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Monday, July 23, 2007



This Tisha B’Av will be the 192nd yahrzeit of Rebbe Yaakov Yitzchak, the Chozeh [Seer] of Lublin, who is one of the truly beloved figures of Chassidus. A disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, he continued his studies under Rebbe Shmelke of Nikolsburg and Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk. After he moved from Lanczut to Lublin, thousands of Chassidim flocked to him, to savor his teachings and to be warmed by his saintly presence.

REB SHLOMO CARLEBACH says: "The Chozeh of Lublin - the heart trembles! Everybody knows that from the time of the Holy Temple there was not a group like this, like the chevraya Kadisha of Lublin. The Rebbe of Lublin said about himself that he had the neshama [soul] of the prophet Yeshaya. He didn’t have mamesh [actual] prophecy because he lived in chutz la’Aretz [outside of the Land of Israel]. He had some 5,000 Chassidim who had ruach haKodesh, and thousands upon thousands of others, who were simple Jews. They once asked Rebbe Naftali Tzvi of Ropshitz why the Chozeh and his talmidim didn’t bring Moshiach. 'I’ll tell you the truth,' answered Reb Naftali, 'it was so good (by the Chozeh) that we forgot to bring him.' But the Chozeh always yearned to bring Moshiach. What Reb Naftali said was just a matter of humor."


Rebbe Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz of Lublin, who became known as "the Chozeh" only some fifty years after his passing, is known as the father of Polish Chassidus. Almost all the Polish Rebbes can trace themselves back to the court of the Chozeh. Besides the Ropshitzer, among his ardent followers were such Chassidic luminaries as Rebbe Yechezkel of Kuzmir, Rebbe Yaakov Yitzchak [HaYehudi HaKadosh - The Holy Jew/Yid], Rebbe Simcha Bunim of Pshischa, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, Rebbe Meir of Apta, Rebbe David of Lelov, Rebbe Moshe Teitelbaum of Uhel ["Yismach Moshe"], Rebbe Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov ["Bnei Yissaschar"], Rebbe Klonymus Kalman of Cracow ["Ma'or VaShemesh"], Rebbe [Sar] Shalom of Belz, Rebbe Yissaschar Dov Ber of Radoshitz, and many others. The present-day Chassidic dynasties of Ger [Gur], Satmar, Belz, Modzitz, Sanz, Bluzhev and many others, all had their origins in Lublin.

He merited the 'title' of Chozeh, which means seer or visionary, due to his great intuitive powers. For example, he had the ability to discern a petitioner's character, his past deeds, and the root of his soul by glancing at his forehead. The Chozeh could look into the future. He could see, it was said, "from one end of the world to the other." He could see events taking place, far away from where he was sitting [see the last paragraph below as well].


The story is told of Rebbe Yissachar Dov Ber of Radoshitz , who said to his teacher, the Chozeh, "Show me one general way to the service of G-d."

His teacher replied, "It is impossible to tell people what way they should take. For one way to serve G-d is through learning, another through prayer, another through fasting, and still another through eating. Everyone should carefully observe what way his heart draws him, and then choose this way with all his strength."

Which almost brings us to our story…


As a result of this story posted over a month ago on A Simple Jew’s blog, I commented: There's a great story about the Chozeh of Lublin's clock, that borders on this theme. Bli neder, I hope to post it for his yahrzeit, which is Tisha B'Av. Watch the space on my blog!
It appears right below. This story appears in many versions, but I haven’t seen [or heard] a better one than the way
Rabbi Michel Twerski of Milwaukee tells it. The following is my lightly edited transcription of the story, which appears on "The Melava Malka Experience" recording.

as told by Rabbi Michel Twerski Shlita of Milwaukee

When the holy Chozeh of Lublin passed away, all of his Chassidim found themselves in a time of extreme aveilus [mourning]. It seemed to them that there would be no one, nowhere, to whom they could turn, that would replace the giant who had served as their guide and inspiration for so many years. Most grief-stricken of all was his son, R. Yossele Tulchiner, who was in his own right a man of great righteousness, he was himself a tzaddik of great repute, and he could find no consolation. He remained behind in Lublin for many weeks, trying to find some place where he might comfort himself. At long last, he realized that he needed to move on.

Before he left, he went to see if he might collect some of his father’s belongings, so that when he returned home he would have some physical mementos with which to comfort himself. He threw a number of articles into a bag – amongst which was a wall clock. It was kind of a cumbersome thing, but it was something that reminded him of the room in which his father, the Chozeh, had learned, davened and received his Chassidim.

