The Municipal Maggid Rabbi Israelkale

After the Maggid Rabbi Manis, R. Israelkala became preacher in town, circa Tr”h.

Israelkala, who wrote many essays, cameto Siedlce from Wongrob, together with Rabbi Itzhak Goldman, who settled in the city and served as secretary and typist for the Maggid, for three pennies per sheet. This Rabbi Yitzchak Goleman who was a floor tiller excelled in R. Israelkala’s yeshiva, where he proved himself as a Torah-observant Jew, who sat and studied day and night.

R’ Israelkala was a great scholar and considered to be a maker of miracles. He cast out “dybbuks”, gave charms and wrote amulets. He used to wear a caftan made of parchment, and whenever requested to write a cameo, he would cut piece of his caftan and write the words of luck on it.

R’ Israelkala was a strong opponent, so the Hasidim were chasing him and played different tricks on him. One Kotsek hasid deceitfully invited him to third dinner. The important personality among the Hasidim at the time was Rabbi Motel Greenberg, who had permission from the authorities to put “vestments” and so sat at the head of the table, wearing shtreimel.

When he entered the synagogue R. Israelkala was seated next to R. Motel, and the latter was presented as Rebbe. Rabbi Israelkala said words of Torah, not in the form Hasidic accepted, of course, and the Hasidim, who didn’t like this formulation, began to taunt him and laugh at him.they started sticking him with needles from all sides. The synagogue was already dark and the Maggid could not identify the stabbers, and he yelled: “Rabbi, I’m being stabbed!”

Mottel, who did not know that the Hassidim had seduced the Maggid with deceit, and believed that he had come at his initiative to speak Torah, said without hesitation: “He who wants to say words of Torah before the Hasidim must also receive their pins”.

The Hasidim were not content with this trick. A young Hassid came once to see R’ Israelkala and told him a “dybbuk” has possessed one of his friends, and he asked him to come and expel it. Once the Maggid agreed, he brought him, again, to the Kotsk synagogue, where a young man pretended to be obsessed.

The Maggid set up a few virtues, circled a circle of chalk around the young man, took a Lulav and Etrog and shook them all over, and finally ordered them to bring a barrel of water and ordered the dybbuk to enter the barrel. Since nothing seemed to help, R. Israelkala admitted in despair that he no longer had any advice and resources and wanted to go – but the Hasidim grabbed him and threw him into a barrel of water …

Since the Hassidim continued harassing him, he decided to flee Siedlce, and left the city the night of Hoshanna Rabba Tri”a (1851). When already out of town, it is said, he cursed Siedlce, with fire. Indeed, the next day was an outbreak of fire, the largest in the history of the city, which demolished the Great Synagogue and many other houses.

All the people who participated in the persecution of the Maggid, met bitter end, was the story in Siedlce. They regretted causing him such disgrace.

The dispute between the Hasidim and the opponents led to countless attacks on each other. Among the stories told about the antics that were carried out was this: at that time a Jew lived in Siedlce named Rabbi Leibel Kave, A.K.A. Rabbi Leibel Atkas, Rachel Atkas’ father in law and patriarch of the Kave family in Siedlce. He was a God-fearing Jew.

Rabbi Leibel used to wake up early in the morning to wear the prayer shawl and phylacteries at home (the home Rachel Atkas will live in) and then he would go out on his way to the synagogue. He was careful not to cross Warsaw Street, where shops were open, but went through Cujas alley. He did so with the intention that he would not offend the Jews who had earned money, because at that time they would open the shops at dawn.

Once, Rabbi Leibel Kave wished to reach the Holy Spirit. He knew that in order to do so there was a need for seclusion, so he locked himself in his own room. Cut off contact with the outside world, and engaged only in Torah and prayer.

When this became known to the Hassidim, they resolved to prevent him from fulfilling his wish. And so, about four weeks after he began his isolation, they came and knocked hard on the door of his house. R. Leibel, of course, would not open under any circumstances. The Hasidim broke down the door and came in by force. Rabbi Leibel was seized by anger and the followers achieved their goal, since “the Holy Spirit dwells only in a happy heart”.

All his life, R. Leibel held a hrudge against the Hassidim which prevented him from winning the Holy Spirit…

Written by Yitzhak Nahum Weintraub in the book: “Ancestors Tell Siedlce”.
Translated from Hebrew by Mr. Yuval Romano