Spiritual Masters

The Chozeh of Lublin: Don’t Rush the End of Days

 Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Halevi Horovitz, known as the Choizeh, or the Seer of Lublin, was born in Poland in 5505 (1745). He was the disciple of the holy Rebbe Shmuel Shmelkeh of Nikolsburg (Mikulov) and the holy Maggid of Mezritch. After they passed away, he became the primary disciple of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk (Leżajsk). He established his chassidic court in the large city of Lublin and the masses flocked to learn Torah from him. The Choizeh was known as a holy genius who had the gift of special spiritual sight. It is told that he received this gift from his Rebbe, Rebbe Elimelech. The Choizeh was deeply engaged in efforts to bring the redemption. He sent his senior students to spread the teachings of Chassidut throughout Poland and Galicia. Among those students were “The Holy Jew” of Parshischa, Rebbe Uri “the Saraf” of Sterlisk, Rebbe Naftali of Ropschitz and many more. On Simchat Torah 5575 (1814) the Choizeh fell from the window of his home under wondrous and mysterious circumstances while he was engaging in spiritual endeavors to bring the redemption. He was severely injured and bedridden for close to a year and passed away on the ninth of Av, 5575 (1815). He was laid to rest in Lublin.

During Napoleon’s war against the Czar of Russia, the anticipation for the coming of Mashiach was at its height. When Napoleon’s army was defeated in 5574 (1814) many believed that the redemption was at hand. The Choizeh (Seer) of Lublin, who had always lived in burning anticipation of the coming of Mashiach, was convinced that the time had come. (Especially because four years earlier, when Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev passed away, he promised that he would not rest or be silenced in heaven until he had brought the Mashiach).

A number of tzaddikim joined the Choizeh in order to help him bring the Mashiach. Among them were his disciples: The Holy Jew, Rabbi Klonimus, author of the Ma’or Vashemesh, and Rabbi Naftali of Ropschitz. The Maggid of Kuzhnitz joined as well. The tzaddikim took upon themselves to invest great effort in prayers to bring the Mashiach. These tzaddikim saw the holiday of Simchat Torah of 5575 as a particularly auspicious date on which to execute their plan. Coming on the heels of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Simchat Torah would be the appropriate day to bring the Mashiach.

On Simchat Torah eve, the Choizeh said to his chassidim, “If this Simchat Torah will be a good holiday, then Tisha B’Av (the day of mourning over the destruction of the two Holy Temples) will also be good. After the dancing with the Torah on Simchat Torah eve, the Choizeh directed his chassidim to remain together in the large room in his home, while he would enter his private room. He warned his disciples to keep a careful eye on him and guard him. The chassidim, however, became temporarily deaf and did not hear what he said to them. The Choizeh then turned to his wife, Beilah, and asked her to watch over him the entire night. But as King David said in Psalms, “If God will not safeguard a city, the guardsman will toil for naught.”

A week prior to Simchat Torah, the day before the Sukkot holiday, the Maggid of Kuzhnitz passed away. On Simchat Torah eve, a rock was thrown at the home of the Holy Jew and shattered the window. Rabbi Klonimus immediately understood this as an omen and said, “Who knows what is happening now in Lublin, with the Choizeh…” and burst into tears. And during the Simchat Torah dancing in Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz’s study hall, a fire broke out in his home. While Rabbi Naftali was standing in song and prayer, focusing on special intentions according to the inner dimension of the Torah, his family had to flee their burning home. One of the housemaids did not manage to flee in time and was killed.

In the meantime, in Lublin, the Choizeh secluded himself in his private room on the second floor. Empty bottles of liquor from the joyous dancing still stood on the room’s windowsill. Suddenly, the Rebbetzin Bailah heard the voice of a child crying at the entrance of her home. She exited the room and went to open the door. But when she opened the door, she saw nobody. She immediately returned to her husband’s room, but to her horror, discovered that the Choizeh was not there and had apparently been abducted through the window. The Choizeh could not have climbed up to exit from the window, as it was very high up. In addition, the empty bottles were still in their place on the windowsill. Furthermore, this had been the Choizeh’s private room for fifteen years, and he had never even looked outside through the window.

Rebbetzin Bailah called for help and for hours, the frantic chassidim searched the area for their Rebbe. Eventually, one of the chassidim heard a groan and found him, strewn on the ground tens of meters from his home, with many broken bones. When the chassid asked, “Who is this?” he heard the Choizeh’s voice saying, “Yaakov Yitzchak the son of Meitel.” The shocked chassid called for help and the Choizeh’s disciples carried their seriously injured rebbe to his home.

The Choizeh related that Heaven had decreed to punish him for attempting to rush the redemption. Forces from Above had thrown him out the window in order to kill him. The recently deceased Maggid of Kozhnitz, however, had rushed from Heaven and stretched out his garment to soften the Choizeh’s fall. This is how the Choizeh found out that the Maggid of Kozhnitz had passed away. Afterwards he said that if he had known that the Maggid had died, he would not have pursued his plan.

The Choizeh’s opponents heard that he had been seriously injured and hastened to drink a lechaim and to rejoice in his imminent demise. When the Choizeh heard this, he said, “When I leave this world, they will not even drink water.” And so it was, approximately ten months of suffering later, on Tisha B’Av, a fast day, the Choizeh passed away.

Many have tried to understand what really happened in the heavenly battle of Simchat Torah. The main part of the story is clear and disappointing. The Choizeh sacrificed his life in order to bring the Mashiach but failed. He is not the first to fall in this struggle, but he invested his entire being and literally sacrificed his life to bring the Mashiach. This self-sacrifice stems from the yechidah of the soul, which is capable of grasping the one primary matter and completely abandoning everything else.

A similar situation took place in our generation, with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In the midst of the dancing of Shemini Atzeret in 5738 (1978), the Rebbe suffered a severe heart attack. Like the Choizeh in our story, the Rebbe dedicated his life to the “race for Mashiach,” which intensified as the years passed, until the apex in the nineties, when the Rebbe had two strokes—similar to the fall suffered by the Choizeh.

The battle to bring the Mashiach has been waged throughout the generations, as King David said in Psalms, “All your crises and waves have passed over me.” Ultimately, this battle will be won. The “wave” (gal) will turn into a “revelation” (hitgalut) of the complete redemption. Furthermore, in order for a new tzaddik to be born, it is sometimes necessary for a living tzaddik to sacrifice his life. When the Choizeh died on Tisha B’Av, he actually caused a certain aspect of the descent of the soul of Mashiach into this world. For the Mashiach, as is known, is born on Tisha B’Av.

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