The “Chiddushei HaRYM” Finds His Way

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The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter of Ger (“Chidushei HaRYM”) (1799-1866) is commemorated on the 23rd of Adar. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

Close Ties with Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa

In the year 5575 (1814), the sun and stars darkened for, on the day before Sukkot, when the holy Maggid ztz’l of Kozhnitz (Kozienice) passed on to his eternal home, a light of Israel was extinguished.

And there was a sense of loss and mourning that was widespread among the Jews for, great was the fame of the holy Maggid throughout the camp of Israel. And there was a strong confirmation in their sense of his legacy of holiness and righteousness even from those opposed to the Hasidim, even from those of the generation’s most eminent non-Hasidic scholars.

All those Hasidim who had followed and had been inspired under the direction of the late Maggid, (and among these was our Rabbi ztz’l, Reb Yitzchak Meir Alter of Ger), all of them now thought to follow, (lit. bend their heads beneath), the Rabbi (Chozeh) of Lublin ztz’l and to journey to him so they could find refuge in his shadow and, this was despite the fact that the holy Maggid left a son behind, (namely, the holy Rabbi, the Rav Moshe Elyakim Beriah) but, it didn’t occur to the Hasidim that his son would be filling the place of the Maggid ztz’l after his departure, for, since the son was a man of seclusion to the extreme, they didn’t think of him at all as a conduit for the Torah for them.

However, the Rabbi of Lublin ztz’l gave his order that the aforementioned holy Rav Moshe should fill the place of his father and so, he was successor to his father. And the followers of the Maggid z’tz’l bowed their heads beneath the Maggid’s son. And they all accepted his authority as Rabbi and leader.

Along with those accepting the new leader was our Rabbi, z’tzl (Reb Yitzchak Meir) and his close contacts in Warsaw, they were all joined by the Rabbi of Lublin to their new Rav, the aforementioned Reb Moshe. And they journeyed to him to Kozhnitz to hear torah from his mouth and to better themselves from the light of his teachings and his uprightness and his holiness which had now come into view to everyone.

The holy Rabbi, the Reb Moshe of Kozhnitz ztz’l, showed particular affection and strong love for his student, our Rabbi ztz’l, and he was very special to him as the apple of his eye. Because of this special connection with our Rabbi, all the Kozhnitz Hasidim who lived in Warsaw were also counted as Reb Moshe’s followers adding greatly to his honor and they proudly proclaimed their allegiance.

Now, it so happened that in that same year, immediately after the death of a second important leader of the region, the holy Yehudi ztz’l, (Reb Yaakov Yitzchak Rabinowicz of Peshischa (Przysucha)), some of the students of Reb Moshe of Kozhnitz felt themselves drawn to follow his successor, the holy Rav, the Rabbi Rav Bunim ztz’l of Peshischa, for he was as God’s right hand and a faithful one of His house. Thus, these Tzaddikim, who had felt their allegiances divided from the time when the Yehudi ztz’l had created a split with the Rabbi of Lublin ztz’l, now joined with the ranks of Rabbi Rav Bunim and his adherents after the Yehudi’s death. Sadly, the feelings of spurned loyalities and animosities were expanding greatly among Hasidim at this time.

Again, in that same year 5575 (1814), the already darkened sun set altogether as the holy Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin departed to hidden heights. Now, most of the former adherents of the holy Yehudi, having been influenced by Rabbi Rav Bunim’s establishment as the supreme authority in the town of Peshischa in place of the Yehudi, his master, set Rabbi Bunim to be their new leader, and they did so despite the residing in that town of the holy Rabbi, Reb Yerachmiel son of the Yehudi ztz’l. Now, a fire of discord against the Rabbi Rav Bunim ztz’l and his followers was kindled in every province of Poland and environs, for their ranks were increasing with many of the great Tzaddikim of the time, such as the holy Rav, the Rabbi Meir, Spiritual leader of Stavnitz, and the holy Rav, the Rabbi Yosef of Yartshev from Tomashov and many others of the great ones who had been followers of the holy Yehudi Ztz’l.

Why? For the Peshischa Hasidim were seeking a renewed system in the path of Hasidus.

In every place where there was a community of Peshischa Hasidim, they were plagued and persecuted by the other Hasidic sects. And the Rabbi Rav Bunim himself said, that he knows, he recognizes the opposition to his ways from the Tzadikim of the generation is real and, the big opponent is the holy Rav Rabbi Moshe of Kozhnitz. And if the Rabbi Rav Bunim were to expend a great effort to silence the spirit of opposition of Reb Moshe of Kozhnitz, the net effect of this alone would time after time be the same: It would not help at all.

At the time of the realigning of many Kozhnitzer Hasidim away from Rav Moshe and back to Rav Bunim, almost all of the close associates and friends of our Rabbi had joined with Rabbi Rav Bunim. They greatly desired to bring our Rabbi ztz’l into their fellowship and to get him excited about the path of Hasidus that was in Peshischa.

