The Great Torah Scholar, Rabbi Reb Shloyme Eli Ushpal,
of Blessed Memory ( was the rabbi Of Kurenets)
by Rabbi Yitskhok Duber Ushpal
Dedicated to my perished family: my father, Rabbi Reb Shloyme-Eli, of
blessed memory; my mother, Khaya-Rokhl daughter of Reb Moyshe, of
blessed memory; my brother, Reb Mordkhe and his wife and children, of
blessed memory; my sister, Khane, and her children; my sisters, Dina,
Ita-Basye, and Mina, of blessed memory.
Rabbi Reb Shloyme-Eli Ushpal was born in the year 1880 in Kukharishok,
a small Jewish settlement near Dugelishok, to a family of Khabad
Khasidim and scholars, who were known throughout the whole area.
From early childhood on, he evinced extraordinary abilities,
and everyone was awed by his unusual diligence.
At the age of 13, he became a student in one of the largest
Dvinsk yeshivas, where very learned, grown-up young men were studying,
but even among them, he immediately attained the reputation of a great
learner, an expert and sagacious scholar, and they called him: the
He was immediately recognized by the local rabbi, Rabbi Yoysef
Rozin, of blessed memory, who was even then well-known as a great,
world renown Torah scholar and was famous under the name: the
Rabbi Rozin befriended the Dugelisher prodigy and Reb
Shloyme-Eli actually became like a son in the Rogatshover house.
From that time on, their spiritual connection lasted for
several decades, and at the time of the First World War, they were
even together in Leningrad.
Reb Shloyme-Eli, however, didn't remain in the Dvinsker
Yeshiva for long. He was, after all, the child of a khasdic family,
and he, therefore, decided to continue his studies in Kapust, at the
wonderful, local settlement, which was under the spiritual guidance of
the famous Kapuster Rabbi (his soul rests in heaven), who was well
known in the khasidic world by the name of: "The Master Teacher of our
With his excellent grasp[of things], acute memory, and
strongunderstanding, Reb. Shloyme-Eli quickly grasped the study of
khasidus [the Khabad interpretation of Torah] and he was soon
appointed the permanent 'repeater' of the rebbe's articles.
A short time later, the young 'repeater' was known to hundreds
of khasidim, who used to visit their beloved Kapuster Rebbe, to listen
to his sermon and get a blessing from him.
Several years went by in this way. In the meantime, the
prodigy of Dugelish grew up, and the best matches were presented to
He married the only daughter of Reb Moyshe Harmats, of blessed
memory, a well known Svintsyaner khosid and prominent member of the
community, also an excellent musician and singer, who for the last
several decades had lead the additional prayers on the High Holy Days.
Everyone foresaw a brilliant future for Reb Shloyme-Eli as a
religious judge, but he didn't want to hear about this. He simply
didn't want to make his Torah and wisdom into a livelihood, an "axe to
excavate with, [in Heb.]" and he categorically refused to accept a
rabbinical position somewhere.
Right after the wedding, he went to Warsaw. There he learned
well the technique of rolling cigarettes and became familiar with all
the machines involved. Only then did he purchase all the necessary
machines and a motor, returned to Svintsyen and erected a beautiful
cigarette paper factory.
With lightening speed, Ushpal's cigarette paper factory became
famous all over Russia and its merchandise was also sold in Holland,
Belgium, and Germany.
Because of business, he very often traveled outside Russia,
and everywhere he got the reputation for being a big manufacturer and
When the First World War broke out, he, together with his
whole family, found their way to Riga, where he continued his
He was well known in the business world, and there too
business was profitable.
He didn't forget, however, to also enrich his spiritual
'baggage' [sic] and would study Torah every day in the large
synagogue; he didn't miss repeating khasidic philosophy to the
congregants even one Sabbath.
In a short time, his fate took him to Leningrad, where he
rebuilt his factory and was, once again, very successful.
There he lived a fortunate and happy life with his family, in
riches and honor. Even in Leningrad, he didn't neglect the teaching of
Torah and the study of khasidic philosophy.
This, however, did not last long. The Bolshevic Revolution put
an end to all of this. His whole fortune was, of course, immediately
confiscated. The Ushpal family barely escaped with their lives.
Reb Shloyme-Eli began to make efforts to get permission for
him to leave Russia. He only got permission, however, in 1923 and then
returned to Svinstyan in great poverty.
The difficult economic situation in Poland and the discriminatory
politics of the government regarding the Jewish population took away
all of his initiative. He did not feel like putting any effort in
manufacturing. He also didn't have the monetary means to do so.
Having no choice, Reb Shloyme-Eli agreed to accept a
rabbinical position and became the Rabbi of Disne. From there, he
later became the Rabbi of Kurenyets, a Jewish community, who had a
good reputation for having great rabbis.
Since he had been a successful businessman for many years, he
immediately became popular for his quick and strong decisions in
various Torah judgments.
People would come with Torah disputes specifically to him,
because they knew that he perfectly understood all life-questions and
possessed a profound of love of his fellow man, both in general and in
He quickly won the sympathy of all factions and there were
more legal decisions made in his house than in the greatest of
His khasidic congregation became ever more bound to him.
Everyone was amazed at his sermons and said about him, "He utters
pearls of wisdom. [Heb.]"
He could talk to an audience for hours and kept his listeners
in suspense the whole time. Young and old would attend his sermons,
listened with interest and actually stood with "open mouths."
About his life and deeds, it is worthwhile to note the
When the First World War broke out, the Jewish community of
Kurenits sent 21 Torah scrolls to Leningrad to save them from fires
and destruction. Later, other Jewish communities, which found
themselves on the front, followed this example. Little by little, over
600 Torah scrolls from the whole area were collected in Leningrad.
When Reb Shloyme-Eli arrived in Leningrad, where he had
previously been known as a prodigy and great scholar, he was appointed
the overseer of this trust, to guard the hundreds of Torah scrolls.
In the year 1923, when he had to leave Leningrad, the Torah
scrolls remained without a guard, without anyone to take care of them.
This did not let him rest.
Via all means [at his disposal] and all [his] connections, he tried to
find someone to bring back the Torah scrolls. This was not an easy
task. All kinds of legal ideas had to be thought up, a lot of money
spent to involve the Polish government [in this] and to obtain its
diplomatic intervention. Until he was finally successful in convincing
the Communist government to release the Torah scrolls.
In the year 1929, according to the address of Rabbi Ushpal, 21 Torah
scrolls arrived in Kurenits. At the time, this was big news and all
the Jewish and Polish newspapers wrote about this and praised the
Rabbi of Kurenits.
During this whole time, Rabbi Reb Shloyme-Eli also did scientific[sic]
research and prepared several manuscripts
about Torah and khasidic philosophy. He also possessed a great library
of religious books, rare volumes.
One handwritten manuscript he called: "Rays of the Dawn."
For the rest go to;