Published in: Jewish Studies Quarterly 11 (2004), eds. Leora Batnitzky and Peter Schäfer, pp. 127-193.


The First Tzaddik of Hasidism: The Zlotchover Maggid and His Circle*



The mystery enveloping the origin of the concept of the Hasidic “Tzaddik” (Righteous Man) has never been thoroughly elucidated.  Gershom Scholem has pointed out that Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov (the Besht), the mythic founder of Hasidism, was not called “Tzaddik” either during his lifetime or after his death.[1]  The hagiographic description of the community he ostensibly led is a mere anachronism relying on the gap in time that elapsed between his death in 1760 and the appearance of the first manifesto of excommunication of a group of persons pretending to be “righteous men (Hasidim) and sublime holy men,”[2] which were published in 1772.  The Besht, then, did not found or led a Hasidic court, yet this fact in itself is insufficient to decipher the mystery that surrounds the identity of the first Tzaddik of Hasidism, and when a Hasidic court was established under his authority.

The mystery concerning the first Tzaddik of Hasidism becomes even more complex when we examine the life and deeds of R. Dov Ber, the maggid [preacher] of Mezeritch, who was crowned the Besht’s successor by hagiographic sources.  Historian Ada Rappaport-Albert has already noted that the claim to the Besht’s “legacy” is anachronistic, as there was no such legacy, and in any event there was no court for R. Dov Ber of Mezeritch to inherit.[3]  The sources that describe a Hasidic court down to the finest detail, supposedly founded by the maggid R. Dov Ber in the town of Mezeritch in the Korez region of the Ukraine, fill in the gaps in historical knowledge with literary fiction.  Even ostensible facts such as the removal of the court, if it did exist, from Mezeritch to the town of Rovna, where R. Dov Ber died, have not been researched in depth.[4]  Particularly dubious is the testimony concerning a gathering at the court of the maggid in the summer of 1772 in Rovna, when the disciples supposedly convened around the rabbi to confer about the attacks perpetrated against Hasidism by the Mitnagdim [opponents of Hasidism].  The only reference to the meeting is contained in a single paragraph of a letter written by R. Shneur Zalman of Ladi to R. Abraham of Kalisk in 1806, thirty-four years later.  The two Hasidic masters supposedly participated in the gathering, and R. Shneur Zalman of Ladi mentions in his letter that their common teacher, R. Dov Ber of Mezeritch, had rebuked R. Abraham of Kalisk concerning his licentious behavior, which had excited the wrath of the opponents of Hasidism against the entire movement.  However, at the time the letter was written a sharp disagreement had already emerged between R. Shneur Zalman of Ladi and R. Abraham of  Kalisk, and they were not on civil terms.  Historian Raya Haran has proven that the letters the two exchanged were rewritten by R. Shneur Zalman’s supporters, with paragraphs denigrating R. Abraham being interpolated into them.[5]  It is fair to assume, then, that the paragraph about the meeting in Rovna was inserted into the letter for the purpose of discrediting R. Abraham of  Kalisk. Otherwise it is hard to understand how no reference to such a major conference would be found in the writings of other disciples who were allegedly present. 

Alongside this source of doubtful authenticity, we have an external testimony concerning the “court” of R. Dov Ber of Mezeritch.  The testimony appears in the memoirs of Jewish philosopher Solomon Maimon, The Life of Solomon Maimon.  Maimon portrays R. Dov Ber as a callous, cruel man, a charismatic con artist, whose disciples seduced innocent young men into joining Hasidism through his trickery.[6]  However, Solomon Maimon’s testimony is so singular and aberrant that it is hard to accept it as solid historical evidence for the existence of a court in Mezeritch or of the customs practiced therein without any corroboration from additional contemporary external testimonies, the likes of which have not been found.  Significantly, the book’s narrative takes the form of a bildungsroman, whose axis is the young hero’s journey in quest of the truth.  Along the way he falls prey to the ploys of tricksters, who lead him on with false solutions until he succeeds in reaching his goal—the discovery of the hidden light of education and philosophy.  The Hasidic episode in this narrative evidently serves as an example of a false stopping point in the arduous journey towards the truth.  This analysis bolsters the conclusion reached by Fishel Lahover, whereby Maimon’s work is not wholly autobiographical, but that certain passages are fictional in character.[7]  This is where things stand for now, as a critical biography of the maggid R. Dov Ber of Mezeritch has yet to be written, and in any event the credibility of the various sources has never been examined. 

In the twelve years that elapsed between the Ba’al Shem Tov’s death in 1760 and the first testimonies about Hasidism, then, nothing is known of the formation of any group that could be considered the first Hasidic court.  In effect, such a group took shape only in 1772, for the purpose of implementing a messianic program that was originally slated to be carried out in 1740, had been shelved in 1746, and was revived in the decade preceding the month of Iyyar of the year 1781. The leader of this court was R. Yehiel Mikhal, the maggid of Zlotchov and the first Tzaddik of Hasidism.

The Season of Redemption in Hasidism

The establishment of the first Hasidic court was closely linked with the season of redemption, which was expected to transpire between 1740-1781.  One of the well-known 18th century calculators of the redemption, R. Isaac Hayyim Cohen of the Hazanim, fixed the date for the redemption in the year ה'ת"ק (1740).[8]  Another calculator, Immanuel Hai Ricchi,[9] asserted in his book Yosher Levav that signs of the redemption would begin to appear in ה'ת"ק (1740), and that the final date of the redemption would be in the eighth month, the month of Iyyar of the year ה'תקמ"א (April-May 1781), 5,541 years after the creation of the world.[10]  In his book Darchei Noam, R. Samuel ben Eliezer of Klavira reiterates Hai Ricchi’s assertion “that it will be in the year 1781 and eight months as noted, for our righteous Messiah will not delay his coming then.”[11]  Other years in the same period which evoked messianic hopes were ה'תק"ח (1748), whose numeration is equivalent to that of the Hebrew word for dawn (,(השח"ר[12] and ה'תקל"ז (1777), the centennial of the death of Shabbatai Tzvi, when rumors abounded that “the King Messiah has come.”[13]  According to David Assaf, the rumors may have originated in Sabbatean circles that looked forward to a renewed revelation of their Messiah.

It is in the nature of calculations of the redemption and messianic dates to attract the attention of persons and circles who in any case live in an atmosphere suffused with messianic tension, and who expect the calculations to confirm their hopes.  One of these was the Ba’al Shem Tov himself, whose life history indicates a connection between his deeds and the messianic expectations so prevalent in his times.  The process of his revelation, his seclusion for seven years in preparation for a special mission, his adjuration not to delve into secrets until the age of thirty-six and his failed attempt to immigrate to the Land of Israel in 1740 were all influenced by prophecies of the redemption destined to transpire in that year.[14]  Evidently the Besht ascribed the failure of his attempt to immigrate to the Land of Israel and the delay in the coming of the Messiah in 1740 to the fact that the correcting of the sinners’ souls was not complete.  Accordingly, he dedicated the years 1742-1746 to the labor of mending these souls, termed “raising the sparks” in the kabbalistic tradition.[15]  He concentrated primarily on mending the soul of the false Messiah, Shabbatai Tzvi, “who had a spark of holiness in him, but that Satan caught him in his snare, God forbid.”[16]

Evidently the Besht hoped that mending the soul of the false Messiah would smooth the way for the true Messiah.  However, in the ascent of the soul that he undertook on New Year’s Day 5507 (September 1746), he met the Messiah and found out that he would not have the privilege of welcoming the redeemer in his lifetime.[17]  The Besht therefore wrote his brother-in-law, R. Gershon of Kutov, who was already stationed in Jerusalem in anticipation of the Messiah’s coming around the year 1748: “For the Lord knows that I would not despair of traveling to the Land of Israel and joining you if it were God’s will, but the time is not in accord with it.”[18]

The Besht’s messianic hopes dwindled with the debacle of 1746, and failed to revive before his death in 1760.  These hopes were reawakened by his disciple, R. Yehiel Mikhal, the Zlotchover maggid. The group of men who gathered in the prayer house he established in the town of Brody in eastern Galicia functioned as a circle of messianic kabbalists.  Their messianic program was launched in the year 1772, the 200th anniversary of the death of R. Isaac Luria, ending in the month of Iyyar of the year 1781, which was designated as the date of redemption.  The Zlotchover maggid was accorded a central role in the process of redemption: His soul was called נשמת שדי (“the soul of Shaddai” - one of God’s names(, and his disciples believed that it embodied the Sefira of Yesod, that of the Tzaddik, from which the soul of the Messiah is hewn.  His sobriquet, “the Tzaddikim of the generation,” was also unique: This was the first time in Hasidism that the appellation Tzaddik was used to refer to someone with a messianic mission, which indicates the Divine status that the first Tzaddik of Hasidism enjoyed.

The Zlotchover Maggid

The Zlotchover maggid was the scion of an illustrious family of rabbis and kabbalists from Galicia[19] who lived and operated in the town of Brody and its environs; the maggid’s great-grandfather was R. Moshe of Zvirsh, who died as a martyr without suffering at all by virtue of his communion with God.[20]  His son, R. Joseph Spravidliver, was called a “man of truth,” and his wife, “Yenta the Prophet.”[21]  Their son, R. Isaac of Derhovitch, the father of the Zlotchover maggid, was one of the scholars at the Beit Midrash (study hall) of R. Yozfa in Ostrog [22] and a maggid in the community of Horhov.  Traditions preserved in In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov portray him as a man of intimidating wizardry, endowed with a prophetic spirit and expertise in the Divine names, who did not flinch from a head-on confrontation with R. Isaac Hamburger and his associate, R. Ezekiel Landa, author of Noda Bi-Yehuda.[23]  And despite the fact that such traditions do not always clearly distinguish between historical facts and hagiographic embellishments, these particular ones were not creations after the fact; already during the lifetime of the Zlotchover maggid his origins gained special notice, and one of his most prominent disciple, R. Meshullam Feibush Heller, referred to him as the “son of holy ones, a Tzaddik the son of a Tzaddik[24]

Like his forefathers, the Zlotchover maggid was also gifted with extraordinary spiritual abilities.  According to his disciple, R. Abraham Joshua of Apta, he was capable of conducting ascents of the soul at will or when so directed from Heaven: “For his Holy Rabbi our Rabbi Yehiel Mikhal of Zlotchov would sleep... either when he wanted to ascend to Heaven, or when Heaven called him to ascend.”[25]  Such ability was ascribed to only two people at the outset of Hasidism, the Ba’al Shem Tov and the Zlotchover maggid.[26]  Similarly, two of his sons - the first-born, R. Joseph of Yampela and the second, Isaac of Radvil - were also blessed with spiritual powers, and their ascents of the soul were widely recognized. R. Joseph of Yampela is quoted to the effect that the Divine spirit had been present in their forefathers’ line for 72 generations.[27]  Admittedly, of the Zlotchover maggid’s five sons, whom he termed the five books of the Torah, only the fourth son, R. Moshe of Zweihil, established a Hasidic court.  However, the rabbis of the Zweihil dynasty, who live in Jerusalem, are known to this day as the “preservers of the holy covenant,”[28] meaning those who preserve the sanctity of the covenantal organ.  This sobriquet is a reminder of the tradition whereby the Tzaddikim of the Zlotchov dynasty have the capacity to correct the sexual transgressions of their fellows, such as the spilling of seed.  In Lurianic kabbalah this sin is deemed to delay the redemption, a misdeed which only the Messiah can correct.[29]  The appellation of the rabbis of the house of Zweihil, therefore, alludes to the special supernatural status ascribed for over two hundred years to descendants of the house of Zlotchov.

The Zlotchover maggid was born in Brody in around the year 1726.[30]  The first position he held was that of maggid in the town of Kluk, and according to In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov during this period he was a disciple of the Besht.[31]  From Kluk he accepted the nomination of maggid in the town of Zlotchov, where he grew famous.  At the end of his life he was “received” in Yampela, a small town in the Ukraine, which surely did not befit his intellectual prowess or stature in the view of his disciples.[32]  The reasons for this descent have never been completely clarified, but his son, R. Isaac of Radvil, hints that his father was so embittered that he sought to take leave of the world.[33]

Throughout the years of his wandering the Zlotchover maggid’s activity was centered in Brody, the town of his birth, in eastern Galicia on the Ukrainian border.  Brody was a major Jewish hub in economic and cultural terms, and won repute as a town of Talmudic scholars and Jewish legal experts.  It was also known as a center of kabbalistic study by virtue of the members in its “Kloize”, who adopted kabbalistic customs.[34]  The reputation garnered by the Kloize reflected the considerable interest in kabbalah among all the towns of Eastern Galicia and the Ukraine, where ascetic circles, including remnants of Sabbatean followers, were active in the early eighteenth century.

Brody was also connected with the Frankist movement and the war against it; a series of bans were issued against Jacob Frank and his supporters in Brody in the 1750’s and 1760’s.  During the same period bans were also issued against R. Jonathan Eibeschuetz and R. Leib Prosnitz, both of whom were suspected of Sabbatianism and heresy.  It was presumably no accident that Brody became a center of activity against circles of actual or potential sectarians, as such circles had become widely disseminated in the Ukraine and Eastern Galicia, and were active there during the period of the emergence of Hasidism.

It was in this ascetic culture and this atmosphere steeped in Messianic tension that the Zlotchover maggid lived and worked.  Despite the fact that he held no official appointment in Brody, he maintained his own prayer house there,[35] which was a magnet for numerous disciples.  Among his disciples were: Abraham Hayyim of Zlotchov,[36] a cousin of R. Efraim Zalman Margaliot, one of the wealthy and learned men of Brody; Abraham Joshua Heschel of Afta;[37] Eliezer ha-Levi Horowitz,[38] the scion of R. Isaiah Horowitz; Benjamin of Zaloziz,[39] Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir;[40] Hayyim Tirrer of Chernovitch;[41]Jacob Isaac ha-Levi Horowitz, the “visionary of Lublin[42] Isaac Izik ha-Cohen of Korez,[43] the scion of R. Naftali Katz, author of Semichat Hahamim, and of R. Samuel Zak, a descendant of the MaHaRaL of Prague, and also his in-law, R. Shlomo Lutzkir; Yissachar Ber of Zlotchov;[44] Isaiah ha-Levi of Dunevitch;[45] The maggid Israel of Koznitz;[46]Levi Isaac of Berdichev;[47] Mordechai of Naschiz;[48] Moshe Shoham of Dalina, in-law of the Zlotchover maggid;[49]Meshullam Feibush Heller,[50] scion of Yom Tov Lipman Heller, author of Tosfot Yom Tov, and his brother-in-law R. Joel, who was among those who immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1777;[51] Uziel Meiseles,[52] a descendant of R. Moshe Isserles and of R. Meir of Lublin; Zvi Hirsch of Nadborna; Zvi Hasid, the brother of R. Menachem Mendel of Peremishlyany;[53] Samuel ben Hayyim Haike of Amdur;[54] Shlomo Vilnaer;[55] Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk; and perhaps also Elimelekh of Lizhensk, his brother Zussia of Hanipoli,[56] and Shneur Zalman of Ladi.[57]

The Zlotchover maggid’s origins in the “spiritual aristocracy” of Eastern Europe, in Miles Krassen’s definition,[58] and his disciples’ lineage from well-known rabbinic families, refutes the presumption that Hasidism sprang up as a popular movement from within the circles of wandering maggids who lacked official status or rabbinic recognition.  Quite the reverse: The Zlotchover maggid and his disciples belonged to the learned elite, and came from families which constituted the foundations and mainstay of this elite.[59]

Two phenomena feature prominently in the writings of the Zlotchover maggid’s disciples: First, the works are awash with citations from his sermons and maxims, yet his name is almost completely absent from the books’ title pages and from the endorsements (letters of approbation) that precede their own writings, which mention other luminaries such as the Ba’al Shem Tov and R. Dov Ber of Mezeritch as the authors’ teachers.  Furthermore, in some of his disciples’ writings the Zlotchover maggid’s sayings are ascribed to another “maggid,” Dov Ber the Mezeritcher maggid.  It seems that a conspiracy of silence enveloped the relations between the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples to the point that they concealed his identity and replaced it with that of other dignitaries.  The reason could lie in a vow of secrecy that members of his band had taken upon themselves: They concealed his name because they considered it a holy name, whose exposure brings down a death sentence upon the person responsible; his name was commonly converted into appellations such as “the Wise Man of the generation,” “the Tzaddikim of the generation,” and so forth.

The second phenomenon has to do with the identity of the disciples: These personages constituted the backbone of Hasidism, and they or their sons founded the first dynasties of Tzaddikim.  In the first period after the death of the Zlotchover maggid, throughout the 1780’s and 1790’s, they continued to operate as a group, principally by collecting funds on behalf of their members in the Land of Israel.  The beginning of the schism between them is connected with power struggles over control of the funds and their distribution.  The struggles, along with the natural process of the aging and death of participants in the original court, led to the breakup of the group.  Some of the disciples established their own courts, adopting the model of the original court in Brody: The leader - the Tzaddik - is the heart of the court, and his disciples are the limbs that protect the heart while simultaneously drawing their vitality from it.  After the fact, then, the first Tzaddik of Hasidism was privileged to have founded a broad and popular spiritual movement, which left its stamp on the life of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and the diaspora.

The Affair of the Slaughterhouse in Korez and the Ban of Brody in 1772

The first recorded activity of the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples was concerned with the slaughterhouse affair in the town of Korez in the Ukraine in 1772. In fact, 1772 was the 200th anniversary of the death of R. Isaac Luria and messianic expectations were at a high pitch that year, also finding expression in the printing of Sefer Ha-Gilgulim [The Book of the Transmigration of Souls] from the manuscript of R. Hayyim Vital, with the addition of annotations by R. Hayyim of Tzanz, an in-law of R. Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye and one of the prominent members of the kabbalist Kloizeof Brody.[60]  A number of years later this important kabbalist provided a haskama for the work of Lurianic kabbalah, Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim, which the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples were shortly to print in the messianic period of the month of Iyyar, 1781.

The Affair of the Slaughterhouse in Korez was connected to the fact that R. Moshe Shapira, son of R. Pinchas of Korez, controlled the levying of taxes on local butchers, and exploited this prerogative to drive the price of kosher meat sky-high.[61]  The Zlotchover maggid and his disciples, R. Isaiah of Dunevitch and R. Isaac Izik ha-Cohen, the head of the law court in Korez and head of the Kloize in Ostrog, opposed Shapira’s actions.  The disagreement developed into an open quarrel, spilling over into additional spheres of religious service, especially matters of prayer.[62]  Ultimately, R. Pinchas and his son were compelled to leave Korez and settle in Ostrog.  Distorted echoes of the affair appear in the writings of R. David of Makov, an opponent of Hasidism who authored the libelous essay “Shever Posh’im.”  He quotes statements he heard “from truthful preachers” regarding what transpired “in the state of Ukraine, where there are thousands and tens of thousands of the above [Hasidic] sect.  One of the heads [of the sect] was called Mikhal of Zlotchov,” who desecrated the Sabbath, “and the Rabbi of the above-mentioned town excommunicated him.... Yet the rabbi was forced to flee because these ruthless informants joined forces with the above-mentioned wicked Hasidim, and the Rabbi almost forfeited his life, as he was a hair’s-breadth away from death.”[63]

However, the victory of the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples evoked the wrath of leaders in other communities, particularly Brody.  On June 21, 1772, Brody officials issued a manifesto of excommunication against “wicked men who sin against God with their bodies,”[64] who dissociate themselves from the community and cast off the yoke of Torah from their necks.  The evildoers are described in the same terms the Bible uses to describe the Sodomites,[65] and on the face of it the declaration indicates that community officials demand their excommunication for transgressing the commandments of the Law.  However, the sting of the manifesto lies not in what it spells out explicitly, but in what it implies between the words, namely, that the deeds of members of this group are not wrong in themselves, but that the messianic drive that animates them threatens the community.  And although those who formulated the manifesto refrained from citing the names of those to be excommunicated, there is no doubt that the proclamation was directed against the disciples of the Zlotchover maggid, as he is known to have operated out of Brody, and as the three prohibitions issued against him do not correspond to any other Hasidic personality.

The first prohibition pertains to slaughtering: Slaughtering with sharp knives was prohibited, and Brody officials were permitted to expel from town any visitor who refused to eat meat slaughtered by local butchers.  Butchers were forbidden to show their slaughtering knives to anyone other than known authorized rabbis.  Apparently the Korez slaughterhouse affair spurred the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples to find their own slaughterers, who were careful to sharpen their knives.  However, slaughtering with sharp knives is not a deviation from Jewish law,[66] and the reason for the ban is unclear.  The prohibition should evidently be understood as a pretext, designed to disguise Brody officials’ apprehensions concerning the entrenchment of a group with its own slaughterers and slaughterhouse that was liable to detract from the slaughtering levies that composed a portion of the community’s income.

Apart from the economic aspect, the opposition to slaughtering with sharpened knives was provoked by the belief espoused by the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples positing a connection between the manner of slaughtering and the correction of the souls of the sinners that have transmigrated into the animals being slaughtered.  The members of the group were familiar with this belief from Sefer ha-Kanah, which they studied from manuscripts and subsequently published in the year 1782.  According to the anonymous author of Sefer ha-Kanah, the souls of sinners are reincarnated as animals.  Those souls that are reincarnated in pure animals can be corrected by the slaughterer on condition that he is a God-fearing person, observes the laws of slaughtering scrupulously and is careful not to cause the animal unnecessary pain or suffering.  On these grounds the author of Sefer Ha-Kanah forbade a “cruel slaughterer” from engaging in the labor of slaughtering, and demanded strict moral and ritual standards of the slaughterer.  Another topic stressed in Sefer Ha-Kanah is that of eating meat: When a Tzaddik possessed of sublime virtues eats meat, he mends the soul that was reincarnated in the animal by raising it to a moral level comparable with that of his own soul.[67]  It bears noting that the ban was ineffective, as the disciples of the Zlotchover maggid continued to disseminate Hasidic slaughtering laws throughout the l780’s.  Two of the most prominent activists were R. Wolf of Charney-Otrog, father-in-law of R. Meshullam Feibush Heller, and R. Eliezer of Zhitomir, a slaughterer and supervisor, author of Pirkei Ha-Nazer and a disciple of R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir, who was also a disciple of the Zlotchover maggid.

