||Previously unpublished accounts of the Jewish community of Erez Israel in 1777-78 by the renowned Hasidic leader R. Menahem Mendel ben Moses of Vitebsk, as well as R. Abraham of Kalisk and R. Israel of Polotsk. These hasidic rabbis were not only leaders of the early Hasidic movement but, having resettled in Erez Israel, became the heads of the hasidic community there. The first part of Iggeret Kodesh me-Erez ha-Kodesh are the hanhagot kedushot of R. Menahem Mendel. It is followed by the hanhagot and correspondence of other admorim, making this an important early hasidic document. It is not listed in the Bet Eked Sefarim.
R. Menahem Mendel ben Moses of Vitebsk (1730–1788) was a hasidic leader active in Belorussia, Lithuania, and Erez Israel. He was a disciple of R. Dov Baer the Maggid of Mezhirech, and headed a congregation in Minsk during the lifetime of his teacher; in Zemir Arizim ve-Harvot Zurim (Warsaw, Bialystok, 1798), a pamphlet written by one of the Mitnaggedim, he is mentioned by the name of Mendel of Minsk. When the first wave of opposition to Hasidism erupted (1772), he visited Vilna on two occasions—on the second occasion, accompanied by his disciple R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady —and attempted to meet R. Elijah b. Solomon the Gaon of Vilna in order to point out to him the merits of Hasidism, but the Gaon refused to receive him and "he closed the door upon us twice." Hasidic tradition also regards him as one of the leading spokesmen at the meeting which was convened in Rovno in the house of R. Dov Baer after the imposition of the herem on the Hasidim in 1772. The persecutions of the Mitnaggedim made him leave Minsk, and in 1773 he settled in Gorodok, from where he spread Hasidism in the Vitebsk and Mogilev provinces (assisted by R. Israel of Polotsk, R. Abraham b. Alexander Katz of Kalisk, and R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady).
In 1777 R. Menahem Mendel went to Erez Israel, accompanied by R. Abraham of Kalisk and R. Israel of Polotsk, at the head of a group of 300 persons, of whom only some were Hasidim. He became the leader of the hasidic yishuv, and sent emissaries to Russia in order to raise funds for its support. In Erez Israel hasidic immigrants also encountered hostility among the Jewish community, as a result of the initiative of some Mitnaggedim, who addressed special letters on the subject to Erez Israel. In the wake of the disputes which broke out, R. Menahem Mendel moved to Tiberius, where he erected a hasidic synagogue. He became related by marriage to one of the prominent Sephardim of Jerusalem. After his arrival in Erez Israel R. Menahem Mendel remained the spiritual leader of the Hasidim of Belorussia, who maintained a correspondence with him. He continued to guide them in their conduct and interpreted the principles of Hasidism to them. R. Menahem Mendel did not consider himself to be a zaddik who could bless his Hasidim with the bounties of Heaven. He regarded his function of zaddik as being restricted to teaching and guidance in divine worship and not as that of a "practical" zaddik.
||כתבי יד קודש ממאורעות הישוב באה"ק בשנות תקל"ז ותקל"ח, שנכתבו מאת ... מו"ה מנחם מענדל מויטפסק זצ"ל ... מו"ה אברהם קאליסקר זצ"ל ... מו"ה ישראל פאליצקר זצ"ל וסייעתם ... ונלוה בראשו ... הנהגות קדושות, א. מאדמו"ר ר' אברהם
קאליסקר ... ב. מאדמו"ר ר' מרדכי מלעכוויטש זצ"ל, ג. אגרת קודש מאדמו"ר ר' ליב חנהליש זצ"ל ששלח לבנו שישב באה"ק. ועליהם הערות ובאורים מאת ... ר' שלמה אהרן ווערטהיימער שליט"א ...
על איגרת ר' מנחם מנדל מוויטבסק ור' אברהם מקוליסק (צפת, יג שבט תקל"ח), עיין: י' היילפרין, העליות הראשונות של החסידים לארץ-ישראל, תל-אביב תש"ז, עמ' 57, מס' 8; על איגרת ר' ישראל ב"ר פרץ מפולוצק (יאסי, אייר תקל"א) - שם, עמ' 58, מס' 11.