Living Legacy: The Kedushas Tzion of Bobov, zt”l, Hy”d
By: Yehuda Alter
Monday, the fourth day of Av, marks the 81st yohrtzeit of the Bobover Rebbe, Rav Benzion Halberstam, zt”l, who was murdered al kiddush Hashem, in the year 1941 while he was hiding in Lvov.
He led the Bobover chassidus during the most difficult years pre-WWI, through the war years, and into WWII—and presided over a remarkable growth in this time. Even prior to this, he served as Rosh Yeshiva in the Yeshivos Eitz Chaim that his father had established. Thus, the influence of the Kedushas Tzion, and the effects of his leadership, continue to be felt very strongly to this day.
He was born in the Galician town of Bukovsk, in the year 1874. His father was Rav Shloime, the first Bobover Rov, and his grandfather was Rav Meir Nosson, a son of the Divrei Chaim.
When he was born., the Divrei Chaim sent a message with instructions to name him Ben Zion, in the hopes that Yerushalayim will be rebuilt in his times. Tragically, he would be taken from this world during the saddest days of mourning on the Churban.
His spiritual growth, even in his youngest years, aroused wonder among the Bobover chassidim—and great pride in the heart of his illustrious father. Once, Rav Shloime took aside one of the chassidim and said, “let me show you how my son davens.” And they heard the most otherworldly davening that emanated from his heart, with great emotion.
For his bar mitzvah, the Rebbe traveled to his maternal grandfather, Rebbe Yehoshua of Kaminka, who in turn took him to nearby Belz. The Belzer ruv summoned his Rebbetzin, and instructed her to stand behind the door, where she would hear a rendition from ‘a great composer.’ Indeed, the Bobover Ruv composed legendary melodies which survived the war, and continue to be a major feature in the Bobover court, where they continue to inspire thousands of chassidim today.
In 1905, following the passing of his father, he was crowned as the Rebbe.
During the years of WWI, the yeshiva in Bobov was demolished, as well as much of the infrastructure of the chassidus. Upon his return to Bobov, the Rebbe rebuilt the yeshiva and many other institutions in a miraculous fashion—an endeavor for which the Rebbe incurred enormous personal debt.
In addition to this, he established branches of the yeshiva in numerous towns and shtetlach. Through this, and the frequent travels of the bachurim to Bobov, he left a tremendous influence upon thousands of young people, and had a unique way of reaching the young people.
When the Nazis, ym”sh, were approaching, the Rebbe was able to escape to Lvov, remaining hidden in the home of one of his chassidim. In the summer of 1941, the Ukrainians were given permission by the Nazis to unleash their burning hatred upon the Jews.
The Rebbe was taken out and murdered al kiddush Hashem, along with 20,000 Yidden who were also killed during that pogrom. Numerous family members of the Rebbe were among them, and it was only through great miracles that the Bobover Rebbe, Rav Shloime, zt”l, survived to continue the golden chain of Torah and chassidus that his father so valiantly fought to uphold.