The second prohibition contained in the Brody excommunication concerns prayer in separate minyans, which was forbidden on the claim that separating oneself from the community constitutes a revolt against authority and tradition.  The separatists were excommunicated and a prohibition was issued against joining them and “separating oneself from the community in any Kleizel or new beit midrash that is not open to all for Torah and accreditation.”[68]  The expression “Kleizel” (small Kloize) is a derogatory term for “minyan,” directed against the separate prayer house set up by the Zlotchover maggid in Brody.  As explained in the manifesto, the minyan’s congregants adopted kabbalist practices and prayed from the Lurianic prayerbook, a privilege reserved in Brody for kabbalists belonging to the famous Kloize only.

The third prohibition is connected with the second, and has to do with the adoption of prayer practices from Lurianic kabbalah.  In 1756 a ban was imposed in Brody whereby only those aged 30 and above were permitted to study kabbalah, “and on condition that it be from a printed work and not from handwriting.”[69]  An even more stringent prohibition was imposed on Lurianic kabbalah, which could only be studied from the age of 40 and “only by one who has filled his belly with Talmud and halakhic literature.”  In practice, however, only members of the Brody Kloize were permitted to delve into the secrets of the kabbalah.  At this point, in the year 1772, Brody officials expanded the above prohibitions to include prayer from the Lurianic prayerbook as well, with the exception of Kloize scholars.  The interdiction confirms the criticism of R. Pinchas of Korez, who complained that the Zlotchover maggid was introducing innovations into prayer and claiming to perform ascents to the upper worlds. R. Pinchas’ critique is also directed against the mystic function of prayer that the Zlotchover maggid embraced under the influence of Lurianic kabbalah, in hopes of transforming prayer from a routine daily commandment into a theurgic act which has the power to penetrate the upper worlds and bring down redemption into the world.

Nevertheless, despite the prohibitions contained in the Brody ban of 1772, the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples continued to pray in a separate prayer house and to engage in the intensive study of kabbalah.  Their activities excited the anger of the excommunicators and their allies, who fumed over the presumption of the Zlotchover maggid and his discipless in attempting to emulate R. Isaac Luria and his circle.  The Zlotchover maggid’s group did indeed cultivate an aristocratic image, and when R. Meshullam Feibush Heller wrote bitterly about the way his rabbis, “exemplary individuals endowed with Divine inspiration,” were treated, he compared the attacks on them to the rejection that was the lot of R. Isaac Luria:

And truly there are scornful types in this generation and those who repudiate wisdom, as there were in the days of the Ari [R. Isaac Luria], may his memory be for a blessing for eternal life, as R. Hayyim Vital wrote, may his memory be for a blessing for eternal life.  And as for me, my heart cleaves to faith in these men...Woe to the wicked men [the opponents of Hasidism] who have cast off the yoke of the Torah and the fear of the Holy One, may He be blessed, and who present themselves as Tzaddikim and affront the Divine angels with lies and fabrications... The true prophets have already prophesied concerning them that it would be so in the final generation [the generation of the Messiah], as it is written, And truth will be absent (Isaiah 59:15).  Woe to them who call evil good, and good evil (Isaiah 5:20), particularly as the Mishnah of Sotah says [regarding] the footsteps of the Messiah.[70]  And as our Sages of blessed memory said, “Let them have what is theirs, and we will save our own souls.”[71]

R. Meshullam Feibush Heller construed the attacks against his rabbis, “Divine angels,” as harbingers of the period preceding the advent of the Messiah, which was foretold to be a time of chaos.  The moral and social degeneration of that time would intensify the dramatic reversal that was to take place upon the advent of the Messiah, who was to redeem the Jewish people from its degradation.  In seeking to explain the persecution of his teacher and rabbi, R. Meshullam Feibush Heller disclosed his belief that these persecutions heralded the approaching Messianic era.

The Tikkun of Shavuoth, 1777

The next stage in the messianic program of the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples transpired in the year 1777 ((ה'תקל"ז, another year that evoked messianic hopes and in which rumors abounded that “The King Messiah has come.”[72]  In the month of Adar 5537 (February – April 1777) a group of the Zlotchover maggid’s disciples set out for the Land of Israel under the leadership of R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and R. Abraham of Kalisk.  Some three months after their departure, a ceremony of Tikkun (correction) was conducted in the Zlotchover maggid’s prayer house in Brody on the night of the Shavuoth festival, designed to bring the redemption with the aid of mystical prayers.  Those present intended to connect with their colleagues, who were assumed to have reached their destination, through their prayers, and to transmit through them prayers from the exile to the Land of Israel, the “Gate of Heaven” through which prayers ascend to the celestial palaces.  The Zlotchover maggid’s personality and spiritual abilities played a central role in purifying the prayers from the dross of evil and lifting them to the upper worlds.

One of the testimonies about what took place in the Zlotchover maggid’s prayer house on the night of Shavuoth is contained in a letter sent by the maggid’s disciple, R. Meshullam Feibush Heller, to his brother-in-law, R. Joel ben Moshe, who was among the immigrants to the Land of Israel.  The letter was written on Tuesday, the 19th of Sivan 5537(June 24, 1777), few days after the Shavuoth festival and the following Sabbath, during which R. Meshullam Feibush sojourned in the prayer house in Brody.  Additional testimonies can be found in the writings of other disciples—R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir, R. Abraham Hayyim of Zlotchov and R. Jacob Isaac, the “visionary of Lublin.”

The testimonies taken together indicate that on the Shavuoth festival of 1777 the Zlotchover maggid delivered a long sermon before his disciples, in which he explained his method of connecting souls together in the course of prayer.  The person praying connects himself to “the holy soul of the Tzaddikim of the generation,” and through it his soul connects with the souls of the people of Israel, who are represented in the Tzaddik’s soul.  R. Meshullam Feibush quotes the Zlotchover maggid’s sermon, explaining why he connects with the souls of “all Israel” in his prayers: Those whose souls have high spiritual attainments are capable of raising his soul up to their level, while for others, lesser than he, his soul serves as a ladder of spiritual ascent.  In this manner the Zlotchover maggid renders his soul into a link in the chain of souls of the Jewish people, which begins in the prayers uttered on earth and concludes in the Heavens:

[A person’s] words of prayer ascend by his connecting himself in saying, ‘I hereby take upon myself the commandment of Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ And he [who prays] unites himself with love with the holy soul of the Tzaddikim of the generation,[73] whose likeness he knows, and he traces this likeness at that moment in his thoughts... And truthfully I have heard from the Holy Mouth, the Divine Rabbi our teacher R. Yehiel Mikhal, may his memory be for a blessing for eternal life,[74] may his candle shine, who said: ‘before every prayer I connect myself with all Israel, both with those who are greater than I, through whom my thoughts will ascend, and for the benefit of the lesser ones, who will be raised by me.’  Thus I heard from his holy mouth.[75]

The Zlotchover maggid’s custom of connecting himself with the souls of all Israel during prayer is also mentioned in Or Ha-Meir, R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir’s book.  R. Ze’ev Wolf, a close disciple of the maggid, chose to present the teaching of the connection of souls within the framework of a literary dialogue that transpires between the Ba’al Shem Tov and an anonymous scholar, known only as “the Wise Man of the Generation.”  Gershom Scholem, however, has pointed out that the remarks made by “the Wise Man of the Generation” in Or Ha-Meir are cited in R. Meshullam Feibush Heller’s letter in the name of the Zlotchover maggid, and a comparison of the two works proves him correct.[76]  The way the author has the Ba’al Shem Tov and the “Wise Man of the Generation” face off against each other raises questions regarding the status of the two among the generation of the Zlotchover maggid’s disciples: On the one hand, the maggid and not the Ba’al Shem Tov is called the “Wise Man of the Generation;” on the other hand, his name is concealed and his system of prayer is at least ostensibly rejected.

I heard in the name of the Ba’al Shem Tov, may his memory be for a blessing for eternal life, that he once asked the Wise Man of the Generation the following question about prayer: ‘How do you behave and to what do your thoughts turn during prayer?’  And the Wise Man answered the Besht: ‘I connect myself with all the specifics of the vitality that exists among created beings, as in every created thing there must be life and vitality from the Divine overflow.  I connect myself with them [the created beings] in order to emit speech before the Lord and to deepen questions high high above.’  The Ba’al Shem Tov said to the Wise Man of the Generation: ‘If so, you are destroying the world, as you draw their vitality from them in order to raise it up, and the individual creatures are left without their life and vitality’....The fact is that this is true.  The true wise men, who have the power - that is, prayer - to stand in the palace of the king, are obligated to connect themselves in the manner mentioned above.  Yet this is only through the secret of going to and fro, as enlightened ones understand the depth of the matter.[77]

The Zlotchover maggid’s prayer technique poses a problem in principle: Connecting souls is ultimately liable to destroy the world and its creatures - “the specifics of the vitality” - since he connects himself with souls that are lesser than he and draws from them their vitality, “in order to raise it up, and the individual creatures are left without their life.”  The answer to the problem of annihilation one’s existence, of turning something into nothing, lies not in the realm of the abstract but in the practical world.  The connecting of souls during prayer is confined to “true wise men” capable of standing in the palaces of prayer without fully losing their independent existence.  This is also part of the secret of “to and fro,” as their souls cleave momentarily to the upper world and then return to their bodies.

The third version of the Zlotchover maggid’s teaching concerning the connection of souls, is included in the writings of R. Abraham Hayyim of Zlotchov. R. Abraham Hayyim, another close disciple of the Zlotchover maggid, also added “Thus Ireceived from great men,” without specifying from which “great man” he received it:

Before prayer a person must connect himself with the people of Israel as a whole, and specifically with those who know the intentions for prayer.  As I have committed myself to say the following before every prayer, evening and morning: ‘I hereby send my prayer from here to the Land of Israel, and from the Land of Israel to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to the Temple mount, and from the Temple mount to the Temple court, and from the Temple court to the hall, and from the hall to the palace, and from the palace to the Holy of Holies, and from the Holy of Holies to the palace of the sapphire pavement, where my forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, prayed.  With all the prayers of the synagogues and batei midrash [study halls] and with the unifications of all Israel, and particularly with Your sons who know the intentions and secrets of prayer.  I pray with this intention, with fear and trembling in the name of the entire people of Israel.’  Thus I received from great men, to say before every prayer.[78] 

R. Abraham Hayyim opens with a quotation of tractate Avot: “Be the first to greet every man; and be a tail unto lions and be not a head unto foxes.”[79]  He understands the first part of the quotation to refer to the commandment to love one’s neighbor,[80] which obligates every Jewish individual.  The practical meaning of the commandment is that the person praying directs his prayers to the Temple in Jerusalem, in whose direction all diaspora Jews turn when praying, and thereby connects his prayers with those of the entire Jewish people.

R. Abraham Hayyim’s remarks about sending prayers to Jerusalem and to the Temple constitute the reworking of a rabbinic tradition that attributes the custom of turning towards Jerusalem during prayer to the fact that the Deity dwells in a supernal Temple constructed in apposition to the earthly Temple in Jerusalem.[81]  The principal innovation in his statement is embodied in the idea of the souls’ connection with an elect few who know the trajectory of prayer to the HeavenlyTemple.  This idea is clarified further on, when the author interprets the second part of the dictum—“and be a tail unto lions and be not a head unto foxes,” as an instruction to connect oneself with those great men who know the secrets of prayer.  From his words it transpires that prayers ascend to Heaven by two routes: by connecting with the Temple, where individual prayers are connected with those of the entire Jewish people, and by connecting up with the chosen few or the Tzaddikim of the generation, who also serve as a conduit for elevating prayers to the upper worlds.  Thus the connections made during prayer are double and triple, as individuals connect with the nation as a whole, with the holy site and with “the holy soul of the Tzaddikim of the generation.”

R. Abraham Hayyim, then, traces a mystical scene in which the Tzaddik is depicted as a channel or pillar stationed in the earthly Temple that attaches it to the HeavenlyTemple.  This is the pillar through which prayers ascend to the “palace of the sapphire pavement, where my forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, prayed.”  This multi-hued picture unites the earthly dimension - the Temple - with the spiritual one, alluded to as the celestial palace of the sapphire pavement,[82] and with the human one - the Tzaddik - who serves as a bridge between earth and Heaven.  Supplementing these is a historical dimension symbolized by the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose names are also appellations for the sefirot of Hesed, Din and Tiferet: Like the Tzaddik, they also create a bridge from the earthly to the celestial, from present to past, and from temporal to eternal. 

Also striking in this picture is the sexual portrait of the Tzaddik, who serves as the human embodiment of sefirat Yesod, which represents the male organ in the Divine realm.  Yesod is a sort of pipeline through which the Divine overflow passes down to the created world.  This sefira is called Tzaddik in reference to the verse The righteous man [צדיק] is the foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25), which compares the Tzaddik to a pillar on which the world stands.[83]  R. Abraham Hayyim, then, portrays the Tzaddik as the pillar of prayer or channel of Divine overflow, the embodiment of sefirat Yesod, a type of powerful Divine being who mediates between God and the people of Israel.

Thus, the Zlotchover maggid’s teaching regarding the connecting of souls appears in his disciples’ writings in three versions, which when taken together create a formula for connection: From R. Meshullam Feibush Heller’s version we learn that before prayer the disciples would say, “I hereby take upon myself the commandment of Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Immediately thereafter they would begin to pray, while tracing in their hearts the portrait of the Tzaddik, the Zlotchover maggid, and cleaving to it.  From R. Abraham Hayyim’s version we learn that he took it upon himself to preface every prayer, morning and evening, with the following declaration: “I hereby take upon myself the commandment of Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Thus we have a formulation for connection composed of two parts: the statement “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18) before prayer, and the tracing of the portrait of the Tzaddik during the course of prayer.  With regard to the aim of the connection, R. Meshullam Feibush Heller portrays it as an expression of the sentiment of love that prevails between human beings.  The tracing of the portrait of a beloved person enables his colleague to connect with him spiritually, despite the fact that they are not in each other’s presence.  To reinforce the idea that the connection of souls is an expression of brotherly love, R. Meshullam Feibush points out that the numerical equivalent of the letters of the word אהבה  [love] is thirteen, like that of the word אחד  [one], which naturally comes to teach us that brotherly love reflects the love of the one God.[84]

A fourth version of the formula for connecting souls appears in Or ha-Emet, which was printed from a manuscript in the possession of R. Zvi Hasid, also a disciple of the Zlotchover maggid.  The version in Or  ha-Emet describes the quality of the spiritual connection between the person praying and the Tzaddik, as the tracing of the portrait of the Tzaddik by the Hasid during prayer also evokes the portrait of the one praying in the heart of the Tzaddik himself, enabling him to pray on behalf of the Hasid: “And you will undertake an activity in the course of this prayer.  When you mention me, at that moment your likeness will arise in my thoughts and I will pray for you.”[85]  This version stresses the value of prayer devoid of distracting thoughts of the impure and sinful variety.  It states that “At the very least [one] should be scrupulous when saying the prayer of Kriat Shma [which declares the unity of God] twice a day to say it without alien [evil] thoughts; this is of immeasurable importance.”  This addition addresses one of the Tzaddik’s key roles: the purification of prayer from sinful thoughts, primarily from impure thoughts of a sexual cast, which come up for those connecting with him during the course of prayer.[86]

Although it is possible to reconstruct the formula of the connections of the disciples’ souls to the soul of the Tzaddik during the course of prayer, that which is obscured still exceeds that which is revealed: The atmosphere of mystery and the omission of the Zlotchover maggid’s name from the formula require an explanation.  The reason may lie in an oath of secrecy taken upon themselves by his disciples, and in the content of the long sermon the Zlotchover maggid delivered on the festival of Shavuoth, 1777, of which only the revealed part was quoted above.

The Soul of Shaddai Gives Them Understanding [נשמת שדי תבינם]

In order to clarify the circumstances under which the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples took an oath to connect themselves to one another, we must examine the complete version of the long sermon the maggid delivered in his prayer house on the festival of Shavuoth, 1777.  According to R. Meshullam Feibush Heller’s description, the sermon was prefaced by a discussion that the maggid conducted with his disciples.  One of those present read all 613 commandments out loud, as customary on the festival of Shavuoth, and the maggid proceeded to preach on the first commandment in the Torah, that of Be fruitful and multiply.  During the course of the discussion the maggid posed his audience questions and took issue with their answers, until he began his sermon, “and he spoke at length, as it was his custom to explain things several times.”[87]

A reconstruction of the original order of the maggid’s remarks discloses a sermon in which he connected three Biblical verses to a single idea; First, he referred to the verse “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28) which he tied to the verse “For I will turn myself to thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee and establish my covenant with thee” (Leviticus 26:9).  Finally he connected these two verses to a third: “But truly it is the spirit in men, the soul of Shaddai, that gives them understanding” (Job 32:8).  According to his sermon, “be fruitful and multiply” refers to the natural method of procreation, namely: a father and mother produce offspring.  The second verse, however, “and [I will] make thee fruitful and multiply thee,” refers to the manner in which the people of Israel came into being.  It teaches that God created the Jewish people in a separate, special creation, ex nihilo, just as he created the first human being.  The people of Israel, then, is not merely a specific historical phenomenon but an original, primordial entity that was created in a separate creation.  During the process of creation, called “emanation,” the soul of Israel distanced itself from its Divine source, split to many splinters or sparks, grew thick and coated in matter. Only during prayer can those souls shed their material hides and return to the spiritual existence.  This is the aim of creation – the unification of all the souls of Israel and their return to their spiritual, divine root.

The Zlotchover maggid added that in order to commune anew with the Divine being, every Jew must purify himself of his material body and recognize the fact that his soul has no independent existence.  The soul is hewn from a large soul, the soul of the people of Israel as a whole, which is part of the Divine being.  This conclusion led him to the third, climactic part of his sermon, in which he detailed the theory of the connection of souls, and preached the idea of connecting with the soul of a “righteous man” (Tzaddik) in order to purify the souls and return them to their Divine source.  The soul of the Tzaddik, which mediates between the souls and their Divine root, is called “the soul of Shaddai,” in accordance with the verse, “The soul of Shaddai [the Almighty]... gives them understanding” (Job 32:8):

And I heard [it] from the mouth of the Holy Rabbi, the Maggid, on the festival of Shavuoth, when he preached a great sermon.  Concerning the verse The soul of Shaddai gives them understanding, he explained it to mean that God is called “Shaddai” [שדי] as [ש] He said to his world “Enough!” [די].

[שדי = ש+די]  In other words, the world emanated from spirituality to materiality, all so that it could be restored by the Tzaddik’s pure thought to be a great pleasure.

God said “Enough” because he understood that… if, Heaven forfend, [the world] became more material, it would no longer be possible to restore man to communion [with God], and without this of what use is the world?  For the world was created only in order to be commanded, meaning to commune with the Creator.[88]

The Zlotchover maggid interpreted the expression “the soul of Shaddai” to mean “the soul that comes from God, whose name is Shaddai.”[89]  The task of the soul of Shaddai is to teach other souls the secret of their redemption - “gives them understanding - and enable them to be redeemed by connecting themselves with this “soul that comes from the Holy One, may He be blessed” which is the soul of the Tzaddik.  The task of instructing other souls in the secret of their redemption and redeeming them through the act of connection is a thoroughly messianic task.  The disciples’ connection testifies to the fact that the Zlotchover maggid was not preaching a theoretical homily, but that he called his own soul “the soul of Shaddai” and had designated it for this role.

The messianic cast of the sermon is further accentuated by the very use of the term “the soul of Shaddai,” since the name “Shaddai,” [שדי] through which God revealed himself to the Patriarchs and which is the sobriquet of the angel Metatron,[90] had become a quintessentially messianic name.  The kabbalist R. Abraham Abulafia took on the additional name “Shaddai” as part of his messianic pretension.[91]  The name was also accorded a key place in the Sabbatean tradition as one of the Divine names of Shabbatai Tzvi, who even wore a ring on his finger on which the letters Shaddai were engraved.[92]  And numerous Sabbatean hymns include the numerical value of Shaddai and speak of the correction of the world in the realm of Shaddai, an allusion to his future messianic kingship.[93]

One can assume that the Zlotchover maggid chose deliberately to preach in markedly messianic language and that he was aware of the Sabbatean tone of his words.  His motives become clear when we combine the testimonies of R. Meshullam Feibush Heller, R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir, R. Abraham Hayyim of Zlotchov and R. Zvi Hasid into a comprehensive picture portraying portions of one real scene; The festival of Shavuoth of the year 1777 was evidently the date on which the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples conducted a ceremony of kabbalistic connection.  The date was not chosen arbitrarily, but in keeping with the kabbalistic tradition whereby the Shavuoth holiday, which commemorates the date of the granting of the Law, symbolizes the time of the mending of the upper and lower worlds.[94]  The choice of the year 1777 was also not arbitrary, but due to the messianic expectations that flourished in that year; groups of kabbalists were in the custom of conducting their connection ceremonies in years that were expected to be years of redemption.

The messianic drive of the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples, who sought to correct the upper worlds on the festival of Shavuoth, 1777, found expression in various forms.  The theoretical aspect of the teaching of Tikkun (correction) is voiced in the maggid’s theory concerning the connection of souls, and in the sermon he gave about his soul, the “soul of Shaddai,” and its messianic mission.  The ritual aspect is expressed in the formula for connection that was established on that occasion.  The formula is uttered before prayer, and includes three parts, each of which symbolizes a stage in the correction of the upper worlds:

Repeating the verse And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself  before prayer, in accordance with the Lurianic custom symbolizes the correction of one’s comrades, who make connections among themselves; 

Tracing the portrait of the Tzaddik during prayer is the technique whereby the group elevates the soul of the Tzaddik to its place in the world of the Sefirot, as the Sefira of Yesod, the Sefira of the Tzaddik

The declaiming of the 613 commandments, as performed by one of those present, is designed to mend the Shechinah and raise her to the Sefira of Yesod in order to complete the holy coupling.[95]

“Shechinah Speech” [דיבור שכינה ] of the Zlotchover Maggid

The messianic objective of the Tikkun ceremony was revealed on the climax of the occasion, when the Zlotchover maggid experienced a Divine revelation in the form of “Shechinah speech.”  The testimony appears in Or Ha-Meir: R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir states that the Zlotchover maggid received a revelation in the form of a Divine voice that spoke from his mouth and throat.  “Shechinah speech” refers to the Divine inspiration that he experienced in a moment of grace, when his soul transcended material being and his body became a dwelling-place or receptacle through which the voice of the Shechinahresonated.  He attained “Shechinah speech” after managing to elevate himself to the level of nothingness (Ayin), where through annihilation of the human voice his mouth and throat became a mouthpiece for the Divine voice.

