Zaddik

A Hasidic spiritual leader believed to maintain a channel to God.

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The Zaddik’s Prayer

The famous prayer of Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev is, in reality, an adaptation by this Zaddik of an old Yiddish prayer. This prayer, rendered here in an English translation, is recited by many Hasidim at the departure of the Sabbath, when the Zaddik is said to have recited it, and it is thus typical of Zaddikim in relation to prayer:

"God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob! Guard Thy people Israel from all evil for the sake of Thy praise. As the beloved, holy Sabbath departs, we pray that in the coming week we should attain to perfect faith, to faith in the sages, to love of our fellows, to attachment [devekut] to the Creator, blessed be He. May we believe in Thy thirteen principles of the faith and in the redemption, may it come speedily in our day, and in the resurrection of the dead and in the prophecy of Moses our teacher, on whom be peace. Sovereign of the universe! Thou art He who gives the weary strength! Give, then, also to Thy dear Jewish children [Kinderlech, lit. "toddlers," "little children"] the strength to love Thee alone. And may the week bring with it good health, good fortune, happiness, blessing, mercy, and children, life and sustenance, for us and for all of Israel, and let us say, Amen."

The prayer of the Zaddik for his followers to be blessed with "children, life and sustenance" is found in many a Hasidic text. The basis in the Talmud is saying (Moed Katan 28a):  "Life, children and sustenance depend not on merit but on mazal."  In the context mazal means "luck"--it is not by a person’s merits that he has good health, sustenance, and children but by sheer chance. But Hasidim, treating the word mazal as if it came from a root meaning to flow, use the Talmudic passage for the doctrine of Zaddikim. Even if a man does not deserve to have good health, sustenance, and children on his own merits, he may be given them as a result of the special "flow" of divine blessing through the "channel" that is the Zaddik.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.