Stamps of R. Meir b. Abraham Amsel, (1907-2007), born in Neudorf (Pecsujfalu). At the young age of 6 his mother would wake him at 4:00 AM, tie a lantern to his chest and sent him off to the local klaus to study Torah. His passion for learning, developed as a child, was life long. The family moved to Kosice, in the teens, where R. Amsel acquainted R. Shmuel Engel, the Radismishler Rav, and became his devoted student. Under his guidance he developed his skills in interpreting Jewish law and rendering halakhic decisions. In Kosice, R. Amsel also became a devoted disciple of R. Abraham Shalom Halberstam, Admor of Strokov and R. Jungreis. He married the daughter of R. Moses Bugler of Presov-Krestir, a rabbinical family with close ties to many of the regional Hasidic Rebbes. Through the family R. Amsel met the Admor of Krestir, Rabbi Yeshaya, and many other notables. During the 1930 thru the Holocaust years R. Amsel was leader and General Secretary of the Agudat Israel movement in Czhekoslovakia. He secured immigration for thousands of Holocaust surviving Jews to Erez Israel. His philosophy, dedication, and concern for Erez Israel, developed by the Kattowitz Agudah Movement, was lifelong. WWII destroyed much of his family, including wife and child. Hiding and operating in disguise as a gentile, he moved to Budapest, where he was involved with smuggling food and sustenance to widows and orphans in the Jewish ghetto. In 1948 he immigrated to the United States and immediately began publishing the Hamaor, a bi-monthly rabbinical journal, that won the approval of the greatest rabbis. Among the contributors and supporters were the Satmar Rebbe, the Lubavitch Rebbe, the Bobover Rebbe, the Munkatcher Rebbe, the Tzhelemer Rebbe, Rabbi Jonathan Steif, Rabbi Aaron Koytlar, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Pinhas Hirschprung, and many others. During the fifties and sixties, Hamaor was at the forefront of practically all major battles to strengthen Orthodox Judaism in the United States. Although his strong views were many times opposed – his integrity gained the journal worldwide respect and recognition. In 1965 he opened a synagogue and mikvah in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, with the financial assistance of the Satmar and Lubavitch Rebbes. In the same year he published volume one of his magnus opum, Responsa Hamaor, an 800 page collection of important responsa by hundreds of rabbis. Volume two, Zikhronot Hamaor, an 800 page collection of biographies of Holocaust victims and survivors, appeared in 1975, followed by the English version, Encyclopedia Hamaor, several years later. R. Amsel passed-on on Saturday afternoon, the 23rd of Tevet 5767 (January 14, 2007) in Brooklyn, NY. At his funeral, attended by thousands of mourners, he was eulogized by the President of the Agudat Harabonim of America, Rabbi Zevi Meir Ginzburg, Rabbi Chaim Moshe Koenig, the Yoka Rav, Rabbi Ehrenreich, the Matisdorfer Rav, Rabbi Spira, the Bluzhever Rebbe, and his son Hagaon Rav Yaakov Amsel, editor of the Hamaor. Among the mourners were many notable rabbis and community leaders including the Bobover Rebbe, Munkatch Rebbe, Tzhelem Rebbe, R. Horowitz of Spinka and many others. R. Amsel was laid to rest in the Arugath Habosem section of the Wellwood Cemetery in Long Island.
R. Dov Baer (The Maggid) of Mezhirech (d. 1772), received a traditional religious education in the yeshivah of R. Jacob Joshua Falk, author of Penei Yehoshu'a. He taught in Torchin and later became preacher in Korets and Rovno. Subsequently he moved to Mezhirech (Mezhirichi) in Volhynia, which became the center of the hasidic movement, and toward the end of his life he moved to Annopol (Hanipol). An erudite talmudic scholar, R. Dov Baer also made a profound study of Kabbalah, adopting the system of Lurianic Kabbalah (originated by Isaac Luria) and an ascetic way of life. The mortifications to which he subjected himself eventually made him ill; he contracted a disease which affected his legs and he became bedridden. Tradition relates that he sought a cure from R. Israel b. Eliezer (the Ba'al Shem Tov), the originator of modern Hasidism, whose reputation as a healer was widespread, and R. Dov Baer became one of his foremost disciples. After the death of the Ba'al Shem Tov in 1760, R. Dov Baer was recognized as his successor to leadership of the movement although opposed by R. Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye, the more senior disciple. The authority of R. Dov Baer as the main proponent of Hasidism was apparently only recognized in 1766, and even then there were a few notable exceptions such as R. Phinehas of Korets. Unlike his predecessor, R. Dov Baer was not a man of the people, and his illness made it difficult for him to associate with his disciples. He possessed charismatic qualities, however, and was an eloquent preacher and teacher. Solomon Maimon, who visited Dov Baer during his youth, expressed great admiration for his spiritual endowments. R. Dov Baer was highly esteemed by his disciples, who not only derived spiritual sustenance from his teachings and utterances but also divined an inner significance in his daily life and actions. Thus, R. Aryeh Leib Sarahs is said to have visited Dov Baer in order "to see how he put on his shoes and tied his shoelaces."
R. Dov Baer formulated a doctrine that provided Hasidism with a speculative-mystical system, introducing into it the concepts of Kabbalah and a specific pattern of organization. R. Dov Baer transferred the center of Hasidism from Podolia in the southeast to Volhynia in central Poland, and this facilitated its spread throughout the country. He endeavored to popularize Hasidism among new classes and in new areas, and sent emissaries to spread the new teaching in many places throughout Poland. His activity may be considered the beginning of Hasidism as a movement, while his personal conduct set the precedent in Hasidism, for the institution of the Zaddik, or saintly leader. Under his leadership, Hasidism spread in the Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poznania, and began to take root in central Poland. He also won respect and authority outside his own community, and his reputation as a talmudist led numerous people to appeal to him on legal matters, such as ownership and trespass. R. Dov Baer also took part in communal affairs and his emissary R. Aaron of Karlin succeeded in obtaining an amendment of the communal tax regulations. In R. Dov Baer's later years, his views on the Divinity, as well as his methods of leadership, aroused fierce opposition from many rabbis and those who did not accept Hasidism. Especial targets for their hostility were the ecstatic modes of religious worship, accompanied by violent bodily movement, adopted by the Hasidim of "Talk," the changes he introduced in the prayer ritual in adopting the Lurianic liturgy, the innovations in ritual slaughter, and the neglect of Torah study by the youth who abandoned the yeshivot and flocked to Mezhirech. The main problem confronting the rabbinical opposition was the authority assumed by the Hasidim to decide matters of belief and religious conduct. Eventually the ban of excommunication was pronounced on Hasidism in Vilna, the orthodox stronghold. According to tradition, the excommunication affected the health of Dov Baer and he died shortly afterward. After his death Hasidism remained without a single leader commanding the same authority and general support from all Hasidim, and the leadership was assumed by a number of his disciples. The doctrine of R. Dov Baer may only be ascertained from collections made of his interpretation of biblical passages and rabbinical literature which appear in several versions.