The Zlotchover maggid’s success in achieving his demand for the annihilation of the self as the path to communion with God - “And they rendered themselves as nothing”[96] - earned him Divine revelation.  R. Ze’ev Wolf states that the maggid provided public instruction in how to introduce “wisdom” into words of Torah or prayer.  The “aspect of wisdom” here parallels the level of Ayin [אין], in which the human voice disappears and the individual becomes a mouthpiece for the Divine voice.  This is the highest level of prophecy, called “Shechinah speech,” which is ascribed to Moses.

I once heard Rabbi Mikhal, Maggid of the holy community of Zlotchov, preach in public, and he asked ‘You,  please listen to my words.’  Subsequently he said, ‘It is not you alone that I warn and command, but myself as well whom I exhort with you.’  And I understood from his holy words that he may have been directing his own intention to what he was saying.  This is an important rule, that [one] should not utter speech from the lips outward, but only while infusing wisdom into his speech... This means that [one] refrains from uttering speech concerning Torah or prayer until such time as his speech is informed by wisdom.  Only then does he resolve to speak; and if not, he muzzles his mouth in order to stop the words.  I once heard the Maggid, may his memory be for a blessing for eternal life, tell us explicitly, ‘I will teach you the best way of speaking Torah.  [A person should speak Torah] when he doesn’t feel himself at all.  [Instead he becomes] an ear listening to how the world of speech speaks within him, rather than he himself speaking.  And as soon as he starts to hear his own words, he should stop.’  My own eyes, not those of a stranger, have seen several times how when [the maggid] opened his mouth to speak words of Torah he appeared to all as if he were not present in this world at all, and the Shechinah spoke from his throat.  And at times even in the midst of a topic, in the midst of a letter, he would stop and pause for a bit.  All this goes to show that the enlightened person must wait for wisdom, and then emit the speech with the wisdom.  As mentioned, When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak withHim, he went truly united with the aspect of wisdom.[97]

The testimony of R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir, however, does not state explicitly that the Zlotchover maggid attained “Shechinah speech” during the Shavuoth festival in particular.  The testimony must be examined meticulously in order to determine the date and the circumstances: R. Ze’ev Wolf declares that “my own eyes, not those of a stranger, have seen several times,” meaning that the maggid attained “Shechinah speech” more than once; And when R. Ze’ev Wolf repeats the expression “once” it creates the impression that he is referring to at least two distinct occasions on which the Zlotchover maggid held a conversation with his audience.  However, the content of the address to his listeners upon both occasions demonstrates that they are one and the same, and thus the impression given that these are two different occasions is artificial:

And he asked ‘You, please listen to my words.’  Subsequently he said, ‘It is not you alone that I warn and command, but myself as well whom I exhort with you’….[And he said,] ‘I will teach you the best way of speaking Torah.  [A person should speak Torah] when he doesn’t feel himself at all.  [Instead he becomes] an ear listening to how the world of speech speaks within him, rather than he himself speaking.  And as soon as he starts to hear his own words, he should stop.’

At the outset of his discourse the Zlotchover maggid turned to his audience and requested their attention as well as his own.   By means of this unconventional request he directed their attention to the importance of silence, which is the key to hearing the Divine voice.  He subsequently taught them that an individual attains such a level of perception “…when he doesn’t feel himself at all.  [Instead he becomes] an ear listening…”  Consequently, the “once” with which he began his address is identical to the “once” of its continuation, and the audience mentioned in the first part is the same audience that is mentioned in the second.

The content of the sermon also carries special significance, since the biblical verses the Zlotchover maggid interprets assist him in eliminating the consciousness of self to the point of annihilation [התאיינות] - “when he doesn’t feel himself at all.”  While R. Ze’ev Wolf divides the maggid’s words into two parts and quotes them in a different order from that in which they were spoken, the division need not prevent us from reconstructing the original order: The statement “As mentioned, When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him”at the end of the passage shows that the verse had already been mentioned at the outset of the address.  Thus the maggid had explicated the verse “When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the covering that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim: And He spake unto him” [Numbers 7:89].  He had used the verse to demonstrate how to attain the level of Moses in silence and waiting until the “wisdom” is infused into speech - “This means that [one] refrains from uttering speech concerning Torah or prayer until such time as his speech is informed by wisdom.”  And finally, he instructed those present how a person should “speak Torah when he doesn’t feel himself at all.  [Instead he becomes] an ear listening.”  In other words, he should wait until he no longer hears his own voice, but the world of speech, meaning the Shechinah, speaking from within his mouth, like Moses.

These hints enable us to date the above event.  The verse the maggid interprets - When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him - is taken from parashat Naso, which is read in synagogue on the Sabbath following the festival of Shavuoth.  This fact fits nicely with R. Meshullam Feibush Heller’s statement that the assembly in the Brody prayer house was “on the festival of Shavuoth of this year, the year 1777…when I observed there the festival of Shavuoth and the Sabbath following it.”  Moreover, Or Ha-Meir by R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir preserves one of the formulas for the mystical connection, which was fixed on the festival of Shavuoth in the prayer house in Brody, thus reinforcing the conclusion that R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir was among those present.  The use of the pronoun “we” is evidence that R. Ze’ev Wolf was present on that occasion as one of a certain distinct group, and that what transpired was witnessed by a carefully selected audience.  This detail also conforms with the description of R. Meshullam Feibush, who indicated that the congregation in the prayer house was a familiar crowd, and that the maggid engaged them in discussion before he began to preach.

Thus R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir’s testimony provides new information concerning what transpired in the prayer house during the festival of Shavuoth, 1777.   On the holiday itself the Zlotchover maggid revealed the secret of his soul – “The soul of Shaddai” - and on the Sabbath following Shavuoth he interpreted the verse from parashat Naso that addresses the prophecy of Moses, comparing it to his own prophecy.  On this occasion he demonstrated to his disciples how to attain the level of prophecy, and in so doing achieved the prophetic revelation of “Shechinah speech.”  The Zlotchover maggid’s “Shechinah speech” is connected to the Mosaic prophecy in terms of content as well: The description of the Heavenly voice, which R. Ze’ev Wolf describes as “the Shechinah speaking from [the maggid’s] throat,” creates a clear parallel with Moses, concerning whose prophecy the Zohar says that “the Holy One, blessed be He, and his Shechinah speak in accordance with his mouth.”[98]  The parallel to Moses corresponds with the centrality of Moses’ role in the granting of the Law and completes the picture, whereby the festival of Shavuoth was celebrated in the Zlotchover maggid’s prayer house as a reconstruction of  the events on Mount Sinai. 

Moreover, the description in Or ha-Meir and the Zlotchover maggid’s “Shechinah speech” also resemble the manner in which R. Joseph Karo attained “Shechinah speech” in a Tikkun on the night of Shavuoth depicted in the Elkabetz epistle.  R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir stresses that “my own eyes, not those of a stranger, have seen several times…”—a formula that recalls the testimony of R. Shlomo Elkabetz—“All these things did we hear with our own ear.”[99]  The language creates a parallel between the descriptions and reinforces the conclusion that the revelation of the Shechinah in the mouth of the Zlotchover maggid is perceived not only as a replication of the Mosaic prophecy, but also as a reenactment of the revelation of the Shechinah in the mouth of R. Joseph Karo.[100] 

Furthermore, according to the testimony of R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir the maggid both attained “Shechinah speech” in the presence of his disciples and taught them how to achieve it themselves.   Animating the drive to instruct his disciples was the aspiration to render revelation into a public event encompassing an entire community, similar to the granting of the Torah.  And in fact at least two testimonies suggest that several of those in attendance at the Brody prayer house attained “Shechinah speech” through the maggid’s inspiration.  One of the testimonies is concealed in the preface to Zot Zikkaron by R. Jacob Isaac, the visionary of Lublin, one of the Zlotchover maggid’s most distinguished disciples:

For the sake of uniting the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Shechinah, in fear and trembling, to unify the name Yod Hay[[י"ה, blessed be He, in a complete unity in the name of the entire people of Israel, and to raise the Shechinah from her dust.  Behold I am ready and willing to write down what the Blessed One helped me to innovate in sessions with [my] colleagues, with them listening to my voice and the voice to him.  I began with a Biblical verse; I said Days should speak; And multitude of years should teach wisdom; But truly it is the spirit in men, the soul of Shaddai, that gives them understanding.[101]

The visionary of Lublin notes that he explicated the verse “The soul of Shaddai gives them understanding” for the purpose of uniting the Holy One with His Shechinah, and in order to raise her from the dust.  His statement that he interpreted the verse on the occasion of “sessions with colleagues, with them listening to my voice and the voice to him,” could be an allusion to the specific occasion upon which that verse was interpreted, as this is the verse that the Zlotchover maggid explicated during the Tikkun of Shavuoth.  Most important is the description of “them listening to my voice and the voice to him,” as this difficult expression embodies the eternal circle of the colleagues’ and speaker’s connection to the Divine voice, which in turn pulses within members of the group.[102]  Moreover, the visionary of Lublin began writing in the year 1778, meaning that the statement was recorded shortly after the Tikkun of Shavuoth, 1777.  This dating is compatible with the premise that the visionary of Lublin was among those present at the prayer house, and it may be that he also attained sublime inspiration in the manner of the maggid during the Tikkun of Shavuoth.

Another testimony may be secreted in Tiferet Uziel by R. Uziel Meiseles, also a disciple of the Zlotchover maggid.   R. Uziel describes how the Shechinah speaks from the Tzaddik’s throat, and how Divine inspiration alights upon the group of Hasidim around him as well.   The group’s members are likened to an assembly of prophets, from whose throats the Shechinah speaks.  A bystander might think that they had been seized by madness, but in fact they have received Divine inspiration.  Admittedly, R. Uziel Meiseles’ description is general in nature, and mentions neither the name of the Tzaddik nor those of his disciples.  Nevertheless it is not inconceivable that this passage as well conceals the imprint of the event at the Zlotchover maggid’s prayer house in Brody:

For it is known concerning our teacher Moses, may he rest in peace, that the Shechinah spoke out of his throat.  And although no other prophet has arisen to equal Moses, in any event regarding this level there are several who are privileged to experience His noble Shechinah, may He be blessed, glorifying from within their throats… This is called Let the exaltation of God be in their throats.  Namely, when the exaltation of the Shechinah is in their throats, His noble Shechinah, so to speak, speaks from the throats of the Tzaddikim… And on this account we have found in the Bible and Talmud that the Hasidim sing and dance with great fervor… Yet if a person standing at a distance did not hear the sound of the instruments but saw [the Hasid] dancing and trolling, he would think him a madman.[103]

The descriptions by the visionary of Lublin and R. Uziel Meiseles, then, help complete the other disciples’ testimonies.  The supposition that the visionary of Lublin was granted new insights into Torah by a Divine voice which spoke to him in the presence of his peers expands the picture we have of the occasion and approximates it to that depicted by R. Uziel Meiseles, namely: a company of Hasidim-prophets from whose throats the Shechinah speaks.


The Messianic Company of the Zlotchover Maggid

The reconstruction of an ancient ceremony learned out of a sacred text,[104] such as the granting of the Torah on Mount Sinai, is linked in the kabbalistic tradition with the occasion of the founding of a group or company [[חבורה, whose members bind themselves to one another through oaths.   Such groups are already known from ancient esoteric literature,[105] as well as from kabbalist literature.  For example, the portrayal of the assembly of the company in the Zohar, which inspired R. Joseph Karo and his colleagues to conduct the Tikkun of the night of Shavuoth depicted in the Elkabetz epistle.  In the golden age of kabbalah in 16th century Safed a number of such groups were formed, such as that of R. Isaac Luria, which served as inspiration for the circle founded by Shabbatai Tzvi.  In the 18th century groups such as that of Sar Shalom Shar’abi in Jerusalem were active, and that of R. Moshe Hayyim Luzzato, which operated in Italy.

Despite the variations in time and place, these groups shared a number of common traits, which were present among the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples as well.  First and foremost - organizing in a group whose members considered themselves to be the reincarnations of the souls of Tannaitic and Amoraic scholars, who were themselves held to be reincarnations of Biblical figures such as the Patriarchs, prophets and priests.  Thus we learn from the testimony of an opponent of Hasidism, R. David of Makov, that members of the group “concocted [the story] that the individual called Mikhal Zlotchover is a reincarnation of the prophet Habakkuk.” Another member is considered to be “a reincarnation of Eli the Priest,” “and concerning every member of their sect they say that he is a spark of a certain Tannaitic or Amoraic scholar.”[106]  The use of the term “sect” is not incidental; it is a pejorative term designating the Sabbatean movement, and it signifies that R. David of Makov considered the activity of the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples to be of a dangerous nature on the part of lawless and heretical individuals.  The charge that the Zlotchover maggid considered himself a reincarnation of the prophet Habakkuk was also no accident, as in the esoteric tradition Habakkuk is depicted as the archetype of the prophet-mystic; the Sabbatean tradition accorded his prophecy a place of honor, and the verse “The righteous man shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4)was held to refer to Shabbatai Tzvi.  One can assume that R. David of Makov was aware of the Sabbatean interpretation of the verse, and the accusation that the Zlotchover maggid considered himself a reincarnation of the prophet Habakkuk was designed to insinuate that he was a heretic after the example of Shabbatai Tzvi, who had deified himself.  While there is no corroboration in Hasidic sources for the testimony of R. David of Makov, an associative connection between the prophecy of Habakkuk and the assembly on the festival of Shavuoth can be found in the passage from the prophets [[הפטרה read on the second day of the festival of Shavuoth in the diaspora, which includes verses from the prophet Habakkuk.

The company of the Zlotchover Maggid can be characterized with six characteristics:

A. Acceptance of the authority of a spiritual leader who acts on the basis of Divine inspiration: The status the Zlotchover maggid enjoyed among members of his company stemmed from the fact that his soul was  “the soul of Shaddai,” [נשמת שדי] and from his disciples’ belief in his power to redeem the nation.  His authority derived from Divine inspiration, which appeared in his mouth in the form of “Shechinah speech.”

B. The establishment of a hierarchy and the imposition of limits within the group, whereby only the leader is entitled to do certain deeds, which are forbidden to his disciples: In similar fashion to the leaders of known groups and in accordance with the accepted practice documented in deeds of connection used by groups of kabbalists, the Zlotchover maggid’s disciples took an oath not to attach themselves in their prayers to the upper worlds, save through the soul of the Tzaddik.  So testifies R. Abraham Hayyim of Zlotchov: “And with regard to his statement, ‘Be a tail unto lions:’ It means you should connect yourself in your prayers with great men, who know the intentions and secrets of prayer, and you should be as a tail to them… For then will your prayers be heard and ascend to [God’s] will with the intentions of the great men, who know the intentions of prayer in your connection with them.”  Statements by R. Meshullam Feibush Heller, which repeat themselves again and again in his letters, can be linked to this commitment as well; he warns R. Joel not to equate himself with those “exceptional, exalted individuals who were privileged to receive instruction from the Ba’al Shem Tov and his disciples and who adhered to their path.”[107]  By comparison, “we are contaminated from head to foot, and there is no innocence [in us]… and our hearts have in no way been purified from carnal desires.”  Accordingly, he beseeches his companion not to engage in certain forms of worship, such as employing the Lurianic intentions in prayer, which are reserved for the worthy few.  This model of the Tzaddik as the sole mediator between the members of his community and God characterizes Hasidic courts to this day.

C. Consolidation of the connection between members of the group through use of a key or code which serves as an invisible bridge between earth and Heaven, human and Divine, and between members of the earthly group and the sublime angels: In the Zlotchover maggid’s company, the soul of the Tzaddik constituted the bridge between earth and Heaven, human and Divine.  The formula for connection created a mutual dependence between him and members of his group; he purged their prayers of sinful thoughts, and their purified prayers raised his soul to its place in the Sefira of Yesod.  Such a connection persists to this day between the Hasidic Tzaddik and his followers.

D. Encoded writing and the obligation to keep secrets:  Members of the company commit themselves to keep the connection amongst them and the code through which they connect secret.[108]  Keeping secrets is an essential matter, for the secrets contain the sacred names of God, and whoever knows the names of God has the power to use them in the upper worlds in order to redeem the world.  The vow of secrecy, then, stems from the prohibition that was issued against using the holy names.  Hillel the Elder already alluded to this idea in his declaration that “he who makes worldly use of the crown shall perish.”[109] 

At times the code of the Divine names contains also a human name, as in Lurianic kabbalah, in which the combination of letters comprising a person’s name serves as a necessary component in the correction of the soul reincarnated in him.[110]  It may be that the prohibition against the use of holy names is the reason why the Zlotchover maggid’s disciples refrained from saying his name in their prayers, contenting themselves with tracing his portrait.  Similarly, they did not write his name but substituted nicknames for it such as “the wise man of the generation,” “the Tzaddikim of the generation,” “great men.”  It may be, therefore, that his name had become a sacred name, whose letters it is forbidden to pronounce.[111]  Another encoding technique was to divide up texts with an esoteric content into several passages, and then to insert the passages in locations far removed from one another in a manner that would impede their assembly into a whole continuous text.  For example, the letters of R. Meshullam Feibush Heller or the works of R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir.

E. The composition of a set of rules or practices obliging group members to behave in a certain way, primarily concerning prohibitions and strictures that exceed the requirements of Hallacha: The Zlotchover maggid and his disciples instituted special practices in the spirit of the Hasidic and ascetic practices of the kabbalists of Zafed.  Assorted collections of these practices [[הנהגות were printed from the year 1781 on.   A noteworthy feature of their publication is their attribution to persons who had already passed away at the time of printing, such as the Ba’al Shem Tov, R. Menachem Mendel of Peremishlyany and R. Dov Ber, the maggid of Mezeritch. 

F. Number of Participants – Ten or Twelve

The members in a company of kabbalists considered themselves to represent the entirety of the people of Israel, and these groups therefore comprised at least ten persons, who constitute a quorum [[מניין, or twelve persons, the number of the tribes of Israel.  With regard to the members of the Zlotchover maggid’s circle, only three of those present at his prayer house on the festival of Shavuoth can be identified from the letter of R. Meshullam Feibush Heller: the Zlotchover maggid, R. Meshullam Feibush Heller himself and the son of R. Zussia of Hanipoli (brother of R. Elimelekh of Lizhensk), whose presence is specifically mentioned by R. Meshullam Feibush Heller.[112]  The name of another person, referred to as the individual who reviewed the 613 commandments, has been censored.[113]  In addition, one can reasonably assume that R. Abraham Hayyim of Zlotchov, R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir, R. Jacob Isaac the visionary of Lublin and R. Zvi Hasid were also in attendance at the prayer house, as their writings testify to the fact that they were acquainted with the formula for connection that was established on that occasion.

The way to discover the identity of additional participants is to locate the connection formula or parts of it in the works of contemporary Hasidim.  In particular, one should look for the part that includes the dictum “And thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself “ before prayer, which the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples adopted under the influence of Lurianic kabbalah.  Moshe Halamish has in fact numbered some sixteen personalities among the founding fathers of Hasidism in whose writings the custom is mentioned,[114] among them the founders of the first Hasidic courts, and most of them tightly connected to the House of Zlotchov: R. Meshullam Feibush Heller, one of the Zlotchover maggid’s outstanding students;[115] R. Moshe Shoham ben R. Dan of Dalina, an in-law of the Zlotchover maggid;[116] R. Isaac of Radvil, the son of the Zlotchover maggid;[117] R. Isaiah Mushkat, son-in-law of R. Isaac of Radvil;[118] R. Abraham Hayyim of Zlotchov;[119] R. Levi Isaac of Berdichev;[120] R. Hanoch Hanich;[121] R. Elimelekh of Lizhensk,[122] brother of R. Zussia of Hanipoli, whose son was present in the prayer on the festival of Shavuoth, and it is not inconceivable that both brothers were disciples of the Zlotchover maggid; R. Reuben ha-Levi Horowitz;[123] R. Shneur Zalman of Ladi;[124] R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk[125] and R. Abraham of  Kalisk, leaders of the Hasidic immigration to the Land of Israel, whose connection to the Zlotchover maggid will be explored below; R. Aharon (the second) of Karlin, son-in-law of R. Mordechai of Kremnitz, son of the Zlotchover maggid;[126] R. Shabbatai  of Rashkov;[127] R. Nahum of Chernobyl and his son, R. Mordechai;[128] and R. Eliezer Shapira of Munkatch.[129]

G. Shared Objective: Usually a kabbalistic company had a messianic aim, whether overt or covert.  The aim was formulated in symbolic language, with regard to effecting a Tikkun of the Shechinah and redeeming the souls of the entire people of Israel, who are the limbs of the Shechinah.  In practical terms, messianic groups focused expectations for redemption on the Land of Israel, which was considered the earthly embodiment of the Shechinah, and they viewed the ingathering of exiles into the Land as the first stage of the redemption process.

Similarly, the purpose of the gathering of the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples on the night of Shavuoth 1777 was associated with a messianic aim, for which the connection formula served as a type of inner code; the connection was intended to include the prayers of group members, who represented the entire nation, in the prayers of the Zlotchover maggid, and thus raise them up to Heaven.  This is why the maggid was accustomed to pray “in the name of all Israel,” and to connect in his prayers “both with those greater than I, through whom my thoughts will be elevated, and with those lesser than I, who will be elevated by me.”  Thus he was one of the select few Tzaddikim who connected those Jewish souls that are lesser than he with the souls that are greater than he, namely, the souls of the Patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - which dwell in the palace of sapphire pavement.  The leap from the soul of the Tzaddik to the souls of the Patriarchs proves that the Zlotchover maggid found no one greater than himself in his generation; his remarks on the manner of his connection are directed to the nation’s patriarchs and to the Divine Sefirot which they symbolize.  Furthermore, the connection formula also served to link up with R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and his companions, who on the festival of Shavuoth of 1777 were already presumed to be in the Land of Israel, via which prayers ascend to the supernal palaces. 

