The Righteous, Illustrious Rabbi, Our Rabbi and Teacher,
Rabbi Avraham David of Blessed Memory,
President of the Court in Buchach

Yekutiel Kammelhar , Translated by Betsy Halpern-Amaru


(The chapter is taken from the book, Dor Deah, written by Yekutiel Kammelhar and published in Risha 1, Galicia.)

And there came forth a shoot out of the stock of our teacher and rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Edels (Maharsha), of blessed memory, an illustrious, holy rabbi, a pillar of instruction and marvelous posek – our illustrious rabbi and teacher, Avraham David of blessed memory, the author of Da'at Kedoshim, president of the court in Buchach, who is remembered with holy feelings yet today in his city as “the Zaddik.”

He was born on the sixth of Adar in the year 5531 (February 20, 1771, NP) in the city of Nadvorna 2 , to our teacher, Rabbi Asher Anshel, an “eminent scholar” (indeed, he would refer to his father by that title), and to Marat 3 Rachel, of blessed memory, his righteous mother. As he grew to a lad, he demonstrated wonderful, outstanding abilities and, throughout the city and its environs he was renowned as a “wonder-child.” By the time he was nine, he was already very erudite in Talmud (Shas) and the Poskim 4 . The great rabbinic scholars were amazed by him and rejoiced in the glorious brilliance of the lad, Avraham David. One of them, the master and sage, our great illustrious Rabbi Meshulam Igra, of blessed memory, president of the court of Tismenitz 5 was once in Nadvorna. In the year 5540 he set out in his carriage, hoisted his standard onto the wheel of the wagon, and upon seeing the prodigy, extended his hand to him and brought him up into the carriage where he spoke with him about his studies. He asked him various questions and the young lad gave proper and profound responses. He believed a great future awaited the genius and that he would become “a rabbinic authority in Israel and a wonder to all the learned of that generation.”

The illustrious rabbi, our teacher, our rabbi, David Shlomo Eibenschutz, of blessed memory, author of “Levushei Serad,” was teaching Torah to the young Jews in Nadvorna at that time. He put him to the test and commanded him to read several pages from some tractate. The lad read with such intelligence and great understanding that he was very amazed at the breadth of his knowledge and the sharpness of his intellect. Thus his reputation became known throughout the region. The illustrious rabbi, our rabbi and teacher, Zvi Hersh Kro, president of the Court in Buchach, heard of his reputation and traveled to Nadvorna to examine him closely. Thereupon he realized that he had not been told even half of what the lad was capable of. He came to agreement with his father, Rabbi Asher Enshel, of blessed memory, regarding a marriage; and he took his son, the wondrous lad, Avraham David, as a groom for his daughter. The years of childhood passed and when he became Bar Mitzvah, he also became one of the students of the head of community, our holy rabbi and teacher, the Magid, of blessed memory, from Nadvorna.

A year after his wedding, the illustrious Rabbi Meshulam, of blessed memory, from Tismenitz came to the community of Buchach, his birthplace. Members of his family lived there and he was given the honor of giving a d'rash 6 on the Sabbath. All the learned men and Torah scholars of the city came to hear. Among them was the young Avraham David, son-in-law of the president of the court; and he stood off to the side. The illustrious one presented his interpretation with such intricacies that all of the learned were exhausted from trying to follow and comprehend the acute depth of his presentation. As our illustrious Rabbi Meshulam gazed at the faces of the listeners to see if they understood what he was saying, he realized that there was not one man who had not been challenged beyond his ability. And he said: “ Behold, only that young man standing in the remote corner can understand what I have to say.”

He was still living with his father-in-law, the illustrious president of the court of Buchach, our rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Kro – author of “Netah Shaashuim,” responsa addressed to the greats of that generation who were accustomed to coming to him to inquire in regard to matters of halacha – when the illustrious Rabbi Meshulam Igra, of blessed memory, president of the court of Tismenitz announced that he had assumed the position of rabbi for the Pressberg congregation. The rabbis of the area came to take leave of him and asked him to whom they should turn with their most difficult questions. He told them that he was leaving behind the illustrious Rabbi Zvi Hersh Kro, president of the court in Buchach, who possessed prodigious, extraordinary knowledge, and that they should turn to him with any matter that was difficult for them. Living in a city filled with wise men and scribes, he became even more proficient in Torah, his wisdom grew to even greater heights, and he thrived like “a tree planted by springs of water.” There he also found a good friend who became like a brother, the youth Reb Hayim who subsequently became God's shepherd, the illustrious, holy rabbi and teacher, Hayim, president of the court of Czernovitz, of blessed memory, author of “Be'er Mayim Hayim,” of “Siddur shel Shabbat,” “Shaar ha'Tifila,” and “Eretz Hahayyim.” At that time he lived there in Buchach and the two of them were attentive friends until they became rabbis, shepherds of the God of Israel.


