The Chidushei HaRim: Gerrer Chasiddus - 18 Hours Torah And A Little Chassidus
“I am certain that [Rav Yitzchok Meir] will reach the level of torah greatness of Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz”, so said the great gaon Rebbi Akiva Eiger after meeting with the Chidushei HaRim the future founder of the Gerrer Chassidus for the very first time.
Rav Yitzchok Meir was born in 5558/1798 to an orphaned mother who was raised by the Magid of Kozhnitz. The Magid of Kozhnitz was a great influence on him in his younger years. “When he was just 17 years old he published his first Chidushim and became known as the Illuy of Warsaw”. He then became a Chosid of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. The Magid of Kozhnitz was hurt by this decision. The Chidushei HaRim had thirteen children and they all died in his lifetime. He once said that he knows this was because he hurt the Magid of Kozhnitz but nevertheless he had no regrets. He had no use for the royal treatment and compliments showered upon him in Kozhnitz. He much preferred a Rebbe that would rip out his veins.
After Reb Simcha Bunim’s death, although a possible successor in his own right, he submitted himself to his good friend Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and became his follower and confidant. They became brother in laws after Reb Menachem Mendel married the sister of the wife of the Chidushei HaRim after his first wife passed away. After the Kotzker Rebbe was niftar in 5619/1859 the Chidushei HaRim moved to Ger outside of Warsaw and started his chassidus.
He once said that "Rav Simcha Bunim Led his flock with Love, The Kotzker Rebbe instilled in his Chassidim Fear of Heaven, I will lead with Torah". For a daily schedule he recommended as follows. 18 hours learning, four hours sleep, and 2 hours for preparations, chassidus, davening, and eating.
It is told that one morning Rav Shmuel Salant (the future Rav of Yerushalayim) came to visit the Chidushei HaRim. After talking for a while in learning the Chidushei HaRim excused himself to go daven. Rav Shmuel Salant shocked asked him why he hadn’t daven yet. He answered that he went to sleep late. So then why, asked Rav Shmuel, did he not go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier. To this he replied, when one is learning he doesn’t close the gemara and go to sleep. Only when he falls asleep does he drag himself to a bed.
In a difference in opinion with his close friend the Kotzker Rebbe, the Chidushei HaRim felt strongly about wearing traditional Chassidic garb even at the cost of one’s life. The zechus of not changing clothing in Mitzrayim proved that this is the very essence of a Jew. The Chidushei HaRim even ended up sitting in jail briefly over this battle with the authorities. The Kotzker strongly argued with him finding no great value to externalities at all.
After leading Ger for seven years he was niftar in 5626/1866. With no children to take his place and his young grandchild and spiritual heir refusing to become Rebbe due to his young age all his Chassidim flocked to the Alexander Rebbe. Only upon the death of the Alexander Rebbe flock did his grandson Reb Yehuda Leib Alter (the Sfas Emes) agree to become Rebbe and continue the Gerrer Dynasty, responding to the pleas of a Rebbeless flock. Yehi Zichro Boruch (based on Gedolei HaDoros by Rabbi YM Stern)