Before us, then, is a vivid description of the process of the redemption of the worlds, whereby the Tzaddik embodies the Sefira of Yesod, the organ of the covenant, and sows the prayers of Israel like semen in the body of the Matron, the Shechinah, who symbolizes the Temple and its palaces.  The Tzaddik draws the power for the Tikkun and the coupling from the prayers of his group, which limn his portrait, and upon his unification with the Shechinah her broken limbs heal and she is redeemed.[130]  In terms of the doctrine of the Sefirot, the redemption is also portrayed as the inclusion of the Sefirot in one another, principally the Sefirot of Hesed  (Abraham), Din (Isaac) and Tiferet (Jacob).  The connecting soul is the soul of the Tzaddik (the Sefira of Yesod), and it is difficult not to conclude that this is the “soul of Shaddai,” which the Zlotchover maggid equated with his own. 

Spreading the massage - The Printing of Kabbalistic Manuscripts

The next stage in the messianic program of the Zlotchover maggid and his followers was launched in 1778, a few months after the connection ceremony.  While members of the pioneering group sent to the Land of Israel were struggling with expected and unexpected difficulties, those who remained behind embarked on a project of printing books of kabbalah.  Their aim was to circumvent the Brody ban of 1756 forbidding the study of kabbalah from manuscripts and permitting learning only from printed books.[131]  Underlying this initiative was their belief that the dissemination of kabbalistic writings would help fulfill the prophecies of redemption these works contained.[132]  Some rabbinic and communal leaders opposed the propagation of the kabbalah, particularly Lurianic kabbalah with its messianic character, for identical reasons: Theirs was the crusade of a conservative establishment seeking to restrain messianic groups, which were liable to excite the imagination of community members with false hopes and to foster a false messianism. 

R. Shlomo Lutzkir, an intimate of R. Isaac Izik ha-Cohen of Korez[133] and his in-law,[134] was most active in the project to print kabbalistic works.  Within a short period of time R. Shlomo Lutzkir and his partner, R. Simeon Ashkenazi, had printed a series of books of kabbalah: in 1778, the Zohar; in 1779, Sefer Yetzirah with the commentary of Shushan Sodot; in 1780, Tikkunei Ha-Zohar.  The books were printed in Korez, where R. Isaac Izik ha-Cohen held unchallenged sway. 

So long as they were printing books of kabbalah, the printers refrained from identifying themselves by name and place.  The underground character of their activity derived from the wish to blur their identity and the connection between them.  Only once they began printing books of Hasidism was R. Shlomo Lutzkir’s identity disclosed.  In 1780 Toldot Ya’aqov Yosef by R. Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye, a disciple of the Ba’al Shem Tov, was printed; on the title page R. Shlomo Lutzkir and R. Simeon Ashkenazi are cited as the two partners who brought the book to print.[135]  In 1781 Maggid Devarav le-Ya’aqov by R. Dov Ber, the Mezeritcher maggid, was printed.  R. Shlomo  Lutzkir wrote the book’s introduction, in which he revealed his involvement in the printing of kabbalistic books as well.[136]  The disclosure was still only partial, however, and R. Shlomo Lutzkir’s language remained vague.

Concurrently with the printing of the first Hasidic works, the group also began bringing to print the writings of Safed’s kabbalists.  One of the first books was Pardes Rimonim by Moshe Cordovero, which had been printed in the past,[137] but almost two hundred years had elapsed in the interim and copies were extremely rare.  On the occasion of this printing the publishers revealed their identity on the title page, which states that the book was printed by the sons-in-law of R. Simeon Ashkenazi,[138] R. Shlomo Lutzkir’s partner.  The title page records the year 1780, yet on the last page of the book is an inscription specifying the date the printing was completed - on Tuesday, 2th of Adar 5541 (February 27, 1781).[139]  Apparently the book was prepared for print in 1780 but the printing itself was deferred until 1781, in anticipation of the messianic date of the month of Iyyar.

The wave of printings climaxed in the month of Iyyar of the year 1781, when the messianic expectation was no longer hidden under a veil of secrecy but recorded in the books themselves: On this date the Ba’al Shem Tov’s “Holy Epistle,” containing the deepest secrets of the redemption revealed to him by the Messiah, was printed for the first time.  The epistle was printed as an appendix to a work by R. Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye, Ben Porat Yosef, at the end of which the printers specified the exact date of printing - Tuesday, 20th of Iyyar 5541 (May 15, 1781).[140]  Evidently they inferred from the Ba’al Shem Tov’s epistle that the messiah would come when the secrets revealed to the Ba’al Shem Tov were publicized and his springs [of knowledge] disseminated abroad.  They believed that in disseminating the secrets of the redemption specifically on this date they would succeed in uniting the time of the redemption—Iyyar 5541 (April-May 1781) - with the condition stipulated by the Messiah to the Besht.  If R. Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye also backed the printing of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s epistle,[141] his involvement would indicate that the Zlotchover maggid and the members of his circle did not operate in a vacuum, but were continuing a messianic endeavor that had been launched with the Ba’al Shem Tov’s activity in 1740 and was shelved upon his failure in 1746.

The crowning point of the operation was designed to be the printing of kabbalistic secrets of R. Isaac Luria, in the hope that their publication would hasten the Messiah’s arrival.  The printers’ choice testifies to their messianic objective, as the restrictions imposed upon the study and dissemination of Lurianic kabbalah endowed it with a special status and rendered it the last mystery whose revelation would herald the advent of the redemption.  The Lurianic manuscripts were supposed to be printed immediately after the Ba’al Shem Tov’s epistle.  In the last days of the month of Iyyar 1781 the group’s members received endorsements for the printing of the works of R. Hayyim Vital - Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim -from some of the most distinguished kabbalists of the Brody kloize: R. Hayyim of Tzanz, in-law of R. Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye, R. Moshe ben Hillel Ostrar, in-law of R. Gershon of Kutov[142] and R. Abraham Mordechai, son of the famous kabbalist and calculator of the redemption R. Israel Harif Heilperin.[143]  R. Abraham Mordechai sealed his endorsement with the sentence: “Today is the 28th of Iyyar 5541 (May 23, 1781), words of the writer in haste, the young Abraham Mordechai, presiding judge of the court of the holy community of Zolkva.”[144]  The “haste” expresses the taut expectation to which the Zlotchover maggid and his supporters were subject at the end of the month of Iyyar, 1781.  However, ultimately the printing did not take place on this date, and Sefer Ha-Kanah[145]and Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim[146] were printed only in the months after the Zlotchover maggid’s death.  And although it is not known for sure why the printing was delayed, there is reason to suspect that the wave of bans and the maggid’s death were the reasons for the delay.

The endorsements the kloize kabbalists of Brody accorded the printing of Lurianic works indicate that the most important kabbalists favored the Zlotchover maggid and his company, and likely shared their hopes.  Moreover, in retrospect it transpires that at least a portion of the kabbalistic manuscripts came from the beit midrash of Mezeritch, which adjoined Korez, and that they were printed with the encouragement of the rabbi of Mezeritch, R. Zvi Hirsch Margaliot, father-in-law of R. Isaac Izik of Korez.  R. Zvi Hirsch participated in printing the works of Lurianic kabbalah  “because perhaps a time of love has come when this great light may be revealed to the Jews.”[147]  In other words, he also believed that the messianic era - the “time of love”[148] - was in the process of being revealed.   

Furthermore, the identity of those involved in printing the works of Lurianic kabbalah indicates that the disciples of the Zlotchover maggid - R. Isaac Izik ha-Cohen of Korez, his son Abraham, his in-law R. Shlomo Lutzkir and their partner R. Simeon Ashkenazi, were the first organized group to engage in the printing and dissemination of Lurianic kabbalah from manuscripts which had previously been withheld and only some of which had ever seen publication.  Through this initiative they transformed Lurianic kabbalah from an esoteric teaching known only to a very few into a printed and accessible tradition which was easily propagated and available for unrestricted study.  Their actions won the support of rabbis and scholars from three key Eastern European batei midrash and kloizes: the kloize of Ostrog, then headed by R. Isaac Izik ha-Cohen himself; the beit midrash of Mezeritch, headed by his father-in-law, R. Zvi Hirsch Margaliot; and the Brody kloize, some of whose most prominent members, including the head of the kloize, R. Hayyim Landa, were allies of the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples.  It is no coincidence that it was from these circles in which Lurianic kabbalah was studied intensively that there arose the first kabbalistic-messianic group in Eastern Europe; after all, the families of the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples had been the founders and lifeblood of these circles for generations.

The Death of the Zlotchover Maggid

During the months of Nissan-Iyyar 5541 (March-May 1781) the group’s members were still unaware of what the future held and their hopes soared.  Several of them planned to immigrate to the Land of Israel immediately upon hearing the tidings of redemption, and R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk wrote back enthusiastically from Tiberias, promising that he would rush to inform them when the “news” came, so that they could be on their way.  In the course of his letter he reminded them how much he longed “that my friends, my delight, my brothers and companions, should come to the Holy Land, and we should join together, in joy and exultation and trembling, in His service, may He be blessed… God willing, when the news arrives I will let you know.”[149]

However, the month of Iyyar passed and the redemption tarried.  In its place, the attacks on the group’s members, which had subsided since the Brody ban of 1772, resumed with greater force.  The mitnagdim concentrated their fire on the Zlotchover maggid: Despite the fact that his name was nowhere mentioned in the printed works, R. David of Makov knew enough to single out “Mikhal Zlotchover” and “their sect” as responsible for disseminating the secrets of the kabbalah:

They have also concocted [the story] that the individual called Mikhal Zlotchover is a reincarnation of the prophet Habakkuk… And concerning every member of their sect they say that he is a spark of a certain Tannaitic or Amoraic scholar.  Woe to the ears that hear such things, for these things have come to pass in our time.  They reject the Talmud and Tosafot, [preferring] to study the Zohar.  And all those books of the kabbalists which were obscure and were not printed lest error arise [on their account], they go ahead and print, Heaven forfend, such as the books Ez Hayyim and Sefer Ha-Kanah.[150]

R. David of Makov specifically mentions the printing of Ez Hayyim and Sefer Ha-Kanah, which had previously not been printed lest the reader understand them imperfectly and come to err.  Although he does not specify which “error” he is referring to, his complaint can be understood as an apprehension concerning the spread of a false messianism along the lines of the Sabbatean movement, which operated under the powerful influence of the kabbalah.  This is also the meaning of the term “sect” - a derogatory term for the followers of Shabbatai Tzvi - which he adopts in reference to the Zlotchover maggid and members of his circle.

The struggle against the group quickly took a practical turn.  During the months of Av-Elul 5541 (July-September 1781) the leaders of the communities of Vilna, Grodna, Pinsk, Brisk and Slotzk imposed bans on the Hasidim.  The announcement of the ban issued by the community of Vilna states that the Hasidim are captivated by lies of the kind that already claimed many casualties in the past: “To the point that they abandon all their strength and their children, wives and property and wander about in quest of fruitless things, as their fraud and ignominy is revealed and publicized in their new book.”[151]  The allusion is to the devotees of Shabbatai Tzvi, who erred in following the false messiah until they were taken prisoner and converted to Islam.  The Hasidim, it is insinuated, are following in the footsteps of the Sabbateans, proof of which can be found in their “new book” which exposes their disgrace.  The proximity in time indicates that the new book is Ben Porat Yosef, which was printed some three months prior to the imposition of the ban and includes the Ba’al Shem Tov’s Holy Epistle.[152]  Evidently the ban’s authors considered the printing of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s epistle in the month of Iyyar 1781, which was known to be a messianic date, as a sort of brazen declaration of intent; this explains the allusions made in aspersion of the messianic delusion, which had already claimed casualties in the time of Shabbatai Tzvi and to which the Hasidim were now falling prey. 

The persecutions of the Zlotchover maggid came to a peak in Brody: Mitnagdim gathered in front of his house, burning copies of R. Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye’s books, including Ben Porat Yosef with the Ba’al Shem Tov’s epistle inside it.[153]  Shortly thereafter the Zlotchover maggid passed away.  It is impossible to know whether his sudden demise derived from the fact that the time of the redemption passed and the Messiah failed to come; perhaps he sought to die because he had lost all reason to live and was literally disappointed to death.  Or perhaps it was his opponents’ persecutions that felled him. 

The tradition concerning his death evokes a sense of inevitability: It was on the Sabbath the 25th of Elul 5541 (September 15, 1781) when the parashot Nitzavim-Vayelekh, depicting the last days of Moses, were read in synagogue.  The Zlotchover maggid was the sixth person called to the Torah,[154] and he read the verse “And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die” (Deuteronomy 31:14).  He understood the verse as a message designed for him: “ה"ן ימיך” (Behold, thy days) has the numerical value of 55, the maggid’s age, and in the last two words, “ימיך למות,” is concealed “י[חיאל]מיכל מות.”  And so it happened: “And at evening time, at the Sabbath’s third meal, from the intensity of the light, he departed in accordance with the Sublime Will.”[155]

The Zlotchover maggid was buried in the town of Yampela, where he served as preacher toward the end of his life. The year of his death is not explicitly stated on his tombstone; the following inscription appears instead: “The year of Then shalt thou arise [וקמ"ת], and get thee up unto the place” (Deuteronomy 17: 8).  It may be that the obscurity of the inscription on the gravestone is not accidental; it has created an ambiguity concerning the year of his death.[156]

That which the gravestone hides the story reveals: In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov preserves a tradition exposing the connection between the book-printing and his death.  The narrative begins by stating that the maggid was living in Yampela when “News reached the rabbi [Mikhal of Zlotchov] that in a certain country they wanted to burn the holy books of the rabbi, our teacher, Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye.”[157]  The maggid therefore arose and departed, leaving behind his eldest son, R. Joseph of Yampela, who was “very sick.”  R. Joseph fainted, and while he was unconscious his soul separated from his body and ascended to Heaven.  He found himself in the celestial court, where he encountered his father, who had been called to Heaven to prevent the burning of the books, and was busy trying to avert the evil decree.  R. Joseph heard the Zlotchover maggid plead before the court, saying “It is well known and revealed that I did not do this work for my own honor, God forbid, but for God’s honor and for His blessed Torah.”  This statement can only be understood in the context of the maggid’s responsibility for the printing of Ben Porat Yosef and the Ba’al Shem Tov’s epistle, for immediately after him the other parties to the affair - the Ba’al Shem Tov and R. Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye - arrived in the Heavenly court.  

The point of the story must be inferred from between the lines: R. Joseph of Yampela saw his father in the upper worlds, where only deceased persons can be.  The Zlotchover maggid’s journey to Brody to rescue the books was transformed in the delirium of the sick son into a journey to the celestial court, from which the father did not return.  His death can be interpreted as a self-sacrifice in exchange for the salvation of the printed works from fire, or in exchange for the works of Lurianic kabbalah, which were published shortly after his death.  During the ascent of his soul, then, R. Joseph visualized the martyr’s death of his father, in exchange for the dissemination of the secrets of Kabbalah required to hasten the redemption.  On this point the story in In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov confirms the connection between the Zlotchover maggid and the printing of kabbalistic and Hasidic writings, and reinforces the interpretation of his death as a martyr’s death for the sake of redeeming the world. 

The Death of the Redeemer and the Tikkun of the World

The circumstances of the Zlotchover maggid’s death exemplify the idea that the disclosure of secrets of the Kabbalah is a necessary part of the redemptive process; however, it is decreed that the redeemer must be punished by giving up his life in exchange.  His task of correcting the sins of the generation, consequently, like his tragic end, is part of his messianic mission.[158]  And in fact, the Zlotchover maggid regarded himself as having come into the world in order to mend it,[159] and the musings he had about death were connected to his attempt to complete his mission in its entirety.  R. Isaac of Radvil relates about his father “That he once walked about his beit midrash to and fro in reflection and said in his heart that ‘this world is loathsome to me and unworthy, and everything that I was supposed to correct in this world I have already corrected.’”[160]  Admittedly, the tone of his reflections is one of failure, not success.

A similar tone arises vividly from the Zlotchover maggid’s sermon about Moses, who implores God to forgive the people of Israel after the sin of the golden calf: “Now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou has written” (Exodus 32:32).  “And my holy father said that the plain meaning is in the verse, for they said in the Talmud that the Tzaddik is taken away on account of evil, for two reasons: So that he will not have to look upon the punishment of the generation, and moreover so that he can atone for the generation through his death.”[161]  The Zlotchover maggid regarded Moses’ willingness to be blotted out from the Book of Life (“Thy book which Thou has written”) as a sort of decree of fate, on which account the Tzaddik is compelled to die in order to atone for the sins of the generation.  Thus in his description of the death of Moses the maggid foretold his own death.

The impression that the Zlotchover maggid’s death was a sacrifice presaging the redemption is also strengthened by the sermon in eulogy of him delivered by R. Uziel Meiseles.  In the eulogy R. Uziel calls him “the Tzaddik who was to our generation what R. Simeon bar Yohai was to his,”[162] and describes him as the likeness of the leader of the company featured in the Zohar, whose death served to atone for the generation’s sin, in order to inspire the people to repent:

The Holy One, blessed be He, takes the Tzaddik in order to draw the attention of the multitudes to the fact that men of faith have perished for our sins.  And [the multitudes say to themselves] ‘we are left without a leader or any support, and on whom can we rely other than our Father in Heaven,’ and they think of repentance….

When a multitude of people genuinely repents, and the gates of tears are not locked, and the tears ascend up to under the throne of His glory, then the Tzaddik ascends to his original place, of which he was worthy, except that it was delayed as his generation is not worthy of it... And certainly every person breathing should take to heart [the possibility] that perhaps, Heaven forfend, he is preventing the Tzaddik from experiencing the illumination of the Shechinah.  Woe unto us from the Day of Judgment, woe unto us from the day of rebuke, woe from that shame.  It is fitting to weep and to cry out loudly and bitterly over the fact that when the Tzaddik departed from the world the Divine overflow departed [as well], and it now goes to the idol worshippers instead…[163]

R. Uziel Meiseles’ words are not merely the routine words of praise that are standard in eulogies, for R. Uziel explicitly calls the Zlotchover maggid a Tzaddik, hinting that he was the Tzaddik of the generation, although the generation was not worthy of his revelation.  This was the first time in the history of Hasidism that the appellation “Tzaddik” was used concerning a specific person and in such definitive circumstances, rather than as a vague general term of noncommittal character.  In addition, R. Uziel Meiseles employs the language of the prophet Isaiah: “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart…that the righteous is taken away on account of the evil” (Isaiah 57:1)[164] to define the essence of the connection between the Tzaddik and the multitudes: The tears of the multitude, contrite and penitent on his account, elevate his soul to its proper place in paradise, next to the Throne of Glory.  Thus the multitudes depend on him for the deliverance of their souls, and he depends on them for his place in paradise.

During the first period after the Zlotchover maggid’s death his disciples still hoped that his demise would wrest the Heavens, causing its gates to open.  Therefore, they printed Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim, whose publication had been deferred from the month of Iyyar 1781.  Before the works were brought to print endorsements were added by the heads of the kloize of Ostrog.[165]  One of them stressed that the secrets of Lurianic kabbalah had been latent and concealed since the days of R. Hayyim Vital, R. Isaac Luria’s disciple, in like fashion to the secrets contained in the Zohar, which were revealed to R. Simeon bar Yohai and are only destined to be revealed to the rest of the world in messianic times: “And what’s more, our eyes see that this illumination is from Heaven… that this wisdom should be revealed close upon the advent of the Messiah.”  He concluded his endorsement with the declaration “Therefore I call this a good deed, well done for the sake of the Torah!”[166]

Thus the death of the first Tzaddik of Hasidism was interpreted as a martyr’s death, in compensation for the revelation of the secrets of the kabbalah, atonement for the sins of the generation and for the sake of bringing the redemption.  It may be that it was precisely their belief in the Zlotchover maggid’s messianism that prevented his disciples from choosing another leader in his place.  Step by Step the group went their separate ways: Some of the disciples established their own courts and rendered themselves Tzaddikim, who presided over communities of Hasidim.  The maggid’s teachings melded into theirs, and thence into laws governing the individual, the congregation and the community. 


The Immigration to the Land of Israel

An important chapter in the messianic program of the Zlotchover maggid and his group's members was the immigration of some of them to the land of Israel as an advance guard. Their mission was to sanctify themselves with the sanctity of the Holy Land and prepare themselves to transmit the prayers of all the group’s members to the “Gate of Heaven”;[167]  Once the mission was complete, they were charged with being the mouthpiece heralding the coming redemption.  In kabbalistic terminology, the immigration to the Land of Israel constituted an “awakening from below”

[התערות מלמטה designed to prompt an “awakening from above,” [התערות [מלמעלה and to bring about coupling in the upper worlds.  In other words, the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples aimed to materialized the metaphorical image, which traced the path of prayers from the Diaspora  “to the Land of Israel, and from the Land of Israel to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to the Temple mount, and from the Temple mount to the Temple court, and from the Temple court to the vestibule, and from the vestibule to the palace, and from the palace to the Holy of Holies, and from the Holy of Holies to the palace of the sapphire pavement, where my forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, prayed.”[168]  In their view, this was not a symbolic trajectory but a practical program designed to take effect when the time was ripe, upon the opening of the gate of Heaven in the month of Iyyar, 1781.

The group of immigrants was composed of disciples and colleagues of the Zlotchover maggid, both from White Russia and from Wohlin and Eastern Galicia.  The continuing ties maintained between them and the circle of the Zlotchover maggid indicate that this was a single group with a common objective.  These ties are evidenced by the family and social connections between members of the two groups, and by the fact that the actions and declarations of R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk are intelligible largely in the context of the messianic program of the Zlotchover maggid and his company.

