Although Rabbi Dr. Nathan David Rabinowich very proud of all his sacred ancestors, many of them of the greatest Hassidic Admourim in Jewish History 1, (i.e., the “Sanzer Rebbe”, the “Bnei Yissachar”, the “Yishmech Moshe”, the “Shem Shloma”, Rebbe Moshe Leib Sassover”, “Rebbe Baruch of Gorlitz”, Rebbe Shmelke of Sassov”), he takes most pride in his direct lineage to the “Holy Jew”, Rebbe Yakov Yitchak Rabinowich of Pshischo, the prize pupil of the Seer of Lublin (d. 1814). Many various and fascinating explanations have been offered for this unique “nickname” that no other Hassidic Admor received2. What is known for certain is that throughout his short life of forty-seven years he tried to conceal his “holiness” through various manipulations. Hashem, however, wanted the ‘world’ to appreciate his holiness and thati swhy of all the great Admourim/Tzaddkim, he is the only ??? to receive the appellation” “Holy Jew”.
As mentioned earlier, the “Yid” was not born a Hassid; he was introduced to Hassidut by Rebbe Moshe Leib Sassover (d.1807), another grand-father of Rabbi Rabinowich and Rebbe David of Lelov, the Yid’s in-law3. It is extremely noteworthy that these two teachers of the “Yid”, giants in Hassidut, are most famous in Hassidic lore for their love of fellow Jews! This, naturally, was one of the Yid’s extraordinary personality traits; he had wonderful teachers4.
Another trait that made the “holy Jew” stand out among “Hassidic greats” was his tremendous scholarship. This, too, is not surprising as his grandfather Rebbe Elchanon Rabinowich (the first in the family with that name) was the grandson of Rebbe Yitzchok Ha’Levi, the famous brother of the famous Halachic authority, the “Tunei Zahav”. In fact, some genealogical works claim that the “Holy Jew” was the tenth generation to Rebbe Bezalel Ashkenazi, the great scholar and author of the “Shita Mekubetzet”. His learning was awe-inspiring and many Hassidic masters and leading Talmidei Chochamim were in awe of his great erudition. Supposedly, the leading scholar of his generation, the holy Rebbe Akiva Eign said:
“It is impossible to understand the sharpness and depth of the ‘Yehudi’s’ brain”.
He was compared to the leading Medievalist, the Rabbeinu Tam (“the Fire of Strelisk”). The holy Rebbe Simcha Burim of Pschicha said:
“The World is not worth of the ‘Torah’ of the Rebbe R’Heschel5 and of the “Yehudi”.
Interestingly, his yartzheit, 19 Tishrei is the same as that of the Holy Gra of Vilna; nothing is coincidental.
Consistent with his service of Hashem done in the most concealed manner possible, the “Yid” or “Yehudi” never published any of his scholarship. A few books have been published which are collections of his novella in Tanach, Talmud and Shulchan Aruch, stories about him and his holiletics in Hassidut. They are:
- “The Wonders of the Jew” (Pietrikov, 1908)
- “Tiferes Ha’Yehudi” (“The Glory of the Jew”) Warsaw, 1912
- “Keter Ha’Yehudi” (“The Crown of the Jew”), Jerusalem, 1929
More of his ‘divrei Torah” can be found in works associated with his descendants:
- “Tiferes Banim” (“Glory of Sons”), Pietrokov, 1925
- “Ma’aseh Nechemiah” (“The Works of Nechemiah”), Prompol,1913
- “Toras Rebbe Nosson Dovid ??? Shidlatze” (Heb.), Jerusalem, 1998
For more information about the life of the “Holy Jew” see:
Y.S. Weinstock, “Tiferes Banim Avotam (Heb.), Jerusalem, 1968 (An addition to: “Tiferes David”), and Elie Wiesel’s “Souls on Fire”. Rabbi Dr. Rabinowich is presently working on a comprehensive biography of his glorious grandfather, May He Rest in Peace.
It is noteworthy that the “Yid” as he was fondly called, was not born to a Hassidic family. His father, the Rebbe Ashes, the “rav” of Pshedloz, was not Hassidic at all. In fact, legend has it that Rebbe Aryeh Leib, the Rosh Yeshivah and Rebbe of the “Yid” in Pshedborz filled an entire cup with the tears he shed when pleading with his leading student not to become drawn to Hassidut!
He himself would collect charity for the poor on the market day and did not worry about his honor. A penny would never spend the night in his home. It was always given away by midnight. He would not go to bed until he prayed for all his “pursuers”.
The Yehudis daughter Rivka Rachel married Rebbe Moshe, the son of Rebbe David of Lelov. She was buried on the Mount of Olives. Interestingly, my aunt, Frima Rivka, the wife of my uncle, Grand Rabbi Baruch Yehoshua Yerachmiel Rabinowich, who died in 1045 was miraculously buried next to her, although she was personally not of Lelov descent.
He was the leading Talmid Chocham of his generation (d. 1664) and the Rebbe of the great Halachic authorizes, the “Turei Zohav” and the “Shach”. He, like the Yehudi, refused to publish his ‘writings’ during his lifetime.