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Borough Park, NY - The Life And Legacy Of Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam, Zt”l, The 'Tzadik' That Rebuild The 'Bobov' Dynasty In America

Published on: August 1, 2008 07:59 AM
By: Yated Ne'eman - Mishpacha Magazine - VIN News
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Borough Park, NY - 1000’s will gather this weekend to celebrate the 8 ‘yurzeit’ of one of the last Gedolim in America, HaRav Shlomo Halberstam, zt"l the ‘Tazdik’ that rebuild the Hasidic sect ‘Bobov’, and made it again into a dynasty after WWII.

He saw a world in its devastation and presided over its renaissance, teaching the new generation the lessons that had sustained the old. “He never forgot where he came from, never accepted the American way,” recalls one of his chasidim.

“Someone once said something that he disagreed with, and he argued ehemently. ‘How can you express an opinion? It must be because you grew up here, in the land of Coca-Cola! How can you understand the way things ought to be?’ ”

He strove to create a Bobov that would match the Bobov that had been destroyed, working assiduously to build chassidim that his father would have been proud of. He once jokingly commented that “I strive to preserve my father’s minhagim, but I do have one tradition that I haven’t received from my father: my father never owed millions of dollars for his mosdos.


“When I close my eyes and try to relive the image of my father, it is definitely the enthusiasm and bren that comes to mind,” said Rebbetzin Sara Meislish, daughter of HaRav Shlomo Halberstam, the previous Bobover Rebbe. “It was a privilege for him to do a mitzvah. He lived from mitzvah to mitzvah.”

Rav Halberstam lost his wife and most of his children during the Holocaust. Yet when he came to America with his eldest son, Rav Naftuli, to rebuild his life and the life of Bobover Chassidus, his dedication to mitzvos never wavered. “Whether he was lighting Chanukah licht, baking matzos on Erev Pesach or shaking a lulav and esrog on Succos, thousands of people were inspired,” she recalled. The Jewish Observer wrote: ‘His simcha and fervor were the same whether he was making Kiddush before thousands of people or at his own table with two guests.’

“Once, when he was in his eighties, he was in Florida for a vacation and had to have a cataract removed. Never had he had any medical procedure done on him, and he was frightened. My sister flew down to be with him. The doctor saw his fear and said, `Rabbi, don’t worry. I’ve been doing this operation for so many years that I can do it with my eyes closed.’

“My father turned to my sister and his gabbai and said, `Did you hear that? I’ve been putting on tefillin for 72 years, and I still can’t do it with my eyes closed.’ Each time he put them on, it was like the first time.”

Rebbetzin Meislish also described her father’s love for the mitzvah of tzedakah, which saw him give away hundreds of thousands of dollars in charity. He taught her the proper use of money at a young age. Once he took her to the home of a wealthy benefactor. “Ooh, Tatte, what a house,” the little girl whispered admiringly.

“Does it help?” the Rebbe replied. “Does it help our avodas Hashem? The Eibishter should save me, my children, my grandchildren and all our generations from such a house!”

The Bobver Rabbi miraculously survived the horrors of the Holocaust. He was confronted with death on many occasions, and was prepared to sanctify Hashem’s Name with his own death. He experienced obvious miracles which could fill volumes, teaching how the hand of Hashgocho accompanied him throughout the entire Holocaust, helping him renew the Bobover dynasty after the war.

An astounding chapter of his life during the Holocaust focuses on his rescue of Jewish children. In superhuman ways, with enormous mesiras nefesh, he saved Jewish lives, hiding people at the risk of his life.

Once the Rebbi was caught along with his son,  HaRav Naftoli Zt’l, and was certain that he they would be killed in the morning. He approached his beloved son, and with einayim kedoshos welling with tears, he said: “Naftoli, my dear son, know that the body of a Jew is corporeal—dust from the earth. Man can be killed, but his soul is eternal, and no murderer or evildoer in the world can harm the soul.

“Today, Naftoli, I am your father and you, my son, can still fulfill the mitzvah of kibbud ov, which is one of the most stringent laws in the Torah. Tomorrow, apparently, both of us will be sacred souls in Shomayim. My son, how great the merit of a Jewish soul that fulfills the mitzvah of, `I shall be sanctified among Bnei Yisroel.’ Tomorrow, if such is the will of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, both of us will merit to fulfill the mitzvah of `venikdashti besoch bnei Yisroel. Tomorrow we will fulfill this great mitzvah. In these last minutes of our lives I have one request of you, my son. I want you to fulfill yet another mitzvah of kibbud ov vo’eim before they kill me. I want Naftoli to obey me. Do you promise to obey me?”

