Rabbi Szmuel Dawid Zabludower
of Holy Blessed Memory

By Gerszon Gura of Tel Aviv

Lines regarding his character:

For the past approximately thirty years, each Passover, year after year, the noble personality lights up in front of me, the holy, refined, and splendorous image who, prior to each Passover, would summon up all of his resources and discourse for hours upon hours about Torah, holiness, Jewish law (Halacha) and homiletics (Aggadah).

I knew him throughout the entire year. He walked in measured steps to the synagogue of the town for prayer, being accompanied by Aharon the Shamash (sexton).

I saw him at various occasions in the town, at joyous occasions, sacramental meals, observances of mourning, funerals, marriage ceremonies, and circumcisions. He was always the same refined personality. He walked upright and erect, with a heartfelt smile on his face, and with loving glances to everyone.

He was the rabbi of the town. He served his community for approximately forty years. These were four decades, variegated and with many changes.

He came to town when all of the residents were hewn out of a single mold. Even though they were divided into Hassidim, Misnagim, shtibels, synagogues, the common factor among them all was that the Beis Midrash, shtibel, prayer, study of Torah, the cheder, and men of the shtibel comfortably ruled over the town. Any edict issued by the rabbi of the city was accepted without complaint or debate. The rabbi would always decide all communal matters.

He came to town as the rabbi of all of the townsfolk. He worshiped with the shoemakers, tailors, wagon drivers, and porters – all of the members of the “masses” of the town. He recited his prayers together with them all in accordance with the Ashkenazic rite. However, deep inside burned the flame of Amszynower Hassidism. That flame was never extinguished in him. As he stood at the eastern wall next to the Holy Ark with his face towards the wall, it was possible to discern that he was not merely praying. Rather, all of his limbs were trembling – in accordance with the adage “All of my limbs state the glories of G-d”.

I saw him for many years. I knew him for a long time, from the time that I began to be aware of my surrounding until I left the town. However, for most of the town, I knew him in only a casual manner. For who in the town did not know the rabbi of the city? Who did not see him in the street and in the synagogue, in the mornings or evenings? To delve into his mysteries, to know him more closely, to penetrate into his soul and obtain a clear picture of his deep spiritual personality, this was a very difficult task, and it is possible to honestly state that most of the townsfolk, whether Hassidim or Misnagdim, did not really know him and did not understand his spirit.

Therefore, when Passover approached, and I remember that in those days, several decades ago, the rabbi of holy blessed memory would invite me to his home to the “room of the Beis Din”, to assist him for the approximately ten days prior to Passover in registering the sale of chometz. I would assist him in dealing with all of the details, in clarifying to everyone that they must list in precise detail all of the leavened products in his possession, and even any mixture that might contain leaven, or any questionable leavened product. After everything, the rabbi himself would inspect the list, and, prior to accepting authority for conducting the sale, he would ask the seller if perchance he forgot to list one type of chometz. He would even mention various cosmetics and paints that might have chometz components. Each person's list would almost double after the examination of the rabbi. As I remember those days, I once again see before my eyes the sublime image of the rabbi, but the image is completely different. It was not the image that I knew before I became closer to him. It was not the rabbi that answered questions of Jewish law, and adjudicated halachic questions. It was a different personality, sublime, immersed for the entire day in the great sea of Torah and halacha.

Slowly, slowly, small cracks opened before me, tiny windows into his hidden essence. These were windows into his modest life, which was secluded within the four ells of that narrow “Beis Din room”.

When he entered the “Beis Din room” after eating breakfast, his order of the day was already planned out. First, he began to remove books, one after another, from the tall bookcases, which were packed with books. (The entire area behind the desk was filled with books.) He sat in the armchair and began to study the books, with exceptional concentration. Most of the books were books of halacha, as well as both old and new responsa literature, written by the great adjudicators of Jewish law from the current generation, and previous generations.

His entire life was dedicated to issues of halacha. When a halachic question, or any other difficult question, came before him, he could dwell for weeks or months upon it. He would spend days and nights clarifying it and researching it until he arrived at the true answer, in accordance with Jewish law.

He would study Torah in an orderly and set fashion. He would start with Talmud, along with all of its commentaries, and follow that with books of responsa regarding the questions and answers from our own era. He never tired of delving into his books, which continued until late in the night.

He was very logical, and he fulfilled the verse “do not be afraid of the face of any man” in the true sense of the term. There were isolated incidents, of which anyone in the town can relate, where one of the Hassidic residents of the town would visit him and begin to complain about the situation in the town, and about the tasks that the “rabbi of the city” is supposed to fulfill in a given situation, with out sitting with his arms folded. When he realized that the person standing before him, even though he was a respected Hassid, was exaggerating and going to far, not with respect to his own honor, for he was willing to forgo his own honor, but with respect to the honor of the Torah and the rabbi of the city he acted according to the law of “the zealous should attack him” and give the complainer “a slap on the cheek” on account of his brazenness and nerve in speaking against the rabbi.

