Baruch ben Jehiel of Medzibezh

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BARUCH BEN JEHIEL OF MEDZIBEZH (1757–1810), ḥasidic ẓaddik; grandson of *Israel b. Eliezer the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of modern *Ḥasidism. Baruch, who studied under Phinehas Shapira of Korets, officiated from 1780 as rabbi in Tulchin, but encountered opposition and returned to Medzibezh in 1788. He attributed great importance to his descent and regarded himself as the heir to the Ba'al Shem Tov's leadership. He held that the ẓaddik could save and lead the whole world; the duty of the common man was only "to destroy the evil impulses and abandon his desires." Regarding himself as the leader of Ḥasidism by hereditary right, he held "court" in Medzibezh in a highly autocratic and luxurious fashion, though preaching asceticism to others. He kept a "court jester," Hershele Ostropoler. His behavior aroused opposition from other ḥasidic leaders. In 1808 he met Shneur Zalman of Lyady in an effort to settle their differences. Baruch attached mystical importance to the custom practiced by Ḥasidim of giving presents to the rabbis (pidyonot). He encouraged Ḥasidim to immigrate to Ereẓ Israel. He took part in the assembly of ḥasidic rabbis at Berdichev (1802–03) that discussed the government's prohibition of Jewish settlement in the villages among other matters. His writings include Amarot Tehorot (1865; first published in his brother's (*Moses Ḥayyim Ephraim) Degel Maḥaneh Ephraim, Zhitomir, 1850) and Buẓina di-Nehora (1880).


M. Bodek, Seder ha-Dorot he-Ḥadash (1865), 23; Horodezky, Ḥasidut, 3 (19534), 12–17; Dubnow, Ḥasidut, 1 (1930), 205–8; M. Buber, Tales of the Ḥasidim, 1 (1947), 87–97; M.E. Gutman, Mi-Gibborei ha-Ḥasidut, 3 (1928).

[Nachum Arieli]