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23 Elul 5773 - August 29, 2013 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Rebbe Yaakov Koppel Chossid zt"l, Father of the Kossov-Vishnitz Dynasty

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 15 Elul 5547

Reb Koppel never took on the mantle of admorus at all. He did not even serve as dayan or in any other Torah post, but eked out a meager living from his small wood and textiles store.

There, in the small town of Kolomaye, Reb Yaakov Koppel lived, serving Hashem unobtrusively and eluding the public eye. His righteous wife Chayah, daughter of Reb Zalman a descendant of the Tosafos Yom Tov, served her customers in the shop and when she was unable to do so, Reb Yaakov Koppel himself would measure, cut and sell the fabrics.

As time passed, the "simple" Koppel was nicknamed by his Jewish and gentile customers alike as "the Shivisinik." This was due to his strange habit of often passing his hands over his eyes — even during the cutting and measuring — and whispering, "Shivisi Hashem lenegdi somid."

For many years none of the townspeople had an inkling of the great personality living among them, until one Shabbos when Kolomaye had a distinguished guest. The holy Baal Shem Tov of Mezhibuzh was to grace the town with a visit over Shabbos.

On Friday night before Kiddush, the Baal Shem Tov raised his head and told his talmidim:

"I sense a great light shining forth in this city. I'd like to find out what it is and who is its source."

Following the light that only he could see, the Baal Shem Tov began to walk through the town with a crowd of talmidim and locals at his heels.

When they came to the edge of the town, the Rebbe stopped at a small, inconspicuous house that was situated next to a textile store. Peering through the window, the Baal Shem Tov beheld Reb Koppel dancing round the Shabbos table in an ethereal ecstasy. For two consecutive hours, the Baal Shem Tov stood transfixed, until Reb Koppel finished his dance and made Kiddush.

When the Baal Shem Tov entered the house to talk to R' Koppel, the crowd was left outside to whisper, argue and wonder about the new discovery: the simple textile dealer was one of those distinguished bnei aliya who was to be allowed into the Baal Shem Tov's inner circle!

From then on, whenever R' Koppel came to Mezhibuzh, he was the shaliach tzibbur in the beis medrash of the Baal Shem Tov and his talmidim.

The niggunim in tefilloh of R' Yaakov Koppel were entirely original, very different from that of the Ashkenazi world in general. Chassidim of yore would say this was not merely a tuneful way of saying the tefilloh, but a niggun that explained every word of the davening.

His holy avodoh as a shliach tzibbur, with time, became a legend in itself.

Once during the yomim noraim, R' Koppel was late to arrive before the omud. A fellow congregant, annoyed at the delay, strode angrily to the front of the shul and wanted to begin davening. Before he could begin however, he suddenly fell in a faint to the floor. All efforts to revive him were in vain, until Reb Koppel himself arrived. Seeing the man lying almost lifeless, he extended his hand to him and eased him up, as the man regained consciousness.


Once Reb Yaakov Koppel was on a journey and stopped in a small village overnight. In the morning he was in shul early, eager to daven and then be on his way. As the shul started filling up with people, as soon as there was more than a minyan, Reb Koppel asked that they do him a favor and begin davening, for he had to continue his journey. The others agreed to accommodate this stranger who had lodged overnight and Reb Yaakov Koppel stepped forward to say the birchos hashachar.

A few minutes later, the Rosh Hakahal entered the shul. His eyebrows shot up at the unusual sight of a stranger having started the minyan davening without his permission. His initial surprise turned quickly to anger and he began to shout at the baal tefilloh, calling him derogatory names and insulting him in no uncertain terms. Reb Yaakov Koppel, however, had transcended to another world. His tefilloh had born him wings and his whole being was aloft, floating somewhere between heaven and earth, completely oblivious to what was going on in the shul.

The sense that he was being ignored infuriated the Rosh Hakahal even more. "Don't you see that the Rosh Hakahal is talking to you?!" he spluttered in a rage.

Reb Yaakov Koppel turned to him and quietly answered, "And you do see to whom you're talking? You don't see anything!"

Later on that day, the Rosh Hakahal mysteriously became blind. The doctors could not pinpoint the cause of his blindness and were therefore at a loss to prescribe a cure.

With no alternative, the blind man, on the advice of his friends, decided to travel to Mezhibuzh where the Baal Shem Tov was known to be a wonder-worker. Perhaps the holy Baal Shem Tov would help him, especially since some of the congregants insisted that the stranger had appeared to be one of his disciples.

Accompanied and guided by his son, the Rosh Hakahal made his way to the house of the Baal Shem Tov. The latter listened to his story and then asked for a description of the stranger who had been insulted. Clearly, it had been R' Yaakov Koppel.

"Go to Kolomaye," instructed the Baal Shem Tov. "Seek out R' Yaakov Koppel and ask his forgiveness. I know him to be a soft, compassionate man and perhaps then your blindness will be cured."

Upon receiving the newly penitent Rosh Hakahal, R' Yaakov Koppel made him promise never to insult or embarrass another Jew, no matter what the situation. The Rosh Hakahal gave his solemn word and his vision miraculously returned.


When R' Yaakov Koppel was niftar, he had no material wealth to pass on to his children. The only tangible object they inherited was the Rebbe's holy tefillin that he had received from the Baal Shem Tov, written by the renowned sofer Reb Zvi Sofer, zt"l. These were, however, more valuable to them than all the riches of the world.

R' Koppel's son R' Mendele also wished to remain almost anonymous and earn a living by selling textiles as his father had done. Hashgochoh, however, ordained otherwise. The merchant who supplied R' Koppel, saw that Reb Mendele hardly spent any time on business and refused to sell him stock on credit as he had for his father.

R' Mendele was forced to close the shop and accept the admorus. That began the Kossov-Vishnitz dynasty, that continues today.

The textile dealer who had served R' Koppel often told R' Mendele's chassidim in jest, "All this you owe to me. Had I given him credit, he would have refused to become Rebbe, just like his father."


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