Although Rabbi Dr. Rabinowich is very proud of all his sacred ancestors, many of them of the greatest Hassidic Admorim 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 Yaakov Yitchak Rabinowich of Pshischa(d. 1814), the prize pupil of the Seer of Lublin . Many various and fascinating explanations have been offered for this unique “nickname” that no other Hassidic Admor received. What is known for certain is that throughout his short life of forty-seven years he tried to conceal this “holiness” through various manipulations. Hashem, however, wanted the ‘world’ to appreciate his holiness and that is why of all the great Admorim/Tzaddkim, he is the only one to have received 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 Dr. Rabinowich. and Rebbe Dovid of Lelov, the Yid’s in-law2. 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 such wonderful teachers3.
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 family 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 Chachamim were in awe of his great erudition. Supposedly, the leading scholar of his generation, the holy Rebbe Akiva Eiger 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 by the” Fire of Strelisk” and his leading pupil, the holy Rebbe Simcha Bunim of Pschicha said of him:
“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 one of the the greatest scholars of the last five hundred years, the leading opponent of Hassidut, the Holy Gaon 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, however, which are collections of his novellae in Tanach, Talmud and Shulchan Aruch, stories about him and his homiletics 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 , Shidlovtze”, Jerusalem, 1998
For more information about the life of the “Holy Jew” see, in particular, : Y.S. Weinstock, “Tiferes Banim Avotam (Heb.), Jerusalem, 1968 (An addition to his : “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.
1) It is certainly noteworthy that the “Yid” as he was fondly called, was not born to a Hassidic family. His father, Rebbe Asher ben Elchanan, the “rav” of Pshedborz , 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!
2) The Yehudi’s 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, the Munkatcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, who died in 1945, was miraculously buried next to her, although she was personally not of Lelov descent !
3) 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”.
4) He was the leading Talmid Chacham of his generation (d. 1664) and the Rebbe of the great Halachic authorities, the “Turei Zohav” and the “Shach”. He, like the Yehudi, refused to publish his ‘writings’ during his lifetime.
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