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[Pages 77-84]

Gute Yiden = Good Jewish People

 

Translated by Hannah Kadmon

[Translator's comments in square brackets]

[Yid/Yiden = Jew/Jews. However, when Jewishness is irrelevant it means a person/ people, persons, men. I will use in my translation the original Yiddish word, in the singular and in the plural]

 

Horodetser Rabbis

By K. Rushevsky

[In this chapter the author differentiates between Rov plural: Rabonim = orthodox rabbis and Rebe plural: Rabeim = Hasidic rabbis]

It is accepted: A rov is not a rebbe and a rebe is not a rov. The rebbe performs miracles by remedies and cures and his Hasidim are plain, uneducated people. However, the rov is a scholar who “swims in the sea of Talmud” [=thoroughly conversant with the Talmud], the one who weaves into his teaching some hairsplitting, asks difficult questions and with his logical thinking and great proficiency answers every question.

This is what people believe. However, historical facts contradict the above mentioned “axiom”. In the Jewish history we find many great rabonim who were, in some degree, also rebeim, who mastered not only a lot of knowledge of Talmud, but also had philanthropic feelings for the community and for every individual.

Before the Besh”t emerged, there was R' Yehuda Khasid, the Maha”ral from Prague and other great Rabonim in whom all the qualities of the great rov and rebe were fused. And even after the Besh”t became famous in the Jewish world – there were other great Rabonim to whom people used to travel to get their blessing, a cure or an advice. Among them were R' Zekil Leib Varmesser (“the Miracle Worker from Mikhelshtat”), R' Yehoshua Gootmakher from Greydits, and others like them. There was a very good reason why these great yidn were given the name “good yidn”. People obtained from them a good word, a good advice, and mostly found in them a Jewish heart that ached for the unhappy and afflicted and strove to alleviate their pain.

[Besh”t =Ba'al Shem Tov - Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, a mystical rabbi. considered to be the founder of Hasidic Judaism R' Yehuda Khasid - a preacher who led the largest organized group of Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel in the 17th century Maha”ral - Judah Loew ben Bezalel - an important Talmudic scholar, mystic and philosopher; a leading rabbi in the city of Prague in Bohemia for most of his life; known for creating the golem of Prague].

Horodetser yidn were not an exception. The “good yid” was part of the Horodetser yid, both in sorrow and in joy. If, God forbid, there was some trouble in a home, somebody fell sick or the Poritz wanted to throw a Jew out of his possession – they ran to the “good yid”. When something good happened such as an opportunity to gain the right to cut wood in a forest or get hold of some other merchandise – in this case, too, they went to the “good yid” for a blessing or a good advice.

More than a hundred years ago, a Jew from Horodets did not have to travel to get to the “good yidn”. He had them in his own shtetl. However, for unforeseen emergency, they ran to rov R' Moshe Tzvi, and later to his son R' Yahoshua Yaakov, who offered a blessing or an amulet.

Not only Horodetser yidn used to come to their rabonim for a cure, but also foreign yidn from other towns and shtetls used to bring their sick people to the rabonim mentioned above, who were renowned as great cabalists, especially the quite old rov R' Moshe Tzvi. (The many books of Kabalah found in his house bore witness to this fact).

People also came to them with an “evil spirit” and epilepsy. The story goes that rov R' Yehoshua Yaakov was a great specialist in healing the epileptic. He had a certain remedy for this specific illness and from near and far people used to travel to him for that remedy. Many yidn remember even today, with a blessing on their lips, the old Horodetser rov, who had saved them, or a member of their family, and thank this saintly man for having been saved by him.


[Pages 78-79]

R' Pinkhas Mikhael

By Akiva Ben-Ezra

One of the “good yidn” who had a great influence over the Horodetser yidn, was the rov R' Pinkhas Mikhael from Antipolye (seven kilometers from Horodets). This great rov and saintly man had become a legendary figure and won a place in the Yiddish-Hebraic literature.[1]

R' Pinkhas Mikhael was an outstanding pupil of R' Asher Hakohen, the rov from Shershev and Tiktin (Grodno district) and author of the famous books: “ברכת ראש” about the tractates of “ברכות“ [blessings] and: “Nazir” [hermit].

