Both The Father-In-Law And His Great Uncle - A Hypothesis
Shoshana (Bershad) commenting on A Footnote About His Life:
I’ve been trying to find some more information about the name of the Degel’s wife but have been unable to find anything further in online sources. I did, however, come up with a loose timeline and some background. According to some sources, Israel ben Eliezer, the Ba’al Shem Tov (1698-1760), first married at about age 18; his wife died soon thereafter. Around 1720, he married Leah Rachel (or Chanah), the daughter of Rabbi Ephraim of Brody. His wife’s brother was Rabbi Abraham Gershon Ashkenazi of Kuty (also known as Gershon Kittower or Kitover). He was the rabbi of Brody and a well-known Talmudic scholar and Cabalist. Since the Ba’al Shem Tov presented himself as an ignorant peasant, R’ Gershon at first disapproved of the match. In later years, however, he became one of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s most ardent followers. R’ Gershon traveled to Palestine in ~1742 and started the first Chassidic community there. Although many sources state that he arrived in Hebron in 1746 or 1747, there is a tradition that he studied Cabala in Jerusalem before 1743. According to a letter he wrote in 1757, he had lived in Hebron for 6 years [1743?-1749?] without his family (“Gershon relates that in the single Jewish courtyard there was so little room that they could not even let him bring his family”). He then went to the Beit El Synagogue (Yeshivat haMekubalim) in Jerusalem, where he lived for 4 years [1749?-1753?] with his wife and family. The famous letter from the Ba’al Shem Tov to R’ Gershon was written in 1752; in it, he refers to R’ Gershon’s wife, Bluma, and children. Apparently, R’ Gershon returned to Brody [~1753?] to arrange marriages for his sons and then returned to Jerusalem, where he died around 1760 (or 1765). The grandson of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the Degel (Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudilkov), was the son of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s daughter, Udel (Adel), and R’ Yechiel Ashkenazi. He is believed to have married a daughter of R’ Gershon. The Degel was born in 1748, around the time that R’ Gershon’s family moved to Jerusalem. If his future wife was born ~1750 in Palestine (when R’ Gershon was perhaps in his late 50s or early 60s and his wife, Bluma, was, presumably, much younger) and she returned to the Ukraine ~1753, she might have married the Degel in 1764 (the year they are listed together in the census). R’ Gershon would thus be BOTH the father-in-law of the Degel and his great-uncle! By the way, it occurs to me that the Degel’s wife might actually be a granddaughter of R’ Gershon; however, I could find no support for this hypothesis. (Some of the sources for this information are the Jewish Encyclopedia, BibleWiki, the Kuty Memorial Book, the RavSIG on JewishGen, the Jewish Agency for Israel web site, the Tluste/Tovste web site, the Baal Shem Tov Foundation web site, the McGrew.net web site, the Nehora web site, and the Grossman Project web site. Links available.)
A Simple Jew's comment:
There is some support to your hypothesis. On page 62 of the book "The Circle of the Baal Shem Tov", Abraham J. Heschel wrote: "Before leaving, R. Gershon secured the future marriage of his youngest daughter to R. Ephraim, the Besht's grandson, the future author of Degel Mahaney 'Efrayim. He seems to have promised to return to the Diaspora to give her in marriage."
On an interesting side note, "The Encyclopedia of Hasidism" by Tzvi M. Rabinowicz relates, "He [Rabbi Gershon of Kitov] was buried on the Mount of Olives. For more than two hundred years, his grave could not be found. Only after the Six-Day War (1967) were his grave and that of his wife (d. 1757) discovered."