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Ḥayim ben Shelomoh Tyrer of Tshernovits

(ca. 1760–1816/17), Hasidic rabbi and kabbalist. Born in Pribiluk, a small village near Buczacz, Galicia, Ḥayim ben Shelomoh Tyrer of Tshernovits (Ger., Czernowitz; Rom., Cernăuți; Ukr., Chernivtsi) was a leading disciple of Yeḥi’el Mikhl of Zlotshev. Tyrer also associated with disciples of Yeḥi’el Mikhl, among them Yisra’el of Kozhenits, Yisakhar Ber of Zlotsev, Meshulam Fayvush Heller of Zbarezh, and Mordekhai of Kremenets. Officiating as a rabbi in Galicia, Bucovina, Czernowitz (where he was district rabbi), Moldavia, and Ukraine, Tyrer ultimately immigrated to the Land of Israel (no later than 1814), settling in Safed, where he is buried. His grave is still a pilgrimage site for many Hasidim.

Tyrer preached Hasidism and opposed the influence of the Haskalah wherever he served as a rabbi, particularly in the Romanian principalities where he was one of the first Hasidic figures. After moving to Safed, he devoted his time to writing Sha‘ar ha-tefilah (Gate of Prayer), which was published in 1825.

Tyrer was an accomplished preacher and writer. His sermons stressed Hasidic ideas and drew upon kabbalistic sources, while addressing matters of custom and halakhah (mainly in his book Siduro shel Shabat; 1813). His books, which are widely read by Hasidim, have been published repeatedly and also include the titles Be’er mayim ḥayim (1820, with Pentateuch), Sha‘ar ha-tefilah, and Erets ha-ḥayim (1861). Though Hasidic texts usually do not concentrate on specific topics, Tyrer chose to devote one to the subject of the Sabbath and another to prayer.

The central pillar of Tyrer’s thought is the idea of yiḥudim (unifications). This concept, which evolved particularly in Kabbalah, stems from the conceived importance of the deity’s unity and the need for every person to understand that principle. Tyrer weaves the concept into almost every topic he considers, and also extends its significance beyond the direct expression of divine unity, making it a major instrument for a variety of purposes: bringing down shefa‘ (divine emanation), unifying the kabbalistic “Four Worlds,” achieving devekut (cleaving to God), protecting against evil spirits, healing, rescuing from drowning, and others.

When Yeḥezkel ben Yehudah Landau (author of Noda‘ bi-Yehudah; 1776) attacked Tyrer’s ideas about yiḥudim, Tyrer wrote a famous polemical rejoinder in response. In particular, Landau had criticized the practice, particularly popular among Hasidim, of reciting a formula beginning “Le-shem yiḥud . . .” (lit., “For the sake of the unification of . . .”) before prayer or before the performance of other religious commandments. Tyrer based the importance of this practice on halakhic and kabbalistic sources and maintained that the recitation was a central element in the doctrine of yiḥudim.

Tyrer also advocated an ascetic attitude toward physical needs, with respect to food, drink, and sexual relations. His thought includes a prominent messianic component, and he taught that the application of yiḥudim would hasten the advent of redemption.

Suggested Reading

Eliyahu Feldman, “R. Ḥayim ben R. Shelomoh Tiror,” Sinai 68 (1971): 87–97; Avruhom E. Gottheil, Sefer Pe’er ha-Be’er mayim Ḥayim: Ve-Zeh shemo yekare lo (New York, 1995); Ron Wacks (Vaks), Be-Sod ha-Yiḥud: Ha-Yiḥudim be-haguto shel R. Ḥayim mi-Tshernovits (Los Angeles, 2006).



Translated from Hebrew by David Louvish