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Tzanze Khsides

(The Movement of Hasidism)

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R' Chaim Halbershtam and His Generation

by Rafal Mahler

Translated by William Leibner

Edited by Renee Miller

I. The “Divrei Chaim” [“The Words of Chaim”]

A. R' Chaim Tzanzer from the Khakhme [Wise Men] of the Kloyz [House of Study]

The mystical tendencies that spread throughout Poland prior to the appearance of the actual Khsidish [Hasidic] movement can be justified by the Bal Shem Tov [Rabbi Israel (Yisroel) ben Eliezer (ca.1698–May 22, 1760 in Miêdzyborz was a Jewish Orthodox mystical rabbi], and also penetrated Sandz. One of the most prominent representatives of Bal Shem Tov's tendency toward khsides [Hasidism] was a Sandzer, R' Chaim ben Menachem Nachum.

In the the city of Brod, the largest Jewish kehile in Poland at the time, during the first half of the 18th century, Rabbi Chaim ben Abraham Landau, the father of “Noda b'Yehuda” [a Talmudic-Halachic work] founded a kloyz that soon became world-famous. The “Khakhmi Kloyz” [The Sages' House of Study], was a kloyz that attracted the greatest talmide-khakhomim [scholars] of the period, such as Rabbi Ephraim Zalman Margolies, who studied all week in the kloyz and only returned home for Shabes [Saturday]. Some of the “Khakhmi Kloyz” devoted themselves to the study of the Kabole [a Jewish mystical philosophy] in a small room of the kloyz. This group of mystical scholars was marked by ascetic conduct. The Mekubolim [Cabalists], even before the Bal Shem Tov, used to daven [pray] from the the sider [daily prayer book] {called Nusakh Sfard} of Ar”i [Ashkenasi R' Yitzhok, the designation of R' Yitzhok Luria of Sfad (1534-1572)]. On Shabes and holidays they wore white garments. One of the famous sages was the well-known Rabbi Abraham Gershon Kitewer, the brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov who emigrated to Eretx Isroel in 1746 and settled in Hebron.

The spiritual leader of the Mekubolim of “Khakhmi Kloyz” was Rabbi Chaim ben Menachem Nachum (1720-1783). He was so highly respected in Brod as a great tsadek [pious, saintly man] that many legends about him were written down in the pinkes [book of records] of the Broder kloyz. Among other things, it is written in this pinkes that the Baal Shem Tov said of him that he had both the soul and the face of the Tane [rabbis whose teachings in the first 2 centuries of the Common Era are included in the Mishnah], Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai. According to the same source, it appears that the respect was mutual.

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Rabbi Chaim Tzanze was a sharp opponent of the Bal Shem Tov. While he and his followers also believed in the shite [doctrine, school of thought] of fasting and tormenting the body, the very basis of Bal Shem Tov's doctrine of Hasidism was joy of life and the discard of asceticism.

In many details Rabbi Chaim Tzanze of the “Khakhmi Kloyz” was the prototype of Rabbi Chaim Halbershtam of the Sandzer Rabbis, who would be a famous scholar one hundred years later. Just like the second Rabbi Chaim Tzanze, the first Rabbi Chaim also distinguished himself his davenen [praying] with a mighty demeanor, literally “until he pulled himself away from his spinal cord”.[*] Just as the “Divrei Chaim”, Rabbi Chaim from the Broder kloyz himself realized the connection between Hasides [Hasidism] and Toyre learning. Being a great mystic, he was, at the same time, an outstanding lamdn [scholar] and author of books on Halokhe [Rabbinical literature]. Just as remarkable was the trait they held in common, both Rabbis Chaims, in their demeanor toward tsdoke [charity]. Rabbi Chaim of the “Khakhmi Kloyz” always stressed charity and even while dying, to his last breath, he still was concerned with providing food, doctors and medications for the needy as well as lodgings for the homeless. The masses loved him and nicknamed him “Avi hNayim“[father of the poor].

The same analogy pertains to the strength of character that both Rabbis displayed towards fighting the tendencies that they considered dangerous to the existence of Yidishkayt [Judaism]. Just as the Rabbi Chaim Halbershtam assumed the leadership in the fight against the dynasty that represented to him the disintegration and denigration of Hasides so also Rabbi Chaim Tzanze in mid 18th century (1752) was the initiator and organizer of the asife [assembly] of Rabbis in the Broder Kloyz, that had bavarfn a kheyrem [excommunication, ostracism] on the amulets and books of Rabbi Yonathan Eibshitz, on suspicion of Shabtai Tzvi.-ism [follower of Shabbetai Tzvi [variously spelled Shabtai Tsvi, Shabtai Zvi. Sabtai Tzvi etc). - False Messiah who stirred up Jewish hopes of returning to Zion, then converted to Islam in 1666]

Of the many khiburim [treatises] that Rabbi Chaim Tzanze wrote only two were published: “Neder bar Kodesh”- a commentary on “Pirke-Oves” [“Ethics of the Fathers”] (1862) and “Hod Thala” about Hanukah. Amongst his treatises that remained in manuscript form, was the “Hagahot” [observations] regarding the Shulhan Arukh [a collection of laws and prescriptions governing the life of an Orthodox Jew {Max Weinreich}] and book of Shayles v'Tshuves [questions of law and Rabbinical response].

On his tombstone in the Broder cemetery was written: third day of the week, sixth day in the month of Schwat, in the year 1783. “A great influential figure died. A crown in Israel. Here lies: the famous Rabbi Chaim Tzanze, son of Rabbi Menachem Nachum. May his soul rest in eternal peace”.[1]

* According to Tractate Berakhos, page 28, side 2 Return

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B. Rabbi Chaim Halbershtam (1793-1876) - Biographical Sketches

We can assume that within the first generation of students of Bal Shem Tov, his influence had already reached the city of Sandz: the shtetl of Lyczana [Lizensk, Lyzhansk] was at the time a great center of Hasides thanks to the great influence of the famous theoretician of Toyre, the “Rabbi Reb Melech”, author of the book “Noam Elimelech” the concept of piety [or righteousness – ed.], the Toyre; the role of a Tzadik {a saintly person}, and Hasidism is explained]. Already during the Napoleonic period the influence of Hasides appeared in middle Galicia, near Sandz. Besides Lancut from where the famous Rabbi Yaakov Itzhak (known as Itzikel Lancuter) moved to Lublin in about 1800, there were two famous centers of Hasides: one in Frysztag and another in Ropczyce. Rabbi Mendel (Mendel Tores) moved his court from Frysztak to Rymanow and became famous under the name of the city (The Rymanower Rabbi). In Ropczyce a young brilliant rabbi, Rabbi Naftali Horowitz assumed a leadership position in Hasides. By that time, the city of Sandz also had its own well-known Hasidic Rabbi, Rabbi Zalkin, a student of the above mentioned Yaakov Itzhak and very important to the famous “Hozeh” [seer, prophet] of Lublin [Jacob Isaac Horowitz (1745-1815)].[2]

The brilliant period of Hasidic Jewry in Sandz would, however first come with the arrival of the follower of Rabbi Zalkin, the Rabbi Chaim Halbershtam in the chair of Sandzer Rabbi, Rabbi Chaim Sandzer. He would later be famous and well known under the name of “Divrei Chaim” the title of a treatise that he wrote. This book described a new period not only in Sandzer Hasides, not only in general, but especially Hasides in Galicia. Thanks to his new doctrine and his great scholarship, and thanks to his magnetic personality, the once distant town in the Carpathians became known throughout the circles of Hasides and scholarship in Eastern Europe. That distant city has been popular in the entire Jewish Orthodox world to this day.

