Rabbi Leah: Kabbalah by the Sea
Our Adar heroine is Rebbetzin Malka of Belz, a nineteenth century healer and miracle worker who lived a very full and happy life. Malka was married to the famous Rabbi Shalom Rokeach of Belz, (the first Belzer Rebbe)and built an influential and enduring Chasidic dynasty with him.
REBBETZIN MALKA - QUEEN OF BELZ
“Malka of Belz” grew up in Sokal, Galicia, where her father Issakhar Dov Ber Ramraz was the community’s Rabbi. Since he was an opponent of the teachings of the early Chasidim, it is not clear how the young “Malkele” managed to develop her pro-Chasidic ideas. She probably had a strong religious education and may have experienced the spiritual teachers of the area, which included Rabbi Shlomo of Lutsk. (Early Chasidim may have included women in their teaching circles; perhaps her Mother, who came from a distinguished rabbinical family, was an influence.)
Shalom Rokeach, who was Malka’s first cousin, came from the Galician city of Brody to live with her family after the death of his father, Rabbi Eliezer Rokeach. (Reb Eliezer,who died at the age of 32, had been a follower of Rabbi Hayyim Halberstam of Zanz. ) When Shalom’s mother remarried, she sent her son to receive guidance from Malka’s father so that he would receive a proper religious education. A descendant of illustrious rabbis, various sources cite Shalom’s paternal lineage to Eliezer Rokeach of Amsterdam (1735), and his mother’s family to the Maharal of Prague.
The legends present Malka as the one who introduced her first cousin Sholem to “Chasiduth” and fore-saw his future as “Tsaddik”/holy man, even in the early days of their marriage when he still wanted to be a businessman. (The Rebbe also had talent as an architect and is said to have designed and built the famous Belz synagogue with his own hands.) She was the driving force behind Shalom Rokeach’s early studies, particularly in the area of Kabbalah.* The young Shalom eventually lived up to his learned ancestors and became a great Talmudist and miracle worker. He is reputed to have been able to heal what we now call schizophrenia, and was consulted by Jews and Christians.
At their Chasidic court in Belz, (Ukraine near the Polish border) Malka is depicted as having her own followers, and there are numerous stories about miraculous healings attributed to her. There are also narratives from famous Rabbis about her intuitive abilities, which describe her ascending into higher dimensions to receive guidance and information about events and people.
Malka was the mother of five-sons and two daughters. Her daughter “Eydel of Brody” became a spiritual teacher in her own right. Eydel was limited by gender from being Rebbe in Belz, where the title went to her youngest brother, despite the eldest son usually being favored.
Rabbanit Malka died before her husband, who had been very dependent on her in his old age when he lost his eyesight. They are always depicted as the perfect harmonious, and inter-dependent couple.
* According to one legend she held the candle over his books for 1,000 consecutive nights (which would have given her access to the material also) until Elijah the prophet himself came and initiated Shalom Rokeach into the mysteries of the creation. Other folk-tales portray her as secretly letting him out of the house each night, down a ladder, so that his immersion in Kabbalistic study would not be known.