Thursday, October 22, 2009

Piaczena Yohrtzeit Torah and Famous Moishele Good Shabbos Story




By Rav Zvi Leshem

Rebbe Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira was martyred 66 years ago today. In his 1929 drasha for Parshat Noach[1] he addresses the famous dispute regarding the comparative righteousness of Noach as compared to that of Avraham.[2] His conclusion is that whereas Avraham spread monotheism throughout the world, making many converts, Noach was concerned only with saving his own sons. Avraham was constantly looking outwards, towards all of humanity, to teach the true service of the Divine, but Noach, although he was a Zaddik, had a very narrow agenda of familial spirituality and was unconcerned with the religious welfare of his generation.[3]

This distinction has strong roots in earlier Chassidic literature. Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev[4] also sees the two figures as two different models of Zaddikim. For Reb Levi Yitzchak, famous as the defender of Am Yisrael, the main difference between Noach and Avraham was in their attitudes towards the people around them. Noach walked with G-d, that is to say, only with G-d whom he served, but he did not walk with other people in order to bring them close [to Divine service]. Thus Noach also made no attempt to rebuke his contemporaries, nor did he pray to HaShem on their behalf. He rather accepted the Divine decree of destruction passively. This is in dramatic contrast to Avraham, whom we know devoted his life to spreading the word of the L-rd and making converts. He also prayed to avert the Divine decree of destruction from the depraved populace of Sodom.[5]

How did the Piaseczner put this insight into practice? In his Letter to Parents and Teachers, that serves as the introduction to his 1932 revolutionary education classic, Chovat HaTalmidim, the Rebbe writes as follows regarding the trend in his time of young Chassidic youth "going off the derech": The yeshiva heads are only concerned with their own yeshivot and students, and they are only concerned with the "best" boys. They comfort themselves saying "while it is true that there are now a lot of irreligious Jews, but there are also a lot of fine Tora students and servants of HaShem. But they also need to look outside of their yeshivot, and see the massive numbers of the irreligious…are we to be satisfied with the mere handful of students in our yeshivot, is that all of Am Yisrael?[6]

The message is clear. Am Yisrael needs leaders who do not only think about the needs of their particular group, or of the Tora "elite" but who, like the holy Piaseczner Rebbe himself, have the needs of the entire Jewish People at hand. May the merit of the holy Rebbe protect all of Klal Yisrael, and may his Tora continue to guide us in true Chassideshe Avodat HaShem. May we merit the speedy fulfillment of the words of the Mashiach to the holy Baal Shem Tov, that when the wellsprings of Chassidic teachings and mystical practices spread throughout the world, the Redemption will occur.

Shabbat Shalom.

[1] Derech HaMelech pp. 5- 9.

[2] See Rashi, Bereshit 6:9 s.v. B'Dorotav.

[3] There is however an opinion that Noach did rebuke his fellows (unsuccessfully). See Tora Shlama 155 and 171 in the name of the Yemenite Midrash HaGadol.

[4] Kedushat Levi s.v. Eleh.

[5] For another discussion on two models of Zaddikim, see Noam Elimelech, Veyechi, s.v. Vayikach, regarding Ephraim and Menashe.

[6] Chovat HaTalmidim, p. 12.

Dixie Yid 10/23/09 Update: R' Leshem just e-mailed out a recording of Rav Shlomo himself singing the "Moishele Good Shabbos" nigun. ENJOY!

Dearest Friends,

Sometimes, as hard as it might to be to sit and write, you just gotta share… no matter what.

This past Wednesday night changed my life forever, but before telling you exactly why, PLEASE refresh your memory, and open your hearts to one of the Reb Shlomo's most powerful moments in his life.

Reb Shlomo ztz'l:

Ok, I don't want to tell you sad stories, it's not really sad, maybe a little bit, but it's a gevalt. Every person needs, especially our children, we should have our fathers and mothers for a long time. We also all need Rebbes, and then every person, once or twice in your life, you meet somebody and it mamesh reaches you so much that it mamesh carries you your whole life. So one of my Rebbes, which I saw just twice or three times in my life, was a Yid and his name was Reb Moshe.

My father was a Rabbi in Baden Bei Din, in Austria, and here comes 1938. I don't want to mention their name in shul, but they mamesh they took over. And you know in Germany it was not so dangerous yet to walk on the street. In Vienna it was mamesh dangerous from the first day on. Yidden couldn't go to shul anymore, especially my father.

