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Friedman, Tsevi Hirsh

(1808–1874), rabbi and Hasidic leader in Hungary. Born in Sátoraljaújhely, Tsevi Hirsh Friedman grew up in the house of Mosheh Teitelbaum and ultimately became his foremost disciple. Friedman continued his Talmudic studies at the yeshiva of Tsevi Hirsh Heller (Ḥarif) in Bonyhád. He was also close to Ḥayim Halberstam of Sandz.

From a young age until his death, Friedman attended the Hasidic courts of Galicia and Ukraine, traveling to Rimanov (Rymanów), Ropshits (Ropczyce), Apt (Opatów), Premishlan (Przemyślany), Ruzhin, Sadagora, Belz, Komarno (Komárno), Zhidachov (Żydaczów), and Dzikov. He tried to introduce their approaches and lifestyles into Hungary, exercising considerable influence by virtue of his charismatic personality. As he was famous as a “wonder” rebbe (miracle worker), thousands sought his blessing and advice, and many legends surrounded his life (collected in Or ha-yashar veha-tov; 1988).

Esteemed as a Talmudic scholar, Friedman was elected to the rabbinate of Olasz Liszka (Zemplén county). By the middle of the nineteenth century, he was considered to be the outstanding leader of Hasidism in Hungary. While he enjoyed good relations with most of the so-called Ashkenazic (i.e., non-Hasidic) Orthodox rabbis of that country, he became embroiled in an exceptionally bitter controversy with Yirmiyahu Löw, the rabbi of neighboring Sátoraljaújhely, who fought a relentless battle against Hasidism. In a letter to a common friend, Friedman defended the Hasidim and their approach to study and yeshivas, and conceded that at times their rituals were indeed innovative. Although he joined the ultra-Orthodox camp, signing their radical manifesto known as the Mihalovce pesak-din in 1865, he became only a reluctant ally in their campaigns (led by Löw) against the Neologs at the time of the Jewish Congress.

After his death, Friedman’s grave became a pilgrimage site. His son-in-law Ḥayim Friedlander continued his court, and his descendants still lead a small group of Liszka Hasidim in Brooklyn, New York. His true successor, however, was his sexton, Yesha‘yah Steiner, the rabbi of Bodrogkeresztur, who gained a considerable reputation as a saint and miracle worker and became a reluctant rebbe.

Suggested Reading

Zevi Hirsch Friedman, Ha-Yashar veha-tov, 2 vols. (Munkács, Hun., 1880–1889); Yitsḥak Yosef Kohen, Ḥakhme Hungaryah veha-sifrut ha-toranit bah (Jerusalem, 1996/97); Michael K. Silber, “‘Yeshivot en matsui bi-medinatenu mi-kamah ta‘amim nekhonim’: Ben ḥasidim u-mitnagdim be-Hungaryah,” in Be-Ma‘gele ḥasidim, ed. Immanuel Etkes, David Assaf, Yisra’el Bartal, and Elḥanan Reiner, pp. 75–108 (Jerusalem, 1999).