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The Chasidic revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries spawned some of the most colorful and spiritual personalities in Jewish history. In "Chasidic Masters," Rabbi Berel Wein describes the lives and influences of five of these great leaders- and their individual uniqueness.
The Maggid of Koznitz - Of all Chasidic leaders, the Magid of Koznitz best represents Chassidus for the masses. Without yichus, he became a self-made Torah scholar and spread Chassidus across Poland. Though persecuted by the opponents of Chassidus, he achieved fame as a powerful speaker with a message of love, not fire and brimstone.
The Chozeh of Lublin - The Chozeh of Lublin came from an elite family of the Misnagdim, but became a Chasidic leader in his own right. Known as a "Seer" who could advise Jews on all matters great and small, tens of thousands flocked to his open door. His humility, righteousness, and kindness to his fellow man will leave listeners inspired and amazed.
The Holy Jew of Pshischa - Rabbi Wein likes to say that the punishment for all revolutionary movements is that eventually they become the establishment and suffer counter-revolutions. The Holy Jew of Pschicha was the first of the Chassidic counter-revolutionaries. Though he was expected to succeed the Chozeh of Lublin, his more elitist and ascetic outlook became the foundation of a whole new brand of Chassidus.
Reb Simcha Bunim - Rabbi Simcha Bunim was an atypical Chasidic master; in earlier stages of his life he was world-traveled and secularly educated. Yet he earned the esteem of the Holy Jew of Pschicha and became his successor, bringing Pschicha to its highest point and turning it from a counter-revolutionary movement to the normative Chassidus of Poland.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk - Famed for his sharp aphorisms, the Kotzker Rebbe was the last of the great Rebbes of Pschicha. His teachings of facing the cold, hard truth, renouncing money, and avoiding shows of piety make him a truly awesome figure with broad influence in Jewish thought.