Beis Moshiach/By Shneur Zalman Berger
The Chassid R’ Shlomo Galperin was born in Vitebsk in White Russia in Av 5693/1933. His parents were R’ Chanoch Hendel and Mrs. Chaya Perla. As a child he was taught the ways of Torah and Chassidus and despite the danger he applied himself to his studies. At that early age his gifts were already apparent.
The Galperin family suffered many tragedies. R’ Shlomo’s two sisters died after a severe illness. One was a year old and the other was two. In 5738, when Shlomo was only five, his father was arrested after someone informed on him that he was a shochet. For many months he suffered in prison and as R’ Shlomo himself related later, “When my father was freed, it was hard to recognize him. He had lost much weight and was frighteningly thin.”
A short while after R’ Chanoch Hendel was freed, World War II broke out and the army drafted him. Shlomo and his mother never saw him again. His whereabouts remain unknown; he never returned home.
After the Nazis invaded Russia, they began bombing Leningrad nonstop. Thousands of residents were killed on the streets. Hundreds of thousands fled the city on overcrowded trains. Shlomo and his mother were among those who escaped. They were alone in the big, cruel world. Where they went was unimportant; the point was to flee the burning front.
After an arduous journey which lasted weeks, the two of them arrived in Tashkent in Uzbekistan. They later found out that many other Jews, including Chabad Chassidim, had arrived there too.
Despite the starvation that prevailed, and despite the illnesses and epidemics, the Chassidim set up chadarim and yeshivos in Tashkent and Samarkand in which boys learned Nigleh and Chassidus. One of the chadarim was in Mrs. Chaya Perla’s home and her son Shlomo was one of the children who learned there. The teacher was the Chassid, R’ Yisroel (Neveler) Levin.
The government persecution was ongoing and this forced the talmidim to move around from one place to the next. For this reason, the melamdim were also changed now and then. Shlomo learned by several melamdim including the famous mashpia, R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman, R’ Nissan Nemanov, and others. Among the talmidim who learned with him were: R’ Isaac Schwei, R’ Sholom Feldman of Kfar Chabad, and R’ Gershon Mendel Garelik, shliach in Italy.
R’ Saadia Matuf related what he heard from R’ Shlomo: “At that time, we sometimes had just one daf of Gemara from which we all learned again and again.”
R’ Reuven Galperin tells of R’ Shlomo’s phenomenal abilities: “From a young age he learned maamarim of Chassidus by heart. He was gifted with a prodigious memory and at his bar mitzva celebration, in 1946, he reviewed a maamar Chassidus for three hours!”
At the end of the war, many of Anash flocked to the border city of Lvov from where it was possible to get over the border with forged documents. Shlomo and his mother succeeded in crossing into Poland and from there they went with other Chassidim to a refugee camp in Poking, Germany. A Chassidishe yeshiva was started there by Anash. Eventually, they left Germany for France and from there they went to Eretz Yisroel. They were among the first settlers in Kfar Chabad.
At first, R’ Shlomo did difficult farm work to support his mother and himself. After a few years he moved to Lud and a new period in his life began. The roshei yeshiva in Tomchei T’mimim in Lud discovered his talents and appointed him as a teacher of young students. He devoted himself to this work and began teaching them Gemara and mefarshim, using his superior powers of explanation. R’ Munia Shneur, a teacher in the yeshiva for decades, said, “R’ Shlomo Galperin was known as a superlative teacher.”
The roshei yeshiva were very fond of him and tried to help him in light of his pathetic family situation. He was orphaned of his father and his mother was sickly. The mashpia, R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman continuously gave him support, like a father. When R’ Shlomo married Edna Cohen in 5718, R’ Shlomo Chaim escorted him at the wedding and the mashpia, R’ Avrohom (Maiyor) Drizin farbrenged at length at his sheva brachos.
R’ Shlomo was considered a successful teacher since he taught with his own unique approach. Students of his say that what they learned with him decades ago still remains engraved in their minds till this day.
R’ Moshe Levitin, mashpia in Tomchei T’mimim in Lud and one of his first talmidim, said: “R’ Shlomo began to teach at the age of twenty. At first he taught the young children and then the older ones. He was gifted with a fantastic ability to elucidate, explaining the sugiyos vividly and in detail. Because of his unique approach, his students understood him clearly. Not surprisingly, they remembered the Gemaras they learned by him even years later.”
