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Men of SilkThe Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society$

Glenn Dynner

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195175226

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195175226.001.0001

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(p.231) Appendix 1 Yihus and Marriage Strategies of Early Zaddikim outside Central Poland

(p.231) Appendix 1 Yihus and Marriage Strategies of Early Zaddikim outside Central Poland

Examples through 1815

Men of Silk
Oxford University Press

The following represents a large sampling of the yihus of early Hasidic leaders outside of Central Poland, drawing upon the sources from which we derived the figures presented near the end of chapter 4. Together, these lists present the familial ties and marriage strategies of fifty early zaddikim.


The most prominent member of this category was the Besht, son of Eliezer of Tłuste and Sarah.1 The Besht married Hannah, daughter of R. Ephraim, av bet din of Brody. The resistance by R. Gershon of Kuty, Hannah's brother, illustrates the inherent difficulty of such a social climb.2 Upon his social promotion, the Besht consolidated his standing though shrewd matchmaking practices for his children. He married his disappointing son Zvi Hirsch of Pińsk to Malka, daughter of Samuel Hasid and Nahama. Although precise information about Samuel is lacking, he might be identified as Samuel Hasid of Pińsk (d. 1757), a member of the Brody kloyz.3 In any event, the name “Hasid” denotes an old-style mystic who was probably a member of the Besht's elite circle. Samuel married another of his daughters to R. Jacob Joseph of Połonne. For his daughter Adel, the Besht secured a match with R. Jehiel Michael Ashkenazy, son of R. Barukh and Shifra Ashkenazy. The dedication of an entire section of the Hasidic classic Degel Mahane Ephraim to R. Jehiel Michael's teachings suggests he was a scholar of stature.

R. Zvi Hirsch and Malka had three sons. The first, R. Israel the Silent, is a mysterious figure known through legends.4 Their other sons were R. Dov Ber of Ulanów and R. Aaron of Titów,5 both zaddikim. R. Dov Ber of Ulanów was an in-law of the zaddik R. Zusya of Annipol. His daughter Simah married R. Moses Zvi, son of R. Abraham Dov Urbach, R. Jacob Joseph of Połonne 's son-in-law; and Zvi Menahem of Annipol, son of R. Zusya of Annipol. R. Aaron of Titów married two of his children into the Chernobyl (Czarnobyl) dynasty (his daughter, Simha Husha, to R. Aaron of Chernobyl (p.232) in her second marriage; then to the zaddik R. Barukh of Międzyboż;6 and his son, R. Naftali Zvi of Skwira, to the daughter of R. Mordecai of Chernobyl).7 The wife of R. Aaron's other son Abraham is unknown.

More famous are several of the descendants of the Besht's daughter, Adel, and R. Jehiel Michael Ashkenazy. R. Moses Hayyim Ephraim was matched with Esther, daughter of Gershon of Kuty, the Besht's brother-in-law. One of their children, Ethel, married David Horowitz, of another aristocratic family. The matches of their other children, Jacob Jehiel, Isaac of Kałusz, and Joseph are unknown.8 Another son of Adel and R. Jehiel Michael, R. Barukh of Międzyboż, was married first to the daughter of the wealthy Tuvia Kazkish of Ostróg. His second marriage was, as noted, to the daughter of R. Aaron Titów.9 R. Barukh had no sons through which to pass on his legacy. However, his daughter Adel was matched with R. Jacob Phineas Urbach, another son of R. Abraham Dov, R. Jacob Joseph of Połonne 's son-in-law. Hanna was married to R. Isaac of Drohobycz/ Kałusz, son of R. Joseph of Jampol, son of the Besht's prominent disciple R. Jehiel Michael of Złoczów. R. Barukh married his third daughter, Raizel, to R. Dov Ber of Tulczyn, rabbi of Czarny Ostróg and son of the zaddik Solomon of Karlin. A third son was known as Israel the Dead (Toyter).

Adel and R. Jehiel Michael's only daughter, Feige, was married to Simha, son of the Besht's disciple R. Nahman of Horodenka. The latter descended from the R. Judah Loewe, the Maharal of Prague, and purportedly Rashi.10 His son Simha was not known to be a scholar; apparently he was married for his yihus alone. The child of this union, the famous R. Nahman of Bratslav, was married first to Sosha, the daughter of a lessee of villages named Ephraim Ber of Zaslaw. Immediately after the death of R. Nahman's wife Sosha, he arranged a second marriage to the daughter of a rich community leader in Brody, Ezekiel Trachtenburg. R. Nahman hoped that the messiah would come from the union between his daughter Sarah and Isaac, son of the wealthy Leib Dubrowner.11

While it is difficult to know how many marriages were arranged by the Besht himself, we may assume he influenced the matches that occurred during his lifetime. His interest in his grandchildren, as portrayed in his letter to Gershon that described the progress of young Moses Hayyim Ephraim, was keen.12 Eventually, R. Moses became R. Gershon's son-in-law. In the foregoing marriages in the Besht's family, yihus appears to be a major factor in the majority of cases. Four of the matches were probably motivated by wealth, and three according to the groom's scholarly ability. What emerges is an attempt by the Besht and his descendants to consolidate their yihus, hence their social position.

Another extraordinary zaddik who probably acquired yihus was R. Dov Ber of Międzyrzecz. As discussed, the evidence for his father Abraham's purported greatness, a claim intended to ease the concerns of later generations of Hasidim, is scanty. Little is known about Abraham, “a poor Hebrew teacher,”13 and his wife, Havah. R. Dov Ber was quite a student, meriting a teacher as great as R. Joshua Falk, author of the Talmudic work Pene Yehoshuah (Żółkiew, 1742).14 His scholarly diligence earned him a father-in-law named R. Shalom Shakhna, av bet din of Tulczyn. Despite his unaided rise into the elite, however, he unabashedly requested two communal leaders to “arrange for my son, may he have a long life, to marry the daughter of the rabbi, our teacher, Feivel, the author of the book Mishnat Hakhamim.” Thus a match was arranged between Abraham the Angel and Henya, daughter of R. Meshullam Feibush Halevi Horowitz of Krzemieniec.15 R. Dov Ber's offspring would now be Horowitzes, although even that distinction would pale in comparison to R. Dov Ber's own celebrity as a Hasidic leader, organizer, and thinker.

