Nachman ben-Simchah of Bratislav

(1772–1811)
   Ukrainian chassidic rabbi. Nachman was descended from ISRAEL BEN-ELIEZER BA’ALSHEM TOV, the founder of Chassidism. A mystic and ascetic, he practised prolonged fasts, followed by days in which he isolated himself in meditation in forests and fields. He was married to the daughter of a rabbi when thirteen years old, and from the age of eighteen he and his growing family lived in great poverty. In 1798, practically penniless, he set out alone for the Holy Land, where he spent most of his time with mystical scholars in Tiberias and Safad. Family responsibilities called him home and in 1802 he settled in Bratislav, Podolia. After suffering from tuberculosis for over three years, he died in the town of Uman. An intuitive man, Nachman elevated instinctive belief above scholarship; he despised philosophers and mistrusted physicians. His Chassidim practised confession of their sins before him. Some other chassidic groups were strongly opposed to his teachings, even accusing him of following the doctrines of SHABBETAI ZEVI.
   Nachman was a gifted story-teller. His largely allegorical Yiddish narratives have been printed in Yiddish and Hebrew in many editions, and were disseminated in Western Europe through the versions of Martin BUBER.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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