Medzhybizh Jewish Tour
Medzhybizh previously known as Mezhybozhe (Medzhibozh, Polish: Międzybóż, German: Medschybisch, Yiddish: מעזשביזש, translit. Mezhbizh)
The story of the King"s Chamber The Baal Shem Tov's Beis Medrash - Medzhybizh
"This is the Gate of Haven"
(It is a tradition among the Jews ol Mezhibuzh that the shape of the Ba'al Shem Tov's ancient beis mearash should not be altered because it corresponds directly to the Beis HaMikdash in Heaven)
The king's cnamber, the holy beis medrash of the Ba'al Shem Tov, may his ment protect us, was built in 5202 (1442). three hundred years before the Ba'al Shem Tov arrived in the city of Mezhibuzh.
The beis medrash was built out of wood and stone by members of the local Jewish community. However, as the community grew, the beis medrash was simply too small to hold everyone. Community members then built a larger and more magnificent beis medrash, while the holy ancient sanctuary stood desolate.
The Ba'al Shem Tov: "When community members abandoned the synagogue, the synagogue went before the Heavenly Courn and made a claim against this offense. Jews prayed there for three hundred year, and now they haw abandoned it and left it deserted. The voice of prayer is not heard within its walls, and Jews no longer come to its gates. The synagogue's claims," - the Ba'al Shem Tov continued, - "has aroused a tremendous accusation upon the Jewish People, because this synagogue stands corresponding directly to the Beis HaMikdash in Heaven..."
With the arrival of the hofy Ba'al Shem Tov in the city of Mezhibuzh, around the year 5500 (1740), he redeemed the sanctuary from its state of desolation, in order to remove the Heavenly accusation off the premises. According to him, this holy site corresponds directly to the Beis HaMikdash in Heaven. "He desired it for His habitation" - and for his holy company - "sixty mighty men around him".
This was the location of the holy sanctuary of the Ba'al Shem Tov and his Chevra Kadisha for many years. It was from here that they offered their prayers and served their Creator with great fervor. The walls were saturated with the pure holiness of Torah study and tefilla.
During the troubled times of the Holocaust and the Communist regime, the beis medrash was destroyed In 5750 (1990), Rabbi Yisrael Melr Gabbai, director of the Oholei Tzaddikim Association, oegan to determine the exact location of the synagogue. A thorough and comprehensive research study was conducted over a period of ten years, using ancient pictures and drawings to make a precise restoration of the structure as it appeared during the life ol the Ba'al Shem Tov. Every effort was made to produce an exact replica of the original beis medrash, with help from Rabbi Nachum Karlinsky and artist Rabbi Avraham Abergil. Additional assistance in the restoration work came from Mezhibuzh native R' Shmuel Margolis, of blessed memory.
In 5760 (2000), the cornerstone was finally laid for the restored beis medrash, beginning a construction process lasting about four years. On Shavuot 5764 (2004), the yahrzeit of the Ba'al Shem Tov, the synagogue was dedicated in the presence of prominent rabbis, Chassidim, and active community.
Today, the location has returned to its prevtcus glory. The Ba'al Shem Tov's holy sanctuary, which had once illuminated the whole world, continues to serve as a pilgrimage site for countless people visiting Mezhibuzh seeking to offer their prayers at HaMicdash in Heaven.
The Beis Medrash of the holy "Ohev Yisrael" of Apta
"This is none other than the house of God"
The hallowed site where you are now standing is the sanctuary of the holy Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apt may his merit protect us. The author ot "Ohev Yisrael", he led his followers during his later years in the city of Mezhibuzi, where he passed away and was buried not far from the holy gravesite of the Ba'al Shem Tov, of righteous memory In 5574, the year he came to live in Mezhlbuzh, he purchased this beis medrash with his own money, a two-story structure adjacent to the rabbi's home.
With the rabbi's passing in 5565, he was succeeded by his son. the holy Rabbi Yosef Moshe o.b.m., and after his passing, the beis medrash was inherited by the grandson, Rabbi Yisrael Aharon. When the Apter Rebbe's great-grandson, Rabbi Avraham Yahoshua Heschel of Mezhibuzh, arrived In the city In 5025, he took over the beis medrash.
After Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel ot Mezhibuzh's passing, all of his sons wanted the privilege of continuing the path of theit great-great-grandfattier and in his beis medrash. However, in accordance with the instructions of Rabbi David Moshe of Chortkov, custodianship of the beis medrash passed to his own son, Rabbi Meshulam Zusha, who guided his Chassidim from this sacred location until his passing in 5680.
