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2017-02-08

Yahrzeit in Lelów

A few hundred Hasidim prayed at the grave of tzadik Dawid Biderman in Lelów. It is one of the most famous Hasidic events in Poland.

Dawid Biderman of Lelów is considered one of the most important tzadiks ever living in Poland. He was active in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He became engaged in Hasidism under the influence of Elimelech of Leżajsk and was a student of Mojżesz Lejb of Sasów and Jakow Icchak Horowic of Lublin. In his teachings, he stressed the need to love one's neighbour. He died in 1814.

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photo by Piotr Kras   

The dynasty Biderman founded has survived until today. He has a large number of followers in Israel, the United States and other countries. The tzadik's grave in Lelów is visited by pilgrims from all over the world. They arrive in particularly large numbers on the tzadik's death anniversary, called yahrzeit in Yiddish.

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photo by Krzysztof Bielawski / POLIN   

This year the Lelów yahrzeit started at dusk on Thursday, 2 February 2017, and lasted until sunset on Friday, 3 February. Some pilgrims came to Poland already on Wednesday to visit towns in which their ancestors or other tzadiks used to live. The biggest group, led by current Rebe Aron Biderman, came from Israel to Katowice on Thursday, and then went to Lelów by coach. According to Krzysztof Molenda, Lelów village head, about 400 pilgrims took part in this year's yahrzeit.

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photo by Piotr Kras   

The anniversary prayers at the tzadik's grave started on Thursday. The Ohel was filled to the brim, and some pilgrims had to pray outside. In the evening the tish – an official reception combined with speeches and dances – was held in two huge tents.

In the early afternoon on Friday, in a street in front of the ohel a fire was lit in a big barrel filled with cotton wool soaked in oil; then the Hasidim danced around it. Due to Shabbat, most pilgrims stayed in Lelów until Sunday. Like every year, a number of them rented rooms with local inhabitants since there is no hotel in Lelów.

Ilustracja

photo by Piotr Kras   

Apart from a similar event in Leżajsk, the yahrzeit in Lelów is one of the most famous Hasidic ceremonies in Poland. It is reported on by the media and attracts many onlookers, including photographers – both professionals and amateurs. Several dozen of them came this time. Keeping in mind the religious nature of the event, one needs to remain very sensitive. It is worth noting that in line with the present rebe's recommendation, the Hasidim come to Lelów without their wives and daughters to remain fully focused. This means no woman may enter the ohel or the tent where the tish is being held. As regards men, all of them should keep their heads covered at all times while in the ohel, synagogue or the cemetery.

Krzysztof Bielawski

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