Rav Gershon Kitover

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Rabbi Abraham Gershon of Kitov Ashkenazi (Rabbi Gershon of Brody)

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Brodivs'kyi district, L'vivs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Death: Died in Jerusalem, Israel
Place of Burial: Har haZeitim, Jerusalem, Israel
Immediate Family:

Son of Rabbi Efrayim of Brody and wife, Ephraim of Brody
Husband of Bluma and unknown (first wife)
Father of Mother of R' Yakov Fisch Z"L; Esther; XXX Kitover; Yakar Yakir Ashkenazi Kitover; Unknown Nebilitz and 5 others
Brother of Chana, Besht 2nd wife / אשת הבעש"ט
Half brother of Rav Aharon, [of Kitov] and Chana, Besht 2nd wife / אשת הבעש"ט

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Rabbi Abraham Gershon of Kitov Ashkenazi (Rabbi Gershon of Brody)

Rabbi Abraham Gershon of Kitov (Kuty), also known as Rabbi Gershon of Brody was probably born in or near Kuty, Poland around 1701 and died in Jerusalem in 1761. He is best known as the Baal Shem Tov's brother-in-law.

A scion of a famous rabbinic family, Abraham Gershon is a descendant (possibly the grandson) of Shabsai Cohen ("the ShACh") (1625-1663).

Both Abraham Gershon and his father Ephraim of Brody served in one of the four beit din (Jewish Court) of Brody. It was here that he and his father encountered Rabbi Israel "Baal Shem Tov". According to early Chasidic work Shivchei haBesht, his father gave his blessing of marriage for his sister Chana to the Baal Shem Tov on his deathbed. But once Ephraim died, Abraham Gershon was unaware of this secret betrothal until the Baal Shem Tov revealed the engagement contract.

Abraham Gershon rose to a powerful position within the Jewish community of Brody. For a time he served as a synagogue cantor.

Shivchei haBesht portrays Abraham Gershon as a foil to the Baal Shem Tov. He is usually represented as a learned and lofty man of the upper class who regards his brother-in-law as lowly and untrustworthy. Abraham Gershon is probably responsible for kicking the Baal Shem Tov out of the Brody area where he ultimately settled in Medzhybizh. Later, the Baal Shem Tov revealed himself. Abraham Gershon was won over and became one of the Baal Shem Tov's ardent admirers.

In 1745, Abraham Gershon was involved in ruling on a promiscuity case about the daughter-in-law of one of the wealthiest men in town. This man had strong connections to government officials. After ruling against the daughter-in-law, Abraham Gershon was forced to flee Brody to avoid being publicly punished. He took refuge with the Baal Shem Tov in Medzhybizh. Affiliated with new Hasidic thoughts as well as traditional Lurian liturgy, the Baal Shem Tov entrusted his brother-in-law with the education of his only son, Tzvi.

In 1747, Abraham Gershon traveled to Jerusalem, one of the first Hasidim to establish a presence in the holy land. There he embraced the Rashash, together with those who were students of Kabbalah. He lived in Hebron for six years. In 1753, he moved to Jerusalem and was further associated with the (kabbalistic) Yeshivat Beit El. He died in 1761 and was buried on the Mount of Olives. After the Six Day War in 1967, his grave was rediscovered along with the grave of his second wife Bluma.

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http://asimplejew.blogspot.com/2007_01_01_archive.html