Like his great teacher he, too, did not want to use the rabbinate as the source of his livelihood. Actually, he sat day and night and studied and his wife was the provider. Many towns offered him to sit on the rabbinate-throne but he declined and continued studying, bit by bit adding his own khidushim [innovative approaches to religious issues]. His proficiency and profundity were inexhaustible and his modesty and piety were boundless. He was respectful of every person and was polite even to a child. If someone was in distress – he was first to help, both spiritually and materially.

When R' Asher Hakohen passed away, and in Shershev they had to choose a rov – the balebatim [house owners] of Shershev approached R' Pinkhas Mikhael to convince him that he must take upon himself the rabbinate in their town. He finally accepted and became the Shershever rov (he was already more than 40 years old).

R' Pinkhas Mikhael served as rov in Shershev all in all 6 years. Afterwards, (in 1864), he was summoned to Antipolye as Mara D'atra [“the master of the locality” = the rabbi as the sole religious authority of the locality in which he serves]. He served as rov in that capacity until his death 1890.

As soon as he settled in Antipolye, Antipolye became a center of attraction for thousands of people, both rich and poor. For each one he had a good word, consolation, a blessing or a cure. Therefore people left Antepolye very contented.

R' Pinkhas Mikhael did not want any pay. His meager income was from selling yeast. He used to say: “For Jews every rouble is important” and therefore he did not want to charge those who traveled to come to him. If someone insisted that the righteous man should take some payment from him, the rov donated it for charity.

From the same standpoint, so it seems, this great genius was lenient in his judgments. Many stories were told about how R' Pinkhas Mikhael used to rule leniently. He understood how difficult it was for people, especially Jews, to earn some money.

R' Pinkhas Mikhael was popular not only among Jews, but also among gentiles, educated or uneducated, because his heart was open wide for gentiles as well. He used to say: “A gentile must also live”.

There is a fire in shtetl, and people rush to save the houses of the rich, forgetting all about the houses of the poor. However, R' Pinkhas Mikhael does not forget them. What does he do? He climbs to the roof of a house of a poor man and sits there. The firemen see him there and are aware that the fire is about to burn him with the house. The rov refuses to come down until they save this house.[2]

R' Pinkhas Mikhael was not narrow minded in his outlook. He delved into the various problems of the Jewish situation with his sharp eye. He saw that Russia was already lost for the Jews, and across the Atlantic Ocean new horizons opened for Jews. True, Jewishness over there was quite weak, but America was still a shelter for thousands of Jews. Therefore, R' Pinkhas Mikhael approved the plans of those who came to him to ask if they should depart for America. His answer was: “Go away to America. You will be able to make a living there. Only don't forget to observe the Sabbath”

Early welcoming of the Sabbath was one of his elementary principles. He would have sacrificed himself for that principle. Every Friday, towards evening, he used to go, ahead of time, to the bathhouse with a small broom in hand, to chase out the people from there, because when a yid observes the Sabbath as he should – he is protected from offenses and God guards him from troubles.

Even though R' Pinkhas Mikhael stammered, great rabonim and scholarly Yidn used to travel to him. They wanted to discuss with him Torah issues and learn from him something new, either in the literal interpretation of Gemore or in the commentators.

R' Pinkhas Mikhael was very keen on Rashi's interpretation because Rashi is short and sharp and consistently logical. He believed in proficiency and not in brain-gymnastics.[3] If he did not understand a commentator he was not ashamed to admit that he did not understand[4] and when with his awesome proficiency he discovered a mistake in Rov Asher's ben Yekhiel [one of the most regarded commentators] he did not hesitate to announce it clear and sharp.[5]

No wonder his analytical logical mind led him to publish “Leket Hakotsrim” to Nazir, Tmura, Meila and Tamid. [tractates of Mishnah and Talmud], an interpretation which is sharp and clear, right to-the-point and without hair-splitting. Most learners did not understand those tractates because they were hardly studied. This fact urged R' Pinkhas Mikhael to collect and assemble from the old and new commentators, add to them his own short interpretations and make those tractates intelligible to the ordinary learner.

