromołów.

I proceeded with these words to describe the great personality of the great musician Yehezkel, whose heart was in Radomsk and his legs stood in Będzin, his city of residence which became his hometown.

If he was allowed to write his memories in the book about the Radomsk court and its founder, the author of Tiferet Shlomo, with his son and grandson the heirs to his chair, and the story of his life full of Radomsk music in particular, then he would have let us peek into the creator's house on the Radomsk music and its influence also in Będzin where he lived and in Zagłębie where he worked.

R' Yehezkel Friedman, was born to a Hassidic family in Radomsk. His nickname among his acquaintances was: Der blinder [the blind] R' Yehezkel, because he was blind on one eye. Since his youth, his proximity to home of the founder of the Radomsk dynasty added to the Hasidic atmosphere. At the aged of nine, in 5624[1864/5], he sang in the Tiferet Shlomo's Hassidic choir, an honor reserved for a select few. The well known tzadik passed away in 5626 [1865], but his impression on R' Yehezkel lasted for the rest of his life. And no wonder, the music of Radomsk was a kind of a festive occasion everywhere, in Radomsk and its kloyzn.

The tzadik, R' Shlomo, had a personal assistance named Tuvia whose duty was also to serve as a cantor. He was a great singer and a great admirer of beautiful melodies. After Tuvia heard the singing of the boy Yehezkel, he said to him: please listen! I will pray by the amud and you will help me with your singing so that I will succeed, and Tuvia brought the boy, Yehezkel, to the choir of the tzadik of Radomsk. Since then, the boy gained extreme fame thanks to the power of his singing and his mighty voice, and studied singing and beautiful melodies day and night.

In his youth, after the passing of the tzadik, R' Shlomo of Radomsk, R' Yehezkel sang with the cantor R' Chaim of Chrzanów, until R' Hirsch of Rymanów persuaded him to pray with him on the High Holidays (cantor Chaim was a Radomsk Hassid). Since then R' Yehezkel was the driving force in the Hasidic musical circles. He organized circles of young Hasidim, guided and conducted with energy and devotion. He sang with vigor and passion, with a strong voice

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From the Radomsk tunes
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and sharp humor, and in this manner he managed to enter the heart of Hasidic matters in general and Hasidic music in particular The intention of his visits to the cities and towns of Zagłębie was to acquire new friends for the Radomsk music by distributing it to the general public. In every place his participation in Tiferet Shlomo's choir under the direction of the renowned conductor, R' Leizerka Perlmuter from Lodz, was considered a great attribution. R' Leizerka planed all of Radomsk's tunes for the holidays and the High Holidays, and was called by his acquaintances: “the musical advisor of the Admor of Radomsk.” R' Leizerka Perlmuter was well known in the world of Hasidic music. Not once R' Yehezkel told his listeners how R' Leizerka from Lodz came to Radomsk with a bundle. He listened and followed every melody, its movements and its lines, and if he liked the tune the tzadik closed the snuff box, which was always placed in front of him on his desk, to signal that the tune was “placed in the box.” R' Yehezkel knew by heart hundreds of tunes from that glorious period. He also remembered the favorite tunes of the tzadik of Radomsk and sang them again and again in his fresh voice that captured the hearts of his listeners. Especially, one complicated tune in which they sang, “After the departure on the Sabbath we approach You” that only R' Yehezkel could deliver just as he had received it from his rabbi.

R' Yehezkel married a woman from Będzin and lived there until the end of his days. Earlier he lived on Dabrowska Street and engaged in the candy industry. From there he moved to an apartment in the new market in Będzin. He liquidated his business in the candy industry and engaged in the business of selling wine to private individuals. He was also appointed an agent of lottery tickets and made a living from it. He was always seen smiling and the faces of people lightened in every home he entered. Laughter and joking eased all sadness, depression and worry, not from the lightness of mind but from his kind heart and his kind nature. He always spoke in encouraging words. The charm in his personality captured the hearts. The Hasidic songs were his songs and Hasidim stories were his daily routine. When the Admor came to Będzin, R' Yehezkel was among the first to sit next to the rabbi and never stopped singing throughout his life, whether out loud or in a whisper and a hum. He was cheerful and modest in his ways among his friends. With the abundant joy of his life, he made the atmosphere around him pleasant, either at a temporary meeting with Hasidim, at a party of the whole group, or at his family room, an abundance of joys without a trace of debauchery. Despite his extreme talent in music he did not excel as a cantor. The Hasidim enjoyed his prayer during the Three Pilgrimage Festivals from HaKadosh before Barechu, Kulom Ahuvim and Mehalel. Only on the High Holidays he refrained from serving as a cantor. And the reason is simple: by nature he was always cheerful, and was unable to “descend” from the world of joy to the world of sadness and to sob in tears and outpouring. Tear-inducing songs of supplication were in contrast to his jovial nature. But he served as a cantor in the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, and especially had the right to it in the Shacharit [morning prayer] on Shemini Atzeret[7]. His prayer reached the height of joy and there was no end to the Hasidim's pleasure.

