Weekly Chasidic Story #1074 (s5778-43/ 26 Tammuz 5778)

The Fifteen-Seconds Sermon

Shortly after Rebbe Shlomo of Bobov came to America, he was strongly slandered by a local New York Rabbi.

Connections (2): Seasonal -- Rosh Chodesh Menachem-Av (Friday) is the 18th yahrzeit of the Bobover Rebbe;

This week we start this year's 3rd cycle Of Shabbat Pirkei Avot study with chapter 1, which is referenced in the story.

The Fifteen-Seconds Sermon


Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein relates about the previous Bobover Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam, that he was a wellspring of sensitivity for all Jews, and how he was able to overcome any feelings of anger and hurt in order to pursue peace. His activities during and after World War II saved many Jews, both physically and spiritually. However, as it goes with great people, they will inevitably have detractors- people who are filled with envy and seek glory.

Shortly after the Bobover Rebbe came to America, a local rabbi who felt threatened by the Bobover Rebbe's activities on behalf of world Jewry, strongly criticized the Rebbe, and personally attacked his character. The Bobover Rebbe did not respond to the attack.

Eventually, the slanderous remarks became humiliating. The Rebbe summoned all of his chasidim to assemble in his Bais Medrash [study hall & synagogue]. The large shul was filled to capacity; everyone had crammed in to hear the Rebbe's response to the insults that had been launched at him.

The Bobover Rebbe entered the Bais Medrash, ascended to the front of the Holy Ark where the Torah scrolls are kept, and after kissing the outer curtain, turned to the people gathered there. He said, "I am declaring to everyone assembled here, as I stand in front of the Holy Ark, that I absolutely forbid anyone from battling on my behalf! My honor is my honor, and it will remain my honor, but only if everyone acts appropriately and does not take sides. Whoever does not obey me has no place in my Bais Medrash!"

Having spoken for a total of fifteen seconds, the Rebbe descended the podium and left the shul.

A few hours later, the Rebbe asked his attendant to take him to the attacking rabbi's home. By then, word of the Rebbe's response had already spread throughout the community. The Rebbe arrived at the rabbi's house and knocked on the door.

The Rabbi answered the door, and when he realized who was standing before him, his face turned white. The Bobover Rebbe understood that words were not necessary -- it was action that was needed. He took the rabbi in both his arms, hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.

Then he said, "Dear Rabbi, you may go to any one of my Chassidim and they will attest to the fact that I have no bad feelings towards you at all. Just as we were once friends, we will continue to remain friends!"

The rabbi was a changed person as a result of that encounter, and the attacks stopped. The Bobover Rebbe corrected the situation by expressing his love for a fellow Jew instead of responding with anger, even though there was great reason for him to get angry.

Rav Zilberstein notes that R. Shlomo of Bobov's yahrzeit is on Rosh Chodesh Av, which is the same yahrzeit as Aharon HaKohen, the brother of Moses and the first High Priest. This is significant because both Aharon and the Bobover exemplified the dictum of Hillel the Elder (Avos 1:12), "Love peace and pursue peace…". They each possessed a love for all Jews and strongly desired to promote peace and harmony within the collective Jewish people.

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the Vayechi 5777 email of "Torah U'Tefilah: A Collection of Inspiring Insights", compiled by Rabbi Yehuda Winzelberg, as posted in "Shabbos Stories for the Parsha", Shemos 5777 (keren18@juno.com).
Photo (minus frame) from the Menucha Press "Framed Gedolim Portrait" series.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov, [5667 - 1 Av 5760 (1907 - August 2000),] survived the Holocaust along with only 300 chasidim, succeeding his father who was among those martyred. Settling in Manhattan and then different locations in Brooklyn, he served as the third rebbe in the Bobover dynasty for over 50 years, rebuilding Bobov to even more thousands than his father had before the war. In addition to being wise and pious, he was noted for his commitment to not taking sides in disputes. Interestingly, he passed away on the same Hebrew date as Aharon the first High Priest, who was the first Jew to be known for "loving peace and pursuing peace" (see Avot 1:12).

Connections (2) - Seasonal:
* Rosh Chodesh Menachem-Av (Friday) is the yahrzeit of the Bobover Rebbe (and of Aharon HaHaKohen);
* This week we start this year's 3rd cycle of Shabbat Pirkei Avot study with chapter 1, which is referenced in the story.

Gaze at face of Rebbe Shlomo of Bobov at the beginning of the video, and then from 20:00 to 23:00 you can see him dancing in front of the bride, then with the groom, and then in a circle with family members and select other guests.


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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