Monday, December 19, 2005

Trying To Understand The Younger Brother

Today, the 18th of Kislev, is the yahrzeit of Rebbe Baruch of Medzhebuz. Rebbe Baruch was a grandson of the Baal Shem Tov and also the younger brother of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim.

Although he was a great tzaddik, Rebbe Baruch's neshoma was rooted in a place that makes him almost inaccessible to me. The Toldos section of the 1995 printing of Degel Machaneh Ephraim states, "Two holy souls did the children of the holy Besht bring down into this world, one from the side of chessed [kindness], namely our Rabbi [the Degel], and one from the side of gevurah [strength/strictness] namely Rebbe Baruch, may his merit protect us. And of Rebbe Baruch, it is told that at the time of his passing on the 18th of Kislev, that they found next to him the holy Zohar, open to the page on which is written, "There are different kinds of Anger. There is Anger that is blessed above and below, and it is called Baruch [blessed]".

I have visited his kever in Medzhebuz, but did not leave a kvittel there. I have a copy of his sefer Botzina DeNehora on my bookshelf, but I have not yet opened it pages to learn from it. I have had a tough time relating to Rebbe Baruch ever since reading this story many years ago. This problem was further exacerbated when I learned that the Tehilos Baruch [Perek Heh] relates that Rebbe Baruch once cursed the people of my family's shtetl when they did not act nicely towards him.

If his teachings are quoted by his older brother in Degel Machaneh Ephraim, why do I still have trouble with Rebbe Baruch?

What prevents me from seeing this great tzaddik in a better light?


Chabakuk Elisha responds:

A couple points:

We know that some people are rooted in Chesed and some are rooted in Gevura. We surely relate best to those with whom we share sensitivities, and there is nothing wrong with that. But we should understand that the gevura is not "mean".

Reb Baruch was a truly lofty man. As a child he slept in his grandfather's room and listened to Achiya Hashiloni study with the Besht (when the Baal Shem Tov found out, he made him sleep elsewhere). He was raised mainly by R' Pinchas of Koretz and the Toldos Yaakov Yosef - both of whom praised R' Baruch greatly.

The Ruziner stated that Yechiel, father of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim and R' Baruch, ascended to heaven to select lofty souls to be his children. He chose the Degel first and then R' Baruch, but R' Baruch's soul didn't want to descend to this world unless all Tzaddikim of the world would be subservient to him, but the soul of the Baal HaTanya refused to do so and this disturbed R' Baruch greatly. We all know of the epic struggle between the Baal HaTanya and R' Baruch, but make no mistake, they each held the other in the highest esteem.

Botzina DeNehora is a special sefer even if its not your path, it remains a lofty path nonetheless!

Chazal tell us that the words of Tzaddikim are like coals of fire; they can singe or burn those around them. This is certainly true of R' Baruch.

R' Baruch once said, "If my grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, was R' Shimon Bar Yochai, then I am Elazar his son." (Remember that R' Shimon bar Yochai stated, "I have seen lofty men and they are few; and if there are only two, they are my son and myself.") Also remember how R' Shimon and his son R' Elazar caused a man to burst into flames when they saw him desecrate Shabbos. But that does not make them "mean" since often their gevura contains a higher level of chesed.

Botzina DeNehora contains the following story:

R' Baruch was once sitting with his brother R' Moshe Chaim Ephraim, the Degel Machaneh Ephraim, and R' Asher of Stolin. R' Baruch took a glass of vodka and said to R' Asher, "L'chaim, May Moshiach come."

R' Asher responded, "L'chaim, may we go out to greet Moshiach."

R' Moshe Chaim Ephraim said to R' Baruch, "L'chaim, May Moshiach come," and to R' Asher he said, "L'chaim, may we go out to greet Moshiach."

Then R' Baruch yelled angrily at R' Asher, "Litvak! How dare you deviate from my blessing? Take it back! Litvak! Take it back! May your ancestors to be pulled from their graves!"

R' Moshe Chaim Ephraim could not contain himself and he said, "At first I understood your words, but now I don't - what have you against his ancestors!?

R' Baruch then asked his brother, "What was your understanding?"

R' Moshe Chaim Ephraim replied, "My understanding was that you meant to say that Moshiach should come whether we are worthy or not and R' Asher's blessing was for Moshiach to come, but only if we are worthy. But your second statement has confused me."

R' Baruch then said that he had indeed understood correctly, but that the second comment was a completely differently matter, "You see, R' Asher has no sons and I blessed him that he should merit to have a son, and as is known, one's ancestor's come to his bris. So my blessing was that his ancestors should be pulled from their graves to the bris!"