Once, R' Yehezkel's joy ended in the Hasidim camp because he befriended non-Hasidic musicians from Będzin, such as Eliyahu Gold. As a result, the gabbaim of the Radomsk kloyz decided not to allow him to serve as a cantor. What did R' Yehezkel do? On the eve of Shemini Atzeret he invited the all the young men from the kloyz who could sing and arranged the Shacharit prayer with them. And when he reached Ana [please], he searched for an extraordinary tune that would touch the heartstrings. He searched and found the duet of Bar Kokhba by Abraham Goldfaden. They told him: how is that possible? He answered them: the Hasidim do not go to the theater, and if there's someone who knows the secret of the tune, he would be ashamed to reveal its disgrace in public, and so it was. All his opponents opened their mouths in great admiration, and when he finished the prayer there was silence for a few moments out of astonishment…

The singing of R' Yehezkel for the Admorim in parties, a meal on a yahrzeit[8], Seudah Shlishit[9] or on any other festive occasion - attracted the hearts. His main role was to sing Akdamut[10] for the Admor on the holiday of Shavuot. He prepared the best material and on the holiday itself organized the


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the choir and the results were extremely successful. He usually took the material for Akdamut from the musician Richter of Krakow who played at the Vienna State Opera. He also brought Hungarian marches and used them in his choir and also for the author of Knessest Yehezkel [Ezekiel Katzenellenbogen] in Radomsk. Once, he fitted the well known tune, “A March of Gold and Silver” to the Akdamut, and in this manner brought a combination of world culture to the Jewish Torah. With all that, R' Yehezkel remained subordinate to one of the most excellent musicians of his time and he is, R' Berish Schlitzer, one of the excellent cantors and musicians of his time in Będzin and Sosnowiec. R' Yehezkel belong to his choir when he prayed the Mussaf in the kloyz on the High Holidays, and the Shacharit for the Admor of Radomsk. The aforementioned, R' Berish, was gifted with a pleasant voice and a heart-catching style in his prayer. The Rabbi of Będzin, R' Kimelman zt”l, liked him very much, and every month, or every six weeks, he had to come to his Seudah Shlishit on the Sabbath to please him with the singing of Yedid Nefesh [Beloved of the Soul] and El Mistater [The God who is hidden]. R' Berish was a renowned cantor who resided in Będzin and prayed at the kloyz in Radomsk. He prayed for the Chesed L'Avraham and later for Knessest Yehezkel. He passed away in 5662 [1901/2]. R' Yehezkel founded a singing circle in Będzin and well known musicians, such as Eli Gold, Yeshaya Goldzwig, Shlomo Metil and others, joined him. They sat together at parties and sang various songs. We cannot deprive the right of other Radomsk musicians who resided in Będzin. Here is R' Shimon Zimerman, who was a cantor and musician after the aforementioned R' Berish. In the absent of the latter, he prayed Yedid Nefesh and El Mistater. How far the greatness of R' Berish reached in playing music and how he captured the hearts in his singing it's worth mentioning that all the time he lived in Będzin (later he moved to Sosnowiec) the Shein family, Yakov Gutman and other city notables came to the Seudah Shlishit to enjoy his singing. It is necessary to mention R' Shlomo Himmelfarb (son-in-law of R' Shimon Zimerman), the cantor Shalom Baruch-Leibowitz, Gershon Rechnitz (son-in-law of Hillel Phater).

R' Yehezkel Friedman passed away in 5695 [1935] before the outbreak of the holocaust on the Jewish people.

His Hasidic-musical personality is still evident in the Radomsk Hasidic family in Israel. With his absence from the Radomsk Hasidim society in Będzin and the cities of Zagłębie - absent are the sounds and color he contributed to all just by being with them. And if it was a particularly pure sound and even quiet, and if the color was particularly warm - everyone felt the harm inflicted on the Hasidic group. The Radomsk Hasidim from Będzin and Zagłębie, who live in Israel, will always remember him for his cheerfulness, confidence and faith.

(From “Pinkas Będzin”)

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Shlomo HaKohen Rabinowicz was the first Rebbe of the Radomsk Hasidic dynasty and one of the great Hasidic masters of 19th-century Poland. He is known as the Tiferet Shlomo after the title of his book. Return
  2. Tzadik (pl. tzadikim) a title given to people considered righteous, such as biblical figures and later spiritual masters such as Hassidic rabbis. Return
  3. Tikkun Chatzot (lit. “Midnight Rectification), is a prayer recited each night after midnight as an expression of lamentation over the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Return
  4. Kloyz (pl. kloyzn) - refers to a small Jewish prayer house usually belonging to a Hasidic group. Return
  5. R' Avraham Yissachar Dov HaKohen Rabinowicz is also known as the Chesed L'Avraham after the title a work he wrote. Return
  6. Amud, Hebrew for “pillar,” refers to the lectern in the front of the synagogue from which the prayers are read. Return
  7. Shemini Atzeret (lit. “Eighth Day of the Solemn Assembly”) is a Jewish religious festival on the eighth day of the holiday of Sukkoth. Return
  8. Yahrzeit is the anniversary of the death of a parent or a close relative. Return
  9. Seudah Shlishit (lit. “Third meal”) is the third meal eaten on the Sabbath. Return
  10. Akdamut Milin (“In Introduction to the Words,” i.e. to the Ten Commandments) is a piyyut (liturgical poem) written in Aramaic and recited annually on the holiday of Shavuot. Return


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