Matching family tree profiles for Rabbi Shlomo Bochner (ABD Chrzanow)
About Rabbi Shlomo Bochner (ABD Chrzanow)
Rabbi of Chrzanow, student of Rabbi Meilech of Lizhensk (Leżajsk). He was known as Shlomo ben Feigl.
WHO WAS FEIGEL? His Mother
JUST WITHOUT A DOUBT the high point in the rabbinical history of Chrzanow is occupied by its first and most significant rabbi, Reb Shloymele b/m. In fact it can fairly be said that Chrzanow's history as a Jewish city began only when it hired its first rabbi. The fact that Torah and work went hand in hand in Chrzanow is largely the result of the efforts of its beloved and unforgettable rabbi.
Reb Shloymele was born in Olkusz. His father was Reb Moyshe Charif, one of the last members of the Council of the Four Lands. His name itself ("charif" means someone with a sharp mind) bears witness to his greatness in Torah. As a member of the Council of the Four Lands, which met at the major fairs at set times, he played a considerable role in regulating the religious and social life of the Jews in Poland, Lithuania, and other areas.
Little is known about Reb Moyshe Charif's activities or his influence, because he was an extremely humble man all his life. He sought no publicity while he was alive, nor did he leave behind any writings that might have cast more light on his life and works. His most characteristic traits were modesty and simplicity. He didn't want to turn the Torah into a source of income. His son inherited these qualities from him.
While still a boy of eight or nine years, Reb Shloymele was noted for his diligence and his straightforward approach to study. An enemy of artificial disputation, he always sought the clearest and simplest interpretations, rather than the twisted, uncertain strategies of interpretation that did so much harm to the minds of the yeshiva students and those who sat in the study houses at the time.
It is said that one time his father, Reb Moyshe Charif, attended a very long session of the Council of the Four Lands at a fair in a large city in Poland. The session dragged on because the leading scholars present got involved in a dispute concerning a certain point in the Talmud. They couldn't determine the plain sense of the text, and eventually Reb Moyshe Charif called out to them: "You know what, gentlemen? I have a nine-year-old son at home in Olkusz. With his brilliant mind, he'll get us out of this confusion." They immediately decided to hire the swiftest pair of horses, so that Reb Moyshe could ride home to Olkusz to ask the boy what the proper meaning of the text was, and all the scholars stayed at the fair to wait for the answer.
Arriving home at Olkusz in the middle of the night, Reb Moyshe immediately woke up his Shloymele, who was sound asleep near the warm oven. After the boy had washed his hands and rubbed his sleepy eyes, his father opened up the Talmud to the correct page, and asked the boy to explain the passage which had so confused the members of the Council. The boy scanned the entire page of the Talmud, and opened his eyes wide, as if to ask his father, "What's so hard to understand here?"
At that, his father rewarded him with a resounding slap and angrily said to his son: "Several luminaries of the Torah are sitting at the fair struggling to understand such a complicated topic, and for you there's no difficulty whatsoever?"
The nine-year-old boy replied: "You see, Father, it would indeed be a difficult question, unless you remember what the Talmud said four pages earlier. If you compare the two, you will see that the meaning is clear and simple, and there's no need to apply fancy interpretations to it."
His father, abashed, kissed his child on the forehead and said, "May his kind multiply in Israel."
Of Reb Shloymele's earlier years, all we know is that he studied with the early Chasidic Rebe, Reb Shmelke in Nikolsburg, and that the "Seer" of Lublin was his closest friend. He was a unique personality, remarkable for his unusual modesty. A century and a half ago, already a well-known star scholar in Poland, he did not seek to assume a rabbinical pulpit, but instead decided to learn a trade, so that he could support himself without depending on the organized community and those who collected its revenues. In fact, he worked as a goldsmith in his earlier years, and he supported his wife and children from his income at this trade.
Having such a great scholar among them, the prominent men in town approached him to ask that he become their rabbi. However, Reb Shloymele categorically refused, explaining that he didn't want the Torah to become a source of material benefit.
