It is six years that Shimshon and Martha Stock are no longer with us. Reb Shimshon Stock known affectionately to all, as Shimshon Stock or Shimshon, was not just an ordinary individual but served as the address and an institution, to whom many individuals and families turned in their search for a shidduch, advice and guidance on sholom bayis and other life issues, or financial help. Shimshon was one of the founders, in 1972, of the Gmilas Chesed Fund, Keren Yisroel Arye Leib. In late 1977, when the Rebbe initiated a new campaign of supplying families with the necessities of Shabbos and Yom Tov. Shimshon created the popular mosad Simchas Shabbos v’Yom Tov, which he carried solely on his own shoulders for thirty years. Reb Shimshon was a colorful person who wore many hats.
Shimshon Stock was born in New York 1928, into an Orthodox family, grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and ultimately moved to East New York. Shimshon’s brother Yisroel, who was older by a few years, studied in Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and was niskarev to Lubavitch by Rabbi Jacobson when he was sixteen-seventeen years old. Reb Yisroel was later the Shliach and headed the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Bridgeport, CT.
Chassidim in those years would gather often for Farbrengens, for the purpose of strengthening and encouraging each other with Torah and Chassidus. Rabbi Jacobson would Farbreng with Chassidim, and inspire them to the study of Chassidus and Hiskashrus to the Rebbe. Eventually, Chassidim needed a location for the Farbrengens and Shimshon’s father made his home available.
When Shimshon was seven years old, he would already participate in the Farbrengens. He recalled sitting on Rabbi Jacobson’s lap during these Farbrengens. Rabbi Jacobson considered the Stocks part of his family. In general, Lubavitcher Chasidim in the late 1930’s, were as a one family closely knitted together.
During these Farbrengens, Chassidim would make hachlotas – resolutions. [Incidentally, at one of these Farbrengens in 1939, Rabbi Jacobson initiated the mission of sending American bochurim to visit the Previous Rebbe in Otwock, Poland].
When the Previous Rebbe arrived in the United States in Adar of 1940, Reb Yisroel Stock was enrolled as one of the first students of the new Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Brooklyn. Shimshon attended a Yeshiva in East New York and when he became Bar-Mitzva, he entered the Lubavitcher Yeshiva. Some of his friends in the yeshiva were the Rabbis: Chaim Aharon Kuperman, Wilansky, Mendel Bartfield and the Sharfstein brothers, Reb Mottel and Reb Zelig O”H.
With Rabbi Jacobson’s encouragement, Shimshon’s sisters were enrolled among the first students in Bais Rivka. The fact that the children learned in Lubavitch mosdos, created a close relationship between the Stocks and the Previous Rebbe.
Shimshon tells an interesting story of his teenage years. In 1946, his father happened to meet the Rebbe, who was then referred to as the Ramash, an acronym for Rabbi MM Schneerson.
Shimshon’s father complained to the Rebbe about his son who was very wild. He was concerned what would become of him when he grew up.
The Rebbe responded, “I promise you that his children are going to be Frum, his grandchildren are going to be frum, and his great grandchildren are going to be Frum”.
Shimshon recalled that his father said to the Rebbe, “You didn’t say anything about Shimshon”, and the Rebbe laughed.
One evening after Shimshon became fifteen years old, he made plans to go out with a friend. His friend was asked to serve the evening meal to the Previous Rebbe and Shimshon was worried that this might delay or postpone their program.
The Rebbe (Ramash), sensed Shimshon’s anxiety and suggested that instead of waiting nervously, “Let us learn something together for half-an-hour”. Shimshon looked at his friend and they agreed to cancel their plans for the evening and participate in Ramash’s shiur. This shiur continued every Thursday night, upstairs in the Shul, for about six weeks.
