Shmuel Bornsztain (I)
Second Sochatchover Rebbe
Term 1910–1926
Full name Shmuel Bornsztain
Main work Shem Mishmuel
Born 1856
Died 1926
Buried Sochatchov
Dynasty Sochatchov
Predecessor Avrohom Bornsztain(Bornsztajn)
Successor Dovid Bornsztain (Bornsztajn)
Father Avrohom Bornsztain
Mother Sara Tzina Morgenstern
Wife1 Yuta Leah, daughter of Eliezer Lipman of Radomsk
Issue1 Dovid Bornsztain
Chanoch Henoch Bornsztain
Wife 2 Mirel, daughter of Moshe Nathan Kahana-Shapiro, Rabbi of Kshoynz

Shmuel Bornsztain (2 November 1856 – 8 January 1926), also spelled Shmuel Borenstein or Bernstein, the second Sochatchover Rebbe, was known as the Shem Mishmuel by the title of his eight-volume work of Torah and Hasidic thought. He was a leading Hasidic thinker in early 20th century Europe and a Rebbe to thousands of Hasidim in the Polish cities of Sochaczew (Sochatchov) and Lodz.

Early life

As the son of Rabbi Avrohom Bornsztain, author of Avnei Nezer and the first Sochatchover Rebbe, Shmuel Bornsztain was a descendant of the Rema and the Shach. His grandfather was Rabbi Ze'ev (Wolf) Nachum Bornsztain, Rav of Biala and a Hasid of the Kotzker Rebbe. Shmuel's mother was Sara Tzina Morgenstern, daughter of the Kotzker Rebbe. Shmuel was born in the town of Kotzk and spent his childhood in the towns of Parczew and Krośniewice, where his father served as Rav. He had one younger sister, Esther.

The Avnei Nezer served as young Shmuel's primary Torah teacher throughout his childhood, and a close and long-lasting bond developed between the two. Even later in life, as the father of a large family, Shmuel regarded himself as his father's talmid (student) and learned with him every day. Shmuel Bornsztain imbibed the values and insights of Kotzker Hasidut, as taught by his grandfather, the Kotzker Rebbe, and Prshischa Hasidut, synthesizing them into the unique style that became Sochatchover Hasidut.

In 1874, Bornsztain married Yuta Leah, daughter of Rabbi Eliezer Lipman of Radomsk, son-in-law of the first Radomsker Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Hacohen Rabinowicz, and a dedicated Kotzker Hasid in his own right. Unlike the prevailing custom of moving in with or near his father-in-law, Bornsztain chose to live near his father, the Avnei Nezer, in Krośniewice, and followed him to the towns of Nasielsk and Sochaczew when the latter assumed the leadership of those communities. In Sochaczew, Bornsztain and his family lived in a separate house in the center of the city and earned a living from a wine store run by an associate.

Bornsztain visited Israel in 1891, with the backing of his father, to purchase land for a Hasidic colony. However, the ban on selling land to Russian Jews prevented him from realizing his aspiration.

After the death of his first wife, Bornsztain married Mirel, daughter of the Kozinczer Rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Nathan Shapiro, in 1903.

As Rebbe

Shmuel Bornsztain was crowned second Sochatchover Rebbe following the death of his father in 1910. He was accepted by all the elder Hasidim of his father's court, including Rabbi Yoav Yehoshua of Kinczek and Rabbi Yitzchak Feigenbaum, Av Beit Din of Warsaw. Many were impressed by his richly expressive manner of speech, which was reflected in the rich language he employed in his books that were accepted as basic texts of Polish Hasidism. A tall man with a strong build, Bornsztain also impressed his followers with his shining countenance, notwithstanding the seriousness of his expression.

On his father's first yahrzeit, Bornsztain established Yeshivat Beit Avrohom in Sochaczew and appointed Rabbi Aryeh Tzvi Frumer, av beit din of Kozieglowy, as rosh yeshiva. This yeshiva taught hundreds of boys and operated until the outbreak of World War I.

Bornsztain also labored over the compilation and publication of his father's manuscripts. He published his father's voluminous responsa on every section of Shulchan Aruch in seven volumes, under the title Avnei Nezer ("Stones of the Crown"). In his own lessons and writings, Bornsztain was seen as less of an innovator than an interpreter of his father's teachings.

World War I

At the outbreak of World War I, Bornsztain was visiting a spa in Germany and was arrested as a Russian citizen. Only after much effort did he succeed in returning to Poland with other Rebbes who had been similarly detained. Due to persecution of Jews by the Tsarist government, he could not return to Sochaczew, but resettled in Lodz with his family. Here he acted as a guide and advisor to his own Hasidim as well as Hasidim of other dynasties and non-Hasidim seeking encouragement and support.

In 1915, the town of Sochaczew was overrun and destroyed by the German army.

In 1919, Bornsztain chose to leave the tumult of the big city, which was taking its toll on his health as well as his ability to concentrate on his holy work, and relocated to Zagórze, a small town near Lodz. Here he established his yeshiva and led his Hasidic court.

His illness worsened in 1926 and, upon the advice of his doctors, he moved to Otwock, a resort near Warsaw. There he died at the age of 70 on 8 January. He was brought to burial in the same ohel (covered grave) as his father, the Avnei Nezer, in Sochaczew. His son, Dovid, succeeded him as third Sochatchover Rebbe.

Rebbes of Sochatchov

  1. Avrohom Bornsztain, the Avnei Nezer (1838-1910)
  2. Shmuel Bornsztain (I), the Shem Mishmuel (1856-1926)
  3. Dovid Bornsztain (1876-1942)
  4. Chanoch Henoch Bornsztain (d. 1965)
  5. Menachem Shlomo Bornsztain (d. 1969)
  6. Shmuel Bornsztain (II) (b. 1961)


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