Rabbi Alexander Ziskind (of Grodno)

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Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Husband of (No Name)
Father of Yosele Bra"z, Rabbi

Managed by: Eli Klausner Montague
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About Rabbi Alexander Ziskind (of Grodno)

R' Alexander Ziskind z"l ("Yesod Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah") Hebrew Books

Alexander Ziskind ben Moses, of Grodno, d.1793., זיסקינד, אלכסנדר ‪A Tale of Love and Darkness‬ By Amos Oz Page 83

Commentary to the Zohar. R. Alexander Ziskind b. Moses of Grodno (d. 1793), Lithuanian kabbalist. R. Alexander lived a secluded life in Grodno, never engaging in light conversation so as not to be deterred from study and prayer. He speaks often and with great sorrow of the desolation of the holy city of Jerusalem and of Erez Israel and extols "the greatness of the virtue of living in the Land of Israel."

R' Alexander Ziskind of Horodna (Grodno, Belarus), was the author of the unique and influential work, Yesod Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah / "The Foundation and Root of [Divine] Service." He was a student of R' Aryeh Leib Epstein of Konigsberg, reportedly one of only two individuals whose written works were graced by a haskamah / letter of recommendation from R' Eliyahu, the Vilna Gaon.

R' Alexander Ziskind never held a rabbinic post, and he encouraged his children as well not to enter the rabbinate. However, he was known for his tremendous piety, which is reflected in his two published works. He died on 18 Adar 5554 / 1794.

The book Yesod Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah is a manual for increasing one's kavanah / concentration and devotion when serving Hashem, with chapters covering the daily prayers and other daily activities, Shabbat, the holidays and other major life events. Many great sages, for example, the Chafetz Chaim, reportedly scheduled regular times to study this work.


HaMaayan, Copyright © 2005 by Shlomo Katz and Torah.org. Posted by Alan Broder, ajb@torah.org .

Many stories were told about him. According to a well-substantiated one, several days before Passover in 1790, a Jewish victim of a blood libel was sentenced to death unless he agreed to convert. Alexander, afraid the condemned man would be unable to withstand the ordeal, obtained permission to visit him in prison, and persuaded him to choose martyrdom. The execution was scheduled for the second day of Shavuot; on that day R. Alexander left the synagogue in the middle of the service for the place of execution, heard the condemned man recite the prayer of martyrdom, said "Amen," and returned to the synagogue, reciting the memorial prayer for the martyr's soul.

The second incident relates that R. Alexander was imprisoned in a German town for soliciting money for the Jews of Erez Israel, as it was illegal to send money out of Germany. On being freed, he immediately resumed collecting, ignoring the danger involved.

R. Alexander's most important work, Yesod ve-Shoresh ha-Avodah (Novy Dvor, 1782; corrected edition, Jerusalem, 1959) a book of ethics, touches upon many aspects of Jewish life. It is divided into 12 sections, the final section Sha'ar ha-kolel, concluding with an account of the coming of the Messiah. According to the author, the basis of divine worship is love of G-d and love of the Jewish people. R. Alexander emphasizes that a Jew must be grieved at the contempt in which the G-d of Israel and the people of Israel are held among the Gentiles, who persecute the chosen people and then ask mockingly, "Where is your G-d?"

In R. Alexander's view, the essence of observance is intent (kavvanah); the deed alone, without intention, is meaningless. For this reason, he insisted on clear and meticulous enunciation of each word in prayer, giving many examples of how words are distorted in the course of praying. He also laid down a specific order of study: Talmud, musar, literature, and then Kabbalah. He emphasizes the need for study of the geography of the Bible.

R. Alexander was rigid in the matter of religious observance, threatening violators with severe retribution in the hereafter. He asked every Jew to resign himself to "the four forms of capital punishment of the bet din" and in his will he ordered that upon his death his body be subjected to stoning.

Yet the central theme of his work is "worship the L-rd in joy." His ideas make R. Alexander's writings closely akin to the basic tenets of Hasidism and R. Nahman of Bratslav said of him, "he was a Hasid even before there was Hasidism." In annotated prayer books, especially in those of the Sephardi rite, his Kavvanot ha-Pashtiyyut, the "intent" of the text of the prayers as set forth in the Yesod ve-Shoresh ha-Avodah, is appended to most of the prayers.

He was deeply revered and as long as there was a Jewish community in Grodno, men and women went to pray at his grave.

Descendants of his family who originally went by the name of Braz (initials for Benei Rabbi Alexander Zusskind) later assumed the name Braudes.      


Rav Alexander Ziskind, born in Brzhen, but lived most of his life in Horodna (Grodno, Belarus), Lithuania, the product of the teaching of Rav Aryeh Leib Epstein, Rav of Nikolsberg. He authored the mussar work, Yesod V’shoresh Ha’avoda, which contains how one should behave every hour of the day and kavanos for tefillos and mitvos.

18 Adar - R' Alexander Ziskind ben R' Moshe of Horodna (1794), author of Yesod V'shoresh Ha'avoda. In his tzavah he says he will be a "good advocate" for all who learn his sefer, even if they don't take upon themselves anything he writes.

R' Ahron of Karlin brought him to the Magid of Mezerich, but the Magid purposely was not mekarev him because he said R' Alexander was a pure tzadik and already set in his ways.

Yesod V'shoresh Ha'avoda is used by Litvaks, Chasidim and Sfardim. He and his sefer were praised excessively by many tzadikim. It is brought down in Chaye Mohoran that R' Nachman of Breslov praised him.

Bio & Yarhzeit


Sefer by ‎זיסקינד, אלכסנדר




R' Ziskind Renown Kabbalist

R' Alexander Ziskind's Ethical Will


Along with rabbi Shimon Shkop is buried Alexander Ziskind ben Moses of Grodno, a great cabalist of the eighteenth century; died at Grodno, Lithuania, in 1794.

He wrote "Yesod veShoresh haAvodah" (The Essence and Root of Worship), Novy Dvor, 1782, a work frequently republished. It contains directions for the right use and comprehension of the ritual, the daily prayers, and those for the Sabbath and holy days; also divers exegetical articles on Rashi's commentary on the Prophets and Hagiographa, and articles on the Holy Land and the Temple.

Alexander Ziskind left an ethical will to his sons, which contains admonitions regarding divine worship. This work was published in Grodno in 1794.

From what I could glean, Ha'rav Alexander Ziskind was Amos Oz's GGGG Grandfather.

• Ha'rav Alexander Ziskind

• Yossele Braz ("B"en "R"av "A"lexander "Z"iskind)

• Alexander Ziskind Braz 
• Menahem Mendel Braz + sister, Rasha-Keila who married - Yehuda Leib Klausner

• Alexander Klausner (Ziskind) known as Zusia , married - cousin Shulamit Levin (Rasha Keila's daughter)

• Yehuda Arieh Klausner

• Amos Oz, see Geni profile

Amos Oz's family tree

Descendants of his family who originally went by the name of Braz (initials for Benei Rabbi Alexander Ziskind) later assumed the name Braudes.

 http://www.virtualjudaica.com/Item/11594/Karni_Or Commentary to the Zohar]. R. Alexander Zusskind b. Moses of Grodno (d. 1793), Lithuanian kabbalist……… R. Alexander's most important work, Yesod ve-Shoresh ha-Avodah (Novy Dvor, 1782;

See Ziskind, Zusskind, Susskind, Zuskind, plus more variations on the spelling.

‪A Tale of Love and Darkness‬ By Amos Oz Page 83

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Rabbi Alexander Ziskind (of Grodno)'s Timeline