Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Fire In The Shtetl? - Part II

(Photo courtesy of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration)

After writing this posting about a story of a fire in my family's shtetl, I sent a letter to the Pshemesheler Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel Teich, inquiring about the story. Shortly before Pesach I received a letter from him that contained this response:

"As far as to the hakpeida of my great great-grandfather, the Rebbe, Rebbe Baruch of Medzibuz of blessed memory, please bear in mind that this took place a generation or more before many of the shtetl adopted the Baal Shem Tov's doctrine. The vast majority of the town were fervent Misnagdim, who did everything in their power to endanger the life of the Degel and constantly harass him. The shtetl changed in succeeding generation when your ancestors resided there, and the episode of the hakpeida did not involve the succeeding generations whether be Misnagdim or Chassidim."

Since this answer provided background to the story but did not mention the source of the story, I sent the Pshemesheler Rebbe another letter and received a response a few days ago.

In his letter, dated 26 of Nissan, the Pshemesheler Rebbe replied,

"Regarding your inquiry, most of the information contained in Tehilos Baruch is from tradition from ancestors, although I have seen much of it brought in various books especially Mekor Baruch, which is an introduction to Botzina DeNehora, a collection of teachings from the Rebbe, Rebbe Baruch of Medzibuz, written by the famed author, Rabbi Reuven Margulies (author of Margolios HaYam al Maseches Sandhedrin and dozens of other works, known throughout the Torah world.

However, I scanned the sefer briefly today and did not find the story brought there (though I could have missed it in haste). I do, however, remember someone writing about it, but at present I can't recall where, and it was also with some variation.

I would be very pleased to meet with you personally, as it is difficult to relate some items without actually knowing the person. Briefly, I do not cite sources for several reasons. Firstly, as said my information is family tradition before I even knew of the books that also bring these sippurim.

Secondly, our tradition is that almost all books writing sippurei ma'asios and non-documented history are not that accurate. What I mean to say is that with the rise of various Chassidic groups, those endowed with good writing skills, usually were not interested in confining their books to researched truth, and also did not have a profound comprehension of the mystical attitude behind the reasons for the behavior of the great Rebbes. Rather, their own Rebbe was more of a hero role, and the same incident could appear in ten different versions, according to the loyalty of the writer-chassid who though he had to make sure that his Rebbe emerged victorious.

The sublime reason concerning friction and opposing ideas and methods of the Chassidic masters belong to a world much higher than comprehensible to the average scholar even if he be a distinguished talmid chacham. I will give one example, the Rebbe, Rebbe Baruch of Medzibuz, cursed the inhabitants of Sudilkov for causing aggression to his brother, the Rebbe, the Degel Machaneh Ephraim. This was to be a fire, triggered by a lightning bolt during a heavy thunder storm, which would have destroyed some homes, and resulting in no loss of life. This calamity was averted by another great Rebbe to whom the leaders of Sudilkov appealed. My great-grandfather Rebbe Baruch did not make any further move against Sudilkov to override the other Tzaddik's intervention.

However, in another similar episode, which involved himself in a bitter conflict in his own town, Tulichin, when the inhabitants turned against him, implored G-d not to punish anyone because of their sins against him and was very upset that anyone be harmed because of their aggression. To the naked eye, the two stories seem conflicting, yet both occurred. There are many Kabbalistic mystical ways in which one Tzaddik perceives things and another does not, each according to his soul root, etc. Think about it, the burning of their homes in 1788 could have prevented Divine retribution much time afterward. I do not speculate, but am just arousing your curiosity. If G-d wills it we will meet and continue from there."


At May 3, 2006 at 7:42:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rebbe Boruch was gvura - we don't have the keilim to understand him. Even more than the Sidelkov curse, was his machlokess on his own nephew, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev zatza'l. Feigie, Rebbe Nachman's mother, complained to her brother Rebbe Baruch, demanding to know why he so bitterly chased her son. Rebbe Baruch answered, "Without sever machlokess on him, your son can't stay in this world for 5 minutes." So we see, Rebbe Baruch zatzukl's fire was totally leshem shamayim. I would venture to say that his curse on Sidelkov was a sweetening of dinim - rather than the people burning, their barns burned. Bsorot tovot and warmest regards!

At May 3, 2006 at 7:54:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thank you for your insight, Rabbi Brody!

At May 3, 2006 at 9:29:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found this to be true regarding Ma'ases, Chassidishe stories here is are 2 examples:

In the Chabad tradition (you can here the stories here: ) from the Rayat"z the Rebbe Reb Melech and the Rebbe Reb Zisha were born to poor parents who could barely afford to educate them and the did poorly in their studies etc. until after crying and mdoing Teshuvah they merited Hashem's Divine intervention to become great Talmidei Chachamim.

