Rabbi Shimon Shalom Kalish • “The Rebbe of Amshinov”

The chassidim recount that after the death of Rabbi Yitzchak of Kalish (the founder of the line of Rebbes of Vorki and Amshinov), his son Rabbi Yaakov David went from Amshinov to Kotzk. Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk asked him if he had seen his father, Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorki, in a dream, and Rabbi Yaakov David said that he had not. Rabbi Menachem Mendel then said to him, “I saw your father. I was looking for him in the world above because I wanted to see him. Therefore I asked where our Rabbi Yitzchak was, and the ministering angels told me to go look for him in a higher abode. At first I looked for him among the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, but they told me that he was in a higher abode. I then looked for him in the abode of the Acharonim, of Beit Yossef and the Rema, but I did not find him there. Finally I went to the abode of the Amoraim, and when I asked where our Rabbi Yitzchak was, they told me that he could be found by a river not far from there. I approached the river and found him standing, bent over his cane, looking at the river. ‘Rabbi Yitzchak,’ I asked him. ‘What are you doing here?’ He replied, ‘This river is made from the tears of the Jewish people. I cannot leave this place.’ ”

This story is typical of all the Rebbes of Vorki and Amshinov, among them being Rabbi Shimon Shalom Kalish of Amshinov. All of these Rebbes possessed an extraordinary love for the Jewish people.

Rabbi Shimon Shalom was born to Rabbi Menachem, the Rebbe of Amshinov, in 5643 (1883).

From an early age he demonstrated great intelligence and a heart filled with kindness. Everyone loved him, but his father, Rabbi Menachem, loved him the most. He would say to him, “Shimoli, my son, Chassidut has three principles: Love of G-d, love of Torah, and love of Israel.” In fact Rabbi Shimon saw in these the guiding principles of his life, and he strived with all his might to acquire them and to make them an integral part of his character.

In his youth he walked about in his father’s Beit Midrash and chatted with the chassidim who came to him for help. He spoke to their hearts and encouraged them, making sure to provide them with something to eat and drink, as well as a place to sleep.

Later on he married the daughter of Rabbi Yeshaya Kalish of Peshisha, his uncle. At his father-in-law’s home, he advanced in Torah and Chassidut to such a degree that he became a great Chassidic leader.

After the death of his father, Rabbi Shimon Shalom inherited a portion of his chassidim. He settled in Otbotsk, near Warsaw, and directed its community with great love. His chassidim purchased a villa in the forest for him, and his Beit Midrash was always full of Jews who came there seeking his advice. The Rebbe knew a tremendous amount about business and industry, and great industrialists came to see him for business advice.

His noble appearance, long beard, and pleasant-looking and smiling face made a great impression on those who saw him. He behaved with extreme modesty, which earned him the hearts of the Jewish masses. The Rebbe saw only the good in people, and to him there were no evil Jews; there were only bitter and unhappy people who were worthy of immense pity. Whoever had problems could find refuge with the Tzaddik of Amshinov.

For close to 30 years, the Rebbe led the Beit Midrash of Otbotsk. Crowds rushed to his Beit Midrash on Shabbat and the holidays, and the talks he gave to the chassidim revealed his great love for every Jew.

In 5694 (1934) he left for Eretz Israel, where he remained for more than a year. Upon his return to Poland, he was filled with praise for the Holy Land and was in the habit of saying, “I am a Jew of Eretz Israel.” He was preparing to go and settle there, when all of a sudden the Second World War erupted and the Rebbe had to flee from Warsaw. He first found refuge in Lithuania, the center of the mitnagdim, but something surprising then happened: The mitnagdim also went to him for advice and blessings! Many saw a Chassidic Rebbe for the first time in their lives, and they were impressed by the radiance of his face, his way of life, and his charisma. Many devoted themselves to him and became his followers.

From Lithuania he wandered as far as Japan, and finally ended up in Shanghai, China where he stayed for the remainder of the war. During his exile in Shanghai, the Rebbe revealed his character by his splendor and the goodness of his heart. His home was open to each and everyone, and around him gathered yeshiva students who had managed to flee war-torn Europe. He cared for these refugees with great devotion and provided them with food. He also prevented them from giving up hope, reminding them that deliverance can come in the wink of an eye. Thanks to these good deeds of his, many escaped annihilation.

After the war, the Rebbe arrived safely in the United States. His chassidim purchased a house for him in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and there he reopened his Beit Midrash, this time in the land of America. There too he made numerous chassidim, and many were those who came to see him. The Rebbe turned many away from sin, as Sabbath desecrators began to observe it because of him. He built Talmud Torahs and mikvehs, and he participated in many conferences designed to strengthen Torah observance. Before long, the Rebbe had won over the Jews of America and his home became a center of attraction for all types of Jews.

In 5714 (1954), he definitely decided that his place was in Eretz Israel, where his chassidim impatiently awaited him, and so he purchased a ticket and prepared to leave. However the Rebbe suddenly fell ill, and on the 19th of Av his soul departed in holiness and purity. His chassidim brought his body to Eretz Israel and buried him in Tiberias.

The Rebbe left behind an only son, Rabbi Meir Kalish, who settled in Jerusalem and founded the Shem Olam yeshiva in memory of his illustrious father.




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