Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev

How are you related to Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev?

Connect to the World Family Tree to find out

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Derbaremdiker, [Baal Kdushat Levi, of Berdichev]

Hebrew: הרה"ק לוי יצחק דרברמדיקר, מברדיצ'ב
Also Known As: "ר' לוי יצחק מברדיטשוב בעל מח"ס קדושת לוי", "לוי ' צחק", "סנגורן של ישראל"
Birthplace: Mostys'kyi district, L'vivs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Death: October 05, 1809 (69)
Berdychiv, Zhytomyrs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Place of Burial: Berditchev, Zhytomyrs'ka, Ukraine
Immediate Family:

Son of Rabbi Meir, ABD Hussakow and Rbzn. Sara Sosha Derbaremdiker, of Hussakow
Husband of Perl Lea Derbaremdiker, Gt.Gt.Gd.dau. Kikayon d'Yona
Father of Rabbi Meir Derbaremdiker, of Berdichev; R' Yisroel (Israel) Derbarmdiker of Pikov; Gitel Frenkel; Esther Bushka; Golda, Wife of R' Nathan Aryey of Kozienice (Derbarmidiker) and 2 others
Brother of Sister, Levi Yitzhok of Berditchev Derbaremdiker

Occupation: The Berdichever Rebbe, Rabbi, Grand Rabbi
Managed by: Yigal Burstein
Last Updated:

About Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev

Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (1740–1809), also known as the Berdichever, was a Hasidic leader. He was the rabbi of Ryczywół, Żelechów, Pinsk and Berdychiv, for which he is best known. He was one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, and his disciple Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsburg, whom he succeeded as rabbi of Ryczywół.

Reb Levi Yitzchok was known as the "defense attorney" for the Jewish people, because it was believed that he could intercede on their behalf before God. Known for his compassion for every Jew, he was therefore one of the most beloved leaders of Eastern European Jewry. He authored the Hasidic classic Kedushas Levi, which is a commentary on many Jewish religious books and laws, and is arranged according to the weekly Torah portion.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok was known to have a very close relationship with the famous Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad Rebbe. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov called him the Peér (glory) of the generation. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok composed some popular Hasidic religious folk songs, including Dude'le and "The Kaddish of Rebbe Levi Yitzchok (A din Toyre mit Gott)." The Yiddish prayer "God of Abraham" which many Jewish women recite at the close of the Sabbath is erroneously attributed to him. He died on the 25th of Tishrei, 5570 (1809) and is buried in the old cemetery in Berdychiv, Ukraine.

According to tradition, on the day of Levi Yitzchak's birth, the Baal Shem Tov held a joyous gathering, informing his followers that the soul of a "defender of the Jewish people" has entered the world.

He authored the Hasidic classic Kedushas Levi, which is a commentary on many Jewish religious books and laws, and is arranged according to the weekly Torah portion.The segula of his name and city

It is a well known tradition passed down to us, that it is a great segula to recite his holy name "Levi Yitzhak ben Sarah Sasha" in times of need or distress to bring salvation. (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 1:1)

Similarly the Holy Rizhiner taught "If there is no sefer Kedushas Levi in one's home to sweeten harsh decrees and judgements then it suffices to mention his holy name." His son the holy rebbe of Sadigora once taught that "even if one mentions just the name of the city of Berditshev this too awakens great advocacy in the higher realms above." (He also taught that this is similar to the Mishna in Yoma where the city of Chevron is mentioned to awaken the merit of the patriarchs who are buried there.) It is therefore the custom of many holy and righteous Tzadikim to mention a story, parable or teaching from the Kedushas Levi on Rosh HaShana before blowing the shofar or at other auspicous times. (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 7:99)

His sefer Kedushas Levi and its segula & merit

There is a well known segula to have a copy of the sefer Kedushas Levi in one's home. The sources are from the Tzadikim themselves who said wondrous things about the sefer.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak composed some popular Hasidic religious folk songs, including Dude'le and "The Kaddish of Rebbe Levi Yitzchok (A din Toyre mit Gott)." The Yiddish prayer "God of Abraham" which many Jewish women recite at the close of the Sabbath is erroneously attributed to him. He died on the 25th of Tishrei, 5570 (1809) and is buried in the old cemetery in Berdychiv, Ukraine.

Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (1740-1809), also known as the Berdichever was a rabbi and Hasidic leader. He was one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch. Reb Levi Yitzchok was known as the "defense attorney" for the Jewish people, because it was believed that he could intercede on their behalf before God. Known for his compassion for every Jew, he was therefore one of the most beloved leaders of Eastern European Jewry.


Levi Yitzhak was born in 1740 into a distinguished rabbinical family, his father a rabbi in Hoshakov, Galicia. Levi Yitzhak married into a wealthy family and had settled down to a life of scholarship, when he made the acquaintance of the chasid Schmelke of Nickolsburg, who won him over to the camp of the Chasidim.

Levi Yitzhak then became a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, sitting as a member of his inner circle. Around this time differences between the Hasidim and their Orthodox opponents, the Mitnagdim, were becoming acute, and during the first thirteen years of his career as a Hasidic leader, Levi Yitzhak was driven from one pulpit to the next under attack by the Mitnagdim. In one case he had his house broken into, had his belongings stolen, was evicted, and was fired from his job in breach of contract: Fortunately, his next post, in Berditchev, went much better for him, and he served there without opposition for the last twenty-five years of his life.

Next to the Besht, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak is one of the most beloved of Hasidic leaders, and the one who appears most frequently in fictional treatments of Chasidism: dozens of plays, stories, and poems exist that feature Levi Yitzhak as their hero. His most characteristic posture in popular memory is that of attorney at the heavenly bar-disputer, bargainer, and pleader with God in the tradition of Abraham, Moses, and Job.

Levi Yitzhak's rabbinical learning was considerable, although his opponents criticized his lack of kabbalistic knowledge. At times his style of conversation with God strikes one as talmudically disputateous. One of the classic examples of such a conversation went as follows: "Lord of the world, you must forgive Israel their sins. If you do this--good. But if not I'll tell all the world that the tefillin you wear are invalid. What's the verse enclosed in your tefilln? A verse of David. your anointed king: 'Who is like your people Israel, a unique nation on earth?' If you don't forgive Israel…(this) verse is untrue, and the tefillin are invalid."

Levi Yitzhak, in any case. did not need kabbalistic learning to attain the states of religious ecstasy for which he was also famous. Key words in the prayer services caused him to fly into such a frenzy of devotional fervor that often he would collapse into a catatonic state for hours. One visitor to his synagogue is alleged to have been driven into thirty days of uncontrollable laughter by watching Levi Yitzhak's bodily contortions in prayer. Levi Yitzhak is rumored to have put his hand through glass, held his fingers in a candle flame, danced atop a desk (and almost on a megillah scroll), fallen into a well, and upset a seder table, all without knowing what he was doing, during various acts of prayer.

Levi Yitzchak is also remembered for his compassion and gentleness, and for his willingness always to judge a person according to the scale of merit. Finding a young Jew standing and smoking in the street one Sabbath, Levi Yitzhak first asked him if he had forgotten that such an act was forbidden. The young man replied that he hadn't forgotten. Levi Yitzhak then asked if there was some mitigating circumstance that caused him to sin. The young man replied that he was sinning knowingly and voluntarily. The maddik then looked up to heaven and said, "Lord of the Universe, see the holiness of your people; they'd rather declare themselves sinners than utter a falsehood!"

Though gentle in his criticism. he never hesitated to rebuke those who fell away in their devotion. One time. he surprised two congregants who had been talking for hours, by suddenly welcoming them to shul (synagogue). When they asked why just then he chose to welcome them. he replied "You've been far away. no? You in a marketplace. and you on a ship with a cargo of grain; when it grew quiet here, you came back. Welcome back." Another time, he congratulated an influential evildoer on the street, saying, "Sir. I envy you! When you turn to God, each of your flaws will become a ray of light… I envy your flood of radiance!" Another time. he shouted to a busy marketplace from a rooftop. "You people are forgetting to fear God!"

He once espoused what today would be a feminist cause. Discovering that the women who kneaded the dough in the bakeries and matzah factories worked at terrible drudgery from early morning to late at night: he addressed a rebuke on the subject to his congregation: "The enemies of Israel accuse us of baking unleavened bread with the blood of Christians. But no, we bake them with the blood of Jews!"

