Sternharz, Nathan

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STERNHARZ, NATHAN (1780–1845), disciple and companion of Naḥman of *Bratslav, organizer of Bratslav Ḥasidism, and its leader after Naḥman's death. Nathan was born in Neirov and was known as a scholar and talented writer even in his youth. In 1793 he married the daughter of David Ẓevi, rabbi of Shargorod and a Mitnagged. Nathan was drawn to Ḥasidism and visited some of the great Ḥasidim. The decisive event of his life was a meeting with Naḥman of Bratslav in 1802, when the two formed a deep and unique friendship that lasted until Naḥman's death. Nathan soon became Naḥman's most devoted disciple. He spread knowledge about his teacher and expounded his teaching. In fact, Naḥman's personal charisma became integral to the thought and habits of his followers through Nathan's devotion and efforts. Although Nathan became the actual leader of Bratslav Ḥasidim on Naḥman's death in 1810, he refused to assume the official title of ḥasidic rabbi, a gesture which established the special character of Bratslav Ḥasidim who acknowledged Naḥman as their only rabbi. Nathan worked arduously to spread Naḥman's teachings. He guided and extended the movement of Naḥman's followers. He often visited the Bratslav Ḥasidim and sent them numerous letters, thus spreading the rabbi's teaching and encouraging the Ḥasidim who suffered persecutions that culminated in their excommunication in 1835 by Moses Ẓevi of *Savran. With charm and moderation he refuted the calumnies against the movement and, at the same time, encouraged the Ḥasidim in their firm belief in the greatness of Naḥman and in the truth of his teachings. Despite violent personal persecution (including denunciation to the authorities and arrest), Nathan not only succeeded in establishing the basic patterns and direction of the movement (e.g., visiting Naḥman's tomb in Uman) but also succeeded in maintaining and even increasing the number of its followers. Nathan transcribed and edited Naḥman's teachings, everyday talks, and stories.

He published, on his own initiative, Naḥman's principal books, Likkutei Moharan (Ostrog, 1808), Sefer ha-Middot (Mogilev, 1811), and Sippurei Ma'asiyyot (Berdichev, 1895). His own literary activity was prolific and varied. He wrote, for example, Ḥayyei Moharan (1875), Siḥot ha-Ran (1864), and Shivḥei ha-Ran (1864), depicting his teacher's life and greatness. Fulfilling Naḥman's request "to turn his teaching into prayers," he wrote also Likkutei Tefillah (Bratslav, 1824–27), a poetic work based on Likkutei Moharan. He continued to expound and develop Naḥman's teaching in his great work, Likkutei Halakhot (1847–48). Nathan died in Bratslav and was buried in Uman beside his teacher.


H. Zetlin, R. Nakhman Braslaver (Yid., 1952).

[Adin Steinzalts]