So Shabbos morning it was only dangerous from 8 o'clock on, but between 5 and 8 in the morning it was less dangerous. So my father made a minyan in the house. People would come at six o'clock, mamesh they davened so fast mamesh, Kriyas Hatorah would go so fast because everyone wanted to be home before 8.

My brother and I were little kids. When you don't see people all week long, you are mamesh hungry to see a person. So I remember my twin brother and I, we were nearly up all Friday night. We couldn't wait mamesh, we wanted to open the door for the minyan.

At six o'clock, a knock at the door, mamesh to see a yid mamesh standing there with Pachad, afraid. I open the door a little bit and he would slip through the door, and then I close the door fast.

But then one Shabbos, I remember it was Parshas Bamidbar. I open the door. I see mamesh a Yid with little peyis, like most Rizhiner chassidim, they didn't have big beards. They just have a little beard. But this yid? He's not afraid. He started singing:

Good Shabbos good Shabbos. Good Shabbos good Shabbos, Good Shabbos good Shabbos, Good Shabbos good Shabbos, Good Shabbos good Shabbos, Good Shabbos good Shabbos, Oy Good Shabbos good Shabbos, Good Shabbos.

This Yid was mamesh in another world.

Finally he walked in and he walks up and down and the whole time he is singing Good Shabbos good Shabbos.

Then he turns to me, I'm a little boy and he says to me in Yiddish, "what is your name, what is your name,"

So I didn't want to chas v'shalom stop the melody, so I answered him back singing, "my name is Shlomo, what is your name."

He said "Moishele, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Oy Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos."

So my brother and I called him "Moishele Good Shabbos"

I want you to know, he came in for the minyan and we began to daven fast. And you know, basically when it comes to Nishmas Kol Chai you are not permitted to talk, but obviously Reb Moishele, nebech, couldn't hold back. He said to the chazzan 'you are davening down instead of davening up. Your tefillahs have to go up and the way you daven everything goes down because you daven so fast.' And he was crying. Listen to what he says. He says, yidden, maybe this is the last Shabbos we are saying Nishmas Kol Chai. Is this the way to say Nishmas Kol Chai?

So the chazzan said, I don't know any better.

I'll remember it till Mashiach is coming. Moishele walks to the amud.

I want you to all to sing with me softly. He started singing: Nishmas Kol Chai Tevarech Es Shimcha Hashem Elokeinu Veru'ach Kol Basar Tefa'er Useromem...

But you know friends, he davened the whole davening with this niggun. Even chazaras hashatz, kedushah. Then they lained, and by that time it was already 10:30 but nobody mamesh cared. Moishele mamesh lifted up the whole, nobody had fear anymore.

Finally the davening was over around 11 and my mother brought in wine to make Kiddush. And I want you to know, the whole time the windows were closed and the shades were down. Moishele says, when you make Kiddush, you have to open the windows. You have to say Kiddush for the whole world.

I mean it's crazy. People started saying Moishele, this is just too much. The people in the street want to kill us.

Mamesh I'll never forget it. Moishele says, who are they, the children of Esav? He says, they are our cousins. You know why Esav is Esav? Because he forgot what Shabbos is. Maybe if some Yid is saying V'shamru B'Nei Yisrael Es Hashabbos, maybe Esav will remember what he learned by Yitzchak.

He opened the windows and Moishele was mamesh standing by the window and mamesh you could see the Germans walking up and down the street. It was Min Hashamayim, He mamesh had the wine outside of the window and he was singing:

"V'shamru B'nei Yisroel Ess haShabbos….."

After davening my parents invited him to eat with us and Moisheleh began telling us, mamesh so much b'tzniyus, half telling half not telling. He says, I want you to know I am on the black list of the Germans. Suddenly we remembered, Moisheleh's picture was on every street corner. It said 'the most wanted Jew by the Furor.'

What was his avodah? What was he doing? If you remember thousands of Yidden were arrested and nebech, their wives and children were dying from hunger. Moishele was up all night carrying food to every house.

This was Parshas Bamidbar, and on Pesach he mamesh brought matza to 2000 families in Vienna, gevalt.

So they were looking for him and one night he says they caught him and hit him over the head but mamesh at that moment, he said that the Ribbono Shel Olam gave me koach, he turned himself away and ran off. So he says, during the day I cannot walk on the street so I'll stay here.

