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Thursday, October 26, 2006


The Piaseczno Rebbe: Suggestology

Today, 4 MarCheshvan, is the 63rd yahrzeit of Rebbe Klonymus Kalman Shapira of Piaseczno (1889-1943), who perished in the Holocaust. Rabbi Shapira was born in Grodzisk, Poland. He was named Klonymus Kalmish after his maternal grandfather, the renowned Ma'or VaShemesh. He was the scion of a distinguished family, which included the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, the Chozeh of Lublin and the Maggid of Kozhnitz. In 1905, he married Rachel Chaya Miriam, the daughter of Rabbi Yerachmiel Moshe of Kozhnitz. She helped him prepare his lectures and books, even adding pertinent insights of her own. In 1909 [at the ripe old age of 20!], he was appointed Rabbi of Piaseczno, near Warsaw. There, he attracted many Chassidim. The Rebbe Ztvk"l authored several sefarim, including Chovos HaTalmidim, Hachsharas HaAvreichim, Derech HaMelech, and Aish Kodesh. The latter was written in the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Rebbe was a source of inspiration, encouragement and hope for the Jews there.
After the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was crushed in 1943, Rabbi Shapira was taken to the Trevaniki work camp near Lublin. Prisoners who were completely worked out by exhaustion and starvation were removed and sent to Treblinka. Rabbi Shapira spent his last few months in Treblinka, where he was murdered by the Nazis [y'mach shmam, may their names be erased] in 1943.
The Rebbe's writings are filled with deep insights into the Jewish soul. In fact, he could be called a "doctor of the soul" as the following story indicates.


the following story is excerpted from Yehoshua Starrett’s book, “To Heal the Soul”:
Rebbe Klonymus' curiosity eventually led him to acquire knowledge from outside traditional Torah sources. It is known that he read these books in the bathroom. One major subject that he studied was medicine, to help the ailing. Together with a blessing that he gave to the countless ill who came to him as Rebbe, he also gave a pharmaceutical prescription that he wrote in Latin. Expert doctors respected and used his suggestions, though they wondered where such a formally uneducated person got all his knowledge. Almost no Jew underwent surgery in Warsaw without first consulting Rebbe Klonymus. There were even cases where the doctors feared the operation was too dangerous, but Rebbe Klonymus took responsibility for it, and it was successful.
Here is a very revealing and instructive anecdote that also shows he knew more than just practical medicine:
The Rebbe used to say that it is not the medicine that heals, but faith in G-d's loving-kindness. Once, a Chassid came in to him complaining: "Rebbe! Ever since the medicine got erased from the prescription you wrote, I am suffering again from my headaches." Those followers of the Rebbe present in the room wondered what he meant by "the medicine got erased" - a medicine is either a cream, an ointment, or a liquid. But then, the Rebbe took out a fresh piece of paper and wrote him up once again the prescription. The Chassid took the piece of paper, picked up his hat, put the prescription in the lining of his undercap, and put both head coverings back on his head. All of a sudden the Chassid shouted in excitement: "Rebbe! The headache has already subsided! Thank G-d, I feel again better like before - the letters on this new prescription are clear."
All the Chassidim in the room began to chuckle, but the Rebbe explained in all sincerity: "What you have just witnessed is called 'suggestology.' One convinces oneself of a certain thing, such as that a certain medicine will help him, though in truth it is totally ineffective. But we who believe in G-d as the Creator of all cures can understand this phenomenon very simply - it is our faith in G-d as the Faithful Healer that opens our souls to His healing powers. Nevertheless, I enclothed this abstract medicine in something physical that he could relate to. That's why I wrote out a new prescription.
This Chassid was sure that G-d's will for him is that his healing [should] come through this written prescription. So as long as the letters on the paper were clear, this supported his faith and his healing. But when the letters became faded, his headache returned, because according to his understanding, he could not receive G-d's blessing. So I rewrote the prescription and now he feels better again. The ultimate healing, though, is when one has absolute faith that G-d can and will heal him without any physical medicines or doctors."

In last year's post, we mentioned:
While we don't have any official recording of the Piaseczno Rebbe's niggunim, the Rebbe's younger brother, Reb Yeshayaleh, came to Eretz Yisrael in 1914. Known as "Admor-Chalutz" or the Pioneer Rebbe, he also composed niggunim, some of which were recorded as "Shirei HaRav Yeshayahu Shapira." In addition, in a sefer called "Admor-Chalutz," notes to some 35 niggunim appear. Most of these were composed by Reb Yeshayaleh, but others are from Grodzisk, Lizhensk, Kozhnitz, and perhaps Piaseczno as well. And finally, Reb Yeshayaleh's son, Reb Elimelech, was the Piaseczno Rebbe for many years in Tel-Aviv. At the yearly yahrzeit seudos, the Rebbe's niggunim were sung, and some were recorded privately.

This year I found the following quote, although I don't know its source:
Rebbe Klonymus Kalman Shapira of Piaseczno said: "Song is one of the degrees of enlightenment (ruach hakodesh); prayer occupies a lower rung on the same continuum. When you are on the rung of prayer and have not yet reached that of song, you need to exert yourself greatly to begin to sing. Then you will begin to see with spiritual vision and become enflamed with the passion for G-d."


The current Rebbe of Piaseczno is Rabbi Kalman Menachem Shapira Shlita who is the great-nephew of [and named after] the first Rebbe, Klonymus Kalman. Rabbi Kalman Menachem resides in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel and leads Congregation Aish Kodesh, a shul [synagogue] as well as the worldwide headquarters for spreading the teachings of his great-uncle. I hope to join the Rebbe Shlita and dozens of others at the yahrzeit Seuda this coming Motzaei Shabbos in Ramat Beit Shemesh, im yirtzeh Hashem [G-d willing].

Zechuso yagein Aleinu, may the Piaseczno Rebbe's merits protect us all!

R. Neil Harris has blogged today on the Rebbe as well, here.

Great posting and thanks for the link.
Thanks for the post. You didn't email me back when i asked about this. I was at a Hilula for the Rebbe this past Motzei Shabbos at the Aish Kodesh shul in Woodmere by Rabbi Weinberger Shlita. Yosef Karduner led a kumsitz for the Hilula. Rav Weinberger discussed this year the stories of the Rebbe and his relationship with his wife and chassidim and what happened when she passed away.
Suggestology is a fancy way of saying "placebo effect".
BTW, It's just Neil, not "R Neil".
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