Son of the Baal Shem Tov. Lead the Chassidic movement for one year.
Son of the Baal Shem Tov.
For a time, the Baal Shem Tov settled in Brody, where he married the sister of a renowned scholar, Rabbi Avraham Gershon Kitover. A son, Rabbi Zvi, and a daughter, Adel, were born to the Baal Shem Tov and his wife. Rabbi Tzvi learned Torah from his father and his uncle Rabbi Gershon. His father the Baal Shem Tov commanded him not to seek a rabbinical position and to save his words. His friends were never able to get a word wisdom out of him in the name of his father.
Rabbi Tzvi was a faithful emissary to his father in his many missions of saving Jews in trouble. Like his father he gave away all his money to charity. He was known for his great humility and acting like a simple man. He is considered to be a tzaddik nistar (a tzaddik who remained anonymous), his great acts were hidden from the public eye.
Successor to the Baal Shem Tov
Before his passing, the Baal Shem Tov told his son Tzvi, "Had I instilled within you the soul of Adam HaRishon (the first man), you would know all of Creation. Instead, I granted you a holy soul, so you don't need all that." It seems that the Baal Shem Tov was warning his son that leadership of the movement would not be his. Adam HaRishon symbolizes leadership, as it says, "Let us make man...and he will dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, and the entire earth..." (Bereishit 1:26). The Baal Shem Tov did not wish to lower Adam HaRishon's soul by instilling it within his own son, merely to enable him to inherit leadership. "You don't need all that." Tzvi's soul, a holy one, would perfect itself, not others.
In the year1760 when the Baal Shem Tov passed away, the Chassidic Movement was at a crucial juncture, requiring strong, dynamic leadership. The matter of succession was in question, as the Baal Shem Tov had left no specific instructions for his followers. In a move of respect and honor for the Baal Shem Tov, his only son Rabbi Tzvi was appointed interim leader. He served in that capacity for one year. The disciples had gathered for the first yahrzeit of the Baal Shem Tov and were seated around a table with Rabbi Tzvi at their head. He had just concluded his Torah discourse when he rose and said: "Today my father appeared to me and informed me that the Shechinah and Heavenly Assembly that used to be with him have gone over this day to Rabbi Dov Ber; therefore my son, transfer to him the leadership in the presence of the Chevraya Kadisha (Holy Society). Let him sit in my place at the head of the table and you, my son, sit in his place." When he finished speaking he removed the white robe symbolizing his office and placed it upon the shoulders of Rabbi Dov Ber.
Luxury and Charity
Rabbi Tzvi once accompanied his father, the Baal Shem Tov, to the house of a wealthy man in Mezibuz. The father, seeing his son's eyes widen at the costly silver ornaments and expensive furnishings, exclaimed: "My son, I see that you envy this man and his costly things while your father's house is bare of such luxury. But believe me, my son, even were I posses sufficient wealth to acquire these baubles, I would distribute it all to the poor."
Rabbi Tzvi was buried next to his father in Mezibuz. He left behind two righteous sons, R' Aharon of Tityov and R' Dov of Olnov.
May the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Tzvi protect us all, Amen.