Then he says to us, I want to come again, most probably I'll come Wednesday night. Now friends.,I want you to know how shabbosdik he was. He says I'll come Wednesday night and it will be around 4 o'clock and I will knock on the door 7 times l'Kovod Shabbos and you'll know it's me.

And again, the way my house was that my brother and I slept closest to the outside door.

And I mamesh could not sleep all night, waiting for Moishele Good Shabbos to come.

At around 4:30 we hear mamesh a subtle knocking 7 times. We open the door and Moishele is standing by the door singing:

Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos

We asked him where is this niggun from. Moishele told us that he was in Lublin on Rosh Hashana, davening with the Breslover chassidim. He heard it there from the old chassidim who said that his was the niggun which Reb Nachman himself davened too. It was the first time we ever heard of Reb Nachman.

He stayed in our house all night long singing. That was the last time I saw him.

We left for America and my brother I went to Mesivtah Toras VaDa'as. Everyone that came to the Mesivtah … we mamesh taught them the niggun "good Shabbos."

Later on I had the privilege of meeting young people, especially in San Francisco. I had the house of love and prayer, it was a gevalt. Baruch Hashem, I want you to know, this niggun mamesh turned on hundreds of thousands of people to Shabbos. Not to be believed.

The most important thing is that I taught all those kids that even on Wednesday night we say good Shabbos. We are living in an age before Mashiach, we cannot wait till Shabbos to say good Shabbos. You can say good Shabbos all the time.

Anyway, this all took place 1938, and in the meantime, time is flying. And I don't want to tell you bad things but just open your hearts. A few years ago I walk on the street in Tel Aviv on Ben Yehuda by street, by the Yarkon. Suddenly a Yiddele from Vienna see me. Aren't you Shlomo Carlebach, and I said yes. 'Do you remember Moishele, you know, Moishele from Vienna?'

Somehow it struck me and I said, you mean Moishele Good Shabbos? Is he still alive? maybe he's in Bnei Brak, Gevalt! Who knows where he is!

He says, let's go down, there's a little park by the river and I'll tell you the story.

He says, I want you to know I was one the closest friends of Moishele good Shabbos.

(By the way, I thought my brother and I were the only ones who called him Moishele good Shabbos. Obviously everyone called him that. All of Vienna called him Moishele good Shabbos)

Chevre, give me your hearts for a second. This Yiddele says that Moishele finally got himself a false passport, an English passport. Moishele had two children, a little boy and a little girl. He, his wife and two children were sitting on the train leaving Austria, with a passport to go to London. And this yidele says 'I was there on the train'. His wife kep on begging him Moishele, please don't sing And he was singing this niggun nonstop. Please, she said, don't make any noise. Wait until we go out of the border.

The train is slowly leaving. Moishele says I have to sing Good Shabbos Good Shabbos one more time to say so long to Vienna, I have to say goodbye to the city, I have to say good Shabbos. He opened the window and started singing one last time Good Shabbos Good Shabbos Good Shabbos Good Shabbos.

The most heartbreaking thing happened. Since his picture was all over the city, one of the people on the train recognized him and called over one of the Germans. They stopped the train and dragged off Moishele. And I swear to you, this yidele told me. Moishlee didn't stop singing Good Shabbos till that final whip which killed him.

Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos Good Shabbos.

I want you to know something incredible.

A few years later, I was supposed to go to do a concert in Manchester on Sunday. and the way to go to the concert I had to leave Tel Aviv Friday morning and I was thinking of going to London and then Sunday I would go to Manchester.

While we are flying, suddenly they announce there's a gas strike in London and they are landing in Zürich. Anybody who wants to go to London when they get to Zürich - they would take care of it and it would be a 16 hour delay, minimum, Friday afternoon.

So one Yid says why don't you got to Antwerp for Shabbos and from there, there will be a ship that leaves at six o'clock in the morning and gets to London at 12 and from there go to Manchester.

Ok, I'm right in Antwerp it was two hours before Shabbos and the Yid who is sitting next to me on the plane invites me for Shabbos and I say yes.

While I'm still talking to this Yid, someone comes up to me. I know this face. He was so sweet that I didn't want to hurt him that he should think that I don't know who he was. He says, mamesh Shlomoleh, come to my house for Shabbos.

I said I'm already going to this Yiddele but give me your telephone, if I have a Melaveh malka I'll invite you. So he writes it down, his name is Heschel.

After he left I said, who is this Heschel. He said, he's the son of Moishele Good Shabbos. Oy, Gevalt, I couldn't believe it.

