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He was born into a Lithuanian Rabbinic family and then became a follower of the Hasidic Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica, and a close friend of Yehudah Leib Eiger, another student of Mordechai Leiner. He is a classic example of a Litvish Jew turned Chasidic.
As a young man he gained widespread acclaim as an illuy, a brilliant talmudist. Rabbi Zadok refused to accept any rabbinic post for most of his life. He eked out a living by his wife running a small used clothing store. Upon the death of Eiger in 1888, Zadok Hakohen agreed to take over the leadership of the Hasidim. It was then that he began to give his public classes that would take place on Shabbat, Holidays, Rosh Chodesh and special occasions. It is the transcription of those classes were compiled into his work known as Pri Tzadik.
One of his lone surviving students was Rabbi Michael Mokotovsky, whose son was Rabbi Avraham Eliyahu Mokotovsky, better known by his penname Eliyahu Kitov.
Zadok HaKohen's radical philosophy of Judaism very much continues the thinking of his teacher Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner. Zadok HaKohen was much more of a prolific writer than Leiner ever was. It is therefore difficult to determine where R' Zadok's radicalism is a mere articulation of ideas left somewhat veiled (albeit possibly purposely) in the writings of Leiner and where R' Zadok is actually breaking new ground.
Zadok HaKohen said that the Oral Law developed to its full potential after the victory of the Hasmoneans over the Greek culture, a culture characterized by deep analysis and hair-splitting argument. These virtues were converted to a holy nature with the victory of Israel over Greece. This was the fulfillment of the verse “God will give beauty to Yefet and this beauty will dwell in the tents of Shem” (as per Megillah 9b). After the victory, Jews could begin the successful integration of science, logic and philosophy into our natural world, into the world of the Written Law. Only then could the Oral Law truly begin to flourish.
Pri Tzaddik, Genesis
Humanity's first sin was not Adam and Eve's eating of forbidden fruit, but rather the way they ate it. The Tree of Knowledge, says he, was not a tree or a food or a thing at all. Rather it was a way of eating. Whenever a person grabs self-conscious pleasure from the world, he falls, at that moment, from God consciousness, and eats from the Tree of Knowledge.
You can learn a lot about a person from his dreams. What we dream is a reflection of who we are. It is the measure of our aspirations and goals, and of those values we hold dear and place above all else.
One does not squelch the evil inclination but rather helps channel its energies positively.
- Resisei Layla
- Takkanas HaShavim
- Tzidkas HaTzadik
- Machashavos Charutz
- Sichat Malachei HaShareit
- Divrei Sofrim
- Poked Akarim
- Pri Tzadik (Compiled by his students from his weekly classes)
Citations and Notes
 Genesis 8. As translated and presented by Susan (Sarah Yehudit) Schneider (1996). Eating as Tikun (Jerusalem: A Still Small Voice) p. 18-24. [www.astillsmallvoice.org]
- Alan Brill, Thinking God: The Mysticism of Rabbi Zadok HaKohen Of Lublin (Yeshiva University Press, Ktav 2002)
- Elman, Y., "Reb Zadok Hakohen of Lublin on Prophecy in th Halakhic Process", in B.S. Jackson, ed., The Touro Conference Volume (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985: Jewish Law Association Studies, I), 1-16
- Ibid, "R. Zadok HaKohen on the History of Halakha," Tradition, Vol. 21, No. 4 (1985), pp. 1-26;
- Susan (Sarah Yehudit) Schneider (1996). Eating as Tikun (Jerusalem: A Still Small Voice. www.astillsmallvoice.org
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