-- Chapter from Noble Lives Noble Deeds -- The Wisdom of Gentle Persuasion - Harav Shlomo Halberstam, Bobover Rav Chapter from Noble Lives Noble Deeds -- The Wisdom of Gentle Persuasion - Harav Shlomo Halberstam, Bobover Rav
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  The Wisdom of Gentle Persuasion - Harav Shlomo Halberstam, Bobover Rav from
Noble Lives Noble Deeds
Captivating stories and biographical profiles of spiritual giants

By Rabbi Dovid Silber 

Other Available Chapters
The Significance of a Single Jew - Harav Chaim Shmulevitz, Rosh Yeshivah, Mirrer Yeshivah 

The Wisdom of Gentle Persuasion - Harav Shlomo Halberstam, Bobover Rav

Harav Shlomo Halberstam zt”l, the Bobover Rav, was born in 5668/1908. His father was Harav Ben Zion, son of Harav Shlomo, founder of the Bobov dynasty and grandson of the illustrious Divrei Chaim of Sanz. Young Shlomo’s outstanding mental capacity in conjunction with his diligence in Torah created the perfect combination for his future role as one of the builders of Yiddishkeit after the Holocaust. He was ordained by some of the greatest Torah sages of Galicia; and, before reaching the age of 30, he served as Rav in Bobov, filling in for his father who had relocated to Tchebin for a five-year period. Those years served as a testing ground for his future leadership positions: he succeeded in challenging undertakings, all accomplished in a most pleasant, peaceful and amiable fashion.

At the outbreak of World War II, he and his father escaped to Lemberg. On the fourth of Av 5701/1941 his father was killed, and Rav Shlomo escaped to the Bochnia Ghetto. The situation there was desperate, with death and disease rampant. In Bochnia, the Rav lost his Rebbetzin and two children. He managed to escape with his only surviving child, Naftali, to Budapest, and then to Bucharest. Despite the turmoil and extreme danger, he was actively involved in the rescue of many Jews, often at the risk of his own life.

Immediately after the liberation, he settled in Bari, Italy, where he took care of many war orphans. Working feverishly on an array of religious and social projects, he rebuilt the shattered lives of war survivors. After a brief sojourn in London, he finally arrived at the shores of the United States in 5706/1946.

For over half a century he was successful establishing generations of Torah-true Chassidim in America. His all-encompassing kehillah was exemplary, as was his comprehensive educational network, with an enrollment of thousands of students.

Branches of Bobov have opened in many Chareidi population centers. The Rav also established his own shtetl in Eretz Yisrael, in the town of Bat Yam. Its first-rate yeshivah draws students from around the world.

The Bobover Rav was distinct in his strong emphasis on shalom -- peace. Throughout his life he stood firm, preventing any semblance of confrontation, always ready to forfeit his own honor and status for the higher goal of harmony. Indeed, he was most successful in imbuing his entire community with this outstanding trait -- a true kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of Hashem’s Name.

He returned his soul to his Creator on Rosh Chodesh Av, 5760/2000, the yahrzeit of Aaron HaKohen, the great promoter of shalom. His son succeeded him as leader of the Bobov community.

l l l

A man once came to the Bobover Rav, Harav Shlomo Halberstam, regarding a sticky financial problem. This person (we will call him Reuven) was a remodeler who had contracted to install an ultramodern kitchen with the newest appliances for a customer (we will call him Shimon) for a large sum of money. The contract called for installment payments throughout the job and the customer had kept to the deal. Immediately after completion, however, with an outstanding balance of several thousand dollars, he refused to honor his commitment.

Weeks and months passed and the amount was not paid. Reuven tried whatever means possible to collect, calling him daily and demanding some form of payment schedule, but to no avail. Because Shimon was a Bobover Chassid, Reuven came to the Rav requesting his assistance.

The Rav listened attentively to all the details and asked some questions. He wanted to know the specifics about the raw materials used, their country of origin and similar particulars. Despite his absolute befuddlement at the Rav’s interest in the technical details, Reuven answered all questions.

Shortly after Reuven left, the Rav asked his assistant to get in touch with Shimon and to invite him to visit. Hearing that the Rav wished to see him, he left in middle of work and came over immediately. The Rav welcomed Shimon with his characteristically sparkling smile and reassuring warmth, inviting him to sit down next to him, while he made conversation about the welfare of Shimon’s family, their health and education. After a few minutes, the Rav addressed him in an intimate, whispering tone, saying: “Shimon, my dear, I have invited you here in order to get your opinion on a specific subject. You know me in the capacity of Rav, a spiritual leader. But I have another role to play, and that is to be a good husband to my Rebbetzin.

“Recently, it occurred to me that our kitchen is quite old and neglected, and I’ve heard that you have recently installed a beautiful new kitchen; I was wondering if you would mind sharing your experiences with me.” The Rav led him to the kitchen and pointed out his general plan, surprising Shimon immensely with his familiarity with the technical details of kitchen remodeling.

“My main concern,” the Rav explained, “is whether you and your wife were totally satisfied with the workmanship, and if the work met your original specifications. If so, it might be worthwhile for the Rebbetzin to visit your home and see for herself.”

“It will be an absolute delight and honor to host the Rebbetzin in our home,” Shimon said enthusiastically. “The kitchen is, boruch Hashem, totally finished and my wife and I are exceptionally happy with it. I am certain that the Rebbetzin will also be pleased with it,” Shimon said with delight.

“One more little question to you, Shimon,” the Rav said. “There is something that concerns me more than anything else. I’ve been told that often a contractor will do excellent work, but at the conclusion of the job there are dozens of loose ends: though they are minor, these unfinished details are very irksome to the housewife who is eager to see the job totally finished. I was wondering, how was your experience regarding this concern?”

“I’ll be totally forthright with the Rav,” Shimon said. “My wife and I were both absolutely satisfied, both with the workmanship as well as with the final touches. Our contractor did not leave a single item unfinished.”

Hearing this truly enthusiastic report about the contractor, the Rav again asked Shimon to join him in his study and personally offered him a chair. He then asked the gabbai to kindly bring in some kibud (light refreshments) “for our dear visitor.” Shimon was overwhelmed, not knowing how to handle so much attention, first as the Rav’s personal consultant, and then as the Rav’s “dear visitor.”

After tasting some of the kibud, the Rav turned to Shimon and began talking to him in a loving, fatherly tone. “Shimon, my dear. I have an important request to ask of you. I have now heard from your own mouth the details about your new kitchen and how totally satisfied both you and your wife are with all facets of the job. I wish to share with you a statement from our Sages. Chazal teach us that a man’s personality can be identified “b’kiso, b’koso ub’kaaso”— with his purse [money], with his cup [when intoxicated] and when he’s angry. Note that money is one of the key elements in determining the values of a human being.

“Let me give you some insight into the phenomenal significance of this statement. Hashem’s relationship with man is reciprocal. If a person deals with others with integrity, then Hashem showers that person with abundance and prosperity. On the other hand, if we shortchange others, then Hashem will do likewise and will put us at the same disadvantage, a prospect we hope will never come to pass. I ask you, Shimon, my dear, do yourself a favor and pay the bill you owe Reuven expeditiously.”

The Rav’s words, spoken with kindness and love and without the slightest trace of accusation, had the proper effect. That very afternoon Shimon paid the bill in full to the satisfaction of his friend Reuven, to the satisfaction of his beloved Rav and to the satisfaction of his Father in Heaven — HaKadosh Boruch Hu.

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