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Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser
Rabbi Yisroel Odesser, was among the first Breslover Chassidim* in Israel. He was born almost one hundred years ago in Tiberias*, to parents who were descended from the first group of Chassidim that settled in the Holy Land. His great-grandfather, Rabbi Yekutiel Zalmon Leib, was among the closest disciples of the great Rabbi Avraham Kalisker, a major disciple of the Ba'al Shem Tov.
Rabbi Yisroel underwent intense physical hardship and almost unbearable persecution during the course of his life. His Yeshiva paid him only a fraction of the normal stipend because of his desire to learn Breslov books, which were totally shunned by the religious world at that time. He was so poor that he literally couldn't provide bread for his children. But through the sheer power of Rebbe Nachman's teachings, Rabbi Yisroel remained steadfast and strong, overcoming one obstacle after another. This was in the merit of his belief that only by following Rebbe Nachman's teachings can the Jewish Nation survive and inaugurate the Messianic Era.
Rabbi Yisroel merited to serve and learn from Rabbi Karduner for five years, during which time they overcame many trials and tribulations. It therefore is not surprising that Rabbi Yisroel merited to receive the miraculous letter from Rebbe Nachman over one hundred years after the Tzaddik's death.
Rabbi Yisroel remained strong and determined even after the overwhelming loss of his teacher, in 1918. Following Rabbi Karduner's death, Rabbi Yisroel found himself alone once again. He began to travel by foot to Jerusalem to hear Torah from the renowned Breslov Elders of his time, among whom were Rabbi Shlomo Wexler, of blessed memory, who came to Israel from Germany and was drawn to the teachings of Rebbe Nachman, and Rabbi Naftali Cohen, of blessed memory, who merited to publish several of Rebbe Nachman's books.
Rabbi Yisroel's piety is illustrated in the following story. When the great Sephardi* Sage, Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Alfandri, of blessed memory, was in Tiberias, Rabbi Yisroel greatly desired to be his attendant, and he served him with great love and dedication. One time Rabbi Alfandri heard Rabbi Yisroel praying and was extremely moved by the intensity and sweetness of his prayer. When he discovered that Rabbi Yisroel was a Breslover Chassid, he wouldn't let Rabbi Yisroel serve him. And from then on they were like friends.
Rabbi Yisroel's dedication to the Jewish People was instrumental in bringing many people, both young and old, back to Judaism, including the former President of Israel, Zalman Shazar. Until the very end, Rabbi Yisroel would give his last ounce of strength to bring a person closer to G-d and to the holy teachings of Rebbe Nachman.
Rabbi Yisroel's lifetime effort continues today in printing and disseminating Rebbe Nachman's teachings, both written and oral, that he received from his teachers. May it be the Almighty's Will that Rabbi Yisroel's lifelong dedication to the Jewish People will merit us to see the coming of the Messiah*, speedily in our days, Amen.
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