EPHRAIM OF SUDILKOV (called also Moses Ḥayyim Ephraim):
Russian rabbi and preacher among the Ḥasidim of the Ukraine; born at Medzhibozh, Podolia, about 1750; died at Sudilkov, Volhynia, about 1799. He was the grandson of Israel Ba'al Shem-Ṭob and a twin-brother of Baruch of Tulchin. Unlike his brother, Ephraim performed no miraculous cures. He preferred a life of meditation and seclusion to the splendor of the court of a ẓaddik. Preaching and writing Biblical commentaries of a mystical nature formed his only occupations. Ephraim was only twelve years old when his grandfather died, but he religiously preserved all that he had heard from him. Ephraim's sermons, which were largely commentaries on the sayings of his grandfather, were collected and published by his son under the title "Degel Maḥaneh Efrayim" (Koretz, 1810), and were approved by the best-known ẓaddikim of that time, Levy Isaac of Berdychev, Israel of Kozenitz, and Jacob Isaac of Lublin.
The work reflects his boundless admiration for the founder of Ḥasidism. He entertains no doubt of the thaumaturgic powers of BEShT. He tells of many prophetic messages from him to his brother-in-law in Palestine ("Degel Maḥaneh Efrayim," p. 6). The author insists that the miracles performed by Besht were due not to supernatural means or cabalistic methods, but to his simple and unswerving faith (ib. p. 32). He recommends as a model to the contemporary ẓaddiḳim the simple exhortation to rely upon heartfelt talks on common every-day subjects, and asserts that by such talks Besht led the people to God more effectually than by theological instruction (ib. pp. 36, 80). He believes firmly that when Ḥasidic teachings are professed by the entire Jewish people the national regeneration of Israel will be consummated (ib. p. 63).
Ephraim went to Sudilkov about 1780, but from time to time revisited his birthplace. While Ephraim was not free from the defects of Ḥasidism, he always urged simplicity and sincerity.
- Dubnov, in Voskhod, 1890, xii. 125;
- Degel Maḥaneh Efrayim;
- Seder ha-Dorot he-Ḥadash.