“Yes, my father,” Naftoli answered, and the Bobover Rabbi, zt"l, continued: “Naftoli, my dear one, recall Simchas Torah in Bobov and the tremendous simcha we feel when we dance during hakofos with the Torah in our hands, or the simcha of the baking of matzos on erev Pesach, and all of the simcha with which a Jew should observe every single mitzvah, especially that of kiddush Hashem. We have only a few more hours in which to live—a few more hours until morning. The only mitzvah we can still fulfill is that of kiddush Hashem with all our heart. The murderers will torture me with bitter and harsh torments because they will want to know the identities of the smugglers and those who make counterfeit affidavits. I won’t say a thing. I will only shout `Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod’ until my soul departs from my body. When you see my tremendous suffering, don’t pay attention to it. Just shout, `Shema Yisroel’ too, and don’t fear anything in the world. Strengthen yourself and don’t cry then, because if you cry you might confuse me at this great, sacred moment. Naftoli, that is my final request to you. Will you listen to me?”

Naftoli burst into uncontrolled tears, and in a choked voice said: “Tatte, I will ask the murderers to kill me first, because I surely won’t be able to watch you suffer.”

They prepared themselves for the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem. On the way to the scaffold they were saved at the last moment, and returned to the camp in Bochnia.

A Hungarian affidavit in hand, the Admor managed to escape from the camp, and in roundabout ways he reached Kashoi and Budapest. After the Nazi Invasion, he went on to Grosswardein. During the days of wrath he truly drank the bitter cup until its last dregs, losing his wife and two of his children.

When he reached Romania he, together with a representative of the Red Armada headed by a Jew disguised as a priest, made valiant efforts to save Jews. They helped save hundreds of children. During the period in which the Bobove’r rabbi was in Bucharest he helped thousands of Jews who had arrived in Romania after the Holocaust: in both ruchniyus and gashmiyus. While he was in Romania he managed to obtain a certificate stating that he was an Italian citizen, and thus received a permit to go to Bari, a city in northern Italy.

In the camps in Italy, scores of orphaned children and lone young men who had lost their families clustered around him. He arranged for a G-d-fearing shochet to come from Rome and took care of their material and spiritual needs. He was like a father to them, instilling them with new spirit and drawing them close to him as if he were their father.

In time, he traveled to London to participate in the Agudas Yisroel Knessia and from there continued to America. Immediately upon his arrival in the United States he sent visas to his students and sons, and brought them to America.

The Bobove’r Rabbi purpose in going to London was to revive the Torah world and the Chassidic Bobov community. The Bobove’r, zt"l, who agreed to fill the place of his father as Admor because his Chassidim begged him to do so, began to lead his flock. Masses of survivors from Bobov began to stream to him, impressed by his sichos, which they felt were comparable to those delivered by his illustrious forbears, the founders and leaders of Bobover Chassidus.

Under his leadership, Bobover Chassidus gradually grew and thousands of families numbered themselves among his followers. He established a new generation of avreichim and Torah scholars imbued with exalted spiritual aspirations. He lead his flock with compassion and endless mesiras nefesh, influencing them in ruchniyus and helping them with gashmiyus.

Jews from all sects and circles streamed to Borough Park to his large beis medrash talmid chochom, and his gift of speech and humility, he resolutely succeeded in reviving the spirits of many Jews after the Holocaust, drawing them closer to Hashem.

His home in Brooklyn, NY was a beacon where he received everyone with a special glow and with unusual nobility of spirit. His pleasantness had a profound influence on all who visited him and was the source of the tremendous admiration people displayed for him.

He was deeply attached to all of the gedolei Yisroel, roshei yeshiva and Admorim, who held him in high esteem. He maintained close contact with them in all the battles for kodshei Yisroel and Torah.

The Admor of Bobov, his tradition and legacy, left a deep impression on the entire generation in America.

This weeks Mishpacha  magazine has a wonderful article on his legacy

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Read Comments (28)  —  Post Yours »


 Aug 01, 2008 at 08:17 AM yankel Says:

A real tzadig.


 Aug 01, 2008 at 08:18 AM proud chusid Says:

Yehi zicro boruch.


