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Uri ben Pinḥas of Strelisk

(1757–1826), Hasidic leader. Uri ben Pinḥas lived in eastern Galicia during the period when Hasidism expanded significantly. He was probably born in the town of Janów or nearby, the son of a poor artisan. His main teacher of Hasidism was Shelomoh of Karlin, who lived in Ludmir at the time. After Shelomoh was killed by Russian soldiers in 1792, Uri ben Pinḥas became the leader of a group of Hasidim in Lwów. Later he moved to Strelisk, where he continued as a Hasidic leader, although apparently without establishing a formal court. Among those who traveled to study with him and identified themselves as his students, Shalom Rokeaḥ, founder of the Belz dynasty, stood out.

When Uri died, he left no dynasty of tsadikim, as his son, Shelomoh, passed away only four months after his father. Some followers joined the court of Yisra’el of Ruzhin, while others followed Uri’s student Yehudah Tsevi Brandwein (1780–1844), who was viewed as his successor and who founded the Stratin Hasidic dynasty.

The Strelisk Hasidim were famed for their poverty and asceticism. According to Hasidic tradition, Uri considered poverty to be the preferred lifestyle and attributed to it special significance. Still, it is known that he himself received economic support from a number of his admirers.

Prayer was a major aspect of Uri’s spiritual world. He was known for the great duration of his praying and for its ecstatic and impassioned character. For this he was called the Seraph. He also stressed the importance of prayer in his preaching to his disciples, for he saw in prayer the essence of a person’s religious service. In compilations of Uri’s teachings and in the traditions preserved about him, one also finds significant reservations about the popularization of Kabbalah and with respect to dealing in miracles. These factors may have underlain the criticism he voiced against several important Hasidic figures of his time, including Tsevi Hirsh of Zhidachov and Me’ir of Premishlan. Some of Uri’s critical words were omitted from later editions of the books that reported them.

In light of Uri’s criticism of miracles, along with his praise of Talmudic erudition—including a single saying admiring the new path in Hasidism propounded by Ya‘akov Yitsḥak of Pshiskhe (the “Holy Jew”)—there were some who described Uri as the leading representative of the Pshiskhe-Kotsk school of Hasidism in eastern Galicia. It would be difficult to draw any clear conclusions on this point, however, from the meager evidence available.

Uri apparently did not teach words of Torah at his table. His literary legacy, preserved in the form of aphorisms and short sayings, was collected by his disciple Ze’ev Volf Sheinblum of Lwów in the book Imre kadosh (Sayings of a Holy Man; 1870 [expanded version, Imre kadosh ha-shalem, 1928]).

Suggested Reading

Yitsḥak Alfasi, “Rabi Uri mi-Strelisk,” in Entsiklopedyah la-ḥasidut: Ishim, ed. Yitsḥak Rafa’el, vol. 1, cols. 205–207 (Jerusalem, 1986); Refa’el Mahler, Divre yeme Yisrael: Dorot aḥaronim, vol. 6, pp. 38–39 (Tel Aviv, 1976); Gedalyah Niga’l, “Rabi Uri (‘ha-Saraf’) mi-Strelisk ba-siporet ha-ḥasidit,” in Kovets ha-tsiyonut ha-datit, vol. 4, pp. 353–357 (Jerusalem, 2001); Me’ir Vunder, Me’ore Galitsyah: Entsiklopedyah le-ḥakhme Galitsyah, vol. 4, pp. 466–468 (Jerusalem, 1990).



Translated from Hebrew by I. Michael Aronson