And so it was, not long after, G-d helped and R' Asher had a son "the Beis Aharon" who later became the Rebbe of Stolin.

Chazal say that through gevura one can give a far greater bracha than through chesed because there are not forces that oppose gevura as they oppose chesed. R' Baruch was able to accomplish great good through his gevura! Zechuso Yagein Aleinu.


At December 19, 2005 at 9:17:00 AM EST, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

ASJ - This is one of my favorite posts of yours. Although I hear and can appreciate Chabakuk Elisha's answer, I am with you in not being able to connect with the harsher Chassidic masters. I can certainly learn from them (your quote of the day today is beautiful and deep), but I am often troubled by their actions and the sharpness of their words. Just as pure chessed is often ineffective, so too is pure gevurah. Balance is needed in order to give fully in a way that will be well received by many. I wonder if perhaps my inability to connect with the gevurahdik rebbeim speaks to an imbalance in my own perceptions....much to think about...

At December 19, 2005 at 9:22:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...


Firstly, thanks for sharing this with us, and Chabakuk Elihsa's magnificent response.

Secondly - please remember that "everyone is careful to say 'the Rebbe, Reb Baruch'. This teaches you that he is accorded an additional status, whether during his lifetime or afterwards...derech eretz requires that 'the Rebbe' should precede 'Reb Baruch.' " [Eliezer Steinman, Be'er HaChassidus, p. 155]

In your copy of Botzina D'Nehora is there also Mekor Baruch, a 60-plus page biography of the Rebbe Reb Baruch? If yes, please read. If not, try to get a copy!

Much of what follows is from that sefer:

Rebbe Yisrael of Rizhin said that the Rebbe Reb Baruch uplifted and rectified souls that had gone astray from their madreiga, with his anger. The Rebbe Reb Baruch himself attested to this. He used to severely curse many of those who came to ask him for advice or bracha. It was believed that his
curses were a sign of bracha.

Time out for Mincha, when I return a story to illustrate the above point!

At December 19, 2005 at 9:31:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

MCAryeh: I am glad you enjoyed that posting so much. Perhaps it is ironic that I feel a connection to the Kotzker Rebbe, even though he was known to be 100% gevura. The Kotzker Rebbe's words cut right to the heart of a matter, while R' Baruch's words had layers of veiled meaning.

Yitz: You constantly prove to be a tremendous source of information on the history of Chassidus.

My copy of Botzina DeNehora is a 1920's printing from Lublin. I will need to buy the newer printing that I have linked to in my posting since this probably has the "Mekor Baruch" section that you mentioned.

I look forward to your story after Mincha.

At December 19, 2005 at 10:11:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

Thanks for the compliment, ASJ... now on to the story...

One of the Rebbe Reb Baruch's Chassidim was a wine merchant. Due to his honesty & integrity, he was given wine on credit, to be paid for after he sold it. One Erev Shabbos, on the way to an inn, he was aroused to do teshuva about a certain matter. He was so overcome by this thought of teshuva, that he left a wagonload of wine near the inn and headed for Medzibuzh, arriving there shortly before Shabbos.

When he told the Rebbe Reb Baruch what had happened to him and how he had abandoned the wine, the Rebbe began to yell at him scornfully, "You idiot! How could you have abandoned other people's goods for nothing?!"

Throughout the Shabbos, the Rebbe Reb Baruch continually ridiculed him, embarrassing him before everyone there. The Rebbe Reb Baruch's mechutan, R. Avraham of Chemilnik was present, and couldn't bear to see this continue. He said, "Mechutan! Waht about the Gemara which says, 'Whoever embarrasses his fellow man publicly...?' "

The Rebbe Reb Baruch replied, "Don't I know that one who embarrasses his fellow man publicly has no portion in Olam Haba [the World to Come]? However, I've given up my Olam Haba in order to benefit this man. For his non-Jewish drivers have plotted to steal all the wine, causing him a severe loss. But the distress & suffering he has undergone as a result of my scorn and abuse will save him, for it replaces the distress he would have had over the loss [of the wine]."

The Tzemach Tzedek of Lubavitch, who told this story, concluded, "This was real mesiras nefesh [self-sacrifice] -- to give away one's Olam Haba to save a Jew's money!"

Finally, two small things:

It doesn't hurt to light a yahrzeit candle on the yahrzeit of a Tzaddik [I've just lit one for the Maggid!]. They say it brings the light of the Tzaddik's neshama into your home!

Since I didn't blog about the Rebbe Reb Baruch on my Negina blog, let me add that we do know of at least one niggun of his -- again via Chassidei Breslov. It is sung both for Chasanim to walk down to the Chupa, and for the Shabbos Zemer "Shabbos Hayom LaShem."

Zechuso yagein aleinu...