In the shiurim, the Rebbe would discuss hashkafa, the Jewish perspective on life issues and how to conduct oneself in a more religious manner. It was not in the Mussar style, with a negative slant. The Rebbe explained to them why it was better to be more observant. He also taught certain halochos in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch and concentrated on the topic of refined midos and personal character traits. The Rebbe’s approach was always with an emphasis on the positive.
The players can’t leave in the middle of the game
An additional episode with the Rebbe that Shimshon experienced and retold on numerous occasions was the following.
“In the early 1950’s, when the Rebbe had just become Rebbe, I was walking in the street with my friend and his thirteen years old son. They were big fans of Ebbets Field where the Dodgers played baseball”. [This is now the Ebbets Field Houses boarded on one side by Bedford Avenue and Empire Blvd.]
While walking, we met the Rebbe, and I told my friend that this was the Lubavitcher Rebbe and I introduced them to the Rebbe. The Rebbe brought up the subject of a ball game.
The Rebbe surprised the father and son, when he addressed a question to the youngster, ‘Are you a baseball fan?’
The Bar-Mitzvah boy replied that he was. ‘Which team are you a fan of, the Yankees or the Dodgers?’ ‘The Dodgers’, replied the boy.
‘Does your father have the same feeling for the Dodgers that you have? Does he take you out to games?’
Youngster: ‘My father is also a Dodgers fan and every once in a while he takes me to a game. We were at a game a month ago’.
Rebbe: ‘How was the game?’ ‘It was disappointing’, the 13-year-old confessed. ‘By the sixth inning, the Dodgers were losing nine-to-two, so we decided to leave’.
‘Did the players also leave the game when you left?’, ‘Rabbi, the players can’t leave in the middle of the game!’
‘Why not?’ asked the Rebbe. ‘Explain to me how this works.’
There are players and fans, the young baseball fan explained. The fans can leave when they like — they’re not part of the game and the game continues after they leave. But the players need to stay until the game is over and try to win.
‘That is the lesson I want to teach you in Judaism,’ said the Rebbe with a smile. ‘You can be either a fan or a player. Be a player.’ The Rebbe summed up the conversation with a lesson, when you are Davening and putting on Tefillin you are a player in the ballgame.
Shimshon shared his memories of the Rebbe in the 1940’s. “Everybody respected him and conducted themselves with honor towards him. The Ramash would Farbreng with the American bochurim on various occasions in the “Cheder Sheni”, the room in back of the upstairs shul.
“The Rebbe worked at the Navy Yard as an engineer. He would buy a Times and a Yiddish newspaper, The Morgen Journal which he would place into the Times. An observer would not see the Jewish paper, only the Times. He would then board the trolley car which went straight towards Williamsburg. The Rebbe would leave every day at the same time”.
“Through my friend Michoel Schwartz, who worked for the Rebbe in the 1940’s, designing Talks and Tales issues and the book-covers of the Merkos Publications; I would hear many details of the Rebbe’s work for Kehot Publications.
In the 1940’s, entry to the Previous Rebbe’s Farbrengens was very limited. Shimshon however, had the zchus to be present at some of these Farbrengens.
In 1947, Shimshon lost his mother and after the shiva he had a personal Yechidus with the Previous Rebbe. Being inclined towards Zionism and belonging to Betar, he had a desire to visit Eretz Yisroel with a friend.
During the Yechidus he asked the Rebbe if he should go to Eretz Yisroel. The Rebbe answered, “You cannot leave your father alone”. Shimshon repeated his question and the Rebbe gave the same answer.
Soon afterwards, Shimshon realized that the Rebbe’s words had saved his life. The ship that he was planning to travel on, the Alta Lena was blown up by the Israelis.
On Yud Shvat 1950, the Previous Rebbe was nistalek. Shimshon remembers this event. “I felt that the world came crumbling down. I didn’t believe that there would be another Rebbe. I believed that this was the end. I didn’t believe that the Rebbe was nistalek. I was shocked. After Yud Shvat, we were comforted when we realized that the Rebbe would take over the leadership”.
