The Mesirus Nefesh and Self Sacrifice of the Martyr Rav Shlomo of Karlin
On the Shabbos before Rav Shlomo of Karlin left this world, as he went outside before Kiddush he passed by the stable where the horses are kept. When he entered his home he told those assembled that "I have just heard from the horses that there are ominous black tidings coming upon us."
The next morning the local general gave his soldiers two hours of "free time" to do whatever the pleased in Ludmir. They turned the town into a shooting gallery, firing randomly at the Jews, murdering, pillaging and ransacking the place at will. Bullets flew through the air and whizzed by in all directions. The neighing of horses stampeding about and the crazed yells of the Cossacks mixed with cries and shouts of terrified Jews who ran for their lives seeking cover. Many ran to seek refuge in Rav Shlomo of Karlin's beis midrash.
The Rebbe according to most accounts was in the midst of his prayers seemingly oblivious to the terror and fright of those around him. In fact the Karliner went over to the aron kodesh and opening it, he placed his head inside and continued to daven at a lengthy and leisurely pace. The Rebbitzen who was greatly frightened saw what her husband, the Rebbe had done, ran over to him, thinking that he must have fainted since he did not take his head out from the aron kodesh. She grabbed unto his coat and tugged gently to awaken him. Roused from his devotions the Rebbe removed his head from the holy ark, and just then a bullet fired through the window from one of the rifles struck the Karliner in his foot.
According to many at the very same moment that the Rebbe was shot, the wild two hour shooting spree ended as well. The doctors claimed that they could operate but the Karliner would not let them touch him.
The entire week he lay in tremendous suffering with the holy Zohar open before him till finally on Thursday the twenty second of Tammuz his pure and holy soul left this world.
The story of how the Karliner met his end as a martyr begins beforehand. It was originally Rav Nachum of Czernoble who was imprisoned on a false charge of murder during one of the blood libels that some wicked goyim had concocted against him. When the Karliner together with others tried to free him through the usual means, they found tremendous opposition that was so uncharacteristic they realized it must be supernatural. They realized that it was Rav Nachum himself who did not wish to be freed. Surely he was sitting in prison willfully as a sacrifice to nullify some harsh decree against Klal Yisroel. Rav Shlomo of Karlin convinced him to agree to allow himself to be released. When the Czernobler saw that the Karliner had discovered his 'secret' he said, "A hidden thought I had which not even the angels discerned yet this holy Jew has seen it!" And he agreed to allow for his release. The Karliner later remarked, "He dropped that intention [to be a martyr and sacrifice himself for Klal Yisroel] and I picked it up!"
After the Karliner passed away, no one wanted to reveal it to Rav Nachum of Czernoble since the two had been so close. However when Rav Nachum closeted himself, hidden from the world for three days straight they realized that somehow he must have found out. To try and appease and comfort the embittered bereaving Tzadik his followers told him that had the Karliner lived, in his place thousands of Jews would have been killed, yet he was not appeased. "Tens and tens of thousands!" they told him. Yet Rav Nachum remained inconsolable, "he alone is equal to them!" he cried bitterly. Finally when they told him that a forth of Klal Yisroel would have been lost if the Karliner had not taken their place, he was consoled.
Before the decree had already been sealed and the fate of Rav Shlomo of Karlin decided, the matter was revealed from Heaven to the holy tzadik Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, the advocate and defender of the Jewish people. The Berditchever stood against the decision and sought to nullify the decree.
When Rav Levi Yitzchak was told that if the Karliner would live a great calamity would befall the people, he paid it no heed nor attention, instead he continued to fight the decree; so great was the Karliner in his eyes.
Yet, when from Heaven the description of the destruction was told to him, and compared to the deaths and destruction of thousands upon thousands, similar to the terrible decrees known as Gezeiros Tach Ve'Tat (1648-1649 C.E., which began on 20 Sivan) during the horrible pogroms that stretched across Eastern Europe. Finally the holy Berditchever gave up and stopped trying to annul and cancel it. He was left with no choice but to accept the harsh decree.
The Tzadikim said that Rav Shlomo Karliner was the Moshiach Ben Yosef of his generation and that his martyrdom sanctified G-d's name and atoned for their sins (just as Moshiach Ben Yosef is martyred and dies for the sins of Klal Yisroel.)