Such “slaps on the cheek”, occurred very rarely during his forty years of service. Once it occurred to a certain butcher, and another time to a certain communal administrator (parnas). However, the reason was always one of honor of the Torah or the rabbinate.

There was one matter that he struggled against for many years, almost until the day of his death. This was with regards to a halachic question that many of the rabbis of Poland, even great ones, struggled with.

This was a question with regards to tzitzit (ritual fringes), which came before him in his town of Czyzewo. Czyzewo was almost the only town in the entire world where there were several dozen small factories that made tzitzit and exported them to Jewish communities all around the world.

At first, all of the labors regarding tzitzit were done by people in accordance with the law, and with the intention of the fulfillment of the commandment of tzitzit, from the first moment when the raw wool was converted into combed wool in preparation for spinning, and later when the strands were twisted simple, not interwoven, strings. This work was very difficult on the manufacturers, who made tzitzit with great speed. Once, a few of the larger manufacturers went to a rabbi of Zambrow, near Czyzewo, where the rabbi was elderly and expert in adjudicating Jewish law, and requested that he permit them to perform the work on the strings prior to intertwining them by means of an electric machine, without the power of a human. They claimed that the main act of making of tzitzit takes place from the time of the interweaving, and thereafter. After studying the situation in great detail, the rabbi of Zambrow permitted them to do this.

This news of the permission that was received by the large tzitzit manufacturers to perform the first works on the threads, prior to intertwining (as it was called in Yiddish, far shpin), by machine, without human power, reached the ears of the rabbi. He found out that these manufacturers actually starting making tzitzit in this fashion. He then aroused himself as a lion, and invited in all of the owners who began making tzitzit in accordance with this new leniency. He warned them that he would publicize in all of the newspapers that their tzitzit are ritually invalid.

His efforts to put a stop to this did not fully succeed, since he could not come out in public and invalidate their tzitzit, for they had a legitimate permit to do make them in such a fashion. However, on occasion, notices were published in newspapers directed to the purchasers of tzitzit of Czyzewo that they should make sure that the ritual certification (hechsher) of the tzitzit was issued by the rabbi of the city, and not by any other rabbi. This was more than sufficient.

Such letters were published in the “Darcheinu” periodical of the Agudas Yisrael organization of Warszawa, in issue 1 and issue 2.

This question took up much of his time, and not a day passed when he did not deal with it. I remember that he once called me to his house and requested that I make many copies of a letter that he gave me. This was a long letter to the Torah leaders of Poland, Hungary, etc. that requested them to express their opinion regarding this question. In his letter to them, he brought down all of the sources and proofs, both to permit and to forbid, and he expressed his own opinion that the situation was forbidden. These letters was sent to the Gaon of Dvinsk of holy blessed memory, to the Gaon Rabbi R. L. Cyrelson of holy blessed memory, and to Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski of holy blessed memory, as well as many other rabbis of Poland. From among the responses that he received, the response of the Gaon of Dvinsk was quite interesting. On his postcard, he only included source references, i.e. look here, look there, look there. The rabbi spent several days in analyzing the postcard of the Gaon of Dvinsk, which included references to several dozen books. His opinion went along with the majority to prohibit the “far shpin” by machine. There were also some Torah giants who did not have a clear view on the matter, and others who permitted it.

New winds began to steal upon the life of the town. The community began to change. A few members of Mizrachi and the Zionist Council began to become members of the communal council and became parnassim (administrators) in the town.

The town began to change somewhat from the set patters of hundreds of years. Over and above the established cheders of the town, the Yesodei Hatorah Talmud Torah and the Beis Yaakov school, a new school opened, called “Cheder Metukan”, with a Zionist Mizrachi outlook. Various youth groups were founded, as well as a secular library. The purpose of all of these organizations was to sway from the general custom and traditions.

These matters deeply affected the rabbi, and his soul wept in private. He had come to town when the city was 100% Jewishly traditional. He had never imagined that these pillars of Judaism would, Heaven forbid, begin to waver.

He loved peace by his nature. During the time of his tenure, there was barely any controversy in town. He always would strike a compromise among disputants, and also within the communal council. With the sweetness of his words and his influence, he would always succeed in tipping the scale toward the benefit of religious matters.

As I have stated, not everyone knew him truly, for he was always taciturn. He was always enclosed within his four ells of halacha, in the room of his Beis Din. However, all of the rabbis of Poland knew a great deal about him. Many questions were sent to him, soliciting his halachic opinion.

During his last years, prior to the Holocaust, he was confined to his bed due to a paralytic illness that affected him. Even then, he did not desist from his study, and he was completely immersed in halacha and Torah.

When the bitter day came upon the town, the day when more than 1,500 people were marched on foot by German officers to the village of Szulborze, where gigantic pits were already prepared for the Jews of Czyzewo – they placed the paralyzed Rabbi Szmuel Dawid Zabludower into a wagon, and transported him along with the townsfolk, and his entire community. The Germans murdered him by machine gun, and he rests in the large communal grave in the village of Szulborze.

May his memory be blessed, and may G-d avenge his blood.