Yitzchak Meir Rothenberg Alter
Yitzchak Meir was the founder and first rebbe of the Ger dynasty, which at
one time counted over 100,000 Chasidim, and to this day remains one of the
largest Chasidic groups. He was a child prodigy who was sought after by all
the great Polish Chasidic leaders. The Rims mother Chaya Sara, was an
orphan who was raised by the Koznitzer Maggid, and the Maggid played a great
role in Yitzchak Meirs early development. The Rim became a disciple of
Rabbi Simcha Bunem of Pshischa and Rabbi Mendel of
Kotzk. He once said that according to Pshischa Chasidus a person does
nothing with his external limbs, the main thing is the inner self, from
which one is inspired to act.
emphasized the centrality of Torah and self-development, the externals of
Chasidus were minimized or disdained. Though
Pshischa and Kotzk were elitist, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir showed how their
principles could be embraced by all Jews. From Pshischa and Kotzk Ger
absorbed a healthy skepticism of human motivation and the demands of the
Koznitzer admonished Rabbi Yitzchak Meir to propound chiddushim (new
thoughts) every day and one notes a freshness and dynamism in the Rim as
well as in other Polish rebbes. In his approbation to Rabbi Bunems Kol
Simcha printed just 33 years after the latters death, Rabbi Yitzchak
Meir expresses the hope that probably even today his words will inspire
the hearts. Presumably he could only say probably because the new
generation needed fresh inspiration. He interpreted Hillels
if not now when to mean that each moment has its own fresh demands.
Yitzchak Meir was a true leader and was deeply involved in all political
events affecting his flock. His halachic
writings are characterized by scintillating brilliance and his non-halachic
thought by great depth and warmth. The custom to make siyyumim during the
nine days was seen by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir as motivated by a desire to bring
Jews together in a harmonious spirit and thus rectify the sin of sinas
chinam which had caused the destruction
of the Temple.
Rabbi Yitzchak Meirs personal life was filled with tragedy. Many of his thirteen children died in his lifetime. When he finally consented to assume leadership after the death of the Kotzker he remarked: I am not a rebbe. I do not want money. I do not care for honor. All I want is to spend my years bringing the children of Israel nearer to their Father in Heaven.
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.