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Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (1759 - 16 July 1841) (Hebrew: משה טייטלבוים), also known as the Yismach Moshe, was the Rebbe of Ujhel in Hungary. According to Löw, he signed his name "Tamar", this being the equivalent of Teitelbaum, which is the Yiddish for "palm-tree" (compare German "Dattelbaum"). An adherent of the Polish Hasidic Rebbe, the Chozeh of Lublin, Rabbi Teitelbaum was instrumental in bringing Hasidic Judaism to Hungary. He was initially opposed to Hassidism, but his son-in-law introduced him to the Chozeh of Lublin, and he soon became an adherent to Hassidism. *(Dezsö Schön, 1997)
Teitelbaum officiated as rabbi, first in Przemyśl, and later in Sátoralja-Ujhely, to which latter place he was called in 1809. In Ujhely he founded a Hasidic congregation which was independent of the Galician leaders. In 1822 Teitelbaum was suspected of having supplied amulets to certain Jewish culprits who had been cast into prison for libel, in order to assist them in escaping. When called upon to vindicate himself he declared that the amulets in question served only as substitutes for the mezuzah and that their only purpose was to protect their bearers against demons.
Teitelbaum enjoyed an enviable reputation, even R. Moses Sofer paying him homage. He authored the works Heishiv Moshe ("Moses Responded", a collection of responsa), Tefillah le-Mosheh, (commentaries on the Psalms), and Yismach Moshe ("Moses Rejoiced", 1849; 2d ed. 1898, containing homilies on the Torah), and he is commonly called by the title of the latter.
His descendants became leaders of the communities of Sighet and Satmar. He was said to have known of his three past gilgulim (incarnations in Judaism), saying that in the first gilgul he was a sheep in Yaakov Avinu's flock, in his second incarnation he lived in the time of Moses, and in his third incarnation he lived during the time of the destruction of the First Temple. In humility, he did not disclose the nature of the third incarnation, but his followers asked another Rebbe, who identified it as the Biblical Prophet Jeremiah. Regarding the first gilgul, he taught his followers the song, he said, that he recalled Jacob would sing as he tended the sheep.
He was once learning the story of Korach in the Torah with his young grandson the Yetev Lev and the Yetev Lev made a comment showing that he didn't think much of Korach, who rebelled against Moses. At that point the Yismach Moshe admonished him saying that we have no idea the greatness of Korach. In fact, added the Yismach Moshe, he himself was a gilgul from that "Dor HaMidbar" (generation of the desert) and was himself not sure who to follow, since this seemed to be a valid argument between the two greatest men of the generation. His grandson then asked him, "If so what did you do and how did you save yourself?" The Yismach Moshe said "Not wanting to be part of the machlokes (argument) I ran into my tent and closed the entrance tightly. I refused to come out until it was all over."
His followers would teach of his previous identification with Jeremiah, and how this affected his present life. In his later days he yearned so much for the coming of the Jewish Messiah and the rebuilding of the Temple, that he wore his Shabbat clothing the entire week, anticipating the Messiah's arrival. He died on July 17, 1841.
Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography
- Aaron Walden, Shem ha-Gedolim he-Ḥadash, p. 101;
- Löw, Gesammelte Schriften, ii.76, 84, 91.
- Dezsö Schön, Istenkeresök a Kárpátok alatt (God-seekers under the Carpathians) , 97. Budapest, Múlt és Jövö
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