When the prestigious rabbi, Rabbi Avraham David was twenty, he was appointed as rabbi, president of the court of Yazlovitz 7 , which is close to Buchach. It was his custom in religious matters to write down in a page of a book all the teachings and legal decisions he had made in the course of the day and to review them before going to bed that night in order to see if he might have made any error in judgment. Consequently, he made it an inviolable rule to develop a new interpretation of eighteen halachot each week. In the course of years, he thereby came to initiate myriads of innovative halachic interpretations, treasures stored in manuscripts that he left after him. Lest someone should come to ask for instruction, he never drank alcohol. However, in order to fulfill the saying of Haz'al – “a person is required to become intoxicated on Purim” – he would wait until midnight, a time when he knew for sure that the people of the town were deep in slumber, and would drink a little honey water to fulfill the commandment of Haz'al.

His daily routine at that time involved the regular daily prayers, thereafter helping his son with his morning prayers, and then sitting immersed in Torah for fourteen hours in his beit midrash where he would provide instruction for each questioner. Day and night there was no break in this routine until his eyes would begin to fail. Not wanting to interrupt his teaching, he did not readily respond even then, because the Torah not only nurtured his soul and spirit, but also was a remedy for his body.

He heightened the spiritual level of the people of his city to the highest degree of pure piety. Once when the holy rabbi, our rabbi and teacher, the Maharam, of sacred memory, from Premishlan 8 passed through Yazlovits, he sensed the piety in every passageway and corner and said: “this is the power of the Rabbi, the Zaddik, Rabbi Avraham David who has been occupied in holy work here for twenty-four years.

He has breathed a pure, holy spirit into his reprimands and into his sermons on ethics and piety.” It was also his custom when he would officiate at weddings that before beginning the first part of the ceremony, he would awaken the heart of each groom with his teachings about ethics, righteousness, and piety. Even once he became president of the court in Buchach, the future grooms from the community of Yazlovits would come to him for a blessing before their weddings and he would teach them ethics (Musar). It is told that one time the Rabbi Zaddik asked a groom who had come to be blessed if his father and father-in-law would be providing basic support for him after the wedding. He replied that his father would be giving him support for three years and his father-in-law for another three years. The Rabbi Zaddik responded lyrically: “My son, take care to watch over your learning with great constancy during those six years. The learning of one who “worries” is a pressed impression; the Torah that one learns when one is worrying about earning a livelihood is only a rubbing, an impression and is not absorbed internally. Therefore, during the six years that you have sustenance without worry, be zealous to learn Torah and this Torah will guide you in every way all the days of your life.”


