Mystics in the Womb


Some of the most fabulous legends about Hasidic rabbis start while their subjects are still children. The legends of Sender Safrin (1806-1874), the first rebbe of the Hasidic sect of Komarno, are even more fantastic–they start before his birth.

According to his autobiography, Megillat Setari (Book of Secrets), Sender was conceived on the night of his parents’ wedding. (Yes, it’s totally weird that Sender shares this story in his own autobiography.) He studied Torah in the womb–like every baby does, according to Kabbalah–but Sender was so eager to start following Torah that he started to exit the womb after seven months. His mother went into early labor, and a servant ran to fetch his father from the yeshiva. At the yeshiva, however, his father’s rivals whispered that the couple had consummated their relationship before the wedding, and that was the reason the baby was ready to be born.

An angel whispered this to the baby, who ducked back inside, waiting to emerge at full term. The yet-unborn Sender was pleased that he already got to complete one mitzvah, the mitzvah of honoring his mother and father.

Sender’s later adventures are no less fantastic–as a child, he could see into the future, but his uncle (also a famous Hasidic rabbi) “removed” the power until he was older. And throughout his life he was pursued by an “evil dog,” a werewolf-like creature who was a reincarnation of the king Jeroboam.

Sender also wrote several highly-regarded commentaries on the Torah, the commandments, and the Zohar–but none of these quite rival the amazing stories that Sender Safrin told about himself.

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