Tonight the 19th of Kislev is the Yorhrzeit of the Maggid of Mezritch
10 facts about this illustrious leader of the Hassidic movement
Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezritch was known as the “Maggid of Mezritch” and was the second leader of the Hassidic movement the disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and his spiritual heir. Here are some facts about him in honor of his yahrzeit.
- Rabbi Dov Ber was born to Abraham and Hava in the town of Lokatch near Rubano in the Ukraine. His year of birth is unknown but it had to be around the year 1700. His father’s lineage dated back to Rabbi Yochanan the Sandlar (shoemaker) from the Mishnaic era. Dov Ber’s father sent him away to learn Torah by the Pnei Yehoshua, Rabbi Yaakov Yehoshua.
- He married Kayla and lived in a hovel of a home in dire poverty with ailing legs. He waited for children many years. When he was 36 his wife offered to accept a divorce so he could remarry and have children but the maggid turned her offer down.
- His Rabbi the Pnei Yehoshua told him to go to Mezhibuzh the hometown of the Baal Shem Tov where he became a follower and a most prominent disciple of the Baal Shem Tov who promised Rabbi Dov Ber he would have an illustrious son. In 1741 his son Avraham was born and grew up to be called Rabbi Avraham the ‘Malach’ (angel).
- After the passing of the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Dov Ber became the new leader of the Hassidic movement. The Baal Shem Tov used to travel from place to place to reach out to Jews but Rabbi Dov Ber set up his hub in Mezhibuzh and sent his disciples to spread the teachings of Hassidut throughout Poland and beyond.
- Rabbi Dov Ber’s Hasidic court organized the great Hasidic Aliya to Israel and sent manty of his students there. He wanted to move there too but wasn’t able to.
- Before setting up in Mezhibuzh he would travel to the small villages of Russia and Poland and would discuss with the Jewish folk the necessity to minimize dealings with gentiles. He aroused many to serve G-d with enthusiasm. His voice was loud and clear and he was held dear by the towns he visited.
- Rabbi Dov Ber’s approach to Judaism is the following: The understanding that all of reality in this world is The Divine Presence either obvious or concealed in clothes so to speak. Rabbi Dov Ber’s book called “Maggid Devarav LeYaakov” says:
“All parts of the creation are G-dly and G-dliness is revealed through them endlessly and G-d functions inside each of them without pause or stopping. That is the soul… creation is the endless and all-encompassing expansion and spread of G-d’s bounty having created everything and a light emanates from Him and spreads out… just as all of creation before g-d actually created it existed in the realm of thought and abstract, so too all of creation now is full of G-d’s life force which enables it to exist. The whole universe is full of G-d’s glory and there is no space with a void which G-d isn’t inside it… All is G-d and there is nothing else…”
- Rabbi Dov Ber had many disciples who spread the teachings of Hassidut to the world including:
- Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi the Baal Hatanya,
- Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk that brought many Hasidim with him to Israel,
- Rabbi Avraham the Malach (Rabbi Dov Ber’s Son),
- The Chozeh “Seer” of Lublin,
- Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev
- Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk
- Rabbi Zusia of Anipoliand many more.
- Rabbi Dov Ber didn’t write his own books, they were written by his students during and after his lifetime.
- A sprinkling of some of his more famous sayings:
- “Know what is above you- know that everything above you in the upper worlds is from you from man’s serving G-d.”
- Every lock has a key that matches it but G-d loves the thief who can break the lock: Who is that? The one who breaks his heart for G-d”.
- We learn 3 things from the small child: He is naturally happy, he never sits idly and he asks for whatever he needs forcefully (he cries for his needs).
- In our generation G-d rests His presence on man more readily than in the time of the Temple. This is explained with a parable: A king was forced into exile and went from place to place. If he would visit a poor person’s home and was served their low quality food he still would feel very good as long as they received him in their home as the king. He would treat them as he would treat the people in his royal court. The same is now in our generation that G-d is also in exile with us.”
- Just as oil is hidden in the olive (which seems unyielding and bitter) so too repentance is hidden inside the sin.”
May Rabbi Dov Ber’s memory be a merit for all of us and may his memory be blessed.