Tzadikim

Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin

Chassidic leader

Born: Poland, 1740
Died: Ludmir, Poland, 1792
 

Chassidic leader.

Rabbi Aharon, who was known as the Karliner Rebbe, died young. Reb Shlomo, who was his closest disciple and destined to become his successor, did not want the position of Rebbe. Why not? Because Reb Shlomo and Rabbi Aharon had once been fellow students who sat together as equals at the house of their teacher, the Maggid of Mezritch. So it did not seem right to Shlomo now, that he should take his elder friend's place as Rebbe of Karlin. Besides, R' Shlomo had seen how the people flocked to a Rebbe day and night, so that he had no privacy or peace. "I don't want such fame and responsibility," Shlomo said. "I just want to lead a private life as an ordinary Jew." So the Karliner Chassidim were left without a Rebbe. That is, until the night when Rabbi Aharon himself appeared to R' Shlomo in a dream and said, "Shlomo, my friend and dearest student, if you will take on the yoke of leadership, you will be granted the power of seeing all the wanderings of souls in their various incarnations." Reb Shlomo could not resist the great temptation of this offer. To be able to read the past lives of all souls! Still in the dream, he gave Rabbi Aharon his word that he would assume the succession and become the next Karliner Rebbe. As it was promised in the dream, so it became in the waking world. The next morning when R' Shlomo awoke, he was able to see the destinies of all human beings on earth. He knew their past lives, their present accomplishments, and all the repairs they needed to make for their souls. It was indeed an awesome spiritual gift!

 That very same day, a messenger brought Reb Sholom a kvittel (a written prayer request ) along with a great sum of money as a donation. The sender was a prosperous merchant, whom we shall call Mr. Geltman. He lay dying and wanted the Rebbe to make a miracle and save his life. No sooner had Reb Shlomo read the kvittel from Mr. Geltman, than a second messenger arrived with another prayer request, this time from the woman who supervised the homeless shelter near the edge of town. She had come on behalf of a pregnant woman, whom we shall call Mrs. Bettler, who was staying at the shelter. Mrs. Bettler had been laboring in childbirth for several days, but was unable to deliver her child. The midwife could do nothing for her. Could the Rebbe help? With his newly-acquired mystical insight, Reb Shlomo immediately saw that the soul of the dying Mr. Geltman was destined to be re-born into the body of Mrs. Bettler's unborn child. Alas, the poor child could not be born until the rich man had died! "So be it," sighed the new Rebbe. "May the will of God be done." Within moments, word of the rich man's death and the beggar child's birth arrived, one upon the heels of the other. The next day, Reb Shlomo also heard through the grapevine that there was no firewood left at the homeless shelter, and the young mother and her newborn son were in danger of freezing to death. So Reb Shlomo took some of the donation money that Mr. Geltman had sent and used it to buy more firewood. "It really is the boy's own money after all," he said to himself. "So he deserves to benefit from it." Not long after that, he gave the rest of the money to Mrs. Bettler, to be used for the boy's care. When the boy and his mother were strong enough to travel, they went on their way with the other beggars, going from town to town. Six years later, the Bettlers happened to be passing through Karlin again. At the homeless shelter they heard that one of the sons of the deceased Mr. Geltman would be celebrating his son's bar mitzvah. As was the custom, the poor were all invited to the feast. So Mrs. Bettler and her son went along with the others. As soon as they arrived at the Geltman house, the six-year-old boy's whole manner began to change completely. He took on an air of importance, and refused to sit at the pauper's table with the rest of the beggars. In a loud, arrogant voice, he demanded to be seated at the head of the guest table in a place of honor. The child made such a great disturbance that Reb Shlomo stepped in and said, "Let's just humor the boy, so we can continue the celebration in peace." But the rabbi knew there was more to it, because he had recognized the boy as the reincarnated soul of Mr. Geltman. "He is really the master of the house, and those are his sons," thought Reb Shlomo to himself. "All he is doing is asking for his due." When the meal was served, the same thing happened; the Bettler boy refused to take the plain foods offered to the poor, and insisted upon getting the best cuts of meat and the choicest morsels from the head table. Once again, Reb Shlomo said, "Let him have his way, so he doesn't disturb the feast." But the other guests were getting upset with the boy. How dare he, a mere beggar's son, insult the Geltman brothers like that? So they asked his mother, "Does your son always behave like this?" "Why no," replied Mrs. Bettler, as puzzled as they were. "He's always been such a good boy, very quiet and well-mannered. He's never done anything like this before -- I just don't know what's gotten into him!" At the end of the feast, after Reb Shlomo had already gone home, the Geltman brothers distributed money among the poor, as was the custom. When the Bettler boy's turn came, he looked disdainfully at the small coins and shouted, "How dare you offer me coppers!? Bring me gold from the treasure chest!" By now, the Geltman brothers had had enough of his insolence, and Reb Shlomo was not there to intervene. So the Geltmans told their servants to throw him out of the house. And they did. When Rabbi Shlomo later learned how the Geltman brothers had unknowingly mistreated their reincarnated father, he was deeply saddened. He could not bear the thought of spending his life watching such tragic scenes, so he begged heaven to take away his miraculous powers. 