Reb Levi Yitzkhak ben Meir of Berdichev was one of the greatest of all the chasidism during the early days of that movement. He is still revered as a great tzaddik, and his wisdom is frequently recounted by khasidisch rebbes at tisch on shabbes and yontif. He was renowned throughout eastern Europe, especially Poland and the Ukraine, in his day, and took on the misnagdim in public debates. He even had the khutzpeh to organize Jewish leaders to oppose the governments prohibition of Jewish settlements and other oppressive measures.

He emphasized the virtues of joy and dvekus (adhering to God), and prayer davening (you should excuse the expression) with devotion and fervor.

He often addressed God directly in his prayers, pleading the cause of his people. From these famous prayers came the well-known and often-recorded Kaddish of R. Levi Yitzkhak, in which he pleads with the Lord to have rakhmones on his folk Yisroel. Zalman Shneur's poem, "Din Toyre Khodosh l'rabbi Levi Yitzkhak mi-Berdichev, is one of many in which his prayers are depicted; and Yosef Opatoshu's story, "In Poylishe Velder," portrays him.

Levi Yitzchak, one of Chassidism most popular tzaddikim, died in 1810.


The Berdichever emerged as a Zaddik in the town of Zelechow, but was driven from there and from Pinsk by the mitnaggedim. Finally he moved to Berdichev in 1785 where he lived until his death. He was recognized as a major Ḥasidic leader of his time and became a popular hero in Jewish fiction and poetry, in which he is regarded as an advocate for Israel before God. He wrote a two-part work, Kedushat Levi, which expounds Ḥasidic teaching in the form of a commentary mainly on Torah.




The Berdichev Revival

"His father, Rabbi Meir, a noted talmudist and kabbalist, was the Rav of Husakov, Galicia, and was descended from a long line of rabbis. His mother Sarah was known for her piety and wisdom, and was likewise of distinguished lineage, being descended from the famous commentator on the Talmud, Rabbi Shmuel Edels (1555-1631). Being raised in this atmosphere of piety, studying Talmud and Codes with his learned father, Reb Levi Yitzhak’s own gifts soon began to shine and he was sent to continue his education in Yaroslav, where he became known as “the genius of Yaroslav.”"


Berdichever Rebbe Revival site


Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (1740-1809), also known as the Berdichever was a rabbi and Hasidic leader. He was one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch. Reb Levi Yitzchok was known as the "defense attorney" for the Jewish people, because it was believed that he could intercede on their behalf before God. Known for his compassion for every Jew, he was therefore one of the most beloved leaders of Eastern European Jewry.

His Birth

The Holy Tzadik and Rebbe Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditshev was born in the year 500 (of the Hebrew calendar) and the Holy Ba'al Shem Tov twice honored his students with cake and drinks to toast his birth saying: "A soul has come down to this world that will be an advocate for good on behalf of our brethern Bnei Yisroel." (Eser Oros 2:1)

His position

The Holy Tzadik and Rebbe Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditshev was one of the foremost students of the Maggid of Mezritch, the Holy Ba'al Shem Tov's successor. Thus he is in fact only five generations removed from recieving the Torah on Mount Sinai from Hashem himself. The Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditshev was the student of the Maggid of Mezritch, who recieved the tradition from the holy of holies a lofty soul come to down to earth from heaven: our master Rebbe Yisroel the Ba'al Shem Tov who in turn recieved the tradition from the prophet Achiya HaShiloni who was counted among those who were in the exodus from Egypt (see Rambam's introduction to the Mishna Torah), and who learned and recieved the Torah from Moshe Rabbeinu, who in turn recieved it from G-d Himself. (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 2:8)

His birth & his lofty soul

To understand the power of the Kedushas Levi's soul we must read the words of the founder of Chassidus our master the Holy Ba'al Shem Tov, who once told his students "At the time the holy soul of Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditshev came down to us, the accuser Satan prosecuted and said 'the actions of this holy and lofty soul will nullify the entire process of free choice since the entire world will repent and do good, and decist from evil. Then what good will my own position be?' Hashem answered Satan, 'this soul will serve as the Rabbi to several different cities and others will chase and persecute him [because of his beliefs], together with the burden and yoke of the Rabbinate it will weaken him enough that his influence will wane to the point where it will not nullify free choice.' " (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 1:3)

The great Maggid of Mezritch echoed this when he taught that Satan was promised three things in regard to the Kedushas Levi's soul coming to this world:

That his soul would never meet and unite with the Holy Ba'al Shem Tov (who passed away when Rav Levi Yitzhak was twenty) since this meeting would bring such light to the world that it would end the power of free choice.

