Jacob Isaac Ha-Ḥozeh mi-Lublin

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JACOB ISAAC HA-ḤOZEH MI-LUBLIN (1745–1815), ḥasidic ẓaddik known by the epithet "Ha-Ḥozeh mi-Lublin" ("the Seer of Lublin"). Jacob Isaac was born in Lukow, the son of Abraham Eliezer ha-Levi, the rabbi of Jozefow, a descendent of Isaiah ben Abraham ha-Levi *Horowitz (Ha-Shelah). Jacob Isaac was one of the major founders of the ḥasidic movement in Poland and Galicia at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th. He was a pupil of Samuel-Shmelke *Horowitz of Nikolsburg, and *Dov Baer the Maggid of Mezhirech, as well as *Levi Isaac of Berdichev. His principal mentor, however, was *Elimelech of Lyzhansk, (1717–1786), who formulated in his court and disseminated in other communities the doctrine of the ẓaddik as occupying the center of ḥasidic identity. This doctrine was further circulated posthumously through his book No'am Elimelekh (Lemberg 1788). Jacob Isaac left his teacher and began to lead his own ḥasidic group in Elimelech's lifetime, causing much tension, anguish, and crisis in his master's court. At first active in Lancut and later in Rozwadow, during the 1790s he moved to Chekhov, a suburb of Lublin, and finally to Lublin itself. Jacob Isaac, a renowned ẓaddik, who was mainly responsible for making Congress Poland and Galicia into great ḥasidic centers, appears in his autobiographical writings as someone with a unique perception of himself as both a mystic and a prophet, who believed that he received divine revelations for the sake of the Jewish community. His books were written as a mixture of diaries and collections of teachings in the last two decades of the 18th century, and were published posthumously under the titles Zot Zikaron (1851) and Zikaron Zot (1869). He represented himself in his books and was represented by his contemporaries in their tales to be a miracle worker, a seer, and a prophet, beliefs responsible for the wide attraction of his court. His works reveal dialectical concepts which reflect a reappraisal of the significance of the traditional order ("awe") and the quality of the mystical religious undertaking ("love"). Significantly these concepts related to the tension between the commitment to traditional obligations and expansion of these limits through innovative mystical thought, mystical rapture, and new forms of contemplation on the meaning of religious praxis. These dialectical concepts expressed the dual meaning of the veneration of the ẓaddik, which included both the transcendence of existential borders ("love") and the preservation of the traditional order ("awe"). The Seer developed a new orientation of complete responsibility toward the corporeal and spiritual needs of his followers and formulated a clear distinction between the nature of divine worship insofar as it applied to the ẓaddik and his followers. The former was expected "to work with love," meaning to be a courageous religious innovator inspired by divine rapture, preconditioned by a high degree of self-abnegation. The ẓaddik, as he saw it, was someone who completely annihilates his personality and will in order to receive direct divine revelation for the benefit of his ḥasidim. Jacob Isaac engendered changes in the religious and social life of his followers as a result of these new divine revelations. These changes were much welcomed and needed because of the harsh socio-economical circumstances in Galicia and the urgent needs of the community. His followers, the ḥasidim, on the other hand, were expected by him to adhere to the normative tradition while attaching themselves to the ẓaddik, who took complete responsibility for all their spiritual and corporeal needs. Jacob Isaac left no direct dynastic line; however, the majority of Polish and Galician ẓaddikim who ḥeaded the ḥasidic movement during the first half of the 19th century were numbered among his disciples. He attracted followers from all social strata. Isaac Meir b. Israel Alter, founder of the Gur dynasty, regarded him as "everyone's rabbi" (Me'ir Einei ha-Golah (1928), 18).

Many of his distinguished disciples testified to his insight, his ability to discern whether a person "acted purely and honestly or conversely, God forbid," as well as to his power of predicting events. It was also reported that he could reveal the genealogy of a person's soul and discern its tikkun ("restitution") in each stage of reincarnation; the epithet "ḥozeh" ("seer") was therefore applied to him, although posthumously.

Following Elimelech of Lizhansk, Jacob Isaac emphasized the centrality of the ẓaddik in the life of the ḥasidic community and the "practical" work of the ẓaddik, stressing his duty to care for the "progeny, life, and livelihood" of his "children," the ḥasidic congregation. Believing that material abundance preceded spiritual wealth, Jacob Isaac held that in order to help a person repent it was first necessary to help the person satisfy his material needs. The ẓaddik ought "to extend great abundance and a comfortable living so that the people will be free to worship God." He is reported as saying that "when the body enjoys plentitude the soul too enjoys spiritual richness" (Or la-Shamayim, 1850, Parashat Va-Yishlaḥ, 15a). He particularly stressed the conduct between man and his fellow, considering social feeling to be of special significance in the secret order of the world. He perceived humility as a metaphysical element, obliging primarily the ẓaddik and preconditioning his mystical exaltation. He further stressed the virtue of the "love of Israel," which was one of the cherished principles of early Hasidism.