Rabbi Chaim Halbershtam was born in the city of Tarnogrod in 1793 the year of the second partition of Poland. His father Arieh Leibush was a great scholar and later assumed the post of moyre-hoyroe [Rabbi] of Przemysl. His mother, Miriam was the daughter of a Rav Rabbi David in Brod. On his father's side, he was a descendant of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh the rabbi of Halbershtadt, and from that time on, he took it as his family name. According to tradition, the Rabbi altered his name to Halbershtam in order not to grant recognition to a non-Jewish place. Rabbi Chaim traced his paternal lineage to the (MaHaRaSHaL [Solomon Luria (1510 - 1574), one of the great Ashkenazi teachers of his time] and on his mother's side to the learned Rabbi, the Khakham Tzvi Ashkenazi of the 17th century.[3]

Rabbi Chaim was lame as a child, and it seems, he was lame his entire life. However in Hasidic tradition of Sandz the story is told that the assistant teacher hit him on his leg causing a permanent injury. Tradition also has it that he cursed the assistant teacher all his life. Even as a young student he displayed great intellect and erudition and was famous as a great ile [child prodigy] At the same time, he was fascinated and drawn to Hasides. His first Hasidic Rabbi was Yosele Halewi, a brother of the Hozeh [seer] of Lublin who lived in Tarnogrod.[4]

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At his insistence, his father, although he was a misnaged [opponent of Hasidism], took him to the Hozeh in Lublin. The Hozeh made such an impression on him from that first meeting that he would continue to visit him until the Hozeh passed away in 1814. After his death, Rabbi Chaim always honored the memory of the Rabbi of Lublin and frequently quoted him or his sayings and referred to him as our great saintly Rabbi of Lublin.[5]

His great Toyre authority was his father-in-law the Rabbi and head of the Yeshiva of Lipniki in Moravia, Rabbi Baruch Teomim Frenkel who later became world famous as under the name of his work “Baruch Teum”. At the age of seventeen Rabbi Chaim Halbershtam married Rachel the daughter of the Rabbi of Lipniki. He lived with his father-in-law for a full year and studied at his yeshiva. According to tradition repeated by the Hasidim this is a characteristic episode: when the young Halbershtam arrived in Lipniki, his future father-in-law had a serious theological discussion with him as was then the custom He was amazed at his proficiency and shrewdness in shas v' psokim [Talmud and rulings] so he called out with pleasure: “The groom may have a crooked leg but he has straight wisdom”.[6] At the home of the Lipniker Rabbi, Halbershtam developed a great interest in the book “Moreh Nevuchim” [Maimonides' work “Guide for the Perplexed”]. His entire life he was devoted to Rambam [Maimonides's full name was Moses ben Maimon; in Hebrew he is known by the acronym of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, Rambam {Jewish Virtual Library}][7]

At the age of eighteen, Chaim Halbershtam was appointed Rabbi of Rudnik in central Galicia. The place was near the shtetl Ropczyce where the famous Rabbi Naphtali “Ropshitzer” [Yiddish name for the shtetl Ropczyce] lived. The relationship between the two rabbis was very smooth in spite of the age difference. The older Rabbi treated the young Rabbi as an equal. Rabbi Halbershtam fell under the spell of the Ropshitzer Rabbi and adopted many of his views notably with regards to charity, and the bond of Hasides with scholarship. All three elements are basic forms of the Sandzer Hasidic court. Rabbi Chaim always considered himself a student of the Ropshitzer Rabbi and always referred to him as moyre haKodesh, mv”r (morye vrebi haKodesh)or Admo'r [acronym for “Our lord and master”, title of a Hasidic Rabbi][8], in his wisdom and intelligence. Rabbi Chaim also was influenced by the Ropshitz [Ropczyce] negines [songs, music] and brought Ropshitzer negines to Sandz.

Following the death of the Ropshitzer Rabbi in 1827, Rabbi Chaim became restless and felt no pleasure. He decided to leave the shtetl Rudnik. In 1828 he was invited to Sandz as Rabbi. The intent of the written invitation sent to Rabbi Chaim in Rudnik was: “On Friday, the fifth day of Shvat 1828, in Sandz, on this day, a conference of the heads of the kehile, special people and leaders of the kehile[9] and vicinity took place. It was unanimously decided to ask the moer-hagodl [special title], hakharif [brilliant] Rabbi Halbershtam of Rudnik to assume the role of “more tzedek” [righteous teacher] so that he can decide what is permitted and what is forbidden under Jewish law”.

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He would also preach a moral sermon each Shabes. He would designate a time for Toyre learning with the young male students. The sermons must be held in the shul and also in the large besmedresh [prayer and study house; small Orthodox synagogue]. As his parnose [earnings] the “bekoved godl” [beloved celebrity] is to receive four Rhenish [editor's note: Rhenish Kreuzer= 4 Austrian pfennig] a week from the kehile-kase [community treasury] plus the usual income that is granted a rabbi for his various activities”.

Twelve people signed the invitation headed by Meir Katz Ehrlich[10]. Two kehile representatives: Shmuel Horwitz and Moshe Wildfeuer added their signatures leshem [for the sake of] confirmation. The two Sandzer dayonim [those who settle questions of ritual], Reb Asher Zelki ben Tzwi and Reb Dawid Felskir confirmed the invitation on Tones Esther [Fast of Esther][11].

It is no accident that the invitation stipulated that the post being offered is that of “more tzedek” or righteous teacher and not the position of rabbi. The power of Rabbi of the city and environs was vested in Baruch ben Moshe Dawid Landau. Rabbi Halbershtam did not accept the invitation in 1828. In a letter to Yudl (Holender) of Sandz he wrote: “To my esteemed and respected Yudl”, dated the end of the month of Iyar 1828. He said it was not in his interests to make special efforts regarding this position since he managed to receive both respect and income where he was[12]. It seems that he had moved from Rudnik to the small shtetl of Zolin in the same area. From Zolin he moved to Kalow in Hungary. He stayed for a while in Hungary because there was opposition to his appointment. In about 1830 when the presiding rabbi passed away he accepted the position of Rabbi of Sandz and environs[13].