At December 19, 2005 at 10:25:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yitz: Thank you!! This story has proven to me that I cannot take R' Baruch's words at their simple meaning. Indeed, he was a very complex person. Both you and Chabakuk Elisha have helped me to better understand him.

For all others, be sure to read Yitz's latest posting about the yahrzeit of the Maggid of Mezeritch here:

Heichal HaNeginah

At December 19, 2005 at 11:28:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall reading that R' Nachman used tunes for Ata Nigleisa and Eishes Chayil that came from R' Baruch (but R' Nachman switched them, using the original Ata Nigleisa tune for Eishes Chayil and vice-versa).

At December 19, 2005 at 11:56:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Anonymous: Thanks for the information.

Mirty: We won't hold it against you that you are a Litvak;) One of my great-grandmothers also came from Kosovo-Poleski (aka: Kosova), which was the hometown of the Chazon Ish.

I am glad that you liked these stories. Thanks as always for your comment :)

At December 19, 2005 at 3:50:00 PM EST, Blogger yitz said...

Anonymous -

Ben Zion Solomon's notes to the Eishes Chayil say that "the melody...was sung by the Rebbe Reb Baruch of Medzibuzh...It was Rebbe Nachman who adapted it to Eishes Chayil." Not clear if the RR Bauch actually composed it.

Where can one find/hear the Ata Nigleisa tune???

At December 20, 2005 at 12:43:00 AM EST, Blogger Akiva said...

I have a story of a meeting between Rabbi Levi Yitchok of Berditchev and the Rebbe, Rabbi Baruch, I'll have to send it to you so you can post it (or I'll post it and send you a link).

It's one of my favorite stories, the meeting between chesed and gevurah.

At December 20, 2005 at 6:38:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Akiva: Excellent! Why don't you post it on your blog, and I will link to it. Sound good?

At December 20, 2005 at 8:30:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ata Nigleisa is found on a Breslover tape from Tzfat "Today"--see

Andy Statman also does it in Coltrane-like style as an instrumental on his CD "Between Heaven and Earth" (the cut entitled "You Were Revealed")--see

At August 20, 2009 at 4:54:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Tal Moshe Zwecker said...

An excerpt from the Kedushas Levi I am working on:

The Sincere Intentions of Reb Baruch Mezibuzher

The Tchortkover Rebbe would often relate the following story:

Reb Moshe’le from Zhvill, the son of Reb Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov, was once visiting the Rebbe Reb Baruch of Mezibuzh. At that time, the chassid Reb Yaakov Mohilliver, who was known by his nickname Reb Yakovka, was also visiting Reb Baruch. Reb Yakovka was the court jester and would entertain Reb Baruch by acting out the antics of the holy Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchever, how he would bow and prostrate himself during the shofar blowing or during the lighting of the Chanukah candles.

The Rebbe Reb Baruch would laugh out loud at these performances, and it appeared as if he was making fun of the holy Berditchever.

Reb Moshe’leh of Zhvill was present at Reb Baruch’s Shabbos table when Reb Yakovka performed his comedy act, mimicking Reb Levi Yitzchak’s bowing and gestures that he would make when he served the Creator. Reb Baruch laughed so hard it seemed that his stomach would burst! But Reb Moshe’leh was beside himself with anguish. How could anyone in the world could laugh and make fun of such a Tzaddik as the holy rav of Berditchev?

The scene replayed itself at each of the Shabbos meals: Reb Yakovka acted out different antics of the Berditchever’s holy avodah, and Reb Baruch did not stop laughing during the entire meal.

Reb Moshe’leh’s hair stood on end and he felt chills run through his body as he observed the travesty going on before him. He could find no explanation for Reb Baruch’s shameful behavior. Although he had originally planned on spending another Shabbos in Mezibuzh, he immediately decided against it. On Sunday, he came to take his leave of Reb Baruch and return home.

“Why are you in such a hurry? Stay a little longer. Spend another Shabbos with us,” Reb Baruch entreated his guest.

Reb Moshe’leh could not contain himself. He burst out with a pained heart, “How can you make fun of the holy Berditchever Rav whom I know to be a saintly man of G-d!”

“Another good Jew who does not know what he is saying!” Reb Baruch exclaimed. “For several years now the holy Berditchever has in mind all the kavanos that the kohen gadol had in the Beis HaMikdash when he prays. In order to preempt the prosecutions of the satan, I have no choice but to mock and belittle the Berditchever’s avodah. This nullifies the prosecutions of the satan and hastens the redemption and the rebuilding of the Mikdash. I know the truth in my heart, that the holy rav of Berdichiver is great and awesome. My laughter is solely to cancel the satan’s evil intentions.”


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