The Bobover Rebbe, Rav Shlomo Halberstam zt”l, On His 10th Yahrtzeit


bobover-rebbe[Videos below.] Today is the 10th yahrtzeit of the Bobover Rebbe, Rav Shlomo Halberstam (1908-2000), son of Rav Benzion, grandson of Rav Shlomo, founder of the Bobov dynasty. At the outbreak of World War II, he and his father escaped to Lemberg. On the fourth of Av 1942 his father was killed, and Rav Shlomo escaped to the Bochnia Ghetto. In Bochnia, the rov lost his rebbetzin and two children. He managed to escape with his only surviving child, Naftali, to Budapest, and then to Bucharest. Rav Shlomo is believed to have been the last remaining Chassidic rebbe to have survived the Holocaust. Born in the Galicia region of central Europe, Rav Shlomo arrived in the United States in 1946, alone and indigent after his group was largely obliterated by the Nazis. During the war, Rav Shlomo dressed up as a nun in order to rescue other Jews, hiding them in the false bottom of a coal truck. Rav Shlomo is widely credited with rebuilding the Bobover community in the United States.

The Rebbe was known for his tremendous concern to preserve shalom and avoid machlokes, as can be seen by the following stories.

One time, in the middle of the night, a person who fixed glass professionally received a call from the Rebbe. The Rebbe explained that someone had smashed his window in the middle of the night. (The person did it because he didn’t agree with a policy of Bobov.) If the window was not fixed immediately, in the morning, people would see it and be upset, and they would get involved in machlokes. To avoid this, the Rebbe felt that it was necessary to have the window fixed right away.

Another time, someone had published “pashkevillin” (flyers condemning others) against the Bobover Rebbe. The Rebbe was afraid that this would lead to machlokes and he therefore gave the following message at a Rosh Chodesh tish: “I have been mochel the one who spread these pashkevillin. However, if anyone decides to start fighting with those spreading them, I will not be mochel them in this world or in Olam Habah.” Of course, after this shmuess, nobody continued the machlokes and eventually it died down.

The Rebbe was also moser nefesh to help Yidden in whatever way possible. Many stories are told of his mesiras nefesh to save as many people as possible during the Holocaust.

One such story took place when the Rebbe was in the relative safety (at least at that time) of Romania. He knew that his relatives were still in Hungary and were in grave danger. He received money from Mrs. Shternbuch a”h, which helped him pay someone to take him into Hungary and attempt to save his family. This person said that he would go into Hungary on condition that they would leave the very next day. As it turned out, one family member was missing and the Rebbe wanted to stay another day to try to locate her. The person helping the Rebbe said that he wouldn’t do this and that he would leave without them. While the family was discussing what to do, the missing family member showed up, explaining that her father, the Kedushas Tzion, had come to her in a dream, telling her to join with the rest of her family.  

After the Holocaust, the Rebbe continued his mesiras nefesh, helping many Yidden rebuild their lives, both physically and spiritually. On the West Side of Manhattan, where his kehillah was located for a while, he would even clean the mikvah himself, if necessary, in order to make sure that it would be available for use.

One Shavuos night, people noticed how the Rebbe left the bais medrash every hour for a couple of minutes. He later explained that this enabled those who felt they had to leave not to be embarrassed, as the Rebbe wasn’t in the bais medrash.

Even when the Rebbe had to give tochacha, rebuke, it was done in a way that it was clearly coming from ahava, love.

One time, a person did work on the kitchen of one of the Rebbe’s chassidim and wasn’t paid. When the Rebbe heard about this, he called in the chossid to speak to him, explaining that he (the Rebbe) needed advice about construction on his own kitchen. The Rebbe asked if he could see the chossid‘s kitchen. When the Rebbe came to this person’s house, he saw that the work was done properly and that the chossid didn’t have any complaints against the one who did the work. At this time, the Rebbe mentioned that he had heard how the chossid didn’t pay, and that if he wanted Hashem to bestow on him good things, he should treat other people properly by paying them for a service rendered. Shortly afterwards, the chossid paid up. This episode showed how the Rebbe looked at both sides of the story before deciding what had to be done, and he delivered his tochacha in a way that it would be accepted.   