(Kisvei Rav Yoshe #22 p289, #36 p294, #38 p295 and #65 p303; Toldos Shema Shlomo Chapter 10 p141-143;)
More on Kaf Sivan - 20 Sivan:
Although commonly referred to as Gezeiros Tach V'Tat (1648-9) for the years the brunt of the massacres took place, it actually raged on and off for the next 12 years, even after Chmielnicki's death. With shifting alliances and no shortage of political intrigue, with the main players being the Poles, Russian, Crimeans, local Ukrainians, and the Swedes.
For the Jews it officially began on Wednesday, 20 Sivan 5408/1648 when Chmielnicki and his murderous bloodthirsty 60,000 strong army entered Poland. Their first conquest was the city of Nemirov. The Rav of the city, Rav Yechiel Michel, passionately implored the people to keep their faith and die Al Kiddush Hashem. For three days the Cossacks rampaged through town murdering 6,000 Jews, including Rav Yechiel Michel, who was caught and murdered before his mother's eyes and then murdered in turn. The Shul was destroyed and all the Sifrei Torah were torn to pieces and trampled. Their parchment was then used for shoes and clothing according to the Shach.
To compound the tragedy, on the first day of the Nemirov massacres, the benevolent King Vladislov of Poland, who had always shown kindness to the Jews, died leaving Poland leaderless for the next four months until King Kazmir was crowned. During this time Chmielnicki and his men murdered and plundered town after town with nothing and no one standing in their way.
In the tragic events of the next several years, hundreds of Jewish communities in Poland and Ukraine were wiped out, although the number of actual victims is said to be anywhere from ten of thousands to half a million Jewish souls. Notable victims include Rav Shimshon MiOstropolia, Rav Nosson Nata Hanover, two sons of the Taz, and well as many other Gedolim who perished during the siege of L'Vov. These events were chronicled in several famous works, including Rav Nosson Nata Hanover's, Yiven Metzula and by the Shach, who spent the difficult years on the run, in his chronicle Megilas Eifa.
In 5411/1651 the Chachomim of the time declared 20 Sivan to be a fast day and Selichos were composed by the Shach and the Tosfos Yom Tov. While the world remembers the barbaric cruelty and the atrocities that were part and parcel of the vicious Cossack character, on this day we remember the Mesiras Nefesh of our forefathers who chose to die a brutal death at the hands of a merciless enemy rather than trade their faith. They died knowing that their troubles were orchestrated by an all merciful Hashem and they would not betray him even in their dying breath. It is said that after this tragedy Hashem promised never to make Klal Yisroel choose between their religion and death, ever again. Our fathers passed the final test for us. Yehi Zichram Baruch!
The 20th of Sivan is a day that was twice designated as a fast day for massacres against European Jewry; once by Rabbeinu Tam and once by the Shach. Special Selichos were said on this day.
Question submitted by Chaim: Why were chazal mesaken [decree] chof [20th] Sivan as a day of mourning for ta'ch v'ta't [massacres during Bogdan Chmielnicki's Cossak uprising] and yet there is so much controversy over Yom Hashoah? Additionally, why has chof sivan, the day of morning for ta'ch v'ta't, fallen out of favor?
Answer by Rav Peretz Moncharsh: I think that a little background information will put things in their proper perspective.
The 20th of Sivan was first designated as a fast day by Rabbeinu Tam after the first Jews were executed because of the accusations of a blood libel. Observation of the fast gradually faded over the ensuing years as that tragedy was overshadowed by the 150 years of the Crusades.
After the [Chmielnicki] massacres of Tach v'Tat when approximately a third of European Jewry was killed, the fast of the 20th of Sivan was reinstituted, as on that date the glorious Jewish community of Nemirov was destroyed by the Cossacks. This decision was made by the Shach and the Vaad Arba Aratzos, and was confirmed by the Shela HaKadosh, Tosafos Yom Tov, Magen Avraham and many other Gedolim.
I'm not sure why it has faded, but probably the following 300 years provided more than their fair share of tragedies to eclipse Tach v'Tat. Also, the enactment seems to have been made specifically for the Jews living in the Polish kingdom.
Yom HaShoah never had the support of a wide array of Gedolim, and in fact the Rabbanut even designated the 10th of Teves as the most appropriate day to commemorate the Holocaust. Furthermore, the date of Yom HaShoah was chosen to commemorate the valor of those who participated in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and not the tragedy of the 6 million who were murdered. Additionally, Yom HaShoah is in Nissan, a month during which according to halacha we do not engage in public mourning.
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim
Chassidic Classics in the English Language
Phone: 972-2-992-1218 / Cell: 972-54-842-4725
join the mailing list to keep updated about new projects here:
Noam Elimelech, Kedushas Levi, Pirkei Avos more!