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Karlin Hasidism (Cont'd)

F. R. Aharon the Second (1826 - 1872)

R. Asher's successor was his son, R. Aharon [Perlov] the Second (so called to distinguish him from his grandfather, R. Aharon the Great), who was born, according to a family tradition, on the New Moon of Sivan, 1802. [140] R. Aharon was the recognized leader of the Karlin hasidim for nearly fifty years. The information that we possess about his life and time comes partly from Hasidic sources and partly from the circles of mithnagdim and maskilim. A gifted organizer, R. Aharon applied himself to strengthening the bonds between himself and his followers. To this end, he used to pay them frequent visits in their towns and welcome them most warmly in his 'court' in Karlin. He also had a striking natural simplicity and sense of humor, and regularly made jokes in the Russian vernacular even while teaching his hasidim at his 'table'. He mixed freely with people of all kinds, and his confident and imposing presence was admired even in non-hasidic circles.

R. Aharon the Second's spiritual legacy, which is included in the volume Beth Aharon, comprises the following works: 'Daily Conduct and Exhortations'; a large, almost complete, collection of expositions of the Portions of the Law for Sabbaths and Festivals; 'Selected Sayings' in his name; letters written by R. Aharon to his followers on the eves of Festivals, especially on the eve of Passover; letters to his son, R. Asher; and 'Inspirational Sermons' to his followers, in Yiddish. [141]

The 'Daily Conduct and Exhortations' contains rules 'that he wrote... in his own holy hand': 'Although it is not my custom to write matters of this kind, since the earliest authorities, the holy ones of the Most High [sc. the Tsaddikim], have already written on the ordering of daily conduct... yet I have done so out of affection for our followers who have come... from afar, in the hope that... their hearts will drawn nigh to listen attentively to their studies.' In the same volume there are also rules 'that he discussed with our followers'; i.e., that were not actually written by R. Aharon, but handed down by the hasidim in his name. R. Aharon testifies: 'They are my true words, as recorded in books and by writers.' A comparison of these pronouncements with those of his father and with the 'Exhortations' of other earlier Tsaddikim shows that there is hardly anything new in R. Aharon's words. Nevertheless, together with his biblical interpretations and letters, they enable us to form a picture of Karlin hasidism in his time. R. Aharon stresses the qualities of 'awe and joyfulness,' of truth-seeking and purity of heart, and of 'study that issues in conduct.' 'Let those that are busy fix a regular time for religious study. And of those that have leisure it is said: "The study of the Law is their trade." The main thing is that some good quality should be derived from the studying… Let them learn the Mishnah, the Gemara with the Tosafoth, the works of Maharsho [an acronym of the name R. Shemuel Edels] and the Posekim, each according to his ability, whether much or little.' 'There is a man that sits down to study on a full stomach without any soul-searching. After his studying, he is very proud of himself… and thinks: Who will the King delight in more than in me?... But by what is study measured by God? The Torah is given to study and perform… If anyone prays every day… “to study and to teach, to keep and to do and to perform,” and then after his prayer does the opposite, this is a complete lie.' A man should endeavor 'to be absolutely honest, inwardly and outwardly,' 'close to the truth,' for 'by the truth we can attain to the highest degree'; 'above all… let his thoughts and words be the same… and let him not speak much about the vanities of the world and the new discoveries of the time, for this is a great source of idleness… Above all, every prayer and every study should not be just a routine religious act, but should be deliberately undertaken to bring the man closer to the will of God, according to his status and understanding… After the prayer, he should study the Bible, and in busy times at least Hok le-Israel, and sections of the Mishnah every day. The Holy One Blessed Be He counts not pages, but hours.'

