Bernard, Ḥayyim David

views updated


BERNARD, ḤAYYIM DAVID (1782–1858), Polish physician and ḥasidic leader. Born in Dzialoszyce, near Piotrkow, Bernard is reputed to have been the son of the poet and physician Issachar Falkensohn *Behr. At the age of 14 Bernard arrived in Berlin and later qualified as a physician in Erfurt. The liberal policies of King Frederick William ii enabled him to become court physician at Potsdam and a medical officer in the Prussian Army – a considerable achievement for a Jew. After Napoleon's conquest of Poland, Bernard was appointed medical inspector for the western regions of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw (1807–15). A typical product of the German-Jewish Enlightenment, he at first remained aloof from Polish Jewry, but a spiritual crisis led him to approach R. David of *Lelov, who introduced him to R. *Jacob Isaac ha-Ḥozeh mi-Lublin, the Seer of Lublin. Bernard, known thereafter as R. Ḥayyim David, became a strictly Orthodox Jew and a follower of the Seer. He grew a beard, although he retained western dress, and never mastered Yiddish. As the Warsaw Jewish archives have shown, he was a leading communal figure and later worked in collaboration with R. *Simḥah Bunem of Przysucha. Among the Jews and Christians whom he treated, Bernard was venerated as a saint and he spent the rest of his life in Piotrkow, both as head of the local hospital and as a "wonder-working" Ḥasid. Although his wife opposed the Seer's wish to designate her husband as his successor, Bernard was widely regarded as the Seer's spiritual heir and for decades after the physician's death his grave was a center of ḥasidic pilgrimage.


Maḥanayim, no. 123 (1969), 174–8.

About this article

Bernard, Ḥayyim David

Updated About content Print Article