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14****Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz - The Maggid of Koznitz

Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz - The Maggid of Koznitz

 Born: Apta, 1740

Died:   Koznitz,1814

Rabbi Yisrael , one of the founders of Chassidism in Poland, was the son of a poor bookbinder. He became a disciple of four great chassidic rebbes - R' Shmuel Shmelke of Nikolsburg, the Maggid of Mezritch, R' Elimelech of Lizhensk, and R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. 

Upon his death bed, R' Elimelech of Lizhensk passed on to his disciples specific spiritual powers or talents he himself had possessed. To the Chozeh of Lublin he gave his eyes power to see; to R' Abraham Yeshua Heshel, his lips' power to pronounce judgement; to R' Yisrael of Koznitz, his heart's power to pray and finally to R' Menachem Mendel of Rymanov, he gave his spirit's power to guide.

The phenomenal range of R' Yisrael's Talmudic and Kabbalistic knowledge astounded the foremost scholars of his day. R' Chaim of Volozhin, the greatest Lithuanian gaon (eminent scholar) of his age, testified after spending an entire day with him that he had the entire Talmud at his fingertips and had committed to memory the commentaries of Rashi and Tosafot - truly an amazing feat.

Rabbi Yisrael, known for his fiery enthusiasm for Chassidut, earned the reputation of a baal mofet, a man of wonders and miracles, a healer whose prayers for the sick and the needy and for childless couples were answered from Above. Often he would go into seclusion, seeking communication with God, living an ascetic life of fasting and self-mortification. For a short time he lived in Phis'cha where he served as teacher of young boys, after which he settled in Koznitz where he established a flourishing center of Chassidut.

In spite of his feeble body and frail health he would dance vigorously, ablaze with sheer ecstasy, during prayer and chassidic gatherings. For nearly 50 years he led the Koznitz community, teaching and edifying his followers. During his period he developed a close friendship with the Chozeh of Lublin and R' Menachem Mendel of Rymanov.

His spellbinding oratory earned him the cognomen the Koznitzer Maggid (maggid means "accomplished preacher"). His writings reflect the influence of the philosophy of the Maharal of Prague. Indeed he wrote a commentary on the Maharal's Gevurot Yisrael. Most popular among the many books by the Koznitzer Maggid is Avodat Yisrael, thoughts on the weekly Torah portions. He also wrote Bet Yisrael, on the Talmud; Nezer Yisrael and Or Yisrael, both on the Zohar; and Tehillot Yisrael on Psalms. He was succeeded by his son Rabbi Moshe Elyakim Beriah.

Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz said...

"The Jewish people are blessed [from God] in that each of their limbs has been given a mitzvah. The meaning is that each person should make himself holy in each of his 248 limbs by accepting upon himself the holiness of the 248 positive mitzvot [and doing them.] If he does this God will be able dwell within him. " (p. 153 sefer Avodat Yisrael) 

About the Passover Haggadah... 

The Passover Haggadah states, "At first our fathers worshipped idols, but now God has brought us close to His worship." The authors of the Haggadah arranged that we should speak of this at the time of our redemption. From this we learn that one should not say, "I have done so many evil deeds that there is no longer any way for me to be rectified and come close to God." One should say the precise opposite and resolve to repent at least from this day on. He should declare, "Is it true that our forefathers originally worshipped idols? But still, God brought us close to His worship." The Midrash states that Abraham was 48 years old when he first recognized God. He was concerned with the sins of his youth, but God consoled him by saying, "Dew is your childhood" (Psalms 110:3) - your childhood shall be considered as pure as dew. (Haggadat Avodat Yisrael - Koznitz)  

May the merit of the tzaddik  Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz  protect us all, Amen.

 

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