(p.233) R. Abraham the Angel did not become a zaddik himself. He was in no way a rightful heir, an idea that came into existence at a later stage of the movement.16 R. Abraham's sons' marriages nevertheless reflect a continued effort to consolidate the family's social status, although both R. Dov Ber and R. Abraham passed away when the sons were young. At least one son, R. Shalom Shakhna of Probst,17 was raised in the house of the zaddik Solomon of Karlin. He married Hava, daughter of Malkha and Abraham of Korostyszów, a son-in-law of the zaddik Nahum of Chernobyl (Czarnobyl), rosh yeshivah and rosh medinah in Korostyszów. They bore R. Israel, founder of the Ruzhiner dynasty. R. Abraham the Angel's other son, R. Israel Hayyim of Ludmir (Wladymir, Volhynia), was matched with a daughter of the zaddik Solomon of Karlin in his first marriage, and a daughter of his father's disciple R. Gedaliya Rabinowitz of Iliniec in his second marriage.

Several other zaddikim appear to have also hearkened from humble backgrounds and achieved yihus azmo. R. Aryeh Leib Sarah's, of whom we know little else, was the son of Joseph, a Hebrew teacher, and Sarah, whose name he inherited.18 His tombstone lacks any mention of distinguished forebears. R. Aryeh Leib had no children through whom we might measure his attitude about yihus.

Another zaddik who may belong to this category of self-made men is R. Hayyim Haykl of Amdur (Indura). The precise identity of his father, Samuel, is a mystery. R. David of Maków, a ferocious enemy of R. Hayyim, asserted that R. Hayyim's father-in-law was “known as a great ignoramus” who made his living cooking gruel for small change.19 If this is accurate, and R. Hayyim did not marry the daughter of a prominent man, it suggests that he himself lacked yihus. In 1768, R. Hayyim's name appears in the Indura communal register as a “simple member” of the burial society, which was, however, the most prestigious society in any community.20 He has also been described as the town cantor in his youth, a position of some distinction.21 In any event, his son Samuel filled his place in Indura, and married the daughter of R. Aaron “the Silent” of Żelechów,22 a disciple of R. Elimelekh of Leżajsk and R. Uziel Meisels.23 The match of R. Hayyim's son Dov Ber is unknown. R. Hayyim's daughter married R. Nathan of Maków, a disciple of R. Jacob Isaac, the Seer of Lublin.

Another possible case of yihus azmo is that of R. Aaron Perlów “the Great” of Karlin. “Perlów” is a calque of the name “Margaliot.”24 This is not proof of yihus, though, for R. Aaron seems to have had no forebears by that name. Some assert Aaron's descent from King David, rabbis, and “hidden zaddikim,” without substantiation.25 Upon his order, R. Aaron's tombstone bore the inscription: “Here is buried an anonymous man [ish ploni], born of an anonymous woman, one who was an anonymous man, son of an anonymous man.”26 We cannot know whether it was out of actual humility. R. Aaron was the son of Jacob, a beadle in a bet midrash in the small town of Janów, another indication of humble descent.27

The identity of Aaron's wife is unknown. His daughter Hayya Sarah married the zaddik Mordecai of Chernobyl. Another daughter, Ribla, married first a certain R. Israel, and then R. Shalom Shakhna, father of the zaddik Menahem Mendel of Lubavitch (Lyubaviche). Another daughter married R. Aaron of Łachowce (son of the zaddik Mordecai of Łachowce), a disciple of R. Solomon of Karlin. R. Aaron's son Jacob married the daughter of a certain R. Abraham Karliner. The wife of Aaron's most famous son, Asher of Karlin-Stolin, Feige-Batyah, was the widow of R. Aaron “the Silent” of Zelechów.28 R. Asher filled his father's position as rabbi of Stolin, and many of his father's followers attached themselves to him upon his father's death at age thirty-six. If R. Aaron of Karlin indeed lacked yihus, his children appear to have achieved aristocratic membership.

(p.234) R. Solomon of Karlin, son of Meir Halevi (or Nahum) Gottlieb of Karlin, was a disciple of R. Aaron the Great of Karlin. Although R. Solomon's father sometimes used the surname Gottlieb, R. Solomon and his offspring do not appear to have used it. His son, R. Dov of Tulczyn married the daughter of R. Barukh of Mięzyboż; while his other son, R. Moses of Ludmir, married the daughter of R. Leib Kohen- a maggid in Annipol and author of Or ha-Ganuz- and succeeded his father in Ludmir. R. Solomon's daughter Yuta married R. Israel Hayyim of Ludmir, son of R. Abraham “the Angel,” son of R. Dov Ber of Międzyrzecz. Another daughter married Dov Moses, grandson of the author of Ha-Hakham Zvi (Amsterdam, 1702).

A possible exception to this pattern is R. Aryeh Judah Leib, the Grandfather of Szpola. His father, Barukh Gerundi, originally from Bohemia, was a tax collector for a nobleman of the Potocki family. His mother Rachel's background cannot be identified. R. Barukh of Międzybóz, the quintessential yihus possessor, publicly derided R. Aryeh for his lack of yihus.29 R. Aryeh refused or was unable to serve as rabbi in a formal capacity, or be called “rebbe”; and he stipulated that his sons refuse those roles.30 Legend has it that R. Aryeh was ordered by his master, R. Phineas Shapiro of Korzec, to marry the daughter of a kosher slaughterer in Mydowdików.31 This seems plausible, as R. Aryeh would likely be matched with the daughter of someone of similarly humble stature. We do not know how R. Aryeh married his sons Jacob and Barukh Gad (or Jacob, Abraham, and Pesah),32 but the very lack of information about their spouses might imply that R. Aryeh refused to use their marriages for social advancement. On his tombstone, only his name and date of death were written.33 R. Aryeh's refusal or failure to achieve social advancement was unique for a zaddik of his renown.34

In addition to those identified in chapter 4, a Horowitz among the early Hasidim was R. Aaron of Starosielce, disciple of R. Shneur Zalman of Liady. R. Aaron's father was Moses Horowitz of Starosielce, a seventh-generation descendant of R. Isaiah Horowitz, author of Shnei Luhot Ha-Brit.35 This distinguished lineage bears upon his controversy with R. Dov Ber, son of R. Shneur Zalman, for it exposes the struggle as inter-elite rather than merely between a disciple and son of a zaddik. Regarding the marriages of R. Aaron and his children, however, the sources are silent. All that is known is that his son R. Hayyim Raphael succeeded him as rabbi of Starosielce.