So he set out along the way, to return home to Tulchin. We must remember that R. Yosef, not unlike other tzaddikim of his time, was essentially destitute and penniless. And so he was very much dependent upon the goodwill of whoever happened to be traveling – that they might give him a lift in their horse-drawn wagon. Finally, someone pitied him, and as it turned out – as the Gemara says, "poverty follows the poor." This fellow who gave him a ride, had an open carriage. A number of hours into the trip, it began to pour – it was a deluge! They were soon soaked to the bone, and a cool breeze began to chill them.

He knew that unless he found some haven, that he would catch the death of a cold. And so, he ran for the first shelter that he could find. He finally found an inn – the innkeeper was very hospitable and took him in, built a warm fire, offered him a warm drink, and something with which to cover himself in his discomfort. He spent the night there. The next day, the rain continued and he spent another day and night there.

R. Yossele Tulchiner, warming up, with his bag next to him...


Finally, the weather cleared, and he was able to set out again. It came time to negotiate with the innkeeper for his shelter and food. When presented with the bill, of course, R. Yossele had no money. So he turned to him and said, “Look, I have nothing. But I do have some of the mementos, the things that belonged to my illustrious father. Perhaps there is something here that would be of value to you.”

The innkeeper was no Chassid, and none of these things meant anything to him. So he searched through the bag. Finally, his eyes set on this clock. "This is really not worth it," he said, "but it’s the only thing you have that even approaches in value, so I’ll take the clock." Reluctantly but nonetheless gratefully, he surrendered the clock. R. Yossele left and continued on his way.


Many, many years passed. One of the Chozeh’s esteemed Chassidim, who was now a leader of a Chassidic community in his own right, [known as] the Saba Kadisha of Radoshitz, Rebbe Yissaschar Ber, was traveling with his Chassidim. As they were traveling, they sought a place to spend the night, and they found this particular inn. The innkeeper was again very hospitable and gave the Rebbe his finest room.

The Chassidim did the best they could with the little bit of room that was left. Night fell, and everyone went to sleep. The proprietor of the inn went to bed. He heard sounds coming from the Rebbe’s room. At first he ignored them, but they became increasingly disturbing. The Rebbe was clearly marching around his room. Soon the marching turned into a dance. He could hear the Rebbe singing to himself and dancing.

At first, he thought it would soon end. Ten minutes. Half an hour. An hour. Throughout the night, the Rebbe danced. Finally, early in the morning, the innkeeper knocked on the door and said, "Rebbe, all night you’ve been awake dancing – I heard you! What’s happening?"

The Rebbe said, "I, too, would like to know what’s happening. Please tell me – where did you get this clock – the one in my room?"

The innkeeper replied, "There was once a traveler who couldn’t pay his bill. And he said that his father was a great Rabbi; I don’t remember the name. But some objects belong to him, and I claimed the clock in payment."

The Radoshitzer said, "What did this traveler look like?"

The innkeeper described him. The Radoshitzer called his Chassidim. "It’s clear to me that R. Yossele must have traveled this way after his father’s petira [passing]. And when he couldn’t pay his bill, he gave up the clock. I remember the clock well. When I used to go in to the Rebbe, the Chozeh, I would see that clock on the wall. I knew that this clock had to be the Rebbe’s!"

"What gave it away?" asked the Chassidim.

The Rebbe replied, "Every clock in the world, when it ticks, it’s depressing. Every tick signifies another second of life gone, spent, never again to be claimed. That’s how most of us deal with time.

"But the Rebbe had a command and appreciation for time; that every moment to him was a moment closer to the Geula Shelaima, to bias Moshiach Tzidkeinu [the complete Redemption and coming of the righteous Messiah]. His clock did not tick with sadness or sorrow; it was not a mournful tick. It was positive – full of hope, not a tick of despair. The tick-tock of the Rebbe’s clock was one that marched towards the Geula Shelaima.

"When I came, I wanted to sleep – I was tired! But that clock – it kept me constantly moving towards the Geula. How can you sleep when you have a clock that reminds you every moment that we are a moment closer to the Geula Shelaima? So I danced all night!"


Rav Michel Twerski adds: This clock of the Holy Chozeh represents something that we learned about, something which has the capacity to do two opposite things: the Parah Aduma [the red heifer], which defiles the pure, and purifies the defiled. For all of us, life presents many opportunities. For some of us, they turn into problems. We look at them – another problem, another nail into our hide, another difficulty, barrier, obstacle; another cause for sorrow, sadness; another area to drain us of our energy. And because we take that attitude, it cripples us; it turns into a shackle which won’t release us.

On the other hand, there are people who have very much the same kinds of challenges and tests. To them, they are opportunities, doors, gates – into bigger and better things – developing new strengths, insights; commanding new perspectives, and ways for us to be able to rise above the things that challenge our way in life. The same test – trial – tribulation; but attitude makes all the difference.

