Rav Bn-Zion Halberstam, the "Bobover Rebbe," was a great-grandson
of Rav Chaim Halberstam, the "Sanzer Rav." Rav Ben-Zion was one of
the major leaders in Galicia (southern Poland), and was at once a
chassidic rebbe, town rabbi, and head of a large network of yeshivot.
He also was noted as a miracle worker and composer, and for giving
sage advice to Jews in trouble.|
For example, to a Jew who accidentally stepped on a facsimile of
the official seal of the Polish state and was charged with sedition,
Rav Ben-Zion advised: "When you go to trial, bring a book of matches
that has the seal of Poland on the cover, but take out all but one
match. When you see the judge take out a cigarette, offer him a
light." The defendant did this, and watched as the judge threw away
the empty matchbook, seal and all. The defense counsel pointed this
out to the judge, and charges were dismissed.
Upon succeeding his father in 1905, Rav Ben-Zion revolutionized
the chassidic world. Before him, the movement had catered to the
spiritual needs of the middle-aged and old. Bobov revolved around
the young. Rav Ben-Zion explained that just as soldiers are trained
to meet different challenges now than they were 100 years ago, so
it is with our youth. In previous generations, Jews had lived
sheltered lives and there had been few spiritual challenges facing
the young. They did not need the inspiration of visiting a rebbe.
However, this is no longer true.
With the outbreak of World War II, Rav Ben-Zion and his family
fled eastward in front of the advancing Nazis. He turned down the
opportunity to flee to the United States because one of his children
was missing. (He had been taken to Siberia, where he died.) After
some time in the city of Lvov, Rav Ben-Zion was "arrested" by
Ukrainian police and murdered in cold blood.
Rav Ben-Zion's eldest son is the Bobover Rebbe in Brooklyn. One
of Rav Ben-Zion's daughters was the
mother of the well-known Twerski brothers: psychiatrist and author,
Dr. Avraham; law professor and activist, Rabbi Aharon; and Rabbis
Michel (Milwaukee) and Shlomo (Denver).