 Aug 01, 2008 at 08:30 AM miamiyid Says:

i remember growing up in brooklyn. i use visit bobov on simchas torah. it was a sight to see


 Aug 01, 2008 at 08:46 AM shmiel glassman Says:

zechusoi yagen aleinu


 Aug 01, 2008 at 09:19 AM teddybear Says:

He was 1 of a kind , if not this great spiritual leader 1/2 of BP wouldn't of be frum , let de bobover rebbe poil upstairs it should be shulem downstairs


 Aug 01, 2008 at 09:22 AM Anonymous Says:

We should all take a moment to think about such a tzadik and internalize, in these trying times, his message of Avdus Hashem.


 Aug 01, 2008 at 09:46 AM Anonymous Says:

what a beautiful saintly looking hadras ponim!


 Aug 01, 2008 at 09:49 AM avi Says:

I remeber going to see the Rebbe by simchas beis hashoiava, and other occasions. Seeing the Rebbe dance was to watch a malach of another world dancing, basking in the Glow of the Holy Shechina!


 Aug 01, 2008 at 10:14 AM hirsh Says:

I knew the Rov personally, he was like a father to me. I miss him.


 Aug 01, 2008 at 10:25 AM jack Says:

Every jew even a boy got the same much attention from him truly a tzadik


 Aug 01, 2008 at 10:51 AM Passaic Rav Says:

For how long did the rebbe live on 48 street?


 Aug 01, 2008 at 11:08 AM Eli Says:

Close to 40 years


 Aug 01, 2008 at 12:29 PM anon Says:

I just read the article. A masterpiece.I remmember how close Rav Twersky and Rav Tauber were with him. They got very passige inverviewees.


 Aug 01, 2008 at 01:00 PM Anonymous Says:

The Bobover Rebbe was truly one of the greatest gedolim of our generation. He is truly missed by all.

Just a comment about Mishpacha: It is sad that Mishpacha did not recognize the Yartzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Z"TL who was the nasi of our generation.


 Aug 01, 2008 at 01:16 PM M Fuchs Says:

A TRUE EHRLICHER YID!! (more then a tzadik!)


 Aug 01, 2008 at 02:44 PM Anonymous Says:

Just becasue they didnt do an article on the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that means they missed him? They dont write on every single person!


 Aug 01, 2008 at 03:48 PM Gedalia Says:


This is exactly the word we do not hear about many today-EHRLICH!

The Bobovover Rebbe was not just a tzadik but an EHRLICH YID.

may we only hear these wonderful stories that inspire us all.


 Aug 01, 2008 at 04:57 PM Anonymous Says:

to 2:44,
im sensing that you are not such a fan of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt"l.
He was not just 'every single person".
1:00 makes a good point....


 Aug 01, 2008 at 06:31 PM Der Iyloo Fun Plutzk Says:

Der Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT"L had greate admiration for the Bobover Rav ZT"L, and vice versa.


 Aug 01, 2008 at 06:57 PM Shulem Says:

I don't mean to disparage anybody, but anonymous 1.pm, what do you mean that The Lubavitcher Rebbe z'l was the nasi of our generation?The title of 'Nosi' has not been around for more than a thousabd years, even the Ramba'm and Rash'i did not retain that title, so how, when and why did the late Lubavitcher Rebbe get such a title?


 Aug 01, 2008 at 07:21 PM Michal Says:


I always thought the word nasi has been used in every generation. In every generation, we had a nasi hador. Rashi and Rambam were leaders of their generation.


 Aug 02, 2008 at 10:00 PM shayeh dov Says:

he is realy missed


 Aug 02, 2008 at 11:27 PM Anonymous Says:

this is not the place to discuss or to disparrige any rebbe

it is a tribute to the bobver rebbe

keep it at that

find another place to post any negative thoughts that you have. especially now in the 9 days
when the beis hamikadash was destoryed because os sinas chinum let us try and show some love to each other


 Aug 03, 2008 at 09:34 AM Yossi Says:

This is certainly not a place to argue, since the rebbe z"l loved every jew equally.


 Aug 04, 2008 at 12:02 PM Anonymous Says:

Besides of being a Tzaddik and an EHRLICHER YID we have to point out on the SIMCHAS HACHYIM, By just looking on his HEILIGER TZIRAH you just lit up.


 Aug 04, 2008 at 01:02 PM A FOLLOWER Says:



 Aug 04, 2008 at 01:46 PM boropark Says:

How would Boro Park look today if not for this Holy Angile?????
It is the Bobover Rebbe who turned BP into a EIR V'AIM BYisroel.
Yehai Zicroy Borech!!!


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