Our Rabbi said to them that their path is good in his eyes. But he had to say that, he was very concerned about the severity of the holy Rabbi Reb Moshe of Kozhhnitz.

And also, he revealed to them the anxiety felt by his wife, about which she cries, saying that due to his affiliation with the holy Rabbi of Kozhnitz, she is concerned that the latter’s severity should not put the future of their children and grandchildren in jeopardy, God forbid.

And, he told them that the concern of his wife is a valid one. “Something which negatively impacts service to Hashem yitbarach should not be allowed to hold sway over anything in our lives.”

Nonetheless, there is no determination by him as of yet whether this allegiance to Reb Moshe, specifically, is the true path leading to service to Hashem yitbarach for him and his children.

In Warsaw, there was a great community of the Hasidim of Apta with many wise and spiritual people who were great in knowledge of Torah and reverence in their practice. And furthermore, in accord with the instructions of their Rabbi, many were trying to convince our Rabbi to journey with them to visit their holy leader.

So, our Rabbi ztz’l made his way to Apta.

On hearing he had arrived there, the holy face of the holy Apter Rav lit up and was filled with joy.

When our Rabbi came to meet him, the Rav of Apt honored him greatly and showed him excessive affection in the presence of all.

In Apta, there was a community of Peshischa Hasidim, and among them, some well-known and respected Hasidim. These now came out to our Rabbi’s lodging to see his face and to speak with him words of Torah, because there were among them some distinguished ones in torah who wanted to avail themselves of the opportunity, and going from topic to topic, they spoke also on matters of Hasidut and, they related to our Rabbi z’tz’l many of their Rabbi, the Rav Bunim’s words of Torah.

After the holy Shabbos, our Rabbi revealed to them that it was no longer in his mind to remain in Apta. In addition, he has to say that he is thinking of journeying straight from Apta to Peshischa!

Right away, they were filled with joy and gladness and they selected some people from their group who would journey together with our Rabbi to Peshischa.

When they arrived in Peshischa, there was great joy among the Hasidim and the Rabbi, Rav Bunim right away sent a message to our Rabbi that he should come to meet him.

The word on the street in every part of the community of the entire region was that the ilui from Poland had come to Peshischa.

When our Rabbi came to the entrance of the house of the Rabbi, Rav Bunim, people, old and young crowded around him to get a glance of his face. So great was the curiosity and excitement that it reached the point where the Rabbi, Rav Bunim ordered all the servants to leave his house so that he could talk with our Rabbi z’tz’l for a long while.

Among the Kozhnitz Hasidim in Warsaw a great ruckus was caused by the possibility of their losing our Rabbi. They exerted great effort to influence our Rabbi ztz’l to again seek refuge in the shadow of their Rabbi in Kozhnitz.

But despite all their toil, his departure from their community was assured: Our Rabbi had made a covenant of love and friendship with the Peshischa Hasidim who lived in Warsaw.

Whenever our Rabbi made his journeys from Warsaw to Peshischa, he would always come with and openness to learn new things. But this was not the case when the father-in-law of the holy Rabbi Reb Moshe of Kozhnitz would come the Peshischa: He was not open to learn new things. Actually, every time the father-in-law journeyed to Peshischa, he always would happen to find a reason to criticize. Perhaps a coincidence, perhaps no, but whenever he would go and criticize, one of his school-children would be out sick from school may the merciful one save him.

But this dynamic would no longer hold sway in the slightest for our Rabbi. He had been joined with all his heart and soul to the Rabbi Rav Bunim.

The Rabbi, Rav Bunim felt a great, boundless affection for our Rabbi. Right from the start, when he would come to see him, Rav Bunim would speak enthusiastic praises of him to all the great ones of his followers and all of them would cleave to him in love and strong affection.

In particular, one such connection: There was established a fellowship between our Rabbi z’tz’l and the holy Maran our master, our teacher the Rabbi of Kotzk, z’tz’l, and they continually delighted in mysteries together in words that are situated in the lofty places of the world.

The holy Maran, master of words of truth, (the Sefat Emet), spoke once of the great devekut / cleaving between his grandfather, (i.e., our Rabbi, z’tz’l) and his grandfather’s teacher the Rabbi Rav Bunim of Peshischa z’tz’l:

He heard it directly from the holy mouth of our Rabbi who said that those Shabbatot when he was in Peshischa left with him such a strong impression, that also now, when it happens that that same shabbos arrives, here is that feeling, he still feels a difference, a sensation greater than all the shabbatot of the year.

And once our Rabbi, himself, told him in these words:

“Seventeen journeys I traveled to Peshischa and I thereby caused seventeen sicknesses in children, (may the merciful one save them!), and my mind trusted that the punishment was from the strictness of the holy Rabbonim of Kozhnitz and from Apta ztzl, however, I don’t regret my actions.”

(Illuminating the Uncovered Eye, Part 1)

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