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14 Adar 5775 - March 5, 2015 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Sparks of Greatness
The Tchechnover Rebbe, Ha'Admor Rabbi Simcha Yissochor Ber Halbershtam zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit 20th Teves, 5674/1914

At the time of the Tchechnover's birth his father, the Divrei Yechezkel of Shinova, was in Eretz Yisroel. His mother took her newborn son to her father-in-law, the Divrei Chaim of Sanz, who promised that this baby would in time illuminate the world.

His father the Divrei Yechezkel would often comment of his son, "Er iz mein ganze chiyus! (He is my whole life.)"


Rabbeinu's holy custom was to fast on the Fridays of the Shovevim weeks. Towards the end of his life, when his strength was waning progressively, he still would not deviate from his minhag and insisted on fasting. Rabbeinu's family would daven hurriedly and rush to make Kiddush to minimize the Rebbe's fast.

On one such Shabbos, the Rebbe had already raised the silver kos in order to make Kiddush, when the clock struck six. Rabbeinu, who was makpid not to make kiddush between six and seven o'clock, refused to proceed. However, since he had already filled his cup with wine and raised it to begin reciting Kiddush, out of respect for the mitzvah of kiddush he did not wish to put down the kos. In his weakened state, Rabbeinu stood for an entire hour, kos in hand, so as not to show disrespect for Kiddush. (Let us remember as the Rebbe surely did, the halacha in Shulchan Oruch 183 that it is osur to speak when one is holding a kos shel brochoh.)


In the sefer Siach Zekeinim, an awesome story is brought. The Tchechnover was scheduled to undergo an operation on an arm that had been paralyzed, whereby the bone and muscle would be separated. The doctors were about to anesthetize their patient when Rabbeinu refused to be put to sleep. They insisted that the human body and mind could never withstand the terrible pain of this operation. But Rabbeinu was adamant, promising he would not move throughout the ordeal.

While the surgeon maintained his ground and refused to operate, the other doctors went to the local chemist to fetch certain drugs they needed. In the course of their conversation with the pharmacist, they mentioned the predicament they faced with the Rebbe who resisted anaesthesia. The pharmacist heard them out and smiled.

"If the Rabbiner says he can withstand it," he assured them, "you can take his word for it."

For lack of a better choice it was decided that they would go ahead, acceding to the Rebbe's will, at least to witness the pharmacists prophecy. Indeed they beheld how the Rebbe remained awake throughout the operation, yet kept his word and did not flinch.


His talmid HaRav HaKodosh Reb Itzikel of Pshevorsk zt"l told of the Shabbos he once spent in Tchechnov.

On Friday night, with the joy of Shabbos radiating from his saintly face, the Rebbe was singing pleasantly Eishes chayil, when all at once, upon reaching the words, "Gemolas'hu tov velo ro," he stopped abruptly and turned white as a sheet.

After a few minutes break the Rebbe explained his strange behavior:

A man once came to the Ropshitzer Rov zt"l, admitting that he had led a sinful life up to then and wished to repent. The Ropshitzer responded with a deep sigh, "Nebich, nebich, what did the Ribono Shel Olom do to you that you repaid Him with such evil?"

Hearing the gentle but pointed rebuke, the man fainted.

The chassidim at the Tchechnover's tisch understood the meaning of his words. The song Eishes chayil alludes to Hashem Who tells us, "Gemolas'hu tov velo ro," Hakodosh Boruch Hu has bestowed on us so much good. How dare we repay Him with sinful deeds?

Reb Itzikel concluded his story, "There was such a great stir of his'orerus among those of us present at the time, I only wish I could once more in my lifetime experience a similar awakening to teshuvoh as I felt then."


On an erev Shabbos, an individual asked Reb Itzikel advice pertaining to something that would take place after Shabbos. Reb Itzikel quoted the Tchechnover Rebbe as having said that one does not answer a shailoh on erev Shabbos for motzei Shabbos because during the interim Shabbos one receives new seichel.


The Rebbe was totally upright in his pesokim, never veering from the truth. A chossid, Reb Avrumtche Langental a"h told that he was witness to a din Torah between two wealthy Yidden, one of whom was a close chossid of the Tchechnover. It turned out that the chossid lost the case, and he was considerably hurt — after all, this was his Rebbe. However the Rebbe made things clear when he said to him, "I don't need you as a chossid. If you had a haveh-amina that coming to me for the din Torah would ensure that you win, remember I don't have to buy chassidim. I am wholly on the side of the Torah."


The baal tefilloh for the Yomim Noraim in Tchechnov related how the Rebbe gave him mussar prior to the tefillos on Rosh Hashanah.

"Reb Yaakov, do you know why you were chosen to daven before the amud? If you think it's because you are a choshever person — there are many who are more so than you. Due to your yichus? There are greater yachsonim than you here.

"Look at the shofar that we are going to blow today, Reb Yankel. Is the shofar choshuv, or a descendant from an illustrious lineage? Of course not. The shofar has been chosen because it carries sound. You too have been chosen for your pleasant-sounding voice."

Thus, after having been rid of the slightest trace of pride, the baal tefilloh was ready to begin.


Rabbeinu always delighted in pointing out that he had still merited to see his grandfather the holy Divrei Chaim of Sanz, for the Tosafos in Bava Basra (Daf 59 Amud 1) bring that if someone is a talmid chochom and his son and grandson are too, then Torah will never leave all his generations — and this is only if all three actually meet.


In the year 5659/1899, with his father the Divrei Yechezkel's passing, most of the chassidim became followers of the Tchechnover. The latter led them until the year 5670/1910, when he fell dangerously ill. Subsequently, the Rebbe was nistaleik on motzei Shabbos 20th of Teves 5674/1914.

Zechuso yogein oleinu.


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