Shem Mi Shmuel

I could not resist posting this amazing translation from the Yiddish Yizkorbuch about the life of the Shem MiShmuel, whose Yarzheit is today. This is from JewishGen.com

Rabbi Zvi Belovski from London has published an amazing book of translations from the Shem MiShmuel, and is available online.

From Wikipedia: Shem Mi-Shmuel is the name for a nine volume collection of inspirational essays on the Torah and Jewish holidays. It is authored by Rabbi Samuel Bornstein (1856-1926) (שמואל בורנשטיין) and it is the name by which he became known among Jews in the world of Torah scholarship.

In this work, Bornstein presented many of the ideas of his father, Rabbi Abraham ben Ze’ev Nachum Bornstein, who was head of the Bet Din of Sochaczew (Poland). The commentary set forth many of the classic ideas of the Hasidic movement. Upon his father’s death, Samuel succeeded him as the rebbe of the Sochaczew Hasidim.

The Admor Rabbi Shmuel of Holy Blessed Memory

by A. Ch.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Second of the house of Sochaczew (known by the name of his book “Shem Mishmuel”)
4 Chesvhan 5617 (1856) – 24 Tevet 5686 (1926)
Notes about his personalityRabbi Shmuel of holy blessed memory was born in the year 5617 in the house of his holy grandfather Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (his righteous mother was Sara Tzina the daughter of the fiery Admor of Kotzk) during the time that his father the Gaon Rabbi Avrahamele was supported at the table of his father-in-law. His youth was spent in Parczow and Krosniewice, places that Rabbi Avrahamele served as rabbi and spread Torah publicly. During those days the young Reb Shmuel soaked up most of his Torah from his father – for the rabbinate did not take much of his time, as he was coronated as a Rebbe only in 5630, — and even at that time the lines of Hassidim that knocked on his door were not too long, and did not disturb him from his learning. Therefore, he was able to give of his time freely to the education and teaching of his only son who was fitting, and to give him to taste of his treasures.

In 5634 (1874) he married Yuta Lea the daughter of the well-known Kotzker Hassid Rabbi Eliezer Lipman, the son-in-law of the holy Rabbi Shlomo of Radomsk, the author of “Tiferet Shlomo” (this did not prevent Rabbi Eliezer Lipman from being an enthusiastic Hassid of Kotzk). Even after his marriage he did not leave his father’s house, as was customary in those days, to be supported at the house of his father-in-law. He rather remained to live near his father in Krosniewice, for it was difficult for the two of them to part. The couple moved together with Rabbi Avrhamale of holy blessed memory to Nasielsk and later to Sochaczerw. There they lived in a separate dwelling on Warsaw Street, and they made their livelihood from a wine store. In truth, he did not ever spend much time with his business, for a trusted associate ran it.

After his first wife died after a reasonably long life, he married (in 5663 – 1903) Mirel the daughter of the Gaon Rabbi Moshe Natan Shapira, the head of the rabbinical court of Kaszionz (the author of “Shemen Lemaor”).

After the passing of his father the Gaon Rabbi Avraham of holy blessed memory in 5670 (1910), the Hassidim coronated him to take his father’s place as the Admor of Sochaczew, and he then moved to live in the home of his father in the Hassidic courtyard.

At the outbreak of the First World War, (Av 5674), he was with a healer in Germany. He was arrested there as a Russian citizen, and only after great efforts did he succeed – along with other Admorim who were in the same position – to return to Poland. However due to the persecutions of the Jews by the Czarist government and the scheming of the officials, it was dangerous for him to return to Sochaczew, a small town, and therefore he decided to remain for a period of time in Lodz. He lived there during the days of the war, and was not in Sochaczew at the time of its destruction in 5675 (1915).

In Lodz, in the midst of a large community of his Hassidim and friends, he spent the difficult days of the war, he suffered with all of their sufferings, and was available to encourage and assist them, and to guide them with advice and counsel during the days of confusion. It is interesting that during those days he excelled in his energetic activity to raise up the stature of Torah and Hassidism, as is testified to by his humorous essays – printed in the book Shem Mishmuel – which he produced for his community of faithful, and which occupy most of that book. Not only did Hassidim of Sochaczew come early in the morning to his door, but most of those that turned to him were Hassidim of other dynasties, as well as many non-Hassidim.