Although the illustrious Zaddik, Rabbi Avraham David, was a disciple of the Magggid of Nadvorna in his youth, when he subsequently sat at the table of his father-in-law, our illustrious rabbi and teacher Zvi Hersh Kro, president of the court in Buchach, who was among the Mitnagdim, he left his Hasidism and went the path of his father-in-law who conducted himself like the gaonim before him. But it was the will of God that Rabbi Avraham David would also be one of the righteous men (zaddikim) of the generation and a worker of wonders. Thus, it suddenly happened that his only son, his first born, fell ill with a life-threatening illness (heaven help him), which the physicians despaired of healing. At that time the holy rabbi, the glory of Israel, our teacher, rabbi Levi Yitzhak, of blessed memory, from Berdichev and author of “Kedushat Levi,” came to the city Rimalov 9 . The entire city was amazed at the coming of this Zaddik and worker of miracles to their land. The rabbi's wife told him that he should go with his only son to the Zaddik from Berdichev who would bless the child and cure him of his illness. Since the doing would take time away from his study of Torah, the rabbi did not want to hear this. So the rebbitzen went to the heads of the congregation and begged them that they entreat their rabbi to have compassion for her and for their only son and travel with him to Rimalov, to the Rav, the Zaddik from Berdichev. They did so. After much urging, the rabbi was convinced. Together with the sick child and accompanied by several other members of the community, he went to Rimalov, which was not far from Yazlovits. When they arrived at the lodging place, it was time for the morning prayers and the illustrious righteous rabbi, our rabbi and teacher, Avraham David, prepared for prayer. On his way to the Beit Midrash he met up with one of the attendants of the righteous rabbi from Berdichev and asked him when the Zaddik from Berdichev would be praying and when he would be able to come to see him. He answered him that the Zaddik from Berdichev stayed awake all night and only now would be lying down to rest a bit, and when he awoke he would prepare himself for prayer which itself would last until after midday. Thereafter he would be able to come to see him. And so it was. After midday the attendant came to his lodging to summon him to the Zaddik from Berdichev. When he came before him, the holy rabbi from Berdichev asked him why he had come and he told him that it certainly had been difficult to interrupt the business of Torah, but due to the great urging of significant members of his congregation, he had come to get a blessing for this sick son. The holy rabbi asked him: “And where is your sick son?” And he responded that the lad was here in the lodge. The holy rabbi from Berdichev told his attendant to bring the sick boy into his presence. When he was brought before him, the Zaddik from Berdichev placed his hands on his head and blessed him. He said to his father, the rabbi from Yazlovitz: “God, my he be blessed, would completely heal him and from your, this first born, you will be worthy to see sons and grandsons who are God-fearing and greatly learned in Torah…” (And so it was). When the holy rabbi finished his blessing, the illustrious rabbi, president of the court of Yazlovits, put forth his hand in greeting to make his departure and travel home, the holy rabbi said to him: “Why are you in such a hurry to leave, right when I have found a soul mate?” He greatly urged him to remain; and he acquiesced to the request. The holy rabbi of Berdichev told his companions to return with the sick boy to their home and the rabbi, president of the holy court, would remain with him for a few days to enjoy Torah with him. He blessed them and they returned home with the sick boy in whom signs of recovery were immediately evident. Their rabbi remained with the holy rabbi of Berdichev until after Shabbat. Then he was forced to travel with the holy rabbi to the community of Skalat. From there the holy rabbi of Berdichev did not let him return to his house, but rather had him come with him to Berdichev where he stayed around six weeks and learned from the holy rabbi Barzin Eylein (?). Thereafter the holy rabbi bestowed upon him a parting blessing and he returned to his place, to the community of Yazlovits.

Upon his arrival from Berdichev, filled with enthusiasm and spirituality, with “life” burning as coals, his first deed was to remove from his house every penny of interest that the Rebbizin had taken from her loans– she lent money to people from the dowry she had brought from her father's house. He called her and commanded her to do an accounting of all who had borrowed from her over the course of the years in which she had been making loans and return to them any interest she had taken from them. Neither protests nor tears by the Rebbezin helped; she was forced to do as he has ordered. Not a thing remained in their house. Indeed, she had to sell her own ornaments in order to have the full amount that she needed in order to refund the borrowers. Consequently, they were left bare and penniless; the income they received from the community was sufficient only for scanty rations and a little water; and she suffered everything in silence. Her husband, the righteous rabbi, began to occupy himself with kabbalah and entered the garden of the holy Zohar, the writings of Ha'Ari, and of our rabbi and teacher Hayim Vital, may his memory be blessed for eternal life. With storms of his spirit, he attempted to ascend to a level beyond his abilities; and the spiritual powers within him struggled with each other and in the struggling, they broke forth with no restraint to their boundaries. Thus, he went outside, wrapped in talit and teffilin and in the town center called on God to sanctify his name. When heads and men of his community saw this, they took him and brought him to the house of the illustrious, holy rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Leib Misasov, of blessed memory and he had influence over his spirit and brought the inner storms to quiet. So the illustrious rabbi, our rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Avraham David himelf would tell it at the beginning of his book, “Tefilat L'David,” where he blesses “gomel,” and gives thanks to God. Thus he would say: I rested and was quieted by coming to my teacher and rabbis, the honorable, great rabbi, the famous Hasid, a holy man of God, our teacher the Rabbi Moshe Yehudah Labit, of blessed memory, who was the envoy of the Merciful-One. He drew over me immediate deliverance for the sake of kindness and graciousness themselves, not for my sake. As one removes paper from the flask, so he turned away the foolishness, the impatience, the confusions, and the discord that I had felt from beginning to end, with no inner peace between the way of Hasidism and that of Talmud – all this he removed from me”. And he returned to his home healthy and whole.



