Batya Miriam (Mirel) Berlin (Epstein) (c.1845 - d.)

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Managed by: Eilat אילת גורדין Gordin Levitan לויתן
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About Batya Miriam (Mirel) Berlin (Epstein)

Batiya Miryam, the Rabbi's wife known in Litvak Yiddish as “The Rebetzin Bashe Mirl”, was HANAZIV's second spouse. She was a vital and powerful woman in her nature, character and energy. She stood by her husband's side and was of significant help in his private life as well as in the Rabbi's public activities, for more than twenty years.

Long before her ascendance to the Volozhin Rabbinical sphere she was already a significant person.

As a young girl she was unusual and unlike most young women, she possessed an intense enthusiasm and devotion to the Torah, thoughtful outlook on life and extra- ordinary energy.

Bashe Mirl was born in Bobruysk to her father Yekhiel Mikhael Haleyvi Epstein, the great Rabbi. She was brought up in Novozikow, where her father became the town's Rabbi. When she arrived at matching-making age, several young men from the best and richest families were ready to ask for her hand. And no wonder: She was good-looking, intelligent, well educated and with good manners. She read and spoke Hebrew and knew the Russian language to a degree.

But those young men did not impress the young maiden. She told her parents that she was not interested in riches, pleasure, beauty or bravery. Her single desire was to marry a scholar who was dedicated to the Torah and Holy Scriptures.

Despite her pleas she became engaged and married a decent young man, son of a very rich family in the town of Tshernigov. He promised to dedicate all his time to Torah study according to his young wife's demands.

A short time passed after the wedding and Bashe Mirl realized that although her husband spent some time poring over the holy books, there was no wisdom inside him, and he had no ambition, he did not wish and maybe was not able to become an erudite scholar. The young wife stood up and told her husband and her father in law, that she was not ready to pass her life in house of richness and honor, but where Torah is absent. So she had to ask for a divorce.

She left behind all the jewelry; she did not touch any one of the beautiful dresses she received as gifts. She claimed consistently that she had nothing against her husband and his family; she was simply unable to live with an ignorant person. Her husband refused to grant her a divorce. Bashe�Mirl decided to leave his house and town, and one day she did.

The Russian law allowed the husband to find and bring home his runaway wife accompanied by police escort. The husband with his father used this law and the police began a search for the rebel wife. She did not return to her parents' home, and she hid out for months until she obtained the divorce. The parents regarded their daughter's behavior as very abnormal.

“Why are you leaving a fortune and a house full of worldly goods without a sufficient reason and what will become your future?” - Her parents and relatives asked, after she returned home. Her answer to them was: I would rather marry a poor, undistinguished person or even an old man, but never someone who would neglect the Torah studies, because though he may be honored by some other people, I Batia-Miryam despise such people.

In those days, HANAZIV's first wife Rayne Bashe (Reb Itsele's daughter) passed away. Rabbi Dov from Slutsk, a Yeshiva emissary from Volozhin, happened to visit the region where Bashe Mirl's family lived. He was acquainted with the parents of the famous divorcee.

R' Dov heard the amazing story of the young woman, who despite her beauty, her youth and intelligence would prefer a life of poverty, but Torah and God- fearing instead of an affluent and honored life with a Torah ignorant man. He went to her parents' house to speak with them. He especially pleaded with her mother Mikhla, Hanaziv's younger sister. He laid out his suggestion that their daughter should be married to the renowned Yeshiva head. Both of them, mother and father were angry hearing the proposition of a match for their young and beautiful daughter and an old man, thirty years elder than the would be bride. However such a negative opinion on the subject was only expressed in discussions that her parents had.

She had never seen her old uncle, but his knowledge and erudition was renowned over the Jewish World, so she knew about him. “I should be dust at his feet; I will be his daughter and servant, should he only spread his wings over me. There cannot be more happiness for me than to be wife of this prodigy. Old age and hard life would do nothing to me if I had only the chance to be this Torah � Giant's partner in life”.

The emissary returned to Volozhin and put the suggestion of marriage before the Rabbi. He did not finish describing his proposition when he was interrupted by Hanaziv: Is it possible that a woman 30 years younger than I, and accustomed to the life of a big city, would consent to come to me. I do cannot alter the ways of my life, and how could I do so much evil to the blood from my blood, to my sister's daughter?

But the emissary was very tenacious; he didn't stop traveling from Volozhin to Novozikov back and forth until a meeting was held in Molodetshno. And that is how a wonderful woman became the Rabbi's wife in Volozhin � the “Volozhiner Rebetzin”, Hanatziv's spouse.

As immense was her love for the Torah, so her love for charity work and justice was great. She was able to sit for many hours without a move hearing the voice and melody of the Torah study. She herself would persevere in learning the Holy Scriptures. Despite her continuous occupation with her household affairs and especially with the Yeshiva, she never missed her “day” of Psalms, and on the Shabbat days she would read two pages of “Mikrah” (from the Pentateuch) and three of the “Unklos” translation, and also in the Russian and German languages.

The Rebetzin was aware of all the troubles the Yeshiva students' encountered. She would always search for solutions to their problems. And when they complained she would comfort the young men by telling them of the bright future that awaited them when they would be rich in spirit and in Torah knowledge.

In case of serious illness, she would invite physicians' specialists from a big town and bring them into Volozhin to cure the sick Yeshiva Men. So it's no wonder that the young woman became renowned for her benevolence and energy.

The affection for the Rabbi's wife was fully demonstrated during her malady. The alarmed doctors could not find a remedy. Hundreds of Volozhin men and women mingled with Yeshiva students in a gathering. They cried, prayed and asked the Almighty healer of the sick to save the beloved woman. A new name was added to her birth name; she was called Haya-Batia-Miryam. The crisis passed that same evening. Healed she rose up that night.

Soon after their marriage Hanaziv asked her if she would consent to go with him to the Land of Israel. She agreed with enthusiasm, she would go not only to die there but also to live in the Promised Land side by side with her great husband.

She came to Erets Israel, but not with him. Bashe Mirl moved to the Holy Land years after her husband passed away. She lived there surrounded by her children and grandchildren.