Rabbi Menahem Mendel was born in 1787 in the town of Belgraj, near Lublin, into a learned family of mitnagdim (those opposed to Hasidism). He studied Torah in Zamosc, Poland. It was in the home of his father-in-law, Rabbi Isaac Nei, that Menahem Mendel first became acquainted with the world of Hasidism. After traveling to the centers of Hasidism and learning from its masters, Menahem Mendel succeeded his teacher, Rabbi Simhah Bunem, and became the leader of the young Hasidim who filled the courts of Przysucha. From there he returned to the town of Tomaszow, where he laid the foundation for his movement. Menahem Mendel would eventually return to Kotsk, the town of his youth, and spend the remaining decades of his life separated from the hustle and bustle of his surroundings, free to contemplate the mysteries of the world, on the one hand, and the hidden facets of man's soul, on the other. He died in Kotsk in 1819 and was succeeded by his son, David. One of the cornerstones of the Kotsker Rebbe's philosophy was his desire to reveal man's essence and freedom; indeed many of his sayings relate to this. Man must "guard himself and his uniqueness, and not imitate his fellow ... for initially man was created 'in his own image,' and only afterwards in the image of God." Another cornerstone in this philosophy is the untiring search for the truth, both within man and for man: "Do not be satisfied with the speech of your lips and the thought in your heart, all the promises and good sayings in your mouth, and all the good thoughts in your heart; rather you must arise and do!" The Rebbe of Kotsk did not commit his thoughts to writing. Simcha Raz, best-selling Israeli author, has compiled a selection of the sayings and aphorisms of this Hasidic master as they were recorded by his pupils and admires, in order to fashion an orderly framework for the rich fabric of the teachings and thoughts of the Kotsker Rebbe.
by Simcha Raz
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