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8 Shvat 5774 - January 9, 2014 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaRav Shmuel of Slonim, zt"l

In Honor of His Yahrtzeit, 19 Shevat 5673

After the passing of the Yesod Ho'avodah, the old Rebbe of Slonim, many chassidim automatically turned to one of his grandsons as their next leader. However, the distinguished among them were drawn to follow a new branch completely and crowned Rabbi Shmuel of Slonim as their Rebbe.

When they were asked why they chose to follow Reb Shmuel, they told many stories, two of which were often repeated later.

In Slonim on erev Shabbos Chanukah the chassidim would prepare their menorahs with wicks and oil before mincha, so that immediately after davening each man could light for his household and rush to shul to still catch the hadlokas ner Chanukah of the Yesod Ho'avodah. It was an experience no one wished to miss.

One erev Shabbos Chanukah, just as Reb Shmuel entered the house after mincha ready to light, a child playing nearby upset the menorah, spilling the oil and ruining the wicks. Everything now had to be prepared anew, with each passing second meaning that Reb Shmuel would probably miss the kindling of the Yesod Ho'avodah. Yet on Rabbenu's face there showed not a trace of anger or even impatience. As he calmly set about preparing his menorah, he was heard saying to himself, "The same Ribono Shel Olom who commanded us to light, commanded us not to get angry!"

The second story that came to light was concerning the Rebbe's bein odom laMokom.

Rabbenu often argued with the wealthy Jews over their donations for tzedokoh, always trying to stretch their benevolence further than they had intended.

Once a rich man called him to a din Torah. After giving a list of complaints against Reb Shmuel, a veritable storm broke out. The entire beis din was involved as the arguments raged back and forth concerning Rabbenu. The sun began to set. Suddenly Rabbenu, the defendant, stood up and, with no prior warning, began to daven mincha, including all the other people as `his' minyan.

His tefilloh was no different than when he davened every day in shul, totally enveloped in holy communication with his Creator. All the accusations seemed to melt away as those present realized that here was a man whose every action was indeed lesheim Shomayim.

Rabbenu himself, however, was not too eager to take on the Admorus and traveled to the holy Tzemach Tzedek of Vishnitz to ask his advice. The latter advised him to accept his followers if he could fulfill three conditions:

1. When he sits on the kisei horo'oh, he should feel as though on pins so as not to succumb to the feeling of kovod.

2. He should display no difference in behavior whether he was amongst 60,000 Jews or alone with his Creator.

3. The tsa'ar of a fellow Jew should pain him as though it was his own.

It is told that on Rosh Hashonoh before tekias shofar, as the Rebbe left his place to go towards the bimah wrapped in lofty thoughts, he passed an elderly chossid who had not been feeling well of late. Rabbenu signaled to the man that he should go and eat soon, since the tefillos in Slonim only finished right before sunset. Even in those exalted moments, his concern for a fellow Jew was paramount.

Once, on the way home from reciting Tashlich at a nearby river, the Rebbe and his entourage were met by a gang of Jewish boys who had, R"l, left the correct path. They began shouting insults at the Rebbe, even daring to hurl some stones.

Looking at Reb Shmuel, the chassidim saw his lips moving in prayer. Those closest heard him davening fervently that "the boys should only not be punished because of us."

In Slonim the avodoh when saying the tefilloh of Nishmas was a high point that was often stressed. Yet HaRav Yoel Ashkenazi zt"l, a distinguished Slonimer chossid used to quote Rabbeinu as having said, "To give a friend a good feeling has more value than reciting Nishmas a thousand times with all the proper kavonos."


Every year for the yahrtzeit of Rabbenu, the Beis Avrohom of Slonim would travel to Warsaw where many chassidim would gather with him to daven ma'ariv. On one such occasion, just before ma'ariv began a man came in and began talking to the Beis Avrohom. The Rebbe allowed himself to be delayed for a long while as those gathered had no choice but to stand around and wait.

Once the tefilloh was over, he sat down to tell the chassidim the story he had just heard, from the stranger. This is what he said:

"I was always a well-built boy, healthy and strong. When I became of age to be enlisted in the army I had no idea how to avoid being drafted. The usual Jewish trick would not help me, for even if I starved a little and lost weight it would only make me look even more fit for army service.

"I went to the Rebbe, Reb Shmuel of Slonim to ask his advice and blessing. He told me that at the time the army officers inspect me I should think of him, Reb Shmuel, and be'ezras Hashem I would be saved.

"As an added measure I went to immerse myself in the mikveh before entering the army base. With a prayer on my lips I concentrated hard on thinking about the Rebbe. The officer began checking me. He had only just begun looking at my head when he began to scream hysterically, `He's ill! He has that deadly infectious virus with boils on the head! Keep away everybody!'

"Shaking in fear of the deadly sickness, the man hurriedly wrote an exemption from the army for life, thrust it in my direction and begged me to leave.

"Upon checking my head later to see the `boils,' I found that some dirt from the mikveh had stuck to my head and bederech nes the officer had thought it to be a blister of a deadly virus."

"That was the man's story," concluded the Beis Avrohom. Then, after a moment's thought, he added another dimension.

"We all know of Rabbenu's extreme humility and that he never spoke of himself at all. Suddenly, here he told this boy to think only of him? Yes, when it came to helping a fellow Jew in need he was ready to overlook even his strong middoh of anivus."


Reb Shmuel went to great lengths to help the poor of Eretz Yisroel. In his convincing, persuasive manner he would tell potential donors, "In truth it is strange that there is such poverty and suffering in Eretz Yisroel, for it's written in the Torah, `Hashem's eyes are there (in Eretz Yisroel) from the beginning to the end of the year.' It must be that Heaven wants us to have the great mitzvoh of helping to alleviate their hardships and supporting them."

A Jew who lived far away from Slonim worked very hard as well to gather assistance for the Yidden of the yishuv in Eretz Yisroel. He would often write to Reb Shmuel begging him to come to his city so that they could work together and thus collect a large amount of money to send.

After much persuading and a particularly difficult period for the yishuv's Jews, Rabbenu traveled to this man's town. Upon arrival, the Rebbe headed immediately for the askon's house. He had only reached the threshold where the Yid was waiting for him, when they suddenly heard shrieks from the kitchen. The host entered the kitchen to see his small son badly scalded from a bucket of boiling water that had been prepared for laundry.

Scooping up the screaming child, he ran to Rabbenu.

Reb Shmuel began deftly stroking the child, passing his hands from one part of the little body to the next. As he finished the whole body there was not a sign of a burn or scald on the boy at all.

"It's an open miracle," wept the mother, as she caressed her calmed son.

"This is no miracle of mine," answered the Rebbe. "It is the merit of the poor in Eretz Yisroel that saved your son. The Holy Land is proving its power and because I came here for its sake the boy was healed completely."

The Rav Hakodosh Reb Mottel of Slonim, would say every year on the Yom Hilullah of Rabbeinu, "Tzaddikim said that a tzaddik continues the work that he started in this world, in a certain measure, in Olam Habo too. We believe and trust that just as Rabbenu worked hard to instill emunah in the hearts of the chassidim, he still continues to do so from his place in Heaven, arousing us to avodas Hashem and strengthening our emunah!"


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