Another aristocratic family that was a source of zaddikim was the Shapiro family, which claimed descent from Rashi.36 The family derived its name from the German city Speyer, in memory of martyrs of that city from the Crusades (1096) and Black Death (1348) massacres. Perhaps the most famous Shapiro was R. Nathan Nata (b. 1585), author of the first extensive numerical interpretation of the Scriptures, Megale Amukot (Cracow, 1637). The first Hasidic leader from this family was R. Phineas Shapiro of Korzec.37 R. Phineas's father, R. Abraham Abba of Szklów, was a Lithuanian scholar and an itinerant preacher. His grandfather, known as R. Phineas Shapiro the Elder, was a well-known maggid in Reisen and Szklów.38 His mother, Sarah Rachel Sheindel, was a descendant of R. Eliezer bar Nathan, known as “Raban” (c. 1090–1170). R. Phineas first married Treina, daughter of Jonah Weill of Sławuta, descendant of many other prominent scholars bearing the name “Weill.”39 His second marriage was to a woman named Yuta. R. Phineas was exceedingly proud of his family, signing his letters “Shapiro” and ordering that his tombstone be engraved with that name.40

R. Phineas's marriage strategies for his children were as follows: (1) R. Judah Meir, av bet din of Szepetówka, married Sarah, daughter of the zaddik Jacob Samson of Sze (p.235) petówka, a descendant of R. Samson of Ostropole; (2) R. Moses, av bet din of Sławuta, married Rachel, daughter of Isaac, a rabbinical judge in Prague, son of Saul, av bet din of Cracow. Rachel was sister of the zaddik Gedaliya of Iliniec, another disciple of R. Dov Ber and, allegedly, a descendant of Rashi; (3) Jacob Samson of Zasław married the daughter of R. Dov, rabbi of Zasław, whose position Jacob Samson inherited; (4) Ezekiel of Ostróg married the daughter of a certain Joseph of Połonne;41 (5) Elijah married the daughter of a certain Joseph of Wanisnowiec;42 (6) Rezel (or Sarah) Sheindel married R. Samuel, av bet din of Koniów, Kolinblat,43 and Zwenigorodka.44

Another prominent zaddik from the Shapiro family was R. Mordecai of Neskhiż.45 Like R. Phineas, his lineage is traced to the author of Megalleh Amukot. R. Mordecai's father, R. Dov Ber, was a scribe of the vaad of Tulczyn and av bet din of Leszniów and Neskhiż; his mother was named Gitel. R. Mordecai married Reiza, daughter of R. Joseph Katzenellenbogen, av bet din of Leszniów, son-in-law of R. Jacob, av bet din and rosh yeshivah in Ludmir. R. Mordecai served as av bet din of Ludmir, Neskhiż, and Kowel. R. Mordecai married, a second time, the daughter of the zaddik Samuel Ginzberg of David-Gorodok. Regarding his marriage strategies for his children, we know: (1) Joseph Katzenellenbogen of Ustilla married the daughter of R. Judah Meir Shapiro of Szepetówka, son of R. Phineas of Korzec;46 and then the daughter of R. Jacob Joseph “Rav Yevi” of Ostróg; (2) Isaac of Neskhiż married the daughter of Michael of Kaszówka, son-in-law of R. Moses Halevi Ephrati, rosh yeshivah of Berdyczów and Batoshin,47 and then married the daughter of the zaddik Levi Isaac of Berdyczów; (3) the wife of R. Jacob Aryeh Shapiro, rabbi in Kobla, is unknown; (4) Zartel married R. Meir Shraga Feivel, rabbi of Zaslaw and Rzeszów; (5) another daughter married a certain Joseph of Leszno.

The third family the Besht purportedly admired was the Margaliot family. Deriving its name from margalit (pearl), this family traced its descent to Rashi. R. Jacob, rabbi of Regensburg (d. between 1499 and 1512) is the earliest identifiable member. One distinguished member of this line was R. Ephraim Zalman Margaliot (1760–1828), who authored many standard books and responsa.48 The most prominent Margaliot among the Hasidim was R. Meir Margaliot of Ostróg, author of Meir Netivim (Połonne, 1791–92) and Sod Yakhin u-Voaz (Ostróg, 1794). His grandfather was rabbi of Jazlowice (Czech lands);49 and was succeeded by his son, R. Zvi Hirsch. R. Meir's mother, Shaynzya, was sister of R. Aryeh Leib Urbach, av bet din of Stanisław, and daughter of R. Mordecai Merdosh of Krzemieniec, av bet din of Jazłowiec and Bomberg (German lands). R. Meir himself served as rabbi of Horodenka, before filling his father's place in Jazłowiec. He then garnered rabbinical appointments over the entire Lwów and Ostróg districts.

His first marriage was to Hayya, daughter of a certain Hayyim Katz of Horodenka. His second was to Reizel, daughter of his uncle R. Aryeh Leib Urbach, av bet din of Stanisław. Reizel was widow of R. Meshullam Zalman Ashkenazi, av bet din of Pomerania. R. Meir's son Bezalel, who succeeded him in Ostróg, married the daughter of a certain Joshua Rishower. He then wed the daughter of R. Hayyim Hakohen Rapoport, author of Zekher Ha-Hayyim (Lemberg, 1865).50 One of R. Meir's daughters married R. Naftali Herz, av bet din of Shargoród. Another daughter married Simha, son of Nahman Katz Rapoport. Meir's daughter Hayya, of his second marriage, married the wealthy Judah Leib of Pińsk. R. Meir's son Saul, av bet din Zabaraż, Agafin,51 Komarno, and the entire Lublin district, was son-in-law of the kazin (leader or judge) Saul, brother of the well-known scribe R. Abraham Parnas, and son of Hayyim of Lublin. We do not know the matches of the other sons, R. Joseph Nahman, av bet din of Połonne, R. Naftali Mordecai, av bet din of Remelów,52 and Solomon Dov Ber.