Rabbi Halbershtam remained in Sandz his entire life from 1830 to 1876 and became known throughout the world as Rabbi Chaiml Sandzer. According to an hasidic legend, even the name of Sandz began to be written Tsanz, that is, with the Hebrew letter “tzadik” in honor of the tzadik [saintly] Rabbi Chaim. The same legend also tells us that a Hasid from Sandz once came to Rabbi Mayer Premiszlaner and gave him a note on which was written the name of his city Sandz. The Rabbi returned the note saying, “Sandz is spelled with a tzadik [Tsanz] because that is where the holy saint lives”. The Hasid had addressed the note to Rabbi Halbershtam of Sandz instead of Tzanz. The creator of the legend did not know the historical fact that this spelling of the city had already been in use for hundreds of years[14].

With the residence of Rabbi Halbershtam, Sandz became one of the great centers of Hasidism.

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Not only did Hasidim from ale ekn [every corner] of Galicia come to the Rabbi on Shabes and holidays but also thousands of Hasidim came from neighboring Slovakia, Carpathian-Russia and further from Hungary and also from Congress Poland.[15] Together with the Hasidim also famous rabbis and “gute Yidn” [pious Jews] came especially from the center of Galicia, from the northern provinces of Hungary and from eastern parts of Galicia, among them Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeah, the Belzer Rabbi, the friend of the Rabbi Halbershtam. Famous people from other cities also came, such as from Bedzin, Neustadt (Rabbi Yosele), Szidlowce (Rabbi Natan Dawid), Radomsk (Rabbi Shloymele), Frampol (Rabbi Yeshayahu Tzwi Heller) and Gradzisk (Rabbi Melech)[16].

The city of Sandz also became a Toyre center. Rabbi Halbershtam alone headed a yeshiva until age seventy and only then hired a supervisor to continue with the job.[17] The first head of the yeshiva was Moshe Shmuel and when he died, the post was assumed by Fishel Gorlitzer (the father of one of the Rabbi's biographers, Raphael Raker)[18]. Besides the yeshiva, the Rabbi wrote and published a great deal of publications that spread the Hasidic word throughout the Jewish world with his Shayles v'Tshuves [questions and answers]. He received many questions pertaining to Jewish law and answered them. He became renowned as an authority on Halokhe [Jewish religious law]. A great, steady stream of questions reaching the Rabbi's court from practically every Jewish community in Galicia. His Shayles v'Tshuves Divrei Chaim [Questions and Answers by Rabbi Chaim”] was known in every city and shtetl by the questions that had come from that place.

We notice that that the questioners were often among the closest of the Rabbi's family, such as his brother Rabbi Avigdor Halbershtam of Dukla, his sons Rabbi Yehezkel Shragai Halbershtam of Sieniawa and Rabbi Baruch Halbershtam of Rudnik (later moved to Gorlice where he was called Baruchl Gorlitzer), his son-in-law, Rabbi Mordechai Dawid (of Hornostopol in the Ukraine) and many other relatives and in-laws. Also rabbis from other parts of Poland besides Galicia frequently corresponded with the rabbi, especially rabbis from the geographic area of Western and Central Galicia: Wisnicz, Ospicin, Krzczonów, Brigel, Sanok, Zmigrod, Gorlice, Lacko, Przemysl, Rzeszów, and Kolbuszowa etc…

Countries neighboring on Galicia also sent frequent inquiries: from Bukovina (Chernevtsi, Wisnicz, Gura Humora, Kam Yanyets, Falenica, Radowce, Siret and others) Hungary (Sighetu, Adand, Serenyfalva, Huncovce, Bardyev, Miskolc, Munkacz, Krayz Satamar, Kisvarda, Fildosh, Nádújfalu Mátraterenye, Tófalu, Peticheni, Marmarosz, Khust, Serdehel (?),Zibnbirgen, Simleu Silvaniei, Enterdam, Hildmasz); Moldovia (Butchetchevi, Akna, Burlad); Walachia (Pancesti, Fadd, Bazakeretty); and naturally from Congress Poland itself, from such near and far cities as Staszow, Kromolow, Wolbrom, Goraj, Lelow, Bodzanow, Tarnogrod, Leczna, Stobnic, Polanka, Bilgoraj, Bedzin, Rawa (Mazowiecka), Korchin, Chmielnik, Szczekociny, Mezhirichi, Kalisz, Frampol, Lodz. With relative rarity did shayles come from the Ukraine in Tsarist Russia excepting those that came from the Divrei Chaim's son-in-law in Hornostopol:

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including Harodnica, Trisk (Volin), Uman, New Mirhorod, Dunawic, Szpola, Krupic, Kamnic, Falskif, Wasilkowic, Berdicev and Chisinau, Besarabia.

In “Shayles v'Tshuves ” we see requests from distant cities and other even more distant places such as Niderstein in Pomerania in 1861, Bavaria in 1865 and from Italy (The Rabbi of Icahana in 1858). A testimonial statement from Jerusalem and from the city of Sefad in Eretz Isroel arrived for the Divrei Chaim in 1848. The besdin [religious judicial court] of Sefad turned to the Sandzer Rabbi in 1869 regarding divorce proceedings. Characteristic of the great status of the Rabbi as religious scholar and authority on the religious law is that influential rabbis in Galicia and Poland turned to him for guidance or assistance in interpreting religious law. Rabbis as Yosef Hanina Lipa Meizlich, head of the Przemysl religious court maintained a close working relationship with the Sandzer Rabbi especially in reference to interpreting religious laws. Other rabbis from the same city also turned to the Sandzer Rabbi. The Lubliner Rabbi Yehoshua Heshil Ashkenazi, incidentally, a distant relative of the Rabbi of Sandz, and Rabbi Dov Ber Meizlich, the famous Polish patriot, also asked the Rabbi of Sandz about details in relationship to get [divorce]. The latter rabbi asked twice, the first time when he was Rov in Krakow, he sent a shayle in his own name and in the name of the Krakower (the Even Ezer Book 1, Site 61). Then he asked advice as the Rabbi of Warsaw (the Even Ezer Book 2, Site16). It is not surprising that many of the questions that arrived to the “Divrei Chaim” from the most well-known rabbis had a connection to divorce: in legal matters of divorce and agunahs [deserted wives], he was especially known as the great authority. Apart from the great collection “Shayles v'Tshuves” the “Divrei Chaim” also wrote commentaries on portions of the four books of the Shulhan Arukh [a collection of laws and prescriptions governing the life of an Orthodox Jew] and published anonymously (1864) a separate work dealing with the laws of divorce and mikves [ritual baths].

Being constantly bombarded with religious questions, “Divrei Chaim” adopted a policy of priorities in the handling of his requesters. He gave greater urgency to questions dealing with practical life matters as opposed to questions dealing with philosophy[19]. Later on in life, when he was already in his seventies, he answered only shayles that were deemed by him to be urgent or that came from a respected writer.[20] At the same time, he also wrote outlines in answer to the questions so that they could serve as a guide to be filled in by the rabbis. He also stated that these decisions had no force of law but merely serve as a guide to the interpreter of religious law[21]. Especially in Rabbi Halbershtam's older years, he dictated his replies to his private secretary. Among his secretaries, the first was Zanvel Blazenshtein and later Abush Meir, the composer of beautiful nigunim [melodies] that spread over the years through Western and Central Galicia. Among others, his famous nigun was the one to the prayer “Kol Mekadesh”.

