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[Pages 86 - 102]

Radzyner Chasidism


The Rabbi's Court

Abba Danilack (Toronto)

1.The Rabbi's Returns!

In the early days of the month of Elul (the 12 month of the Hebrew calendar. Aug. Sept.) the mornings are cooler and the sun weaker. The last of the high walled peasants' wagons, filled with freshly harvested grain from the fields, glides through the streets. The late comers, with their sparse, half-empty sheaves hurry from the fields to the barns as if ashamed.

It is on those days that the Rabbi's Court comes to life. During the whole summer, since the Rabbi left for the warm baths in far away places, it had sunk into a tired quiet slumber, The neighborhood, as if by some artifice, accompanied him. Occasionally the dead silence was broken by the dull sound of the iron handle of the pump that stood proudly in the middle of the court and delivered water from the depths to the whole neighborhood. Jews with small prayer shawls draped over their bare chests hurried to this pump. The Jewish women, with fat stained calico dresses and headscarves, carried jangling empty buckets. The clanging of the iron pump handle rents the tired silence and water from the depths of the earth pours forth noisily and cools the hot air. With bent backs, they drag the heavy full buckets on the way back, leaving a wet snake like trail behind them.

However, with the arrival of Elul, the sounds of fall begin to be heard. A whole row of stables clatter open and the Rabbi's wide coaches with the springs above the wheels can be seen with their dusty harnesses hanging on the walls on iron hooks. All of the equipment is dragged out to the middle of the court, aired-out, cleaned and polished by the non-Jewish watchman. A smile spreads on the thin, wrinkled, leather like faces of the Jews passing by and their eyes showed inner joy, when they notice the watchman's work that was a sign of the imminent arrival of the Rabbi. Soon economic activity in the town would pick up. The news of the Rabbi's arrival spreads quickly through the streets and alleyways. In the poor homes the Jewish women begin thinking about the hens, eggs and the like which will be carried into the Rabbi's house to his wife Hadassah, may she be healthy, who never argues about the price.

The news was received with a special joy in the Rabbi's Bais Hamedrash (study house) that stood opposite. Since the Rabbi went away, the neighboring Jews have been reluctant to come to recite the afternoon and evening prayer in public. Even in the Beis Medrash they run through the prayers hastily and audience feels as if it was in mourning without the presence of the Tzadik Hador (the Most Righteous of the Generation). The special half bench half chair, Elijah's Seat, that was the place where circumcisions were preformed on generations of Jewish children, stands there as if abandoned. Without the Rabbi as godfather, no one brings children to be circumcised and the ceremony is performed at home.

The whole dynasty - the Rabbi and his daughters and his sons-in-laws- was spread out comfortably in buildings scattered over the whole width of courtyard that was hidden behind a big white wall. In scores of windows the long absent and forgotten sunlight shimmers again. Suddenly the curtains are pushed aside, the windows opened and red faces of the women appeared who with their strong and muscular arms cleaned, washed and polished the wide rooms with their massive white covered furniture.

A few of the first Chassidim arrive. They are local residents, with brown tobacco stained nostrils and mustaches, sucking on the stems of their pipes, a suck and a spit, a spit and a suck. They have arrived early so as to be the first to see the radiant face of the Tzadik (holy man) and to have the privilege of being the first to shake his hand.

The pale Gomorra-boys, (young students) with braided ear locks tucked behind their ears and with narrow cloth hats on their heads, with long coats and with trousers tucked into their boots, now feel uncomfortable. All summer they relished the juicy cherries and other fruits stolen from the Rabbi's orchard which stretched behind the wall and far away to the river. Now this comes to an end. A furtive rogue gloomy look creeps into their eyes. How will they be able to look the Rabbi in the face after such mischievous pranks?

On a gray, foggy morning Zalman'ke, the Rabbi's coachman, marches into the hungrily courtyard leading the two chestnut brown horses by the reins. He is going to hitch up to the Rabbi's coach for the trip to the train station. Half-sleepy Jews, with prayer shawls) under their arms walk slowly with measured steps, to prayers. When they see what is happening in the courtyard they straighten up their backs and push a finger into their cold beards pulling out one whisker at a time while thinking about how they will greet the holy Tzadik.

* * *

On that morning of the Rabbi's return, the gates to his courtyard stayed open longer. Jews from the town, the Rabbi's Chassidim, grain dealers and ordinary rural peddlers exchanged their greasy coats for their Sabbath caftans and proudly, with their fingertips tucked under their black linen belts, walked with measured steps to the Rabbi's courtyard. There they sat on the benches or lay on the grass awaiting the arrival of the coach. A solemn silence reigned with no one daring to say a word so as not to desecrate the holiness of the moment. Suddenly, as if a storm had blown in, the, whole congregation swayed, left their places and ran wildly toward the snakelike footpath close by the gate. What moved them was the clatter of horses' hoofs on the cobblestones of Warshava Street. The rubber coated coach wheels made the dull sound of the horses' hooves stand out. The horses swept like a whirlwind through the streets as if they felt the importance of their mission: they are carrying the Holy Rabbi and not just any ordinary person of flesh and blood. With pride and envy they rushed through the open gates into the courtyard. With foam on their mouths they come to a sudden stop opposite the Bais Hamedrash near the rows of standing Jews. The first one to jump down from the coach was Zalman'ke. Beaming with joy he threw down the reigns and ran around to the carriage door. From now on he will often take the Rabbi for an afternoon stroll around the fields and woods. That means more livelihood at home, more silver coins in his pocket and more drinking whiskey at the tavern. Zalman'ke opened the coach door quickly and revealed the Rabbi in all his glory. The smile that appeared on the Rabbi's pink full face with it's high furrowed forehead and shining gleaming beard, filled the surrounding air with happiness and delight. His blue eyes with their mild compassionate look of wisdom and understanding of the whole the universe, took in the rows of weary, pitiful faces of these small town Jews. For a few moments he thought about the far away Marianbad in the Austrian Empire that he visited recently and that was frequented by royalty and dignitaries who came to revel in its salty water and where wealth and worldly pleasures had contaminated the air. How small and unimportant the hunch backed, sad Jews appeared! However seeing relatives and friends spread warmth through his whole ample body and breathing heavily he took his first step forward. The whole crowd, too, pushed forward each hoping to be the first to return his greeting. Callused, veined and trembling hands waved in the air. The Rabbi with his down like pointy finger tips barely touched the outstretched hands but this touch was enough to cause a tremor in the assembled crowd as if an electric current had poured a pleasing warmth into all their limbs. This was the way that the Shchinah, The Divine Presence, would be received.

Having finished his welcome greeting the Rabbi hurries to the steps of his family's house where his wife and children longingly await him. The shamash (sexton) trails after him carrying two heavy satchels containing the Rabbi's talith (prayer shawl) and tefilin (phylacteries) and his manuscripts, the most precious jewels in the Rabbi's the house.

Even though the sound of the Rabbi's steps long faded away, the throng remains standing as if they were glued to their places. That is the power of the radiant appearance of the holy Tzadik.

That evening, the Bais Hamedrash came to life. The holy books that stand in rows in open bookcases stretching from the floor to the ceiling collected and fondled by generations, attract renewed attention. The old dusty and yellowed pages of the Talmud and books about Kabbalah are opened, their four cornered letters pronounced with fresh enthusiasm. A dissonance of speaking and singing rents the air and float into space over woods and fields. Old and young sit by the dusty books, rock back and forth with their bodies and study God's laws. Young boys, with falsetto voices and a sparkle in their eyes, follow twisting Rashi letters. (A special kind of Hebrew script used for printing Rashi, Reb Shlomo Yitzchaki's commentaries on the Bible and the Talmud.) Aristocratic young people, desirable youthful bridegrooms with just the first signs of a beard, rock back and forth while brushing their hands over fat-bellied books while humming one of the Rabbi's old melodies. Older Jews, whose minds are on serious legal problems or on Kabalistic writings, chew the tips of their beard, and with dull blank expression, look into an other worldly sphere of only mind and spirit. Suddenly a keen open-minded Chassid, in a fit of spiritual ecstasy and with a book in his hand, begins pacing back and forth from one end of the Bais Hamedrash, back and forth for hours as if he hopes to catch the thin thread of Divine Thought. A knock on the lectern, that stands in the middle between the four columns, interrupts all thoughts. The whole congregation straightens its belts and surges forward. At the rear door of the Bais Hamedrash that leads directly to the Rabbi's room they come to a stop as if ordered to do so. At that moment the door opens, and in the intense dead silence one could actually hear the rustle of silk and satin as the bright figure of the Rabbi appears in all its glory. The wide silk stripe in the middle of the satin garment, which closed up to the neck and ended in a two-pointed collar, transformed the priestly long coat into a holy garment. The sable shtreimel, (Fur edged hat worn by rabbis and Chassidic Jews on the Sabbath and holidays) brought recently from abroad, shines like fine gold, blending together with his bright red face and the gold blond beard. All eyes follow the Rabbi's movements. With benign steps, he moves over to his holy corner by the. Eastern wall and begins to sway in fervent prayer.

After mincha, the afternoon prayer, the crowd lines up in rows and the rabbi walks, short winded, between them. By chance, he puts his gentle hand on a strange shoulder whose owner then gladly follows him. This means a longer stroll around the courtyard and a talk about Torah and worldly affairs. The Jews go home happily, eat a warm supper, and thank their creator for having lived long enough to come into contact with this brilliant form and creative source. It was as if the Shechina (Holy Spirit) has descended from the high heavens and had come to rest in the human form known as the Radzyner Rabbi.


2. The High Holidays


On a foggy gray morning a hunched-up Jew with nimble feet, Laizer the Sexton, strides through the Jewish streets. Two short and one long thump of his hard rod on the closed shutters informs the sleeping inhabitants that it is time to get up and recite the Slichot prayers! (Prayers asking for forgiveness that are that are recited every morning between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) In the dead silence of the night, his steps resound like the echo from an empty barrel, and then disappear into space. Small flames flicker in the windows, and the dull sounds of sliding bolts are heard. Sleepy bodies of men and women, some with small children at their sides, slink out to the Bais Hamedrash. A cold damp early morning breeze strokes and cools the warm bodies. The dreamy nighttime world disappears and the whole Jewish congregation treads on muddy trails and footpaths on their way to Slichot. (Penitential prayers recited on the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). From afar, the half-lit lamps in the Bais Hamedrash cast their light through the unshuttered windows as if to show the way for the whole congregation. One by one, they slip sleepily into the building and look around as if they were strangers, rubbing their eyes against the sudden assault of the blinding lamplight. Suddenly a flood of bright, shinning light covers the whole atmosphere, as if by some forgotten magic. This happened because the assistant beadle, Moshe, straightened up the wicks. The first minutes of the Slichot prayer come closer.

The door opens wide and noisily as a bursting sack, pushes through the narrow opening. The head of a man, Mendel Danilak the bookbinder, can barely be seen under the sack filled with his merchandise. A dull thud awakens the half-sleeping Jews. It is caused by the contents spilling out on the long table that stands by the door near the ritual table. All year round only poor people or itinerant beggars who, during the day go from house to house use this table. During the night it serves them as a bed. On it, Mendel the bookseller leisurely arranges his holiday prayer books with their shining golden bindings as well as ordinary storybooks written by observant Jews. Having arranged his merchandise, he turns around to face his audience. He stands still for a moment. On his yellow leathery face his long blonde mustache hangs down into his long pointed blonde beard that hides his pale lips. From under long wiry eyebrows and his furrowed forehead an angry look appears in his blue eyes. Thoughts run through his mind. Is it worth sweating and panting under the heavy load for what would surely be very small reward? Instead of announcing his merchandise he remains silent and stares as if in some dream world. It is pride that keeps him from becoming a cheap merchant! He knows that he is a bookbinder with wide horizons. His work is appreciated by the Rabbi himself, as well as by Chassidim from the big cities of Lublin and Warsaw that buy the old Rabbi's writings and send them to him for binding. But he also knows that his fate to become not only a talented and artistic bookbinder, but also an ordinary bookseller is determined by divine providence. Looking at the gathering of the rich, satisfied, Chassidim raises mutinous thoughts.

A bang on the lectern interrupts this chain of thought. The Rabbi has come in and the Slichot prayer begins. A forest of heads rocks back and forth and the compressed air is filled with sad groans ”Yours is both the body and the soul”.



Ever morning and evening, as the High Holidays draw near, excited carriage drivers disgorge loads of Chassidim from the steps of their narrow carriages. Jews with black, blond, and gray beards and sidelocks walk with their luggage, some to more respectable lodgings, others to temporary ones set up for the High Holiday period. The owners are veteran tenants of the tumbledown, crooked huts who move up to the attic. They make their beds in the hay and straw while their creaking beds down below are turned over to the honorable guests. Their wives cook and feed the guests, and the added income will suffice to support their families half way through the winter. After catching their breath, the Chassidim head for the Rabbi's house for a to receive their welcome greeting. The air is suddenly filled with silk and satin caftans, belts and fur edged hats. Rich big city Jews, business leaders, and lumber merchants exchange their spacious homes for the crowded huts and creaking beds. Now they walk pleasantly, as suits reputable gentry, to the Rabbi's court. Young spirited Chassidim block their way with passion flickering in their eyes while rushing ecstatically to meet the Rabbi face to face. But as the Chassidim come closer to the Rabbi's house the more humble and dejected they feel. Humbly and with inner satisfaction they present the Rabbi with a hand written request and a fat coin.

(P93) In the sexton's house, which borders on the Rabbi's private reception room, the air is saturated with tobacco and smoke. The rows of chairs are crammed with thoughtful Chassidim sitting and writing their requests. Circles of Chassidim crowed around Chaim Barishover the Sexton and swallow his tales. He traveled with the old Rabbi to foreign lands and cities to search for the snail. He captures the audience with his fascinating stories.

Coming out of their interview with the Rabbi, the faces of Chassidim beam with internal radiance and grandeur. For a long time the sounds of the brilliant conversion with the Rabbi rings in their ears. Words of consolation or clever advice for seemingly hopeless moments are balm for the chassidic soul. Uplifted, they stride back deeply concerned with deciphering the meaning of the only hinted at, never clearly defined, words of the holy revered Rabbi.



During these days the courtyard is transformed into a Jewish market. Local and visiting merchants spread out their wares, prayer shawls, scull caps etc. on overturned boxes near the stone footpath. Especially attractive to the passers by, are the many colored, soft linen shoes worn by Jews on Yom Kippur in place of their regular shoes. The local fruit dealers display their finest produce hoping to reap a substantial income from the crowds of Chassidim. The fragrances spread through the air stimulating the taste buds. The juicy shiny yellow grapes that come from far away places across the seas are the most stimulating. They appear in the Shtetl only once a year between Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and then disappear completely. The only reason for importing them is to make it possible for the Jews to recite the Sh'hechionu (Thanksgiving) prayer on the second night of Rosh Hashanah. The bunches of grapes lie there majestically as if realizing their importance. The customers do not dare to touch them but have to be satisfied only with looking at them until that special day and moment. Outside, by the Bais Hamedrash, the carpenters are busy erecting, a half circular wall from blocks and linen near the eastern wall of the house. The Bais Hamedrash was incapable of accommodating such a large number of additional guests and participants and so many are forced to pray outside under the open sky. Not only the Court changed on those days, but so also did the whole Shtetl. It was as if a storm had blown through the town and destroyed its quiet, easy going, reasonable quality. Noise and commotion infect the inhabitants. A strange power overcomes everyone, young and old, male and female. It is unusual to see someone strolling leisurely. Everything is hustle and bustle. Every man, woman and child is busy serving the crowd of recently arrived Chassidim. The rustle of linen and satin is heard in all the Jewish streets and alleys. A non-Jew who happens into the town and sees the tumult is utterly perplexed. With dismay, he looks around at the strange looking creatures with their twisted beards and sideburns, spits and mumbles some words in his native tongue and moves away as quickly as possible. Special dishes, prepared for the big city eaters, send pleasant odors drifting from the Jewish homes. Red-faced excited women, with greasy aprons and twisted caps, race from their homes to the food shops and back again. Young girls, with roguish light in their eyes, steal wanton, playful glances through the open doors at the youthful young men. Blushing, they whisper one to another and burst into animated laughter.

When night settles, the sounds from the Rabbi's Court ring through the air. The young Chassidim are busy chanting their lessons; the sweet sounds of their voices carry far and echo back from the far-away stone wall that surrounds the old holy place on the other side of the river. (The Jewish Cemetery-see map)



There are two Ohels (Structures over the tomb of an important person.) in the Old Cemetery. One, that is built of stone and very neglected, covers the grave of Reb Shimon Daitsch, the well known Hassidic Rabbi who was the patron of the craftsmen and the ordinary Jews. The tailors and shoemakers of the Shtetl maintain the Ohel. On white winter days one would often meet Tuvia the tinsmith plodding through the deep snow, struggling against the snowy wind which tries to push him off the road and force him to go back to the town. Tuvia struggles with all his might to continue on his way. He never fails to fulfill his obligation to light the” Eternal Light” both during winter or summer. The Ohel is always open to the neighboring ordinary people whose hearts cling to the cold stone. Rivers of troubles and tears pour into space and force their way toward the heavens where they demand accounting and change.

Opposite is the other Ohel, maintained by the Chassidim, with its big pump and piles of kvittles (written requests) that cover the gray stone. This is the Ohel of the Rabbi's father Reb Gershon Hanoch, may he rest in peace. Chassidim from near and far come here all year round to unburden their hearts. Every visitor leaves a substantial fee that benefits both the oil for the Ohel as well as for the caretaker Boruch Hirsch who is famous throughout the city. He is a joker and live wire. At the local weddings he appears in a calico Turkish uniform and with his artistic talents and his famous Cossack Dance, he makes bride and groom and all the guests happy.

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, when long rows of hundreds of Chassidim on foot and in wagons make their way to the Ohel, on this holy day his look changes and becomes very serious. Jangling the long Ohel keys, he lets the visitors enter one by one. They make a turn around the high walled tomb while saying prayers for the dead. Then they drop a kvittel to the revered Rabbi while mumbling secretly to themselves. Having unburdened themselves to the cold stone, their mood becomes lighter. Contentedly, they place a final payment in Boruch Hirsch's hand, and go, exuberantly into town to make final arrangements for the impending holiday.

From then on, the light in the courtyard is never extinguished. As soon as the sun prepares to hide its face from the town, Mordechai the Sexton, with the help of his non-Jewish watchman, lights the lanterns that surround the newly erected linen wall. Immediately, bright flames spring up all over the length of the courtyard. When night falls, a forest of heads, praying outside, rock back and forth under the open sky. Their voices, broken and painful in “Let Thine awe”, (From the evening service of eve of Rosh Hashanah) are surrounded by the stiff impurity of ringing of the church bells, as if the devil, camouflaged as dead iron, had taken upon himself to disturb the Jewish prayers. The dense metal sounds force their way into the air shrieking as if trying to deafen the living sounds of the prayers that issue forth from thousands of hearts and are directed to God's throne. Eventually the bells humbly surrender their shrill echo and sheepishly disappear into the deep black night. Soon silk scrapes against satin, hands are joined by happy voices wishing a Happy New Year rent the air. The prayers overcome the devil!