However, the life in the big city with its large population was difficult for him, and the many who turned to him distracted him from his holy work, and his state of health also suffered due to this. The many tribulations weighted down to him as a heavy burden, and therefore he left in 5679 (1919) to live in Zagorze, a small town near Lodz, in order to distance himself somewhat from the tumult and crowds of this active city. He settled there and established his Yeshiva there only temporarily, and he never ceased to make plans to return to the destroyed Sochaczew.

In 5686 (1926) his illness became more severe. On the advice of his physicians, he moved to Otwock, a resort near Warsaw, however not long thereafter he passed away at the age of 70, on the 24 of Tevet 5686. He was brought to eternal rest near the grave of his father in Sochaczew, and the entire house of Israel mourned the loss bitterly.

He was the only son of his parents (aside from him they had a daughter by the name of Esther, who was married to Rabbi Meir Borenstein, the brother of her father. They lived in Sochaczew and she died there during her father’s lifetime). from his youth he never moved from the side of his father. He was always with him, and he saw himself as his student in every way, and he revered him without bound. Even as time went on, and he himself was the father of a large family, not one day passed when they did not see each other. Even afterward, when he filled the place of his father, when he himself was already an Admor, he did not see himself as standing upon his own authority, setting out his own path. It was always to him as if he was resting upon the shoulders of his father the Gaon, as if he was only an interpreter of his father’s words.

This was not because he was weak minded and always required support to stand up. On the contrary, Reb Shmuel of holy blessed memory was strong in his opinions and did not give in to anybody. He stood his own very firmly with a clear and sharp wit. However it was different with respect to his father, since he would always give into him, and he was always an attentive son and student.

On the other hand, the relationship of his father to him was also extraordinary. The famous Gaon of his generation, the halachic decisor whom nobody could dispute, related to his son with respect and reverence. He valued greatly his opinions in Torah, both in the revealed and hidden Torah, and he looked upon him as a person of worth. He would refer to him (not in his presence), my Reb Shmuel (“Mein Reb Shmuel”). Most of those who would turn to him with respect to matters of spirituality or matters of the world he would send to Reb Shmuel, by saying: “Have you already been to my Reb Shmuel?”. He was always interested to hear his opinion on important matters. This powerful man did not do a small or large matter without soliciting the advice of his son.

Here is an interesting tidbit. The author of “Avnei Nezer”[1]did not have the custom (in particular during the latter years) to have a communal third Sabbath meal. Therefore the Hassidim would gather in the house of Reb Shmuel of holy blessed memory, who would arrange the third Sabbath meal, replete with words of Torah as was the custom among Admorim (and this was in the life of his father, and in the same city!). The father would advise the Hassidim who gathered before him at this time to go to the table of Reb Shmuel of holy blessed memory, and he would even show some anger to those who did not do so.

Thus did they live together for 35 years, acting jointly in all areas. It was as if they possessed the same soul – and the legacy of their soul was one, together the breathed the air of the heights of Kotzk On occasions it seemed as if the father, the famous Gaon before whose utterances many trembled, found support from the solid Kotzk shoulders of the son. (It should be pointed out that Reb Shmuel was also impressive and strong in body build, he was tall and had a glorious countenance, he walked upright and his face was glowing and splendorous despite the seriousness of his expression.) For here, perhaps, we can begin to understand the unusual relation between these two, the father and the son. Who, aside from Reb Shmuel, had such intimate contact with the internal world of the ‘Avnei Nezer”, and merited to recognize his internal greatness in Torah and fear of Heaven, – and from that comes the boundless reverence of the son to the father. He was more a prized student than a son – due to his knowledge of him. The respect of the father to the Kotzker son, very strong and powerful, comes from the reverence which is beyond description, and the cloak of his fiery father-in-law from Kotzk, who from a young age merited to enter into the inner sanctum of his courtyard, and subordinated himself to him completely, to the exclusion of any personal desire and youthful whims, and did not free himself from this subordination all the way through his old age.

This strong line – the way of Kotzk – accompanied him through all of his days of activity, and influenced all of his deeds and words. He expressed himself through his books – the eight volumes of “Shem Mishmuel” which appeared posthumously – in which he published words of Torah and Hassidism organized according to the weekly Torah portion, words which he spoke before his congregation of Hassidim during the years 5670-5686 (1910-1926). These words are written clearly with rich expression, with a warm breath – as if these words are only now coming out of his holy mouth.

