Ba’al HaTechelet

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Grand Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner of Radzin, son of Beit Yaakov, author of Orchot Chayim, Sod Y’sharim, Tiferet Hachanochi, and Dalsos Shaar Ha’ir, among many other books.

The Rebbe is referred to by Radziner Chasidim as the Orchot Chayim, based on his phenomenal work on the Tzava’ah – the will – of the Tana Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol. This work was written by the Rebbe basically without any open books to his advantage, in only 12 days, during his trial on a libel fabricated against him by his adversaries. When the Rebbe published this work, he commented to his chasidim that he’s happy that he got to print his Tzava’ah.

In the larger world the Rebbe is better known as the Ba’al HaTechelet. The Rebbe was brilliant in both the revealed and the hidden Torah. He was also extremely knowledgeable in several scientific fields, like chemistry, engineering and medicine. He spoke several languages fluently, and used them frequently while prescribing medicines in Latin to the countless people who turned to him for help. At the age of sixteen, the Rebbe had already formulated a spectacular idea: he would compose a “gemara” of a sort on the mishnayot of Seder Taharot, as there is no Talmud Bavli on those tractates. In order to accomplish this, he gathered all the relevant material from the whole Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi, and all other Breitot etc., and presented them in chronological order in a book he called Sidrei Taharot on Masechet Keilim. He later did the same with all the other tractates of Seder Taharot. However, only his works on Keilim and Oholot were published. (The other tractates were lost during the Holocaust). The task took him ten years to complete.

He worked tirelessly for the restoration of the techelet of the tzitzit. He made use of his vast knowledge to research the topic, and traveled to Italy four times to conduct his study. While there he visited what was then the largest aquarium in the world, in the coastal city of Naples, and upon studying the different sea creatures, he came to the conclusion that the original techelet was extracted from the secretion of the Sepia officinalis (a type of squid known as the common cuttlefish; in Hebrew known as the Dionon). Legend has it that on one of the Rebbe’s visits to Rome; he succeeded in persuading the Vatican to allow him a quick glimpse of the Holy Vessels of the Beit HaMikdash, to match his findings with the techelet on the priestly garments. He published several books on the topic, such as S’funei T’munei Chol, P’til Techelet, and Ein Techelet, and succeeded in influencing many Gedolim with his work. At the same time, there were Gedolim who opposed to the Rebbe’s opinion and did not agree with his findings. There was, however, a small number of Gedolei Yisrael who would practice the rediscovered mitzvah of techelet, like Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Schwadron (known as the Maharsham of Berzan) who possessed a tallit with techelet fringes. All the Rebbe’s chassidim and followers wore them, as do many Breslov chassidim to this day.
He was the first rebbe known as “The Radziner Rebbe”. Died 4 Tevet 5651 (1890). Buried in Radzin.

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