Leket Hakotsrim” commentary resonated loud among scholars, and we find agreements with it and also praise of it from R' Tzvi Hirsh Arenshtein from Brisk, his mentor R' Asher Hakohen who also interpreted the “Nazir” and others.

His book “Divrey Pinkhas” [=sayings of Pinkhas], printed many years after his death (1929-30) by his grandson, R' Izik Rabinovits, is full of khidushim [innovative approaches] and interpretations of ,ש”ס, תוספות, רי”ף, רא”ש, ר”ן and other interpreters of ש”ס. [six books of Mishnah]. This book was also written using the same R' Mikhael's method: no hair-splitting, logical explanation, proficiency and sharpness.

That book was also acknowledged by many rabonim such as R' Yaakov Meir Padva from Brisk, R' Khayim Soloveitchik and others.

In addition to books pertaining to legislative part of the Talmud, there is also a testament that R' Mikahel Pinkhas wrote (“Testament of the famous Genius Tsadik Pinkhas Mikhael Z”l”. Pinsk, 1914-15). [Tsadik has two meanings: a saintly man and a Hasidic Rabbi]. That testament reflects the ideals of this great tsadik who not only preached but also realized in his life, and wanted his family and followers to observe these ideals. In that testament we can see his great soul. Blessed be his memory.

 

gor079.gif
Facsimile of R' Mikahel Pinkhas' “prescription”
Footnotes
  1. Moshe Stavsky “Lekever Israel”, Moledet, volume 3 issue 2 Jaffa 1912-1913
    M. Lipson “Midor Dor” part 1 pp. 135-6 143-4; “Di velt dertseilt” 53, 105-6. Also “otsrot foon yidishn humor” by R' Yitskhak Ashkenazi, 47-8
    The last years, A. Rabinovits wrote in the Tel-Aviv Rabbinical Journal “Haposek” some anecdotes and episodes about R' Pinkhas Mikhael.
    In “the Registry of the Town of Pruzshene 153 there is an interesting legend about this virtuous man. Return
  2. This episode was printed by E. Ben-Ezra under the title: “The Righteous On the Roof” [in Hebrew] in the “Haivri Hakatan” [for children in Hebrew] batch 3 pp. 3-4 1941-2 Chicago. Return
  3. See for example “Words of Pinkhas” p, 41, Warsaw,1929-30 Return
  4. There, 37, 44, 53, 58 Return
  5. There, 72, 74 Return

 


[Pages 80-82]

R' Mordkhi'le

By M. Mishkin Translated by Hannah Kadmon

[Translator's comments in square brackets]

gor080.jpg
R' Mordkhi'le
(drawn by Israel Zussman)

 

R' Mordekhy Veitzel-Rozenblat, renowned all over the world under the name “R' Mordkhi'le Slonimer”, or “R' Mordkhi'le Oshmener”, was of the most distinguished geniuses of the last generation. R' Mordkhi'le was born in 1934 or 1836 in Antipolye, district of Grodno. His father was a miller and R' Mordkhi'le adopted his first surname: Veitzel. He died in 1915.

In the field of Halakha [Jewish religious laws] he left behind a condensed book with questions and answers as well as manuscripts that exhibit his stature as a world-genius. However, while as a genius he was appraised only in the world of rabbis and Jewish scholars, because of his other rare qualities, great virtues and personality exhibited in his treatment of day-to-day people, he was acclaimed one of the most distinguished in his generation.

R' Mordkhi'le Slonimer was famous as a miracle worker. His fame spread from person to person as a saintly man whose blessings or promises were sure to be fulfilled, and whose advice and council were always sensible and proved right.

The hundreds of stories and anecdotes about the miracles he worked and about his words being able to heal and affect - were wondrous and mysterious. Naturally, many of these stories were exaggerated and magnified. Many of the miracles are similar to those told about the “Baal Shem Tov” [R' Israel son of Eliezer, founder of Hassidism], R' Levi Yitzkhat Berditshever, and other great Hassidic rabbis. However, the fact that miracles performed by those Hassidic rabbis were attributed to him only proves that he was really a great man.

There were records of the fact that when R' Mordkhi'le scolded someone, that person forgot his habit of winking repeatedly with one eye. Others who came to him bent-over emerged walking erect, and half-insane became sober.