In addition to the Horowitz, Shapiro, and Margaliot families, we find prominent zaddikim of the first generations from old and prestigious families such as Leiper, (p.236) Ginzberg, Hager, Rabinowitz, Heller, and Weissblum.53 From the Leiper family came the zaddik Meir of Przemyślany (1780–1850), an early disciple of the Besht and son of Jacob “the Innocent” of Przemyślany. His forebears are described as “fifty generations of possessors of holy spirits from him, to R. Jacob Mervish of Korvil, author of the responsa Min Shamaim.”54 R. Meir's son Aaron Aryeh Leib married a certain Yenta; while the wives of Meir's other sons, David of Kałusz and Pesah Hasid, are unknown. A member of the Ginzberg family who became an early Hasidic zaddik was R. Samuel Ginzberg of David-Gorodok/Kosówka. R. Samuel was son of Michael Ginzsburg of Kosów. He married the daughter of R. Aaron, av bet din of Turobin. R. Samuel married his daughter to the zaddik Mordecai Shapiro of Neskhiż, as noted earlier.55 The spouse of his son Ze'ev, who succeeded him, was the granddaughter of the zaddik Levi Isaac of Berdyczów. His son Jehiel Michael of Kosówka married the daughter of R. Moses Ephrati of Berdyczów, son of R. Eliezer, rosh yeshiva of Pińsk. In his second marriage, Jehiel Michael was son-in-law of R. Judah Meir of Szepetówka.

Another aristocratic family that provided a major zaddik early on was the Hager family, of R. Menahem Mendel Hager of Kosów (1769–1826).56 His father was R. Jacob Kopel Hasid Hager of Kolomyja. R. Menahem Mendel was married young to Sheina Rachel, daughter of his uncle, Samuel Simha Zimmel Kook of Kosów. They had two sons and a daughter, each of whom was provided with a distinguished spouse. David of Zabłotów married Pessi Leah, daughter of the zaddik Moses Leib of Sasów. Another son, R. Hayyim Hager of Kuty, married Zipporah, daughter of Judah Meir Shapiro of Szepetówka, son of the zaddik Phineas Shapiro of Korzec. Their daughter Sarah Leah married Israel Abraham of Annipol, who may have been the son of the zaddik Meshullam Zusya of Annipol (of the same name). After their divorce, Sarah Leah wed R. Gershon Ashkenazi, av bet din of Kolomaja.

The Rabinowitz family provided early zaddikim, as well. R. Gedaliya of Iliniec (1738–1804), son of R. Isaac of Iliniec, a rabbinical judge in Połonne, allegedly descended from Rashi. His sister Rachel married R. Moses Shapiro of Sławuta, son of the zaddik Phineas of Korzec. R. Gedaliya himself married the daughter of a certain Moses of Chartorier. We do not know the wife of his son Samuel Judah Leib. His other son, Isaac Joel, married Miriam Simah, daughter of a certain R. Jacob of Lubartów. Among his daughters, two unquestionably advantageous matches can be discerned: one married R. Elijah Dov, son of Moses, av bet din of Iwanice and disciple of the Besht; and another married the zaddik Aaron of Chernobyl, son of R. Mordecai of Chernobyl. Of the other daughters, one married a certain Jacob Kugal; Hasia married a certain Zvi ben Joseph of Kamenki, and the match of a third, Hanna, is unknown.

Another zaddik who was a member of an aristocratic family was R. Meshullam Feibush Heller (1740–95), author of Derekh Emet (Lwow, 1830) and Yosher Divrei Emet (Munkacs, 1905). R. Meshullam Feibush was a descendant of R. Yom Tov Lipman Heller, and son of R. Aaron Moses Heller, av bet din of Sniatyn. He married, first, the daughter of R. Mordecai Halpern, av bet din of Brzeżany. From this union was born Moses Aaron. In his second marriage, he wed Yentl, daughter of R. Abraham Hayyim Shorr, author of Zon Kedoshim (Wandsbeck, 1729). The children of this marriage were R. Barukh Isaac, av bet din of Zwiniacz, and Samson of Jezierzany.57 The latter married Sheindel Leah, daughter of R. Joseph Joska Halevi Horowitz, av bet din in Jassy and son of R. Mordecai of Krzemieniec.

The Weissblum family, of R. Elimelekh of Leżajsk and R. Zusya of Annipol (d. 1790), is another such family. Their father, Eleazar Lipman, was a wealthy man of noble descent (from Rashi and, it is claimed, R. Yohanan “Ha Sandlar.”) Their paternal grandfather, Abraham of Tykocin, had married the daughter of Eliezer Lipman Halpern (p.237) of Tarnogród. R. Elimelekh married Shprinza, who possessed “a yihus written in golden letters,” which included her father R. Aaron Rokeah, brother of R. Eleazar, av bet din of Amsterdam. One of her brothers, R. Moses, was av bet din of Będzin. R. Elimelekh, a critic of reliance upon one's yihus, nevertheless groomed his son R. Eliezer for leadership.58 Upon his death, however, most of R. Elimelekh's followers switched allegiance to one of his disciples, and not his son.59

R. Elimelekh married his son R. Eleazar to the daughter of R. Israel Zvi Hirsch Lipiner, av bet din and maggid of Grodzisk, grandson of R. Leibush Dominiz of Grodzisk. In his second marriage, R. Eleazar wed the daughter of a wealthy “Naggid” of Sieniawa. Another son, R. Eliezer Lipa, married the daughter of R. Samuel “the Melamed” of Sieniawa, whose precise identity and descent are unknown. R. Elimelekh's third son, R. Jacob, who became av bet din of Mogielnica, married the daughter of a miracle worker or minor zaddik, R. Reuben of Grodzisk.60 Of R. Elimelekh's daughters, one (Meirush/Meirel) married the zaddik Elijah of Biało Czerkiów, son of Jacob Yokel of Łańcut. Another married R. Israel, av bet din of Grodzisk.61