Realizing that they wouldn't get anywhere with Reb Shloymele, the committee turned to his wife, the future rebetsin Hese, trying to convince her to influence her husband to accept the rabbinical position. Like every wife who wants to have a rabbi as a husband, she criticized him sharply for his stubbornness, even threatening to disrupt the tranquility of their home. One time Reb Shloymele responded to her with the famous pun, "You should love your work, even if it leads you to oppose the rebetsin.
It wasn't until the committee approached Reb Shmelke, who ordered his student to take the rabbinical post in Chrzanow and backed up the order with his own rabbinical authority, that Reb Shloymele agreed to become the rabbi of the city.
Reb Shloymele's greatness was centered in his simplicity. He had no pretensions to establish a rebe's court, nor did he consider the rabbinate to be a position with a status above that of ordinary people. In contrast to his comrades, such as the abovementioned Seer of Lublin, Reb Kalman of Cracow, the author of the Meor veShermesh; and Reb Berish Ospitziner, he led a poor and modest life, following the authentic way of the founder of Chasidism, Reb Yisroel Baal Shem Toy. Like the Baal Shem Tov he was involved with the simple people, the masses. It is well known that he even helped establish a congregation of completely unlettered men in Chrzanow, so that they wouldn't have to feel inferior to the Talmud scholars in the study house.
Reb Shloymele and his family lived in an area that later became the back room of the study house. He sat studying the Torah day and night, carrying on extensive correspondence with the Torah luminaries of his generation, especially with the abovementioned Meor veShemesh of Cracow. The following legend has been handed down, and it can serve as a measure of his influence on the Jews of Chrzanow and their indestructible faith in him:
One Friday before dawn, Reb Shloymele stood at the entrance to the study house, holding a letter addressed to the Meor veShemesh in Cracow (about 40 kilometers from Chrzanow). A young boy arrived just then with his tefilin under his arm, planning to pray with the first minyan. (The boy was the grandfather of Moritz Feltsher.) Reb Shloymele said to him, "Be so good, child, as to go to Reb Kalman in Cracow and hand this letter to him. Wait for Reb Kalman to write his reply on the other side of the paper. Meanwhile, I'll hold onto your tefilin until you return." The boy didn't ask any questions. He went to Cracow. Returning with the reply, the messenger found Reb Shloymele still standing at the same place, and the boy still managed to pray with a minyan...
Despite his diligence as a scholar, Reb Shloymele devoted a great deal of time and energy to community affairs, especially charity. He often made the rounds of the homeowners to collect money, so that he could distribute it among those who were ashamed to ask for money themselves.
Honored and esteemed by the Talmud scholars of the time, and beloved by the masses, Reb Shloymele also had a great deal of influence on the noblemen and peasants in the countryside surrounding Chrzanow. According to various legends, the Gentiles of the area had a great deal of respect for the holy rabbi, and his word was law even to them.
His modesty and honesty were legendary. His creed was that the Torah should not be exploited for material benefit. For Reb Shloymele, "the Torah for its own sake" was the highest value in life. He did not publish his letters and Torah insights, preferring instead to distribute them among his children. The extent to which Reb Shloymele refused to view the rabbinate as a source of income may be seen from his will, which he left to his children and his children's children: he forbade them to become rabbis. Although some of his sons and grandsons became major scholars, they were true to the will of their great father and grandfather, until they died during the days of Hitler.
Reb Shloymele died in Chrzanow on Lag Be'Omer in the year 1819. Thousands of Jews from Chrzanow and from other areas near and far would gather together from time to time to pour out their bitter hearts at his grave, weep their troubles away, and gather hope that they would be helped by Divine providence thanks to the merit of Reb Shloymele, b/m.
Rabbi Shlomo Bochner (ABD Chrzanow)'s Timeline
Olkusz, Lesser Poland, Poland
Chrzanow, Chrzanów County, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland
Chrzanow, Chrzanów County, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland