Memories of ethnographic expedition under the leadership of Sh.An-sky by Abraham Rekhtman

Great Synagogue Rabbi Lieber in Berdichev – (pages 57-59) – (Buenos Aires, 1958)

Very nice intimate legend tells about Berdichev Jews of an old synagogue, named after the Rabbi Lieber The Great. Tsadik1 Lieber (1) lived in the time of the Baal Shem Tov (2). He was a few years older than Besht and even survived him. Besht considered him a great tzaddik and gave him great honor. About him, he said: “There tzadiks award-revelation of the prophet Elijah. And here is the other way round – the prophet Elijah was awarded by rabbi Lieber revelation. “Besht several times along an year came to Berdichev, to meet with the rabbi Lieber and, most importantly, to plunge into his mikva (3) . It was believed that the water in the mikva let rabbi Lieber heals those who suffer from eye diseases, and patients came from afar for immersion in the mikva.
According to legend, rabbi Lieber was tall, literally head and shoulders above all others. Thick eyebrows hanging obscured his eyes. When he had to look at someone, he raised eyebrows with your fingers, and then lower them. Long bushy beard fell below the belt. Beard he never combed for fear of losing even one hair.
It is said that once, while at his home, the Besht asked rabbi Lieber, that he allowed his fingers to comb his beard. In this case, the Besht vouched his share in the next world, that will not fall, no hair. But rabbi Lieber did not agree. An old synagogue in Berdichev center bears his name after such a history.
On weekdays, rabbi Lieber used to perform the rite minkha (4) in the open field. Once, when he was absorbed in prayer, standing in a field under a tree, passing by the count. Seeing a Jew, rocking in prayer under a tree and did not even notice him, he was snapping a whip and shout: “Jew! Jew! “But rabbi Lieber was immersed in prayer, and his ears did not reach or the clicking of a whip, nor the cries of the count. He continued to stand there and say a prayer. The count was furious: “What impudence!” The count ordered his driver and the waiter to bring the Jew, up to the coach. Servants called, but rabbi Lieber did not hear them. Then the count ordered to bring the Jew by force. Servants dragged him and put in front of their master. Count resented, swore, but rabbi Lieber did not answer. Then he grabbed a stick and began violently to lash rabbi Lieber. But rabbi Lieber, didn’t even winced in prayer. Count struck resistance of rabbi Lieber. Is it possible to endure such torture, never without a groan? He dropped his whip. In place of anger came curiosity. Count ordered to withdraw the Jew back to the tree, and he sat in the carriage and waited patiently.
1 Tzadik – at the Hasidic rabbi of the holy, spiritual leader
2 The Baal Shem Tov – the founder of Hasidism, Tzadik, often referred to by the acronym Besht
3 mikvah – a ritual pool
4 Mincha – Afternoon Prayer