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Ḥayyim Ḥaykl ben Samuel of Amdur

ḤAYYIM ḤAYKL BEN SAMUEL OF AMDUR

ḤAYYIM ḤAYKL BEN SAMUEL OF AMDUR (d. 1787), ḥasidic leader in Lithuania. At first ḥazzan in Karlin, and a teacher in the little town of Amdur (Indura), near Grodno, he was attracted to *Ḥasidism through Aaron the Great of *Karlin. Ḥasidic sources relate that he subjected himself to excessive fasting and self-mortifications before he made the acquaintance of Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezhirech. Becoming one of Dov Baer's most prominent disciples he founded a ḥasidic center in Amdur after the death of his teacher in 1773. A profound thinker and an enthusiastic and fearless propagandist of Ḥasidism, Ḥayyim was the ḥasidic personality most hated by the Mitnaggedim in Lithuania in the 1780s, and was a considerable factor in the outbreak of a second round of polemics between the two factions in 1781. He is described in somber tones in the literature of the Mitnaggedim, especially in the writings of *David of Makow. In Shever Poshe'im (in M. Wilensky, Ḥasidim u-Mitnaggedim, vol. 2, 1970) he and his associates are discussed with scorn. The Mitnaggedim persecuted him to such an extent that Ḥayyim was compelled to leave Amdur for a while and to stay in a village. He was undeterred by these persecutions, however, and continued to lead his congregation as ẓaddik until his death, bequeathing his position to his son Samuel.

Ḥayyim taught that God is infinite and men cannot comprehend Him. However, there is much latent power in man's intellect and by losing his own sense of being, he can be drawn nearer to and be united with his source. Ḥayyim therefore preached a complete negation of the human will before the divine will. The observance of a mitzvah was interpreted as an act desired by God, and it is only this desire of God's which imparts validity to the mitzvah. It is also forbidden to serve God for the purpose of attaining the World to Come or other rewards. Ḥayyim is revealed as an extreme spiritualist: "We should forget ourselves as a result of our adhesion to Him." One should despise this world: "He who prays for his sustenance should be ashamed for doing so." If "I have set the Lord always before me, then I have no time to consider the events which befall me, for God surely knows of my needs better than I do myself." When a man stands before the Creator, all his limbs should tremble for fear of the Lord so that he does not know where he is standing, so much has he meditated on His essence. If, at that time, evil thoughts enter his mind, he should not repel them. On the contrary, this gives him the opportunity to elevate these thoughts to their source. If a man has sinned, he should rather endeavor to unite himself to the soul of the ẓaddik, as a result of which he will adhere to God.

His sermons were collected in Ḥayyim va-Ḥesed (1891, 19532), including "rules of behavior" and letters to his followers, some of which had been previously published in Iggeretha-Kodesh (Warsaw, 1850).

bibliography:

M. Wilensky, Ḥasidim u-Mitnaggedim (1970), index; M.H. Kleinemann, Mazkeret Shem ha-Gedolim (19672), 49–55; W. Rabinowitsch, Lithuanian Ḥasidism (1970), index; R. Schatz, Ha-Ḥasidut ke-Mistikah (1968), index; A. Rubinstein, in: Aresheth, 3 (1961), 193–230

[Moshe Hallamish]

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