Of all the letters sent by members of the group to their friends in the Land of Israel, only two missive by R. Meshullam Feibush Heller, the Zlotchover maggid’s close disciple, have come down to us.  The letters underwent stringent censorship, causing R. Meshullam’s words to be interpreted erroneously to mean that he was merely an incidental witness to the organization of the immigrants’ party.  However, the fact that he uses the third person pronoun in referring to them is not an indication of distance, but was dictated by the requirements of writing in code which members of the company had taken upon themselves.  In fact, R. Meshullam Feibush Heller was the brother-in-law of one of the immigrants, R. Joel ben Moshe,[169] and the letters he sent him were intended for all of the group’s members in the Land of Israel.[170] 

In contrast, many of the letters sent by the immigrants’ leaders to members of the group in the Diaspora are in our possession.  However, they also underwent censorship, or had fabricated paragraphs inserted into them, such that the full story has been distorted beyond recognition.[171]  Yet when taken together with R. Meshullam Feibush Heller’s letters, a portion of the encoded messages becomes clear.  The information points to the existence of a well-defined group with a messianic program, of which immigration to the Land of Israel forms an important part.

Leading the company of immigrants was R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, who was gifted with meta-rational knowledge, a kind of “visionary intellect”[172] that enabled him to see the future in the form of a vision: “In this manner I know the actual end of every matter, in form, appearance and stature, and do not err in what I see, God willing.”[173]  While R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk denied that he had been gifted with the faculty of prophecy, writing “No prophet nor visionary am I,” he did not deny that he had been gifted with a supernatural knowledge originating in Divine inspiration.  His ability to perceive the truth as a visualization of absolute certainty, in combination with his love for his companions, afforded him the ability to know them from afar – “Behold, I know each and every one [of them] from his beginning to his end” – and to see them “as if their portrait was before me and I recognized their appearance, together with the revelation of their hearts, essence and quality.”[174]

Thus both leaders of the Hasidic-messianic company, the Zlotchover maggid who remained in the Diaspora and R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk who immigrated to the Land of Israel, were blessed with Divine inspiration in divergent and complementary ways:  One was able to hear the Divine voice by infusing “wisdom” into words of Torah or prayer, while his colleague “saw” the truth in a vision.  Both faculties were necessary in order for their program to succeed: According to the Zlotchover maggid’s teaching regarding the connection of souls, he had been charged with elevating members’ prayers and purifying them from sinful thoughts.  Through their prayers, on their part, the Hasidim conjured up his portrait, the portrait of the Tzaddik, and completed it.  R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk was supposed to trace the portrait of the Tzaddik in his heart, receive the purified prayers and transfer them by way of the “Gate of Heaven” to the upper palaces.  The Zlotchover maggid and R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk can therefore be described as the human embodiments of Yakhin and Boaz, the two pillars of the Temple, who connect the earthly Temple with the Heavenly one. 

Second in command to R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk in leading the immigrants was R. Abraham Katz (Cohen Tzedek, or righteous priest) of Kalisk.  His election was probably not a coincidence, for priests were required for the performance of the Temple service; the combination of prophet and priest, along the lines of Moses and Aharon, was therefore widespread among groups of messianic kabbalists.  It is worth recalling in this context the Zlotchover maggid’s link to the figure of Moses, and perhaps it is no accident that of all his disciples, it was specifically a Levy – R. Meshullam Feibush ha-Levy Heller – who wrote the letters to the Land of Israel.

R. Meshullam Feibush Heller describes the immigrants as outstanding members of the company.  He calls them the “heads of the people of Israel” [[ראשי בני ישראל[175] and “the whole ones” [[השלמים stating explicitly that they have been gifted with Divine inspiration: “And the whole ones who passed over are the very famous ones, endowed with Divine inspiration and outstanding in Torah studies in both the revealed and the concealed [spheres].  With them are the heads of the people of Israel, of the poor of the holy flock of the scattered sheep of Israel[176]  The expression “poor of the flock” [[עניי הצאן refers to the humble ones as עני and ענו   share the same Hebrew root -  ע.נ.ה.  In other words, these are Tzaddikim who serve God meekly[177] and devotedly.  Moreover, “the poor and the needy” -"העניים והאביונים" - is a sobriquet for the people of Israel who return from the lands of their exile.[178]  R. Meshullam Feibush also accorded the immigrants the title of “the whole ones,” meaning, those who are complete, as they are neither flawed nor deficient.  “The whole ones” are also those who have made a joint decision “that all of them would agree as one,” as in Rashi’s commentary.[179]  This appellation shows that the decision to immigrate was a joint decision, and was intended to accomplish a specific defined mission.   The adjective “shalem”[שלם] -whole - may also indicate sexual purity, however, and in a rabbinic midrash it was used to designate someone who had been born circumcised.[180]  The use of this appellation indicates the importance ascribed to the immigrants’ moral virtue and sexual purity, which would enable them to fulfill the mission for which they had immigrated.[181]

The immigrants and their families set out in the middle of winter, in Adar 5537 (February-March 1777).  The choice was not arbitrary, as in 1777 rumors abounded that “the King Messiah has come.”[182]  The rumors may have been connected to the fact that the year 1777 was the centennial of the death of Shabbatai Tzvi, and of Russia’s victories over Poland and Turkey and the belief that every defeat of the Turks foreshadowed the Holy Land’s redemption from Muslim rule.[183]  The rumors spread not only in Eastern Europe but throughout the entire Jewish world, and may have served as the catalyst for another group of immigrants from North Africa, the “Sephardic people” from the community of Tunis, whom the immigrants encountered in the Land of Israel.[184]  The Hasidim viewed this ingathering of Jews from the assorted lands of exile as a sign of the coming of the Messiah.  They wrote their colleagues to say that among them there were “rich and poor, wise and God-serving,”[185] hinting that these people had come for motives similar to their own: “And they all covenanted together last Purim to go to the Holy Land, and so they did.  And they succeeded.”[186]  Their portrayal of the North African immigrants appears to be a mirror image of their own selves.

Moreover, several months later a Tikkun was conducted on Shavuoth in the maggid’s prayer house in Brody; it may be that the group intended to realize their messianic program already in 1777.  Yet, the journey to the Land of Israel, which in the 18th century took about forty days, lasted approximately seven months.  Among other reasons, the immigrants were delayed by the fact that one of the three ships in which they sailed sank in the Black Sea, and most of its passengers perished.  The rest continued on two ships, arriving at the port of Acre in the month of Elul 5537 (September-October 1777).[187]  The number of arrivals is unknown; according to R. Israel of Polotzk, the group totaled “in excess of three hundred persons,”[188] yet this is surely an exaggeration and he may have been including those who died and those who survived but turned back as well.  Haya Shteiman-Katz has estimated that some twenty-five Hasidim reached their destination, and along with their families of women and children they would have amounted to over a hundred persons.[189]

The immigrants headed for the Galilee, as tradition foretells that the Messiah will reveal himself in the Galilee and then come to Jerusalem.[190]  Some of them settled in Peki’in and Kfar Yassif, but most decided on Safed, which absorbed many of the messianic immigrations by virtue of its proximity to the grave of R. Simeon bar Yohai, hero of the Zohar.  They wrote enthusiastic letters to their friends, concealing the shock of the encounter with the Land of Israel.  It was a backward country, subject to corrupt Ottoman rule.  The Jews who dwelt there fell prey to marauding robbers, particularly on the roads, and to pogroms by their Muslim neighbors.  Added to this were myriad physical and financial difficulties - malaria, plague, a chronic shortage of drinking water and waves of locusts, which would wipe out the crops and trigger severe hunger.  Years later R. Abraham of Kalisk described the shock experienced by a person who arrived in the Land of Israel;  In the beginning “his mind becomes completely deranged, he goes mad with no hope of rest or security, he soars to Heaven and descends to the abyss like a ship wracked by the sea.”[191]  However, at the time the immigrants hid their condition, living from money they had brought with them or from loans which they had no idea how to repay.

Added to the external difficulties were disputes with the veteran Ashkenazi and Oriental communities in Safed, primarily concerning the immigrants’ share of the “haluqa”[[חלוקה - charitable donations sent by communities in the diaspora.[192]  In light of the conflict R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk decided to leave Safed for Tiberias.  Along with the practical reason there was a messianic motive at play here as well - according to the Talmud, the redemption is to begin in Tiberias,[193] and Maimonides asserted that the Sanhedrin would be reestablished in Tiberias.[194]  Ashturi ha-Ferachi took this tradition a step further, linking it to the resurrection of the dead.  In his book Kaftor va-Ferach he affirmed that “The resurrection of the dead in Tiberias will precede by forty years the blessed one who foresees the future.”[195]

Nissan-Iyyar 5541 (March-May 1781)

Immediately upon the move to Tiberias in 1778 or 1779, R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk began practical preparations: Within a short period of time he had dispatched three emissaries to the Jewish communities abroad.  Two were sent to Turkey and Holland, and the third - R. Shlomo Vilnaer - was sent to Vilna and Brody.[196]  His mission was not only to raise funds, but also to meet the Zlotchover maggid and his companions face to face in order to coordinate with them the measures required once the signs of redemption appeared in the Galilee.[197]

R. Shlomo Vilnaer’s mission was crowned with success; shortly before the month of Nissan 5541 (March-April 1781) he returned to Tiberias “with writings and halachic verdicts from your honorable teachings”[198] along with the endorsement of R. Hayyim Landa, treasurer of the Land of Israel in Brody, to clear the debts accumulated by the immigrants from the day of their arrival in the Land of Israel and to allocate an annual stipend to R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk.  R. Landa’s support of the messianic program was part of a broad range of support afforded the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples by the kabbalists of the Brody kloize.  The Vilna treasurers of the Land of Israel also lent their support.[199]

The good news gave R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk a new infusion of spirit; three and a half years after his arrival in the Land of Israel, he was finally approaching the goal for which he had come.  He voiced his hopes in two letters penned in the months of Nissan and Iyyar 1781.  The Nissan letter was headlined “Letter of Tidings from Our Holy Teachers in the Land of Israel,”[200] and in the body of the letter R. Menachem Mendel stresses that he is the bearer of good news.  Already in the preamble the special bond between him and those he addresses is evident; he refers to them with affectionate, intimate terms, such as “my beloved ones, my intimate friends, who are inscribed on the tablets of my heart.”  His words suggest that the vast distance between them does not detract from their closeness, which is grounded in a spiritual attachment independent of time and space.

The letter exudes an atmosphere of taut expectation, beginning with a poetic introduction extolling the Creator and his marvels.[201]  Immediately thereafter R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk proceeds to detail the suffering endured by the group’s members since their arrival in the Land of Israel.  Concomitantly he stresses the miracles as well, such as their acclimation in Tiberias and R. Shlomo Vilnaer’s success in Vilna and Brody, which R. Menachem Mendel touts as a “miracle within a miracle” and “the onset of redemption.”  In the course of the letter he also praises the commandment of immigrating to the Land of Israel, terming the suffering endured by the immigrants “afflictions of the Land of Israel,” as “Whoever [fulfills the commandment] of the Land of Israel with the right intention is considered by the Sages to have merited [the rewards of] Torah and the world to come.  And there is no other way except through trials.”  He is referring here to the dictum of R. Simeon b. Yohai: “The Holy One, blessed be He, gave Israel three precious gifts, and all of them were given only through sufferings.  These are: The Torah, the Land of Israel and the world to come.”[202]

R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk depicts the immigration to the Land of Israel as the beginning of the redemption, and its afflictions as trials that expunge the immigrants’ sins and prepare them to welcome the Messiah.  In his view, the afflictions are an atonement for the sins of the entire nation, because “We have suffered so many afflictions that all God’s servants expired on account of our afflictions.”[203]  With regard to R. Menachem Mendel himself, the suffering was designed to release him from the limitations of the body and prepare him to receive the special “news” about to be revealed in the Land of Israel:

“I am confident, God willing, that this very year we will have news of it.  Therefore every one of those who love me who intends to approach the Holiness from within by settling in the Holy Land should write to me.  God willing, by next year I will announce it clearly, God willing.  And were it not for the trials, how I yearn for my friends, my delight, my brothers and companions to come to the Holy Land.  We would join together in joy and exultation and trembling in His service, may He be blessed.  But at the outset we cannot assume that we will withstand the trials[204]…. and I will remain at my watch… And God willing, when the news comes I will announce it.”

R. Menachem Mendel considers himself an emissary – “sent by the ministers of state to the palace of the king” - standing guard in the Land of Israel.  Nothing escapes him “in all matters necessary for the Tikkun [correction] of the state, whether physical or spiritual.”  He connects the “news” to be revealed in the future with the desire of several of his companions to join him: “My beloved brothers and companions, I have heard, with the assistance of the Holy One, may He be blessed, that R. Hayyim of Krasana and a few other God-fearing persons wish to come.  Heaven forfend that they should be dissuaded.  Truly, let them come in exultation.”  While encouraging his friends to join him he also asks them to wait patiently until the matter of the Tikkun is clarified - the “Tikkun of the state” in matters of “body” and “soul” - meaning the Tikkun of the nation and its redemption in the Land of Israel.  All the while he promises that “I will remain at my watch,” particularly with everything concerning “those who love me and are dear to me, who are truly with me always, as if they stand before me and are inscribed on the tablet of my heart in all their affairs, both in my prayers and in my seclusion at home.”

Aryeh Morgenstern has noted that the expression “I will remain at my watchc” is a quote from the prophet Habakkuk which served Immanuel Hai Ricchi in his apocalyptic calculations: “I will remain at my watch…And the Lord answered me, saying…For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it hasteth toward the end and shall not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:1-3).  Morgenstern inferred from the above that the special “news” R. Menachem Mendel was waiting for was the news of the revelation of the Messiah in the month of Iyyar 5541 (May 1781), according to Immanuel Hai Ricchi’s calculations.[205]  However, the expression “the vision is yet for the appointed time” indicates that R. Menachem Mendel promised his friends that the vision would come at the appointed time, namely, in the month of Iyyar 5541 (1781).  The letter’s good tidings were therefore tidings concerning the tidings. 

The vision came at the appointed time.  Testimony to this effect is contained in the following letter, which was sent from Tiberias in the month of Iyyar 5541 (1781), during the week of the festival of Lag Ba’omer.[206]  This letter was also written in code, in the framework of which the date was tampered with and the first person pronoun was substituted for the third person pronoun and the opposite.  Thus, for example, the letter is addressed to R. Isaiah of Dunevitch, despite the fact that it was intended for all members of the company.  Similarly, the messenger who bore the letter is alternately designated in the singular and the plural: “My friend, our colleagues.”

The letter itself is extremely short and its contents obscure.  Nevertheless, the date on which it was written renders it especially significant; on Lag Ba’omer R. Isaac Luria was accustomed to convene his disciples on the grave of R. Simeon bar Yohai in Kfar Meron to conduct a “Hillulah de-Rashbi” - a symbolic ceremony commemorating R. Simeon bar Yohai’s ascent to Heaven for his celestial wedding with the Shechinah [Hillulah means wedding in Aramaic].  It was no coincidence that R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk received the “news” during the week of Lag Ba’omer, and a note of fulfilled expectations arises from between the lines.

“My essence and quality and reasons that transform into Divine salvation for us explicitly issued from the mouth of my friend…to interpret and relate miracles and marvels.  And the grace of God is with us at all times, which the mouth wearies of recounting… And it is our task to keep the holy watch and to pray for him in the holy places.  Happy are we [to give] glory to the Lord, may He be blessed.”[207]

In spite of the deliberate obfuscation, it is possible to discern that R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk is informing his friends that within himself - “my essence and quality” - conditions have ripened for the reception of the news.  He does not spell out how this came to pass, employing cautious language: “reasons that transform into Divine salvation for us explicitly issued from the mouth of my friend,” namely, from the mouth of the messenger who is being sent to meet the companions face to face.  The messenger, R. Joseph ben Jacob,[208] is to detail the special instructions that must be precisely fulfilled.

When the substance of this letter is taken together with that of the previous letter, it seems that the content of the “news” is linked to the completion of the Tikkun that is now the responsibility of group members in the Land of Israel and the Diaspora as one.  In the previous letter R. Menachem Mendel informed his companions that the afflictions of the Land of Israel were trials that had purified him and equipped him to receive the “news” - to perceive the portraits of his companions as if they stood before him - and to serve as a conduit for transmitting their prayers.  He was now notifying them that he had received the “news,” and was capable of receiving their prayers and transmitting them by way of the “Gate of Heaven.”  Actually, this had already been alluded to between the lines in the addition that R. Abraham of Kalisk had appended to the previous letter: “I ask that [you] pray and beseech the Lord on my behalf.  And I will do so myself as well.  May the Lord of peace bless you with the three-fold blessing.  And may he grant us the privilege of arising and ascending to the house of the Lord [בית אל], and may we find ourselves there.”[209]

Another way of understanding the letter’s code is to posit that the “news” concerns one of the stages of redemption, perhaps that of the resurrection of the dead.  R. Menachem Mendel may have understood Ashturi ha-Ferachi’s statement that in Tiberias the resurrection of the dead would precede the redemption by forty years in non-literal fashion, as forty days rather than forty years.[210]  For this reason he and his colleagues frequently visited graves of the Tzaddikim around Safed, praying alongside them, and at the start of the month of Nissan, forty days prior to Lag Ba’omer, they began waiting for signs of the resurrection of the dead.  It may be that R. Menachem Mendel “saw” in a vision that the resurrection of the dead was about to begin, and his letter was announcing that.

Whatever happened, if it happened, was for naught.  The dead were not resurrected and the Messiah did not arrive.  In the months of Av and Elul 5541 (July-September 1781) the group was excommunicated, and shortly thereafter the Zlotchover maggid died.  R. Meshullam Feibush Heller, his close disciple, hastened to inform the group in the Land of Israel of the leader’s death.  He consoled his colleagues that all that had happened was for the best.  And although he failed to specify what had happened, or perhaps that section of the letter was also secreted, he went to the trouble to interpret the events as the separation of holiness from impurity, in whose wake the full redemption would come.  In the course of this description he mentioned that a great awakening was taking place, which was to culminate at any moment in the arrival of the Messiah.  Evidently he was referring to the program by several group members to immigrate to the Land of Israel, hinting that it had not been canceled:

“And currently I come to urge on you [R. Joel] and those over there who listen to my voice,[211] that they should greatly exert themselves in the service of the Lord, may He be blessed, each according to his powers… But presently, according to that which is seen and heard concerning the journey that is being undertaken to the Holy Land by many and whole ones… And there was certainly a great demand for Zion, who has none to claim her… The current great awakening is certainly from the Lord, and certainly [the Messiah] will come soon, [I the Lord] will hasten [the redemption] in its time,[212] and may the Holy One hasten it quickly in our days, Amen… For you already know in accordance with what is written in the works of the Ari [R. Isaac Luria] may his memory be for a blessing, concerning the purification of holiness that is purified every day, until the purification is completed upon the coming of the Messiah swiftly in our time.”[213]

The letter apparently also included a question on matters of prayer addressed to R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk: Should the Hasidim continue to pray in synagogue as usual, or should they change their prayers to suit the messianic era?  Among the books of kabbalah mentioned in the letter was Yosher Levav by Immanuel Hai Ricchi.[214]  The fact of its mention indicates that it was the messianic date of the month of Iyyar 1781 that fueled the awakening, and that the Zlotchover maggid’s death did not snuff out hopes of redemption in any immediate and decisive fashion.

R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk’s response to R. Meshullam Feibush Heller’s letter was sharp; the note of buoyancy and exaltation that had been so palpable in his previous reports is no longer present in his reply, being replaced by disappointment and despair.  R. Menachem Mendel entreats his friends not “to uproot pegs and tents and rush to the Holy Land.  They truly want to extinguish the fire with straw.  For here the concern about making a living is most distressing.”  Only those who have their own private capital, which they can leave “in some community” and live from the interest, will be able to survive in the Land of Israel.  He implored other members “for their own sake to relinquish this idea, and resolve in their minds to remain where they are now.  And may the blessed Lord assist them.”  As an alternative and for spiritual refreshment he suggests focusing on study, prayer and communion with God, adding that “We will address their question how to behave at present in the synagogue, which is greatly needed; I cannot elaborate.  God willing, when some traveler journeys from here to there I will lengthen on it, but at present I will be brief.”  Immediately thereafter he details the type of spiritual response required “at present” – “fixing a set time every day to learn books of Mussar [treatises on morality],” etc.[215]

What prompted R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk to reject the hope manifested in R. Meshullam Feibush Heller’s letter?  He evidently interpreted the Zlotchover maggid’s death as the end of the messianic endeavor, reacting negatively in consequence.  Nevertheless, his next letter indicates that his despair was not total and that he chose to keep a spark of hope alive.  The letter began with a review of the connection intention practiced by group members, while replacing the portrait of the Tzaddik with that of the members themselves:

“They should be secure in the knowledge that our love for them is embedded in our hearts.  Their souls are connected with ours, singly and collectively.  It’s as if their portraits are always before us, [reminding] us to seek their well-being in every corner in which we turn to the Lord our God, [asking Him with His] great and eternal love to bestow upon them an abundance of blessings and success.  And here we are, stationed in the watch-tower in the Holy Land, to draw unto Him, may He be blessed, all those who wish and long to follow after the Lord our God.”[216]

In the body of the letter R. Menachem Mendel implored his friends to preserve their community as a unified group under a common leadership.  The reiteration of the connection formula, while substituting members’ portraits for that of the Tzaddik, was designed to remind them that the joint oath they had taken remained in force even after the Zlotchover maggid’s death.  He added the following in the letter’s margins:

“It is a known fact that I have not despaired of the Creator’s mercy, may He be blessed; it is our duty to bring honor to the Holy Land.  Yet I am waiting and looking for a propitious moment.  When it becomes clear to me, God willing, according to my intellect that the will of the Creator, May He be blessed, consents to your coming I will inform you… And it will be when the time and the season comes, that wings will arise and fly like a dove, rushing to come, if it pleases the Lord, to append themselves to the inheritance of the Lord in the land of the living.”[217]


The circumstances of members of the Hasidic group in the Land of Israel continued to deteriorate.  They remained without any means of livelihood, living on charitable donations from abroad.  Even R. Menachem Mendel’s personal stipend, which was used not for his family but for the needs of the collective, was of no avail.  In the winter of 1786 a plague broke out in Safed, Peki’in and Tiberias; group members shut themselves up in their houses for about four months, with no coming or going.  Every Saturday night, at the third Sabbath meal, they assembled together and told stories in praise of the Tzaddikim.  These tales formed the nucleus of the stories in In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov, which contains traditions from the early period of Hasidism concerning both the Ba’al Shem Tov and the House of Zlotchov.  The circumstances - self-enclosure in the face of a plague - are reminiscent of the circumstances which produced the stories in Boccacio’s Decameron.[218]

Around the time of the plague R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk’s health began to fail, until he became bedridden.  Judging from the symptoms - attacks of shivering and fever – he was apparently stricken with malaria.  On Yom Kippur 5548 (September 22, 1787), he rose from his bed and made his way to synagogue.  During the final Ne’ilah prayer his companions heard him “shout in a bitter voice”[219] the verse “Return, return from your evil ways; for why should ye die, O house of Israel? ” (Ezekiel 33:11), and understood that R. Menachem Mendel “was acknowledging himself for death.”  This portrayal is compatible with the tradition brought by R. Israel Yaffe, printer of In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov, whereby R. Menachem Mendel was punished for an act he performed at the time of the plague, when members of the group shut themselves up in the court in Tiberias. “There was an old man with him from among the disciples of the Ba’al Shem Tov, who related stories in praise of the Ba’al Shem Tov.  Once, on the Sabbath, the Rabbi Maggid, may the memory of a Tzaddik and a holy man be for a blessing, appeared in a dream to R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, saying to him, ‘Aren’t you my disciple?  Why don’t you narrate tales in my praise as well?’”[220]  R. Menachem Mendel agreed, but that Saturday night when he sought to speak in praise of the “Maggid,” the old man began to recount the praises of the Besht and R. Menachem Mendel held his tongue: “And R. Menachem Mendel understood immediately that he would certainly be punished.”

