Jewish Sages of Fastov

The city of Fastov has been associated with three known Jewish sages: Abraham haMalach, Israel ben Perez of Polotsk, and Abraham Mellusham Zalman Ashkenazi. A short biography of each rabbi is provided below.

Abraham ben Dov Ber Friedman (haMalach) (1741–1777), son of the great Maggid of Mezhrich, was a Chasidic tzaddik and a Kabbalah teacher [1] [2]. From 1772 to 1777 R. Abraham was a spiritual leader for the Fastov Jewish community. Because of his holiness and strict observance of Judaism he was named haMalach (the Angel) by his contemporaries. His commentaries to Torah were published as the book “Chesed Le Avraham” by his grandson Israel of Rozenoi in 1851. In his book, written with respect to Chasidic and Kabbalah tradition, he complains that his generation cannot truly understand his Chasidic perspective on Judaism. Dubnow explains this by the fact that R. Abraham haMalach has been superior to his contemporaries and “so absorbed in the meditation of divine wisdom that he can not descend to the lower steps upon which ordinary people stand” [1]. For decades the Fastov community believed that the spirit of the great tzaddik protected Jewish residents by praying on their behalf. His grave is still preserved and maintained in Fastov by Jewish community and Chasidic organizations.

R. haMalach’s grave
R. haMalach’s grave: outside view (photo taken by Vladimir Pluta; April, 2011)

R. haMalach’s matseva
R haMalach’s matseva from inside (photo taken by Vladimir Pluta; April, 2011)

Israel ben Perez of Polotsk (died around 1785), disciple of the great Maggid of Mezrich, was a Chasidic rabbi in Polotsk (modern Belorussia) and Eretz Israel [5]. After his teacher’s death R. Israel moved to Polotsk where he taught Chasidism together with his followers. As a result of disagreements with his opponents, R. Israel together with 300 Chassidim moved to Eretz Israel where he settled in the city of Safed. Due to community financial difficulties R. Israel went back abroad to do fund rising for Chasidim living in Eretz Israel. After collecting a considerable sum of money from Jewish communities he intended to return to Eretz Israel but became ill while staying in Fastov where he eventually died. His grave unfortunately has not been preserved and cannot be found any longer.

Abraham Meshulam Zalman ben Zvi Ashkenazi, son of famous rabbi Zvi Askenazi from Amsterdam, was a writer and a rabbi of the 18th century [6]. For 40 years he served as a rabbi of Ostroh (modern Ukraine). He is the author of “Dibre rab Meschullam” which was mainly dedicated to Talmudic stories and which was published by the author’s son Zvi Ashkenazi of Berdichev in 1789. R. Abraham was buried in Fastov. However, the exact place of his grave, as indicated on the plaque below, is unknown.

R. Ashkenazi plaque
The plaque dedicated to R. Ashkenazi placed inside R. haMalach’s matseva (photo taken by Vladimir Pluta; April, 2011)

References:

  1. Dorfman, Yitzachak. Abraham the Malach // The Maggid Of Mezritch: The Life And Times Of Rebbe Dov Ber Friedman
  2. Rothental, Herman. Abraham Malak // Jewish Encyclopedia, 1905
  3. Gorodetsky, Samuil. Rabbi Abraham Angel // Lechaim, April 2009 (in Russian)
  4. Malach, Avraam // Jewish Encyclopedia of Brokgauz & Efron, 1908–1913 (in Russian)
  5. Israel ben Perez of Polotsk // Encyclopedia Judaica, Detroit, 2007
  6. Ashkenazi, Avraam Meshullam Zalman ben-Zvi // Jewish Encyclopedia of Brokgauz & Efron, 1908-1913 (in Russian)

Content last updated Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 05:45 PM Mountain Daylight Time

Fastov, Ukraine
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Updated July 2011
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