Moses Ḥayyim Ephraim of Sudylkow

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MOSES ḤAYYIM EPHRAIM OF SUDYLKOW (c. 1740–1800?), ḥasidic preacher and ẓaddik, son of *Adel, the daughter of *Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov. He was the eldest brother of *Baruch b. Jehiel of Medzibezh. He is praised in the well-known letter of Israel Ba'al Shem Tov to his brother-in-law, *Abraham Gershon of Kutow. Although he knew that a ẓaddik was a highly influential figure, he did not gather many Ḥasidim round him, but lived in humility and poverty. He served as a preacher in Sudylkow and popularized Ḥasidism through his work, Degel Maḥaneh Efrayim (date and place of publication are unknown), a classic of Ḥasidism. The book is made up of sermons on the weekly portions from the Pentateuch. At the end of the book there is a collection of "dreams" (ḥalomot) from 1780 to 1785, describing mystical visions. The work, with the addition of stories and parables, is written in a pleasant and lucid manner. It contains important teachings and traditions of the Ba'al Shem Tov and his disciples, and shows also the influence of *Dov Baer of Mezhirech. It expresses social criticism of those scholars who boast of their Torah learning, in contrast with the Ḥasidim who are distinguished by their humility. He notes that in study for its own sake the letters of the Torah serve as a focus for meditation and concentration, and that the light of the *En Sof (Infinite) shines through these letters to the student of the Torah. Because every generation interprets the Torah according to its needs, the ẓaddik, as the representative of the Torah, may be permitted to break a particular law when necessary. Moses Ḥayyim, however, warned Ḥasidim against superficial imitation of the ẓaddikim. The obligation, according to Lurianic Kabbalah, to "elevate the sparks" (ha'ala'at ha-niẓozot), is expanded by Moses Ḥayyim to everything including slaves and animals. Thus, he also advocates the elevation of undesirable thoughts (ha'ala'at maḥashavot zarot). Moses Ḥayyim held that man would enter the palace of truth and redemption of the soul only by constantly thinking of God. He emphasizes his admiration for his grandfather and states that redemption and the end of the Exile would occur when the teachings of the Ba'al Shem Tov were accepted. However, he states that, whereas in previous generations (i.e., during the time of Israel Ba'al Shem Tov) one might have hoped for the imminent advent of the messianic age, as a result of the spiritual decline in his time, this possibility had diminished.


M. Gutman, Geza Kodesh (1951); Dubnow, Ḥasidut, 204–8; Y. Tishby, in: Zion… (1967), 33–34; J. Weiss, in: I. Brodie Jubilee Volume (1967), 167–8; R. Schatz-Uffenheimer, Ha-Ḥasidut ke-Mistikah (1968), 185, index.

[Moshe Hallamish]