Both traditions can be traced back to the content of Ezekiel, chapter 33: The chapter addresses the sins of the generation, depicting the prophet as the watchman of the House of Israel, whose task it is to warn the people of the punishments in store for them - death by the sword or by plague.  If the watchman is negligent and fails to admonish, the wicked man will die for his sins “And his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand” (Ezekiel 33:6).  R. Menachem Mendel viewed himself as a watchman who had failed on his mission: He remained at his watch in the Land of Israel, but in letters to the friends in the Diaspora he infused them with false hopes, instead of warning them that the time was not ripe.  His outcry contains a resonance of his sense that his prophecy was the downfall of the group’s members and caused the death of the Zlotchover maggid, as well as recognition of the fact that it was the generation’s sins which had prevented the redemption.[221]

On Thursday, 1th of Iyyar 5548 (May 8, 1788), R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk passed away.  He had lived in the Land of Israel for eleven years, and was aged 50 at his death.  Upon his death, inheritance struggles began among the Zlotchover maggid’s disciples, members of the original court.  Among others, R. Shneur Zalman of Ladi competed with R. Abraham of Kalisk, who sought to preside over the exilic community as well from Tiberias.  After a protracted period of quarreling, in 1796-1797 fundraising for the two groups was separated.  R. Joseph of Yampela, the Zlotchover maggid’s eldest son, and R. Mordechai of Naschiz, his outstanding disciple, took upon themselves the position of treasurers for the Wohlin-Galicia Kollel [[כולל in the Diaspora.  Upon their deaths, R. Abraham Joshua Heschel of Apta and R. Mordechai of Kremnitz, the fifth son of the Zlotchover maggid, assumed the role of treasurers for the Land of Israel.

The Hasidic community in the Land of Israel remained small, and failed to spawn a dynasty of Tzaddikim.  In Eastern Europe, however, the movement continued to expand: Several of the Zlotchover maggid’s disciples founded their own courts, which were constructed along the lines of the esoteric court in Brody.  The established character of the Hasidic dynasties of Tzaddikim failed to blur the messianic tint of the approach to the Hasidic Tzaddik, however: The Tzaddik is the heart of the court, the sole intermediary between God and his Hasidim, and the latter ascribe to him a Divine status, a sort of embodiment of the Sefira of Yesod.  The Messianic eruption in the Lubavitcher court in our times is irrefutable testimony to the fact that under the post-messianic wrapping of the 19th and 20th century Hasidic court,[222] the legacy of the lotchover maggid, the first Tzaddik of Hasidism, continues to seethe.

The End

For further discussion refer to: 

The Messianic Secret of Hasidism

Messianic Strains in Rabbi Israel Ba'al Shem Tov's 'Holy Epistle'
In Response: Hasidism's Messianic Matrix



* Mor Altshuler is the author of The Messianic Secret of Hasidism, Haifa University Press & Zemora-Bitan, 2002 (Hebrew); Brill Academic Publishers, 2006 (English). The article was written when she was a senior fellow at the ShalemCenter in Jerusalem. The author thanks translator Rachel Yarden and editor Maya Levi.

[1] Scholem, G., Pirkei Yesod be-Havanat ha-Kabbalah u-Smaleiah [The Fundamentals of Understanding the Kabbalah and its Symbols], Jerusalem 1976, p. 241 [henceforth Scholem 1976/a]. 

[2] Wilensky, M., Hasidim u-Mitnagdim, l-Toldot ha-Pulmos she-Beineihem ba-Shanim 1772-1815, Volume1[Hasidim and Mitnagdim, A Chronicle of the Polemic Conducted Between Them During 1772-1815], Jerusalem 1970, p. 37.  Taken from a copy of a letter sent from the community of Vilna in Lithuania on May 11, 1772, detailing the misconduct of the Hasidim.

[3] See: Rappaport-Albert, A., “Ha-Tnuah ha-Hasidit Aharei Shnat 1772: Retzef Mivni u-Tmura” [“The Hasidic Movement After the Year 1772: Structural Continuity andChange”], Zion55 (1990), pp. 205-206.

[4] Even the date of R. Dov Ber’s death is merely an estimate, based on an obscure statement in a letter by R. Shneur Zalman of Ladi, in which he announced his release from prison on Tuesday, the 19th of Kislev, “a day of great rejoicing, the date of the death of our holy teacher, may his memory be for a blessing.”  See: Wilensky 1970, Volume 1, p. 303.  It is commonly assumed from this that R. Dov Ber died on the 19th of Kislev 5533 (December 15, 1772).  However, the year is only a guess.

[5] See: Haran, R., “Shivchei ha-Rav, li-She’elat Aminutan shel Igrot ha-Hasidim me-Eretz Israel” [“In Praise of the Rebbe, Regarding the Question of the Reliability of Hasidic Letters from the Land of Israel”], Katedra 55 (1990), pp. 22-58; Haran, R., “Rav Avraham mi-Kalisk ve-Rav Shneur Zalman mi-Ladi - Yedidut she-Nifsekah” [“Rabbi Abraham of Kalisk and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Ladi - A Friendship that Was Terminated”], in: Elior, R., and Dan, J. (editors), Kolot Rabbim, Sefer ha-Zikkaron le-Rivka Schatz-Uffenheimer, Volume2 [Many Voices, Memorial Volume for Rivka Schatz- Uffenheimer], Mechkarei Yerushalayim be-Machshevet Israel 13, Jerusalem 1996, pp. 399-428, especially p. 417 note 66.

[6] Maimon, S., Hayei Shlomo Maimon  [The Life of Solomon Maimon], introduction by Fishel Lahover, Tel Aviv 1953, pp. 143-149.  The memoirs were written around 1792. 

[7] See: Hayei Shlomo Maimon, pp. 22-28.

[8] See: Shazar, S.Z., Ha-Tikva le-Shnat ha-Taf Kuf be-Ikvot “Et Ketz” le-Rebbe Yitzhak Haim Cohen min ha-Hazanim ha-Mekhuneh Doktor Kantarini 5403 - 5483 [The Hopes for the Year 1740 in View of the “End of Time” by Rabbi Isaac Hayyim Cohen of the Hazanim, Called Dr. Kantarini (1643 – 1723)], Jerusalem 1970, p. 25.

[9] Immanuel Hai Ricchi (1688-1743) was born in Italy.  In 1718 he immigrated to the Land of Israel where he lived in Safed for three years, and then returned to Italy and  settled in Livorno.  In 1737 Ricchi again immigrated to The Land of Israel and dwelt in Jerusalem, yet was constrained to return once more to Italy to raise funds to cover his debts.  On his way back to the Land of Israel, next to the city of Modina, he was robbed of all his possessions and murdered. 

[10] See: Immanuel Hai Ricchi, Yosher Levav [Amsterdam 1742], Jerusalem 1973, p. 47a: “Thus six and a half hours of His [God’s] day means 541 years and eight months of our years and months.  Consequently, according to the words of R. Simeon bar Yohai, in the year 5,541 ((ה' תקמ"א and two thirds, the mount of the Lord’s house shall be ready.  For then shall Israel be relieved from the troubles and wars that accompany the advent of the Messiah.  Accordingly, during the period 1740-1781 and two thirds, they [the wars] will gradually disappear, so that by [the end of] that period we shall be joyous and glad.  And here is the sign – “Though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come” (Habakkuk 2:3).Because the numeration of “Though it tarry” (א"ם יתמהמ"ה)  is 541, and the first letter of “wait” (חכ"ה) is eight (ח'), as against eight months, so wait for it, because it will surely come.” For a detailed explanation see: Tishbi, I., “Ha-Ra’ayon ha-Meshichi ve-ha-Megamot ha-Meshichiut be-Tzmichat ha-Hasidut” [“The Messianic Idea and Messianic Trends in the Development of Hasidism”  [Zion 32 (1967), p. 17; Morgenstern, A., Mistikah ve-Meshichiut mi-Aliyyat ha-Ramhal ad ha-Gaon mi-Vilna [Mysticism and Messianism from the Immigration of RaMCHaL until the Vilna Gaon], Jerusalem 1999, pp. 19-36.

[11] Samuel ben Eliezer of Klavira, Darchei Noam, Koenigsberg 1764, p. 5a; Tishbi 1967, p. 17.  Tishby also cites the calculations of additional rabbis in Eastern Europe, among them R. Israel Harif Heilperin of Satanov, who named the years 1768, 1775, 1778 and 1782 as the years of the redemption.

[12] See: Morgenstern 1999, pp. 85-89.

[13] Assaf, D., “She-Yatz’ah Shmuah sheba Mashiach ben David: Or Hadash al Aliyyat ha-Hasidim bi-Shnat 1777” [“The Rumor Spread that the Messiah of Davidic Descent Had Arrived: A New Light on the Hasidic immigration in 1777”], Zion 61 (1996), p. 328.

[14] Records of messianic expectations among Polish Jews in 1740 are included in the memoirs of missionaries of the Institutum Judaicum in Halle who traveled trough Poland in 1730-1747.  See: Doctor, J., Following in the Footsteps of JewishCryptochristian, (Polish), Warsaw 1999, pp. 250-254.

[15] This is the reason implied by R. Jacob of Polonnoye, who testifies to “the famous voyage” of the Ba’al Shem Tov to the Land of Israel, in the course of which his ship broke down in mid-sea and he was constrained to retrace his steps without reaching the Promised Land.  Ahijah the Shilonite elucidated the meaning of the test for the Besht, “and then he determined in his heart to sweeten the judgments at their roots.”  Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye, Toldot Ya’akov Yosef [Korez 1780], Warsaw 1881, p. 201a.  Also: In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov (translated by Dan Ben-Amos & Jerome R. Mintz), Bloomington & London 1970 (story 11), pp. 23-24; Dinur B.Z., “The Beginning of Hasidism and its Social and Messianic Elements,” (Hebrew) in: Be-Mifne ha-Dorot, Jerusalem 1955, pp. 188-192.

[16]In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov (story 66), p. 87; Liebes, Y., “Hadashot le-Inyan ha-Besht ve-Shabbatai Tzvi” [“New Findings Regarding the Ba’al Shem Tov and Shabbatai Zvi”], in: Mechkarei Yerushalayim be-Machshevet Israel 2, Jerusalem 1983, pp. 564-569.

[17] See Altshuler, M., “Messianic Strains in Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov’s ‘Holy Epistle,’” Jewish Studies Quarterly 6 (1999), pp. 55-70.

[18] The Epistle of the Ba’al Shem Tov, in: Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye, Ben Porat Yosef, Korez 1781, p. 100b.  Most scholars have tried to find in the Besht’s epistle a manifesto of a new Hasidism or some other original gospel, which it does not include.  See: Dubnov, S., Toldot ha-Hasidut [The Chronicles of Hasidism], Tel Aviv [1931] 1960, pp. 60-62; Buber, M., Be-Pardes ha-Hasidut [In the Orchard of Hasidism], Tel Aviv 1945, p. 21; Dinur 1955, p. 206; Scholem G., “Demuto ha-Historit shel Rabbi Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov,” in: Shapira, A. (editor) Devarim be-Go, Tel Aviv 1976, pp. 287-324 [henceforth Scholem 1976/b] ; Scholem, G., “The Neutralization of the Messianic Element in Early Hasidism,” The Messianic Idea in Judaism, New York [1969] 1971, pp. 176-202; Scholem, G., “Devekut, or Communion with God,” in: Hundert, G.D. (editor), Essential Papers on Hasidism, Origins to Present, New York and London 1991, pp. 275-298.  Isaiah Tishbi and Moshe Idel have pointed out, however, that the Besht aimed to bring redemption using the traditional kabbalistic means of holy magic, such as ascents of the soul, holy names, “Yichudim” and “Seggulot” (remedies).  See: Tishbi 1967, pp. 32, 45; Idel, M., Kabbalah - New Perspectives, New Haven and London 1988, pp. 94-95 [henceforth Idel 1988/a];  Idel, M., Hasidism - Between Ecstasy and Magic, New York 1995, pp. 75-81.

[19] See: Natan Neta ha-Cohen of Kalbiyal, Mayim Rabbim, Warsaw 1899; Tanenboim, Y. M., Toafot Harim Beit Zlotchov [The Towering Mountains of the House of Zlotchov], Jerusalem 1986; Horowitz, E. I. (editor), Torat Ha-Magid Mi-Zlotchov, Jerusalem 1999.  These collections, however, are no substitute for a critical biography, as they fail to distinguish between historical sources and hagiography.

[20] See: Mayim Rabbim, “Megilat Youchasin” at the end of the book, p. 3.

[21] See: Mayim Rabbim, p. 137; Tanenboim 1986, pp. 18-23.

[22] See: Biber, M. M., Mazkeret li-Gdolei Ostrog  [In Remembrance of the Great Figures of Ostrog], Berdichev 1907, p. 149.

[23] See: In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov (stories 67-68), pp. 87-89.

[24] Meshullam Feibush Heller, Liqqutim Yeqarim, Lemberg 1792,  p.19b; revised edition with introduction, notes and indices by Kahan, A.Y., Jerusalem 1974,  p. 110a.

[25]Mayim Rabbim, p. 140.

[26] See: Idel 1988/a, p. 95.

[27] See: Mayim Rabbim, p. 137.

[28] So I learned from Mr. Simeon Deitch, a member of an old Hasidic family in Jerusalem.

[29] See: Maroz, R., Geula be-Torat ha-Ari [Redemption in Lurianic Kabbalah], doctoral dissertation, Hebrew University of Jerusalem 1988, p. 328.

[30] The date is estimated, as the Zlotchover maggid died in Yampela on September 15, 1781, and according to family tradition he was 55 years old at his death. 

[31]In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov (story 204), pp. 205-206.

[32] See: Liqqutim Yeqarim, Lemberg 1792, title page. 

[33] See: Isaac of Radvil, Or Yitzhak, Jerusalem 1961, pp. 25, 53, 190.

[34] Kloize (Yiddish) - a private study hall. The term derives from the Latin “Claustrum” or “Clausum”, used to denote the inner court of monasteries.  The Kloize was established and supported by a rich family, in contrast to the Beit Midrash, that was financed by the community.   The Kloize in Brody was evidently founded by R. Jacob Babad, and his son-in-law, R. Hayyim Segal Landa, directed it for many years.  See: Gelber, N. M., Toldot Yehudei Brody [A Chronicle of the Jews of Brody], Arim ve-Imahot be-Israel 6, Jerusalem 1955, pp. 62-81; Reiner, E., “Hon, Ma’amad Hevrati ve-Talmud Torah: Ha-Kloiz ba-Hevra ha-Yehudit be-Mizrach Eiropa ba-Meot ha-17th-18th” [“Capital, Social Status and Torah Scholarship: The Kloize in Eastern European Jewish Society in the 17th-18th Centuries,”], Zion 58 (1993), pp. 287-328.

[35] So we learn from his disciple, R. Meshullam Feibush Heller, who in the year 1777 stayed “in his prayer house in the holy community of Brody, may the Lord protect it.”  See: Liqqutim Yeqarim, Zolkva 1800, p. 22b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 117a.

[36] See: Abraham Hayyim of Zlotchov, Orah le-Hayyim, Berdichev 1817, parashat Noach, p. 18a: “I heard from the Holy Rabbi the Maggid our teacher Yehiel Mikhal, of blessed memory... and thus the Holy Rabbi, may his memory be for a blessing for eternal life, said in the name of the Ba’al Shem Tov, may his memory be for a blessing for eternal life.”

[37] See: Abraham Joshua Heschel of Afta, Ohev Israel ha-Shalem [Zhitomir 1863], Jerusalem 1988, p. 312: “According to what I heard from the maggid of the holy community of Zlotchov.”

[38] Eliezer ha-Levi Horowitz, Noam Megadim u-Khvod ha-Torah, Lemberg 1807, parashat Shlach Lecha, p. 12b: “In the words cited here of the Holy Maggid, our teacher Rabbi Yehiel Mikhal, of blessed memory.”

[39] Benjamin of Zaloziz, Ahavat Dodim, Lemberg 1793, p. 16a: “I have heard from my pious and distinguished teacher, the Divine man, our teacher Yehiel Mikhal the maggid of the holy community of Kluk, of blessed memory, may he rest in peace.”  R. Benjamin of Zaloziz was apparently one of the Zlotchover maggid’s first disciples, since he mentions him in relation to the town of Kluk, where the maggid worked at the start of his career.

[40] See: Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir, Or ha-Meir, Korez 1798, pp. 81b-82a: “I once heard Rabbi Mikhal, the maggid of the holy community of Zlotchov, preach in public...”.

[41] See: Hayyim Tirrer, Siduro shel Sabbath, Volume 2, Mahlov 1813, second sermon, p. 11a: “What I heard about this from my master, teacher and rabbi, the Holy Rabbi a man of God, the model of the generation and its wonder, our teacher R. Yehiel Mikhal, the maggid of the holy community of Zlotchov, may the memory of the Tzaddik and Holy Man be for a blessing, may his memory protect us and all of Israel.”

[42] See: Jacob Isaac ha-Levi Horowitz, Zot Zikkaron [Lemberg 1851], Munkatch 1942, p. 118: “For I heard it from the Rabbi the Maggid of Zlotchov, may he live on.”

[43] The Hasidic tradition counts R. Isaac Izik ha-Cohen among the most devoted disciples of the Zlotchover rabbi.  See: Menachem Mendel Bodek, Seder Ha-Dorot Ha-Hadash, Russia-Poland 1850, section 24: “Our teacher Rabbi Yitzhak Izik of blessed memory of Korez - the great genius of the priestly line, the Divine kabbalist, disciple of the Holy Maggid of Mezeritch and a devoted disciple of our teacher the Holy Rabbi Yehiel Mikhal of Zlotchov of blessed memory.”  The intimacy between the two is confirmed by sources that address the Korez controversy.

[44] See: Yissachar Ber of Zlotchov, Mevaser Tzedek [Dovna 1798], Berdichev 1817, parashat Va-Etchanan, p. 46a: “I already wrote you in the name of the Holy Rabbi our late teacher Yehiel Mikhal may his memory be a blessing for eternal life.”

[45]Or Torah, Korez 1804, p. 82a: “I heard from our teacher Rabbi Yehiel Mikhal, may the Merciful One protect and redeem him...”

[46] See: Israel of Koznitz, Tehilot Israel - Perush al Sefer Tehilim [place of publication unknown, 1861], Lodz 1923, p. 11b: “I heard in the name of the Man of God, our teacher Rabbi Yehiel Mikhal.”

[47] Levi Isaac of Berdichev, Kdushat Levi Ha-Shalem, Volume1 [Slavita 1798], printed by Ze’ev of Ravrimedikar, Jerusalem 1978, p. 256: “This is what I heard from the Holy Rabbi our teacher Rabbi Yehiel Mikhal, may his righteous memory be for a blessing.”

[48] R. Mordechai of Naschiz is considered an ardent disciple of the Zlotchover maggid.  His son, R. Isaac of Naschiz, wrote that his father “had no other rabbi, only our Holy Rabbi the Zlotchover Maggid.”  See: Mayim Rabbim, p. 136.

[49] See: Moshe Shoham of Dalina, Divrei Moshe, place of publication unknown, 1801, parashat Be-Shlach, p. 45b: “I have heard from my in-law, our teacher the famed Rabbi and Hasid, the Holy Light, our teacher Yehiel Mikhal may his memory be for a blessing for eternal life, the Maggid of the holy community of Zlotchov.”

[50] See: Liqqutim Yeqarim, Lemberg 1792, p. 19b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 110a: “And to exceedingly distinguish between the dead and the living, which I heard from the holy mouth of the son of holy ones, a Tzaddik son of a Tzaddik, the outstanding Rabbi and Man of God, our teacher Yehiel Mikhal may his candle shine.”  See also: Schatz Uffenheimer, R., Hasidism as Mysticism, New Jersey 1993, p. 135 footnote 61: “Note that in R. Meshullam, the term “Maggid” always refers to the Maggid of Zlotchov, and not to the Maggid of Mezeritch.”

[51] In his letter to R. Joel, R. Meshullam Feibush Heller noted their mutual affection for the Zlotchover maggid.  See: Liqqutim Yeqarim, Zolkva 1800, p. 22b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 117a: “And I know that the words of the Rabbi, the Maggid, may his candle shine, are beloved to you [R. Joel], as they are exceedingly beloved to me, especially those that I had the privilege to hear from his own mouth.”

[52] Uziel Meiseles delivered the eulogy for the Zlotchover maggid.  See: Uziel Meiseles, Tiferet Uziel Ha-Nikra Be-Shem Ez Ha-Da’at Tov, Warsaw 1863, pp. 36a-38a.

