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ABRAHAM MALAK, or HA-MALAK:

Russian rabbi; only son of Dob Baer of Mezhirich, who was the first leader of the South Russian Ḥasidim; follower of Ba'al Shem-Ṭob, and son-in-law of Meshullam Phœbus of Kremenetz; died, while comparatively young, at Fastov, a village in the government of Kiev, about 1780. He was educated in the principles of the Ḥasidim and the Cabala, but on account of his retiring habits and his unpractical nature did not succeed his father as head of the sect. He withdrew after Rabbi Baer's death to the village of Hannipol, where he led the life of a hermit, admitting into his presence only a few ẓaddiḳim ("pious men"), among whom were Zalman of Lyady, his friend and schoolmate, and Nahum of Chernobyl. Nahum procured for Abraham the position of preacher at Fastov, where, until his death, he continued his secluded, introspective mode of life. It was on account of his pious seclusion from the world and of his strict observance of Ḥasidic ordinances that the epithet Malak ("Angel") was given to him. His son was Shalom of Pogrebish.

Abraham's commentary on the Pentateuch, which, combined with that of his friend Abraham ha-Kohen Kalishker, was published under the title "Ḥesed le-Abraham," long after his death, by his grandson, Israel of Rozenoi (Czernowitz, 1851; Warsaw, 1883), is partly cabalistic in character, and partly historical, and contains many passages reproving the degenerate Ḥasidim of his generation. Two passages are characteristic as to the personality and standpoint of the author. In the preface he complains that whereas wisdom (Cabala) represents the purest religious metaphysics, it had become obscured by a grossly materialistic conception, as was also the case with the sublime teachings of true Ḥasidism. "This is the protest of a noble soul against the commencing degradation of Ḥasidism," says Dubnov, "against the irreverent and intemperate degradation of the worship of God and the crude idolatry which manifests itself in the cult of the ẓaddiḳim." In another place Abraham describes the ideal ẓaddiḳ, and it is an echo from his own soul when he mourns that "this generation can not comprehend the great mission of such a one. Like Saul of old, he is taller than his contemporaries, and so absorbed in the meditation of divine wisdom that he can not descend to the lower steps upon which ordinary people stand."

Bibliography:
  • Dubnov, in Vos., Dec., 1890, pp. 142 et seq.;
  • Gottlober, in Ha-Boker-Or, Jan., 1881;
  • Seder ha-Dorot, p. 29;
  • Walden, Shem ha-Gedolim he-Ḥadash, No. 36;
  • Seder ha-Dorot he-Ḥadash;
  • Rodkinson, Toledot 'Ammude Habad; ;
  • Ha-Eshkol (Hebrew Ency.), Warsaw, 1888.
H. R.
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