According to some sources, Israel ben Eliezer, the Ba’al Shem Tov (1698-1760), first married at about age 18; his wife died soon thereafter. Around 1720, he married Leah Rachel (or Chanah), the daughter of Rabbi Ephraim of Brody. His wife’s brother was Rabbi Abraham Gershon Ashkenazi of Kuty (also known as Gershon Kittower or Kitover). He was the rabbi of Brody and a well-known Talmudic scholar and Cabalist. Since the Ba’al Shem Tov presented himself as an ignorant peasant, R’ Gershon at first disapproved of the match. In later years, however, he became one of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s most ardent followers. R’ Gershon traveled to Palestine in ~1742 and started the first Chassidic community there. Although many sources state that he arrived in Hebron in 1746 or 1747, there is a tradition that he studied Cabala in Jerusalem before 1743. According to a letter he wrote in 1757, he had lived in Hebron for 6 years [1743?-1749?] without his family (“Gershon relates that in the single Jewish courtyard there was so little room that they could not even let him bring his family”). He then went to the Beit El Synagogue (Yeshivat haMekubalim) in Jerusalem, where he lived for 4 years [1749?-1753?] with his wife and family. The famous letter from the Ba’al Shem Tov to R’ Gershon was written in 1752; in it, he refers to R’ Gershon’s wife, Bluma, and children. Apparently, R’ Gershon returned to Brody [~1753?] to arrange marriages for his sons and then returned to Jerusalem, where he died around 1760 (or 1765). The grandson of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the Degel (Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudilkov), was the son of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s daughter, Udel (Adel), and R’ Yechiel Ashkenazi. He is believed to have married a daughter of R’ Gershon. The Degel was born in 1748, around the time that R’ Gershon’s family moved to Jerusalem. If his future wife was born ~1750 in Palestine (when R’ Gershon was perhaps in his late 50s or early 60s and his wife, Bluma, was, presumably, much younger) and she returned to the Ukraine ~1753, she might have married the Degel in 1764 (the year they are listed together in the census). R’ Gershon would thus be BOTH the father-in-law of the Degel and his great-uncle! By the way, it occurs to me that the Degel’s wife might actually be a granddaughter of R’ Gershon; however, I could find no support for this hypothesis. (Some of the sources for this information are the Jewish Encyclopedia, BibleWiki, the Kuty Memorial Book, the RavSIG on JewishGen, the Jewish Agency for Israel web site, the Tluste/Tovste web site, the Baal Shem Tov Foundation web site, the McGrew.net web site, the Nehora web site, and the Grossman Project web site. Links available.)

A Simple Jew's comment:

There is some support to your hypothesis. On page 62 of the book "The Circle of the Baal Shem Tov", Abraham J. Heschel wrote: "Before leaving, R. Gershon secured the future marriage of his youngest daughter to R. Ephraim, the Besht's grandson, the future author of Degel Mahaney 'Efrayim. He seems to have promised to return to the Diaspora to give her in marriage."

On an interesting side note, "The Encyclopedia of Hasidism" by Tzvi M. Rabinowicz relates, "He [Rabbi Gershon of Kitov] was buried on the Mount of Olives. For more than two hundred years, his grave could not be found. Only after the Six-Day War (1967) were his grave and that of his wife (d. 1757) discovered."

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Rabbi Gershon Kitover, who had previously harassed his brother-in-law, the Baal Shem Tov, and even encouraged his own sister to leave Brody with her husband out of his embarrassment at the Baal Shem Tov's seeming ignorance, had been the one most stunned and embarrassed when the Besht revealed himself as a great tzaddik.

Rabbi Gershon, who was a member of the circle of the Pious of Kitov and the Brody Kloiz, now accepted the Baal Shem Tov as his master. But he could not forget his earlier treatment of the Besht.

Look to whom he had condescended!

It did not take Rabbi Gershon long, however, to completely change his attitude. He became a devoted follower and friend of the Baal Shem Tov, whom he loved more than anyone in the world. He yearned with great thirst to hear the sweet Torah teaching that came from the Besht's holy mouth.

He considered the Baal Shem Tov to have the holy spirit an to be able to prophesy the future. And he always kept on his person a protective amulet from the Besht. The Besht , in turn, was very fond of his brother-in-law, for Rabbi Gershon was truly a great person.

"The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov", by Yitzhak Buxbaum

-------------------- He is best known as the Baal Shem Tov's brother-in-law. A scion of a famous rabbinic family, Abraham Gershon is a descendant (possibly the grandson) of Shabsai Cohen ("the ShACh") (1625–1663). Both Abraham Gershon and his father Ephraim of Brody served in one of the four beit din (Jewish Court) of Brody. It was here that he and his father encountered Rabbi Israel "Baal Shem Tov". According to early Chasidic work Shivchei haBesht, his father gave his blessing of marriage for his sister Chana to the Baal Shem Tov on his deathbed.

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Rav Gershon Kitover's Timeline

1701
1701
Brodivs'kyi district, L'vivs'ka oblast, Ukraine
1748
1748
Age 47
From Poland to Israel
1761
1761
Age 60
Jerusalem, Israel
1761
Age 60
Har haZeitim, Jerusalem, Israel
????
Broide,Poland
????
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Poland
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Poland
????
Poland
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Broide, Poland