Safrin, Isaac Judah Jehiel

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SAFRIN, ISAAC JUDAH JEHIEL (1806–1874), ḥasidic leader. Safrin was the son of Alexander Sender (d. 1818), author of Zikhron Devarim (1871), who served as rabbi in Zhidachov, Zhuravno, and Komarno, and founded the Komarno branch of the *Zhidachov dynasty. Isaac Safrin made his living at various times as a stonecutter and bookkeeper, renting a tavern in a village and collecting tolls. His teachers in Ḥasidism were his father, his uncle Moses of Sambor, his father-in-law Abraham Mordecai of Pinczow, and Isaac Eizik of Zhidachov.

Safrin left a diary, Megillat Setarim (1944), a book of visions (ḥezyonot) similar to Ḥayyim *Vital's Sefer ha-Ḥezyonot (1954). It relates dreams, revelations, and his search for "the root" of individual souls. In it Safrin hints that he is the *Messiah the son of Joseph, using the numerical value of the date of his birth תקס״ו (1806) in a Hebrew letter equation of משיח בן יוסף Meshi'aḥ Ben Yosef ("Messiah son of Joseph"), though he considered that his soul was the reincarnation of Simeon bar *Yoḥai, Isaac *Luria, and Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem *Tov. Central to his thought was the necessity to bring about the restoration of the world order (tikkun olam), considering himself as one who would bring about the imminent End of Days and the Redemption. Thus his attitude toward Shabbateanism combined both attraction and antagonism. Safrin relates in his diary that "from the age of two until I became five years old, I had marvelous visions. A holy spirit filled me and I spoke words of prophecy… and I indeed saw from one end of the world to the other" (Megillat Setarim). He tells about his poverty and asceticism; he ate little and slept only two hours daily. He maintained the idea of constant devekut ("devotion to God") which is integrated into the pattern of man's life even in acts performed merely for his survival. According to Safrin, devekut is a state of constant dialectic tension between the ego (Ani) and the divine mystic nothingness (Ayin). While aiming at self-denial and lack of consciousness, at the same time one remains conscious of one's own identity and self. "Every man must be in the aspect of Ayin… and there [in the aspect of Ayin] at every moment the aspects of Ayin and Ani become one" (Noẓer Ḥesed, 2 (1856)).

Safrin reaches radical conclusions in his doctrine of the sublimation of impure or foreign thoughts (maḥashavot zarot). The attempt to banish such thoughts entirely from the consciousness he considers heresy, being the denial of the presence of God at every level of existence. Man is obliged to elevate impure thoughts and abolish the evil that is in them by confronting them without utter rejection, despite the possible moral danger resulting from this involvement with the sitra aḥra ("other side"; "evil"; see *Kabbalah). To dismiss impure thoughts means putting out the divine spark (niẓoẓ) present in evil. According to this theory, many of the disciples of Dov Baer the Maggid of *Mezhirich and other ḥasidic leaders were heretics.

Safrin's works include Oẓar Ḥayyim (1858), a kabbalist commentary on the 613 precepts; Zohar Ḥai, on the *Zohar (pt. 1, 1875; pt. 3, 1881); Noẓer Ḥesed (1856), on Avot, including Sefer Adam Yashar, remedies against the plague, according to Lurianic Kabbalah; and Shulḥan ha-Tahor (ed. A.A. Zis, 1963–65) on Oraḥ Ḥayyim of the Shulḥan Arukh.


B. Yashar (Shlikhter), in: Sinai, 53 (1963), 167–73, 346–9; idem, Beit Komarna (1965); A.A. Zis (ed.), "Shoshelet ha-Kodesh – Toledot Zidachov Komarna," in: Shulḥan ha-Tahor, 2 (1965); idem, in: Sinai, 59 (1966), 283–6; H.J. Berl, Yiẓḥak Eizik mi-Komarna (1943); L.H. Grosman, Shem u-She'erit (1943), 28–30; N. Ben-Menahem, in: Sinai, 54 (1964), 264–76.

[Esther (Zweig) Liebes]