Tzava’at Harivash is one of the earliest Chassidic texts to be published. Its first edition appeared in 1792 or 1793 (no date is mentioned). It was preceded only by R. Ya’akov Yossef of Polnoy’s Toldot Yaakov Yossef (1780), Ben Porat Yossef (1781) and Tzafnat Pane’ach (1782); and R. Dov Ber of Mezhirech’s Maggid Devarav Leyaakov, also known as Likkutei Amarim (1781; second edition with supplements 1784; third edition 1792), and Likkutim Yekarim, which incorporates R. Meshulam Feivish of Zborez’s Yosher Divrei Emet (1792).

Tzavaat Harivash is an anthology of teachings and instructions attributed to the Baal Shem Tov and his successor, R. Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezhirech. It is identical in form and style to Maggid Devarav Leyaakov and Likkutim Yekarim. To a great extent it is identical to these also in content: the major part of our text appeared already in Likkutim Yekarim, and a few additional sections in Maggid Devarav Leyaakov. In fact, all of its contents can be found in anthologies of the Maggid’s teachings, though some of these were published later: all but six1 of its 1432 sections appear in Or Haemet (first published in 1899); seventy-four appear in Likkutim Yekarim; forty-three appear in the Likkutei Amarim attributed to R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk (first published in 1911); thirty-three in Or Torah (first published in 1804); and three (and with some variations another five) in Maggid Devarav Leyaakov. Some appear also in Kitvei Kodesh (1884) and in Shemuah Tovah (1938). These duplications beg consideration to determine the origin of Tzavaat Harivash.

The original title page reads as follows:

Book of the Testament of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem and Hanhagot Yesharot (rules of upright conduct)—that was found in the valise of... Rabbi Isaiah, Head of the Rabbinic Court and Head of the Academy of the holy community of Yanov—which consists of tzava’ot (instructions), rules of proper conduct, great and wondrous counsels for the service of the Creator relating to Torah and prayer and other traits, heard from the holy mouth of the Man of God, the Holy Light, our Master Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, his memory is for a blessing, for the life of the World to Come. To these were added Hanhagot Yesharot from the Man of God, the Holy Light, our Master Rabbi Dov Ber of the community of Mezhirech.

In the text itself, nineteen sayings appear with the name of the Baal Shem Tov.3 In other early sources we find attributions to the Baal Shem Tov for another five teachings.4 Explicit attribution to the Maggid appears in our text only once.5

It is not known who compiled Tzavaat Harivash. It is also not known who compiled Likkutim Yekarim67 Maggid Devarav Leyaakov was edited by R. Shelomoh of Lutzk, a disciple and relative of the Maggid, from manuscripts written by others.8 Or Haemet was printed from a manuscript of R. Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, as was also Shemuah Tovah.9 Likkutei Amarim (Vitebsk) was printed from a manuscript found among the possessions of R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and erroneously attributed to him by the publishers. Its contents are identical to a manuscript that was in the possession of R. Shemuel Shmelka of Nikolsburg, the title page of which reads: “Likkutei Amarim of the saintly rabbi, the famous Holy Light, the Maggid of the holy community of Mezhirech, our Master R. Dov Ber… his disciple...R. Shmelka, the rabbi of the holy community of the capital Nikolsburg.”10 Kitvei Kodesh was printed from manuscripts owned by R. Israel of Kozienice, another disciple of the Maggid.11

All these works contain teachings that appear in the others. Most duplications are generally identical. Some appear partially, or in brief versions, in one text, and completely, or more elaborately, in another, but otherwise there are but minor variations.

Tzavaat Harivash is the only one of these anthologies that does not contain anything original, i.e., anything that is not found in the others. It is noteworthy that it contains two sections that I found only in Likkutim Yekarim,12 two that I found only in Or Torah,13 and ten that I found only in Or Haemet.14 Moreover, there are significant omissions in some of its versions, including one15 that leaves its rendition incomplete. This raises some questions about its literary origin. A closer study of the sources, however, provides the answer.

The first in the series of publications of the Maggid’s teachings is, as noted above, Maggid Devarav Leyaakov. Its editor, R. Shelomoh of Lutzk, relates in his detailed introduction that a number of manuscripts of the Maggid’s teachings circulated in his time, arbitrary anthologies without any order or system and (at least some) copied from one another. Generally they were full of errors, confusion and omissions that would require total rewriting which, he complains, would have been very difficult for him. Fortunately, however, he came into possession of

a number of manuscripts written by various people, and especially copied from the handwriting of R. Ze’ev Wolf of Greater Horodna in Lithuania, and edited by him. I found [in them]...delightful discourses that I still remember, but it was impossible for me to rewrite them and to arrange them in orderly fashion.

R. Shelomoh published these manuscripts unaltered as the book Maggid Devarav Leyaakov.

R. Meshulam Feivish of Zborez writes in the introduction to Yosher Divrei Emet16 (which was incorporated in Likkutim Yekarim) that he merited to attend to the Maggid and later on (after the Maggid’s passing) obtained “sacred writings of his holy words.” He mentions these manuscripts several times, and all his references can be found in Likkutim Yekarim.17 It is safe to assume that the publisher of Likkutim Yekarim used his manuscript(s) to publish that work, as appears also from the fact that his Yosher Divrei Emet was incorporated therein.

Thus we find a series of manuscripts containing identical writings in the hands of R. Ze’ev Wolf of Horodna and R. Shelomoh of Lutzk (Maggid Devarav Leyaakov), R. Meshulam Feivish of Zborez (Likkutim Yekarim), R. Yeshayah of Donovitz (Or Torah), R. Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev (Or Haemet, Shemuah Tovah), R. Israel of Kozinice (Kitvei Kodesh), R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk (Likkutei Amarim), R. Shemu’el Shmelka of Nikolsburg (Likkutei Amarim-MS), and R. Yeshayah of Yanov (Tzavaat Harivash), aside of the anonymous manuscripts mentioned by R. Shelomoh of Lutzk. The identical contents clearly indicate that all of these must have had a singular source. The differences between them (additional materials, omissions, textual variations and so forth) can be accounted for by some having more or less complete manuscripts, and the many hands of copyists until the respective manuscript came into the hands of the rabbis.18

Tzavaat Harivash differs from all these other works in one important respect: it is not simply a copy of one or more of these manuscripts, but an edited selection of teachings with one theme, as indicated in the title page. Its editor selected passages that would form a manual for religious ethics.

The manuscripts used by the anonymous editor were not the best. They were obviously defective, as appears from significant omissions in our text which otherwise make no sense at all. These omissions are of two kinds: a) there is much more material in the other works that fits the theme of Tzavaat Harivash and would surely have been included if available to the editor; and b) section 143, as mentioned above, was left incomplete.

This analysis of the origin of Tzavaat Harivash19 is supported by the testimony of an authoritative contemporary, R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi, a principal disciple of the Maggid. He verifies the absolute authenticity of our book’s contents, but also comments that

it is not at all [the Baal Shem Tov’s] last will, and he did not decree anything before his passing. [Its contents] are but collections of his pure sayings that were gathered ‘gleanings upon gleanings,’ and [the compilers] were unable to phrase it exactly…for the Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, would deliver his Torah discourses in Yiddish, and not in the sacred tongue (Hebrew).20

“Gleanings upon gleanings,” a Talmudic expression (Ta’anit 6b), means that our editor’s manuscript had passed through various stages: copies were made from the original manuscript(s) of an anthology of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid’s teachings, and later copyists omitted some parts (and perhaps added others from different manuscripts) until some late copy or copies came into the hands of our editor from which he made his selection that comprises our text.