The Life and Times of the Rebbes of the Ruzhiner Dynasty
by Yisroel Friedman


From a small village deep in the Russian countryside, a blazing light has spread across the world; a light that has shone through the deepest gloom and darkness, a light which infused a radiance into the most dull and dreary places. The light which the Rebbe of Ruzhin kindled still burns as brightly as ever, his message even more important in these dark and confusing times.

At a time when Yiddishe pride was at its lowest, the Jewish people persecuted daily with new evil decrees, the Ruzhiner sought to uplift their spirits, to rekindle the glow in their neshomos. Through his quiet aristocratic way of speech and his humane manner he succeeded in infusing new values into the lives of his chassidim, filling them with joy and purpose.

His divrei Torah (words of Torah), preserved to this very day, contain in them a message which is still as important as ever. But even more important than his Torahs was the physical inheritance that he left behind. "Everyone," he said, "leaves seforim behind. I leave my sons. We will see who will achieve more...".

The Ruzhiner's sons continued in the footsteps of their holy father, each one setting up a large court with tens of thousands of followers. Famed for their great Ahavas Yisroel (The love of ones fellow Jew), it was no wonder that the number of Ruzhiner chassidim grew constantly as did their influence throughout the whole of eastern Europe and beyond.

One of the Ruzhiner's greatest admirers was the Szanzer Rov, Reb Chaim Halberstam. When his followers expressed surprise that he should also feel it necessary to make the long and difficult journey to visit the Ruzhiner, he told them, "Why was the Beis Hamikdosh (The Holy Temple), built on Mount Moriah (where the Akeidas Yitzchok (the Binding of Issac), took place and not on Mount Sinai where the Torah was given to Klal Yisroel(the community of Israel, the Jewish people)? Because the place where a Jew was willing to be moser nefesh (self sacrificing) for Hashem's name is more important than the place where the Torah was given. The Ruzhiner is ready at all times to be moser nefesh (self sacrificing) for Hashem's name."

This trait of mesiras nefesh (self sacrifice), is one of the hallmarks of the Ruzhiner dynasty. Countless are the stories of how they risked their lives and possessions to help others, ignoring the danger to themselves.

In this book, the reader is granted a peek into the holy and lofty lives of these Tzaddikim (righteous men). Containing a treasure of inspiring and moving incidents and stories, the book details a glorious chapter in the history of our people. To truly do justice to the Tzaddikim (righteous men) mentioned, it would really be necessary to devote several volumes to each one of them. This book serves therefore to give the reader just a glimpse into the life and times of these great men, a short appreciation of their great contribution to our lives.

With the outbreak of the Second World War the Ruzhiner chassidus was almost destroyed. Many of the Rebbes together with their chassidim met a martyr's death. With the war's end, the surviving Rebbes started to slowly but surely rebuild the shattered remains. Today Ruzhin has regained much of its former glory, its chassidim and institutions spread out over three continents. Ruzhin is again a vibrant and flourishing community.

In the pages of this warm and detailed book, the lives of the Rebbes of Ruzhin are described with feeling and clarity. Their glorious yet simple lifestyles are revealed in English for the first time. The reader will enjoy the wealth of stories contained within, each with its own profound lesson. This book is another milestone in Jewish awareness, a major contribution to understanding the lives of the great tzaddikim and Torah giants.

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