Friday, April 21, 2006
This Motzaei Shabbos and Sunday, the 25th of Nisan, is the 130th yahrzeit of Rebbe Chaim Halberstam of Sanz (1793-1876), known as the Divrei Chaim after his magnum opus on Halacha. The Divrei Chaim was born in 1793, in Tarnograd, Poland. He was a talmid of Rebbe Naftali Zvi Horowitz of Ropshitz.
He went on to move to the town of Sanz where he founded a Chassidic dynasty. He attracted many followers due to his great piety. The Sanz dynasty today is represented by the Sanz-Klausenberg and the Bobov dynasties.
The Divrei Chaim was acclaimed by the leading rabbis as one of the foremost Talmudists, Halachic and Kabbalistic authorities of his time, he received queries from communities all over the world. His responsa, as well as his Torah commentaries, published under the title Divrei Chaim, reflect his Torah greatness, his humility, and his compassionate nature. He was a champion of the poor and established many organizations to relieve them of their poverty. His compassion and generosity was legendary; he literally gave away everything he had for the needy; and went to sleep penniless.
During his 46 years as Rabbi of Sanz, that city was transformed into a vibrant center of Chassidus, attracting tens of thousands of followers. Among his disciples are counted such leaders as Rebbe Shlomo HaKohen of Radomsk, Rebbe Meir Horowitz of Dzikov, and the Yetev Lev of Sighet.
Rabbi Chaim's five sons all became famous tzaddikim, the most prominent of whom was Rebbe Yechezkel of Shiniva. One of his daughters married Rebbe Mordechai Dov, the first Rebbe of Hornesteipel. The Divrei Chaim passed away in Sanz, Poland in 1876 (25 Nisan 5636 on the Hebrew calendar).
One of my favorite stories of the Divrei Chaim is found in the sefer “The Zeide Reb Motele” by Rav Avraham J. Twerski.
When still very young, the outstanding Torah scholar, R. Baruch Frankel, known for his Talmudic commentaries and Halachic responsa, Baruch Taam, chose R. Chaim as a husband for his daughter, Rachel Feige. Shortly before the wedding, the young woman found out that R. Chaim had a severe limp, and she refused to go to the chupa. R. Chaim asked to have a few words with her in private, and she agreed to speak with him.
Although no one was privy to their conversation, the story circulates that R. Chaim asked his kallah [fiancee] to look into the mirror. When she did so, she saw herself with a severe deformity. He then told her that she had been destined to be deformed, but since she was his basherte (predestined mate), he had intervened, spared her of the pain and took her deformity upon himself. Needless to say, Rachel Feige consented to marry him.
R. Baruch used to say, “My son-in-law may have a weak leg, but he has a very strong mind.''
And this one, from the same book:
Rebbe Eliezer of Dzikov, who was a mechutan (his son's father-in-law) of the tzaddik of Sanz, was once very ill, and the tzaddik visited him. When he entered the sick-room, he found the family at the bedside. R. Eliezer was sighing deeply.
The tzaddik said, "Mechutan! What is all the sighing for? You know that it is no more than a transition as from one house to another, or taking off one garment and putting on another.''
R. Eliezer pointed to his family. ''But I must provide for them,'' he said.
The tzaddik of Sanz said, “No need to worry, mechutan. I will provide for them. I will be a father to them and care for them like for my own.”
''But, Sanzer Rav,'' R. Eliezer said, ''we are soon to have Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. I serve as chazan (one who leads the services), and you know that when I sing Ein kitzva lishnosecha ("There is no limit to Your years"), the heavenly angels join in song and clap along with me."
The tzaddik of Sanz became very contemplative. “In that case,” he said, “have someone warm the mikva.”
The tzaddik remained in the mikva for four hours. Upon emerging from the mikva, he appeared exhausted but in good spirits. He said, “We can keep him with us.”
R. Eliezer lived an additional thirteen years.
Sanzer niggunim are sung far and wide in Chassidic and Orthodox circles.
An album of niggunim called Ki Vo Moed, sung by Sanzer Chassidim has been released. It has ten tracks and features solos by Efraim Mendelson, Shlomo Luk, Naftali David and the child soloist Moshe Cohen.
Some of Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s stories about the Sanzer are here.
Reb Michel Twerski’s tapes, In the Footsteps of the Chassidic Masters,
Volume IV, (five tapes), covers the life and times of Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heshel, the Apter Rav; and Rebbe Chaim Halberstam, the Sanzer Rav.
UPDATE! This week's English HaModia weekly has some wonderful stories about the Divrei Chaim, including one about a bracha he once gave to Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, Rav of Yerushalayim.
Links to this post: