Sunday 21 July 2024

480) What did the Kotzker Rebbe say?



This article based extensively on the research by Professor Yaakov Levinger[1] examines the authenticity of many of the sayings popularly attributed to the Chassidic Rebbe, Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1869). 

Many sefarim (books) have been published, claiming to present anthologies of the teachings of the Kotzker Rebbe. I have collected these books over the years and always found them to be of immense interest. These include publications like Emet miKotzk Titzmach (The Truth Sprouts from Kotzk) and Emet veEmunah (Truth and Faith). With time, more and more books purporting to contain the teachings of the Kotzker Rebbe began to emerge and soon they appeared in the English language as well, most notably in the iconic works of R. Avraham Yehoshua Heschel who, growing up in Warsaw, actually knew older people who had travelled to the court of the Rebbe in the Polish town of Kotzk. 

Sunday 14 July 2024

479) R. Yitzchak of Warka and the rise of the Chassidic movement in Poland.


The Burial place of R. Yitzchak Kalisz in Warka, Poland.


R. Yitzchak Kalisz of Warka (or Vorka) (1779-1848) was a friend of the Kotzker Rebbe. Unlike his friend, though, he rose quickly among the ranks of political activists and became the official representative, not just of Chassidim, but of all Polish Jewry in the early nineteenth century. 

This article based extensively on the research by Professor Marcin Wodzinski[1] deals with how the Chassidic Rebbe, R. Yitzchak Warka (a student of R. Simcha Bunim of Przysucha) suddenly found himself regarded as the most influential Jewish representative in Poland. In those days, Jewish communal affairs and politics were known as ‘shtadlanut.’ From the mid-1830s, Polish ‘shtatlanut’ was dominated by R. Yitzchak Warka and his hometown, Warka, was regarded as the Chassidic capital of Poland. 

Sunday 7 July 2024


478) 'Fixing' broken Messiahs

The extreme messianic mysticism of the students of the Vilna Gaon (Part II)


Kitvei haGramam, recently published writings of R. Menachem Mendel of Shklov


This article is a continuation of the previous post and deals with the surprising and extreme messianic mysticism of the students of the Vilna Gaon. It is a technical excursus into the Kabbalah of the Mitnagdim and it shows their conceptualisations surrounding the possibility that the Vilna Gaon was the Messiah and part of his messianic mission was ‘fix’ the previous ‘broken’ Messiahs including the Christian Messsiah as well as Shabbatai Tzvi. It makes liberal use of coded gershaim (inverted commas) and germatria (numerical values) because, as the reader will soon see, these topics are sensitive if not audacious, especially as they were written in the aftermath of the false Messiah Shabbatai Tzvi. This Kabbalah resembles the writing style of another Lithuanian mystic, R. Heshil Tzoref.