Abraham Sternhartz

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Abraham Sternhartz (1862–1955), also known as Avraham Shternhartz, was an Orthodox rabbi in Ukraine and a unique and unsurpassed figure in the chain of transmission of Breslover teachings from the early generations of the movement to the latter ones.

On his father's side, he was the great-grandson of Nathan of Breslov (known as Reb Noson), the closest disciple of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, who promulgated the movement after Nachman's death. On his mother's side, he was the grandson of Rabbi Nachman Goldstein, known as the Tcheriner Rav, who was one of Reb Noson's leading disciples. Because of these family relationships, Sternhartz was privy to all the traditions and stories about Reb Noson. These formed the basis for his volume of oral traditions related to Likutey Moharan, entitled Tovot Zichronot, published by his disciple Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Koenig. Rabbi Sternhartz also authored a complete commentary on Likutey Moharan that was lost in Jerusalem during Israel's 1948 War of Independence.

Child prodigy[edit]

Sternhartz was orphaned of his parents as a young boy and was raised by his grandfather. Like the Tcheriner Rav, the young Abraham was a child prodigy who applied himself to his Torah studies with great diligence. He completed the study of all 2,711 pages of the Talmud by the age of 16, a feat normally reserved for older scholars.

He also dedicated himself to the study of Rebbe Nachman's teachings. Every day after morning prayers, he would seclude himself in the attic to study Rebbe Nachman's magnum opus, Likutey Moharan, and not come downstairs until he had memorized that day's lesson. Later in life, people would say that his every action was based on some statement in Rebbe Nachman's teachings.

After his marriage, Sternhartz began working as a sofer (scribe) in the town of Tcherin, Ukraine. At the age of 19 he was appointed rabbi of Kremenchug in eastern Ukraine. At the age of 22 he was named prayer leader for the annual Rosh Hashana kibbutz (prayer gathering) in Uman, an honor accorded by the Breslover Hasidim to scholars of great piety.

Aliyah to the Holy Land[edit]

Sternhartz emigrated to Israel in 1936 and was recognized as the outstanding Breslover elder of his generation who possessed all the wealth of Breslov traditions. He settled in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, and established a Rosh Hashanah kibbutz in northern part of the Land of Israel at the burial site of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in 1940, since the grave of Rebbe Nachman in Uman was off-limits to foreigners.

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Sternhartz and many other Breslover Hasidim were evicted from the Old City by the invading Jordanian army, and were resettled in the neighborhood of Katamon. During this war many of Sternhartz's precious manuscripts were lost, including his complete commentary on Likutey Moharan, along with unpublished manuscripts of the Tcheriner Rav.

Breslover elder[edit]

Until his death at the age of 93, Sternhartz continued to teach and inspire his students, many of whom became Breslover leaders in coming decades. These students included: Rabbis Gedaliah Aharon Koenig, Moshe Burstein, Nachman Burstein, Michel Dorfman (who married Sternhartz's granddaughter), Shmuel Horowitz, Tzvi Aryeh Lippel, Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld, Shmuel Shapira, and Yaakov Meir Shechter.

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