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2 Adar I 5776 - February 11, 2016 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Admor of Gorlitz: HaRav Boruch Halbershtam, zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit 2nd Adar 5666/1906

Rabbeinu was called after his maternal grandfather, HaRav Boruch Frankel, commonly known as the Boruch Taam. As he grew up it became clear that he resembled the Boruch Taam closely in looks and, like his namesake, was possessed of a keen, sharp mind.

When he was a young boy his father, the Divrei Chaim of Sanz, went with him to the Rav Hakodosh Rabbi Sar Sholom of Belz. The Sar Sholom had a way of showing his personal favor towards someone by addressing him in second person directly. During the visit, he addressed the young boy in Yiddish in second person plural (Ir, which is a sign of respect).

As they left the Rebbe's room, the Divrei Chaim told his son that, apparently, he must do teshuvoh, since the Rebbe had not spoken as he usually did with someone he liked but had used an unusual way to speak to the child. The Gorlitzer did as he was told, but the next day the Belzer again spoke to him as he had the day before. It seems that the Sar Sholom's farsighted vision caused him to respect the Gorlitzer Rebbe already as a young boy.


Reb Boruch once travelled to the Trisker Maggid for a Shabbos. He watched as the Maggid said the brochoh of Hamotzi, but then instead of cutting the challah he allowed the gabbai to do so. Years later, in the Gorlitzer Rebbe's old age, it became exceedingly difficult for him to cut his challah himself. He told the chassidim that he attributed this to his having questioned the deeds of someone as great as the Trisker Maggid, albeit only in his mind.


His quick wit and sharpness were well known and most were actually afraid of every word that would come out of his mouth.

He was particularly outspoken against those who would display an outer show of piety, while in actual fact they were far from that. In this vein he would say:

It is known that the revelation of the Maggid of Mezritch to the world was a punishment for him, for he once travelled unintentionally on Chol Hamoed. Continued the Rav of Gorlitz, "Nowadays there are many who would only be too glad to travel even on Shabbos to be punished with similar retribution."

With a rueful smile he would tell of the small boy who, when asked if he knew who Yisro was, replied, "I know, he was a priest who converted and became a Rebbe."

Reb Boruch once witnessed a man giving a kvittel to a certain Rebbe, saying that he had lost fifty gold coins. As the man added a pidyon of one gold coin onto the Rebbe's table, Reb Boruch commented, "And now you've lost fifty-one gold coins."

At the end of a seudas bris, Reb Boruch noticed someone glancing at his watch and reckoning when the six hours during which he would be unable to eat milchig would be over. "Zollel vesovei," Rabbeinu reprimanded him. "You only just finished eating a meal and already your mind is on when you can eat next."

One of the rebbes of his time had a gabbai whose name was Reb Avrohom Plaster. In his self-deprecating way, the Gorlitzer would say, "If rebbes are a makoh then we need a gabbai Plaster."


It is known that Rabbeinu would expend many tefillos, beseeching that chassidim should not be mistaken and become attracted to him. Rather they should be drawn and cleave to true tzaddikim. He would even act strangely, so that the chassidim would be put off and leave him. In fact the Admor of Vishnitz, the Ahavas Yisroel, once noted that "the Gorlitzer deceives everyone."

Years later, when Reb Boruch was already an elderly man, Ha'Admor Reb Yissochor Dov of Belz heard the stories of various mofsim of Rabbeinu that were circulating. "Apparently the Rav of Gorlitz is weak in his old age and does not have the strength it takes to conceal his greatness," observed the Belzer Rav.


Reb Boruch's nephew, the Tchetchnover Rebbe, was heard to say that he was sure his uncle had no idea how many children he had for he had no time to concentrate on such things, being in a constant state of deveikus to Hashem.

Yet his far-reaching vision perceived things, factual and spiritual, that others failed to see.

Rabbeinu was once at the house of his father-in-law, the Yitav Lev, when a Yid, thought to be a choshuveh person, came to speak divrei Torah with the Yitav Lev. As soon as Reb Boruch set eyes on him, he got up and left the house, keeping away until that Yid had left. It was only some time later that it became public knowledge that the distinguished-looking guest was actually a deceitful sinner who even caused others to sin too.


Erev Yom Kippur in Gorlitz. A heavy pall hung over the city, aside from the somber atmosphere of the upcoming holy day. A deadly disease had broken out and there was a danger that it would spread fast.

Ignoring the ominous jeopardy, a large group of chassidim arrived in Gorlitz to spend the yom hakodosh with Reb Boruch. However, they had not anticipated the stringency of local government. With tears in her eyes and quivering lips, the Rebbetzin informed Reb Boruch that the chassidim had been rounded up and taken to the train station. "Now they will be forced to travel back home on Yom Kippur," she cried.

Rabbeinu remained calm. "Nisht gezorgt," he reassured her. Don't worry, they will not travel on Yom Kippur.

To everyone's surprise, the rails were found broken and the chassidim set out only on motzei Yom Kippur.


The Gaon Rabbi Shmuel Engel, zt"l, rav of Radomishle, was sitting relating facts and wonders of the Rebbe of Gorlitz. Listening to him intently was the Rav of Pietrkov, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lev zt"l. When the Radomishle Rav finished, his guest exclaimed. "Amazing. In fact had I not heard these words from the Rov's mouth I would not have believed the stories."

Replied the Rav of Radomishle, "Don't you know that the Gorlitzer was a mei'ein of the Baal Shem Tov?"

He then proceeded to relate:

A resident of the city of Turbin wanted to cross over the border but had no passport. Borrowing another Yid's passport, he tried to masquerade as his friend. His luck ran out when the guard at the border looked at the passport. He happened to know the owner of the passport personally and immediately realized that he was not its present holder.

The hapless Jew was taken to court and sentenced to a year and a half in prison. His friends advised him to try to appeal the verdict; after all they would be unlikely to increase his serving time and therefore he had nothing to lose. Before doing so, the Yid decided to obtain the advice and opinion of Rav Boruch of Gorlitz.

When the prisoner's messenger arrived to Reb Boruch, the latter was in the company of his brother Reb Aharon Halbershtam, and Reb Yissochor Dov of Belz.

"Do not appeal the verdict," instructed the Gorlitzer Rav, "because in a short while all prisoners will be granted clemency. If you appeal, the court case may be postponed, and you will not be a prisoner at the time when freedom is decreed."

Indeed, five weeks later the Russian Czar was assassinated and his son who rose to power granted clemency to all present prisoners, as was customary.

When Reb Yissochor Dov of Belz heard the world-shattering news of the assassination of the Czar, he said in wonder, "How did the Gorlitzer Rav know that the Czar would be killed?"


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