Page 77 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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B
erger
— T
h r e e
P
a th s
in
H
asidism
71
Yaakov Yitzhak was by nature quite different from his master.
Opposing the search for miracles, he emphasized learning as a
cardinal role in the hasidic way of life because it adds a necessary
discipline and provides a protective armor for the spirit.
Deeds of philanthropy were a passion with him from his child­
hood. It is reported that he gave a beggar the shirt he had just
received from his master. When he was rebuked, he quoted
Job (2. 4), “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give
for his life.”
He ranked discipline as a cogent force. He said one should
conduct himself each day as if reborn, and maintained that until
a man could defy his own self he would be unable to defy
others. In contrast to his master’s magical qualities which held
people in fear, Yaakov Yitzhak’s radiant personality attracted
men, women and children who craved his blessing despite his
principles against “vulgarizing” Hasidism. Although he dis­
paraged the idea of a Zaddik performing miracles, he himself
unwittingly performed them. In opposition to his master who
strove to achieve redemption by any means including magic,
Yaakov Yitzhak preferred to prepare the hearts of men. He
sought to gather around him a group of like-minded disciples,
learned Hasidim who would live together and pray when their
spirit was ready.
Popular legends attribute Yaakov Yitzhak’s untimely death
at the age of forty-eight to the rivalry with his master or to the
Messianic tension prevalent in Napoleonic times. His followers,
however, ascribed the death of this spiritual and physical giant
to the intensity of his devotional acts. He saw himself as the
incarnation of the martyrs who died
al kiddush ha-shem,
for the
sanctification of God’s name.
Yaakov Yitzhak was the eternal disciple who attained spiritual
maturity while “protected” by the shell of his master. He is
hailed as the founder of Przysucha Hasidism, which cradled
practically all the important hasidic schools in Poland through­
out the 19th century and beyond. He was in reality the founda­
tion rather than the founder, and his numerous disciples were
the mighty architects who built the super-structure with spires
of Truth, Faith, Humility and Learning.
Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav
Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav was born in 1772 in the Podolian
town of Mezibizh, where every corner whispered legends about
his great grandfather, Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of
Hasidism. Rabbi Nachman subsequently recalled how he listened
with rapture to the tales of the hasidic pilgrims who stayed
in his father’s house. Of a sensitive yet inquiring nature, Nach­