Toward the end of his life Jacob Isaac suffered a serious crisis over his conduct as a ḥasidic leader, which originated in the split in the Lublin ḥasidic center between those who emphasized the aspiration toward spiritual perfection and constant devekut to God and those who stressed the ẓaddik's need to care for the multitude of the Ḥasidim. The atmosphere of "practical" ẓaddikism, focused on the mundane needs of his followers as cultivated by Jacob Isaac, did not suit those who regarded the ḥasidic ẓaddik as a guide to divine worship and not as a miracle worker and social activist. Although he sensed the disappointment of his best pupils, Jacob Isaac did not change his method, believing that his exceptional spiritual capacities should be exploited first and foremost for the benefits of his followers, the ḥasidim. According to some authorities this was the background for his controversy with his most outstanding disciple, Jacob Isaac of *Przysucha, who was dissatisfied with the "practical" character of Lublin Ḥasidism. The rabbi of Przysucha attracted many disciples who regarded Ḥasidism as a spiritual-religious movement centered on pietistic measures, as well as intellectual and spiritual endeavors, while marginalizing social responsibility, aided by means of magical activity, for the improvement of material living conditions. It should be noted that academic studies concerning the socio-economic conditions of the Jews in Galicia in the last two decades of the 18th century and the first two decades of the 19th century, i.e., the period of activity of the Seer of Lublin, demonstrate the tragic urgency of the economic situation (see A. Brawer, Galicia ve-Yehudeiha) and explains his social and mystical position. The controversy on the hasidic mode of leadership divided Polish Ḥasidism for many years and through it the ḥasidic trend of *Przysucha-*Kotsk and Izbica evolved. While the followers of Przysucha and Kotsk resented the social, mystical total responsibility of the Seer, the Izbica ḥasidim adopted his position with enthusiasm. Mordecai Leiner of Izbica (1800–1854) followed the teachings and practices of the Seer of Lublin and continued the mystical criticism of traditional conventions in relation to spiritual leaders, and embraced the social innovations inspired by mystical revelation. Jacob Isaac was frequently attacked by the Mitnaggedim both in Lublin and elsewhere, being the object of criticism of those writers of the late 18th and early 19th century among the maskilim and mitnaggedim who opposed "practical" ẓaddikism – and its consequences for the leadership in Lublin. He was also severely criticized by the rabbi of Lublin, Azriel Horowitz.

Jacob Isaac's autobiographical works, Zot Zikaron and Zikaron Zot, offer a sound historical foundation for the many stories concerning his communal work and exceptional position. Ḥasidic tradition also relates that he regarded Napoleon's march on Russia (1812), which evoked strong messianic dreams in various parts of Poland and Galicia, as the beginning of the messianic wars between *Gog and Magog and planned to join forces with other ẓaddikim in order to hasten redemption. However, no historical foundation is available for this contention since the Seer's writings precede the Napoleonic wars by two decades. Martin Buber wrote his novel Gog u-Magog on this period in the Seer's life, which, as previously noted, has no autobiographical documentation but rather left only a collection of legendary tales.


S.B. Nissenbaum, Le-Korot ha-Yehudim be-Lublin (1899), 119; I. Berger, Zekhut Yisrael… Eser Orot (1903); E.N. Frank, Yehudei Polin bi-Ymei Milḥemet Napoleon (1903); Dubnow, Ḥasidut, 215–7, 287, 326–30; A.Z. Aescoly, in: Beit Yisrael be-Polin, 2 (1953), 86–141; A. Marcus, Ha-Ḥasidut (1954); A. Rubinstein, in: ks, 37 (1961/62), 123–6; M. Buber, Gog u-Magog, Megillat Yamim (1967). add. bibliography: R. Elior, "Bein ha-Yesh la-AyinIyyun be-Torat ha-Ẓaddik shel ha-Ḥozeh mi-Lublin," in: I. Bartal, R. Elior, and C. Shmeruk (eds.), Ẓadikim ve-Anshei Ma'aseh: Studies in Polish Hasidism (1994), 167–218; R. Elior, "Between Yesh and Ayin: The Doctrine of the Zaddik in the works of Jacob Isaac the Seer of Lublin," in: A. Rapoport-Albert and S. Zipperstein (eds.), Jewish HistoryEssays in Honor of Ch. Abramsky (1988), 393–455; idem, "Temurot ba-Maḥshavah ha-Datit be-Ḥasidut Polin," in: Tarbiz, 62 (1993), 381–432.

[Avraham Rubinstein /

Rachel Elior (2nd ed.)]

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Jacob Isaac Ha-Ḥozeh mi-Lublin

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