Living Legacy: Rav Yaakov Yosef of Ostroh, Known as Rav Yaivee
By: Yehuda Alter
Among the early luminaries of the chassidic movement, whose Sefer remains a classic to this day, is “Rav Yaivee,” who left this world on the 20th of Tishrei of the year 1791.
His father was Rav Yehuda Leib, a Talmid of the Baal Shem Tov, who was a Maggid and Rov in the Ukrainian city of Ostroh.
Upon the passing of his father in the year 1765, Rav Yaivee assumed his position as a rabbinic leader in the city. He became a Talmid of the maggid of mezrich, as well as other talmidei baal Shem.
He was fearless in standing up for kvod Shomayim, and waged a number of battles in various areas of Yiddishkeit. Once, the servant of the wealthiest man in the town shoveled the manure in the horses stables on shabbos morning. On Sunday morning, Rav Yaivee promptly went to the man’s home and demanded “collateral” which was then marched throughout the entire town, with the announcement that this was for the desecration of shabbos that occurred on his property.
Rav Yaakov Yosef also authored a Sefer Morah Mikdash on the importance of not talking during davening and hung the text on the walls of many Shuls. His more famous safer was Rav Yaivee, chiddushim on Torah, tehillim, and agados hashas.
In addition to holiness, Rav Yaivee was also known for his wisdom. Once, there was a poor man in the town of Ostroh who was a rabble rouser, making life difficult for the askonim of the town. They came to Rav Yaivee and complained. The rebbe said, “I would punish this man, but with what shall I punish him? With money? He has none. Instead, I’ll compel him to serve as one of the askonim of the town. This way he’ll understand how difficult it is.”
Like the miracles that he performed during his lifetime, the story of his resting place is likely miraculous. The Soviet government overtook Ukraine and paved the entire cemetery and made it a park. Two solitary Kevarim survived intact: the lever of the Maharsha, who was the Rov in Ostroh, and the kever of Rav Yaivee.
The rebbe departed this world on the 20th of Tishrei of the year 1791, but he left behind generations of tzaddikim, with multiple Admorim throughout the generations whose Chain is continued to this day, an everlasting living legacy.
Special thanks to R’ Ethan Piliavin, a seventh-generation descendant of Rav Yaivee, for his assistance with this article.