In the early 1950’s, Shimshon was introduced to his wife Martha.
Martha had an interesting Chassidic background. She was born on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn to early immigrants from Poland. Her father, Rabbi Bentzion Sukulik studied in Lubavitch. Originally, he learned in Warsaw and in 1909 he went with Reb Shmuel Zalmanov to the Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim in Lubavitch. This is where he met Rabbis: Jacobson, DB Rivkin and Simpson. He left Lubavitch in 1914 and a short while later married.
In 1925, he came to the United States. Trying to find a parnossa, he settled in the Midwest. In 1929, he received a letter from the Previous Rebbe advising him to move to New York. Reb Benzion did so and later met Rabbi Jacobson, his best friend in the Yeshiva in Lubavitch.
In 1929, the Previous Rebbe arrived in the United States for the first time. Reb Benzion set up a house for the Previous Rebbe’s use during his stay in New York.
In 1940, the Previous Rebbe came to the United States for the second time with the intention of settling. The Rebbe was then an invalid in a wheelchair. Rabbi Benzion, a physically strong man lifted the Rebbe as he was coming off the boat, placed him in his car, and drove the Rebbe to his destination. In the JEM video “America Is Not Different”, Reb Benzion can be seen wearing a white straw hat.
When the Previous Rebbe arrived at the Greystone Hotel in Manhattan, there was a Farbrengen and the Rebbe asked about Reb Benzion’s wife.
Reb Benzion worked as a Shochet and was a voluntary member of the Chevrah Kaddisha. At the levaya of the Previous Rebbe, Sunday, the 11th of Shvat 1950, Reb Benzion had the zchus of lowering the holy body in the ground. At a certain point, the Rebbe asked him about a procedure that he was performing, Reb Benzion replied, “The Rebbe Rashab is standing next to me and telling me what to do”.
After completing high school, Martha took college courses in accounting. Her father, Reb Benzion was not pleased that his daughter was attending college and asked the Rebbe to raise his objections with her. After hearing the details, the Rebbe stated that she was not studying Liberal Arts so it was not so bad, and allowed her to complete the course. The Rebbe added hat he would watch over her. Whenever Martha came into Yechidus, the Rebbe would ask her with a big smile, “How are your debits and your credits?”
In late 1950, both of Martha’s parents passed away, and the Rebbe kept in close contact with her. From time to time, she would receive a phone call from the Rebbe’s secretariat informing her that the Rebbe wished to speak with her. During Yechidus the Rebbe would discuss various matters, including the finding of a shidduch.
Reb Sholom Deitsch, who suggested the shidduch with Shimshon, lived in Norwalk, Connecticut at the time. When the Rebbe received the news of Shimshon and Martha dating, he immediately responded with a Mazal Tov.
“Your wish is my command”
Martha related: “My husband had a store on Blake Ave., a big market street in East New York. The store wasn’t doing well and we didn’t know if we should sell it or open another business. I wrote a letter to the Rebbe and on the bottom of the letter I added, ‘Whatever the Rebbe will decide, your wish is my command’. The Rebbe replied that I should put on a Shaitel”.
In 1961, Shimshon went into Yechidus with his family in honor of his son Benjy’s upsherenish. He said to the Rebbe that he was requesting a Brocho for just one thing, that Benjy should be a Chossid and a Lamdan. The Rebbe answered, “Shimshon, you have to show your son how to do it. He can’t do it on his own. You have to teach him. If you will be that, he’ll be that”. The Rebbe stressed that the father needs to be a role model.
On another occasion, Shimshon and his children had an additional Yechidus with the Rebbe. His children, five and six-years-old, were already attending school. The Rebbe tested Benjy and his sister Chani in their studies. After completing the questions, the Rebbe got up from his seat, came around the table and put his hands around Shimshon, saying, “Ken ich dir farheren?” [Can I test you?] Shimshon said,”Forget it, Rebbe”. The Rebbe said, “It is not right. Epes darfst du lernen [You need to learn something]. After the Yechidus, Shimshon began attending a Shiur once or twice a week.
