Monday, December 7, 2009

Yahrzeit of the Maggid of Mezritch

The grave of the Maggid of Mezritch


Yesterday's date was 19 Kislev and we commemorated the Yahrzeit of the famous chassidic Rabbi Dov Baer Friedman – The Maggid of Mezritch. He passed away 237 years ago.

Rabbi Dov Baer was born in 1704 in Lukatz (Eastern Europe). His father was Rabbi Shlomo Dov Baer Friedman who served as the local Rabbi in Lukatz. Already at an early age, young Dov Baer developed a strong ability of advancing in his Jewish studies. His father sent him to the Yeshiva of Rabbi Yaakov Joshua Falk (1680 - 1756), author of the book "Pne'i Israe'l.

Later on, Rabbi Dov Baer married the daughter of Rabbi Shalom Shachna of Torchin. In his early years he earned his living as a teacher and a Maggid (preacher) in Koretz, Dubno and Rovno. He became known through using parables and making them meaningful and relevant. The Maggid told stories given as metaphors and the people were supposed to interpret a teaching out of that. Furthermore, he also was a deep admirer of the Lurianic Kabbalah.

So far, I have not found out the exact illness of Rabbi Dov Baer. However, is illness was the reason why he went to the Baal Shem Tov in the first place because he wanted to ask the great master for a blessing and healing (if possible). The first meeting between the two was not too positive and the Maggid went home. When he came for a second meeting some time later, he stayed for six months with the Baal Shem Tov. "He taught me the language of the birds, the secret of the wise (sages) and the mystical meaning of other things", explained the Maggid.

The Baal Shem Tov died in 1760 and many sources claim that it was the Maggid who wanted to take over leadership. Other sources state that there is absolutely no proof for the Maggid's desire being the new chassidic leader. Nevertheless, the most common opinion is that Rabbi Dov Baer announced after the Baal Shem had passed away that he (the Besht) chose him as his successor. Many followers of the Besht would have preferred the Besht's favourite student Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonnoye (Polna) and therefore a fight about leadership began between the two Rabbis.

After the death of the Baal Shem Tov, many students just broke away and went to other communities where they served as Rabbis. It took Rabbi Dov Baer about seven years to get accepted as a new chassidic leader. Due to him, the chassidic movement spread in Poland, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Hungary or Romania. Famous Rabbis such as Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditshev, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (Chabad), Rabbi Aharon of Karlin, Rabbi Nachum of Chernobyl, became his devoted students.

Just like the Baal Shem Tov, the Mezritcher Maggid did not write any books. His teachings were written down by Rabbi Salomon von Lutzk (died in 1813). The Maggid explained his viewpoint of the Zaddik (righteous person). The Besht was the soul of the Chassidim but the Maggid became their body. It was also him who introduced a chassidic Beit Din (rabbinic court).

In every human act is a divine manifestation; even in the evil side.
We should not only pray for our well – being but also for the Shechinah (G – d's presence) returning with the Jews to Israel. Rabbi Dov Baer considered Eretz Israel to be the spiritual center of the world. G – d's Shechinah went with the Jews into the Babylonian exile after the destruction of the First Temple. The Shechinah always accompanies the Jews wherever they go. It even suffers with us. The role of the Zaddik is restoring the Shechinah to its original glory with the main goal to bring about Meshiach.

We, the Jews, have never really left Egypt because there are still many of us living in the Diaspora. Not only in a physical exile but also in a spiritual exile. Jews in the Diaspora have a rather strange way of Diaspora thinking and mentality. As long as there is a Diaspora, Egypt still exists. We have to ask ourselves if we have always longed for Meshiach to arrive. Have we actively done something to bring the Ge'ulah closer ?

After the death of the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Dov Baer moved to Mezritch. He died on 19 Kislev 1772. His successor was his son Rabbi Avraham HaMalach (Rabbi Avraham the Angel).


"The Encyclopedia of Hasidism" by Tzvi M. Rabinowicz


  1. I heard that Reb Yaakov Yosef of Polonnoye never got over the acceptance of the Maggid as new leader. He sat alone for the rest of his life. Never again had guests at his house for shabbos. For a good story on the Madggid of Mezeritch:

  2. the magid had problems with his legs it was hard for him to walk and as the story goes he was never healed from it. also Rabbi Nachman says that chasidim should not make NEW holidays.