After the death of his father-in-law, the illustrious teacher and rabbi, Rabbi Kro, of blessed memeory, president of the court in Buchach and author of the book of responsa, “Neta Sha'ashuim,” on the 8th day of the month of Shevat in the year 5674, the illustrious Zaddik, president of the court of Yazlovitz, was accepted as a replacement for his father-in-law, i.e., to serve as rabbi of the community of Buchach. In coming there, he directed that all questions involving forbidden and permitted matters would come before him and he would respond to every questioner except in civil matters. For that area, he instead appointed his firstborn son, the illustrious Rabbi Israel Aryeh Leib, of blessed memory, together with two judges who would be judges of civil matters. Only when the litigants forcefully requested that only the president of the court would sit in judgment of their case, would he deal with civil matters. In such instances, the court would present the claims and counterclaims to him in the name of “Reuben” and “Simeon” so that he would not know who the real litigants were; and he would present his judgment in terms of “so and so is culpable and so and so is innocent.

He was only occupied with Torah and with work. At midnight he would rise to lament the destruction of the Temple and thereafter he would occupy himself until midday with Torah and with work, which in his mind was prayer. Then he would drink a bit of not very hot coffee, and so that he would be obliged to say the final grace after meals he would eat a bit of bread with dumpling (?). Afterward, he would consider town matters and in particular, creature matters, the many needs of the children of Israel who came before him with the bitterness of soul and hardships of their days to receive his blessings and he would pray on their behalf that prosperity would be realized in the midst of the land. After the afternoon and evening prayers he ate chicken for his evening meal – he personally slaughtered two chickens every week that he would eat at the evening meal during the week.

There were those who opposed him there on these matters, for the learned of the city of Buchach were opposed to Hasidism. Consequently, they could not tolerate that their rabbi, the president of the court, was a famous rebbe and zaddik who extended the morning prayer until after midday, prayed in accord with the Sepharadi manner, and used the prayer book of Ha'Ari, of blessed memory. In addition, they were also infuriated by the fact that he did not use the ritual slaughterers of his community, but rather himself slaughtered fowl for his own daily use. On this matter, he, of blessed memory, apologized to them when he mentions the issue at the end of his book “Tefila L'David 10.” Still, his holy words were of no avail in appeasing the anger and fury of the murmurers and complainers. They continued to murmur against him, but he was sustained, as it is said: “may his friends be as the sun rising in its might 11. ”


The illustrious righteous ones of the era corresponded with him with responsa and the great illustrious teacher and rabbi, Ephraim Zalman Margolioth of Brody, of blessed memory, wanted to expend monies from his own pocket to publish the new legal interpretations made by the illustrious rabbi, the Zaddik of Buchach. (As mentioned above, he was making eighteen such new interpretations each week). However, to his great sorrow, his intent to do so was never realized because the illustrious rabbi and teacher Ephraim Zalman died suddenly one afternoon. Report of the death of his dear, beloved, great illustrious friend, was extremely hard on him, for he was unable to publish his multiple, essential legal rulings.

He also was in correspondence with his son's father-in-law, the holy, illustrious Mameeri Derzin,(?) our rabbi and teacher of blessed memory of Zdechovice. Once they had an argument over the proper scribing of the letter “chet” in books, tefilin, and mezuzot. Our holy rabbi offered the new interpretation that only the second foot of the “chet” had to be in the same form on makes with the letter “zayin.” They dispatched multiple letters regarding this matter until finally the illustrious president of the court of Buchach wrote the following to the illustrious one of Zdechovice: There already was a controversy between ben Asher and ben Naphtali regarding the written form of the letters (as is known, in the time of the earliest of the Gaonim in the yeshivot of Tiberias). At that time a divine voice decreed in accord with the opinion of Ben Asher, and I, I am he, for I am Ben Asher 12.

He also exchanged letters with the illustrious Rebbe Elimelech, of blessed memory, of Dynov as well as with all the rabbis of the provinces who dispatched their questions in matters of law to him.