Shimshon merited to many Yechidusen with the Rebbe, on the occasions of birthdays. If Shimshon had an interesting person who was staying with him, he would bring him along to the Yechidus.
Shimshon the Shadchan
Shimshon made many shidduchim. On one occasion when the Rebbe was distributing Kos Shel Brocho, Shimshon arrived with two of his young grandchildren. A group of girls approached him outside 770, requesting that he ask the Rebbe that they should find shidduchim. When Shimshon reached the Rebbe, he said to the Rebbe, “Rebbe, I need a Shidduch for a lot of girls”. The Rebbe, looking at the two grandchildren said, “These two”? and laughed. Shimshon said, “No, Rebbe. There are a bunch of girls outside asking for a Brocho for Shidduchim, so they asked me to ask you”. The Rebbe gave his Brocho.
There is an interesting story which Shimshon related, in which the Rebbe worked together with him for the success of a shidduch.
“There was a bochur and a girl, who were not interested in getting married to each other. They met and liked each other, then met a second time and didn’t like each other. I looked at the couple and said to myself that this couple will never get married unless I ask the Rebbe to just say Mazal Tov and get them married.
I instructed both of them to write separate letters to the Rebbe. I took both of their letters to the Rebbe and included my own. In it, I requested that the Rebbe should give his Brocho for their engagement; otherwise, these two people would remain single forever. I placed my letter on top of their letters and requested that this was how it should be handed to Rabbi Klein, a member of the Rebbe’s secretariat.
Less than fifteen minutes passed and Rabbi Klein called me to convey the Rebbe’s Brocho for the shidduch. They became engaged.
The kallah came to my house on Erev Shavuos, three days before her wedding. I asked her what she was worried about. She said that she didn’t know her Chosson, what he was like. I said,’ You know when you need to worry? When you are expecting a baby, then you need to pray to Hashem that the baby should have its head in the right place, its eyes in the right place, its ears in the right place, its teeth, its hands, all the fingers, all the toes. In due time, then you’ll know your husband. At this point, just get married’. They got married and today, Boruch Hashem; they have a family of eight children, without an ayin hora, and are happy”.
Another eventful episode
Shimshon married off two sisters from a wealthy family. When the first shidduch happened, her parents were Reform Jews were not pleased that their daughter was marrying a Chossid. The parents did not want to participate in any way. Shimshon visited their home, but to no avail. He then proceeded to prepare the wedding at his own expense. In the event, that the parents would ultimately decide to come, he made arrangements for an elegant affair.
Prior to the chupa, a stretch limousine pulled up in front of 770. The brother of the Kalla approached Shimshon and said to him, “I am going to kill you for what you did to my parents”. Shimshon remained silent.
The Rebbe was then in his room. When the chupa took place, the Rebbe stood up from his seat and watched the chupa. Suddenly, Rabbi Groner, one of the Rebbe’s secretaries, came out from the Rebbe’s room and said to Shimshon, “Be careful how you behave at the wedding, don’t answer back”. Two minutes later, Rabbi Klein came out from the Rebbe’s room and repeated the same message. As the Chosson and Kallah were walking from the chupa, the Rebbe came out and gave them a Brocho. The wedding went on as planned.
When the second daughter also became engaged to a Chossid, the parents’ attitude did not change.
Today, both sisters are happily married and have, thank G-d, large families with children already on shlichus in prominent cities.
Shimshon merited to put together over three hundred Shidduchim. He also guided couples in their marriage and on many occasions delivered public lectures on sholom bayis and how to preserve a marriage. He sent out community-wide letters and contributed articles on this and other practical topics to the Nshei Newsletter. He believed that the cause of many marital problems was the lack of a proper parnossa. When a bochur would approach Shimshon for a shidduch or a yungerman would confront him for help with marital problems, Shimshon’s popular remark was, “The four letter word for a successful life is WORK. Go out and get a good job”!
