Page 76 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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been regarded by Hasidim of other schools as being somewhat
aloof, tending their own garden. But Habad Hasidism continues
to grow along the paths hewed by Shneor Zalman and his suc­
cessors. Although it has suffered tragic losses in two world wars,
it is now a force not only in Israel and the United States, but
also, through a network of Habad schools, among the Jews in
the Arab world.
Rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak of Przysucha
Rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak of Przysucha was perhaps the only
hasidic leader to be compared with the founder of Hasidism
himself. One may truly say that the traditions woven about
Yaakov Yitzhak by his descendants, his disciples and others add
up to a myth about the birth of a hasidic hero.
In his youth he wandered from one center of learning to
another, acquiring unusual rabbinic erudition. Then he began
a life of a roving teacher, which he saw as an ascetic discipline
to counteract his very rugged physique and the proud spirit
of youth.
He came to Hasidism after early years of intensive rabbinic
study and exercises of asceticism, through his meeting with
Rabbi David of Lelov whose conspicuous characteristic was his
love for all creatures. David persuaded Yaakov Yitzhak to ac­
company him to the “Court” of his teacher, the Rabbi of Lublin
whose name was also Yaakov Yitzhak.
Yaakov Yitzhak’s arrival in Lublin is surrounded with legends,
some to the effect that the Rabbi of Lublin was expecting a
man bearing his own name who would become his successor.
The meeting of these two men was decisive in hasidic history.
Yaakov Yitzhak found in Lublin a haven for his restless spirit.
It was not only the place where masses of Hasidim thronged to
the Master for divine intercession for “gezundt, parnosse, un
kinder,” but also a center for disciples attracted by the gift of
prophecy and soul-reading attributed to the Rabbi of Lublin.
Yaakov Yitzhak soon became the focal personality within some
of these circles.
Soon, however, rivalries were aroused. It is an axiom in
religious history that leaders are jealous of their prerogatives
and will not surrender them. Yaakov Yitzhak seems to have been
utterly unaware that many of the disciples of the Rabbi of
Lublin, including David of Lelov and other senior Hasidim,
regarded him as possessing greater spiritual qualities than his
master. At the suggestion of the Rabbi of Lublin Yaakov Yitzhak
organized his own school, but continued to consider himself as
a disciple of the Master of Lublin and magically tied to him.
He would come to Lublin with his own disciples, thus adding
fuel to the older Rabbi’s jealousy (Martin Buber’s mosaic
For the Sake of Heaven
deals with this tension) .