Rabbi Levi Yitzchak (Rabbi Levi Yitzchak from Berdichev), the thirty-six generation in a dynasty of great rabbis, was born in 1740 (5500) in Gusakov, Galicia (present town of Husyatin, Ternopol region). His father Meir bar Moshe was a rabbi of Husakov. His mother was descended from the generation of the famous religious teacher and commentator of Talmud Rabbi Shmuel Eydels (Maarsh), who was descended, in his turn, from the generation of the great teacher of Ashkenazi Jewry Maar from Rothenberg.
Levi Yitzchak studied Torah with his father and then in the town of Yaroslav. Levi Yitzchak had been a child prodigy, acclaimed in his early years as an illuy (genius).
According to the Hasidic tradition, on the day of Levi Yitzchak’s birth, the Besht held a joyous gathering, informing his followers that the soul of a defender of the Jewish people had entered the world.
Soon after bar- mitzvah Levi Yitzchak married into a wealthy family of Rabbi Peretz and moved to Levertov, his wife’s hometown.
When he was seventeen Levi Yitzchak met one of the leaders of Hasidic movement Rabbi Shmelke Horowitz and became a disciple of Maggid of Mezeritch. So Levi Yitzchak became an ardent Hasid.
In 1761 (5521), at the age of 21, Levi Yitzchak became a Chairman of a Rabbinical Court in the town of Richvol. Some years after he led the community of town of Zhelechov, which consisted entirely of Misnagedim (opponents of Hasidism).
In 1772 (5532) a persecution on Hasids began by initiative of the Gaon of Vilna. The religious orientation of Levi Yitzchak became known. So he was forced to relinquish his post.
In 1775 (5535) Rabbi Levi Yitzchak became a Chief Rabbi of the town of Pinsk. But there he met with the same fate.
Behinninh with 1785(5545), when he was 45 years old, and up to the end of his life Rabbi Levi Yitzchak held the position of the Rabbi of Berdichev, the largest town of Volyn, where the influence of Hasids was the strongest. Since that time Tzaddik and his town, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and Berdichev had become inseparable.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was one of the most beloved Hasidic leaders. In Berdichiv he found dedicated and loving Jews. He had been for them as a Preceptor, a Teacher and a Father.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak also travelled much, gathering necessary things for charity. During his journeys he was always surrounded by people, he kindled their hearts with his love to God and desire to serve Him.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak usually prayed rather emotionally, with shouts and sobbing. His crying, coming out of his heart, ascended to Heaven and even the most hard-hearted people cried and reached a real repentance. His method of prayer can be described only as ecstasy.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak usually addressed God with the word “derbaremdiker” (merciful). During the reign of Alexander I, the officials issued a decree to give last names to the Jews. When a clerk came to the house of Levi Yitzchak, the latter was saying his prayer and couldn’t stop. But the clerk kept asking what last name he wanted for himself. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak repeated several times the word “derbaremdiker” and the clerk put it down in his roster, thinking it was a reply. Some of Levi Yitzchak’s descendants translated this surname into Hebrew and named themselves “Rahmani”.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak became one of the spiritual leaders of his generation. Thanks to him Berdichev became the centre of Hasidic movement of Volyn and Central Ukraine. His book “The Kaddish of Rebbe Levi Yitzchak” is his spiritual heritage.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak had three sons and two daughters. The oldest son, Meier, died at a young age. The second one, Israel, succeeded his father as a leader of Hasidic movement. The third son was Rabbi Dov Berish. One daughter became the wife of rabbi Joseph Binim, another daughter’s husband was Rabbi Nathan from Kozhenitz.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak died in Berdichev on the 25th of Tishrei, 5570 (in September of 1809) and he was buried in the old Jewish cemetery. A stone “tent” (a tomb) was erected on his grave without any inscription. But everybody knew that it was the sacred resting place of the “Rabbi of Berdichev”. Until this day, Jews from around the world flock to Berdichev to pray at the tomb of the “Lover of Israel”, asking him to intercede on their behalf on high, just as was his custom and passion during his earthly lifetime.