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Me’ir ha-Levi Rotenberg of Apt

(1760–1827/31?), Hasidic leader. In his youth, Me’ir ha-Levi Rotenberg studied under the rabbis Yitsḥak Avraham Aba ha-Kohen Katz and Aryeh-Yehudah Leib Te’omim, all the while living in poverty. He was nominated in 1809 to serve as a rabbi in Apt (Opatów) and, in 1815, in Stavnits (Stopnica). In 1816, his son Yisra’el was elected to the Stopnica rabbinate, and Me’ir returned to Opatów.

Me’ir was drawn to Hasidism under his brother’s influence and considered Ya‘akov Yitsḥak Horowitz (the Seer of Lublin) his unequivocal mentor. After the split of Pshiskhe (Przysucha) Hasidism from the court of Lublin, Me’ir stood firmly with the Seer. Upon Horowitz’s death in 1815, he took on the role of a tsadik, and according to one tradition was even officially appointed the Seer’s successor.

Me’ir followed in the ideological path of Elimelekh of Lizhensk as well as of Horowitz, who developed the doctrine of the tsadik in its materialistic aspects. He considered a tsadik to be not only a spiritual leader and one who has influence upon the highest spheres, but also as someone who operates in the temporal realm and is concerned and responsible for the material needs of his adherents. As a result he opposed the elitist and innovative Hasidic doctrine that had sprung from the Pshiskhe school and the Hasidic path of Simḥah Bunem of Pshiskhe.

During the years 1824–1825, Me’ir engaged in a range of contacts with Polish authorities concerning police investigations of the Hasidic movement and restrictions on the establishment of Hasidic prayer houses. Through Jakub Bergson, a wealthy Jew from Warsaw, he lodged a formal complaint against the local police, who were impeding his efforts to hold gatherings of his followers in his court. Me’ir was among the leading rebbes in Poland; from one police report it is estimated that about 200 Hasidim convened at his court on a regular Sabbath, and on holy days the number of visitors swelled up to 600.

Me’ir was also famed for his melodies. His teachings, organized according to the weekly Torah readings, were published after his death by his grandson in Or la-shamayim, in Lwów in 1850 and in Lublin in 1909. Me’ir’s sons were Yisra’el of Staszów (d. 1842) and Pinḥas (d. 1833 or 1837), the latter of whom replaced his father in the role of tsadik. Among his disciples were Shelomoh of Radomsk and Yisakhar Ber of Radeshits.

Suggested Reading

Glenn Dynner, Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society (Oxford, 2006), pp. 77–81, 109–113; Raphael Mahler, Hasidism and the Jewish Enlightenment: Their Confrontation in Galicia and Poland in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia, 1985), pp. 246–247, 252, 256–258, 329–333; Zvi Meir Rabinowitz (Tsevi Me’ir Rabinovits), Ben Pshisḥa’ le-Lublin: Ishim ve-shitot be-ḥasidut Polin (Jerusalem, 1996/97), pp. 370–388; Baruch Ḥ. Weg, “Ha-Rav ha-Kadosh Rabi Me’ir ha-Levi me-Apta’,” in Kovets naḥalat Tsevi (Bene Berak, Isr.) 14 (1997): 28–64, 15 (1997): 61–99.



Translated from Hebrew by Sharon Makover-Assaf