That he will be chased and persecuted by Misnagdim who oppose Chassidus and his manner of praying and serving Hashem and this will weaken him.

That he will bear the yoke of the Rabbinate and the affairs of the city would occupy him. (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 1:3)

His praises

Many great and holy Tzadikim held the Berditshever Rebbe in the highest respects. To begin to understand just how great rebbe Levi Yitzhak was we will quote some of the sayings that his colleagues and Rebbes said about him.

The Holy Chozeh of Lublin was known to say "I set aside a specific time, every day in order to give thanks to Hashem for sending down to this world the great and holy Neshama (soul) of the Rebbe Levi Yitzchak." (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 4:45)

His own Rebbe in the revealed Torah was the Rebbe Reb Shmelka of Nikolsberg who gave testimony that the Berditshever "does not hold any type of conversation that lacks holy kabbalistic intentions and Divine unifications. Even his seemingly mundane conversations are really secrets and unfications." (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 4:47)

The Holy Rav Chaim of Tzanz once said that the holy author the Noam Elimelech testified that "the holy Berditshever shook with G-d's awe and reverence even in his sleep! Even while slumbering the fear and awe of Hashem shook his form, just as it would any person who was seized with fear at finding himself surrounded on all sides by thieves in the city." (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 4:50)

Even with all his great and lofty levels his humility was unimaginable. Once in the middle of one of his sermons he said simply "Woe is to the generation that considers me its leader!" (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 3:37)

Others said about him that his great manner of praying and serving Hashem proved that he had within him from the soul of the great Tanna Rabbi Akiva. (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 3:24) (Eser Oros 2:3) (Avodas Levi)

The holy gaon author of the "Tzemach Tzedek" of Lubavitch used to say, that from all the advocacy and merits he said on behalf of the people of Israel, there was created in Heaven above a unique chamber or heichal known as the Heichal HaZechus the "Palace of Merit," that is called "Levi Yitzchak ben Sarah Sasha." And when a Jew prays and says Tehilim and asks for mercy from the Creator, May His Name be Blessed, in the merit of Our Master "Levi Yitzchak ben Sarah Sasha," that palace and chamber is opened and the Jew is saved from any impending tragedy.

Some of his great students include: The Holy Kozhnitzer Maggid author of Avodas Yisroel, Rav Moshe of Savran, Rav Avraham Dovid of Botshash author of Eshel Avraham on SHulchan Aruch and Da'as Kedoshim on the Siddur, Rav Aharon of Zhitomir author of Toldos Aharon, Rav Shmuel of Kaminka and others. (Avodas Levi)

His advocacy on behalf of the Jewish people

But perhaps the Berditshever is best well known for the countless stories of advocacy and prayer on behalf of individuals and the nation of klal yisroel. He was a master of the non-judgemental; always ready to give anyone the benefit of the doubt and to pray on their behalf, beseeching Hashem's mercy and finding creative ways to do so.

One of the stories told about such advocacy: There was once an ignorant wagon driver who was busy greasing his wagon's axles and wheels while praying wrapped in his Tallis and Tefillin. This ridiculous sight might have caused some to laugh and jeer or others to admonish him with indignation. However Rav Levi Yitzhak grew excited at the sight and declared heavenwards "Master of the World! Ribbono Shel Olam, gaze upon your nation Israel, see how they are so attached and connected to you! Even with they are fixing their wheels and greasing their axles they do not forget about you!" (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 6:87)

The story of his passing

There is a tradition from the Maggid of Petriva and Rav Yisroel of Vizhnitz that Rav Levi Yitzhak passed away right after Succos. He related that the Berditshever grew weak after yom Kippur and his condition was life threatening. However he prayed that his days might be lengthened so that he might still merit fulfilling the mitzvah of shaking the four species of the lulav and esrog which he yearned and waited for all year long. His prayers were answered and he lived till Isru Chag and passed away on the night of the 25th of Tishrei. (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 8:103) (See also Sichos HaRan 196)

