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Avigdor ben Joseph Ḥayyim


AVIGDOR BEN JOSEPH ḤAYYIM (18th–19th centuries), rabbi in Poland, one of the leading opponents of *Ḥasidism in Poland-Lithuania in the late 18th century. In 1785 he became rabbi of Pinsk and its district, but through the influence of the Ḥasidim he was dismissed in 1794, two years before the end of his term. He lodged a complaint with the civil courts, claiming the balance of his salary and damages resulting from loss of office. He also took up the matter with government officials in St. Petersburg. During the six years of embittered litigation with the leaders of the community, Avigdor embarked on a campaign of denunciation against Ḥasidism. He lodged a second complaint in 1800 with the office of Czar Paul i containing charges against Ḥasidism in which he brought arguments from Scripture to prove that it was a heretical sect in conflict with the accepted values of religion, morality, and the laws of the state, and that it continued to adhere to the beliefs of the pseudo-messiah, *Shabbetai Ẓevi. When, on investigation, the authorities failed to find anything exceptional in the behavior of the Ḥasidim, Avigdor did not relax his efforts and as a result of his denunciations *Shneur Zalman of Lyady, the founder of Ḥabad Ḥasidism, was reimprisoned. Avigdor subsequently drew up 19 questions accusing Shneur Zalman, in which he continued to denounce the Ḥasidim as disloyal both to the state and to Judaism. In December 1800 he lodged another accusation before the government in which he cited extracts from Shneur Zalman's Sefer ha-Tanya, in an attempt to prove that Ḥasidism was inimical to Christianity.


Z.W. Rabinowitsch, Ha-Ḥasidut ha-Lita'it (1961), 39–47, 51–55; Dubnow, Ḥasidut, 265–78; M. Teitelbaum, Ha-Rav mi-Lyady u-Mifleget Ḥabad (1914), 90–121, 185–202; Ḥ.M. Hilman, Beit Rabbi (1965), 54–60 (Arabic numerals).

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