In every other collection of Rebbe Elimelech/Zisha stories including Botzina Kadish, Ohel Elimelech and Eser Tzachtzachos it is related that their parents were not only pious Tzadikim but extremely wealthy and that the brothers grew up as great Torah scholars who later became close to the Maggid of Mezritch, Reb Zisha first and then his brother.

The traditions are very different.

Also consider the following story:

Once a Jew dressed in the modern clothing of the German Western Europeans approached the Holy Baal Shem Tov and began to discuss two prospects of a shiduch a marriage match. One was a meyuchas he had prestigious lineage and pedigree. The other was known as a Sheiner, of sterling quality and chracater. The Baal Shem Tov suggested he make a shidduch with the meyuchas over the sheiner. His puzzled students looked to the master for an explanation when the Baal Shem Tov explained: This Jew was a secret Kabbalist and he was asking me which system of Kabbalistic philosophy he should study: that of the Ramak Rabbi Moshe Cordovero of Safed the well known Kabbalist (the meyuchas whose tradition in Kabbalah was the one with tradition passed down) or that of the Holy Arizal (the sheiner whose "new" ideas in Kabbalah were innovative). I told him to study in the path of the Ramak.

That is the version I heard from one of the Haalberstam (Tzanz Bobov Kloysenberg) descendants.

The Chabad version (found in Chassidic Tales of Rav Zevin by Artscroll in English) is the same except the Baal Shem Tov tells him to study the Arizal.

This reflects Chabad's method of learning the Arizal's teaching through the Baal Shem Tov's teachings. Whereas the Ramak's system is quoted by the famous Piaseczner the Aish kodesh in his work Tzav veZiruz as being the one more similar to the Baal Shem Tov with evidence from the Reshis Chochma a mussar work drawing extensivley from Zohar written by R' Eliyahu deVidas a student of Ramak. (Also Tomer Devorah a work of the Ramak is classically similar to the Baal Shem Tov's style of taking Kabbalistic ideas and using them as a tool for Divine Service-Avodah).

At May 3, 2006 at 9:36:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Rabbi Zwecker: I appreciate your perspective as well. Thank you for the comment.

At May 3, 2006 at 11:31:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a very interesting letter - Thanks for posting it!
What were your thoughts about Rav Teich's response?

At May 3, 2006 at 12:14:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha: I am glad you found it to be interesting as well.

I thought that R' Teich's response was excellent. The historian in me however is curious how he knew that this fire took place in 1788 since the story in Tehilos Baruch does not mention this date.

While it might be impossible, it would be facinating to see if historical records from Sudilkov noted that there was a fire this year.

What did you think of his response?

At May 3, 2006 at 12:23:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked his response very much!

Are there Yizkor books on Sudilkov that go back that far? I generally accept most stories as "highly likely," unless I have a good reason to think otherwise...

At May 3, 2006 at 12:59:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Actually there are no yizkor books for Sudilkov. There is only a page on Sudilkov in the Yalkut Volhynia yizkor book published in 1948.

At May 3, 2006 at 8:26:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chabad is using Rama"k immensly. If you want to see the classical chasidic view about relation of Kobolo of Rama"k and Ariza"l, look in introduction of Maggid Dvorov leYakoyv ("Likutey Amorim" of the Maggid zy"o), written by his close talimd - Rabbi Shloyme Lutzker zy"o. He expresees it there clearly and beatifully (and very chasidish. Many sfardim wouldn't agreee to such approach).

At May 4, 2006 at 8:25:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

A Yid: You seem to be a wellspring of knowledge on Chassidus. Would you care to provide a guest posting sometime? Send me an e-mail and we could discuss. :)

At May 4, 2006 at 10:50:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Yid,

If you look at hemshech Rana"t by the Rebbe Rashab, he states clearly that there is no machlokes at all between the Rama"k & the Ari... It's actually a beutifull shtikel hesber - I can look it up for you if you want.

At May 4, 2006 at 6:08:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here probably even sfardim of Rasha"sh school would agree (it is known long ago that Rama"k speaks about oylom hatoyhu and Ariza"l about oylom hatikun).

The difference of chasidic view (to that of the Rasha"sh school for example) is that chasidim hold that in order to understand Ariza"l seriously, one should know the mekubolim horishoynim and Rama"k especially. Sfardim of Rasha"sh school on the other hand learn pretty few Rama"k in general and hold that it is not neccesary to learn the Rama"k in order to understand the Ariza"l.

The same is applied to traditions of Rabbi Yisroel Suruk z"l and such sforim as Eymek haMelech, Vayakhel Moyshe, etc.

At May 4, 2006 at 6:11:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simple Jew: I'm just a poshuter yid as yourself. You get here big people for guest postings :)

At May 5, 2006 at 6:34:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

A Yid:

Yes, but this is a place for all simple Jews. Don't sell yourself short. Do you have any topic that you would like to write about?


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