The lamps of the Bais Hamedrash burn late into the night and the doors and windows remain wide open. The Chassidic audience is tightly packed into the fetid atmosphere. Now the table is set. The Rabbi sits at the head of the table dressed in a grayish-white satin costume. Around him, in two rows, sit the older highly respected Chassidim. The Rabbi tastes something from one of the dishes that have been set out then pushes away the plate. This means that the rest is Shireim (leftovers). The old respectable Chassidim surround the table and with hands and fingernails, spear pieces of fish or meat straight into their mouths licking their greasy fingers. The young Chassidim stand frozen into their places around the margins of the hundred year old, thousand pound bench, holding on to the ceiling with their hands. They look with envy at the older Chassidim who have the honor of sitting close to the Tzadik. The Rabbi delivers his teachings in a falsetto-nasal voice while continuing to eat. They listen with bated breath so that they won't miss a word, a sound, or even a movement. The Chassidic teachings are expressed not only in words but also in movements and in the ability to repeat exactly what happens at the Rabbi's table.

The only Chassid blessed by god was Aaron Z'elekover from the town of Zelekov He was tall and erect and from his noble aristocratic face one could discern his breeding. His high forehead and penetrating look, and his measured steps arouse respect for his scholarship. The large nobleman's eyeglasses on his nose added charm to his refined look. He is the center around whom small groups of Chassidim gather to hear him repeat what the Rabbi has said around the table. He is blessed with a sweet high- pitched voice. His sincere pleading, especially on the mornings of the High Holidays, is famous throughout the area. Upon leaving the Rabbi, the Chassidim take home with them enormous spiritual baggage consisting of the Rabbi's newly pronounced teachings and newly absorbed nigun (melody). This equipment gives the Chassidim sufficient spiritual support to last a whole year.


3. Tchelet and Controversy

The most important factor which unifies the Chassidim and for which Radzyn was famous in the whole Jewish world was the Tchelet (azure dye).

The Rabbi's orchard, with its trees of various fruits, stretches for a long distance beyond the wall all the way to the river. Even though a fence that has a locked gate surrounds the orchard, everyone considers it as being in the public domain and the fruit free for the taking. Those who benefit most from this situation are “the bright young boys” who steal into the orchard shake a tree and came out with hands full of red cherries or with green sour gooseberries. They do not consider this a sin nor do they feel any pangs of conscience. They know that the orchard is public property!

Two wooden huts look down from between the trees on the other side of the wall. They are usually closed and rarely was anyone seen entering them. They are silent witnesses to a stormy past era. On the outside they are identical. However, the first glances through the dusty windows reveals different interiors and for what purpose they were erected. In one there were piles of large and small jars and bottles of all sizes. The smell that emanated from there reminded one of a pharmacy. It comes from medicines and chemicals. The other hut is a fully equipped workshop with all sorts of mechanical equipment ostensibly for a laundry. However both huts serve as scientific laboratories for the old Rabbi Reb Gershon Hanoch, of blessed memory, who was half doctor and half chemist and a great genius. Here carried out his experiments with the aquatic creature called the Chilazon (snail) to reveal the ancient secret of producing the blue dye. From the time that The Temple was destroyed the Jews stopped wearing a blue thread in their prayer shawls. According to the Talmud these threads were dyed in the blood of a snail found in the Mediterranean. From that time on, according to the traditional explanation, the snail disappeared and appears only once in seventy years. This stubborn genius challenged this accepted tradition. In order to do that he studied chemistry in German books. In the same way, he studied medicine, gave medicaments and wrote prescriptions like a qualified physician. In order to carry out his plan he went to Trieste on the Mediterranean and brought back a large quantity of snails to his far away, Radzyn. Here the snail will get its due and with his blood and some additional chemicals will again grace the prayer shawls with heavenly blue fringes. Hidden in an inner room, a large jar was set up in which the many hairy legged snails, the size of a kittens, were soaked in chemicals.

The Rabbi entrusted the secret of the art of converting the blood into blue dye to his trustworthy assistant, Yehoshua Barishover. He was a short, full, red-cheeked Jew with wise eyes. who was a well combed, and always neatly dressed. He became and remained the chemist of the court. He was not a great scholar, rather more of a Maskil (follower of the Enlightenment) who was tight lipped and whose aristocratic appearance engendered great respect. In addition he was the bookkeeper of the court and carried on its correspondence in beautifully scripted letters and envelopes. His work in the Tchelet laboratory created an additional source of income for the court. Everyone who wanted to wear a blue fringe had to come and pay him a fee.

The great disturbance that the Tchelet created in the learned Jewish circles caused great grief and sorrow to the Rabbi. In order to calm his agitated colleagues he published one book after another about the Tchelet question. However, this did not calm the storm nor convince his agitated colleagues. Things remained as they were. His supporters, however, did weave a blue thread into their prayer shawls. As a result the Radzyn Chassidim became famous in the whole Jewish world. Everywhere, Radzyn Chassidim could be easily recognized by blue thread in their prayer shawl. In the beginning the opposition to the Tchelet produced quarrels in many cities and towns, especially in Radzyn. The Mitnagdim, (opponents of the Chassidim within Orthodox Judaism) who always looked askance at the chassidic leadership and their strange antics, now saw in the Tchelet a deviation from Jew tradition. They saw any agitator for the Tchelet as an offender.

* * *

In the Eighties of the Nineteenth Century what happened in Radzyn was a repetition, on a smaller scale, of what had happened to Reb Zalman Schneor of Ladi. There was a river in the middle of the Shtetl upon which stood a water mill, which belonged to the Rabbi. On one dark night, as bad luck would have it, the entire mill went up in smoke and fire. All that was left were the charred pillars covered and protected by the water. An informer appeared, and the old Rabbi was locked up in the Radzyn jail for sixteen days during which he never stopped studying or let the pen out of his hand. He was known throughout the scholarly world for his great compositions such as 'The Laws of Purification', 'Ohels' (see above), etc. He utilized the short time that he was imprisoned to write another book, a commentary on the book by Reb Eliezer The Great called 'Life Styles'. From that time on as a reminder of the time he passed in jail he was referred to as “ The Life Styles”. With his passing, the controversy slowly faded. His replacement, Reb Mordechai Yosef Eliezer, was a peace seeker. With his deep wisdom and radiant appearance he managed to win over the Gerer Chassidim who had been the greatest opponents of the Tchelet in his father's time. However the Shtetl of Radzyn remained divided. On one side were the Rabbi's followers, the Tchelet wearers, whose center was the Rabbi's Bais Hamedrash, while the other side were those whose center was the Communal Bais Hamedrash.