R. Elimelekh's brother, R. Zusya Weissblum, and his wife Hendel pursued similar strategies for their sons Israel Abraham Abba of Czarny Ostróg and Zvi Menahem Mendel. Israel Abraham married Zizah Hiyyah, daughter of the zaddik Ze'ev Wolf of Czarny Ostróg, and was Ze'ev Wolf's successor. In another marriage, he may have wed Sarah Leah, daughter of R. Hayyim Hager of Kosów, son of the zaddik Menahem Mendel of Kosów (see earlier). Zvi Menahem Mendel was married first to the daughter of a certain Moses Ibenezer, and second to Simah, daughter of the zaddik Dov of Ulanów, grandson of the Besht through the latter's son, Zvi Hirsch. R. Zusya's daughter was matched with a certain Menahem Mendel of Annipol.

The Polish zaddik Uziel Meisels of Neustadt/Nowe Miasto Korczyn was son of Zvi Hirsch of Siemiatycze (known as “Zvi Hirsch Natal's), son of R. Isaac of Włodowa and the daughter of R. Nafthali Herz, av bet din and rosh medinah of Wien62 in Lithuania, who descended from Rashi; and Dreisel, daughter of R. Abraham Nata, av bet din of Wysznice in Lithuania, author of Nata Sha'ashu'im (Amsterdam, 1735), a descendant of R. Moses Isserles. He married the daughter of the wealthy R. Solomon Meir of Żelechów. His son Israel of Kolbuszowa married the daughter of R. Isaac b. Isaiah, av bet din and rosh medinah of Kolbuszowa. His wealthy son Zvi Hirsch's wife is unknown. R. Uziel's daughter married R. Kalonymous Kalman b. Judah Leibush of Nowe Miasto Korczyn, grandson of the av bet din and rosh medinah of Cracow.

The famous R. Jacob Joseph of Połonne's father, Zvi Hakohen Katz, was a descendent of R. Samson of Ostropol and R. Yom Tov Lipman Heller. R. Jacob Joseph married a daughter of Samuel Hasid and Nehama (whose other daughter married the Besht's son, Zvi Hirsch). We do not know to whom R. Jacob Joseph married his son and successor in Raszków, R. Abraham Samson, but he married his daughter to R. Abraham Dov Urbach, son of R. Abraham HaKohen Urbach.63 R. Abraham Dov published Jacob Joseph's masterpiece, Toledot Ya'akov Yosef (Korzec, 1780) and succeeded him as rabbi of Połonne. He married his son, Moshe Zvi, to Simah, the daughter of Zvi Hirsch, son of the Besht.

Another major disciple of the Besht, R. Jehiel Michael of Złoczów, was the son of R. Isaac of Drohobycz, a disciple of the Besht and official maggid in Ostróg, Drohobycz, and Karków.64 His father, R. Joseph Wirnik of Pistyn, was known as “Joseph the Honest.” His grandfather, R. Moses of Pistyn, av bet din of Świerze, was a famous martyr. His (p.238) other grandfather was R. Isaac Hayyot, av bet din of Prague. The family ultimately claimed descent from Rashi.65 R. Jehiel Michael married Sarah, daughter of a certain Moses. Their first-born son, R. Isaac of Radziwilów, was married to the daughter of the zaddik Moses Shoham of Dolina, son of Dan and disciple of the Besht. In his second marriage, R. Isaac wedded the daughter of R. Zvi Hirsch of Nadworna, and succeeded him as rabbi there. Another son, R. Mordecai of Krzemieniec, married the daughter of Eliezer, a children's teacher in Kowsów,66 son of R. Ephraim Fischel, who is mentioned in the approbation to the book Zikharon Shmuel and was the descendant of many famous rabbis.67 R. Jehiel Michael's son Moses married the daughter of R. David, av bet din of Grabowiec. The wife of another son, R. Benjamin Ze'ev Wolf of Zabaraż, cannot be identified. Finally, R. Jehiel Michael married his daughter Miriam to David Halevi of Stephan, a disciple of the Besht and grandson of the author of Turei Zahav (Zółkiew, 1754).

The biography of R. Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl (Czarnobyl, 1730–98) is difficult to reconstruct.68 His grandfather was R. Nahum “Ha Gaon,” av bet din of Norinsk (Gurinsk). The father of R. Nahum “Ha Gaon” was allegedly R. Nathan Nata Katzenellenbogen, son of R. Nahum Katzenellenbogen, son of R. Meir Katzenellenbogen, son of the legendary Saul Wahl. But this may be a fabrication.69 R. Menahem's father Zvi succeeded his father in Norinsk. One of R. Zvi's brothers, R. Aryeh Leib, was a friend and colleague of the Besht. For his son Menahem Nahum, R. Zvi procured a match with Simha Sarah Shapiro, granddaughter of R. Isaac Shapiro, av bet din of Kowno and Lublin, son of R. Nathan Nata Shapiro, author of Mavoh Sha'arim (1575) and descendant of R. Nathan Nata Shapiro, the Megale Amukot.