In the rules for 'Daily Conduct' which his Hasidim handed down in his name, he said: 'A Jew must be very dear to himself and must believe in himself, for all that he does is thereby much improved. We are not speaking of upper worlds, but only of his own world… Just let him not rise above his level nor fall below his level… Let him not look up above himself… nor down below himself… Every man must improve… his own station… Every Jew can attain to all the hidden treasure and is indeed obliged to attain to it… and will be purified and cleansed and whitened till he attains to the goodness and radiance of the Holy One Blessed Be He.' Like his grandfather R. Aharon the Great, R. Aharon the Second used to say: 'The greatest of all the vices is sadness and melancholy.' 'For melancholy is the cause of all the other vices.' 'Sadness results from… pride.' 'The sign of a broken heart is gladness.'

These principles and ideas are reiterated by R. Aharon the Second in the 'Holy Letters' that he wrote to his son, R. Asher, and to his followers. Altogether, R. Aharon's writings and homilies had a considerable influence on the character and conduct of the Karlin hasidim. In particular, it was through him that Karlin hasidism came to attach such great importance -- perhaps greater than any other section of the hasidic movement – to joyfulness. R. Aharon the Great, according to hasidic tradition, regarded joyfulness as simply the avoidance of sadness. Whereas R. Aharon the Second used to stress the positive aspect of joyfulness as the active and fructifying principle in life. Thus, he would sum up the allegory of R. Elimelekh of Lizhensk in a single sentence: There is light in the world, only it has been hidden away by the Holy One Blessed Be He, so that every Jew is obliged to seek this light, and all Jews, 'even the smallest of the small and the lowest of the low' can find it.

The period of R. Aharon the Second's 'leadership' coincided with the reign of terror under the Tsar Nicolas I, with its persecutions, anti-Jewish decrees, 'kidnappings' and the like. The joyfulness that R. Aharon labored to implant in the hearts of his followers undoubtedly helped them to bear the trials and tribulations of those difficult days. For a long time afterwards popular stories were told about the courage displayed, both in private and public, by R. Aharon's hasidim in their time of trouble. It was thanks to R. Aharon's encouraging influence that the numbers of the Karlin hasidim increased still further in his time, over and above the increase that had occurred in the days of R. Asher the First. This was the heyday of Karlin hasidism. On Festivals and on Penitential Days the hasidim would leave their wives and families and make the pilgrimage to their Rebbe in Karlin. On Shavuoth and Simhath Torah as many as three to four thousand -- according to an eye-witness report -- would come thronging to his residence. 'He who has not seen Simhath Torah in the court of R. Aharon' -- so used the hasidic elders to say -- 'has never seen a real celebration of Simhath Torah.' Here is the scene as described by an eye-witness: R. Aharon would be sitting clothed all in white, as was his custom on Sabbaths and Festivals, at the head of the long table that stood in the large courtyard next to his prayer-house. Tens of canopies stretched above the court hardly sufficed as shelter for the crowds of hasidim that came to their Rebbe for Simhath Torah. When, at the maariv [evening] service, R. Aharon himself led the prayers, the worshippers were carried away by spiritual ecstasy, and the 'circuits' of the Scrolls were performed in a frenzy of jubilation that rose ever higher, circuit by circuit, song by song, and dance by dance, as the wine flowed freely. Thus transported, the hasidim would spend the whole night singing and dancing in the courtyard and the nearby streets. Out of this fervent rejoicing were born many of the Karlin melodies that subsequently became famous in hasidic circles and even throughout Jewry. Nor was this the case only at Simhath Torah. Every Festival had its own melodies. Outstanding amongst these were the tunes of the Passover Seder night of which, according to the hasidim, R. Aharon used to say: 'In my Passover melodies, there is not one crumb of leaven.' In addition to songs and dances, R. Aharon introduced instrumental music and had two orchestras -- one of them made up of his followers from Volhynia -- which used to play melavveh malkah, on the intermediate days of Sukkoth and similar occasions.

During these visits to the Rebbe's 'court,' the hasid would forget the bitter, dreary, care-ridden reality of his daily life and find a refuge for his tired body and weary spirit. Freed for a while of his cares by the general rejoicing, he would be uplifted into a state of self-forgetfulness. This spiritual exaltation and tense expectancy reached their climax on Rosh-Hashanah before the blowing of the shofar, when R. Aharon, having 'purified himself' in the mikveh and carrying three or four shofars, thrust into the silver girdle encircling his white kittel, would make his way through the throng of worshippers to the pulpit, where, after fervently reciting the forty-seventh Psalm ['To the sons of Korah'], he would perform the commandment of 'hearing the sound of the shofar' – 'hearing is in the heart,' as he preached in one of his sermons on Rosh Hashanah. On one of his shofars were engraved the words: 'God has gone up with a trumpet blast.'

This intensely shared life of the Rebbe and his hasidim was something alien in the prevailingly mithnaged environment of Pinsk. The element of a personal cult in Hasidism --- the hasid's reverence for his Tsaddik was completely foreign to the 'scholars' of this 'principal community.' Moreover, the mithnagdim still at that time held to their view that hasidism discouraged the study of the Talmud and thereby had an adverse effect on Lithuanian talmudic scholarship. Thus, for example, the then Av Beth-Din of Pinsk, R. Elazar-Moshe Hurwitz, is reported to have adopted a hostile attitude to hasidism and even to R. Aharon himself. [142] And once, on the fourth intermediate day of Sukkoth, when R. Aharon and his followers had been rejoicing after their fashion, singing and dancing in the streets of Karlin, one of the leading local mithnaged families – Lourié -- who lived in the neighborhood, enraged by having their peace disturbed for days and nights on end, used their influence to have the Russian authorities order R. Aharon to leave Karlin. He withdrew to his old place of refuge -- Stolin. This event shows that sectarian bitterness had not yet completely died away even at this late date, exactly a hundred years after the first minyan of the Karlin hasidim was established in this town, in an atmosphere of hostile pressure and actual persecution.

The writer and poet, Y. L. Gordon, who, as a young teacher in Pinsk -- in the Lourié household -- became closely acquainted with the life led by the Karlin hasidim, has given us, in the story Olam ke-Minhago, a highly critical and even repellent picture of R. Aharon the Second and his hasidic milieu. [143] Despite the purely fictional and personal elements in this description, it nevertheless contains references to certain historical facts, such as the quarrel between the hasidim and the Lourié family, and the expulsion of R. Aharon from Karlin by order of the Russian police. The fear of the Hasidim, which is stressed in the story, induced the author to give his characters fictitious names: R. Aharon appears as R. Leibele, his son R. Asher the Second as R. Herschele, Hayyah Lourié is called Yokheved, and Karlin is changed to Krimvilishek. The whole story is a most important historical document, as showing what the leading poet of the Haskalah movement thought of Hasidism.

The exact year of R. Aharon's forced move from Karlin to Stolin is not known. Y. L. Gordon gives [on pages 107 and 154 of the above-mentioned story] the following as the date of R. Aharon's expulsion: 'October 1st, the 21st of Tishri, the day of Hashana Rabbah, the fourth day of the week.' But the year is intentionally omitted: '... in the year... (the number being deleted).' Now, a glance at the calendar shows that, throughout the relevant period, these dates never all fell on the same day. That means that their choice is either the storyteller's mistake, or a deliberate inaccuracy on his part. Another piece of evidence is a letter, written by R Aharon the Second to his son-in-law R. Avraham-Yaakov, the son of R. Yisrael of Sadagora, 'on the fifth day of the week, on the 17th of the month of Av, in the year [5]626 [=1866]', which is extant in the original hand in the family archives. From this letter it transpires that, in the year mentioned, R. Aharon was living in Stolin. In a letter to Aharon, the son of Moshe Lourié in Pinsk, dated the 7th of Av [5]624 [=1864], Y. L. Gordon writes: 'The town where the Rebbe is living is close to you. (But is he still in Stolin? Or has he chosen another royal city for his residence? Is R. Aharele [R. Aharon] still reigning, or has his son R. Asher [R. Asher the Second] already succeeded him on the throne?).' From this it may be deduced that R. Aharon the Second was already living in Stolin in the year 1864.

That the mutual hatred between the mithnagdim and the hasidim was still very much alive in the nineteenth century is evident from two further facts. One of the finest, most devoted, and most influential of Karlin Jewry's public figures, R. Shaul Levin (the father of the above-mentioned Hayyah Lourié), who was known as R. Shaul Karliner, specifically forbade his sons and heirs, in his will (he died in 1834), to have anything to do with the hasidim.

In connection with the bequests to charity made by R. Shaul Karliner in this will, we read as follows: 'A clear inventory of all my property and effects... shall be drawn up and recorded... and signed by the heirs, together with my wife... and the Rav who shall be the communal Av Beth-Din at that time. If the Rav at that time is a member of the sect of the hasidim, then, with the consent of my wife and sons, another Rav shall be added to the signatories [i.e., instead of the Rav], the hasid, or some upright and honest person...' In a similar vein, R. Shaul Karliner gives the following instructions to those of his next of kin to whom he entrusted the management of the charities to be paid out of his estate: '... Everything shall at all times be conducted and managed on the principle of relatives first, provided that they are upright and respectable men, and not of the sect of the hasidim... Even of the relatives it is laid down that they shall not be of the above-mentioned sect, and if they are [members of the sect] they shall be disqualified. Only those that are truly God-fearing shall be taken care of, but none of them [sc. the hasidim]... All the inventory shall be clearly and exactly written [on every anniversary of the death] in a notebook and shall be signed also by whoever shall then be the Rav or Moreh-Tsedek, but not if he is a member of the sect of the hasidim, so that the matter may be finally and permanently arranged and settled.'

These excerpts from the will show the depth of the hatred and anger felt against the hasidim, even on his death-bed, by the leader of the Karlin community in the thirties of the nineteenth century. His opinion of the hasidim is expressed in his explicit instruction that the money for charity bequeathed by him shall be devoted 'to some upright and honest person... to those that are truly God-fearing... so that the matter may be finally and permanently arranged and settled.' All these qualities are denied the hasidim by R. Shaul Karliner. The extent of the influence of the Hasidim in Karlin in those days can be inferred from R. Shaul's fear that one of them might be chosen as the Rav of Karlin. Evidently, the conditions in the community were then such as to make this possible. In fact, however, no hasid became the Rav of the Karlin or Pinsk communities at any time during the nineteenth century.

On the other side, the Karlin hasidim as late as 1870 - 1871 published a broadsheet headed 'No Punishment, but A Warning,' full of abuse and threats against the mithnagdim.

Like his father before him, R. Aharon the Second gave his support to the hasidic settlers in Palestine, who were then going through hard times. When an emissary came from Palestine to collect money on their behalf, R. Aharon wrote the following letter (undated in the original) to his hasidim: [144]

'To our beloved followers... may they all be rewarded! I write... in praise of our Land, the Land of Life, the place to which our prayers are directed... the Holy of Holies... Let our brethren the Children of Israel unite... with a single heart and with worship that comes from the heart – that is, by prayer... Who am I to go on and on in praise of such exalted matters?... However, my spirit gives me no peace, because of... the oppression of the times. For it is now several years that the Lord has called up a famine on the Land, and thousands of precious souls and their children are going hungry with none to offer them bread. Moreover, I have seen that letters written with passionate fervor by all the great ones of Israel to arouse the hearts of our brethren the Children of Israel have borne fruit and succeeded. Therefore am I writing now to my loyal followers [to tell them] that my friend the learned and venerable Rabbi... Avraham-Yosef... the grandson of the holy Rabbi and Gaon of Volochisk... the son-in-law of my kinsman, my dear friend the renowned hasid... R. Naftali-Tsevi... the grandson of the holy Baal Shem Tov, has been sent from the Holy Land to collect fresh funds to keep alive our brethren dwelling in the center of holiness [i.e., in the Holy Land]. I am therefore writing this letter to urge all our followers... to welcome its bearer, my friend the Rabbi, warmly and to arouse your hearts to participate… generously... to uphold their dwelling in the Holy Land... From me, who love you and send you affectionate greetings and desire your good, and your affection, your unity, and your attachment to the Source of Life...'

In the second, also undated, letter found in the Stolin genizah from R. Aharon the Second to his hasidim, we read as follows:

'May the Lord give life and blessing... to our brethren the Children of Israel wherever they be... long life and peace to them, their households and their offspring... for ever.

'I have taken up my pen... to write words from the heart to the heart... that you should freely and generously make your contributions out of love for the Holy Land... the Land for which the Lord cares and which is mentioned in all the prayers... of the community of Israel... The Divine Name has vouchsafed us the fulfillment of the desire of our holy forefathers, that there should be some of our loyal supporters in the Land of Life [i.e., the Holy Land]... With the Lord's help they have found a resting place for a group of our followers who devote themselves to the study of Torah and to prayer, where the feet of the holy Tsaddikim trod... a permanent place for prayer from the holy... Tsaddik... Menahem... whose pious hands established the holy place. With the Lord's help our followers have succeeded in purchasing the holy place that was granted to no other man. Thus far has the Divine Name aided our brethren, the Children of Israel, but they still require further assistance, especially our own followers... You should, therefore, aid and support them generously, so that by their purchase they should have their share in the Holy Land... I am confident that our brethren, the Children of Israel will pay heed to these my words... May we be granted in abundance... all that our hearts desire, for good and for blessing... from the Lord of Peace...

'The words of Aharon, the son of R. Asher.'

From a comparison of these two letters it is evident that, in the period between the dates when they were written, a group of Karlin hasidim established themselves in the Holy Land and bought the prayer-house in Tiberias which had previously been purchased by R. Mendel of Vitebsk. [145] Also found in the Stolin genizah were deeds of sale relating to houses bought by R. Aharon in Tiberias and Jerusalem, as well as a letter from the recipients of the halukkah to R. Aharon, appointing him as the 'chief general administrator' of all the funds sent to Palestine, and his son, R. Asher the Second, as his assistant.

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Letter from R. Aharon the Second of Karlinto his son R. Asher the Second

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Altogether, the Land of Israel [Erets Yisrael] occupied an important place in Karlin hasidism; and conversely, Karlin hasidim played a significant role in the history of hasidism in the Land of Israel. The son of R. Aharon the Great, R. Yaakov, settled with his family and his father-in-law, R. Avraham of Karlin, in Palestine and died there. [146] R. Asher the First wrote the public proclamation -- quoted above -- in support of Jewish settlers in Palestine. And amongst the papers found in the Stolin genizah there were, as already stated, receipts for sums of money sent by R. Asher to Palestine. In the credentials carried by an emissary sent by the Jews of Tiberias, in 1846, to collect money for Palestine -- R. Moshe Yafe -- we find included amongst the signatures of 'the leaders of the holy community of God-fearing Ashkenazi Jews… of the community of Volhynia… that of a certain 'Moshe-Dov, the son of the Rabbi and Teacher Aharon of blessed memory from Stolin.' This Moshe-Dov was the step-brother of R. Aharon the Second. [147] Further evidence of the specially close connection between Karlin Hasidism and Palestine is provided by the deeds of sale relating to houses in the name of R. Aharon the Second in Jerusalem and Tiberias (which were found, as stated in the Stolin genizah) and also by the letter written by R. Aharon after the purchase of the house and plot of land belonging to R. Mendel of Vitebsk by the Karlin Hasidim in Tiberias. Detailed information about the exact date when this group established itself and about the early days of its existence is lacking. What is certain is that it was not until the second half of the nineteenth century, with the break-up of the various Hasidic communities in Palestine into separate dynasties, that the special Karlin group arose with its own shtiebelakh [hasidic prayer houses] in Tiberias, Safed, and Jerusalem. It is worth stressing that, as far as is known to us, the fund-raising emissaries from Palestine who came originally from Pinsk and its environs (R. Hayyim, the son of the Gaon of Karlin, R. Barukh the son of R. Shemuel, R. Avraham Dayyan Wolfsohn, R. Avraham the son of R. Tsevi Eisenstein of Drohichin, R. Shemuel-Muni Zilberman [148]), were all perushim (i.e., mithnagdim) and disciples of the Gaon of Vilna, and not Karlin Hasidim. We likewise find men born in Pinsk at the head of the mithnaged community (the Pinsk Av Beth-Din, R. Hayyim Cohen, and R. Yeshayah the son of R. Yissakhar-Baer [Bardaki]). [149]

Apart from the letters referred to above, the following documents from the time of R. Aharon the Second were also found in the Stolin genizah: (1) a letter from R. Yisrael of Sadagora (dated Rosh Hodest Teveth, 1852?) in which the writer complains that he has no money to give the emissaries from Erets Yisrael and therefore requests R.Aharon to try to raise the sum required from among his Hasidim; (2) a second short, friendly letter from R. Yisrael of Ruzhin (dated the 19th Elul, 1848) in which the writer congratulates R. Aharon and promises to pray on his behalf daily; (3) the regulations of the Mishnah-reading society in the small town of Yanovo, near Pinsk (dated the 10th Nisan, 1830) signed by R. Aharon: the members undertake to study passages from the Mishnah in memory of a Jew named Lapidoth who had donated a Scroll of the Law to this society; (4) the reply of R. Shemuel-Avraham Shapiro of Slavuta [the owner of the well-known printing press] to the invitation of R. Aharon's wedding; (5) a short prayer composed by R. Aharon, of which the members of the court did not permit copies to be made; (6) a letter from R. Aharon to his followers about their regular payments to the 'court' funds. In one of his letters there is an interesting request of his, to his family, that they should not fast on Taanith Esther.

The three letters from R. Aharon the Second reproduced here contain his views on doctors (letter A), and also genealogical details of the Karlin-Ruzhin-Chernobyl dynasties (letters B, C). [150]

Letter A.

Letter from R. Aharon the Second of Karlin to his family

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'To my dear daughter… Miryam (may she be granted long life!)… and to my dear daughter Perl… and to her young daughter Nehamah Gitti… and her dear daughter… Sarah Rivkah.

Thank God, I am alive and well. I received your letter written on the night of the last Sabbath, and I was pleased by your journey to the place of medicinal waters. May God grant that they bring you a complete cure and good health and many bright years of life!

My daughter and her sons (may you be granted long life!) pray handle medicines with moderation and do not disobey the doctors' orders, for they are expert in the drinking of waters, and in the amount of walking required after that, and also in eating and drinking and sleeping during the drinking of waters… and carry out their instructions to the letter. May the Holy One Blessed be He help you and give you complete healing and good health for His goodness is everlasting.

From your father… who prays for your welfare and eagerly waits to hear from you… about the beneficial effect of treatment …

Aharon of Karlin'

The second day of the week, 21st Tammuz, here in Hotin. God willing, tomorrow or on tile fourth day (?) we shall travel from here to Lepan, and I shall bring greetings and encouragement to all my household... If there are perchance letters from my home, please send them to me as soon as possible to Sadagora, to the address of my very dear granddaughter... Hadassah Feige...'

Miryam, the eldest daughter of R. Aharon the Second of Karlin, who is mentioned in this letter, was the wife of the Tsaddik R. Avraham-Yaakov of Sadagora, the son of the well-known Tsaddik R. Yisrael of Ruzhin. She died on the first day of Sukkoth 1880. According to a reliable hasidic source, she and her husband were married in Karlin, on 17th Sivan 1837. R. Avraham-Yaakov succeeded his father in Sadagora and followed his father's example of wealthy living, of paying great attention to the outward splendors of his 'court', and of stressing the importance in the hasidic movement of belief in the Tsaddik. He died in 1883.

Their daughter Perl, who is also mentioned in the letter, was married to her cousin, R. Nahum-Dov of Sadagora, the son of her father's brother R. Shalom-Yosef the eldest son of R. Yisrael of Ruzhin. After a short period as the Rebbe of Ruzhin, he lived the rest of his life with his family in the 'court' of his father-in-law, R. Avraham-Yaakov, in Sadagora. Here, with a good taste and understanding perhaps influenced by his having lived in Leipzig in his youth, he established a large, well-stocked library, which even contained some first printings. According to a hasidic source, R. Nahum-Dov was born in 1843, and died in 1883 in Vienna.

Sarah-Rivkah, mentioned in the body of the letter, and Hadassah-Feige, mentioned in the postscript, were daughters of Miryam and R. Avraham-Yaakov of Sadagora, the daughter and son-in-law of R. Aharon the Second. Sarah-Rivkah was the first wife of the Tsaddik R. Yisrael of Mezhibozh, a descendant of the Tsaddik R. Avraham-Yehoushua Heshel of Apta. Their wedding is the subject of the two letters from R. Aharon the Second printed below. Hadassah-Feige was the wife of the Tsaddik R. Aviezri Zelig Shapira of Drohobich, the son of the Tsaddik R. Hayyim-Meir Yehiel of Mogelnitsa, the grandson of the well-known Polish Tsaddik, R. Yisrael of Kozhenits. They and their descendants are mentioned below in the third letter of R. Aharon the Second.

The identity of the young girl Alte Nehamah Gittl, mentioned in the letter, is not clear. In no hasidic source is there any reference to the fact that Miryam and R. Avraham-Yaakov of Sadagora had a daughter by this name. On the other hand, it is known that their daughter Perl, the wife of R. Nahum-Dov of Sadagora, had a daughter named Gittele, the wife of the Tsaddik, R. Moshe-Leib of Pashkan, the son of the Tsaddik R. Yitshak of Buhush, who was also the son of R. Shalom-Yosef of Ruzhin. Hadassah-Feige, the eldest daughter of Miryam and R. Avraham-Yaakov, also had a daughter named Gittele, who was the wife of the Tsaddik R. Yisrael of Husyatin and is mentioned below in the third letter. Assuming that the first identification is correct, and that the reference here is to Perl's daughter Gittele, since the name Gittl appears in the letter together with the name Perl, it may be concluded that this letter was written in the sixties of the 19th century: in the latter part of the fifties, Perl's future husband, the above-mentioned R. Nahum-Dov, returned to Ruzhin from Leipzig, at the age of 12, after his father's death there in 1851, and subsequently settled in Sadagora; and the letter was written after the birth of the daughter, Alte Nehamah Gittl, mentioned in it.

Hotin, where R. Aharon the Second wrote this letter, was a district capital in Bessarabia in which the descendants of the Chernobyl dynasty had a 'court' right down to the time of the Nazi Holocaust. This is also where the wedding took place of the son of Miryam (the daughter of R. Aharon the Second) and of R. Avraham-Yaakov of Sadagora, R. Yitshak, the founder of the Boyan dynasty.

Lepkan – Lipkany -- was a small town in the above-mentioned district of Hotin. R. Aharon the Second wrote this letter on his way to this town.

Letter B

Letter from R. Aharon the Second to his daughter Miryam and to his son-in-law R. Avraham-Yaakov of Sadagora, July 1866

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'Thank God, I am alive and well, I and your mother... From my dear son... I received a telegram from Tsiskave and, thank God, he is alive and well... and also my granddaughter Hannah... and her dear husband... our Teacher and Master Mordekhai... are, thank God, alive and well, and my dear daughter... Tsipporah Feige... From her dear husband... David... I have received letters and they and their sons, my dear grandchildren... are, thank God, alive and completely well. May it be granted us to receive only good news from you and to send only good news to you. I was touched by the letter of my son-in-law... [R. Avraham-Yaakov of Sadagora] and of my dear daughter [Miryam]... which was written on the 13th (?) Tammuz, inviting me to the wedding of your daughter, the dear bride Sarah Rivkah... to her young man, and may we have satisfaction from them. Now... I made great preparations... and hired horses and carts to travel to you to bring good fortune for the wedding, and yesterday I set out... But when I saw the bad state of the road from the heavy rains, I calculated that, with my [limited] strength and the great distance there and back, I should not have sufficient time, for it is near to the Holy Days (may they bring us blessing!). Today, therefore, I returned home alive and well and, God willing, in these days I shall write to you at length to wish you mazzal tov and to send you a present. But please, my dearly loved children... do not be in any way distressed (God forbid!) by my not being able to come, for there is no other reason for this, but only what I have truly told you. I have also received the letter of my daughter, which was written on the first day of the Portion of the Week Mattoth. Please, my dearly loved children... and all your household... let me admonish you not to be sad and anxious (God forbid!)... for He with His many mercies and great kindnesses will compassionately watch over us and over all our Jewish brethren, and preserve us at all times from any trouble and sorrow and from any harm (God forbid!), and protect us, and spread over us the tabernacle of His peace and the fullness of His goodness which will lengthen our days and ensure us years of life and well-being... To all our brethren peace from the Lord of Peace, and from me, your father... who prays on your behalf for every blessing and expectantly waits to hear good news from you and to rejoice in seeing you happy... and for blessing from the Source of blessings, life and peace... Aharon the son of our Teacher and Master Asher (the righteous man of blessed memory).

Enclosed is a letter from your mother (may she be granted long life!)'.

The Hannah mentioned in this letter was the daughter of the Tsaddik R. Asher the Second of Stolin. the son of R. Aharon the Second. In 1859 she married the Tsaddik R. Mordekhai of Kuzmir, the son of R. Avraham of Trisk, the son of R. Mordekhai of Chernobyl. R. Mordekhai of Kuzmir died in 1917. This couple had no children.

Tsipporah-Feige, the younger daughter of R. Aharon the Second, who died in 1909, married in 1852 the Tsaddik R. David of Zlatopol, the son of R. Yohanan of Rahmistrivka (Rotmistrovka) who was also a son of R. Mordekhai of Chernobyl. R. David died in 1914. Their daughter, Berakhah-Sheindl, married in 1883 her cousin, the son and heir of R. Asher the Second, the Tsaddik R. Yisrael 'the Child' of Stolin, who died on the second day of Rosh Hashanah 1921. She perished in the Holocaust in Stolin on 29th Elul 1942.

This letter is R. Aharon the Second's reply to the invitation from his daughter, Miryam, and his son-in-law, R. Avraham-Yaakov of Sadagora, to the wedding of their daughter Sarah-Rivkah, who was mentioned in the first letter. She was, as already noted, the first wife of the Tsaddik R. Yisrael of Mezhihozh. This letter gives some idea of the conditions of traveling in those days. The letter bears no date. But in the third letter (below), which was written on Thursday, 17th Av [29th July] 1866 and which deals with the same topic – the difficulty of traveling to the wedding, R. Aharon refers to this present letter as follows:

'I have already told you, in my letter of last week, that I set out on the journey, but then returned to my home.' Hence, the present letter was written between the 5th and 11th Av, 1866.

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