Those were indeed miracles, but they could easily be explained by the hovering influence that his radiant personality had on them.

When still a child he stood out with exceptional intelligence and good virtues. His father, a plain observant Jew, sent him to study in Yeshives and Mordkhi'le emerged from there well versed in Shas [Acronym for Hebrew Shisha Sidrei Mishna - The book of six parts of the Mishna together with Talmudic commentaries] and Poskim [Hebrew: “deciders” – post Talmudic legal scholars who decide the Halakha=“law” in cases where previous authorities are inconclusive or in those situations where no Halakhic precedent exists.]

When he was 14 years old, as was the custom in those days, a rich Balebos [house owner] in the shtetl “snatched” him to be his son-in-law on “kest”. [room and board offered by a family to its new son-in-law to enable him to continue his studies without financial worries.] Thus, with no worries about making a living, R' Mordkhi'le dedicated himself to study with more zeal. He traveled to Yeshives as a “Poresh” [Hebrew: “Parush”=“recluse” – one who devotes himself exclusively to the study of the sacred books] and was renowned as prominent scholar of Torah.

R' Mordkhi'le returned to Antipolye and became a regular house-owner, although neighboring and far away towns offered him to occupy the Rabbinical post. In those days Antipolye's Rabbi was the world known miracle-worker R' Pinkhas Michael, to whom people came from all over. R' Mordkhi'le became R' Pinkhas' main assistant, helping him in rabbinical matters and learning from him his proceedings.

R' Pinkhas Michael gave him the first push to the awareness that it is a “gmilas khesed” [deeds of charity] to help the unfortunate with a blessing, a good word and encouragement, and that it is a duty to take upon himself the burden if he feels that he can do something to alleviate the suffering of the unfortunate.

R' Mordkhi'le's name grew famous over time and he could not turn away from the Rabbinate. House owners from shtetls and towns approached him and offered him the rabbinical post. They persuaded him that occupying that post would enable him to serve the Torah and strengthen Judaism. R' Mordkhi'le accepted the offer, but Antipolye did not want to release him.

In 1870 some house-owners from Buten came during the night to Antipolye and practically “kidnapped” R' Mordkhi'le, took him out of the shtetl stealthily and paraded him to Buten, proclaiming him “Mara De-atra” [Arameic: “the master of the locality” = the local rabbi in his capacity as the sole halakhic authority of the locality in which he serves].

As a Rabbi, R' Mordkhi'le became even more famous. Legends and tales of wonders were woven around him, and people started traveling to him for blessings. Buten was proud of its R' Mordkhi'le, but what it did to Antipolye came as a boomerang to Buten. House-owners from the shtetl Karlitz arrived in Antipolye, harnessed to a wagon instead of horses, carried R' Mordkhi'le to the wagon and took him by force to Karlitz.

In Karlitz, again, R' Mordkhi'le did not stay for long. Oshmene was a bigger town, and he became their “Mara De-atra”. A few years later, when the Gaon R' Yosef Shloper died in Slonim, he was taken with great reverence to Slonim and stayed there as Rabbi until his death.

R' Mordkhi'le had his own ideas that brought him to Slonim and did not neglect to carry them out. Although he was busy answering requests, he found time to be attentive to town issues. He saw to it that the Yeshiva of Slonim expanded, and that Sabbath was strictly observed.

It was a pathetic sight every Sabbath: the old R' Mordkhi'le with the fur shtreimel on his head and the long silk kapote [coat], accompanied by the shames [servitor, personal assistant], striding quickly, quickly, like a young man, around the market place, his eyes searching all corners, lest there should be an open crack in a door in the long line of stores, and lest they were still working stealthily.

Naturally, everywhere doors and shutters were closed. However, once, a barber was found leaving his barbershop open on Sabbath. The quiet R' Mordkhi'le then screamed murder and did not leave the place until the rebellious barber was forced to close his barbershop. From that day on the name of that barber became a byword for many years.

In his biography R' Mordkhi'le nearness to R' Pinkhas Michael is noted. In this connection it is worthwhile to tell the wonderful miracle that stirred people.

