Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gedolei Yisrael - The Ishbitzer Rebbe

My son actually has a once a week class at his school called Gedolei Yisrael (I believe that the class is actually pronounced in an Israeli accent and not in Ashkenazus) where they learn about a different great Rabbi every week. So I thought I should do a Kabbalah u’Madda version - no rationalist non-mystics allowed. (Don’t worry I will go back and discuss the great rabbinic mystics that were mentioned in earlier posts. For example, Ramban, R. Tzaddok and others.)

The Ishbitzer Rebbe is R. Mordechai Leiner (1801-1854) and his sefer that he wrote is called the Mei HaShiloach (The Running Waters). Actually, his sefer was written by his talmidim and is based on divrei Torah that he gave either on Shabbat morning or at Seudat Shlishit.

(It is common amongst seforim “written” by Chassidic Rebbes, that they were actually written by their talmidim. The best example of Chassidic ghost-writing is R. Nachman of Breslav. R. Nachman only wrote Likkutei Maharan, and the other billions and billions (said in a Carl Sagan accent) of Breslover seforim were actually written by his talmidim - most notably R. Nosson.)

The Ishbitzer Rebbe was one of the main talmidim of the Kotzker Rebbe - R. Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. The Kotzker had a number of well known talmidim and he was known for his uncompromising approach to all aspects of life and his acerbic wit. The Kotzker is certainly worthy of his own post as a Gadol b’Yisrael (Israel?) and I will discuss him at a later date.

I would emphasize two aspects of the Ishbitzer Rebbe's divrei Torah:

  • He often has very creative insights to the Parshah and Torah ideas.
  • He will often justify the actions of the רשעים the wicked personalities in the Chumash. See his explanation of the stick gatherer (איש מקושש) in Bamidbar 15:32,

This second aspect often made his ideas controversial and not coincidentally R. Shlomo Carlebach z"l was a big fan of his sefer. The Mei HaShiloach is a two volume sefer, mainly on the Parsha but also contains some ideas on shas. His descendants would later create Radzhyner Chasidut.

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