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Occasionally, the previously mentioned head of the Yeshiva, Reb Fishl Gorlitzer acted as secretary.[22]

Because of his abundant energy and his stamina for work, he was he able to cope with the many tasks he undertook. He came in contact with thousands of Hasidim from home and abroad in spite of his poor health. He continued to study, teach and head a Yeshiva, maintained a voluminous correspondence, and was involved in the details of the local Jewish community as well as in Jewish life throughout the world.

C. Mides [Custom] and Hisnehegos [Conduct]

Here is the “Divrei Chaim's” seyder-hayom [agenda] of a day and a night as described by his secretary Rafal Tzimetboym known as “the tall Rafal”.[23]

Following krishme [prayer said as part of the morning and evening prayers] blessings in the morning, the “Divrei Chaim” would read details written by followers of the Bal Shem Tov on the Toyre for a half hour. Then he would drink a cup of coffee and light his pipe while studying until the time for Shakhres [morning prayers]. He would finish praying late in the day, about 2 or three o'clock in the afternoon. Then he would sit down to a warm meal with his guests “yoyshvim” [those who study day and night]. He then retired to nap for a few minutes and usually awakened with a shout, washed his hands and ran to the besmedresh [prayer and study house, Orthodox synagogue] to daven Minkhe [the afternoon prayer] together with the congregation. He then returned home and studied until Mayrev [evening service]. Frequently, he received requests and people dealing with communal affairs during the time between Minkhe and Mayrev. He usually prayed Mayrev late, in the summer and winter about 11 o'clock at night. Following the service, he returned home and received Hasidim with kvitlekh [written requests] or continued to study until khtsos [midnight and the custom of rising at midnight to commemorate the destruction of the Temple]. Before performing the ceremony he first toyvl zayn [immersed himself] in the mikve [pool for ritual bath], then recited the midnight prayer. Following it, he would then read Zoyer [Zohar, the holiest mystical book of Kabala] and then dictate responses to theological questions that arrived from different places. Only then would he eat supper and continue his studies into the early morning hours. In his older years, he used to recite “Mishnayes” [the six volumes of the Mishnah] by heart, as was the custom amongst pious Jews.[24]

One of the most remarkable characteristics of the behavior of Divrei Chaim” was his devotion to prayers. His intensity in praying reached the highest point of ecstasy, until he was “bitl hayesh” [removed from every thing earthly]. In saying goodbye to one of his grandchildren aged nine, he explained to him the meaning of serving the Creator “You should not want a thing but only to be ready to sacrifice yourself for the Creator”[25]. One heard him murmuring to himself at the shaleshudes [third meal on Shabes] that he was willing to sacrifice himself for the Creator[26]. After reciting krishme and prior to retiring to sleep, he would, as was his wont, state in Loshn-koydesh [the Sacred Tongue, Biblical Hebrew-Aramaic] and then in Yiddish: “ I accept the following four types of possible death; stoning, death by fire, being killed or strangled on behalf of my Creator”.

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In the widespread interpretation of the saying of Zoyer, Israel is linked to God and Toyre. This saying attributed to the Sandzer Rabbi does not surprise us: “Let them burn me with fire, spear me, roast me on behalf of the Jews”.[27]

He used to awaken with a great cry, and then poured some water over his fingernails. While sitting on his bed, he would shout and pound his head with both hands and utter partial sentences to the effect of the sanctity of the Creator and the love of the Creator. He would say that God is everywhere and he wanted to serve Him and was ready to die in His service. These events usually took fifteen to thirty minutes. Then he got dressed, washed and recited the early Morning Prayer, “Mode Ani” [I am grateful].[28] He frequently immersed himself in the mikve in the morning as well as in the evening prior to midnight. He would also immerse himself in the mikve prior to answering difficult theological questions. He recited the prayers dealing with immersion.[29]

He greatly impressed his followers in the besmedresh by his devotion to the prayers. Even in his old age when he no longer could come on his own because of a problem with his foot, he came to the besmedresh practically carried by two helpers. Still, on reaching the doors, he would rush forward to his shtot [seat] while reciting aloud the “ Shir Hamayles” and other lines from Psalms. He would run from corner to corner to corner while praying aggravating his injured foot until it was bleeding.[30]

Friday night dinner around khtsos R Chaim would usually end the meal singing with great conviction the well known symbolic mystical song by the Kalever Rabbi:

Forest, forest how large you are
Exile, exile how long you are
When the forest will be removed
Then the Shkhine ha Kdushe [Holy Manifestation] shall return[31]
At the third meal of Shabes they also used to sing, the Kabala Song or MizmorYedid Nefesh Av Harachman”,and “ Meshoch Avdecha el Retzonha” with the same nign [melody].

Asceticism played an important role in the eating habits of the R' Chaim as with other Hasidic leaders of his time.

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The fasting on Monday and Thursday (especially during the reading of the Toyre sections of Shemot, Vayare, BoBashelach, Itro, and Mishpatim) was considered an obligation.[32] R' Chaim generally considered food a necessity to keep the soul going and barely touched meals. Totally different was a sudes mitzvah [meal at a wedding]. Then he celebrated the meal with full gusto in the Hasidic tradition. Even during the nine days[33], the “Divrei Chaim” organized meat in zkhus [honor of] the siem [graduation] when someone finished studying a tractate of the Gemore [a portion of the Talmud][34]. Shabes the table was set with a variety of foods. During each of the three daily meals, two sets of fish dishes were served, one sweet and one sour. On Friday night, four sorts of desserts were served in a row: tzimes [cooked prunes with raisins] were served prior to Zmires [singing of God's praises], then following the Rabbi's sermon, the people were served ferfel tzimes followed by carrot tzimes and chicken liver tzimes. Saturday during the Kidesh [benediction], the Rabbi ate honey cake and jam preserves[35]. In Sandz these dishes were observed as a mineg [tradition] and were served as long as the kehile existed.

The joy on Friday evening greeting Shabes was so great that after the khazn reached the line “Boi B'Shalom” at the end of the “Lekha Do'di”, the Rabbi would usually begin a slow dance alone accompanied by the clapping of hands of the congregants. Shabes night after the Havdole [ceremony performed at the close the Shabes], a klezmer [musician] with a fiddle would come to the Rabbi's home and play various melodies. During khalemoyed [the intermediary days between the first and last two] Succos, klezmorim would play in the suke [tabernacle erected in celebration of Succos in which meals are taken] of the Rabbi. On Simkhes-Toyre [celebration at the completion of the year's cycle of the Toyre], there was a custom in Sandz that the Rabbi would throw apples during his meal to the crowd and they would cherish the apple that they caught.[36] The Sandzer Rabbi organized big feasts on Purim, Shushan Purim, Hanuka, and fifteen days in the month of Shvat.[37]

The “Divrei Chaim” had a tendency to spread the holiday atmosphere where it was observed the least, work days. He would wear the shtrayml [fur-edged hat worn by rabbis and Hasidim on Shabes and holidays] from the beginning of the month of nisn until after pesakh and from the first meal erev Yonkiper [erev=the night before Yom Kippur] until after Succos, and also all eight days of Hanuka, except it is understood on Purim and Shushan Purim. Beginning with Khamishoser-Bishvat [Tu Bishvat], he stated, until Shvues [spring holiday for gathering of the first fruits] every 15 days is a Yontov [holy day].[38]

Purim was celebrated like a Jewish carnival at the “Divrei Chaim's” courtyard. Here is a description as written by the secretary of the rabbi, “the tall Rafal”[39]:

“Following the prayers, the rabbi headed directly to the meal that started without delay. Following the meal, there were the grace benedictions and immediately the minkhe service followed. There was a tradition in Sandz that the wine merchants would then present the rabbi with their best wines. The rabbi would then retired to his private chamber with some illustrious people where he would sit at the table and drink wine and talk with his people.

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The wine merchants kept pouring wine until the Rabbi was drunk and sometimes vomited (thus observing the tradition that on Purim one has to get drunk). The Rabbi then lay down to rest and the people left the room. The Rabbi would arise about ten in the evening for the mayrev service and that would be followed by the big party that would start at midnight and last until four o'clock in the morning. Then the Rabbi would leave his courtyard and enter the street where the people were dancing and singing. Some people beat drums. The procession would continue along the Jewish street until it ended, at the market... Then the Rabbi would immediately turn about and head home. as was the custom, on the way the Rabbi would stop at the home of a follower and drink wine, coffee or tea. Sometimes during the processions, a window was broken along the street. There was also a tradition, that every Purim night, the Rabbi would visit the home of the wealthy Shloyme Herbst olevasholem [may he rest in peace]. This benefactor built a rod[*] each year of wood with hundreds of candles inserted in it. Each wheel had fewer candles until the highest row had but a candle. This lighted pyramid was carried before the procession of the Rabbi. The procession ended with daylight when the Rabbi went home but the people were still dancing in front of the Rabbi's windows”.

For the “Divrei Chaim” the concept of charity was one of highest pillars in his kind of Hasidism. He not only espoused the concept but practiced it daily himself and saw to it that his Hasidim also adhered to it. He had a list of poor people and each morning distributed charity in the amount of 18 Rhenish [Kreuzer] coins [“eighteen” is khai =life] or twice khai, 36. He also used to distribute money to poor people that surrounded him. On his return from Shakhres the Morning Prayer he would usually distribute money to poor students who waited for him so that they could save and buy themselves shoes or clothing. Following mayrev, he distributed charity to the poor orkhim [those invited to partake of the supper meal] with him. Moytse Shabes [the closing of Shabes], the Rabbi would distribute money to the poor Jews so that they could have the traditional final meal of the day. The Rabbi himself ate the meal on Sunday morning. On the fast of Esther and on the eve of the Succos holiday, the Rabbi would distribute large amounts of money. He would say that God loved the poor people and so does he. The listeners of course realized that he was referring to a statement in the Talmud[40].

* Actually a round pyramid, a cone, a pointed kind of tower put together from a series of wheels, one over the other, the higher, the smaller the wheel. R. M. Return

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The “,Divrei Chaim” never liked money hanging about the house and always distributed it amongst the needy. This beautiful concept of charity was deeply ingrained in the personality of R' Chaim. The concept was not only derived from the Hasidic predecessors like the Baal Shem Tov but there is also a direct reference to it in the Talmud where there is an inference to the fact the rich people merely hold the money to be distributed to the needy[41]. Many Hasidic courts indeed became vast charitable institutions that received vast sums of money and distributed them to the needy in the form of money or food such as the large meal gatherings at the homes of the rabbis.

The “Divrei Chaim” not only distributed charity but was also a very capable organizer of various schemes to raise money for charity. At the big party for Hanuka, he about preached charity during his sermon. Following it with the sale of good deeds, a person would stand on a podium and represent the kingdom to come. The “Divrei Chaim's” followers and guests would bid for the symbolic honor of getting the deed. Of course, the highest bidder would obtain the symbol. The sale went on for some time and the Rabbi's children participated in the bidding. The event raised several hundred Rhenish that the “Divrei Chaim” would distribute after the holiday to the poor people. A similar sale also took place on Shushan Purim [second day of Purim] at the Rabbi's festive meal. Needless to say, that on Purim the Rabbi encouraged the giving of lots of charity.

The “Divrei Chaim” also introduced another institution in the city, the “ Purim Kehile” that reigned for the duration of Purim with its own rules and regulations as well as a position of a “Purim Rabbi”. The kehile consisted of scholarly and Hasidic youth who were selected by the Rabbi. Members of this kehile would observe all people that entered the Rabbi's home from the week of the reading of the Toyre section of Shekalim until Purim. They would then assess those people to contribute a certain amount of money to the “Purim Kehile” and would insist on an immediate deposit. At the reading of the Toyre on the Shabes after Purim, money was also raised for this institution. Thus, the Rabbi had another source of money to distribute to the poor that frequently equaled the money raised at the sales that we mentioned earlier[42]

The “Divrei Chaim”, a Talmed-Khokhem [scholar] also took great interest in the weddings of the poor. He encouraged his followers to help entertain the bride and groom. When he was invited to the meals that followed the wedding of an orphan, he would always make sure that there was wine on the table, (the wine was usually provided by the khevre-kdishe [burial society] where his grandson Shloymele was an active member), musicians and a bodkhn [jester] (Michal Ber).

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The Rabbi himself would dance with the bride and distributed drinks to the dancing people until the wee hours of the morning[43]

The “Divrei Chaim” not only practiced charity and believed in the concept but he tried to live by the concept of charity. He had great sympathy for the poor and could not find peace with himself when he saw them. He himself was aware that he not only practiced charity but also tried to live the part. He explained in the following manner: He once traveled to Rabbi Hersh of Rymanow in order to see how the concept of charity was applied there. He noticed that the Rabbi distributed whatever money he did not need to the poor and when he had nothing to give he was just as happy as when he gave contributions. But “Divrei Chaim” said he felt very bad when he no longer have money for charity; he felt as of he had lost something of himself.[44]

An example of his social satire and mild manner can be ascertained from the following story. Some people complained to the Rabbi that the shames or sexton of the shul had not turn over the contribution that a Russian Jew left for the Sandzer study center. They also demanded that the Rabbi fire the person. His reply was simple and as follows: there is a special chair for an honest shames in heaven and so far it is empty, why do you people insist on seating the shames Reuven on this chair, let it remain empty[45].

