The Psychological Turn in Hassidut: The School of Peshischa

Lineage of the Peshischa School

R. Yisrael, The Ba'al Shem Tov



R. Dov Bear, The Maggid of Mezerich



R. Elimelech of Lizhensk, The Noam Elimelech



R. Yakov Yitzchak, The Hozeh (Seer) of Lubin



R. Yakov Yitzchak, The Yehudi HaKadosh (The Holy Jew)



R. Simcha Bunim of Peshischa



R. Menachem Mendel of Kotzk


I. The Yehudi HaKadosh

Beit Yaakov, Shabbat Hol HaMoed Sukkot, 91b

I once heard from... the Yehudi that if a person who is serving God sees within himself that today is just like yesterday, and that he serves God in exactly the same fashion as he did the day before, he should know indeed that he has fallen from his original level; his mere repetition in his service today detracts and diminishes the value of his service from the day before, for a person is always in the aspect of becoming, not of standing.

Tiferet HaYehudi, 29

Learning gemara and Tosfos purifies the mind and makes one ready for prayer.

II. Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa

Stories Told in Martin Buber's, "Tales of the Hasidim"

The holy Rebbe Reb Bunim of Peshischa used to tell those who came to him to become his students the following story:

In the city of Krakow is a shul called Reb Yitzchak Yekel’s shul, after the man who built it. His story is as follows. Reb Yitzchak was a very poor man who lived in Krakow. One night he had a dream in which he was shown that there was a very large treasure buried near a big bridge in the city of Prague. He was shown all the surroundings so that he could recognize it. When it was morning, he decided to ignore the dream, since after all most dreams are just foolishness. But he had it again the next night, and continued to have it. He finally could not hold himself back, and he set out to Prague to see if there was any truth in the dream.

When he got there he saw the bridge exactly as it had been in his dream, and he could even recognize where the treasure was buried. But there was a problem. The bridge was near a palace which was surrounded by guards, who didn’t look like they would be so happy to let him start digging a hole there. So everyday he went out to look around to see the bridge, and maybe some idea would come to him as to how he could get the treasure that was there.

After a few days of this the guards began to suspect him. After all what purpose is there for a Jew to come and look around the palace everyday? So the head of the guards came over to him and say, ‘Jew, what do you want here?’ So Reb Yitzchak explained to him his dream and the purpose of his coming. After hearing the story the guard broke out in bellowing laughter that could be heard in the whole city of Prague. ‘You stupid Jews’, said the guard. ‘If I was as foolish as you, following my dreams after buried treasure, you know what I would have done? I would have gone to Krakow and dug under the oven of some Jew named Isaac the son of Yekel. Why half the Jews are called Yitzchak and the other half Yekel. How stupid you Jews are.’

On hearing the words of the guard he replied, ‘Yes, I suppose you are correct. Thank you for setting me straight. I shall now return home.’ So he returned home, and dug under his oven and found a huge treasure. With it he built the shul.

Every person should have two pockets, so that they can reach into one or the other, according to their needs. In one pocket is a note that says: "The world was created for me.” And in the second pocket is a note that says, "I am but dust and ashes."

III. The Kotzker

"Not all that is thought need be said, not all that is said need be written, not all that is written need be published, and not all that is published need be read."

"People are accustomed to looking upwards at the heavens and wondering what happens there. It would be better if they would look inwards, to see what happens there."

Stories Told in Martin Buber's, "Tales of the Hasidim"

"Where does God dwell?"

This was the question with which the rabbi of Kotzk surprised a group of learned visitors.

They laughed at him: "What a thing to ask! Is not the whole world full of God's glory?!"

Then he answered his own question: "God dwells wherever a person lets God in."

Someone once told Rabbi Mendel that a certain person was greater than another whom he also mentioned by name. Rabbi Mendel replied:

"If I am I because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I, and you are you. But if I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I, and you are not you."