[53] R. Menachem Mendel of Peremishlyany immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1764.  His letter from Tiberias is addressed to his brother “Zvi, known by all as Rabbi Zvi the Hasid of Zlotchov,” and he includes in it a greeting to the Zlotchover maggid and his eldest son, Joseph, as well as to shlomo Vilnaer.  See: Ya’ari, A., Igrot Eretz-Israel [Letters From The Land Of Israel], letters written by the Jewish inhabitants of the Land of Israel to their counterparts in the diaspora from the days of the Babylonean exile until the contemporary return to Zion, Ramat Gan 1971, pp. 306-308.  Moreover, in the preface to Or Emet R. Zvi is called “Zvi the Hasid of Yampela, may his righteous memory be for a blessing,” and it may be that it was no accident that Zvi the Hasid accompanied the maggid when the latter moved from Zlotchov to Yampela.

[54] See: Jerusalem Manuscript 8 3282, which belonged to R. Samuel b. Hayyim Haike of Amdur, p. 165a-b: “The Rabbi and Maggid, our teacher Mikhal of Zlotchov, interpreted Psalm 107 as referring to four types of sects, and I will copy the summary.”

[55] As mentioned, R. Menachem Mendel of Peremishlyany mentions three people in one breath: the Zlotchover maggid, his eldest son Joseph and shlomo Vilnaer. 

[56] I found no direct connection, but the son of R. Zussia of Hanipoli was amongst those who prayed in the Zlotchover maggid’s prayer house in Brody. 

[57] The Lubavitcher tradition emphasizes R. Shneur Zalman’s connection with the Mezeritcher maggid and depicts a looser connection with the Zlotchover maggid.  See:  Hayilman, H.M., Beit Rabbi [The House of the Rabbi], Berdichev 1903.  However, the Lubavitcher tradition is hagiographic in character and should not be taken at face value, while R. Shneur Zalman of Ladi’s writings do not mention the names of his teachers.  Until a critical biography is written about him, the identity of his teachers will remain an enigma.

[58] Krassen, M.A., Devequt and Faith in Zaddiqim: The Religious Tracts of Meshulam Feibush Heller of Zbarazh, A Dissertation in Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania 1990, p. 35.

[59] See also: Hisdai, Y., Reshit Darkam shel-ha-Hasidim ve-ha-Mitnagdim le-Or Sifrut ha-Drush [The Beginnings of the Hasidim and the Mitnagdim in Light of the Homiletic Literature], doctoral dissertation, Hebrew University of Jerusalem 1984, pp. 147-162.

[60] See: Hayyim Vital, Sefer Ha-Gilgulim [Frankfurt 1684], Zolkva 1772, chapter 35 (no page numbers).  Sefer Ha-Gilgulim was reprinted in Zolkva in 1774, with the addition of haskamot from R. Zvi Hirsch Meiseles, father of Uziel Meiseles, and R. Gedalya of Zolkva, father of R. Abraham Hayyim of Zlotchov, both ardent disciples of the Zlotchover maggid.  See: Sefer Ha-Gilgulim, Zolkva 1774, haskamot page.  Note that Sefer Ha-Gilgulim had been printed once previously, in Frankfurt in 1684.  Aside from it, at this point only one other book from among the writings of Lurianic kabbalah had been published - Sha’arei Kedushah - which was printed in Constantinople in 1734, in Amsterdam in 1745 and in Zoltzbach in 1758.

[61] See: Heschel, A.J., “Le-Toldot Rabbi Pinchas me-Koritz” [“The Chronicles of R. Pinchas of Korez”], in: Alei Ayin Minhat Devarim le-Shlomo Zalman Shoken Aharei Mlot Lo Shiv’im Shana, Jerusalem 1948-1952, pp. 221-233; Schatz-Uffenheimer 1993, pp. 230-232.  Both of them mistakenly assumed that the “maggid” in the Korez affair was the Mezeritcher maggid. Yet, the fact that the “maggid” is not the Mezeritcher maggid but the Zlotchover maggid emerges from the manuscript from which Heschel quotes, in which the Zlotchover maggid is mentioned both as “the maggid” and by his full name, R. Yehiel.

[62]See: Schatz-Uffenheimer 1993, p. 230: “also concerning matters of prayer the Rav [Pinchas] said: the world says that the Maggid lifted up prayer, but I have lifted up prayer.”  And in later tradition, see: Pinchas of Korez, Imrei Pinchas ha-Shalem, Bnei Brak 1988, p. 250: “The grudge that he [R. Mikhal of Zlotchov] holds against me [R. Pinchas of Korez] because he doesn’t see my prayers in Heaven is a baseless grudge, for not only does he not see my prayers, even the angels don’t see them, for I have blazed myself a trail straight to the Holy One, blessed be He.” See also: Margolin, R.P., Hafnamat Hayei ha-Dat ve-ha-Machshava be-Doroteiha ha-Rishonim shel ha-Hasidut: Mekoroteiah u-Vsiseiah ha-Epistemologim [The Internalization of the Religious and Intellectual Life in the First Generations of Hasidism: Its Sources and Epistemological Bases], doctoral dissertation, Hebrew University of Jerusalem 1999, p. 263.

[63] Wilensky 1970, Volume 2, p. 176.

[64] Wilensky 1970, Volume 1, p. 45.

[65] Genesis 13:13: “Now the inhabitants of Sodom were wicked andsinners before the Lord exceedingly

[66] See: Stampfer, S., “Le-Korot Machloket ha-Sakinim ha-Melutashot” [“A History of the Dispute of the Sharpened Knives”], in: Etkes, I., Assaf, D., and Dan, J. (editors), Mechkarei Hasidut, Mechkarei Yerushalayim be-Machshevet Israel 15, Jerusalem 1999, pp. 19-210.

[67]Sefer Ha-Kanah [Korez 1782], Jerusalem 1998, pp. 277-279.  Note that the Zlotchover maggid and his disciples were also influenced by Hesed Le-Avraham of R. Abraham Azulai, the kabbalist from Hebron, and by Shnei Luchot Ha-Berit of R. Isaiah Horowitz, who reiterated the ideas of Sefer Ha-Kanah in everything to do with slaughtering and slaughterers.  See: Azulai, A., Hesed Le-Avraham [Amsterdam 1685], Jerusalem 1996, pp. 221-222; Horowitz, I., Shnei Luhot Ha-Berit Ha-Shalem, Volume 5 [Amsterdam 1649], Jerusalem 1993, p. 126.

[68] Wilensky 1970, Volume 1, p. 49.

[69] The Brody ban of 1756, in: Joseph Cohen Tzedek (editor), Otzar Hochmah, Volume1, Lemberg 1860, p. 27; See also: Balaban, M., Le-Toldot Ha-Tnuah Ha-Frankit, Volume1 [A Chronicle of the Frankist Movement] , Tel Aviv 1934, pp. 127-128, 133-135; Idel, M., “Le-Toldot ha-Issur Lilmod Kabbalah Lifnei Gil Arbaim” [“A History of the Prohibition Against Learning Kabbalah Before the Age of Forty”], AJS Review 5 (1980), pp. 1-20.

[70] See: Mishna, Sotah, Chapter 9, Mishna 15: “With the footsteps of the Messiah insolence will increase.”

[71]Liqqutim Yeqarim, Lemberg 1792, p. 19b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 110a.  The letter was written in 1777, and of all the teachers of R. Meshullam Feibush Heller, only the Zlotchover maggid remained alive.

[72]Assaf 1996, p. 328.

[73] The edition published in Zolkva in 1800, p. 25b, says “souls” in the plural.

[74] The addition “may his memory be for a blessing for eternal life” is not appropriate, as the Zlotchover maggid was alive when the letter was written.  The phrase was evidently added at the time of printing in 1792, eleven years after the maggid’s death.

[75]Liqqutim Yeqarim , Lemberg 1792, p. 25b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 129a.

[76] See: Gershom Scholem’s comment in his handwriting in the margins of Or Ha-Meir, p. 240b.  (Copy R 3204/2 in the Scholem collection of the National Library in Jerusalem.)

[77]Or Ha-Meir, p. 240a.

[78]Abraham Hayyim of Zlotchov, Masechet Avot im Pri Hayyim, Lemberg 1873, p. 39a.

[79] Mishna, Avot, chapter 4, mishna 15.

[80] In accordance with Leviticus 19:18: “Thou shalt not take revenge, nor bear any grudge against thy kinfolk, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.”

[81] See: TB, Berakoth, p. 30a.

[82] The sapphire pavement is mentioned on the occasion of the granting of the Law at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:10), and the sapphire stone is mentioned in the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot (Ezekiel 1:26).  The palace of the sapphire pavement appears in the Zohar as the first of the seven celestial palaces. See: Tishby, I.,The Wisdom of the Zohar, Volume 2, London and Washington 1994, pp. 597-614.

[83] See: TB, Hagigah, p. 12b: “What does the earth rest on?.. R. Eleazar b. Shammua says: [It rests] on one pillar, and its name is Righteous [צדיק], for it is said: But ‘Righteous’ is the foundation ofthe world.”

[84] See: Liqqutim Yeqarim, Lemberg 1792, p. 25b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 130a.  The idea of the connection of two souls that love each other and the technique of connecting the disciple’s soul to that of his rabbi by tracing the figure of the rabbi are mentioned in the Zohar and also by the kabbalists of Safed, who termed the connection “the secret of conception” [סוד העיבור] in the life of the rabbi and his disciple.  See: Liebes, Y., “Zohar ve-Eros” [“Zohar and Eros”], Alpayim 9 (1994), pp. 79-80; Inon, Y., “Hashpa’ot Tzufiot al ha-Kabbalah be-Tzfat” [“Sufi Influences on the Kabbalah of Safed”], Mahanayyim 6 (1994), pp. 175-179; Elkayam, A., “Eretz ha-Tzvi: Li-Dyukana shel Eretz Israel be-Khitvei Natan ha-Azzati”[“The Lovely Land: ThePortrayal of the Land of Israel in the Writings of Natan ha-Azzati”], in: Ravitzky, A. (editor), Eretz Israel ba-Hagut ha-Yehudit ba-Et ha-Hadashah, Jerusalem 1998, p. 175.





[85]Or ha-Emet, Hussiatin 1899, p. 102a.

[86] The idea returns in R. Isaac of Radvile’s comment about his father, “that he came to mend himself or the members of his generation, as it is written that the Tzaddik is called the pillar of the world (TB, Hagigah, p. 12b), for the world rests on the Tzaddik.” See: Or Yitzhak, p. 25.

[87] See: Liqqutim Yeqarim, Zolkva 1800, p. 22b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 117a.

[88]Liqqutim Yeqarim, Zolkva 1800, p. 22a; Jerusalem 1974, p. 116b.  In the early editions this passage was censored.

[89] See also: BT, Hagigah, p. 12a.

[90] The numerical equivalent of the letters of the Hebrew word Shaddai is 314, and that of the letters of Metatron is also 314.

[91] See: Idel, M., Studies in Ecstatic Kabbalah, Albany 1988, pp. 14-16 [henceforth Idel 1988/b].

[92] See: Scholem, G., Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah 1626-1676, New Jersey 1973, p. 234: “The numerical value of the full spelling of the divine name Shadday (שדי) (Shin, Daleth, Yod שין, דלת, יוד) is 814, which also happens to be the numerical value of the name Sabbatai Sevi (שבתי צבי).”

[93] See: Scholem 1973, pp. 296, 390, 542.

[94] The Zohar portrays the great assembly that was evidently convened on the night of Shavuoth, whose aim was to raise up the Shechinah (the Divine Presence), which had dwelt in exile since the destruction of the Temple, and to mend it.  See: Tishby 1994, Volume 3, pp. 1256-1259, 1318-1319; Liebes, Y., “The Messiah of the Zohar: On R. Simeon bar Yohai as a Messianic Figure,” in: Studies in the Zohar, Albany 1993, pp. 74-82.  Accordingly, in the Tikkun of the night of Shavuoth performed by R. Joseph Karo, R. Shlomo ha-Levi Elkabetz and their colleagues as well, the group elevated and mended the Shechinah.  See: “The Epistle of Shlomo ha-Levi Elkabetz,” in: Jacobs, L., Jewish Mystical Testimonies, New York 1976, pp. 98-104.  In Lurianic kabbalah, the night of Shavuoth is the night of the holy coupling, when the Holy One, blessed be He, has intercourse with the Shechinah.  The actions undertaken on that night and during the following day—Torah learning, immersion and prayer—prepare and adorn the bride for her wedding night.  See: Hayyim Vital, Sha’ar ha-Kavanot [Salonika  1852], in: Kol Kitvei ha-Ari Zal, Volume 9, Jerusalem 1988, p. 203.  Regarding the mystical character of the night of Shavuoth in Sabbatianism, see: Scholem1973, pp. 217-219.  And in the works of R. Hayyim Moshe Luzzato, see: Tishbi, I., “Shirim ve-Piyyutim ve-Tefilot me-Ginzei Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzato” [“Poetry and Hymns and Prayers from the Genizas of Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzato”] in: Hekrei Kabbalah ve-Shluchoteiyah, Volume 3, Jerusalem 1993, pp. 706-710, 718-719.

[95] It may be that the word “shalom” [peace, well-being] was also included in the connection formula, as R. Abraham Hayyim of Zlotchov states explicitly (Masechet Avot im Pri Hayyim, p. 39b) that “The word shalom is connection.”  R. Levi Isaac of Berdichev (Kedushat Levi Ha-Shalem, Volume 2, p. 331) also mentions “covenant and connection” in the matter of “the connection of the Tzaddik who is connected to the Lord of all, may He be blessed.”

[96] See: Liqqutim Yeqarim, Zolkva 1800, p. 22b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 117a-b: “And [the people of Israel] rendered themselves as nothing, in understanding that truly without the power of the Creator, may His name be blessed, who created them and sustains them, they are nothing, as they were before the creation.  Consequently, there exists nothing else in the world but the Creator, may His name be blessed.”  See also R. Eliezer Horowitz, Noam Megadim u-Khvod ha-Torah, parashat Truma, p. 37a.

[97] Or Ha-Meir, pp. 81b-82a.

[98]Zohar with the commentary of the Sulam Volume 17, Jerusalem 1953, section 372, p. 138.

[99] See: The Epistle of Shlomo ha-Levi Elkabetz, p. 101.

[100] See: Werblowsky, R.J. Zwi, Joseph Karo Lawyer and Mystic, Philadelphia [1962] 1977, p. 269: “One would think that the automatic speech of maggidism is an attempt at emulating and all but equaling Mosaic prophecy, traditionally described by the idiomatic expression ‘the Shechinah spoke in his throat.’”

[101] Zot Zikkaron, p. 4b.

[102] R. Abraham Joshua Heschel of Afta employed a similar expression - “The call to Heaven was a voice to him, voice for him” [["קול לו קול אליו" - to describe the Zlotchover maggid’s ascensions of the soul.  See: Mayim Rabbim, p. 140.

[103] Tiferet Uziel, p. 19a.  The portrayal is influenced by the company of prophets prophesying (First Samuel 19:20-24) encountered by Saul.  A similar idea appears in the works of R. Shneur Zalman of Ladi.  See: Igeret ha-Kodesh  in: Liqqutei Amarim Tanya [ Slavita 1796-1797], Brooklyn 1976, p. 139a-b: “It is known to the initiated that the word of God is called by the name of Shechinah, in the language of our Sages of blessed memory, and lower Mother and Matron, in the language of the Zohar.  This is the word of God that gives life and brings the large souls into being… According to our Sages’ dictum, the Shechinah speaks from the throat of Moses.  And this was the case with all the other prophets and recipients of Divine inspiration.  The supernal Voice and Speech literally superimposed themselves on their voices and speech.”

[104] Yehuda Liebes used the term “renaissance” to denote the resurrection of an ancient text.  See: Liebes 1994, p. 115.  See also: Elior, R., “Ha-Zikah ha-Metaforit bein ha-El la-Adam ve-Retzifutah shel ha-Mamashut ha-Hezionit be-Kabbalat ha-Ari” [“The Metaphorical Connection Between God and Man and the Continuity of the Visual Reality in Lurianic Kabbalah”]  in: Elior, R., and Liebes, Y. (editors), Kabbalat ha-Ari, Mechkarei Yerushalayim be-Machshevet Israel 10, Jerusalem 1992, pp. 48-50; Dan, J., “Dmuto shel Hacham Hen ve-Ma’amado shel ha-Mekubal be-Tarbut Israel” [“The Image of the Esoteric Scholar and the Status of the Kabbalist in Jewish Culture”] in: Divrei ha-Kongress ha-Olami ha-Echad-Essreh le-Mada’ei ha-Yahadut, Division 3, volume 2, Jerusalem 1994, pp. 1-8.

[105] In the Hechalot literature, see: Schafer, P., Synopse zur Hechalot-Literatur, Tubingen 1981, par. 201-202; Dan, J., “Gilui ‘Sodo shel Olam’ – Reshitah shel ha-Mistikah ha-Ivrit ha-Kedumah” [“The Discovery of ‘The Secret of the World’ – The Inception of Ancient Hebrew Mysticism”], Da’at 29 (1992), p. 16.

[106] Wilensky 1970 Volume 2, p. 170.

[107] Liqqutim Yeqarim, Lemberg 1792, p. 28a; Jerusalem 1974, p. 136a.

[108] Warnings of the punishment for revealing secrets are reiterated again and again in the esoteric tradition.  In the Zohar,see: Liebes 1993, pp. 23-30.  In Lurianic kabbalah, see: Hayyim Vital, Sha’arei Kedushah, Bnei Brak 1973, p. 70;  In Sar Shalom Shar’abi’s group, see: Hayyim Joseph David Azulai, Shem Ha-Gdolim Ha-Shalem Volume2, Peterkov 1930, p. 270.  In the deed of connection used by R. Hayyim Luzzato’s group, see: Tishby 1993, p. 840 note 98.  In the epistle of the Ba’al Shem Tov, see: Ben Porat Yosef, Korez 1781, p. 100a-b.

[109] Mishna, Avot, Chapter 1, Mishna 13.  According to Rabbi Simeon ben Tzemach [RaSHBaTZ], “crown” refers to the holy names.  See: Simeon ben Tzemach Doran, Magen Avot Al Avot [Livorno 1762], Leipzig 1855, Chapter 1, Mishna 13.  





[110]Hayyim Vital attempted to repair the soul of Cain, which had been reincarnated in him with the aid of the letters of his own name.  See: Hayyim Vital,  Sefer Ha-Hezionot [Jerusalem 1866] , Aharon Ze’ev Eshkoli edition, Jerusalem 1954, pp. 222-223.  By way of comparison, see the censored version of Sha’ar Ruach Ha-Kodesh (by Hayyim Vital [Jerusalem 1863]), in: Kol Kitvei Ha-Ari Zal 10, Jerusalem 1988, p. 86.  In this version the formula of the Tikkun remains, yet the private name “Hayyim” has been censored.

[111]Concerning the Zlotchover maggid’s approach to an individual’s name, see: Zot Zikkaron, p. 118: “For I have heard from the Rabbi, the Zlotchover Maggid, may he be of long life, that every person’s name is a garb for his life force.  Consequently, when praying for someone anywhere if he is in another place, one mentions only his name in healing through the same letters of the healing which are the garb of the light of healing.  They draw healing to a person and a new life force is introduced into his name.”  Similarly, see: R. Hayyim Tirrer, Be’er Mayim Hayyim, Sudllkov 1820, parashat Bereshit, p. 45a: “And therefore I heard from my lord, teacher, and Rabbi, the crown of Israel and its sanctity, the renowned Eternal Light our teacher Rabbi Yehiel Mikhal may the memory of a Tzaddik and a holy man be a blessing for eternal life, that he told me explicitly that Heaven forfend that one should change the name of a sick person unless he is a person most all of whose deeds are Divinely inspired.  For the name a person is called at the time of his birth is certainly largely ordained by the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is his name above and it constitutes the person’s life force throughout the days of his life on earth.”

[112] See: Liqqutim Yeqarim, Zolkva 1800, p. 22b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 117a: “And afterwards it was said by the son of the renowned Tzaddik our teacher Rabbi Zussia, may his candle shine, who is in the holy community of Hanipoli and who has a son in the holy community of Brody, who prays in the minyan of the [Zlotchover] Maggid…”

[113] See: Liqqutim Yeqarim, Zolkva 1800, p. 22b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 117a: “that he heard a certain man declaim the 613 commandments.”

[114] See: Halamish, M., “Gilgulav shel Minhag Kabbali, ‘Hareini Mekabel Alai Lekayem Mitzvat Asseh shel ve-Ahavta le-Re’echa Kamocha’” [“The Permutations of a Kabbalistic Custom, ‘I Hereby Take It Upon Myself to Keep the Positive Commandment of And Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself’”], Kiryat Sefer 53 (1978),  pp. 534-556.

[115]See: Liqqutim Yeqarim, Lemberg 1792, p. 25b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 129a.

[116] See: Moshe Shoham of Dalina, Saraf Pri Ez Hayyim, Tchernovitz 1866, p. 16b.

[117]See: Or Yitzhak, p. 29.

[118] See: Seder Tfilot al Kol ha-Shana ke-Minhag Ashkenaz im Yod Perushim Yeqarim mi-Kdushei Gdolei Eretz, Warsaw 1934, p. 71b.

[119]See: Masechet Avot im Pri Hayyim, p. 39a.

[120]See: Kdushat Levi ha-Shalem, Volume 2, p. 414.

[121]See: Hanoch Hanich, Seder Lev Sameach, Lemberg 1862, p. 25b.

[122]See: Elimelekh of Lizhensk, Noam Elimelekh, Polonnoye 1804, comment 8.

[123]See: Reuben ha-Levi Horowitz, Dudaim Ba-Sadeh, Lemberg 1859, p. 37a.

[124]See: Liqqutei Amarim Tanya, p. 41b.

[125]See: Barnai, Y., Igrot Hasidim me-Eretz Israel, [Hasidic Epistles from The Land of Israel] Jerusalem 1980, letter 18, p. 92: “They should have a firm knowledge that [our] love for them is deeply implanted in our hearts.  Their souls are connected with ours both as a group and as individuals.  It’s as if their portraits are always before us, [reminding] us to seek their well-being in every corner in which we apply to the Lord our God, [asking Him with His] great and eternal love to bestow upon them an abundance of blessing and success.”