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Rabbi Shlomo said: "To help another Jew who is stuck in the mire, a person must be willing to immerse himself in mud up to the neck in order to drag him out." 

Morality 
The greatest pitfall Jews face is to forget that they are the children of the King [G-d]. The strongest defense against immorality is self-esteem. If  I value myself, I most certainly would not engage in behavior that degrades me. And what could be more self-affirming than the consciousness that the self is a soul, a tiny extension of G-d, divine and eternal? Not until people embrace themselves as the beloved children of G-d will they behave in ways that express His Ultimate Morality. 

Chanukah Remnants 

The Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) writes that it is best to use olive oil for the kindling of the Chanukah lights because of the clean, pure flame it produces. Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin would use the recommended oil, but expressed regret over not using candles. "With candles," he would say, "the dripping wax leaves a mark of Chanukah all year. Oil, however, burns so cleanly, that a day after Chanukah, nothing of the festival adheres to the home!" One year, a mishap occurred and the flames from the Karliner Rebbe's menorah started a small fire which left burn-marks on one of the walls of his home. Rabbi Shlomo was overjoyed: a residue of Chanukah would now linger on until its lights would be again kindled next year!


The Death of Reb Shlomo of Karlin

In the month of  Tammuz 1792 a war broke out between Russia and Poland. R' Shlomo who was living in Ludmir (Poland) at the time, feared for the safety of the Jews in Poland and expressed his willingness to be an atonement for all the Jews. The Russians put down a revolt of the Poles in the region where R' Shlomo was living. The Russian commander, who had entered the town, gave his men permission to loot at will for two hours. It was a Shabbat day (parashat Balak), 17 of Tammuz and the Jews were gathered in the House of Prayer. Rabbi Shlomo was praying in such ecstasy that he heard nothing and saw nothing that went on around him. He was in the middle of the Mussaf (Kedushat Keter) when a cossack came limping along, went up to the window, looked in, and shot Rabbi Shlomo at his side. Despite his injury and pain he continued with his regular shabbat service. When they brought him to his house, he had them open the Zohar at a certain passage and prop it up in front of him while they bound his wound. It stayed there, open before his eyes until the following Wednesday, when he died. 

The tzaddik Rabbi Yisrael of Rozhin who lived at that time, said about R' Shlomo, that he was Mashiach ben Yosef and therefore he died.  


R' Shlomo was well known for the extraordinary fervor and enthusiasm with which he prayed and studied.
The most well known students of Rabbi Shlomo were: Rabbi Uri of Strelisk, termed the Saraf (burning angel), Rabbi Asher of Stolin and Rabbi Mordechai of Malkavitch.

>>> Books available about R' Shlomo of Karlin : Shema Shlomo

May the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin  protect us all, Amen.

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