Living Legacy: The Yesod v’Shoresh Ho’avodah

Living Legacy: The Yesod v’Shoresh Ho’avodah

Yehuda Alter 

The 18th of Adar marks the yohrtzeit of Hago’on hakodosh Rav Aleksander Zyskind, the author of Yesod v’Shoresh Ha’avodah, a sefer that has informed and inspired Klal Yisroel towards avodas Hashem since the time it was published. 

Rav Aleksander Zyskind was born in Ruzinai to his father, Rav Moshe of Horodna. His mother was Rebbetzin Rivka, a descendant of the Levush.  

He was a world-class ga’on, a mekubal, and a master of the hidden and revealed Torah. He was one of the most famous Rabbonim of his era. He was immersed in Torah day and night with tremendous hasmodoh and kedusha. He dedicated his life to serving Hashem with utter mesirus nefesh. Great tzaddikim of his generation testified that “he served Hashem like a malach and saraf. 

From his youth, he was known for all these qualities, and he declined to accept a rabbinic position, and likewise instructed his descendants to be followers rather than leaders. 

Rav Aleksander Zyskind gave away large sums of money to the poor, with complete mesirus nefesh, and he also gathered large sums to the poor of Eretz Yisroel. Once, while in Hamburg gathering funds for Eretz Yisroel, he was arrested for the crime of sending money internationally. He was incarcerated for a year, but immediately upon his release, he resumed his heroic activities. In general, he had a tremendous longing for Eretz Yisroel, and instructed his descendants to keep the holy land in their hearts and always have a strong desire to move there. 

He conducted himself with tremendous kedusha and aestheticism, constantly seeking to break his physical desires and his yetzer harah. Although he was not a chossid, he conducted himself with many chassidishe minhagim such as immersing in the mikvah every day and wearing white clothing in honor of Shabbos. 

He was renowned for his tremendous emunah in Hashem, and taught his talmidim that there is one Hashem on this world who ordains everything that happens. He also would teach them that a Yid must always be prepared to have mesirush nefesh for Hashem’s will and to bring pleasure to Hashem. 

He molded many talmidim, and was known for his constant joy and his greatness in Torah. 

As noted, the tzaddikim of his generation—from the Rebbe Rebbe Boruch’l of Medzibuz to the Vilna Ga’on—testified about his greatness in extraordinary ways. 

In his tzavaah, the tzaddik asks that people should make a daily seder in learning his sefer, assuring that he will be a meilitz yosher for them in the next world. 

The Yesod v’shoresh ho’avodah was niftar on 18 Adar of the year 1794, and was laid to rest in Horodna. 

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