Chassidim continued to pray and gather together in this beis medrash until 5692. Dunng that year, a company of cruel soldiers burst into the premises and demanded that all the worshippers vacate the location immediately. When one of the Chassidim tried to resist, the local governor placed a gun on the Chassid's temple. At this point, realizing that they had no alternative, the other worshippers gathered the holy articles and left the beis medrash with great anguish.
The site was subsequently desecrated and pillaged by local Gentiles. As time passed, the authorities turned it Into a fire station, until it was redeemed in 5768.
The Oholei Tzadikim organization, headed by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Gabbai, conducted lengthy negotiations with the local authonbes. After investing considerable amounts of money, they succeeded in redeeming the beis medrash and the adjacent building. Two years later, in 5770, they started renovating the area.
The kind generosity of R' Mordechai Farhand has been most helpful in these efforts. Expert builders have reinforced crumbling walls, and the site is being restored to its previous glory.
"Oholei Tzadikim' has established a large Jewish library at the site, which serves the thousands of visitors who come to Mezhibuzh throughout the year.
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The Ba'al Shem Tov's Spring
"The spring that miraculously began to flow"
Ravynova Krynytsia. Not far from the city of Medzhybizh, on the road that leads to the forest, is a spring of water. Today this spring is called, even by the non-Jews area, Ravynova Krynytsia, which in Ukrainian means "Spring of the Rabbi".
This spring is mentioned in the accounts of the past, and today it is still known by many who go to see this ancient wonder with their own eyes. Those who go there discover a small trickle of water flowing in a meadow, whose source can not be found, just as where it ends can not be found either. Many have sought to drink this water as a segula, one that has proved itself both materially and spiritually.
The following story reveals the origin of this spring and significance behind the special holiness attached to it.
One day Ba'al Shem Tov invited his great disciple Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Cohen of Polnoye Zatzal (the author of Toldot Yaakov Yosef), and some other disciples among his sanctified entourage to join him on a journey outside of town. On their way back, since it was late and night was soon approaching, the Ba'al Shem Tov and his friends came to a forest outside of town to pry Mincha. When the Ba'al Shem Tov wanted to wash his hands to prepare for prayer, it turned out that there was no more water in the container they had taken with them on their journey. His disciples split up to find a spring of water, but they could not find one. Since they returned empty-handed, ha being lost hope to find water, the Ba'al Shem Tov raised his eyes up to heaven, which grew dark above their heads. When he realized that the time for Minch was going to pass, he turned his back to those accompanying him and went into the forest for himself. Nobody dared move. Only his disciple Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, who at the time was a dayan of Sharigrod, discreetly followed him.
Better that I should die than live!
In the darkness that reigned among the trees, the Ba'al Shem Tov leaned his stuff against a tree, and then he lay down on the ground with his entire body. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef was frightened when he saw this. The Ba'al Shem Tov extended his arms and legs as he had never seen before, and he forthfully struck the ground. He was literally about to give up his soul ! Suddenly, Rabbi Yaakov's ears heard groaning sounds that broke his heart. It was the voice of Ba'al Shem Tov, who was crying out of the depths of his heart.
Frightened, the hairs on Rabbi Yaakov Yosef's neck stood up and his heart almost stopped. All his limbs were shaking. The Ba'al Shem Tov got back up, wiped away his tears, took his stuff from where he had placed it, and calmly walked back to his friends. There, right behind them, only three steps from where their carriage had stopped, a spring of water was gently flowing.
"They have eyes but do not see !" - said the Ba'al Shem Tov in jest. "Here it is that we have a spring right next to us, and we where looking for it at a distance ! "
Everyone looked at each other in amazement. They all washed their hands and prepared to pray. Only Rabbi Yaakov Yosef knew the secret behind the spring's appearance. He alone witnessed who had happened a few minutes earlier among the trees of the forest.
Such self-sacrifice ("better that I should die than live") for a minor requirement of the Sages, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef had never seeng anything like it in his life. Until his dying day, it never ceased to amaze him. Later on he revealed that this was one of the major reasons why he decided to cleave to Ba'al Shem Tov, and it was what had immediately turned him into a chassid.
"And once he went outside the city with students, and there came the time of Mincha, and the student said, - "There is no water to wash our hands for davening." And he look a stuff and struck the ground, and a spring of water burst open that continues to this very day near Mezhibuzh. And it is called after him, even among the Gentiles, and it is know from his time as a healer of all sicknesses"
(Rabbi Itzchak Isaac of Komarno - Notzer Chesed, Chapter 6)
In 2013, the "Oholet Tzaddikim" Association established an impressive kosher mikvah on the location, enabling vialtors to immerse themselves in the waters of the Ba'al Shem Tov"s holy spring.
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