The Jewish Eye
Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk
His whole life he waged a war for the truth. The external and internal truth. This was the essence of Rav Menachem Mendel Morgenstern better known as the Kotzker Rebbe. The word Kotzk has become synonymous with a burning and piercing kind of truth. A truth so hot it singes anyone who dares to delve deep enough to uncover it.
The Kotzker was born in 5547/1787 and lived at a time when Chasiddus was making great inroads into the mainstream of Jewish society. He felt that Chasiddus needed a tune up by correcting some of its basic flaws. Chasiddus had become too Chassidishe for him. He wanted to restore torah as the focal point of all Avodas Hashem and get people to become more self reliant and not subjugate their God given minds to the Rebbe. A person he felt, needed to take responsibility for his life, his ways, and develop his own personal relationship with Hashem.
He left no seforim, no tales of miracles, and no biography. He did not seek honor, fortune, or fame. He sought to raise Chasiddus to a movement for the elite. He longed to metamorphis Chasiddus into a movement with truly inspired Avodas Hashem and intense Torah learning as its cornerstone. His lone legacy is his short sharp sayings that he became famous for to the world outside of Kotzk.
When the Kotzker was asked why he does not want to write a sefer he said that in Kotzk they work hard all week. The only time to read his sefer would be Friday night after the meal. Then however a person is tired from the entire week and will lay down on the couch with it. He will shortly thereafter fall asleep without reading anything and the sefer will fall on the floor. So why should I write a sefer whose only use will be to lie on the floor in shame? Such was the Kotzker truth.
He was born into a family of a Misnagdim and eventually became a talmid of the Chozeh of Lublin and then later leaving Lublin for Peshischa where he became a Talmid of Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. After Rav Simcha Bunim's petira most of his talmidim who were peers of Rav Menachem Mendel, including the Chiddushei HaRim the founder of the Gerer dynasty, chose to follow Rav Menachem Mendel and make him their leader. His other main talmid was Rav Mordechai Yosef Leiner who eventually broke away and founded the Izhbetza Chasiddus. Rav Laibele Eiger, the grandson of Rebbi Akiva Eiger, was also attracted to Kotzk much to his father's great dismay. The Kotzker's son in law was the Avnei Neizer and he was succeeded by his son Rav Dovid.
The Kotzker was niftar in 5619/1859. He spent the last 20 years of his life in seclusion frustrated by his inability to create the flock of his ideals and refusal to play the role of the ideal Rebbe as the Chasidim wished.
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