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Menaḥem Mendel of Rimanov

(Rymanów; 1745–1815), a founder of Hasidism in Galicia. Menaḥem Mendel studied at the yeshiva of Shemu’el Shmelke Horovitz of Nikolsburg (Mikulov) at Ryczywol and later became a disciple of Elimelekh of Lizhensk (Leżajsk). After marrying the daughter of a well-to-do Jew from Przytyk, he made his home there for a number of years, moving to Rymanów in 1807, where he remained until his death. In 1800, the inveterate Misnaged David of Makev (Maków) included Menaḥem Mendel in a list of Hasidic tsadikim in his anti-Hasidic polemic, Shever posh‘im.

Menaḥem Mendel’s teachings were not theologically innovative but followed the doctrines of Elimelekh of Lizhensk. Known for his social conservatism and campaigns against the modernizing efforts of the Austrian government, Menaḥem Mendel opposed innovations in Jewish clothing styles for both men and women. He was concerned with social justice within the Jewish community, insisting that the weights and measures of merchants be inspected regularly to insure honesty and urging the community to support a school for children of the poor. Menaḥem Mendel also issued a decree forbidding burial societies from charging exorbitant fees to the families of wealthy people.

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 divided the Hasidic world. Menaḥem Mendel joined Ya‘akov Yitsḥak Horowitz (the Seer of Lublin; 1745–1815) and Yisra’el the Magid of Kozhenits (1733–1815) to pray for Napoleon’s victory. They believed that the invasion signaled the beginning of the war of Gog and Magog and would lead to the coming of the Messiah. Menaḥem Mendel’s disciple, Naftali of Ropshits (Ropczyce; 1760–1827), did not share this view, but he could not dissuade Menaḥem Mendel from his strong messianic hopes.

Menaḥem Mendel wrote a commentary on the Torah, Ilana de-ḥaye (1908). His sermons and other teachings were published in Menaḥem Tsiyon (1851), Divre Menaḥem (1863), and Torat Menaḥem (1876). Among his more prominent disciples were Naftali of Ropshits, Tsevi Hirsh of Zhidachov (Żydaczów; 1763–1831), and Yeḥezkel Paneth (1783–1845), who was a well-respected halakhic authority. In addition, Tsevi Hirsh of Rimanov (1778–1847), Menaḥem Mendel’s attendant, became a tsadik in his own right after the death of Naftali of Ropshits, who encouraged him in this role. Tsevi Hirsh, whose distinctive role was less as a scholar than a talented and inspiring leader, became famous particularly because he had risen from the very bottom of the social hierarchy to take on this honorable role.

Suggested Reading

Mattathias Ezekiel Guttman, Rabi Mendel mi-Rimanov: Ḥayav, pe‘ulato ve-torato (Tel Aviv, 1953); Menashe Unger, Di khsidishe velt: Geshikhte fun khsidishe hoyfn in Poyln un Galitsye (New York, 1955), pp. 157–201.