The “Divrei Chaim” according to his Kabalistic-Hasidic worldview in which his fundamental position was supernatural, not excludung the possibility of miracles, but he had nothing but contempt for the vulgarized version of seeing miracles everywhere. Among the true Sandzer Hasidim, under the influence of his views, a pun circulated: “Ototot uMoftim Beadama Bnei Ham” that is, only a simpleton believes in simple miracles.[46] Characteristic is the fact that, similarly to the Kotsker Hasidim, who were close to the Sandzer Hasidim in the details, was the fact that they both strongly believed in scholarship. The same posek [verse from a sacred book] went around as a satire on miracle believers. According to his secretary, “the tall Rafal”, the “Divrei Chaim” used to say about miracle believers: “You don't need any signs of miracles, you know without miracle signs, that there is the Creator of the World, but when a fool from distant places returns home with some miracle, it becomes a miracle among all the fools. There is a Creator of the World and such a miracle is good publicity”.[47]

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According to the same authentic biography, the Rabbi used to joke in the same vein: “When a Hasid says I saw it with my own eyes, he really meant to say I have heard it said; and when he stated that he heard it, then in all probability it was never stated” It did not begin and it did not end. (Nisht geshtoygn un nisht gefloygn) [entirely untrue].[48]

He would also joke about the gullibility of Hasidim: The Sandzer Rabbi used Polish sayings on occasions when they fitted a particular instance. For example, he would summon someone that was arguing with someone else and say to him: “nie wierz nie daj sie” (don't trust him and don't give him the upper hand) and then he explained the meaning of the saying and used another Polish expression “hulaj dusza bez kontusza” that the Rabbi said was used by older Hasidim in their dancing[49].

R' Chaim frequently used popular expressions, Polish peasant sayings and midrashim to explain his religious concepts to the people. This usage of the familiar did not lower the “Divrei Chaim's” perception of God or His divinity; on the contrary, he had a high view of himself and felt that he even had influence in the higher divine realm. He ranked himself with all the great Hasidic leaders of Hasides beginning with Bal Shem Tov especially his contemporary Rabbi Israeltshe Ruziner. This conviction resulted from his conception of the saint and his role in the leadership of the world. Thus we cannot dismiss his saying as mere bravado: “When I argue in the heavenly sphere, I usually win but one must be very smart”.[50]. He was not the only rabbi to consider himself a saintly person, even higher than angels and seraphs. “Respect - he used to demand on occasion and frequently added, “angels and seraphs tremble before me and even holy animals”[51].

The “Divrei Chaim” not only enshrined himself with a halo of sainthood but he was also a scholar; the angels and seraphs did not understand his Toyre explanations[52]. Once he condemned a favorable ruling by his friend, Rabbi Meir Dzikower. The Rabbi did not permit it. The Rabbi Dzikower then said that there was no such quote. The “Divrei Chaim” replied with pride that he represented the Toyre and he vetoes it[53]. None of the Hasidic Rabbis expressed such degree of certainty and self-assurance except for the Rabbi of Wroc³aw, who the “Divrei Chaim” never mentioned in his writings.

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The high esteem that the “Divrei Chaim” had of himself and of his perception as a leader in the Jewish world played a great role in the heated dispute between the Sadigura court and the Sandzer court. The “Divrei Chaim” organized and led the fight against the Sadigura Hasidim.

D. “Divrei Chaim' s” Outlook on the World.

The dominant factor that characterized the doctrine of Sandzer Hasides more than anything else was the synthesis between the traditional Hasides and the method of studying Gemara and Poskim [post-Talmudic commentators]. True, R' Chaim Halbershtam was not the first to publicize the idea of such absolute bond between Hasides and learning. In White Russia, well-known Rabbi Zalman Shneur of Lyada, in the generation the followed the Bal Shem Tov, had already introduced this combination as early as the 18th century. He was a student of Rabbi R' Ber of Miêdzyrzecz and the ideological formulator of the various streams within Hasides Habad. In central Poland, the late Rabbi Yaakow Itzhak from Pierszyce also known as the “Yid Hakodesh” [the pious Jew] espoused the same idea. His student, R' Simkha Bunim of Pierszyce spread these ideas. R 'Mendl of Kack, a student of R' Simcha Bunem strengthened them. The students of R' Mendl, notably R' Itche Meir of Ger further spread the combination concept of traditional Hasides with learning. In Galicia, before “Divrei Chaim” there were only forerunners of this doctrine such as R' Ori of Strelisk “Der Saraf “ [fiery angel], and R' Naftali Ropshitzer, friend and rabbi to the Sandzer Rabbi. When the “Divrei Chaim” appeared in the city of Sandz, shtiblekh [small prayer houses] with Hasidim that called themselves “new Hasidim” also began to appear in the city of Lemberg. These groups distinguished themselves in their behavior and devotion to the study of the Talmud and Gemara. R' Halbershtam as a Hasidic Rabbi, and thanks to his great learning as well as his fame as a Talmid khokhim [scholar, learned man] and his personal authority, gave great impetus to the spread of the new shite [doctrine] in Galicia. His great authority helped spread the concept and fortified it amongst Hasidic Jews. It also gave a totally new meaning to Hasidism in Galicia. With the appearance of the “Divrei Chaim” the differences between Orthodox Jewry and Hasidism begin to disappear in Galicia just as the difference between rov and rabbi. After this, there were practically no more rabbis who were not at the same time a rov. One could find here and there, especially in the big cities, rabbis who were not rovs.

The basic idea of the need to have a bonding between Hasides and Toyre lernen [Torah learning] also spread into Congress Poland during R' Chaim's generation. Because of the great importance of the personality of “Divrei Chaim”, he fundamentally brought to fruition the ideas that spontaneously arose in the Orthodox Jewish population. What was needed was a guide with a charismatic personality to bring it to the forefront as a united synthesized concept. The former bitter fight between Misnagdim and Hasidim had long ago lost its intensity.

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Hasides penetrated into the strata of important businessmen and scholars even more, and with it came their standard of the necessity for mastery in Sh”s and Poskim.

On the other side, the Misnagdim saw, the need to strengthen traditional Yidishkayt [Jewishness] even more by adopting the principles of Hasidism in regard to ecstasy in prayers and in fulfilling the mitsves. A deciding factor for the coming together of both camps of the Orthodox Jewish world was the appearance of the modern Enlightenment movement. It won its first followers among the Jewish population either because of the government's school program in Galicia just as in Poland and Russia, or through the literature and community activities of the Jewish maskilim [adherents of the Enlightenment movement]. In view of the new danger of the modernization of Jewish life, the former enemies, the Hasidim and the Misnagadim buried their differences and both camps, with time came closer together into one conservative Orthodox Jewish camp.

