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HISTORY

OVERVIEW

The Chassidic Dynasty of Radomsk in Poland existed over four generations. The founder was Rabbi Shlomo HaCohen Rabinowicz ZT"L (1801 - 1866), author of one of the best known classics of Chassidic literature; "Tiferes Shlomo" which is constantly being reprinted. He became Rov of Radomsk in 1842. Many stories are told about him
The second Rebbe of Radomsk was Harav Avrohom Yissochor ZT"L, the Chesed L' Avraham (1843 - 1892) .
The third Rebbe of Radomsk was the Harav Yechezkel ZT"L, the Knesses Yechezkel (1864 - 1910).
The last Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Chanoch ZT"L HY"D, who perished with his family in 1942 in the Warsaw Ghetto was known for the network of Yeshivos "Keser Torah" he had established throughout Poland and Galicia. The Radomsker Chassidim during the period between the two World Wars, were counted among the three largest Chassidic movements in Poland.

The Radomsk Yizkor Book

KESER TORAH RADOMSK

The Crown of Torah, The Network of Keser Torah Radomsker Yeshivos in the Jewish Centers of Pre-World War II Poland

based on an article by Rabbi Avrohom Birnbaum

In pre-World War II spiritual centers of Poland and Galicia, the name Radomsk was a household word. Radomsk was one of the largest and most active Chassidic courts at the time. The Shivchei Cohen, Harav Shlomo Chanoch Hakohen Rabinowitz, zy"a, the fourth Radomsker Rebbe, was a manhig Yisrael who not only gave guidance and direction to his chassidim with regard to the spiritual and physical aspects of life, but perhaps his crowning achievement was the quiet revolution that he engendered, the revolutionary idea of founding chassidic yeshivos on a grand scale that eventually became a network of more than 36 yeshivos.

Generally, prior to World War I, there were no chassidic yeshivos in Europe. The chinuch (education) of chassidic bochurim took place in the thousands of chassidic shteiblach (synogogues) that dotted the length and breadth of Poland and Galicia. In the small, warm and intense spiritual atmosphere of the shteibel, great Torah giants grew as they sat side by side with simple Jews. There were no barriers and the young learned from the old in this informal setting, so conducive to the transmittal of the learning and the unique chassidic mesorah from generation to generation.

The advent of the first World War changed all of this. World War I changed the whole world order. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were uprooted and the whole system of old Kehillos was destroyed. The void and destruction that was left by "the Great War" unfortunately began to be filled by many competing ideologies. The common factor in all of these was that they drew young Jews away from the shteibel, away from the beis medrash (study hall) and eventually away from the observance of Torah and mitzvos. During these tumultous and troubled times, workless Jews wandered aimlessly, communities disappeared, and winds of change blew. New movements such as the haskalah and Zionism tempted the youth from their natural environment of beis midrash and shteibel.

The Radomsker Rebbe, zy"a, a Torah giant and the fourth in a line of Chassidic Rebbes and Torah giants, realized that a drastic change had to take place. The shteibel alone as a spiritual anchor for the youth was not enough. He set out to found a network of yeshivos in cities across the entire Polish and Galician landscapes, border to border. On Lag Ba'Omer 1926, at a gathering of distinguished Radomsker chassidim the Rebbe said, "The time has come to found yeshivos where the younger generation will be able to learn and toil in Torah. We must plant the light of Torah in every city in Poland. Until now, everybody learnt where he desired and what he desired. The times have changed and today the necessity is to set up organized yeshivos, appoint Roshei Yeshivos and Marbitzei Torah who will educate the younger generation in Torah, yirah and chassidus. The Yeshivos will be called, "Kesser Torah"".