For some of us, those tests are the "tick in the clock," which is a tick of despair, a sound of life wasted. For others, it brings us closer to our own Geula, to redeeming all of the potential and all of the resources in ourselves. Something else to bring out the kochos hanefesh [soul powers] that we have. It’s one move closer to our own personal Geula, and ultimately, through us, a contribution to the Geula Shelaima.


A similar concept is found in regards to Tisha B’Av itself. This is from Rav Zvi Leshem of Nishmat:

Chazal tell us (Yoma 54b) that when the Roman general Titus burst into the Kodesh HaKodeshim while the Beis HaMikdash was being destroyed, the two Kruvim (Cherubim) on the Holy Ark were embracing each other. The Ritva, citing the R"i Migash, asks the following question: The Gemara, in Bava Basra 99a, states that the Kruvim served as an indicator of Am Yisrael’s relationship with Hashem. If we fulfilled Hashem’s will, they faced each other, and if not, they faced apart. Amazingly, at the moment the Beis HaMikdash was burning, the ultimate punishment for our sins, the Kruvim were not only facing each other, but they were actively embracing! Yet how could this be?

The Shabbos before Tisha B’Av is referred to as Shabbos Chazon, the Shabbos of Vision, after the beginning of the Haftara for Parshas Devarim, which is taken from Isaiah. Rav Tzadok HaKohen (Pri Tzaddik, Devarim 13) asks why, and quotes a famous Midrash on the Book of Eicha. According to this Midrash, on Tisha B’Av, after the Churban, Moshiach is born. This is brought about through the merit of the teshuva that Am Yisrael did (which unfortunately came too late) in response to the destruction. For this reason, the Kruvim were hugging each other, because at this moment of teshuva, Am Yisrael were transformed from sinners into tzaddikim, doing the will of Hashem.

Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, in Bnei Yissaschar: Av 3:1, quotes the Mezritcher Maggid’s startling response to the same question about the Kruvim hugging each other: "A man is obligated to be with his wife before departing upon a journey." This concept is also discussed in the laws of Taharas HaMishpacha (the laws of family purity). Since a couple, before an impending separation, feels great love and yearning for each other, there is a special obligation of mitzvas ona, marital relations. Here as well, as Am Yisrael and Hashem prepare to be separated by the journey of the exile, intense emotions of yearning and love overcome the prior negativity in their relationship, enabling the Kruvim to embrace amidst the flames of the Churban.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained this concept in Likkutei Sichos. In chitzoniyus (external reality), we see flames, destruction, death, and exile. However, in pnimiyus (internal reality), galus is no less than the first stage of the next geula. Every step towards exile is actually one step closer to returning, bringing us one day closer to Moshiach and the Third Temple! This ultimately true inner reality is only really evident in the world’s most "inner" place, inside the Kodesh HaKodeshim. Here, the Kruvim are embracing.

Tisha B’Av is the day of the most powerful expression of the yearning, longing, and desire between Am Yisrael and Hashem. Such love and passion is aroused, states the Bnei Yissaschar, that it facilitates the birth of Moshiach, the world’s "highest" soul. Only from the depths of destruction can there arrive a yearning that is powerful enough to lead us to full redemption.

This is a manifestation of the well-known Chassidic concept (very prevalent in Breslov Chassidus) of Yerida Tachlis Aliya, "in the very descent, ascent is already manifest." An important rule in each of our personal lives, this concept teaches us that churban and galus contain the sparks of teshuva and Ahavas Hashem, paving the way for Geula and Moshiach.


Another example of the Chozeh’s great visionary powers:

On the day he left the world (the 9th of Av, 1815), the Chozeh prophesied that 100 years from that day, the Russians would lose their reign over Poland. And so it was to the date: on July 20, 1915 (which was the 9th of Av), the Austrians conquered Lublin. In the year 1916, during World War I, the Chozeh's prophecy was noted in the Polish newspapers, in the following report: "The Jews of Lublin recounted that Rebbe Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz wrote in his last will and testament that 100 years after his death, Russia would cease to rule over Lublin. He passed away on Tisha B’Av 1815; and last year, on Tisha B’Av 1915, Austria conquered Lublin."


Zechuso yagein Aleinu v'al Kol Yisrael - May the Chozeh's merits protect us all!

Great job, Yitz, on this rendition of one of my favorite Chassidishe stories. You know the story is being told by a superb storyteller when you enjoy every word, even though you've heard it a hundred times. So kol ha kavod to Ha Rav Michel Twerski, Shlita, and to you, Yitz. Every word was a pleasure.
Thank you so much, Chana. Readers should know that Chana is the editor & driving force behind the new book, Faith Under Fire, about last year's Lebanon War here in Israel. It's available now - on sale - at Targum Press, here.
ASJ: Thanks for the link! :))
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