R. Menahem Nahum is sometimes considered the first zaddik to institute hereditary succession, transmitting his office to his son Mordecai upon his own death in 1798 (however, R. Jehiel Michael of Złoczów may have done so first).70 R. Mordecai first married Hayya Sarah, R. Aaron of Karlin's daughter. According to legend, the Great Maggid himself acted as matchmaker for the pair.71 In his second marriage, R. Mordecai married Feigela, the daughter of R. David Leikes of Bar, a disciple of the Besht. Of R. Menahem Nahum and Simha Sarah's other children, it is known that one daughter, Malka, married Abraham, son of R. Zvi Hirsch and rosh yeshivah and rosh medinah of Korostyszów; and that another daughter married R. Leib, av bet din of Bendery (Bessarabia). The spouse of their other son, Moses, is unknown to us. The manner in which R. Menahem Nahum, a possessor of yihus, consolidated his family's yihus in at least two of his children's marriages should be taken into account when one considers his legendary profile of a humble, impoverished teacher of children.72

R. Shneur Zalman of Liady, author of the Tanya (Sławuta, 1796), and son of R. Barukh, has been traced back to Judah Loewe, the Maharal of Prague.73 R. Barukh's wife Rebecca, although her father's name is not extant, may have been remarkable herself, for Shneur Zalman occasionally signed his name as “son of Rebecca.”74 R. Barukh and Rebecca bore, in addition to Shneur Zalman: (1) R. Judah Leib of Janowiec, author of Sha'arit Yehudah (Vilna, 1841); (2) R. Mordecai Posner, rabbi of Orsha (Witebsk), (3) R. Moses, av bet din of Ajewa,75 Bijów,76 Lijefli,77 and Rudnya (near Lubavitch), and (4) Sarah, who married Israel Kozak, subject of at least one tale.78 They married R. Shneur Zalman to Sterna, daughter of a rich businessman named Judah Leib Seigel of Witebsk and Biała.

R. Shneur Zalman and Sterna had three sons—Dov Ber, Moses, and Hayyim Abraham—and three daughters: Deborah Leah, Frieda, and Rachel. His successor, R. Dov Ber of Lubavitch, married Shayna, daughter of a children's teacher who was one of Shneur Zalman's Hasidim. Moses married the daughter of a certain Zvi Hirsch of (p.239) Ulla,79 and later stunned the Hasidic world by converting to Christianity.80 R. Hayyim Abraham's spouse cannot be identified. R. Shneur Zalman married his daughter Deborah Leah (mother of the “Zemah Zedek”) to Shalom Shakhnah, son of Noah (father-in-law of Issachar Ber, official maggid in Lubavitch); Frieda to a certain Eliezer, son of Mordecai; and Rachel to Abraham Shaynas of Szklów, son of Zvi, a prominent man in Szklów who opposed the Hasidim. Although Schneur Zalman came from noble lineage and married well, it is more difficult to evaluate the marriage patterns of his children. Their chances in the marriage market may have been hurt by the conversion of their brother Moses.

Several lesser known zaddikim and other prominent disciples of the Besht, R. Dov Ber of Międzyrzecz, and R. Phineas of Korzec fall into this category. R. Abraham Abba Joseph of Sorocko was the son of Shemariah, official maggid of Korzec. His better known son, Shemariah Weingarten of Lubaszewo (d. 1847), married a daughter of the zaddik David Halevi of Stepan. R. Abraham Hayyim of Złoczów (1750–1816) was son of Gedaliya, av bet din of Żólkiew, son of R. Benjamin Wolf, also av bet din of Żólkiew. In his first marriage, he wed the daughter of the zaddik Phineas Horowitz. After the union was childless, R. Abraham divorced her and married the daughter of R. Issachar Dov Ber, av bet din of Złoczów and author of Bat Eyni (Dubno, 1781) and Mevasser Zeddek (Lemberg, 1850). He succeeded his father-in-law as rabbi of Złoczów. This union was childless as well. R. Abraham raised the son of one of these wives, whose name was Joseph Azriel, son of R. Hayyim Aryeh Leibush, av bet din of Gologory. R. Jacob Samson of Szepetówka was the son of R. Isaac, rabbi of Sławuta, and a descendant of R. Samson of Ostropol. R. Jacob Samson married the daughter of R. Hayyim Jacob, av bet din of Połonne and grandson of R. Joel Sirkes, “the Bach” (1561–1640). He married his daughter, Sarah, to R. Judah Meir of Szepetówka, son of the zaddik Phineas Shapiro of Korzec. The wife of his son Joshua, who died during R. Jacob Samson's lifetime, is unknown. (p.240)


(1.) As mentioned in chapter 4, the most blatant fabrication of the Besht's lineage occurs in Nathan Zvi Friedman, Ozar HaRabbanim (Bnei Brak, n.d).

(2.) See tale no. 8 in Ben Amos and Mintz, In Praise of the Ba'al Shem Tov.

(3.) See Gelber, Arim ve Imahot be-Yisrael, vol. 6, Brody, 71. Samuel Hasid is also mentioned as the father of Zelig of Brody, who was killed in Safed. See letter from R. Yakir, son of R. Abrahm Gershon of Kuty to his in-law R. Moses Osterer, in Ya'akov Barnai, ed., Iggerot Hasidim Mi-Arez Yisrael (Jerusalem: Yad Yitshak Ben-Zvi, 1980), 51.

(4.) He is occasionally referred to as the son of Sima of Ulanów, as well. See Shem u-She-erit, 98.

(5.) Possibly Tytuvenai, in Lithuania. The main source for deciphering these towns has been Gary Mokotoff and Sallyann Amdur Sack, Where Once We Walked: A Guide to the Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust (N.J.: Avotaynu, 1991; reprint, 2002).

(6.) R. Barukh is known to have married a daughter of R. Aaron of Titów; Simha Husha is the only known daughter.

(7.) Of their other son, Abraham, we know nothing.

(8.) However, one son seems to have married a daughter or granddaughter of R. Nahman of Horodenka. R. Moses and R. Nahman were somehow related through marriage.

(9.) Arthur Green writes: “A marriage with the granddaughter of the Besht's only son seems like a move calculated to strengthen his authority, and perhaps to assure that male heirs from that line not serve as competitors to his own descendants. In fact Barukh had no male issue, and after his time the family lost its prominence in the Hasidic world.” Tormented Master, 125. If Green is correct, then this reflects the superiority of patrilineal descent. However, at least through Isaac of Kałusz, husband of Barukh's daughter Hannah, the line endured for many generations. It included such zaddikim as Barukh of Jassy, Eliezer Hayyim of Skole, Barukh Phineas, and Isaac Eizik. See chart in Encyclopedia Judaica, 1:160–9.


(10.) Nahman of Horodenka was son of Hayyim of Horodenka, son of Saul, son of Hayyim, son-in-law of Isaac of Żółkiew, son of Samuel, son-in-law of Nafatali Katz (av bet din of Prostejov [Czech lands] and Lublin), son of Isaac, son of Samson Hakohen (av bet din of Prague), son-in-law of Judah Loewe, the Maharal of Prague. See Nathan Zvi Koenig, Neve zaddikim (Bnei Brak, 1969), 9.