All year round, the Rabbi's white wall, the tallest of all the buildings on the street, proudly overlooked the whole town and attracted respect. The rooms were wide and roomy with many rows of windows that not only attracted light and sun, but also were conspicuous in the town for their holiness and awe. Every Chassid or ordinary Jew who passed over the threshold of the sexton's house felt the atmosphere of spiritual exaltation, of Torah and the Divine Presence. One room was designated as a lounge for welcoming guests. Twelve heavy armchairs stood around an old stiff oak table covered with white cloth. The doors rarely opened and it was even more rare for an ordinary everyday Jew to get a glimpse of what went on there. The only one who had a foothold there was Chaim Barishover, the Sexton, who went in every morning and dusted the furniture. The place smelled of mustiness and age. Those who did have free access to the place were mostly non-Jews. The important town officials who would sometime pay a visit to the Rabbi would be received there. The sober sounds of foreign languages that escaped through the windows signaled that there was an important reception taking place to help some individual or the whole community.


Purim Nights in the Rabbi's Court

Once a year however, the serious holiness of the place suddenly disappears. It takes on a more mundane appearance and is converted into a theatre hall. This is during the Purim night meal, when masked Purim Shpielers (Purim Players), dressed as non-Jews with weapons in their hands, come to entertain the Rabbi and earn their due reward. The doors of the reception room are flung open, the table disappears, and the chairs are arranged around the walls as if waiting for the unusual event happening once a year. Suddenly the clamor and tumult of the bright young men is heard as they burst in to announce the arrival of the band and run from room to room, the very same rooms from which they were excluded all the rest of the year. They are followed by ordinary curious Jews who shuffle in bashfully, step by step, as if not to desecrate the holy atmosphere with their sinful bodies. After them come the Purim Players, one after another, with hasty steps as if they wished, by their non-Jewish gait to frighten the scared bearded Jews. Opposite the open reception rooms stand the women lined up to see the Purim Shpiel. Their gaze meets that of the men because on Purim night it is not considered frivolous or lewd. We are commanded to get drunk on Purim so we can't be too pious!

A group of artists marches into the broad hall and take up positions at its center waiting for a signal to start the first act. Who are these odd creatures with their strange gait? Some of them are yesterday's Bais Hamedrash boys such as Zishele the painter and cantor, Godl's Yentshe, Yoel the son of Yentsche Godel's, Boruch Hirshes' son together with craftsmen's apprentices. The latter have visited the Yiddish Theatre in the big city of Warsaw and brought with them a new repertoire of snappy songs, which they have included in their Purim performance. The majestic Achashverosh stands dressed in his royal robe and flirts with Queen Esther. (A man dressed as a woman because “ hearing the voice of a woman is like seeing her in the nude”) Even Viazata, one of the ten sons of Haman, stands there with a group of household servants. The bright young men surround them and curiously examine the pants with the gold stripes and the tinkling swords. They try to touch the attractive pants, and when they are met with a harsh look from under a mask of make up accompanied by push from a muscular hand, they move as far away as they can.

Silence, The Rabbi is coming! This is announced in the hoarse voice of Chaim the Sexton. As if by magic, the tongues are silenced and the Rabbi appears. He breaks out into a big smile when he sees the large crowd of Chassidim, ordinary Shtetl Jews, Bais Hamedrash boys and Cheder (religious school for young boys) children who have gathered there. He sends his mild loving look in all directions as if wanting to quiet their frightened looks. The Rabbi sits in his place and the performance begins. The acting and love songs, that are not kosher all year round for pious Jews' ears are made kosher on this night even for the Tzadik himself. The performance often produces hearty laughter in the audience and the voices of men and women blend together into a harmonious symphony that no one sees as improper. The Rabbi himself laughs heartily as if he is an ordinary member of the audience.

Now comes the second act called 'The Little Tailor'. Zishe, the leading actor, crosses one foot over the other and spreads out his piece of cloth intended for making a kaftan. A lens hangs from a string attached to two strings from both ears. In one hand he holds a needle and in the other a thread. As he struggles to insert the thread into needle, his sweet falsetto voice flows into the air bemoaning his faith:

A little tailor sits on high,
Sewing the waist of a kaftan;
With one leg crossed over another,
He sings a sugar sweet tune.
A pleasing tenderness envelops the audiences who for the moment forget their everyday worries and delight in the magic of theatre.

It is long past midnight when the performance ends and the Jews leave intoxicated by this non-Jewish pleasure. However, they know that only on Purim night can they loosen the reins and allow the body to taste earthly pleasures. Tomorrow total holiness will reign again in the court.

[Pages 111-113]

The House of Izbitsa and Radzyn
The evolution of prayer music in the courtyard of the Admors
(“Our Masters, our Teachers and our Rabbis”) of Radzyn

M.S. Gshuri (Jerusalem)

[picture] Mordechai Yossef Elazar, the Radzyn Rabbi, son of Gershon Chanoch, possessor of the Tchelet


1. Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leyner of lzbitsa

The founder of the Izbitsa–Radzyn dynasty, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leyner (May His Memory Be for a Blessing), a strong and distinguished personality, was amongst the prominent disciples of Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshisa, and the close friend of Rabbi Mendel of Kotsk. After the passing of the Tsadik (“righteous one”) of Pshisa, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef was among those to proclaim Mendel as his Tsadik, and to become his assistant.

However, he was also the first to leave him later on, causing the irreversible chasm among the Chasidim of Kotsk. During the Days of Awe of 5600 (1840) he sojourned for the last time in Kotsk, remaining there until after Sukot. During that holiday, in which the split was decided and also the tunes of the Simchat Torah processions could not resolve the dispute. Since that dramatic visit, his followers came out against Kotsk Chasidism, and gathered around their new Tsadik, who settled in Izbitsa. The storm of that dispute continued to intensify and it was responsible, in a great part, for the desecration of the Chasidim's good name.

While still close to Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshisa, tradition has it that, following their initial meeting and exchange of Torah wisdom, they decided to challenge each other. Rabbi Simcha Bunim told Rabbi Mordechai Yosef: “Let's stand next to each other and see who is the tallest”. Then said the Tsadik: “For now, I am taller than you are. But you are very young, and you will still grow”. This comparison did not refer to their literal height, because, in all truth, the Rabbi (Simcha Bunim) was as tall as a palm tree, and his disciple was short. The reference was, in all probability, to their spiritual height. It was also clear that the comparison did not apply to knowledge on the field of prayer melodies (Nigunim), for even without making it truly a cornerstone, the Tsadik knew how to appreciate and value it, whereas Rabbi Mordechai Yosef's knowledge of tunes was limited (See Rabbi Gershom Henekh's introduction to the book The House of Yaakov, Genesis, Warsaw, 1850).

The holy war between Kotsk and Izbitsa, and the unraveling of the close spiritual ties between them, did not affect the matter of the tunes. In Izbitsa, they did not wander far from Jewish melodies. Their strong attachment to them was reinforced even more after the split from Kotsk, and after they dissociated themselves from empty tunes and from those who did not emanate from a Jewish source (some of which were very popular in Kotsk). However, the preoccupation with prayer melodies did not occupy an important place in lzbitsa's dynasty, and its treatment of it was not serious. Indeed, the musical emotional decibel was low. This passive tendency toward melodies was not particular to lzbitsa, but a continuation of the same attitude that existed towards it in Pshisa and Kotsk. (Even the melodies for the Days of Awe, which more or less fit the spirit of the day, were devoid of energy and flexibility).

Therefore, Torah and melodies did not dwell in harmony amongst the Chasidim of Poland. In places where Torah prevailed, melodies did not, and where Torah was not foremost, singing was strong. Pshisa, Kotz and Gur were the chasidic centers of Torah. Their Tsadikim, Rabbi Mendely and Rabbi Yitzchak Meir, were amongst the great Torah scholars, but could not carry a tune while praying, and therefore needed those who could, in order to reach the hearts of those who heard the prayers. The Tsadikim of Kotzk and Gur reserved for themselves the right to enjoy the most beautiful prayers by asking the able cantors to repeat them twice or even three times. This proves that even in those places, melodies were important. In Izbitsa, no care was exercised in the selection of melodies– as they were considered sponges to dry the tears. In Pshisa, the approach to singing was better than in Kotzk: they did not strictly adhere to the essence of the Jewish origins of the melodies, but did not dare to accept, openly, foreign tunes borrowed from the theatre. Izbitsa followed Pshisa closely.

Rabbi Mordechai Yosef did not make use of the melody's purpose to awaken feelings: he was much too busy studying Torah. And if he blazed the trail for the ascension of the dynasty, the fact should be attributed to his influence and energy, and to his righteousness and scholarship. Melodies and cantors he treated lightly!

The book Mei Hashiloach (The Water of the Shiloach) which he wrote, was more than a simple introduction to literature. It was the first of the works of that dynasty. And despite the fact that it was written in summary form, it was considered a seminal book and the gate opener to the literary edifice of the dynasty. In his introduction to the Beit Yaakov, Bereshit (The House of Yaakov, In the Beginning), his grandson, author of Orchot Chaim, confirms his grandfather's brief style, and the fact that he only touched upon the essence of the topics, without providing long explanations. Their descendants wrote many works which provoked great excitement and upheavals in the world of Torah and Chasidism because of their new approaches and nuances. Except for two places, the matter of the melodies did not get any attention: he connects the journey of Moses and the Israelites (”and Moses led Israel”) to Miriam the Prophetess' Song of the Sea, saying that after Moses saw that Miriam sang the song, he understood that the moment had come to leave the place. This is how the Almighty's way is viewed as a factor on the influence of the renewal of Torah's words in Israel. At first, the influence is felt by the hearts of the great and the Tsadikim, and then it continues until it reaches the hearts of the women. That is the place where the renewal is completed, and a need for new insights into the Torah arises. And this is the way it happened in the realm of the Song (Shirah:) first, it appeared on Moses' lips, and later in those of Israel's. And after Miriam responded “Sing to the Lord because He is exalted above all”, it is said: “and Moses left”, indicating thus that they had nothing else to achieve there. The chapter is closed, and now there is room for renewal (Exodus, Chapter 15, v. 21).

In the same way he spoke about dancing in a circle, so that no one person is closer than the other. To this kind of even–handed dancing, where no one rises above his peer, referred the sages who said that one day God will make a dance for his Tsadikim. The Tsadik maintained in his book that in Israel no one is higher than the other when God is in their midst. That is, He is in everyone equally (Korach).

Dancing was very popular among Polish Chasidim, with no exceptions and, undoubtedly, the Tsadik of Izbitsa also participated, having been able to observe, from close by, the personal equality reflected in the dancing, which gladdened his pure heart.

He had many disciples, among them his son and heir Rabbi Yaakov, Rabbi Yehuda Leyb Eiger, and Rabbi Tzaddok Hacohen Rabinowitz, who served in the courtyard of the Admor of Lublin, and for whom the preoccupation with tunes was foremost.

The Tsadik only served 13 years, and passed away in Izbitsa on the seventh of Tevet, 5614 (1854), leaving behind two sons: the first–born and heir to his throne, Rabbi Yakov of Izbitsa, and Rabbi Shmuel Dov Asher of Biskowitz.


2. Rabbi Yaakov of the “House of Yaakov”

The stormy controversy between Kotzk and Izbitsa abated somewhat in the period of Izbitsa's second generation, in Rabbi Yaakov's time. He “widened the main gate, as much as that of the Temple”, and put his dynasty on a more sound basis. He was a great Torah and Kabala (Jewish mysticism) scholar, and devoted all of his time to his studies. There is no doubt that, with his exceedingly pleasant voice he could have excelled also in the singing, and that he could have thus expressed his inspiration, but obviously he feared that doing so could weaken his study of Torah. For that reason, he ordered the Chasidim, and only the most talented among them, to sing the melodies, to go in front of the ark, and to officiate as cantors.

The Saturday gatherings represented for him a spiritual combination of melodies and Torah wisdom. At his table on Saturday, he requested (after the blessing over the bread and before the eating of the fish) the singing of many of the Lurianic melodies, because of his Kabalistic spiritual connection to their composer. Indeed, singing came before the eating of the fish. The Rabbi would also expound on Torah every Saturday and holiday meal, between courses. On the Saturday evening meal, he prescribed the singing of Kol Mekadesh (All Sanctify), Menucha Ve'Simcha (Rest and Happiness), ending with Ya Ribon (God, Master of the World).

On the Saturday day meal he would say before the ritual washing of the hands– Asader Le'Sudatah (I Am Readying for the Festive Meal), and ordered the singing of Baruch Hashem Yom Yom (Blessed is God Every Day) up to Emunim Notzar (Faith Was Created), Baruch El Elyon (Blessed be the Exalted God), and Yom Ze Mechubad (Glorious is This Day). At the third Saturday meal, before washing his hands, he would open with Atkinu Seudata (The Festive Meal I Will Prepare) and, after expounding on Torah, he would order the responsive singing of Bnai Heykhalah (Children of the Temple). The cantor would stop after two stanzas, and the assembled ones would respond. Afterward, they would sing Mizmor Le'David, Hashem Roi' (A Psalm of David, The Lord is My Shepherd), and again they would sing, responsively, Yitzaveh (He Commanded), followed by Dror Yikrah (Freedom Will Ring) and Yom Shabbat (Saturday). The gathering would end with the Grace After Meals.

After the evening prayers and the recitation of Havdala, he ordered the singing of Amar Hashem Le 'Yaakov [God said to Jacob]. But, while sipping the Havdalah wine, he would whisper himself, with his pleasant voice, Eli Chish Goali (My Lord, Hasten my Savior). He would slur the passage Khavi Kimat Rega (Hide Yourself Briefly), convinced of the promise that trouble and worry will soon pass, allowing for the advent of a time of grace. And while he sang Be''Motzaei Yom Menucha (At the End of the Day of Rest), he would repeat many times the words Nache Amcha Ke'Av Rachman (Guide Your People as a Compassionate Father).

The Seder of the Passover Hagada added much to the holiday. The gatherings were enhanced by the melodies which were sung, by request of the Tsadik, line by line, and by the cantor as well as the participants.

Rabbi Yaakovs' book about the Torah in the House of Yaakov is one of the most important works, qualitatively and quantitatively speaking, about Chasidism in Poland. Three parts were printed, with long intervals in between, while the rest can be found in manuscript form. In the book, Rabbi Yaakov postulates a seminal idea about religious singing, which is very telling about his affinity to the subject. His thesis is that the sun and the moon function by force of their singing and praise, and that they shine the power of their light on the world while moving around its orbit. But that it has been proven that, when they stop singing, they are rendered motionless. When Joshua wanted to stop the movement of the sun, the sun stopped singing, and thus it did not have the strength to continue turning. The force of the song makes the grass sprout and grow. To summarize: the song is the root of everything and represents God's influential force. It is as though life and death are in the hands of the song and of its sphere of influence.

The Tsadik, with the assistance of King David, found a way to allow foreign tunes, as the king brought instruments from Gat (in the Philistine area) to play in the Temple. He dedicated a psalm “For the Leader, upon the Gittith” (Leviticus). Is it possible to see in this a way to allow Western melodies and the theatre into Chasidism, or it is possible that the allowance pertains to instruments alone?

And what is the connection between happiness and song? Happiness hints at a time when man is immersed in pleasure, and his soul expands by a supreme force, whereas song alludes to a contraction that is completely cancelled in his relation to the heights, without remains. Thus, he also differentiates between song and praise. Song exists in the moment that the creature expands forcefully and extols the Supreme influence on himself. Praise hints the opposite, that the creature recognizes that there is no other force in the world, except for the Supreme one, who does it all (Shemini).

The Tsadik finds a double song on Saturday Mizmor Shir Le'Yom Ha'Shabat (a song for the Saturday) as every good thing is multiplied in it. According to the Midrash, (the homiletic interpretation of Scriptures) all Saturday things are doubled. Its Omer is doubled, its sacrifices and its song are doubled, because indeed there are two degrees in every Saturday undertaking (Shemot). And there is a difference between a psalm (Mizmor) and a song. The psalm attests to an internal light, whereas the song shows an encompassing light. The psalm hints at a reduction, because the removal of the branches from a tree is called, in Mishnaic (Torah) language, a Zimur (same root as Mizmor), whereas song hints of expansion. On Saturday, these two are included– Mizmor and song (Emor).

This differentiation between Mizmor and song is repeated numerous times in the book, in different versions, a fact that causes much surprise. However, the differentiation itself between the two musical terms shows that he tried to penetrate the recesses of the vocal musical world, and to examine carefully and decipher the lofty sounds, at least linguistically.

While checking the Gemoreh (Bava Metziah, Ch. 25 ) or the second and supplementary part of the Talmud, which provides a commentary on the first part, he found that song is round, encompassing everything equally (Rashi said: “round as a bracelet”) and alluded to the fact that all Israel are equal, and there is no reason for arrogance.

The Zimrah– (the singing) has an intimate connection to the declaration “Shem Elyon” and “to sing to Your lofty Name”– the place where the Creator, the Lofty one is hidden from human eyes– one must elevate one's voice in psalm, that is to reduce oneself and to pray. Prayer sheds light on the darkness (Be' Shalach).

The study of Torah was as popular as the loveliness of the melody. The violin that hung over King David's bed hints that Torah wisdom was planted deeply in his heart, so much so that even at midnight he would play by himself, even unknowingly (Shemini). One of the improvements that occurred during Rabbi Yaakov's time was, undoubtedly, the intensification of singing, as per his instructions. Chasidim knowledgeable in playing conducted the singing in the courtyard, under the direction of the Tsaddik, a fact that contributed even more to the wider discrepancy between Izbitsa and Kotsk.

Rabbi Yaakov was summoned to his eternal resting place on the 15th of Av, 5635 (1875). He was survived by two sons: the eldest, Rabbi Gershon Chanoch of Radzyn, and Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshil, who settled in Chelem.


3. Rabbi Gershon Chanoch Leyner of Radzyn 5599–5651 (1839–1891)

The Radzyn dynasty was not a remarkable one. Despite its spiritual strength and its initiatives, it cannot be considered but a straight continuation to that of lzbitsa's.

The first Tsadik of Radzyn, the grandson of the founder of the Izbitsa dynasty, (and one of the very interesting characters among the Tsadikim of Poland), was alert and experienced, an erudite and powerful debater, great in Torah scholarship and wisdom, multi–talented, a prolific writer, and a man whose eyes were open to every phenomenon of life. He acquired Talmudic and practical wisdom, and provoked much admiration and surprise for it. He was a Rabbi in Radzyn but, after the passing of his father, he received also the mantle of Tsadik of lzbitsa. Everyone saw his talent as a divine gift given to a meritorious man for his deeds. Rabbi Gershon Chanoch was also daring and energetic, and it was the combination of all of these qualities that made him great.

Rabbi Gershon re–introduced an old Mitzva (commandment) which had disappeared after the destruction of the second Temple: the color blue in the fringes of the praying shawl (Talit). This became the last of his daring innovations. To this end, he established a laboratory in Radzyn, with a variety of dying equipment, and the special worm that grows in a snail in the Mediterranean, on Italy's shores. He published his findings, as well as the clarification of the rules pertaining to the snail and to the color blue, in three books: Secrets Hidden in the Sand (its third edition appeared in Lublin in 5664–1904); A Thread of Blue (Lublin, 5664–1904) and The Blue Eye (Warsaw, 5653–1893.) These publications caused uproar among some rabbis who opposed his findings, and a literary controversy ensued. In addition, he tried to introduce serious amendments to the law of Eruvin (the Saturday walking limits) in the city. In his book The Gates to the City (Warsaw, 5652–1892), he expounds on the subject.