Shimshon looked out for families who were hurt by tragedies and in a sense, adopted them. He raised funds for underprivileged families so that they could stand independently on their own feet and not need to ask others for help.
Chevra Simchas Shabbos v’Yom Tov (CSSY)
In 1977, Chevrah Simcha Shabbos V’Yom Tov was organized. This was in response to the Rebbe’s Sicha on the second day of Rosh Hashana, in which he stated that for Pesach there is a Maos Chitim fund and Pesach last for only one week. However, in the month of Tishrei there are Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and Simchas Torah and there are no funds, as there is for Pesach. The Rebbe initiated a campaign for funding needy families. Immediately after Rosh Hashana, on Tzom Gedalia, the organization was created. Shimshon set up a table and began collecting money.
On every occasion, Shimshon himself would collect money with his big basket calling out “We need money”. Before the Rebbe came down to the Farbrengen or before the Rebbe came into the shul for Slichos, Shimshon would make his rounds with his basket. Everybody considered it a privilege to throw money into the basket and did so gladly. In later years, regardless of his age and failing health, he continued carrying the load in a tireless way. Who does not remember visiting the Ohel on Yud Shvat, Erev Rosh Hashana or Gimel Tamuz and seeing Shimshon there with his basket. He would often sit through the entire night, hoping to collect the necessary funds.
An unforgettable scene is when Shimshon stood on line and came before the Rebbe with his basket. The Rebbe gave a broad smile lifted both his hands and threw dollars into the basket. Since then, a picture of this scene decorated the basket.
During a Farbrengen in 1980, when the Rebbe handed Shimshon a bottle of mashkeh, he referred to him as the Gabbai Tzedakah, charity collector of Crown Heights.
“We began with the distribution of food packages. In later years, this became difficult, and we sent money vouchers instead”.
“The Rebbe would send a check for fifty dollars written in his own handwriting each month.
In the 1960’s, people began selling their houses and moving out of the neighborhood. Shimshon was very concerned about the situation. He would come with a group of people to demonstrate in front of the person’s new house in another neighborhood.
The real estate companies would use block buster tactics. They would mail notices informing people that their neighbor was in the process of selling his house. In this way they would convince people to sell their homes. Shimshon would demonstrate in front of their offices as well.
A few years ago, Shimshon saw a situation that had developed. People were flipping houses for financial gain. This caused difficulty for people who were unable to afford the cost of a home. Shimshon wrote an open letter to the whole community, telling them to stop this practice and to be more considerate to others.
On the 2nd of Adar I 1992, Pesha Leah Lapine HY”D was torn away from us. That night Shimshon drove through the neighborhood with a loudspeaker, calling for everyone to come out and demonstrate. The next morning he went through the neighborhood again and called for everyone to come to the levaya.
Connection and feeling towards the Rebbe
Shimshon had immense love for the Rebbe and concerned for his welfare. It is difficult to adequately portray Shimshon’s immense love and concern for his welfare
But let the following two anecdotes serve as examples:
On Sukkos 5752, the Rebbe stood for seven hours, observing every person who walked by and benched on his Esrog. He waited for the last person to have a chance to make the Brocho. Shimshon felt uncomfortable with this. He approached the Rebbe and asked the Rebbe to sit down.
On Yud Alef Nissan 5751, Shimshon benched the Rebbe and added, “Rebbe, we need you, take care of yourself. You are the only one we have. The Rebbe responded, “You also have Hashem”. Shimshon answered, “With Hashem I cannot talk”.
Yehi Zichrom Boruch! May Shimshon and Martha’s memory serve as an inspiration for awakening a concern and consideration for one another, and a positive feeling between the members of our community, in unity without bounds, physically and spiritually.
We should speedily witness “The ones who dwell in the dust will awaken and rejoice” with Reb Shimshon and Martha amongst them.