The “Divrei Chaim” very clearly formulated the connection between Toyre and (lamdones) [learning] with yires [fear of God] (hasides). He expressed this in a tshuve [response] to a shayle [question] that his friend, the Rabbi of Jarnuty in Hungary, Rabbi David Deitch, had written to him. The response was dated the fourth day of the week when the parsha Bashalakh was read, in 1862. He inferred from the question that a large part of Hungarian Orthodox Jewry was convinced that a large segment of Polish Jewry and especially Hasidim did not concentrate on the study of Gemara and instead spent time discussing Hasides and Kabala. The “Divrei Chaim” angrily refuted the allegation. “…I do not understand this. This is our whole life, to spend all day with Toyre and Halokhe [the legal part of the Toyre] and pilpul[*] studying, discussing and understanding the meaning of the context or the pshat. It is easy for some people to criticize us for the study of the Kabala at night while they sleep comfortably in their beds. However, our main emphasis is the study of Shas and Poskim [Talmud and the Commentators] and not the incomprehensible topics of some irresponsible people in your country. They accuse us in our land of khas-vekholile [God forbid!] neglecting the study of the meaning of the sentence or pshat and concentrating merely on the study of nikhe [agreeable] hefkeyres [neglect]. Yet when these gentlemen (Hungarian) arrive in our midst without deye [influence, authority] and without yire [fear of God], they show off their ignorance of knowledge as well as their lack of faith but claim they are Talmudic scholars. The truth is that they lack even the scent of Toyre; and their silly pilpul is only shtusim v'havolim [nonsense and vanity] …” “However they are far from Talmudic scholars, their Talmudic books and their silly theological arguments are sheer nonsense…” Continuing his reply, the “Divrei Chaim” condemned the doctrine of “pilpul” [philosophizing study that leads to great discussions but with lack of depth] that goes so far that some of the people who barely know one word of sh”s [Talmud] immediately debate. He stressed the fact that “pilpul” is not widespread in Poland but the systematic study in Poland of Gemara is. “Entire groups of students sit in besmedresh [study center] and together study gp”t [Gemara, Pirush Rashi {Rashi commentaries}, and Tosafos {critical glosses of the Talmud}] “.

* Here “pilpul” is not meant in the accepted sense of pshteln [hair-splitting argument], but in the sense of analyzing and dialectically understanding the pshat [literal meaning] Return

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And he concluded: “For all of this I have to thank your honor, for I heard from some dull people in Hungary that invent all kinds of things about the land of Poland and especially about Hasidim, that they do not study the meaning of Toyre. Therefore, I beg of you not to believe false stories, for the Hasidim love the study of Toyre to the smallest detail. He whom God inspired with the ability to understand and study the knowledge of the truth[*], he knows the importance of Toyre. He also knows that all the words of the Talmud are built around the secrets of Toyr,e according to the people that know the “Yedeye Kheyn[**][54].

The “Divrei Chaim” also studied a portion of Kabala every night as he mentions in his reply to the question, but he did not stress the point and did not pass himself off as an expert on Kabala. He was convinced that he was unable to introduce innovations in a field that was already established by the rabbis[55]. He also did not make great changes in the theory of Hasides and did not anticipate great radical reforms in the Hasidic outlook toward life. We find in his droshes [speeches] on Toyre that he underlined the following basic Kabala-Hasidic world perception:

The essential purpose of human life is to serve God and to again return to its roots the sanctity of the holy sparks that are scattered throughout the impure world. They are the pieces of God's beam of light that disintegrated during the first creation of the world when the heavenly system was broken in order to permit the creation of the universe. The process of selecting, assembling and re-assembling the holy nitsuytses [sparks] is simultaneously the process of liberating the Skhine [the Divine Presence] of the people of Israel from exile and as a matter of course, the redemption of the world. In addition, the more holy sparks that are collected and glued together the stronger and more transformed is the khoymer [flesh], the face of gashmies [materiality] into rukhnies [spirituality] and the greater the mides-hrin [the full severity of the law] is transformed into mides-horakhmim [forgiveness, pity].[56]

How can a Jew assemble the holy sparks and with them create greater spirituality from materiality and strengthen greater forgiveness in the realm of the world? By devoting his entire life and all his deeds to a'ave ha-boyre ['divine' love of the Creator] and to yires-ha-boyre [reverence][57]. The only way to accomplish these tasks is through praying with devotion, studying Toyre with love, observing the mitzves [commandments] sincerely and not only that, but to serve God every moment of every living day so that the power of holiness will be strengthened. Thus the Bal-Shem-Tov interpreted the posek [verse] in Mishle [Book of Proverbs]: “Bkhol Darkeikh Dehu,” you should recognize Him everywhere, even the acts of eating and drinking are holy, so are the relations of husband and wife if they are conducted along holy lines and “does not sink into pure lust.” only to fully execute the mitzve[58]. When a Jew is busy with earning a livelihood and supports Talmidi-khokhmim [learned men], gives charity to poor people or gives money for other mitsves, his material existence transforms itself into a holy state that enables the holy sparks to rise higher and higher[59].

* Kabala Return

** Those who are knowledgeable in the soydes [secrets] of Kabala Return

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The tzadik [righteous saint] is obligated to lead and educate his community to follow the righteous path and avoid sinful activities[60]. The tzadik embodies in himself the spirit of the generations and through his intervention, the good deeds of his generation rise to the heavens. The legal requirements are converted to charitable deeds and the holy spirituality flows down from above. Of course, these events can only occur if the generation is ready for them. “And what happens when the tzadik khas-vesholem, cannot deliver these functions and can not activate saintliness, then generations fails to be deserving, khas-vesholem [God forbid].”[61]

If the geule mitsrayim [deliverance from bondage in Egypt] was as a result of the awakening of the higher heavens, then the final or eternal salvation will be from below: Only full hearted repentance is capable of bringing salvation[62]. The entire purpose of Toyre is repentance and good deeds. The world was created for the purpose of repentance and therefore repentance alone was created at the time of/or prior to the creation of the world[63].

On the base of these principles that were well accepted within the Hasidic world, the “Divrei Chaim” frequently introduced original thoughts and more often introduced a new justification and a new meaning to these principles. This was possible because he had earned great status in the moralizing literature and theoretical texts. He was able to connect the ideas that he created to the Hasidic-Kabala system of thinking in order to strengthen it.

As we already mentioned, during his entire life, the “Divrei Chaim” never ceased to make time every day to read books on Hasidic Toyre. In his commentaries we not only find direct quotations from his teachers and rabbis such as Rabbi Yakow Yitzhak from Lublin and Rabbi Naftali from Ropczyce but also from “Toledot Yaakov Yosef” [by R' Yaakov Yosef', a highly intellectual exposition of Hasidic philosophy], from “Noam Elimelech”, from “Harov z”l” Rabbi Schneur Zalman Meladi, the scholar of the tanoyim [rabbis of the first century whose teachings are in the Mishnah], from R' Efraim of Sudilkov author of “Degel Makhne Efraim”, from R' Mendl of Rymanow, from R' Zeew Wolf the Zhitomir magid [preacher], author of “Ohr HaMeir”, from R' Nahum the magid of Chernobyl, from the Apter rov R' Avraham Yehoshua Jehoshua Heschel author of “Ohev Israel” and sayings of the Bal Shem Tov himself. It is also not surprising that the “Divrei Chaim” also quoted extensively the Midrash Rabba and the Midrash Tanhuma, [post-Biblical exegesis] and authoritative Kabala texts as the “Zohar “and the “Sefer Yetzira” [deals with the secrets of Creation, including powerful Hebrew letter combinations of mystical creative energy] in his Toyre explanations. His quotes indicate that he was also familiar with the most important Kabala literature: he quotes Alshikh, the “Megaleh Amukos” of R' Natan Shapira, the “Mamar Yonas Alm” of R' Yosef Gigtila, the Rikanti's (R' Menahem ben Benyamin) commentary on Toyre, the book “Rokeh”, “Emet VeShalom” by R' Shalom Sherabi and frequently Menahem Ezriyah de Pano, (known by his initials as the RM”E).