The tale, or legend, goes like this:

In the night of the eve of Yom Kippur 1879, R' Mordkhi'le saw in his dream a fine man accompanied by two other men on both sides. The accompanying men told R' Mordkhi'le that they were witnesses, and that it was not merely a dream but a real thing, a truth to remember, and they vanished. Then the man who was left, told R' Mordkhi'le that he came from the realm of the dead, and that a punishment from heaven would befall him. R' Mordkhi'le woke up with a heavy heart and in the morning, Yom Kippur, prayed with a great dread, and cried a lot.

On Shmini Atzeret [eighth day of Sukkot] he saw again the man in his dream, wearing white shrouds, and he told the Rabbi: “You ought to know that you have done a lot with your prayer and tears, but the punishment is not totally annulled.” R' Mordkhi'le beseeched him with tears to reveal to him the contents of the punishment and what sin deserved that punishment. Then the man told him this story: He himself was Mahari Ben Lev a Rabbi in a town, who left after him a book of replies [Rabbi Yoseph Ben Lev was a famous Rabbi in Saloniki 1500-1580 and author of “replies” – Halakhaic laws]. One day, when he was a “decider” and ruled on a lawsuit before a rabbinical court, one of the persons in question whom he found guilty broke out in anger and he, the Mahari, slapped his face. From then on that man's soul cannot survive, and he wants to help it. Since R' Mordkhi'le was a descendent of that man, he must rectify his soul, because he carried now the man's sin.

Shattered, R' Mordkhi'le asked, stuttering, what he could do to rectify the soul and cleanse it from any blemish. The Mahari Ben Lev told him to buy his book of replies and learn by heart what the rectification must be. R' Mordkhi'le asked him, then, where he could get hold of his book. The Mahari Ben Lev directed him to send R' Pinkhas Michael, in Antipolye, money for the book.

R' Mordkhi'le obeyed the call of his dream, and wrote a letter from Buten about his secret to R' Pinkhas Michael. R' Pinkhas Michael used to empty his pockets every Friday evening and hand over all the letters to his grandson, Alter, to burn, except for those dealing with Halakha.

This is how R' Mordkhi'le's letter fell into Alter's hands. However, instead of burning it, as his grandfather ordered, he gave it to R' Moshe the writer to copy it, and this is how the secret was revealed to all and sundry.

When Pinkhas Michael found out that the secret had been revealed, he was angry at his grandson and, indeed, a short time afterwards the grandson suddenly died. When R' Pinkhas Michael learned of his death, he said: “He should not have acted foolishly”.

As mentioned before, we cannot vouch for the truth of the story, though there are copies of the letter and they are dated “Buten, sixth of the month of Shvat, 1885.

(Comment of Editor Akiva Ben Ezra to this letter:

The complete letter was published for the first time in “a group of pamphlets”, first issue by Yitzkhak Hirshenzon, Jerusalem. The letter got into the hands of the editor of that issue through a student of “Shnot Eliyahu” [“years of Elijah”, A book written by the Gaon of Vilnius]. This student traveled through Antipolye and stayed with R' Pinkhas Michael. When he opened a book there, to browse through, he found the letter mentioned above, which he copied. The letter was also inserted in the following publications: “Hamora Hagadol” by David Veissman, 1903, “Mosdot Ha-emuna” by Mordechy Arie Nisenboim, second edition, New York 1923-4, “Khalom Nora” printing house Talpiot, Tel-Aviv 1938-9.)
All sorts of people sought R' Mordkhi'le: rich Jews wearing in winter the expensive fur coats over their shoulders, mixed with wrinkled talkative Jewish women carrying parcels and bundles. Young women, barren, who came asking for a blessing to have children, mixed with crippled, humpbacked, lame people who were carried by their family to the Rabbi. Those multi-colored crowd of Rabbi-seekers used to fill up, daily, all hotels and inns in town. Special coachmen used to travel to the train station to drive R' Mordkhi'le's visitors. A big part of the town's population earned their livelihood from these visitors. Not only Jews traveled to seek the Rabbi. Quite often one could meet Christians, rich and poor, who took themselves off to the Rabbi to pour their suffering hearts to him. And those who came, never left disappointed.

R' Mordkhi'le did not charge for his blessings and advice. When a rich guest wanted to give a “pidyen” [= “ransom”= payment for the advice], he would show him the sealed metal alms-boxes of yeshivas, or other institutes, where one could place a copper or a silver coin.