Indeed, his knowledge was multiple and varied, not only on Torah and Kabala wisdom, but also as a chemist, linguist, poet, in medicine, etc. In the field of music, he did not demonstrate more initiative than his predecessors. But he was still interested in the matter of tunes. He acknowledged their importance and their need in life, even without considering them as possessing a wide practical or Halacha scope.

The problem he addressed regarding saying a blessing upon hearing a melody, was a very interesting one. Only one who could examine closely the function of the human senses could also bring up the following question: why is the pleasure of sound (upon which you are not to bless while hearing the strings of a violin or a harp for instance) different from the pleasure of fragrance, upon which you do bless?

He based the argument on the fact that sight and smell, while not concrete, are sensed and felt by the eye (like a tree or a fragrance,) and that the smell that emanates from them is, indeed, real, whereas the sound is not felt concretely and is not essential. Therefore, as the sources say, one does not need to bless the sound (Orchot Chaim). This is not to say that he ignored the attraction of the melody, and while expounding on the power of instinct in life's pleasures, he took into consideration its bowing to the pleasant sound that “will sing and take possession of the hearts and that will worship the hands that strum the harp or play the violin” (from his introduction to “The Eye of the Blue”).

The origin of the duty to honor God with one's throat was not very clear. The ones who supported it, based the commandment on the phrase “Honor God with all your Treasures”, and on the Psikta (collection of legends) of Rabbi Kahana that says: “With all your treasures, (with which you were endowed), one of them being your voice. That is, if you had a pleasant voice, and were sitting in the prayer house, stand up and honor God with it. But, where is it written that “With all your treasures” is synonymous with “your voice”? He refers to Rashi's commentary on Mishlei 3 (Proverbs): “don't read with your treasures, but with your throat”. And to emphasize the duty to sing even more, he brings a quotation from the Zohar, the Kabalistic Book of Splendor (Jethro, 93): “Honor God will all your treasures, with your endowments, with the joy of the music come before the Lord” (10 Words About Chasidism, Orchot Chaim.) On the other hand, he did not like those who rushed to sing or to perform in front of the ark to boast and show off their voice. He would say: “a glutton is a crazy man” (Sod Yesharim, Secrets of the Upright, ch. 40).

And yet, a man's pleasant voice reveals “delicate qualities”, therefore he appreciated a person who possessed a nice voice. Once, when sojourning in Yosepov, in connection with the publication of his book Sidrei Taharot (The Order of Purification], he heard- while lying on his bed at dawn– a pleasant voice: “Arise, awake, go forth to join in the work of the Creator”. The voice penetrated one's heart and disturbed the sleep. He arose, washed his hands and inquired after the caller with the special voice. When he was told that he was the city's beadle, he summoned and talked to him, because he found he liked him. Since then, he sent him Matza money from Radzyn every year. The Tsadik realized, after his conversation with the beadle, that his pleasant voice matched, indeed, his pure heart. (Dor Yesharim– The Generation of the Righteous.)

His followers, who hasten to enumerate his general knowledge, tell that once, when walking in the outskirts of Paris, he heard the sound of a piano emanating from a third floor of a house, and noted that the player was half a tone off. He distinguished between the length of the tones– a high level in music. Indeed, he had an absolute ear. He was also said to have known to read music, to which he devoted much attention.

He knew what to adopt and what to discard. He found that love songs represented a bad influence for young women, to the point of leading them astray (see his introduction to Orchot Chaim). In order to remove the obstacle, he took it upon himself to publish educational books with songs of appropriate content, and with a Jewish, folk–religious feeling. However, the project was never implemented because of lack of time.

He was very careful not to drink much with the gentiles, neither be present in their weddings and other celebrations. He did not see any incentive in participating in the dance and song of the gentiles, and in observing them in their excesses. However, in a Mitzvah celebration, both dance and song are major components, and it is incumbent upon everyone to participate.

He knew how to differentiate between celebrations. He would say: “ignorant Jews are happy on Simchat Torah because they finish the reading of the Torah, and we are happy on Shavuot for beginning it”.

There were no changes in the fields of music and dance during the period in which he was a Tsadik. At the end of the Passover, after the afternoon prayers, he made everyone repeat three times: “The Passover meal has concluded”, trying to end the season with singing before facing the regular week and toil anew. During the Days of Awe, and indeed during all other holidays, cantors led the prayers, but the right to blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana he kept for himself.

The book “Beginning of Wisdom” was one of his favorite ones, and he would read it in bed, before falling asleep. There is a single article in the book that deals with the song of the spheres and tells of two men who went to India to hear the song of the sun (which is closest to the earth there). Only one of them returned, deaf, while the second one died from the power of the song. The fact that he cited that article in his book “Eye of the Blue”, attests how much he reflected on it.

In connection with the supreme singing, he contents himself repeating in his books the ideas already expressed by his father, either in somewhat different words or in more detail. His original ideas are few. He said that in “the song of the celestial bodies” and in “the song of all creatures, one can find the confirmation of His existence, as they all act in response to Him who dwells above. The sun works, in its own rotation around the world, by the power of its song. The song of Israel includes the actions of all creatures, because not another creature recognizes the loftiness of the one who dwells above, as Israel does (‘Secrets of the Righteous’, on Passover).

In the last Rosh Hashana of his life, he directed the singing of Shir Ha'Maalot, Esa Eynai Le'Harim (the Psalm: I will lift my eyes towards the mountains), and readied himself to die without fear.

He did not live long: he was only 51 at the time of his death. He passed away on the fourth of Tevet 5651, (1891) and left behind many manuscripts. Radzyn is his sacred burial place.


4. Mordkhe Yosef Elazar of Radzyn

And the calm days returned, as it always happens in a second generation of a dynasty. Rabbi Mordchai Yosef Elazar, the son of Rabbi Gershon Chanoch (and his successor in Radzyn), continued what his father had started on the matter of the blue fringes and in his activism, and was much respected in rabbinical circles.

One of his books, “The Splendor of Yosef“ (Warsaw, 5695–1935) which was printed after his death, contains new Torah and Talmud insights. On the matter of the melodies, he relied on his grandfather's opinion that singing reflects the face to face contemplation of God's light (Yaakov's House). He himself never sang at his table, and the order of the songs remained as it had been during his father's time and in the hands of the Chasidik experts. The melodies were not many. Their neglect was noticeable, and because of this lack of interest, singing waned in Radzyn.

During the First World War, the Tsadik moved his residence to Warsaw, where he continued to serve devoutly until the 26th of Shvat, 5689 (1929), when he passed away. His son, Rabbi Shmuel Shlomo, succeeded him, and devoted himself to the integrity of the Radzynian line of Chasidism.


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