[126]See: Aharon of Karlin, Beit Aharon, Brody 1875, p. 4a.

[127] Seder Tfilah Mi-Kol Ha-Shana Im Kavanot Ha-Ari – Hagahot Ve-Dikdukei Sofrim Shel Ha-Gaon Rabbi Shabbatai Mi-Rashkov, Korez 1794, p. 49a.

[128]See: Menachem Nahum of Chernobyl, Maor Einayim Im Yismach Lev [Slavita 1798], Jerusalem 1975, p. 298.

[129]See: Halamish 1978, p. 551 note 82.

[130] The connection of the Tzaddik is therefore depicted in sexual terms.  See: Or Ha-Emet, p. 25a: “That person is called a Tzaddik who is connected with the Holy One, Blessed be He, just as the adulterer is connected with the adulteress, in that he is inseparable from her.  Such will be his connection with the Holy One, Blessed be He, in his prayers and his Torah, that he will be incapable of separating from her by virtue of his adherence, and this is an allusion to the sanctifier of the covenant, who is called Tzaddik.”  See also Liqqutim Yeqarim, section 18: “Prayer is coupling with the Shechinah, and just as in the beginning of coupling there is a rocking, so one should rock himself at the outset of prayer.”

[131] See: above, note 69.

[132] The drive to reveal kabbalistic secrets is typical of messianic kabbalists, and functions as a sort of declaration bearing witness to the approaching redemption.  For example, see: Moshe Hayyim Luzzato, Ginzei Ramhal, arranged and prepared for publication from manuscripts by Hayyim Friedlander, Bnei Brak 1980, p. 91.

[133] R. Isaac Izik ha-Cohen writes the following about R. Shlomo Lutzkir in his endorsement of the 1786 Paritzak edition of Sefer ha-Kanah: “My beloved, cherished rabbinic friend, outstanding in Torah and reverence, the perfect wise man, distinguished and pious, our teacher Rabbi Shlomo Lutzkir, a man of many deeds…”

[134] Abraham, son of R. Isaac Izik ha-Cohen of Korez, was the son-in-law of R. Shlomo Lutzkir, and his partner in subsequent years’ printing endeavors as well.

[135] See: Toldot Ya’akov Yosef, Korez 1780, title page.  Incidentally, the verse selected to indicate the year of publication was “Then shalt thou arise, and get thee up unto the place”(Deuteronomy 17:8).  This verse, which contains a messianic allusion, was also used to denote the year of the Zlotchover maggid’s death on his gravestone.  See below pp. 000.

[136] See:  Maggid Devarav le-Ya’aqov, Korez 1781, introduction by R. Shlomo Lutzkir.

[137] Pardes Rimonim was printed in Salonika in 1584 and in Krakow in 1592.

[138] See: Moshe Cordovero ,Pardes Rimonim, Korez 1780-1781, title page.

[139] See: Pardes Rimonim, p. 186b.

[140] See: the inscription on the last page of Ben Porat Yosef, Korez 1781; Morgenstern 1999, p. 198 note 51.

[141] R. Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye was still alive at the time his books were printed, yet it is unclear to what extent he was involved in the printing; the title page of Toldot Ya’aqov Yosef, Korez 1780, mentions his son and son-in-law, along with R. Shlomo Lutzkir and his partner, R. Simeon Ashkenazi.

[142] See: Hayyim Vital, Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim, Korez 1782, endorsements page.  Regarding the familial connections between R. Hayyim of Tzanz and R. Moshe Ostrar and intimates of the Ba’al Shem Tov, see: Scholem, G., “Shtei Igrot mi-Eretz Israel mi-Shnot 1760-1764” [“Two Epistles from the Land of Israel from the Years 1760-1764”], Tarbitz 25 (1956), p. 436 note 16 and pp. 430-437.

[143] The identification was made in accordance with Gelber 1955, pp. 76-77.  Regarding R. Israel Harif Heilperin’s calculations of the redemption, see: Tishby 1967, pp. 10-15.

[144] Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim, Korez 1782, endorsements page.

[145] The printers of Sefer Ha-Kanah in Korez 1782 concealed their identity, and it can be inferred only from subsequent editions: In the Korez 1784 edition R. Simon Ashkenazi, partner of R. Shlomo Lutzkir, is mentioned.  The Paritzak 1786 edition includes an endorsement by R. Isaac Izik ha-Cohen of Korez, and the title page states that the printers are Shlomo Lutzkir and his son-in-law Abraham ben Isaac Izik ha-Cohen of Korez.  Other testimonies indicate that in 1785 Shlomo Lutzkir and his son-in-law left Korez and opened a printing house in Paritzak.

[146] R. Shlomo Lutzkir and R. Isaac Izik of Korez also concealed their involvement in the printing of Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim in Korez in 1782, and their identity came to light only in subsequent years.  In 1783 Machberet Ha-Kodesh and Mavo She’arim were published in Korez, both from manuscripts of Lurianic kabbalah.  The endorsements added to Machberet Ha-Kodesh stated explicitly that R. Shlomo Lutzkir was the publisher, while Mavo She’arim was printed anonymously, yet its title page resembled the title page of Machberet Ha-Kodesh, and most likely it was printed by R. Shlomo Lutzkir as well.  In 1784 Sefer Ha-Kavanot was also printed in Korez, including Sha’ar Ha-Kdushah, both of which are from the Lurianic corpus, and the title page noted that the book was printed by R. Abraham son of R. Isaac Izik.  In 1785 Ez Hayyim was again printed in Korez with an endorsement by R. Isaac Izik ha-Cohen of Korez; R. Simon Ashkenazi, R. Shlomo Lutzkir’s partner, is mentioned in the endorsement.  In 1786 another edition of Pri Ez Hayyim was printed in Korez, containing R. Isaac Izik ha-Cohen’s endorsement, which was copied from the 1785 edition of Ez Hayyim.  R. Isaac’s son, Abraham, who was R. Shlomo Lutzkir’s son-in-law, opened a printing house in Ostrog in 1793, and again in Korez.  In 1794, six years after the death of his father, he printed Pri Ez Hayyim in Ostrog with the original version of R. Isaac Izik’s endorsement printed in Ez Hayyim in 1785, with a changed date.  In addition, he made use of the illustrated frames of the title pages used in the first printings of Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim in Korez in 1782.  Even the workers who signed their names at the end of the book are the same workers who printed Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim with his father and father-in-law in Korez, meaning they had some 30 years’ experience in the printing trade.  See also: Ta-Shma, I., “Ha-Dfus ha-Ivri be-Ostrog; Tikkunim ve-Hashlamot” [“Hebrew Printing in Ostrog; Emendations and Completions”], Alei Sefer 6-7 (1979), p. 210.

[147] See: R. Zvi Hirsch Margaliot’s endorsement of Machberet Ha-Kodesh, which R. Shlomo Lutzkir printed in Korez in 1783; Heschel 1948-1952, p. 217.

[148]  In accordance with Ezekiel 16:8:  “I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness; yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, said the Lord thy God, and thou becamest mine.”

[149] Barnai 1980, letter 15, p. 86.

[150] Wilensky 1970, Volume 2, p. 170.  These words were written after 1782, namely, after the Zlotchover maggid’s death and the printing of Ez Hayyim and Sefer Ha-Kanah.  However, this is no reflection on their validity, as they reflect information the writer had acquired concerning the group’s activity in previous years.

[151] From the Vilna ban of the month of Av 5541 (July-August 1781).  See: Wilensky 1970, Volume 1, p. 103.

[152] See also: Wilensky 1970, Volume 1, p. 103 note 16.  Wilensky also cites the formula used in “Shever Posh’im,” which adopts the plural form: “in the new books which recently appeared.”  As noted, R. David of Makov is also referring to the printing of the Lurianic works Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim, which although planned for the month of Iyyar 1781 was carried out only in 1782, and the authors of the ban manifesto were as yet unaware of it.

[153] See: In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov (story 251), pp. 260-261.

[154] The sixth aliyah is that of the Tzaddik, who symbolizes the Sefira of Yesod.  See:  Zohar with the commentary of the Sulam, Volume 7, section 139, p. 49.  Similarly, in Lurianic kabbalah the sixth aliyah is preserved for Joseph the Tzaddik. See: Sha’ar Ha-Kavanot, p. 92.

[155]Mayim Rabbim, “Megilat Youchasin” at the end of the book, p. 2.

[156] The inscription on the gravestone - “The year of Then shalt thou arise [וקמ"ת] and get thee up unto the place” would seem to point to the year 1786.  However, the fact of the maggid’s death on the Sabbath corresponds not to the date of the 25th of Elul in the year 1786, but in the year 1781.  Furthermore, R. Uziel Meiseles, who eulogized him, passed away on 28th of Kislev 5546 (November 30, 1785), and certainly could not have eulogized a man who outlived him.  R. Natan Neta of Kalbiyal therefore concluded that the Zlotchover maggid died in 1781, when the Sabbath (Parashot  Nitzavim - Vayelekh) falls on the 25th of Elul.  According to his calculation, the formula on the gravestone should be read as follows: וקמ"ת = ה' אלפים + תקמ+א (1781).  See: Mayim Rabbim, p. 134, and also “Megilat Youchasin” at the end of the book, pp. 1-2.

[157] See: In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov (story 251) , pp. 260-261.

[158] Regarding the death of Moses in the Zohar, see: Tishby 1994 3 , pp. 1489-1497.  Regarding the death of R. Simeon bar Yohai, see: Liebes 1993, pp. 63-65.  Regarding the death of R. Isaac Luria as a punishment for revealing the secrets of the kabbalah and as a consequence of the generations’ sins, see: Maroz 1988, pp. 355-359; Liebes 1992; Pachter, M., Mi-Tzfunot Tzfat – Mechkarim Ve-Mekorot le-Toldot Tzfat Ve-Hachameiah Ba-Meah Ha-Tet Zayin [Of the Secrets of Safed - Studies and Sources for the Chronicles of Safed and its Scholars in the 16th Century], Jerusalem 1994, pp. 52-55.

[159] See: Or Yitzhak, p. 25: “For truly the Tzaddik of the generation knows the truth, that he did not come into this world to take pleasure in earthly delights, but in order to correct either himself or his generation.  As it is written that the Tzaddik is called the pillar of the world, for the world stands on the Tzaddik.” (according to TB, Hagigah, p. 12b)

[160] Or Yitzhak, p. 25.

[161] Or Yitzhak, p. 159. 

[162]Tiferet Uziel, p. 36b.

[163]Tiferet Uziel, p. 37a-b.

[164] See also: TB ,Baba Kamma,  p. 60a; TB,  Sanhedrin,  p. 113b.

[165] See: Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim, Korez 1782, endorsements pages.  The date was Tuesday, 4th of Heshvan 5541 (October 23, 1781).

[166] See the endorsement of R. Joseph ben Yehuda Leib, preacher of Ostrog, in: Ez Hayyim and Pri Ez Hayyim, Korez 1782, endorsements pages. 

[167] In accordance with Genesis 28:17.

[168] Masechet Avot im Pri Hayyim, p. 39a. 

[169] See: Meshullam Feibush Heller, Yosher Divrei Emet, Munkatch 1905, p. 10b.

[170] R. Meshullam Feibush Heller’s first letter was written on Tuesday, the 19th of Sivan  5537 (June 24, 1777).  See: Yosher Divrei Emet, p. 10b; Liqqutim Yeqarim, Jerusalem 1974, p. 110a.  The second letter is undated.  The book Tikkunei ha-Zohar, printed in Korez in 1780, is mentioned in the body of the letter, and thus it could only have been written in 1781 at the earliest.  Moreover, the letter was written during the High Holy Days, and the Zlotchover maggid is mentioned at the outset in a blessing for the dead.  These two facts taken together suggest that the letter was written in the High Holy Days of 5542 (September 20th-29th , 1781), only a few weeks after the maggid’s death.  This conclusion conforms with the reference made to the Hasidims’ immigration in the second letter: R. Meshullam Feibush mentions two groups of the immigrants; first, the immigrants of the year 1777, among them R. Joel, his brother-in-law. R. Meshullam Feibush refers to R. Joel as one who is already “there,” namely in the Land of Israel, together with the rest of the group. The second group of immigrants is mentioned on the present time - “But presently, according to that which is seen and heard concerning the journey that is being undertaken to the Holy Land by many and whole ones” – meaning a small group whose members intended in 1782 to join their friends upon arrival of news of the redemption.

[171] See: Haran, R., “Blil Igrot ve-Igeret – Le Darchei ha-Ha’atakah shel Igrot Hasidim” [“A Jumble of Letters and a Letter – Regarding the Methods Used to Copy Hasidims’ Letters”] Zion 56 (1991), pp. 299-320.  Compare: Mondshein, Y., “Aminutan shel Igrot ha-Hasidim me-Eretz Israel” [“The Authenticity of the Hasidims’ Letters from the Land of Israel”], Katedra 63 (1992), pp. 65-97.

[172] See: Halamish, M., “Ha-Hasidut ve-Eretz Israel: Tfisat Olam be-Mivhan ha-Metziut – Shnei Dgamim” [“Hasidism and the Land of Israel: A Worldview Stands the Test of Reality – Two Models”], in: Ravitzky, A. (editor), Eretz Israel ba-Hagut ha-Yehudit ba-Et ha-Hadashah, Jerusalem 1998, p. 228.  In the article Halamish describes the messianic elements in the teachings and deeds of R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk.   

[173] Barnai 1980, letter 39, p. 167.

[174] Barnai 1980, letter 39, pp. 166-167.

[175] In accordance with Numbers 13:3.

[176] Liqqutim Yeqarim, Lemberg 1792, p. 26a; Jerusalem 1974, p. 131a. 

[177] According to Zechariah 11:11: “And thus the poor of the flock that gave heed unto me knew that it was the word of the Lord.”  Rashi interpreted this to refer to “the Tzaddikim among them, who keep my laws.”  And according to R. David Altshuler, author of the Metzudat David commentary, these are “the humble and meek among the people of Israel who keep my word.”  The connection between עני (poor) and ענו (humble) is found in the post-Biblical period in the idea of voluntary poverty, which developed among the Ebionites, members of a Christian-Jewish sect that advocated an ascetic lifestyle, circumcised their sons and observed the Sabbath.  See: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford [1957] 1997, p. 523.

[178] See: Isaiah 41:17: “the poor and the needy.”  R. David Kimchi [[רד"קunderstood this to allude to those in exile upon their emergence from exile for the purpose of returning to their Land.

[179] See: Rashi’s commentary on Nahum 1:12: “Thus saith the Lord: though they be in full strength [שלמים], and likewise many, even so shall they be cut down, and he shall pass awayThough I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.”

[180] See: Midrash Rabbah (translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon), London & Bournemouth [1939] 1951, vol. 1, Parasha 43, Siman 6, p. 356: “King of Shalem (שלם).  R. Isaac the Babylonian said: This implies that he was born circumcised.”

[181] The connection between entering the Land of Israel and the sexual purity that follows upon circumcision and removal of the foreskin can be found in the Bible and the midrash.  See: Genesis 17:8-11; Joshua 5:4; Midrash Rabbah ,vol. 1, Parasha 46, Siman 9, pp. 394-395; see also Ashturi ha-Ferachi, Kaftor va-Ferach [Venice 1549] Berlin 1851, chapter 42, p. 92a.

[182] Assaf 1996, p. 328.

[183]See: Assaf 1996, pp. 329, 340.

[184]See: Barnai 1980, letter 13, p. 75.  See also letter 12, p. 72.

[185]Barnai 1980, letter 12, p. 72.

[186]Barnai 1980, letter 13, p. 75.  See also Morgenstern 1999, pp. 183-184.

[187]Barnai 1980, letter 13, p. 76.

[188]Barnai 1980, letter 13, p. 74.

[189]Shteiman-Katz, H., Reshitan shel Aliyot Hasidim 1747-1819 [The First Hasidic Immigrations,1747-1819], Jerusalem 1986, p. 29.  Compare: Assaf 1996, p. 320.

[190]See: Halamish, M., “Kavim le-Ha’arachatah shel Eretz Israel be-Sifrut ha-Kabbalah” [“An Outline for an Assessment of the Land of Israel in Kabbalistic Literature”] in: Halamish, M., and Ravitzky, A. (editors), Eretz Israel ba-Hagut ha-Yehudit bi’mei ha-Beinayyim, Jerusalem 1991, pp. 229-230.

[191]Ya’ari 1971, p. 323.

[192] This is the context in which R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk’s chargethat the Oriental Jews in Safed were “thoroughly wicked persons who believe in Shabbatai Tzvi, may his name be annihilated,” should be understood.  See: Barnai 1980, letter 15, pp. 84-85.

[193] See: TB, Rosh Hashanah, p. 31b: “And Tiberias is the lowest-lying of them all… Said R. Johanan: And from there they are destined to be redeemed.”

[194]See: The Code of Maimonides (translated by Abraham M. Hershman) New Haven 1949, vol. 3, The Book of Judges, Halachot of the Sanhedrin, chapter 14, Halacha 12 (p. 41). 

[195]Kaftor va-Ferach, chapter 7, p. 23a.

[196] See: Shteiman-Katz 1986, p. 98; Morgenstern 1999, pp. 241-252, 351-360.

[197]Testimony concerning the meeting appears in R. Meshullam Feibush Heller’s second letter, which quotes R. Shlomo Vilnaer.  See: Liqqutim Yeqarim, Lemberg 1792, p. 25b; Jerusalem 1974, p. 129b.  The meeting evidently took place in Brody, before R. Shlomo Vilnaer returned to the Land of Israel, and it is reasonable to assume that the Zlotchover maggid was also present.  The letter itself was written between Sept. 20-29, 1781.

[198] Barnai 1980, letter 15, p. 85.

[199]One of them, R. Samuel ben R. Hayyim of Shabtells, was a relative of R. Eliyahu ha-Gaon of Vilna, the Vilna Gaon, and son-in-law to R. Hayyim Landa.  See: Morgenstern 1999, pp. 241-252; Barnai 1980, letter 40, p. 171.

[200] Barnai 1980, letter 15, p. 84. 

[201]Barnai 1980, letter 15, p. 84.

[202] BT, Berakoth, p. 5a.  See also: Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, Pri ha-Aretz, Kapost 1814, parashat Shlach Lecha, p. 18a.

[203] Barnai 1980, letter 15, p. 86.  Moshe Halamish has pointed out that the expression “trials” is used in R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk’s sermons as a mystical concept designating the preparation for the advent of the Messiah through the elimination of evil and the bitterness of death, and through preparation of the Shechinah for its ascent to the Redeemer.  See: Halamish 1998, pp. 231, 236.

[204] There is a pun here on ‘trials’ [[נסיונות and ‘miracles’ [נסים], an allusion to the rabbinic maxim prohibiting reliance on miracles.

[205]See: Morgenstern 1999, pp. 199-204.

[206]The letter was first published by Abraham Joshua Heschel.  See: Heschel, A.J., “Anonymous Documents in the History of Hasidism” (Yiddish), Yiva Blatter 36 (1952), p. 123.  The letter is dated be…Hukkot...1781, and it should be read as [the Torah reading of] be-Har be-Hukkotai, which was during the week of Lag Ba’omer, which fell on Sunday, 18th of Iyyar 5541(May 13, 1781).

[207] Heschel 1952, p. 123; Barnai 1980, letter 16, p. 89.

[208]R. Joseph ben Jacob passed away during the course of his mission and was buried in Ostrog.  See: Biber 1907, p. 186; Ya’ari, A., Shluchei Eretz Israel, Toldot ha-Shlichut me-ha-Aretz la-Golah mi-Hurban Bait Sheni ad ha-Meah ha-Tesha Essreh, [Emissaries from the Land of Israel, A Chronicle of Missions from the Land to the Exile from the Destruction of the Second Temple until the Nineteenth Century], Jerusalem 1951, p. 612.

[209]Barnai 1980, letter 15, p. 88.

[210]See: BT, Rosh Hashanah, p. 2b: “We lay down that a day in the year is reckoned as a year.”

[211] In the Zolkva 1800 edition, p. 27a: “to your voice.”   

[212] In accordance with Isaiah 60:22: “The little one shall become a thousand and the small one a strong nation: I, the Lord, will hasten it in its time.” See also: Isaiah 13:22.

[213] Liqqutim Yeqarim, Lemberg 1792, p. 26a; Jerusalem 1974, p. 131a.

[214] Liqqutim Yeqarim, Lemberg 1792, p. 26a; Jerusalem 1974, p. 131a; Morgenstern 1999, pp. 186-187.

[215] Barnai 1980, letter 17, p. 90.  Several versions of the letter were censored, and the words “in the synagogue” were deleted. It should be noted that the letter is not dated, but in a letter written in 1783 R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and R. Abraham of Kalisk repeated their entreaties.  See: Barnai 1980, letter 19, p. 96: “And also what we wrote last year, that no one should leave his place.  Rather, each person should help his brother, and strengthen one another.”  Thus the first letter giving this instruction dates to 1782. 

[216]Barnai 1980, letter 18, p. 92.

[217]Barnai 1980, letter 18, p. 94.

[218] See: Shivchei ha-Besht [In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov], A. Rubinstein edition,[Kapost 1815] Jerusalem 1991, “Printer’s Foreword,” pp. 23-26; Gris, Z., Sefer Sofer ve-Sipur be-Reshit ha-Hasidut [Book, Author and Story in Early Hasidism], Tel Aviv 1992, p. 105.

[219]Barnai 1980, letter 45, p. 182.

[220]Shivchei ha-Besht Rubinstein, “Printer’s Foreword,” p. 24.

[221]Note that the narrative is emptied of meaning if the “Maggid” who figures in it is not the Zlotchover maggid but the Mezeritcher maggid, as conventionally assumed.

[222] For a more extensive treatment of the subject, see: Dan, J., “Kefel ha-Panim shel ha-Meshichiut ba-Hasidut” [“The Dual Face of Messianisim in Hasidism”], in: Etkes, I., Assaf, D., Bartal, I., and Reiner, E. (editors), Be-Ma’aglei Hasidim – Kovetz Mechkarim le-Zichro shel Profesor Mordechai Wilensky, Jerusalem 2000, pp. 307-309.