Moreover, many stories were told about poor people whom R' Mordkhi'le used to help out of his own pockets. When poor people came asking for an advice how to help themselves after a fire or another disaster, he would stick in their hands some money and move quickly to bless others, thus not enabling them to thank him.

R' Mordkhi'le believed that a great part of the people were miserable only because they talked themselves into being unfortunate. Others suffered anxiety and thought that they were sick. Others were very nervous, melancholic, weak and broken down. Such people needed only encouragement, confidence, and hypnotic belief in someone who would bid them to revive, to pull through, and they would obey him. Thus he directed them to a helpful way of life.

R' Mordkhi'le sensed that he possessed the art of gaining trust and confidence and this prompted him to take upon himself to act as their doctor and help them. It indeed was the case and this explains the secret of his working of miracles. Equipped with new strength, those people who sought the Rabbi emerged from his house with courage and resolution. As if touched by a magical hand, they got well and became productive members of the community.

 


[Pages 83-84]

The Kholozshiner

By Gedalyahu Kaplan Translated by Hannah Kadmon

[Translator's comments in square brackets]

gor083.jpg
The Kholozshiner

He lived in a small village, not far from Pinsk. During the day he labored industriously in his smithy, hitting with his hammer on the anvil, and at night he sat engrossed in studying mishnayes [collection of post biblical laws; part of the Talmud] till dawn. In his daily life he was a pious honest Jew all year round, with black eyebrows over his lively eyes. He was the well known

“Kholozshiner” [Kholozshin was the name of the village] or R' Eliya Mordekhay son of R' Khayim Levenzon. Quite often he walked to Karlin to study Torah with the Karliner Rabbi. He was greatly influenced by the Rabbi's teaching that had to do with matters not only between man and God but also between people. The “Kholozshiner” believed that the way a person behaves to others is as important as the way he behaves towards God. Therefore he was an affectionate loving friend to every person - a Jew or a Christian.

He was respected and revered by Christians as well, and when a farmer came to sharpen his sickle or scythe he knew deep in his heart that when the “Kholozshiner” held the tools in his hands, the year would be blessed with a rich harvest in his field. Not only the Christians believed so, the village Kholozshin was always full of people in distress who turned to R' Eliya for a blessing.

His blessing was very simple: “R' so and so, you should only have faith in God and imagine “מלא כל הארץ כבודו” [the whole earth is filled with his glory- Psalms 62;19], He is the pillar of fire. Don't forget “שׁיויתי ה' לנגדי תמיד ” [I have set the Lord always before me - Psalms 16;8] and God will help you. Don't worry, dear brother. Love God and God will love you and all the Jewish folks.”

He often comforted people with King David's saying: “גול על ה' דרכך ובטח עליו והוא יעשׂה” [commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him - Psalms 37;5]. Follow the ways of the Torah and you will be saved from all evil. Our father in heaven does not forsake us because:

“הנה לא ינום ולא יישׁן שׁומר ישׁראל” [Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep- psalms 221;4]. “We have gone through the worst perils and He helped us overcome them. We are like trees in winter that grow anew and blossom when spring comes”

How was the “Kholozshiner” discovered? It was told that when thousands of people travelled to Slonim [southeast of Hrodna, Belarus, of significant Jewish population under Polish and Russian rule] to the famous R' Mordkhi'le [of the Hassidic court], the Rabbi, in his old age, refrained from admitting visitors who came to pay their respect and told them: “Why do you travel to come to see me? Better travel to the smith in Kholozshin! The blessing he will give you will be fulfilled”. And, when the rush to Kholozshin increased and thousands of people overcrowded the small village of Kholozshin, the gentiles thrived because the visiting guests bought their food-provision from them. So, the folks travelled to the “Kholozshiner” - some for a blessing, others for advice. He modestly looked into a small book titled “Mikhael and Uziel” which contained medications and charm-remedies and from the list he chose one or the other.

