Mordechai Yosef Leiner

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Mordechai Yosef Leiner
TitleIzhbitzer Rebbe
Mordechai Yosef Leiner

Tomaszów Lubelski
ChildrenYaakov Leiner Shmuel Dov Asher Leiner
  • Yaacov Leiner of Tomashov (father)
Jewish leader
SuccessorYaakov Leiner
Main workMei HaShiloach

Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica (מרדכי יוסף ליינר) known as "the Ishbitzer" (Yiddish: איזשביצע, איזביצע Izhbitze, Izbitse, Ishbitze) (1801-1854[1]) was a rabbinic Hasidic thinker and founder of the Izhbitza-Radzyn dynasty of Hasidic Judaism. He is best known for his work Mei Hashiloach.


Rabbi Mordechai Yosef was born in Tomashov (Polish: Tomaszów Lubelski) in 1801 to his father Reb Yaakov the son of Reb Mordechai of Sekul, a descendant of Rabbi Saul Wahl. At the age of two he became orphaned of his father. He became a disciple of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa where he joined Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rabbi Yosef of Yartshev; both were also born in Tomashov. When Rabbi Menachem Mendel became Rebbe in Kotzk, Reb Mordechai Yosef became his disciple there; then in 1839 became himself a rebbe in Tomaszów, moving subsequently to Izbica.

His leading disciple was Rabbi Yehuda Leib Eiger (1816-1888[2]), grandson of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. His students included Rabbi Zadok HaKohen of Lublin (1823–1900), his son, Rabbi Yaakov Leiner (1828–1878) and his grandson Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner of Radzyn.

Mordechai Yosef Leiner is buried in an ohel in the Jewish cemetery in Izbica.

Relationship with the Kotzker Rebbe[edit]

Rabbi Leiner was the right-hand man of the Kotzker rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, by whom he was charged with overseeing the Hasidim. In 1840 Leiner had a public and dramatic falling out with the Kotzker Rebbe.[3] On the day after Simchat Torah of that year, Leiner left Kotzk with many of his followers to form his own hasidic circle. The reasons given for the break are varied.


Rabbi Leiner is best known for his work Mei Hashiloach ("מי השילוח") a popular collection of his teachings on the weekly Torah portion and Jewish holidays, published by his grandson, Rabbi Gershon Leiner, and usually printed in 2 volumes. It has twice been translated into English. [4] [5]

The work was however controversial; attempts were even made to sabotage the press on which it was being printed. In particular R. Leiner's view regarding Free will was at serious odds with the standard Jewish view. [note 1] Here R. Leiner expressed the doctrine that all events, including human actions, are absolutely under God's control, or as Rabbinic discourse would phrase it, by "hashgacha pratis." Thus, if everything is determined by God, then even sin is done in accordance with God's will. He presents defenses of various Biblical sins, such as Korach's rebellion, Zimri during the Heresy of Peor, and Judah's incident with Tamar.

One of his most cited comments is on Leviticus 21:1 "None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin." Rabbi Leiner read the verse as a warning against the defilement of the soul. The soul is defiled when it is infected with the bitterness and rage that comes with senseless suffering and tragedy. Those who — like the Kohanim— would serve God, are commanded to find the resources to resist the defilements of despair and darkness. Despair is the ultimate denial of God, and surrender to darkness is the ultimate blasphemy.


His thought influenced (mostly indirectly, through the work of Leiner's student, Reb Tzadok Hakohen) the mussar of Rabbi Isaac Hutner and Rabbi Moshe Wolfson. Leiner's thought continued to have influence in the twentieth century, especially on Neo-Hasidism, and the teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (the "singing rabbi").

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach is credited with the recent popularization of Rabbi Leiner's teachings. He apparently came across Rabbi Leiner's work in an old Jewish book store. He is quoted as saying that after initially being perplexed as to the peculiar nature of the teachings he quickly realized that in it lay the "secret for turning Jews on to the deeper meanings of Judaism".



  1. ^ His view has been explained as follows: "[What] the Izbicer demonstrates is that it is possible for agents to be free, relative to the fiction that they live in, whilst wholly determined from a God’s eye view. On the other hand, the Izbicer admits that we can’t actually break out of our perspective to see the sense in which we are determined. Nevertheless, he holds that we sometimes get some sort of mystical glimpse... For the Izbicer, human freedom is real. It’s as real as anything can be. On the other hand, there is a sense, that we can’t fully grasp, in which our existence, and our every action, is dependent upon the will of God. For that reason, the Izbicer is willing, in certain moods, to twist the famous Talmudic dictum radically, until it reads: 'All is in the hands of heaven, even the fear of heaven.'" [6] (The reference is to Berakhot 33b, "All is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven;" see discussion under Hashkafa.)


  1. ^ The State Archive of Lublin: "Jewish Civil Registry of Izbica Lubelski", 1854, Akt#: 6, Registration Type: death, Registration Year: 1854, Location: Izbica Lubelski, Surname: Lajner, Given Name: Mordko. Indexed by JRI-Poland.
  2. ^ The State Archive of Lublin: "Jewish Civil Registry of Lublin", 1888, Akt#: 46, Registration Type: death, Registration Year: 1888, Location: Lublin, Surname: Ejger, Given Name: Lejbus, Father: Szloma, Mother: Golda Rywka. Indexed by JRI-Poland.
  3. ^ Gover, MEIR Halevi (1 January 2018). The RADZYNER REBBE DYNASTY 1840 - 2005 by MEIR Halevi GOVER. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-965-92660-6-7. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
  4. ^ Betsalel Philip Edwards (2001). Living Waters: The Mei HaShilo'ach. ISBN 978-0765761477
  5. ^ J. Hershy Worch (2019). Mei Hashiloach: A Hebrew-English Translation of the Hasidic Commentary on the Torah by the Ishbitzer Rebbe. ISBN 978-1796252323
  6. ^ Sam Lebens (2011). The Izbicer Rebbe and Freewill, Association for the Philosophy of Judaism

External links[edit]