The Chossid Who Was ‘The Rebbe’s Golam’

As a youth, Reb Bereh Volf Koz’venikov suffered from a terrible stutter, yet, he devoted himself to teaching the simpletons in his town basic Torah teachings. When he shared this in yechidus, the Tzemach Tzedek bentched him, and he was changed forever.

The chossid Reb Dov Zev (Bereh Volf) Koz’venikov was a great chossid and the Rov of Yaketrinaslav (his successor was Reb Levik, the Rebbe’s father).

As a young man, he was a chossid of the Tzemach Tzedek and then of the Rebbe Maharash and Rebbe Rashab. He was a great gaon in Nigleh and Chassidus and a great oved. Though he was very modest and humble, he nevertheless became known as an exceptional man.

He passed away on 24 Teves 5668 (1908). When his kever was moved twenty-five years later, his body was found whole and complete.


Reb Bereh Volf had a very compassionate heart. Anyone with a problem would pour out their heart to him, and he would help them to the best of his ability. Thus, he never had any money at home. The heads of the community would give his salary to his wife, for they knew that if they gave it to him it would simply not get home.


Once, during a visit to the Rebbe Maharash, Reb Bereh Volf came to the home of the Rebbe Rashab to farbreng. On that occasion, the Rebbe Rashab asked him, “What is a chossid?” Reb Bereh Volf answered, “A chossid is someone who is dedicated to seeking the good of his fellow. The chinuch and guidance of the older chassidim should be used to imbue the children of the younger chassidim with a feeling of seeking the good of one’s fellow with absolute dedication. When doing this one receives the greatest reward.”

“I can attest to this,” Reb Bereh Volf continued, “I was born and raised in a small village near Dobryanka, in the region of Chernigov. In this village were lamdanim and great chassidim who understood Nigleh and Chassidus.  Reb Yoel Zalman, one of the great lomdim and chassidim, was in charge of my education. He was one of the people who imbued me with the good trait of seeking the good of another. When I became twelve years old, I already had a broad knowledge in learning and I was well-versed in many ma’amorei Chazal.

“In that village there were many Jewish families that were ignorant, to the extent of not even knowing the meaning of the davening. My heart was filled with sympathy for these people and so I organized a shiur to teach them the siddur.  In the course of the shiur, I would include different agados from Gemara and Midrash. This carried on for three years and I kept it up even though it was very hard for me since I had a stutter.

“As the years carried on, it became much harder for me to speak, especially after I lost my father.  I nevertheless continued learning and farbrenging with the simple people. When I turned seventeen, I went to Lubavitch to visit the Tzemach Tzedek.  In yechidus, I told the Rebbe about the shiur and complained about my speech impediment. The Rebbe thought for a while and said, ‘Carry on with your conduct with the simple people and become a melamed.’  He went on to bless me with the ability to explain and teach, and with a ‘smooth mouth’.

“When I went out of the Rebbe’s room, I could not recognize myself. I started talking like a regular person and I could not understand how. When I came home and publicly taught the three ma’amorim that I heard from the Rebbe; everyone was in total shock. I told them, “I am the Rebbe’s golem. The Maharal made a golem out of clay, and the Rebbe made a golem out of flesh.”

When the Frierdiker Rebbe told this story, he added, “We, who knew Reb Bereh Volf and remember his mouth that ‘emanated pearls’, could have some understanding of the reward of a chossid who is dedicated to the good of his fellow.”

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  1. My family knew bereh Volf. My great mother was saved on her life. Both my Bobbie and great Bobbie got typhus my Bobbie miraculously survived her mother was not so fortunate as there rov in yaktrininslav was bereh volf they brought my alte Bobbie to him for a brocha the story was always said in yidish so some of the expression is lost in English but I will do my best. He took out his white handkerchief and he lifted his holy hand and moved it across her forehead and stated that her name should have baszion so from that point on her name became brocha bastion
    You can call me to hear the story in yidish I do not have a way to write
    Dovid Shepherd
    My family moved from podobranka in 1901 ahead of reb levik who later became my Bobbie rov. I have other personal stories of Reb levik as well as well as stories of when the rebbe first came to yekatrininslav

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