The main point of his words, the recurring theme, serve as a means to peek into the inner depths of his personality and to recognize the great yearning which he yearned, and for which he worked without tiring. He constantly stove for completeness of the soul and for a complete unity in worship of G-d. This unification of personality was the main point of his words. The desire of the heart for the Creator of all, with constant enthusiasm, and without ever letting it out of his mind, and his task to direct the waves of yearning for the object of his yearning – the unification of the soul with G-d and his Torah, – this was the purpose of this elite man, it was about this that he preached, and it was this that he demanded of others as well as himself, first and foremost of himself. With regard to the life of activity – in his words: “ the six days of effort – one will only see the scattering of the soul, the scattering of the desire, at a time when most of a person’s effort is centered around one goal; and if a person is able to direct his thoughts and desires to one point, thus he will succeed in understanding the depths of it, – obviously, I am referring to coming close to G-d, – this is signified by the Sabbath, when all work is forbidden, and the soul is free to direct itself specifically to this holy purpose. The Sabbath is a taste of the World to Come, the barriers fall down on it, and particularly those whose root is in the physical nature of man, and he is able to come close to his Creator.” These words and others give us a key to understanding his mighty personality, and the also mark his outward behavior. This is the Hassidism of Pshischa and Kotzk in the style of Sochaczew.

He was also involved in the communal life of Polish Jewry. He took a clear stand, without fear, with respect to all of the problems that afflicted that era, including also mockery[2]. He expressed his opinions in a clear fashion, without wavering. His words were not always acceptable to his opponents, however they were forced to respect the earnestness, uprightness, and lack of personal interest in his words.

All his days, he desired to settle in the Land of Israel. In 5651 (1891), he visited the Land of Israel with the encouragement of his father, the author of “Avnei Nezer”, in order to acquire land and found a Hassidic settlement. However, the prohibition of selling land in the Land of Israel to citizens of Russia interfered with their plans. On this occasion, he traversed the length and breadth of the Land of Israel, and he always spoke about this wonderful experience of his. During the time of the awakening surrounding the Balfour Declaration, he took the view that it was required to settle in the Land of Israel – and to establish agricultural settlements of Hassidim, and he spoke about that topic in his capacity of participant in all of the leadership councils of Agudas Yisrael. He urged Agudas Yisrael to include effort for the Land of Israel on its agenda. Even in his latter years when it was impossible for him to acquire land in the Land of Israel for many reasons, he never ceased to desire and to speak about his desire to settle in the Land of Israel.

With the passing of his father the Gaon Rabbi Avraham of blessed memory (5670 – 1910), the Hassidim of Sochaczew coronated him as their Admor. All the elder Hassidim including famous Gaonim, such as the Gaon Rabbi Yoav Yehoshua the head of the rabbinical court of Kinczek (the author of the book “Chelkat Yoav”), the Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Feigenbaum the head of the rabbinical court of Warsaw, and many other elite spiritual men, Hassidim and men of worthy deeds, gathered around him and accepted his authority. He continued in the path of his father of holy blessed memory – a blend of Torah and Hassidism, resting in the depths of halacha with enthusiasm and spirit, however he added his own breath, and wove a fundamental thread in the tapestry of Kotzk-Sochaczew Hassidism. His rich and powerfully expressive manner of speech established Sochaczew Hassidism and added an important layer upon the glorious edifice that was Polish Hassidism. His books were accepted in wide circles, and became fundamental texts of Polish Hassidism.

He also had an important role in the spreading of Torah. He renewed the Yeshiva of Sochaczew and appointed the young sage Rabbi Aryeh Tzvi Frumer, may G-d avenge his soul (who later became the head of the Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin) to head it. This Yeshiva existed until the outbreak of the First World War. Many of the rabbis and sages of Poland came from that Yeshiva. He also founded a Yeshiva “Beis Avraham” in Lodz, which existed until the Holocaust.

He expended great effort in organizing and publishing the manuscripts of his father the Gaon of holy blessed memory, and he published the seven-volume responsa set “Avnei Nezer”. He include his own glosses on the content on almost every page, noted discreetly in the name of the publisher, and sometimes only noted by parentheses.

He occupied the seat of the Admor of Sochaczew for sixteen years. Only part of those years were spent in Sochaczew itself, and most of them outside of the city. However, he always saw himself – and others saw him – as tied to Sochaczew and whatever transpired in it. He was laid to rest honorably in Sochaczew.