Kopust and Lubavitch, 120 Years Later

Today marks 120 years since the passing of Reb Shlomo Zalman of Kopust, grandson of the Tzemach Tzedek and author of the Magen Avos.

By Anash.org writer

Reb Shlomo Schneur Zalmen Schneersohn was the eldest son of the Maharil, Reb Yehuda Leib, and a grandson of the Tzemach Tzedek. He was born circa 5590 (1830), and in 5607 (1847) he married the daughter of Reb Yaakov Aryeh Leib Luria from Lepli. For the first few years after his chassuna he lived in Lepli, studying diligently while being supported by his father-in-law.

In 5615 (1855), he returned to Lubavitch where he gleaned much from his grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek and great chassidim. After the Tzemach Tzedek’s histalkus, Reb Shlomo Zalmen followed his father to Kopust, where he was eventually appointed by the chassidim to take his father’s place upon his passing a few months after the Tzemach Tzedek.

He led the Kopuster chassidim until his own departure from this world on 27 Iyar 5660 (1900). Although there were differences in practice and philosophy between the chassidim of Lubavitch and Kopust, his ma’amorim followed the Chabad style and some of them were printed in the Sefer Magen Avos after his passing.

Despite the sometimes fierce disputes between Lubavitch and Kopust, the Rebbeim held of Reb Shlomo Zalman and his Chassidus.

In one letter, the Frierdiker Rebbe writes to a chossid who asked about learning מגן אבות: “I have already said that as long as learning is done the way it should be, there’s no reason to refrain from learning them. Regarding the words that you heard about it from other Chassidim – you should apply what is written: ‘close your ears from hearing it.’ ” (Igros Kodesh Rayatz Vol. 14 p. 358)

At a nichum aveilim for the RaSHaG in his apartment in 5730/19, the RaSHaG asked the Rebbe if he had ever seen the Kopuster’s ma’amorim. The Rebbe answered in the affirmative and said that they are very “geshmake maamorim.” When Rashag mentioned a certain ma’amar in Parshas Shemini, the Rebbe noted that there’s a similar ma’amar from the Rebbe MaHaRaSh.

While Chassidim in the past had refrained from learning them due to the differences between the Kopuster and the Rebbe Rashab, the Rebbe said that these days there is no point in keeping that “tradition.”

The yeshiva Tomchei Temimim was founded in Lubavitch at the end of 5657 (1897), and the seder included learning Chassidus four hours every day: two hours in the morning before davening and two hours at night after nigleh. Concerning this practice Reb Shlomo Zalmen said: “At first when I heard that young bochurim were learning four hours of Chassidus daily, it didn’t sit well with me. But now I see that he – the Rebbe Rashab – was correct. Di velt falt oif sha’ois (the world is deteriorating by the hour) and he will be very successful!”

The Chabad shul in Me’ah Shearim was a shul originally started by Kopuster Chassidim. Some famous Chassidim that were originally Kopuster include the Rogatchover Gaon and Reb Chaim Meir Hilman, author of the Beis Rebbi.

He passed away on 27 Iyar of 5660/1900 and was buried in Kopust. After his passing many of the Chassidim traveled to Bobruisk to his brother Reb Shmaryohu Noach. Others traveled to Retchiche, to his brother Reb Sholom DovBer. Upon the latter’s passing in 5683/1923, the Kopuster branch technically ceased to exist and many accepted the Frierdiker Rebbe as the leader of all Chassidei Chabad.

Sources include: המלך במסיבו, מגדל עז

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  1. regarding reb shmaryahu noach, it is interesting to note his sefer shemen lamor was printed in 1964 in kfar chabad. the story behind that was that his grandson had many writings of the tzemach tzedek that chassidim wanted to send to the rebbe, but the grandson only agreed to release them on the condition that lubavitch would print the sefer. they wrote to the rebbe about the proposal and the rebbe gave his blessing.

  2. Thank you for the article and beautiful website! להעיר, the discussion printed in המלך במסבו that is referred here happened in Rashag’s apartment. He was sitting Shiva for his mother ל”ע and the Rebbe was menachem avel him. It was not by the seuda in the Friediker Rebbe’s apartment as written in the article.

  3. After his passing, many, if not most, of his chassidim traveled to the Rebbe Rashab.
    For example, Reb Michoel Dvorkin, the Katzenelebogen family, the Raskin family and many others.
    His brothers had relatively small followings.

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