Jacob Joseph of Polonne

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Rabbi Jacob Joseph of Polonne, (1710–1784) (in Hebrew יעקב יוסף הכהן) is also known as Yaakov Yosef HaKohain of Polnoye, was one of the first and most dedicated of the disciples of the founder of Chassidut, the Holy Baal Shem Tov.


Yaakov Yosef (sometimes spelled Yacov Yoseph) had been a fervent adherent to the school of Lurianic Kabbalah.[1] He was already an accomplished scholar when he attached himself to the Baal Shem Tov, and his becoming a disciple engendered much controversy, and indeed some persecution. At that time, he was the rabbi of the city of Shargorod for several years, and he was expelled from his position on a Friday afternoon in 1748. In several of his responsa, which he wrote in Rashkov, where he took up residence after his banishment from Sharogrod, he reveals the suffering which he had undergone.[2] Later, he was appointed rabbi in Nemirov, a center of Hasidism, where he practiced daily fasting for five years, until the Besht came upon him.

His book, Toldos Yaacov Yosef, (published on 1780), was the first chassidic work ever published. In it repeats the phrase, "I have heard from my teacher", 249 times. He is one of the foremost sources for teachings from the Baal Shem Tov. Reb Yaacov Yosef was also somewhat known for his abrupt temperament, yet his teachings on the Zaddik, the saint-mystic and holy leader, provide an example of attainment of the highest degree of spiritual solitude, while also exemplifying the piety of a respected leader at the center of the community.


  1. ^ Dresner, Samuel H. (Rabbi). The Zaddik - The Doctrine of the Zaddik according to the writings of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoy, Shocken Books, 1974 (reissue of the Abelard-Schuman ed., London, 1960) ISBN 0-8052-0437-7; p. 50.
  2. ^ Dresner Zaddik; p. 57