Very soon seven Keser Torah yeshivos had opened their doors--in Bendin, Padgurz, Kshanov, Valbaram, Ushpazin, Tchanstechav and Lodz and Krakow. The Krakow yeshiva had a few hundred talmidim. Another fascinating aspect in the running of this network of Kesser Torah Yeshivos was the fact that the yeshiva did not engage in any public relations campaign whatsoever. The only public relations were the talmidim themselves who were visibly being educated in the highest standards of Torah and chassidus. The yeshivos were each operated independently with its own Rosh Yeshiva and initially each yeshiva learnt a mesechta of its own choice. Later that was changed and each yeshiva learned the same mesechta. The budget, including faculty wages, food and lodging of the talmidim, was supplied from the private purse of the Rebbe. Although one of the wealthiest people in Poland, all his profits went towards the Keser Torah yeshivos, while he himself lived in a simple apartment in Sosnowitz

Without a doubt, the crowning glory of the whole Kesser Torah Network was the elite yeshiva called Kibbutz Govoha located in the city of Sosnowitz, the city where the Radomsker Rebbe's court moved after World War I. Kibbutz Govoha was founded by the Rebbe specifically for the older bochurim who had proven to be the best in the entire network of Yeshivos, many of the brightest and sharpest minds in Poland gathered in Sosnowitz. It was the Rebbe's hope that many of the Gedolei Hador of the next generation would be educated in the "Kibbutz". By 1930, there were already 9 Kesser Torah Yeshivos in addition to the Kibbutz. Throughout the 1930's, yeshivos were added and by 1939, the eve of World War II, there were 36 yeshivos and more than 4,000 talmidim learning in the Yeshiva Network of Radomsker Yeshivos.

One of the unique aspects of the Kesser Torah Network was that while the Rebbe was especially careful that the yeshivos be chassidic in nature, he did not push Radomsker chassidus. Both the faculty and the student body were comprised of people who belonged to a wide range of chassidic courts. In addition, the Rebbe put a special emphasis that the curriculum should be devoted only to the highest level of Gemara learning. In addition special emphasis was put on the learning of the heretofore largely neglected subjects of Kodashim, learning about the karbanos and the avoda in the Beis Hamikdash.

Hagaon HaRav Dovid Moshe Rabinowitz, Hy"d In 5689 (1929) Rav David Moshe Rabinowitz married Reizel, the only child of the Rebbe, and became Rosh Yeshiva of the Kesser Torah network and head of the kibbutz in Sosnowitz. Rav Moishele, as he was called, was one of Poland's rising stars at the time. A genius among geniuses, he was recognized by all of Poland's great Rabbanim as a Torah giant. When Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky, zt"l of Vilna, once saw a sefer of his in which he gave 140 answers to one question posed by the Avnei Nezer on the Chasam Sofer, he exclaimed in wonder, "I did not dream that there was such a diamond in Poland." With his marriage to the Rebbe's daughter, he immediately became one of Poland's greatest Marbitzei Torah. From then on, his life was devoted to delivering shiurim. Every day he would give a shiur to the Kibbutz Govoha and a few times a week to the regular Kesser Torah Yeshivos in Sosnowitz. In addition, as the Rosh yeshiva of the entire network, he would visit all the yeshivos from time to time to check the progress of the students and their level of learning. Wherever he went, he delivered shiurim and was a wellspring of Torah. Everyone thirsted to hear his shiurim which were enriched with wide erudition and profound depth. His home, on the second floor of the Rebbe's house, constantly teemed with bachurim discussing Torah with him late at night and at the crack of dawn. Visiting talmidim sometimes prepared the whole night to have something worthwhile to present to Reb Moishele.
After the holocaust the Tchebiner Rav zt"l moaned: "Had Reb Moishele survived he would have illuminated the world with his Torah. Whenever we occasionally met I could hardly recognize him because of his tremendous elevation in Torah since the previous time. In one winter zeman the kibbutz learnt Tractates Makos and Shavuos, the mishnayos of tractate Mikvaos, and the Tur Yoreh De'ah on hilchos Mikvaos. On Shabbos and chagim Reb Moshe would be mefalpel with visiting bachurim and Ramim the entire night. In his short life Rav Moshe succeeded, not only in imbuing thousands with a love of Torah, but also somehow, between giving so many shiurim managed to write a whole host of Sefarim on some of the most complex mesechtos in Shas. He wrote Sefer Birchas Cohen on Mesechta Brachos, Sichas Cohen on Beitza, Avodas Cohen on Yoma, Minchas Cohen on Menuchos, Tmuras Cohen on Mesechta Temura. His magnum opus, Zivchei Cohen on Mesechta Zevachim was to contain three massive volumes and was ready for print at the outbreak of World War II. They were lost to this world together with their author.

