Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Maiden

Among the many remarkable women who appear in the annals of Jewish history, the Maiden of Ludmir stands out as a unique and holy woman. Her actual name was Chana Rochel Verbermacher, and according to Chassidic lore, she was consider very much like a Chassidic Rebbe who gathered followers in her court of holiness.

Born around 1806 in Ludmir, Ukraine, Verbermacher was the only child of a well-to-do merchant who provided his daughter with a superior education, far beyond the norm for girls at the time. According to the oral tradition (and there are very little written records of the Maiden of Ludmir), Verbermacher suffered a near-death illness in her teens, perhaps not long after she lost her mother.

Unlike most young ladies in her shtetle, Verbermacher had no interest in marriage. After her father passed away, leaving her a substantial inheritance, Verbermacher had a Beit Midrash (study hall) built. She devoted herself to studying holy texts.  Others came to study with her and soon her Beit Midrash mirrored the activities of a Chassidic court. She shared Torah wisdom, offered advice, gave blessings and shared meals with her followers at a Tisch.

“The Maiden” faced a great deal of pressure from the Chassidic establishment to marry and eventually she consented, but the marriage did not last long. “The Maiden” put all of her energy into studying and helping her followers.

Around 1859, Verbermacher left the Ukraine and moved to Jerusalem. Here too, she gathered a following of people drawn to her holy ways. In addition to acting as a spiritual leader, it is believed that “The Maiden” often led groups of Jews on a pilgrimage to the Tomb of Rachel.

The Maiden of Ludmir died in the late 1880s. Tradition states that a large group of mourners escorted her body to be buried on the Mount of Olives.

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