And over the course of his living there, the number of his students greatly increased. Among the most outstanding and well known are:

The illustrious rabbi, our rabbi-teacher, Shlomo Dremaur (?), of blessed memory, president of the court of Skala 13, author of “Responsa of Beit Shlomo” on the four parts of the Shulkan Aruk and who was renowned as an outstanding “posek.”

The illustrious rabbi, our rabbi-teacher, Ephraim Elisha, of blessed memory, president of the court of Chernevtsy 14, who was a famous, holy Hasid.

The illustrious rabbi, our rabbi-teacher, Smeryl, of blessed memory, president of the court of Rimalov, author of “Iyun Tefila” on the siddur, based upon what he had heard from his rabbi, the illustrious holy one of blessed memory.

  • The illustrious rabbi and Hasid, our rabbi-teacher, Moshe, president of the court of Bedzonov (?).
  • The illustrious rabbi and Hasid, our rabbi-teacher, Dov, president of the court of Beien (?) of blessed memory.
  • The illustrious and famous rabbi-teacher, Shraga Feivel Shreier, of blessed memory, president of the court of Bogorodchany 15 who published the book “Daat Kedoshim” concerning ritual animal slaughter with his comments and notes under the name “Gedolei HaKodesh.”

    Translator's Footnotes:

    1) Risha, Raysha, is identified as Rzeszow in in G. Mokotoff and S. Sack, Where Once We Walked (Teaneck: Avotaynu, Inc., 1991). Return

    2) Nadvorna identified as Nadvornaya. Return

    3) I have not translated "marat" as Mrs. or Ms. – seems anachronistic. Return

    4) Rabbinical scholarship dealing with application of and arbitration over points of law. Return

    5) Identified as Tysmenitsa in Mokotoff and Sack. Return

    6) Homiletical interpretation. Return

    7) Yazlovits or Yazlivitz is identified also as Pomortsy in Mokotoff and Sack. Return

    8) Identified as Peremyshlyany in Mokotoff and Sack. Return

    9) Identified as Grimaylov in Mokotoff and Sack. Return

    10) I think there is an error in the text here. It reads "Tefilah LaDor", but his book is entitled "Tefilah L'David." Return

    11) The quote is from Judges 5:31. There are numerous citations of biblical phrases in the piece. I have put in quotations only where – such as here – the words are presented as a citation. Return

    12) There is a word/name play here that I am not sure is conveyed well. His father's name was "Asher." Return

    13) Identified in Mokotoff, Sack. Return

    14) Identified in Mokotoff, Sack. Return

    15) Identified in Mokotoff, Sack. Return


    Rabbi Abraham David

    Translated by Jessica Cohen

    Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov was a devoted follower of the tzadik of Berditchev. His student, Rabbi Abraham David, who later became the Rabbi of Buczacz, pleaded with his rabbi to permit him to travel to Berditchev, for he longed to observe the tzadik 's ways closely. But his rabbi refused to comply with his request. “We read in the Book of Daniel,” he said, “of the court attendants, 'who are unable to stand in the king's court.' Our sages interpreted this to mean that against their will they abstained from laughter, sleep and other things. And the work of Rabbi Levi Yitzhak is, that he burns with an eternal flame. Everything he does deepens his burning soul. Therefore, no one can stand close to him unless he is certain that he will be able to resist laughing when he sees the strange movements of the holy man as he prays and as he eats.” The student promised the rabbi that he would not laugh, and so the rabbi of Sassov gave him permission to travel to Berditchev for the Sabbath. But when he saw the tzadik sitting down at the table and his strange grimaces, he was unable to control himself and burst out laughing. He was immediately seized by a kind of madness and the laughter went wild and did not stop, until they had to take him away from the table and send him with a guard to Sassov when the Sabbath ended. When Rabbi Moshe Leib saw him, he wrote to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak: “I sent you a whole vessel and you returned it to me shattered.” The illness continued for thirty days, and then Rabbi Abraham David was suddenly healed. Since then, he holds a thanksgiving feast every year, and during the feast he tells all the details of the tale, and concludes with the quote: “Give thanks to God for He is good, His kindness endures forever.”

    (From “ Or Haganuz ” by M. Buber, p. 228)