Major Hasidic courts, 1815–1929. (Based on a map prepared for the exhibition "Time of the Hasidism." by Elżbieta Długosz, The Historical Museum of Kraków—Old Synagogue)

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Sokhachev Hasidic Dynasty

One of the major schools of Hasidism in Poland. Its founder, Avraham Bornstein (1839–1910) was a leading intellectual figure of Polish Hasidism. He married the daughter of Menaḥem Mendel of Kotsk (Kock; 1787–1859), who became his spiritual guide and mentor. Four years after Menaḥem Mendel’s death, Bornstein accepted his first rabbinical position, serving first in several communities until he settled in Sokhachev (Yid., more properly Sokhechev; Pol., Sochaczew) in 1883, where he remained for the rest of his life.

In his teachings, Bornstein stressed the centrality of Torah study and expected his disciples to be scholars. At the same time, he was concerned that ordinary people also have opportunities for Torah study; accordingly, he issued a proclamation urging rabbis to institute daily evening classes for workers and businessmen. He was the first Hasidic leader to found a traditional yeshiva in Poland and was considered one of the major halakhic authorities of his time. His approach was very cautious and he usually followed the strictest opinions in his decisions. For example, he joined other conservative authorities in banning machine-made matzo when it was introduced. In 1884 he issued a proclamation against “heretical” writings in Hebrew and Yiddish that he felt could lead young people astray from Judaism. His most important works were his Egle tal (1905), a halakhic study of work forbidden on the Sabbath, and his seven-volume responsa collection, Avne nezer (1912–1934). He participated in the rabbinical conference that led to the founding of the Agudas Yisroel political party in 1912.

Bornstein’s son Shemu’el (1855–1926) succeeded him and continued his father’s emphasis on the centrality of Torah study and religious conservatism. In 1914, while visiting a spa in Germany, he was detained by the authorities as a Russian citizen. After his return to Poland at the end of the war, he settled in the vicinity of Łódź. Unlike many other Hasidic leaders, he welcomed the Balfour Declaration, and his son Ḥanokh Heinekh (1897–1965) settled in Palestine in 1925. Shemu’el was also active in Jewish communal affairs. His major work was his eight-volume Shem mi-Shemu’el (1927–1932), a highly regarded collection of discourses on the Torah and the festivals. He also wrote a commentary on the Passover Haggadah (1927).

Shemu’el was succeeded by his eldest son, David (1877–1942), who maintained the Sokhachev traditions of religious conservatism and communal activity. David was also active in the Agudas Yisroel party, attending its conferences in 1929 and 1937. He lived first in Otwock and then in Pabianice and Łódź, though he visited the Land of Israel twice, in 1924 and 1935, and hoped to settle there. The outbreak of World War II destroyed those plans. During the Nazi occupation, David and his family moved from Łódź to Warsaw, where he died in the ghetto at the end of 1942. The other members of his family perished in the Holocaust. His unpublished writings were lost.

After David’s death, his younger brother Ḥanokh Heinekh, who was living in Jerusalem, became the rebbe and reestablished the Sokhachev dynasty in Israel.

Suggested Reading

Avraham Yitsḥak Bromberg, Mi-Gedole ha-ḥasidut, vol. 5, Ha-Admor mi-Sokhatshov (Jerusalem, 1956); Yisra’el Erlikh, Abire ha-ro‘im: Avne-nezer li-demutam shel ha-admurim le-vet Sokhatshov (Tel Aviv, 1985); Yehudah Leyb Levin, Bet Kotsk, vol. 2, pp. 38–63 (Jerusalem, 1959; rpt. 1989/90); Zevi Yehudah Mamelok, Abir ha-ro‘im, (Piotrikov, 1935–1938), 2 vols.