The popularity of the “Kholozshiner” soared mainly at the beginning of WW1 when the Jewish youth did not want to die fighting for the anti-Semite Tsarist government. They visited him for a blessing and, they say, the blessing proved itself. The “Kholozshiner” sometimes gave also a mascot. His mascot was on a small paper in a very popular style. Here is the text written on the paper given to a Jewish soldier:“שׁומר ישׁראל שׁומר שׁארית ישׁראל ואל יאבד ישׁראל האומרים שׁמע ישׁראל” [from the prayer book: “The keeper of Israel, guard over the remainder of Israel and they will not be lost those who recite: ‘Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord’” Dvarim 6;4]. The following is another text that contains a phrase from Psalms: “קרוב ה' לנשׁברי לב ואת דכאי רוח יושׁיע” [God is near to those of broken heart and saves those of a contrite spirit - Psalms 34;18]. He also gave a “firerel”, a Russian 2 kopeks coin, a charm to lead one along a road with no obstructions.

During WW1 he left Kholozshin and settled down in the neighboring town of Drohitichin. The Polish government seized the opportunity to build a special station for the Polish railroad at the edge of town. The station was named “stantzye rabina”. Through this station people arrived in great numbers to receive a blessing from the good Jews.

The “Kholozshiner” was the good Jew for the masses, to whom he was very close and spoke their language. The following is a characteristic episode to show his popularity. Once, a tannery was burned down and the tanner was left stark naked. Just then, a rich city-man came to receive a blessing from the “Kholozshiner” to ensure that his horses would not be stolen. The “Kholozshiner” told him to go to the tanner and give him 100 rubles to build a new house in exchange for the tanner's dog which would protect the horses from being stolen. The town-man gave the poor tanner 100 rubles and the tanned gave him his black dog. The town-man left very satisfied since from then on he did not have any more trouble with thefts.

One day, it was during Passover, the city-man's black dog brought home half a loaf of bread. The man was beside himself and on Khol-Hamoed [the intermediary weekdays between the first two and last days of the holiday] he travelled to the “Kholozshiner”. He fell down before him crying hysterically: “My dear Rabbi, I have sinned gravely, I should be punished by karet [shorten one's life]. The dog ate khometz on Passover.” [leavened bread is forbidden on Passover]. The “Kholozshiner” calmed him down and said: “Dear friend, do not be so distraught, the punishment of karet is meant only for people and not for dogs. Don't be so frightened, the dog will not get hurt…“

When the writer of these lines, before leaving for America, started saying goodbye, I met him, deep in thought and distressed. Contrary to the distinguishing quality of this remarkable man, known for his simplicity, he said to me: “Farewell and stay well in your new land America”. He pushed into my hand the book of Dvarim [from the Bible] and showed me a verse in it:

“תמים תהיה עם ה' אלהיך” [Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God - Dvarim 18;13]- “be a wholesome Jew.“ Then he told me an anecdote about a city-man who heard that if you buy a deluxe esreg [ethrog -citron fruit for Succoth] - God will you will give you a good year. This city-man hurried to the Rabbi and said: “Rabbi, let me have a deluxe ethrog”. The Rabbi answered him: “I would surely give you, but it is already too late. I have only one left but it has already been ordered for the rich R' Shmulke.” The city-man said: “Dear Rabbi, let me just have a look at it to see what a deluxe ethrog looks like.” When the Rabbi showed him, the city-man pulled out of his pocket a pocketknife, cut the ethrog into two halves and said: “I should get a half and Shmulke should get a half”. The Rabbi screamed “The ethrog is trashy, because an ethrog is kosher only when it is whole…”

When the “Kholozshiner” died, khol Hamoed Succoth 1929, 90 years old, the greatest Rabbis came over from all towns and villages around Drohichin to have the right to carry his bed. Jews from Antipolye, Horodets, Khomsk and other places, came to pay him the last respect.

When the Germans, their names be erased, removed all the headstones from the new cemetery at Drohichin, a survivor from Drohichin told that the headstone on the “Kholozshiner”'s grave stayed in its place. May this headstone be an eternal acknowledgement, in memory of the illuminating spirits that lit the way to our folks in their suffering and in their happiness!

[editor's remark: see about the “Kholozshiner” also in “My Town Motili” written by the well known Hebrew-Yiddish author R' Mordchai'le (Khayim Tzemerinski) pp. 81-82].

 

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