We have a Melaveh malka, and this yid is there. I say to Hesheleh, do you know your tatty's niggun?

You know something, the most heartbreaking thing; he was too small to remember. I mean Can you imagine it was clear to me the holy gas strike in London was only that I should be in Antwerp and I gave him over his father's niggun.

And gevalt, he looks exactly like his father.

And I want to share with you one more thing.

The last time I saw Moishele, the last time before he walked out he was standing by the door for a long time and he sang

"Tzur Yisroel Tzur Yisroel Kume Be'ezras Yisrael Ufdei Chinumecha Yehuda Veyisroel..."

I want you to know friends, I'm singing this niggun all the time, all the time.


This past Wednesday night was the wedding of our dear friend Rocky Ziegler to his beloved Bina Wilkinfeld. The wedding was awesome, mamesh awesome. The colorful range of Shtreimels and hippies singing and dancing together was incredible.

Our dear friend and teacher, R Sholom Brodt had the zchus to marry off the couple.

After the chuppa, a young chassidishe yid, a princely looking chassid came up to R Sholom asking him if he was using the tune of Moishele Good Shabbos for the brachas under the chuppa. R Sholom said yes and asked him why he is asking.

'I am Moishele great-grandson, it's my great-grandfather's niggun' replied this yid.

We all began to come up to this very young, shy and humbled yid. We couldn't believe it… we felt we were all part of the story. One by one, we came up to him, bursting with utter simcha and total amazement. This chassid never saw anything like this, and hinted to me that this was very overwhelming for him.

How do I begin to explain to him who his great-grandfather is to us, and to thousands and thousands more? How do I begin to explain to him that thousands of yiddelach daven to his great-grandfather's niggun every day, every Shabbos, every holiday? How do I begin to give over to him who his great-grandfather was to our Rebbe?

He approached me a few minutes later and asked me if I was driving back home, and if I had room in the car for him, his wife and two children. Crazily enough, he only lives 15 minutes away from us. I was humbled beyond belief by the thought of driving him and his family home.

As we closed the door of the car, and a 25 minute ride approaching us, I began to seriously feel Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succos, all at once. It was so beyond my wife Bina and myself, we simply couldn't believe it.

But then, thank G-d I remembered a recent disc of Reb Shlomo ztz'l I had in the car during Succos. It was a concert on Succos, on the night of the Ushpizin of Moshe Rabbeinu. And during this concert Reb Shlomo began pouring out his heart. 'Friends, I want you to know, one of my greatest Rebbes in the world, one of my greatest teachers I will ever have was Reb Moishele Good Shabbos…' And then Reb Shlomo told over the story with more fire than ever before.

My wife Bina found the cd, and we put it on.

This chassid, whose name is Eliezer Heshel, the son of Moshe Heshel, the son of Eliezer Heshel, the son of Moishele Heshel – thee Moishele good Shabbos… he had never heard the story before. He knew some facts and some stories about his great grandfather, but other than knowing the tune… he didn't know that much more.

He sat behind me, and all I could hear while Reb Shlomo ztz'l was davening away in the backround, was Moishele's great-grandson's amazement. Pshhhh…psssss. He was literally going out of his mind.

His wife (who is related to Rocky's kalla) gave me their home number. Eliezer told me that they have a picture in an old family picture album… one picture of their great-grandfather. He is going to dig it out of the storage in his parents house, and get it to us.

As he got out of the car and was about to walk into his home, he tuned to me and said 'May the zchus of my grat-grandfather Moishele stand for you, your family and your freinds forever.'

I spoke to him last night, and he told me that all they know is that Moishele's ashes are burried somewhere in Vienna. He then told me that Moishele's yahrtzeit is coming up, the tenth of Chsehvan, just six days before our Rebbe's yahzrteit.

What on earth do we know?

Good Shabbos Kodesh

Shlomo & Bina Katz

(Video is of Yehuda Green using R' Shlmo's Moishele Good Shabbos Niggun for Kadish after Slichos and other great niggunim)


yaak said...

Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

dimyon said...

beautiful....and so powerful. Thank you so much for this posting.
Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos!

Moshe David Tokayer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moshe David Tokayer said...

For another discussion on two models of Zaddikim, see Noam Elimelech, Veyechi, s.v. Vayikach, regarding Ephraim and Menashe.

Also, see Sfas Emes Vayeishev 5631 Second Ma'amar regarding Yehuda and Yosef and applying to the different approaches of tzadikim in our times, available here in English: