** Webmaster Note: The following
is a translation from Hebrew by Laia Ben-Dov
as sponsored by George Zilbergeld.
Additional clarifications are provided in parenthesis ( ).
REB SHLOMO APPELBOIM, OF BLESSED
Chassidim tell a story about Rabbi Avraham-Yehoshua Heshel, "the
Rav from Apta," of blessed memory, that once, his Chassidim came
to him and found him sitting in his room, sunk in thought,
wrapped in sorrow, with tears streaming from his eyes.
Chassidim were seized by amazement and fear at what they saw.They did not dare to ask for an explanation and stood,
rooted in place, but one of them gathered courage and asked,
"Our Rabbi, teach us, why are you crying?"The Rabbi answered and said, "I see in my mind the
enormous pain and cruel suffering that our brothers, the House
of Israel, will experience in the future before the Redeemer
of the Chassidim were seized with trembling at what they heard,
and as before, they stood wondering, in silence…But the one who
had asked, asked again:"How is it possible to think, G-d forbid, that the Holy
One, Blessed be He, who conducts His world with kindness, will
place on his nation Israel suffering that is too heavy to
the Rav from Apta sighed a deep sigh, and said: "Indeed, I am
crying about these.
Do you know, my son, how great and terrible are the sufferings
that Jews are able to bear and stand up against?!"
remembered this story when I stood next to the fresh grave of
our departed friend, Reb Shlomo Appelboim, of blessed memory, on
the day when his gravestone was erected, on the "shloshim,"
[thirtieth day] since his death.Indeed, he was one of those "who was tested with them –
and stood up under them."
once in a friendly, intimate conversation, the departed told me
about all of the many troubles he went through during those
times, how the news of Job reached him that he had lost his
entire family and everything he had, how he found a hiding place
with his friend, a goy, who endangered his life in order
to rescue him from the claws of the murderers.That entire night, he told me, he walked back and forth
in the cellar, like a crazy man, and he was not able even to
cry, because his heart had turned to stone.And with the morning light – he found that all his hair
had turned as white as snow.
departed succeeded, despite his enormous loss, to rescue from
that fire – his deep faith in G-d, that in spite of everything –
His mercy had not ended…
came to the Land of Israel,
he found his place among the Chassidim, and he lived a full
even though his health was weakened, he participated in every
celebration and memorial with his body and his money.He had many friends who were spiritually connected to
him, and all of them, as one, respected and appreciated him.He was always aware of the commandments between man and
his fellow man, the more so between man and G-d; he was a Jew
who feared Heaven and observed the commandments, easy and
difficult alike, and it was not in vain that he found his final
resting place in the "Shomrei Shabbat" [Sabbath
observers] section in the Zichron Meir cemetery.
lifetime, he chose Bnei Brak as his dwelling place, but on
holidays, and an occasional Sabbath, he went up to
Jerusalem, because he was one of the lovers of
Jerusalem.Every journey to there was a holiday for him, a kind of
there also, he found his place among the Chassidim of the Rabbi
from Gur.He was
spiritually connected to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, with whom he
how great was his happiness when he received a letter from the
correspondence encouraged and strengthened him.
Here is the
story that I heard from Reb Shlomo Appelboim about Ivan Shamay,
a righteous gentile.This Christian had a progressive outlook and a great love
for Israel.His wife also had the same attitude toward the Jews.He would read and study the Bible, and from it he learned
the history of the nation of Israel and
admired its heroes and prophets.
fled from the lot where the Jews were assembled a few hours
before the Jews were slaughtered.When the fearful news of the fate of the Jews of the town
reached Ivan, he did not allow Shlomo to go outside.He hid him in his house, even though he knew that the
matter involved a danger to his life and the lives of his
family.And so it
was, until Shlomo went out to the forest.
between the two friends was difficult.With tears, they promised each other, a holy promise, not
to forget each other.Then Shlomo made a vow:"If I will not die, and I will live, I will make aliya
to the Land
of Israel and Jerusalem, and I will remember my friend,
Ivan, his soul and the souls of his household; I will remember
him and I will pray for him.
World War ended in 1945, Shlomo headed toward the Land of Israel.And after a long journey filled with suffering, he
felt the calamity of his loss and his widowhood, his isolation
and lack of family.
He told all of his friends and acquaintances about the wonderful
man Ivan, the friend of his soul, but he was afraid to write him
death of Stalin, when the reins loosened a bit, he dared to send
a letter to Ivan.A
long time passed without an answer, and Shlomo already stopped
his friend did not disappoint him.One day, he received a letter from him, in which, among
other things, was written the following:
happy I was to read that you succeeded, and also merited, to
return to your homeland, the Land that the G-d of
promised to your forefathers through the words of His holy
prophets. He is now fulfilling His promise and gathering the
Children of Israel to their holy, chosen Land.
before you asked me to do so, I went to the cemetery to visit
the graves of your brothers, but in vain!Not even the memory of a monument or a grave remains.But with this I will console you:for various reasons, the field has been put under the
supervision of the army, and it is protected from becoming a
or cattle have access to it."
Shlomo, that you are living among your people."
who had left Vladimirets, was visiting in Israel, and Reb Shlomo showed her
the letter.She was
so amazed at the letter that she asked him to give it to her so
that she could show it to the other people from the town who
lived in America.Shlomo agreed to her request.
loves – love of man and love of books – were united in the heart
of the deceased.
Whoever was close to him knew also, that the love of man,
because he was man, created in the image of G-d, was the love of
a G‑d-fearing Jew, righteous in his deeds.With regard to the love of books that burned in him – he
loved, more than anything – the Book of Books.
of blessed memory, knew how to observe the commandments between
man and his Creator, and he also knew how to fulfill the
obligations between man and his fellow man.Therefore, he had so many friends, dedicated in heart and
decreed that the dead be forgotten from the heart." But whoever
saw the great crowd of friends, among them Torah scholars and
yeshiva students, who came on the first anniversary of his death
to the cemetery in Zichron Meir in Bnei Brak to visit his grave
and to pray for the ascendance of his soul, whoever heard the
eulogies – words that came from the heart – from Rabbi Zalman,
the head of the Chazon Ish Yeshiva – was convinced that Reb
Shlomo, of blessed memory, was not forgotten from the heart, and
that his soul "is bound in the bond of life."