The New Rebbe

When the Sava Kaddisah of Radoshitz died, his son Reb Yisrael Yitzchak succeeded him as rebbe. Two Hasidim set out by carriage to visit the new rebbe, just as they had done many times before during the lifetime of the old rebbe. As they drew closer to Radoshitz, they began to have doubts about this new rebbe.

“It is not that I doubt the judgment of the Old Rebbe,” the one said to his friend, “and I respect his choice of his son to succeed him; it is just that he was so steeped in Ruach HaKodesh that I wonder whether his son can truly lead us in the same manner.”

“You are not the only one with doubts,” the other said. “The Old Man could read minds. When I went to see him for advice, he listened not only to the words of my mouth but also to the thoughts in my brain.”

“And not just that,” the first Hasid said, “but the hidden thoughts of the heart as well. We were transparent to the Old Rebbe, and is it right for us to expect the same from his son?”

Their doubts grew, but as they had already ridden most of the way to Radoshitz, they decided it was wiser to continue than to return home. After all, the rebbe was the son of their beloved teacher, and to spend one Shabbos with him was only proper.

As they entered the rebbe’s house, Reb Yisrael Yitzchak greeted them, saying, “So what if my father could read the thoughts of those who traveled to see him? Is that enough to make him worthy of being a rebbe? Are you so hungry for signs that you are willing to settle for magicians’ tricks?”


What makes a rebbe a rebbe? What makes a rebbe a rebbe is the willingness and ability to stand without pretense before yourself and before God.

Our sense of self is so distorted by the illusion of being separate from God that we take anyone who demonstrates even a modicum of wisdom for a saint, and we mistake hubris for spiritual superiority. There is no less or more in God. We are all equally of the One. Where we differ is in our awareness of this truth. But the more aware we are of our innate divinity, the less we are raised up above others. To see the self as God is to know the other as God as well. A true rebbe is one who can read not only the hearts and minds of his Hasidim but his own heart and mind as well. It is in not knowing the latter that the real danger lies.


Sava Kaddisha of Radoshitz (1765-1843): The Holy Grandfather, or the Holy Old Man, Sava Kaddisha was a miracle worker who lived in poverty.

Ruach HaKodesh: The Holy Spirit. The Hebrew Bible makes more than eighty references to the Holy Spirit (or Ruach Elohim, Ruach Adonai, the Spirit of God), a power that manifests in individuals and allows them to carry out a divine command. The Rabbis said that with the last of the Prophets (Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi), Ruach HaKodesh would manifest in the tzaddikim (from Tzadik, meaning “righteous one”), the righteous of each generation: “Piety leads to the Holy Spirit” (Mishnah Sota 9:15), and “All that the tzaddikim do, they do with the power of the Holy Spirit” (Tanhuma, Va-Yehi 13). The power of the Ruach HaKodesh allows one to see into the future, to bestow blessings on the needy, and to discern the spiritual source of creation.

Published in: on December 4, 2010 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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