Abraham Gershon of Kitov

Abraham Gershon of Kitov

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Abraham Gershon of Kitov, also known as Rabbi Gershon of Brody, was probably born in or near Kuty
Kuty
Kuty is a town in Ukraine, on the Cheremosh river, located in the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. It is notable as one of the historical centres and the namesake of a historical region of Pokuttya. Population is 4,272 ....

 (Kitov), Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 around 1701 and died in Jerusalem in 1761. He is best known as the Baal Shem Tov's brother-in-law.

Rabbinical career


A scion of a famous rabbinic family, Abraham Gershon is a descendant (possibly the grandson) of Shabsai Cohen
Shabbatai ha-Kohen
Shabbatai ben Meir ha-Kohen was a noted 17th Century talmudist and halakhist. He became known as the Shakh, which is an abbreviation of his most important work, Siftei Kohen , and his rulings were considered authoritative by later halakhists.- Biography :Shabbatai ha-Kohen was born either in ...

 ("the ShACh") (1625–1663). Both Abraham Gershon and his father Ephraim of Brody served in one of the four beit din (Jewish Court) of Brody. It was here that he and his father encountered Rabbi Israel "Baal Shem Tov". According to early Chasidic work Shivchei haBesht, his father gave his blessing of marriage for his sister Chana to the Baal Shem Tov on his deathbed. But once Ephraim died, Abraham Gershon was unaware of this secret betrothal until the Baal Shem Tov revealed the engagement contract.

Abraham Gershon rose to a powerful position within the Jewish community of Brody
Brody
Brody is a city in the Lviv Oblast of western Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Brody Raion , and is located in the valley of the upper Styr River, approximately 90 kilometres northeast of the oblast capital, Lviv...

. For a time he served as a synagogue cantor. Shivchei haBesht portrays Abraham Gershon as a foil to the Baal Shem Tov. He is usually represented as a learned and lofty man of the upper class who regards his brother-in-law as lowly and untrustworthy. Abraham Gershon is probably responsible for kicking the Baal Shem Tov out of the Brody area where he ultimately settled in Medzhybizh
Medzhybizh
Medzhybizh, previously known as Mezhybozhe, population 1731, is a town in the Khmelnytskyi Oblast of western Ukraine. It is located in the Letychivsky Raion , 25 kilometres from the Khmelnytskyi on the main highway between Khmelnytskyi and Vinnytsia at the confluence of the Southern Buh and...

. Later, the Baal Shem Tov revealed himself. Abraham Gershon was won over and became one of the Baal Shem Tov's ardent admirers.

In 1745, Abraham Gershon was involved in ruling on a promiscuity case about the daughter-in-law of one of the wealthiest men in town. This man had strong connections to government officials. After ruling against the daughter-in-law, Abraham Gershon was forced to flee Brody to avoid being publicly punished. He took refuge with the Baal Shem Tov in Medzhybizh
Medzhybizh
Medzhybizh, previously known as Mezhybozhe, population 1731, is a town in the Khmelnytskyi Oblast of western Ukraine. It is located in the Letychivsky Raion , 25 kilometres from the Khmelnytskyi on the main highway between Khmelnytskyi and Vinnytsia at the confluence of the Southern Buh and...

. Affiliated with new Hasidic thoughts as well as traditional Lurian liturgy, the Baal Shem Tov entrusted his brother-in-law with the education of his only son, Tzvi.

In 1747, Abraham Gershon traveled to Jerusalem, one of the first Hasidim to establish a presence in the holy land. There he embraced the Rashash
Shalom Sharabi
Sar Shalom Sharabi , also known as the Rashash, the Shemesh or Ribbi Shalom Mizraḥi deyedi`a Sharabi Sar Shalom Sharabi , also known as the Rashash, the Shemesh or Ribbi Shalom Mizraḥi deyedi`a Sharabi Sar Shalom Sharabi , also known as the Rashash, the Shemesh or Ribbi Shalom Mizraḥi deyedi`a...

, together with those who were students of Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

. He lived in Hebron
Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

 for six years. In 1753, he moved to Jerusalem and was further associated with the (kabbalistic
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

) Yeshivat Beit El
Beit El Synagogue
The Beit El Synagogue , has been the center of kabbalistic study in Jerusalem for over 250 years.-History of the Yeshivat HaMekubalim:The yeshiva was founded in 1737 by Rabbi Gedaliah Hayon, originally from...

. He died in 1761 and was buried on the Mount of Olives
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge in East Jerusalem with three peaks running from north to south. The highest, at-Tur, rises to 818 meters . It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes...

. After the Six Day War in 1967, his grave was rediscovered along with the grave of his second wife Bluma.