Someone once asked him how a rebbe spends his vacation. The Rebbe answered that in the city, he must limit the amount of time he davens so as not to impose on others who are waiting for him to finish. When he goes on vacation, however, he can daven as long as he wants.

The Rebbe was once visiting someone and was served food. After he finished eating and making brachos, the Rebbe was asked to give a bracha to the one who gave him the food, as that person hadn’t had any children yet. The Rebbe said, “I had you in mind when I said ‘Borei Nefashos (which means ‘creating souls’). The Rebbe’s gabbai then asked if he could also get a bracha, as he also didn’t have any children. Again, the Rebbe answered that he had him in mind when he said the word “rabbos” (meaning ‘many’) in the bracha of Borei Nefashos. A year later, one of these chassidim had a boy and the other had a girl. Eighteen years later, they married each other, fulfilling the bracha of “Borei Nefashos Rabbos.”

One of the Rebbe’s chassidim was a yasom and he mentioned to the Rebbe that he wanted him to be mesader kiddushin at his wedding, not knowing that his future in-laws had already honored a different rebbe with this kibbud. When the family met with the Rebbe and told him the situation, he said that he would be happy with the bracha of “Sos Tosis Vesageil Ha’akarah” (“the barren one should rejoice,” referring to Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim). One of the family members didn’t have any children and answered a loud Amein. Around a year later, he had children.

The Rebbe also exemplified the middah of “umekarvan laTorah,” bringing people close to Torah. The menahel in a certain large yeshiva once spoke to the Rebbe and the Rebbe mentioned that he was planning on giving a certain amount of money to the yeshiva. When the menahel came back at a later time, he said that he was there to collect the “chov” (debt). The Rebbe said that to give money to a yeshiva is a zechiya (opportunity) and not merely an obligation.

When he was building the Bobover kehillah after World War II, the Rebbe went to South America to raise money. On Shabbos, he expected to see one of his acquaintances, but the person didn’t show up. On Motzoei Shabbos, this person came, and when he was asked where he was on Shabbos, he explained that he went to his company to work on Shabbos. Embarrassed, the person excused his conduct by saying that the company’s equipment was very old and he therefore couldn’t afford to close on Shabbos. The Rebbe asked how much money it would cost to purchase new equipment and was told an amount that was exactly the same as all the money he had raised during the previous couple of days. Immediately, he turned over all the money to this person. This man became a shomer Shabbos and raised a wonderful Torahdike mishpacha.

Click below for two videos of the Rebbe:

Video 1, At an ainikel’s wedding:

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Video 2, At a sheva brachos:

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  1. Posting these videos is certainly a nice thing to do to remember a groiseh tzadik like the Bobover Rov zl.

    Where’s the halachic thinking that this is a michshol to Yidden when there’s a whole debate about A CAPPELLA, but there’s no debate listening to taped music FROM A CHASUNA!

    I’m not saying they should be removed. It was a mistake to attach them in the first place.

  2. Which Tzadikim are chosen to be mentioned on a yohrtzeit etc. and to what degree? -How does it work is there an explanation of policy? I would really appreciate one .thank you

  3. thank u for the article! however at least 2 things are incorrect the rebbes father was murdered in 1941 and the rebbe didnt come tothe states in 1946 later

  4. Bobover Rebbe Zt”l was Nifter on Ahron Hakoehns Yurtziet he was all the years his main goal in life was Shulim the midah that Ahron had, let his zchis be miegin on klal yisroel for shulim.

  5. The Rebbe ztzvk’l didn’t come directly to the US after the war in 46. He first stayed in Eastern Europe going around the DP camps for some time then eventually came to London. He didn’t want to be Rebbe but was persuaded to be and the Hachtora took place in London. It was a few years after the wat that the Rebbe ztzvk’l came to the US.