Two additional innovations were introduced in the Kesser Torah Yeshivos in order to encourage and raise the level of learning. The first was the periodical publishing of a Torah journal and the second was the end of semester examination conducted by Rav Moishele in all of the yeshivos. The journal entitled "Kesser Torah" published the best chiddushei Torah of the bochurim in the network, as well as the shiurim of Rav Moishele and other Roshei Yeshiva. The fact that bochurim knew that, if found worthy, their chiddushim would be printed, raised the level of diligence and scholarship considerably. The end of semester tests brought about similar results. At the end of each semester, Rav Moishele would come to the yeshiva. In his honor, the entire town would also come to the yeshiva to witness the test. The bochurim prepared for weeks in advance in anticipation of the questions which demanded deep and encompassing knowledge of the entire mesechta learned that year. At the end of the test, Rav Moishele would give a two-hour shiur encompassing ideas from most of the tractate, constantly interrupted by challenges and comments of the bochurim.

With Hitler's invasion of Poland, the Kesser Torah Yeshivos were forced to disband. On the 18th of Av, 1941, the Radomsker Rebbe, zy"a, hy"d, and his entire family including his daughter and son-in-law, Harav Moishele, zt"l, hy"d were murdered in the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazi beasts. They were buried in a mass grave in the main cemetery of Warsaw. Thus the network of Kesser Torah Yeshivos of Poland and their founder and patron, the Radomsker Rebbe together with their Rosh Yeshiva, rose in fire to heaven along with 6 million of their brethren.

From The Ashes After the war some of the surviving remnants of Radomsker Chassidus and Kesser Torah Yeshivos founded "Kollel Kesser Torah" in Israel. It was headed by Hagaon Harav Menachem Shlomo Borenshtein, zt"l of Sochachov-Radomsk, who was a scion of both the Admorim of Sochachov and Radomsk. Several years after his tragic death in a car accident, his son resumed leadership of the Kollel.
Montreal In 5747 (1986), Kollel Keser Torah Radomsk opened in Montreal, Canada, adding immeasureably to that city's torah life. The Kollel's founding 'Nasi' (president) was Harav Pinchas Hirschprung zt"l, the Chief Rabbi of Montreal. The Roshei Hakollel, Harav Osher Mintz and Harav Dovid Elias, have built a vibrant 'Makom Torah' which serves once again as a 'crowning jewel' to the Jewish Community.
Yerushalayim Elul of 5756 (1996), saw another step in the restoration of the glory of Radomsk, with the opening of Yeshiva Gedola Kesser Torah in Yerushalayim. The Yeshiva is a tribute and a throwback to the network of Kesser Torah Yeshivos in Poland and has attracted a superb student body who seek to advance in Torah, yirah and chassidus. In addition, the yeshiva is staffed by some of the most distinguished mechanchim and mashgichim in the chassidic world. Also, in addition to the more than 75 students, there is also a "Kibbutz Govoha", patterned after that which existed in the Radomsk of old, where avreichim and elite bochurim learn at an extremely advanced level.
Lakewood In Adar 5760 (2000) an inspiring Shabbos that place in Radomsk in honor of the Yahrtzeit of the Tiferes Shlomo z"tl, it was announced there that a Radomsker Kollel will open in Lakewood, NJ (known as the 'City of Torah'), and indeed, in Elul of that year, an Evening Kollel opened it's doors in the Whispering Pines section of Lakewood. Approximately thirty 'Yungerleit' learn there nightly, igniting the fires of Torah while reveling in its' depths.

May the foundation erected in Radomsk, so cruelly snuffed out during the Holocaust, continue to experience a rejuvenation, glorified by the "Crown of Torah".

PHOTOS

Radomser Rebbe in car
(ca. 1933) In a car on the way to Krosno, the Radomsker Rebbe in the back, in the middle section of the car R' Dovid Stahl from Lodz, R' Hershel Pachter from Sosnovice, R' Chaskel Besser as a young boy and his father, R' Naftali Besser sitting next to the driver.