The Maggid of MezritchFrom the Previous Rebbe’s essay, “Fathers of Chassidus,” HaTamim, Vol. 2, pp. 140-142. Apparently, this continues what the Rebbe Rashab told the Previous Rebbe during their walks in the country, quoting what the Tzemach Tzedek told the Rebbe Maharash during his illness.


After our master the Baal Shem Tov passed away, his son Reb Tzvi was elected the Nasi and mentor. However, by the time the first year had passed, the Holy Society noticed that their master and Rebbe’s son was not strong enough for the job. The circumstances of the time required a person of great fortitude and energy, who possessed the spiritual tools needed for the top leadership. This situation provoked much worry.

During the Yom Tov meal of the second day of Shavuos the day following the Baal Shem Tov’s first yartzeit the tzaddik Reb Tzvi sat at the head of the table. He wore the holy garments of his father the Baal Shem Tov, and was surrounded by all the members of the Holy Society. After finishing his Torah discourse, he stood up and declared: “Today, my saintly father appeared to me. This is what he said”:

As of today, the Heavenly Angelic Court and the assistant angels who once attended me transfer their allegiance [from you] to our master and Rebbe, the holy and awesome Reb Bereniu2 ben Avraham.

Therefore my son relinquish your position as Nasi to him, in the presence of the entire Holy Society. Let him sit in my place at the head of the table, while you my son take his seat. Know that because of this you will all have success, for he possesses a “double measure of prophecy.”3

Without further delay, Reb Tzvi turned to the holy Reb Dov Ber and wished him mazel tov! He took off his outer cloak and gave it to our saintly master Reb Dov Ber. Then, he sat down in Reb Dov Ber’s seat. The saintly Reb Dov Ber immediately took the seat at the head of the table, while all members of the Holy Society stood up to hear the Torah discourse that would be delivered by the new Nasi. According to tradition, the first discourse he delivered was a homiletic commentary on the verse “Their appearance and their work was as if it were a wheel within a wheel.”4

The saintly Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, told his son, my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, that the discourse “Their appearance and their work… “ printed in Torah Or, Parshas Yisro is the same as that first discourse delivered by the Maggid of Mezritch when he accepted the position of Nasi during the festival of Shavuos 5521 [1761]. The Alter Rebbe heard it from the saintly Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Horodok, author of P’ri HaAretz, who had been present at the time. But the Alter Rebbe transcribed it according to his own style.

Now even while the tzaddik Reb Tzvi was still the Nasi, the holy Reb Dov Ber would oversee the general management. But their cooperative efforts had become so weakened that the rumor spread in the camp of the misnagdim the house built by our master the Baal Shem Tov was about to collapse (G‑d forbid).

However, within three months of the Maggid’s appointment as Nasi, they reinforced all the centers where they were at work those in Vohlynia and Podolia, as well as those in Lita and Poland. At the main headquarters, where the Maggid himself lived, they pursued their tasks with great diligence.


During the leadership of the Rebbe the Maggid, their efforts were doubled, and the organization became even better. As time passed, the campaign was carried out in even broader fashion, by the hundreds and thousands of disciples and chassidim living throughout the country. Already in the Baal Shem Tov’s day, several of his disciples were traveling around Lita. A few of them even settled in the towns of Homel, Bobroisk, Dubravna,5 and the surrounding villages.

As already mentioned, the Baal Shem Tov’s disciples were very organized in their work. Most of them were great Torah scholars, and whenever they arrived in a city, they would sit down in the beis hamedrash and engage the local Torah scholars in conversation. Thus they pursued their campaign of promoting the Baal Shem Tov’s program.

When the Maggid first began his leadership, he intensified the campaign in Lita. He sent to Lita disciples who were mighty warriors in the study of Toras HaChassidus.6 Unfortunately, they did not succeed at their appointed task. Later, he sent disciples who were also mighty warriors in the revealed aspects of the Torah.

His disciples traveled throughout Lita for about two years, and they succeeded in capturing the hearts of a substantial number of new Torah scholars. They also inspired the hearts of the earlier ones, including the holy Reb Menachem Mendel of Minsk and the holy Reb Yissachar Dov of Kabilnik.7 These then traveled to Mezritch.

The travelers spent a half year with the Maggid in Mezritch before returning home. When they returned home, they were filled with the glory and splendor of Toras HaChassidus, so that they too began a campaign of promoting the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid’s program among the Torah scholars of Minsk and Kabilnik.

A year after the holy disciples Reb Menachem Mendel and Reb Yissachar Dov returned from Mezritch, a message arrived from the Jewish regional councils of Brysk and Slutzk, proclaiming a cheirem against all Torah scholars who adhered to the agenda of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid.

By this time, Chassidus was already well known. From day to day the number of Torah scholars who had some knowledge of Toras HaChassidus increased. Thus, the society of those who espoused the study of Chassidus grew, and by the year 5525 [1765] three public centers had been established:

i. in Lubavitch, under the leadership of the above-mentioned holy Reb Yissachar Dov;

ii. in Karlin, under the leadership of the holy Reb Aharon;

iii. in Horodok, under the leadership of the above-mentioned holy Reb Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk.8

At about that time, the holy Reb Avraham of Kalisk9 gathered to himself numerous young scholars and taught them Toras HaChassidus. However, since he possessed an extremely excitable and emotional nature, the results were less than satisfactory. Chassidim called his disciples the Tolk chassidim; this whole affair is well known among chassidim.10