||Classic Hasidic work by R. Dov Baer (The Maggid) of Mezhirech, one of the earliest and most important leaders of Hasidism and the successor to the Ba'al Shem Tov. In the title the final letters are emphasized, spelling Dov. Maggid Devarav le-Ya’akov has the added title Likkutei Amarim (collected sayings), reflecting the contents, which are the collected homilies of the Maggid of Mezhirech.
R. Dov Baer (The Maggid) of Mezhirech (d. 1772), received a traditional religious education in the yeshivah of R. Jacob Joshua Falk, author of Penei Yehoshu'a. He taught in Torchin and later became preacher in Korets and Rovno. Subsequently he moved to Mezhirech (Mezhirichi) in Volhynia, which became the center of the hasidic movement, and toward the end of his life he moved to Annopol (Hanipol). An erudite talmudic scholar, R. Dov Baer also made a profound study of Kabbalah, adopting the system of Lurianic Kabbalah (originated by Isaac Luria) and an ascetic way of life. The mortifications to which he subjected himself eventually made him ill; he contracted a disease which affected his legs and he became bedridden. Tradition relates that he sought a cure from R. Israel b. Eliezer (the Ba'al Shem Tov), the originator of modern Hasidism, whose reputation as a healer was widespread, and R. Dov Baer became one of his foremost disciples. After the death of the Ba'al Shem Tov in 1760, R. Dov Baer was recognized as his successor to leadership of the movement although opposed by R. Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye, the more senior disciple. The authority of R. Dov Baer as the main proponent of Hasidism was apparently only recognized in 1766, and even then there were a few notable exceptions such as R. Phinehas of Korets. Unlike his predecessor, R. Dov Baer was not a man of the people, and his illness made it difficult for him to associate with his disciples. He possessed charismatic qualities, however, and was an eloquent preacher and teacher. Solomon Maimon, who visited Dov Baer during his youth, expressed great admiration for his spiritual endowments. R. Dov Baer was highly esteemed by his disciples, who not only derived spiritual sustenance from his teachings and utterances but also divined an inner significance in his daily life and actions. Thus, R. Aryeh Leib Sarahs is said to have visited Dov Baer in order "to see how he put on his shoes and tied his shoelaces."
R. Dov Baer formulated a doctrine that provided Hasidism with a speculative-mystical system, introducing into it the concepts of Kabbalah and a specific pattern of organization. R. Dov Baer transferred the center of Hasidism from Podolia in the southeast to Volhynia in central Poland, and this facilitated its spread throughout the country. He endeavored to popularize Hasidism among new classes and in new areas, and sent emissaries to spread the new teaching in many places throughout Poland. His activity may be considered the beginning of Hasidism as a movement, while his personal conduct set the precedent in Hasidism, for the institution of the Zaddik, or saintly leader. Under his leadership, Hasidism spread in the Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poznania, and began to take root in central Poland. He also won respect and authority outside his own community, and his reputation as a talmudist led numerous people to appeal to him on legal matters, such as ownership and trespass. R. Dov Baer also took part in communal affairs and his emissary R. Aaron of Karlin succeeded in obtaining an amendment of the communal tax regulations. In R. Dov Baer's later years, his views on the Divinity, as well as his methods of leadership, aroused fierce opposition from many rabbis and those who did not accept Hasidism. Especial targets for their hostility were the ecstatic modes of religious worship, accompanied by violent bodily movement, adopted by the Hasidim of "Talk," the changes he introduced in the prayer ritual in adopting the Lurianic liturgy, the innovations in ritual slaughter, and the neglect of Torah study by the youth who abandoned the yeshivot and flocked to Mezhirech. The main problem confronting the rabbinical opposition was the authority assumed by the Hasidim to decide matters of belief and religious conduct. Eventually the ban of excommunication was pronounced on Hasidism in Vilna, the orthodox stronghold. According to tradition, the excommunication affected the health of Dov Baer and he died shortly afterward. After his death Hasidism remained without a single leader commanding the same authority and general support from all Hasidim, and the leadership was assumed by a number of his disciples. The doctrine of R. Dov Baer may only be ascertained from collections made of his interpretation of biblical passages and rabbinical literature which appear in several versions.