(11.) Green, Tormented Master, 189. Nahman's purported descent from the House of David on both sides of his family bolstered his belief that this union would produce the messiah.

(12.) In the “Holy Epistle,” a letter by the Besht, he writes the following to Gershon of Kuty: “And also my grandson, the important young man, the honorable Ephraim, a great prodigy at the highest level of learning; certainly, if the time is propitious, it would be fitting for you to come here yourself and see and be seen with him face to face and to rejoice in our joy as you promised me.” The Holy Epistle of the Besht, cited in and translated by Rosman, Founder of Hasidism, 108.

(13.) Horodezky, Leaders of Hassidism, chapter on Dov Ber.

(14.) Horodezky, Leaders of Hassidism, chapter on Dov Ber.

(15.) Ben Amos and Mintz, In Praise of the Ba'al Shem Tov, 95, tale no. 75. There are several books entitled Mishnat Hakhamim. The likely authors here include Ze'ev Wolf Hokgelernter and Meshullam Feibush Horowitz.

(16.) Rapoport-Albert, “Hasidism after 1772,” 91–3. R. Abraham appeared too holy for such a mundane task as leadership, embodying an old-style hasid. See Ben Amos and Mintz, In Praise of the Ba'al Shem Tov, 95, no. 75.

(17.) Probably Pogrebishche, in the Ukraine.

(18.) Legend ascribes this to Sarah having married an elderly scholar in order to escape the advances of the local squire's son, an act that earned her an illustrious son bearing her name. See Harry Rabinowicz, The World of Hasidism (London: Vallentine, Mitchell, 1970), 204.

(19.) Dubnow, Toldot ha-Hasidut, 159.

(20.) Dubnow, Toldot ha-Hasidut, 159, no. 2.

(21.) Dubnow, Toldot ha-Hasidut, 24.

(22.) According to legend, Aaron was named “the Silent” because he never spoke a profane word. See Alfasi, Ha-Hasidut, 115.

(23.) In a letter to Asher of Karlin, Israel of Kozienice praises either the daughter or widow of Aaron the Silent. See Lithuanian Hasidism, 77. Aaron was also a disciple of Uziel Meisels, author of Tiferet Uziel (Warsaw, 1862). See Hayyim Haikel's Hayyim ve Hesed (Warsaw, 1790; reprint, Jerusalem: n.p., 1970), 5.

(24.) Beider, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland (Teaneck, N.J.: Avotaynu, 1996).

(25.) Isaac Alfasi, Entsyklopediya Le Hasidut: Ishim (Jerusalem: Mosad Ha-Rav Kook, 1986), 169.

(26.) Alfasi, Entsyklopediya Le Hasidut, 169.

(27.) A beadle “carried out the orders of the warden, tended to the stove during the winter, went about collecting for the charities on weekdays, and kept order during services at all times. If educated, he also led the congregation in certain ceremonies during services, and where there was no baal kore on hand, he read from the scroll and inspected it on the eve of Sabbath.” Levitats, The Jewish Community in Russia, 1844–1917, 171.

(28.) David Zvi Heilman, ed., Iggerot Ba'al ha-Tanya ve-Bnei Doro (Jerusalem, 1953), 186; Rabinowitch, Lithuanian Hasidism, 77. Among the writings found in Stolin is “a letter (dated the day after Sukot, 1801) from R. Yisrael of Kozhenits to (p.342) R. Asher after the death of the latter's wife, in which the writer expresses a high regard for the widow of R. Aharon `the Silent' of Zhelihov (or for his daughter?).”

(29.) Gottlober, Zikhronot u-Masa'ot, 176. The recollection of the event is based on recent memory, however, as Gottlober was not yet born.

(30.) Levi Halevi Grosman, Shem U-She'erit (Tel Aviv: n.p., 1943), 101.

(31.) Probably Medwjedowka, in the Ukraine.

(32.) Alfasi, Entsiklopediyah, 332.

(33.) Horodezky, Leaders of Hassidism, p. 68.

(34.) Yet there is reason to doubt Aryeh's inclusion in the category of yihus azmo. His father's surname, Gerundi, may signify membership in an old Spanish family. The Gerundi family is described in the work Tiferet Bet David as “of the descendants of the Exile from Jerusalem, who live in Spain.” From the Gerundi family came ancestors of both the Horowitz and Epstein families. M. Y. Weinstock, Tiferet Bet David: Divre Yemehem Shel ha-Admorim le-Vet Lelov be-Erets Yisrael (Jerusalem: n.p., 1968), cited in Neil Rosenstein, “Ashkenazic Rabbinic Families,” Avotaynu 3:3 (summer 1987), 7.

(35.) Hayyim Meir Heilman, Bet Rebbe (Tel Aviv, 1902), 133.

(36.) A detailed exposition of this family, which describes the links to Rashi, is found in Jacob Leib Shapiro's Mishpahot Atikot, 19–47.

(37.) Technically, Phineas should not be referred to as a zaddik, for he and other intimates of the Besht's circle were not zaddikim as the term came to be known. As explained, I have used the term “zaddik” as a shorthand for all early Hasidic leaders.

(38.) Also known as Rydzyna, south of Poznan.

(39.) Shapiro, Mishpahot Atikot, 147. R. Jonah Weill's grandfather was Moses Meir Weill, known as the “Maharam of Shtinglen.” R. Jonah was the uncle of the author of Korban Natanel (Karlsruhe, 1756).

(40.) Shapiro, Mishpahot Atikot, 137.

(41.) I have been unable to determine if this is the daughter of the same Jacob Joseph of Połonne, author of Toldot Ya'akov Yosef. But it seems that such a fact would have been publicized.

(42.) Closest approximation is the town of Waniowice, 75 kilometers southwest of Lwów.

(43.) Closest approximation is the town of Kolin, Czech lands.