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said "Even the average individual should feel the loss of a Tzadik like Rav Levi Yitzhak. Everyone now feels that there is something lacking in the world. There is a depressed mood everywhere. One might feel it in his business, which no longer runs as smoothly as before. Another might feel it in his bones, which somehow seem displaced. If your eyes are truly open you will see that world has become dark, for a great light has been extinguished in the world. A great candle's light has been truly snuffed out and that the world has filled with a great darkness." Many had reported that flames had been seen rising from the bier of rav Levi Yitzhak. (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 8:105) (See also Sichos HaRan 196)

One of the chassidim of Rav Baruch of Mezibiz upon hearing of the news of the Berditshever's passing rushed to tell his rebbe. Rav Baruch was known as a critic of Rav Levi Yitzhak's ways and the chassid thought the 'good' news would appease his rebbe. On the contrary upon heaing the terrible news Rav Baruch practically fainted on the floor crying and wailing in distress. He yelled at the habringer of such bad news "Dont think that when I spoke against Rav Levi Yitzhak criticizing him I did so in order to diminish his stature or blemish his honor! You should know that Rav Levi Yitzhak's holy stature rose to the highest spiritual realms above that of even the ministering angels and I was afraid they would harm him in their jealousy. Therefore I used trickery and guile to hide my intentions and pretended to belittle and mock his holy ways to silence their jealous prosecutions." That chassid however, did not live out the year. (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 8:108) (Eser Oros 2:22)

The holy Rebbe of Apt and Mezibiz Rav Ahvraham Yehoshua Hesehl author of Ohev Yisroel wrote in his approbation, "Surely the merit of the holy gaon the author [of Kedushas Levi] and the sanctity of his seforim will shield and guard any place where they are found like the light of peace."

His student the holy Rav Aharon of Zhitomir author of Toldos Aharon similarly wrote in his approbation, "Surely the merit of my teacher and master the author [of Kedushas Levi] and his holy seforim will guard and shield any place that they are found."

His grandson the Rav of Neshchiz testified that "The holy sefer [Kedushas Levi] is a segula for a Jewish home to sweeten any harsh decrees or judgements." (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 7:99)

The sefer Kedushas Levi differs from the majority of the other holy works that are printed from the students of the Holy Ba'al Shem Tov, which were recorded and written down by the students after hearing them from their Rebbes. However the Kedushas Levi was written by the hand of none other than Rav Levi Yitzhak himself! He gave birth to it, using his own holy intentions which were bound to the ever-living G-d, he authored and penned it in his own flowery language and style, and he himself named it Kedushas Levi - the sanctity and holiness of Levi. (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 7:95)

The Munkaczer Rebbe the author of Minchas Elazar had a custom that on Motzaei Shabbos after the Havdalah service he would immediately study the sefer Kedushas Levi in great depth. He would examine and dwell at length on each and every word. Once one of his chassidim asked the Munkaczer Rebbe why it was that when he saw him studying the great philosophical work "Akeidas Yitzhak" of Rav Yitzchak Arama which is known to be exceedingly deep, difficult and profound he would learn it quickly turning pages in minutes. Whereas the Kedushas Levi which is written in a light and flowing language making it easier to comprehend he would spend such a geat deal of time pondering each word in depth? The rebbe answered him, "You are greatly mistaken! The sefer Akeidas Yitzhak's language and meaning were written by the author just as they are. Not so, the holy sefer Kedushas Levi! In which are hidden all the writings of the holy Arizal and whose every word hints at the foundations of the secrets of Torah. Therefore one must use intellect to reflect and understand his seceret and holy language, would that we could!" (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 7:100)

Levi Isaac (Yitsḥak) ben Meir of Berdichev (The Berditchever Rebbe)

Levi Isaac [Yits%E1%B8%A5ak] ben Meir of Berdichev (c.1740–1810).


Berdichever Revival site link

Jewish Ḥasidic zaddik. Levi Isaac was a pupil of Dov Baer.

view all 15

Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev's Timeline

September 17, 1740
Mostys'kyi district, L'vivs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Berdychiv, Zhytomyrs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Berdychiv, Zhytomyrs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Berdychiv, Zhytomyrs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Berdychiv, Zhytomyrs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Berdychiv, Zhytomyrs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Berdychiv, Zhytomyrs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Berdychiv, Zhytomyrs'ka oblast, Ukraine
- 1810
Age 44
Berdichev (Berdychiv), Ukraine