Rabbi Shlomo Hakohen Rabinowicz (also spelled Rabinowitz, Rabinowich, Rabinovitch) (1801 – 16 March 1866) was the first Rebbe of the Radomsk Hasidic dynasty and one of the great Hasidic masters of 19th-century Poland. He is known as the Tiferes Shlomo after the title of his sefer, which is considered a classic in Hasidic literature.
Rabinowicz's year of birth is variously cited as 1795,1796, 1800, 1801, or 1803. He was born in Włoszczowa, Poland to Rabbi Dov Zvi (d. 1839), the av beis din (head of the rabbinical court) of Włoszczowa. Like most of the Jews of Poland, Rabbi Shlomo was called by his first name and patronymic; his children were the first to begin using the surname Rabinowicz. He was a descendant of Rabbi Nathan Nata Spira (1585 – 1633), a leading Polish Kabbalist and author of Megaleh Amukos.
Rabinowicz studied in the yeshiva in Piotrków Trybunalski, where he was regarded as a prodigy. By his bar mitzvah he knew the entire Urim Ve'umin of Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshutz by heart and had composed his own chiddushim (novel Torah thoughts). Late at night, he would study Kabbalah texts.
Later he became a talmid of Rabbi Meir of Apta, who was in turn a disciple of the Chozeh of Lublin. He became a Hasid of Rabbi Meir of Apta, Rabbi Fishele of Strikov, and Rabbi Yehoshua of Pshedburz. He also traveled to the Modzitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yechezkel of Kuzmir, and Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz. Though he was born 14 years after the death of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, he also considered himself a disciple of the latter and visited his grave every year. Since as a Kohen he was not allowed to come in contact with graves, he had a wall built around the area so that he could pray there
Rabinowicz married Gitele, a pious woman who fasted every Monday and Thursday. She lived to the age of 92. After his marriage, he studied in the beth midrash in Włoszczowa while his wife ran a small store to support them. The store was not successful, however, and for this reason, when Rabinowicz was offered the position of Rav of the small Polish town of Radomsko (Radomsk), his rebbe, Rabbi Meir of Apta, advised him to accept.Rabinowicz became Rav of Radomsk in 1834. His weekly salary was 15 Polish gulden (2 rubles and 25 kopeks), an apartment, and an etrog for Sukkot. Later his salary increased to 6 rubles per week, and his wife was allowed to run her own business.
Under his leadership, the Jewish community of Radomsk grew in prestige and population. Rabinowicz founded the Radomsk Hasidic dynasty in 1843. When Rabbi Moshe Biderman of Lelov moved to Jerusalem in 1850 and instructed his Hasidim to follow Rabinowicz, the latter's influence as a Rebbe grew significantly. He went on to attract thousands of Hasidim and Radomsk grew into a major center of Hasidut. The masses revered their Rebbe for his lofty prayers, beautiful singing voice, and benevolence towards their needs, while the more scholarly Hasidim admired his profound discourses in Halakha and Kabbalah. Rabinowicz was a master at interpreting Torah verses through gematria and Hebrew letter permutations. Among his Hasidim were philosopher Aaron Marcus Verus and physician Chaim David Bernard of Piotrków.
Even as he served as a Rebbe to thousands, Rabinowicz paid special attention to the needs of the Jews of Radomsk proper. When local Jews were conscripted by the Czar's army, he and his gabbai went door to door, collecting money to bribe the officials to release them. He also collected money for the poor to buy firewood in the winter, and to make matzos at Pesach. He spoke out often on the challenges facing the Jewish people of his day, including assimilation. In 1862 he pronounced a ban on the wearing of hoop skirts by Jewish women.
Rabinowicz had a beautiful singing voice and was renowned as a chazzan and composer of Hasidic music. His prayers were infused with both great emotion and great joy. He composed and sang new nigunim (melodies) each year for the High Holy Days and Jewish holidays. He also had a practice of visiting a different tzadik every Shavuot. On one such occasion, he visited the Tzadik of Kuzmir, Rabbi Emanuel of Pashdeborz, and was asked to lead the Akdamut piyyut. Rabinowicz requested the accompaniment of 80 singers, and the resulting choir, with his voice soaring over all, had a powerful effect. Rabinowicz used his soul-stirring nigunim to rouse his Hasidim to great fervor on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. He sent money to one of his Hasidim in Safed, Israel so that the latter would organize a Radomsker Shalosh Seudos meal every Shabbat at which his niggunim would be sung.
Rabinowicz died after reciting the Tikkun Chatzot prayers in the early-morning hours of Friday, 16 March 1866 (29 Adar 5626). He was buried later that day in an ohel on the grounds of the Jewish cemetery in Radomsk. His son and grandson were later buried in the same ohel. His death was part of a triple loss for Polish Jewry, as he, the Chiddushei Harim, and the Tzemach Tzedek died within a month of each other.
He left three sons and three daughters. His sons were: Aryeh Leibusz (1823–1890),a Torah scholar and businessman; Hirsz (Zvi) Meir (d. 1902), who presided as av beis din of Radomsk and succeeded his father as Rav of the town; and Avraham Yissachar Dov, the Chesed LeAvraham (1843–1892), who succeeded his father as Radomsker Rebbe.
Rabinowicz's discourses on the Chumash and chagim (Jewish festivals) were published posthumously in Warsaw in 1867–1869 as the two-volume Tiferes Shlomo. This work, considered a textbook of Hasidic thought,[ met with widespread acclaim and has been continuously reprinted.
May the merit of the tzadik Rabbi Shlomo Hakohen Rabinowicz protect us all. Amen