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Monday, January 28, 2008


How to Deal with Sorrow…

Tonight, 22 Shvat is the 149th yahrzeit of the "Seraph" [fiery Angel], Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, [1787-1859], popularly known as the Kotzker Rebbe. We previously blogged on him here.

Rebbe Menachem Mendel received a thorough Torah education from his father, R. Leibush Morgenstern, a zealous opponent of Chassidus. When he was 13 years old he had mastered the entire Talmud. After his marriage at 14, he was introduced to the world of Chassidus, and before long he became an ardent follower of the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin and Rebbe Simcha Bunim of Pshischa, whom he eventually succeeded.
When he became the Rebbe of Kotzk, thousands of Chassidim flocked to that city, and a great number of outstanding young Torah scholars were attracted by his saintly personality and wide range of knowledge. Most prominent among his students were the Chiddushei HaRim of Ger and Rebbe Chanoch Henach of Alexander.
Although he did not write a sefer, his thoughts and commentaries were collected and published in Ohel Torah and Emet V'Emuna. He was an awe-inspiring figure who left an indelible mark on Chassidic thought. The Kotzker Rebbe's wisdom was also recorded in the book Amud HaEmet (Hebrew).

Singing at the top of the Ladder

"Three ways are open to a man who is in sorrow. He who stands on a normal rung weeps, he who stands higher is silent, but he who stands on the topmost rung converts his sorrow into song."
–– Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk

This reminds me of a story Reb Shlomo Carlebach tells about one of his niggunim, Motzi Asirim.
"Last year on the fourth night of Chanuka, all of Israel was standing by the Holy Wall praying for the people of Leningrad, of the Leningrad trial. I was with them. Suddenly we heard over the radio that they were sentenced to death, G-d forbid. I put my guitar back in its case. And some great Rabbi standing next to me said, 'What are you doing? This is the time to make up a new song.'
"I took my guitar out again. I opened a prayer book and there it said, 'Motzi asirim…G-d opens all the prisons.' There’s Some One up there Who redeems all the humble. Because is there anybody more humble than the Russian Jews? They’re the holy of the holiest and they don’t even know about it...He helps all the poor, the Yiddilach in Russia…they’re so holy, they’re so poor and they’re so sweet. They’re on their way to Yerushalayim. G-d promised us you’ll listen to our prayers. Just one time, G-d, listen to us this time. Don’t let them die. I can’t wait to see all of them in Yerushalayim by the Holy Wall."


While searching around the Blogosphere, I found this link to, apparently, a Kotzker niggun. Can anyone verify this?

Zechuso yagein Aleinu – May the Kotzker’s merits protect us all!!!

When we speak about the Kotzker's legacy, we need to mention the Avnei Nezer.
I'll never forget hearing Eli Wiesel talk about him in the 92nd Street Y.
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