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He was also very fond of morality literature as pertaining to the spirit of the Kabala. He was also fond of the 'Mishnat Hasidim” by Emanuel Hai Riki and the writings of the Maharal. [Rabbi Judah Loew, The Maharal of Prague (1525-1609)] - The “Divrei Chaim” frequently quoted him, especially from the book entitled “Sefer Gvurut Hashem” [the book of God's greatness].

We have already mentioned that the “Divrei Chaim's” knowledge of Kabala literature was outstanding. He was a rarity amongst the Hasidic leaders of his generation in Galicia with respect to his proficiency in Halokhe research and Halokhe decision-making. Only amongst the first theoreticians of Hasides such as “Toldot Yaakow Yossef “ can we find his equal in the frequently cited literature of theoretical Halokhe, as well as “Akida”: (by R' Yitzhok Arama) that was very popular amongst the researchers of Halokhe. The “Divrei Chaim” also quoted rare books such as the “Magen Avot” by Afudi. He was also fond of quoting the “Kozari” by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi and the Rambam [Maimonides]. From the latter, the “Divrei Chaim” obtained many ideas and inspirations. He often cited the Rambam, especially the books “Sefer Hamada”, “Hilchot Deot” and also “Sefer Hamitzvot”, the commentary on the Mishne, and especially the “Shmona Prakim” [eight chapters] and “More Nevokhim” that he referred to with its initials: M”N.[64]

Under the influence of Maimonides, the outlook of Hasidic Kabala as well as that of the “Divrei Chaim” underwent a process of rationalization and philosophizing. According to the“Divrei Chaim”, the Rambam's “power of nature” concept could also be called “angel”[65] Time is a function of movement and the opposite is but a point between the past and the future[66]. The Sandzer Rabbi's mystical concept did not prevent him from accepting the authority of Rambam's idea that men's attitude toward God is basically negative and “the more we know about the glory of God, the greater the negative feeling kavyokhl [as if it were possible] towards Him”[67]. A rational element is the division of the mitzves of the Toyre into to those intellectual mitzves that intelligence alone comprehends and that are needed to keep society in existence, as opposed to mitzves that are simply directed in the Toyre[68]. The Rambam even tried to prove the rationality of the latter mitzves. The “Divrei Chaim” mentioned the Rambam's concept regarding the mitzves but without mentioning the source: “The entire holy Toyre is eternal and comes to teach us ways of eternal morality”[69]

Very clearly the greatest characteristic of the “Divrei Chaim” was the tendency to digest elements of the Hasidic method of Halokhe research as well as Hasidic commentaries on the theories of Halokhe research and then, to interpret Hasidic Kabala in the spirit of Halokhic research.

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We have already mentioned that the essential purpose according to Hasidic Toyre is the ethical doctrine according to which the person must strive to obey his intellectual soul by subjugating lust[70]. Furthermore, the “Divrei Chaim” here turned toward Aristotelian ethics, widely publicized by the Rambam. The basic principle of these writings was the need to select a “middle ground” and to avoid extremes. According to the “Divrei Chaim”, this middle point is the way to fight against temptation and the way to repentance and the search for holy sparks[71]. The Toyre was granted to man in order to suppress his natural lusts and follow the middle road[72]. In this manner the “Divrei Chaim” introduced an Aristotelian mechanism into the mystical Toyre about the collecting of holy sparks. But the “Divrei Chaim” also endeavored to give the Aristotelian principle of “middle ground” a mystical justification: The “middle ground” in human behavior -- clarified the “Divrei Chaim” on the basis of Kabala books ---means that he follows God's ways: God himself chose the middle ground in leading the world; he leads it in the path of pity and law[73].

Another example of Hasidic interpretation of the ideas of khire [speculation] is “Divrei Chaim's” use of the theories of the Rambam about the role of chosen people in the world and in human society. As is well known, the Rambam saw a definite purpose in the existence of human society, and the purpose of society was to make the thinker better able to concentrate on scholarship and koydem kol [most of all], on theology and metaphysics. The “Divrei Chaim” brings up this theory from Rambam's peyresh [commentary] on the Mishne, and quotes this concept, but replaces “thinkers” with the word tzadik [righteous] and thus changes the entire meaning: Everything in the world was created for the path of the righteous who share it with the people of Israel. Thus, everything in the all the world has a certain spark of holiness and for every thing the righteous have a use[74].

Traces of these rationalistic tendencies can also be observed in the “Divrei Chaim's” self-assurance. Total and absolute assurance in God has been the cornerstone of Hasides since its creation. However the Hasidic world stresses that the individual should not ascribe his success to any particular reason but to the mere wish of God. R' Chaim however, maintained that in spite of the assurance that God would help, the individual cannot remain passive but must do everything in his power so that the Almighty will be provided with a reason for assisting him in his hour of need.

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"Man must trust in God but still must go on working for his daily bread and not depend for everything on other people. The honesty and integrity of the person will provide the Almighty with the proper opportunity to assist him in his request “[75]. The “Divrei Chaim” emphasized that the above quotation applied to simple hard working people. The tzadik or righteous leader must await his assistance directly from the Almighty. And he quotes the Midrash Rabba regarding the righteous Joseph who was punished for seeking help from the royal liquor supervisor in Egypt. He told the supervisor to intervene on his behalf when he got released from prison. According to the story, Joseph sat two additional years in jail for his moment of weakness. But in the Hasidic droshe on Toyre, this medresh about Joseph brings up as evidence that nobody should depend on a “cause” but must have absolute faith in God[76]. The “Divrei Chaim” thought about Joseph's punishment as a separate example that involves tzadikim; however, simple people can and should use each and every opportunity to plead for their needs[77].

A certain reflection of criticism under the influence of rationalism is seen in the “Divrei Chaim” view on miracles and magical signs. A distant relative, Reb Itzhak Asher Mahler, once asked R' Chaim how he felt about the stories relating to the miracles performed by the righteous. The reply was simple: “I do not know if this is true or not, only he knows that they (the storytellers – R. M.) have within themselves the power to do what they wish”[78]. He implied a certain skepticism regarding the stories about the miracles. The same absolute belief in the power of faith comes out in the mimra [the word in Torah] that was repeated by Reb Leibush of Berzhan in the name of the “Divrei Chaim”. The latter explained to Reb Leibush how a tzadik is capable of helping a person through prayer: “If someone comes to you and asks for help, you should pray for him and maybe the fact that you take pity on him will arouse the pity of minashomaim [Heaven] for the person who came to ask you”[79]. This statement by the “Divrei Chaim” is in total agreement with the main concept of Hasidic Kabala that the sense of pity in the world creates an awakening in the heavenly world. This characteristic comment in the style of the “Divrei Chaim” is the need for personal sympathy from the tzadik for the troubles of the one who asks him for yeshue [salvation].

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