Abraham ben Alexander Katz of Kalisk

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

ABRAHAM BEN ALEXANDER KATZ OF KALISK

ABRAHAM BEN ALEXANDER KATZ OF KALISK (Kalisz ; 1741–1810), ḥasidic leader in Poland and Ereẓ Israel. He was a disciple of *Dov Baer of Mezhirech. According to ḥasidic tradition he first studied under *Elijah b. Solomon, the Gaon of Vilna. He joined the Talk, an ḥasidic conventicle whose precise nature is unknown. Abraham gave expression to the ḥasidic principle of serving God with fervor in a bizarre fashion, "turning somersaults in the streets and marketplaces" and ridiculing talmudic scholars. These exaggerated practices were among the reasons for the excommunication pronounced on the Ḥasidim by the rabbinical court of Vilna in 1772.

In 1777 Abraham immigrated to Ereẓ Israel with the group of Ḥasidim led by *Menahem Mendel of Vitebsk. He first settled in Safed and later in Tiberias, where he spent his last years. After the death of Menahem Mendel, Abraham succeeded him as head of the ḥasidic groups in Ereẓ Israel. His cordial relations with the founder of the Ḥabad movement, *Shneur Zalman, came to an end after the latter published his Tanya in 1796; Abraham expressed his disillusionment with Shneur Zalman's philosophical system, and Shneur Zalman, who was also treasurer of the fund in Russia, retaliated by stopping the flow of contributions. Abraham emphasized the importance of the ḥasidic group, independent of the authority of a ẓaddik. He believed in dibbuk ḥaverim, a close association between comrades who through contemplation and self-abnegation arrive together at a state of mystical ecstasy. His sayings and letters are collected in Ḥesed le-Avraham (1851) and lggerot Kodesh (1927).

bibliography:

Brawer, in: ks, 1 (1924/25), 142–50, 226–38; I. Halpern, Ha-Aliyyot ha-Rishonot shel ha-Ḥasidim le-Ereẓ Yisrael (1946), 65–79, passim; Horodezky, Ḥasidut, 2 (19534), 39–46; Dubnow, Ḥasidut, 111f., 335–7, 483; Weiss, in: jjs, 6 (1955), 87–99; Scholem, Mysticism, 334–5; Schatz, in: Molad, 20 (1962), 514–5.