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Jacob Joseph of Ostrog


JACOB JOSEPH OF OSTROG (Yeivi ; 1738–1791), pietist preacher (maggid). He was the son of a maggid and succeeded his father in 1766, after the latter's death. Jacob Joseph's son testified that he highly esteemed the teachings of the disciples of *Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov, the founder of modern Ḥasidism. Jacob, who lived in poverty and privation, had a deep sense of social morality. His sermons reflected the social upheaval troubling the Jews of Eastern Europe in the 18th century. Jacob Joseph attacked perversions of justice, informing, and bribery, and took to task community leaders and rabbis who gained their appointments through their relations with the authorities instead of through Torah learning. He taught that the poor are closest to God and worthy of attaining the mystic knowledge of the Torah, but the rich are distant from Him. There exists a kind of social-spiritual division in the world in which the learned profess the unity of God above and ensure the provision of abundance below, although personally gaining only a scanty livelihood; in contrast, the ignorant collect the abundance that pours down from Heaven. Despite this distinction, Jacob insisted on the principle of internal Jewish unity, since all the Jewish people are linked with each other. The ẓaddik's devotion to the Almighty draws all his brethren after him to holiness.

His books are Mora Mikdash (Korets, 1782), on order in synagogue; Ein Mishpat (Korets, 1782), on the prohibition on buying rabbinical office or arbitrary appointment; and Rav Yeivi (Slavuta, 1792), homilies.

[Avraham Rubinstein]

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