Many talmidim in the yeshiva asked to be in his class but sometimes he would reject talmidim. One of these was R’ Saadia Matuf: “I wanted to learn in his class since he was known for his special gift of explanation, but unfortunately I was not accepted. He was a unique personality who amazed everyone with his prodigious memory. I remember it happening more than once that on Shabbos it turned out that nobody had been asked to review a maamar and he volunteered to do so. I saw him sit and open a volume of maamarim and learn the maamar for about an hour, and then the review to the talmidim would also take an entire hour. From this I concluded that he read the maamar one time and he remembered it instantly. He would say maamarim slowly and with great enthusiasm. The feeling among the listeners was that he wasn’t simply reviewing the maamar but was actually learning it out loud.”
R’ Nachum Kaplan, who served as a teacher in the yeshiva at the time, said, “R’ Shlomo had an outstanding ability to explain things. He knew how to bring complicated sugiyos down to the level of the young talmidim so that they could all understand it. There was no such thing as a talmid not understanding him. He also dissected things down to the smallest details and left nothing that was not understood. When he reviewed sichos of the Rebbe in shul before Anash, it was delightful hearing how he dissected every point the Rebbe made. Despite his genius and unusual memory, he was not at all arrogant. He conducted himself humbly.”
After twenty years of teaching, he left his position in yeshiva and began working as a civilian in the army in the kashrus department. He worked in the IDF camp in Tzrifin. He did not suffice with his regular work and would devote every free moment to mivtzaim. He put t’fillin on with soldiers and spoke to them about Jewish matters. He put all his energy into developing the military shul; he took care of siddurim and yarmulkes and he convinced soldiers to go and daven in shul.
His family and friends describe him as mekushar heart and soul to the Rebbe. His daughter, Mrs. Chana Schneersohn, said, “Throughout the years, recordings of the Rebbe’s sichos played in our house as well as the niggunim the Rebbe sang. But Abba wasn’t satisfied with the recordings that he had and every time there was a broadcast of the Rebbe’s farbrengen, he would go with a hidden tape recorder and he would secretly record the broadcast. In the days that followed, you would see him bent over the tape, listening intently to the Rebbe’s voice.”
Why did he hide the tape?
“My father was very modest and he did not like to stand out.
“My father was active in the Rebbe’s inyanim. He gathered children from the street and taught them Torah (in the framework of Chadrei Torah Ohr). He put up the first central sukka near the Lud municipality and throughout Chol HaMoed he would stand for hours in the sukka and would help passersby do the mitzva of dalet minim.”
His son-in-law, R’ Zev Ritterman, noted that during the Camp David Accords his father-in-law published a booklet about the serious prohibition in giving parts of Eretz Yisroel away to our enemies, but in his modesty, he did not put his name on it. The booklet was called, “Do not stand by your fellow’s blood,” and many copies were distributed and sent to senior people in the political arena.
“One morning, my father-in-law gave me a bunch of these booklets and asked me to put them in the kollel in Lud. ‘If they ask you who wrote it, don’t answer,’ he told me. That’s the way he was, modest and humble.”
You would always see him sitting and learning. At night too he would sit and learn until late. In later years he mainly learned Toras Shmuel, maamarim of the Rebbe Maharash.
In his later years he was sick and very weak. His wife took care of him with tremendous devotion. He lived his final two years in Kiryat Malachi where he learned with R’ Efraim Halperin. R’ Halperin discovered how knowledgeable he was, “Due to his sickness he could not see and I would read the Chumash and Rambam and sometimes, as we learned, he would continue reciting the halacha in Rambam that I had begun to read.”
He suffered greatly, physically and emotionally, since he could not learn as he was used to, but despite this he made mighty efforts to learn more and more.
Although he suffered greatly all his life, he was always cheerful. Even during his difficult illness he did not complain.
He passed away on 6 Adar 5761, and was survived by children and grandchildren, all Chassidim and yerei shamayim: R’ Chanoch Hendel – Chicago, R’ Zalman Yaakov – Montreal, Chaya Perla Ritterman – Nachalat Har Chabad, Chana Schneersohn – Kfar Chabad.
He left many manuscripts with chiddushei Torah in Nigleh, Chassidus and Kabbala which show what a genius he was.
A few months before his passing he sent a booklet to Beis Moshiach with stories and memories. These memoirs are written with a strong sense of yearning. In his writing it is obvious that he waxed nostalgic over the Chassidic glory days of a past that will be no more. He spices his stories with divrei Torah and Agada and they are full of Chassidishe chayus and moral lessons.