Morning Blessings-Kotzker-Restores Souls to Dead Bodies
The 22nd of Shevat is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Menachem Mendel (ben Leibush) Morgenstern of Kotzk (1787-1859). Born in Goray, near Lublin, Poland, Rav Menachem Mendel received a thorough Torah education from his father. After his marriage at 14, he was introduced to the world of Chassidus. Thereafter, he became an ardent follower of the Chozeh of Lublin and Rav Simcha Bunam of Pshis’cha, whom he eventually succeeded. Rav Menachem Mendel was a new type of chassid. If the Baal Shem Tov embodied chessed, Reb Mendel represented din. While the Baal Shem sought to reach all the people, Reb Mendel knew that what he sought could only be attained by the elite. The Baal Shem lifted the people up, Reb Mendel rebuked them for their inadequacies and always demanded more. Reb Leibel Eiger was entranced by Kotzk, to the despair of his father, Rav Shlomo. Reb Mendel and Reb Mordechai Yosef of Ishbitz had been close friends and disciples of Reb Simcha Bunim of Pshischa. After Reb Bunim’s passing, Reb Mendel became Rebbe. However, because of Reb Mendel’s extreme aloofness the two friends split, and the Izhbitzer left with his chassidim to form a new chassidus. Most prominent among the Kotzker’s students were the Chidushei Harim of Ger and Rav Chanoch of Alexander.
One morning after prayer the Kotzker said, “When I woke up today, it seemed to me that I was not alive. I opened my eyes, looked at my hands, and saw that I could use them. So, I washed them. Then I looked at my feet and saw that I could walk with them. So I took a few steps. Now I said the blessing, ‘Blessed are You, Who restores souls to dead bodies,’ and knew that I was alive.” (Martin Buber; Tales of the Hasidim)