Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica was a rabbinic Hasidic thinker and founder of the Izhbitza-Radzyn dynasty of Hasidic Judaism.
Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica (Yiddish: איזשביצע, איזביצע Izhbitze, Izbitse, Ishbitze) (1801-1854) was a rabbinic Hasidic thinker and founder of the Izhbitza-Radzyn dynasty of Hasidic Judaism.
Rabbi Mordechai Yosef was born in Tomashov (Polish: Tomaszów Lubelski) in 1801 to his father Reb Yaakov the son of Reb Mordechai of Sekul, a descendant of Rabbi Saul Wahl. At the age of two he became orphaned of his father. He became a disciple of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa where he joined Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rabbi Yosef of Yartshev; both were also born in Tomashov. When Rabbi Menachem Mendel became Rebbe in Kotzk, Reb Mordechai Yosef became his disciple there; then in 1839 became himself a rebbe in Tomaszów, moving subsequently to Izbica.
His leading disciple was Rabbi Yehuda Leib Eiger (1816-1888), grandson of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. His students included Rabbi Zadok HaKohen of Lublin (1823–1900), his son, Rabbi Yaakov Leiner (1828–1878) and his grandson Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner of Radzyn.
Mordechai Yosef Leiner is buried in an ohel in the Jewish cemetery in Izbica.
Rabbi Leiner is best known for his work Mei Hashiloach, a compilation of his teachings by his grandson, in which he expressed the doctrine that all events, including human actions, are absolutely under God's control, or as Rabbinic discourse would phrase it, by "hashgacha pratis." Thus, if everything is determined by God, then even sin is done in accordance with God's will. He presents defenses of various Biblical sins, such as Korach's rebellion, Zimri during the Heresy of Peor, and Judah's incident with Tamar.
One of his most cited comments is on Leviticus 21:1 :
None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin.
Rabbi Leiner read the verse as a warning against the defilement of the soul. The soul is defiled when it is infected with the bitterness and rage that comes with senseless suffering and tragedy. Those who — like the Kohanim— would serve God, are commanded to find the resources to resist the defilements of despair and darkness. Despair is the ultimate denial of God, and surrender to darkness is the ultimate blasphemy.
The publication of Mei Hashiloach was met with controversy and some burned copies of the work.
Alan Brill of Seton Hall University has suggested that the teachings of Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschutz may have influenced Rabbi Leiner's thinking.
Relationship with the Kotzker Rebbe
Rabbi Leiner was the right-hand man of the Kotzker rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, by whom he was charged with overseeing the Hasidim. In 1839 Leiner had a public and dramatic falling out with the Kotzker Rebbe. On the day after Simchat Torah of that year, Leiner left Kotzk with many of his followers to form his own hasidic circle.
The reasons given for the break are varied.
His thought influenced (mostly indirectly, through the work of Leiner's student, Reb Tzadok Hakohen) the mussar of Rabbi Isaac Hutner and Rabbi Moshe Wolfson.
Leiner's thought continued to have influence in the twentieth century, especially on Neo-Hasidism, and the teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (the "singing rabbi").
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach is credited with the recent popularization of Rabbi Leiner's teachings. He apparently came across Rabbi Leiner's work in an old Jewish book store. He is quoted as saying that after initially being perplexed as to the peculiar nature of the teachings he quickly realized that in it lay the "secret for turning Jews on to the deeper meanings of Judaism".
may the merit of the tzadik Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica protect us all. Amen