(44.) Sixty-two kilometers NEE of Uman. Two more sons, Eliyahu and Mordecai, are listed by Friedman in Ozar HaRabbanim; but these cannot be corroborated. I have not seen other mention of these sons.

(45.) Also known as Nesuhoyezhe, located near Rovno.

(46.) Their daughter married R. Samuel Jehiel, grandson of R. Isaac of Radziwilów and R. Abraham Joshua Heschel of Opatów. This was the “Great Wedding in Ustilla.” See Aescoly, Ha-Hasidut be-Polin, 82–8.

(47.) Possibly Botosani, in Romania.

(48.) “Margoliouth,” Encyclopedia Judaica, 963.

(49.) Also known as Pomortsy.

(50.) Again, we are relying upon Friedman alone.

(51.) Location unknown.

(52.) Location unknown. Closest approximation is Remel.

(53.) Prominent Hasidim from two other aristocratic families—Halpern and Landau—will not be included, because it cannot be established that they were Hasidic leaders. (1) Joel Halpern, av bet din of Leszniow, son of Israel Harif Halpern, av bet din of Zaslaw and Ostrog, was a disciple/colleague of the Besht. He married his (p.343) daughter to the zaddik Phineas Horowitz. (2) David Halpern, another early disciple/colleague of the Besht, inherited his position of rabbi of Ostróg from his father, Israel (probably the same Israel in no. 1, making him Joel's brother). David was a forbear of the zaddik Menahem Mendel of Kock (d. 1859). (3) Zvi Aryeh Landau of Alik, son of Abraham Landau of Alik, was a disciple of Jehiel Michael of Złoczów. He married his son to the daughter of the zaddik Mordecai of Krzemieniec, his teacher's son.

(54.) Wunder, Enziklopedia Le Hakhame Galizya, letters “tet” through “ayin,”:531. I have been unable to locate Min Shamayyim in any list or database.

(55.) I have not been able to confirm this, however. Some biographers describe Samuel as Mordecai's in-law.

(56.) Wunder, Enziklopedia Le Hakhame Galizya, letters “tet” through “ayin,”: 46–60.

(57.) Also known as Ozhiran, in the Ukraine.

(58.) Menahem Mendel Bodek, Seder Ha-Dorot, 58. Rapoport-Albert views the story as an example of Elimelekh attempting to groom his son for future leadership. See “The Problem of Succession in the Hasidic Leadership, with Special Reference to the Circle of Nahman of Bratslav,” 85.

(59.) But see Ettinger, who claims that Elimelekh “himself acted on the principle of transferring authority to a disciple: there is a tradition that `the rabbi Rabbi Melekh in his old age ordered all who were sick or embittered to come to his disciple R. Izikel of Lancut (the “seer” of Lublin). Until he accustomed everyone to come to Lancut. And they ceased to come to him. And he waxed very wroth' (Ohel Elimelekh [Jerusalem, 1967], 165)”; cited in Hundert, Essential Papers on Hasidism, 240. Both Ettinger and Rapoport-Albert rely on dubious sources. But judging by the additional fact that Elimelekh's son Eleazar succeeded him in Leżajsk, Rapoport-Albert's view is the more likely one.

(60.) R. Reuben successfully performed an exorcism. See Imrei Shefer (Lemberg, 1884), 11 (app.); reprinted in Nigal, Sipurei “Dybbuk,” 231–3.

(61.) Probably her brother Eleazar's father-in-law from his first marriage.

(62.) Perhaps Vienzindziai.

(63.) Wunder, Entsiklopedia Le Hakhame Galizya, letters “aleph” through “dalet,” 33. The Urbachs were a prominent Jewish family—the Besht claimed that R. Aryeh Leib Urbach (d. 1750), uncle of Meir Margaliot, had the soul of the talmudic sage R. Abayye.

(64.) See, for example, Heschel, Circle of the Baal Shem Tov, chap. 4.

(65.) R. Jehiel Michael might have been a member of the Rabinowitz family, because that name is attached to one of his descendants, Barukh Rabinowitz of Jassy.

(66.) Location unknown.

(67.) Shapiro, Mishpahot Atikot be Yisrael, 38. Ephraim Fischel was son of Samuel, av bet din of Indura, Minsk and the Galil, author of Responsa Shmuel. Samuel's father was Joseph, av bet din of Fiorda; and his grandfather, Samuel, was one of the greatest rabbinic legislators of the seventeenth century, author of Bet Shmuel.

(68.) Green, Menahem of Chernobyl's Upright Practices, 21.

(69.) Menahem Nahum's connection to the Katznellenbogen family is only noted by Friedman in Ozar Rabbanim. The Katzenellenbogen claim is absent in Twersky, Sefer Ha Yahas Mi Chernobyl ve-Ruzhin.

(70.) Rapoport-Albert, “Hasidism after 1772,” 129. R. Jehiel Michael of Złoczów died in 1786, and several of his sons became zaddikim.

(71.) Twersky, Sefer Ha Yahas Mi Chernobyl ve-Ruzhin, 18.

(72.) Horodezky writes that R. Nahum “lived in dire poverty. The records of the (p.344) hevra kadisha, the Burial Society in Chernobyl, contain a very characteristic note in this regard. Rabbi Nahum was admitted as a member, but being unable to pay the contribution of 3 Rubles in cash, he was obliged to give as security the book Sefer Hassidim.” See Leaders of Hassidism, 128.

(73.) Heilman, Bet Rebbe, 17. Barukh was son of Moses of Posen, son of Yudel (author of Kol Yehudah), son of Moses, son of Zvi Hirsch, son of Joseph Yoske (av bet din of Lublin), son-in-law of Judah Loebe, the Maharal of Prague.

(74.) Heilman, Bet Rebbe, 108.

(75.) Precise name and location unknown.

(76.) Location unknown.

(77.) Location unknown.

(78.) Heilman, Bet Rebbe, 111.

(79.) Sixty-two kilometers west of Witebsk.

(80.) Gottlober, Zikhronot u-Ma'asot, 151; David Assaf, “Momer o-Kadosh? Ma'aseh be-Ikvot Moshe Beno shel R. Schneur Zalman mi-Liady,” Zion 64:4 (2000).