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Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin


From the diary of the group

Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin said “one day when I was a child I played with children on the first day of the month of Elul. My oldest sister told me, 'even today you are playing. Isn't today Elul? Even the fish in the water tremble today!' Hearing that, I was overcome with great trembling and I could not relax for the next several hours. To this day when I remember this I feel as if I am a fish in the water on the first day of the month of Elul and I tremble like the fish for fear of the day of judgment.”

Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin was a son to village parents who worked very hard to support the family. When he was a child there was a famine in Lita and the poor people went with their women and children from town to town to seek food for themselves. Also in the village where the parents of Moshe lived there came everyday caravans of needy people. His mother ground some wheat in a hand millstone and baked bread every morning and distributed it to the poor people. One time a caravan that was larger than usual came in and the bread did not suffice for everybody, but the oven was lit and the dough was in the bowl. She quickly took some, made more loaves of bread and put them into the oven. But the poor people were complaining that they had to wait and the more unruly among them cursed her and when the woman heard their curses she started crying. “Don't cry mother,” the boy said. “You do your work and let them curse and you follow the Lord's commandment. If they praised you and blessed you maybe the commandment would be less whole.”



A Simple Soldier

The Rabbi of Kobrin used to say, “Once in my youth during Purim when I visited my teacher Rabbi Mordechai Malkovitch, he said during the meal 'Today is the day of giving gifts and the time has come. Whoever will extend a hand will receive from me the energy to do the Lord's work as much as his soul asks.' And the students asked for various degrees and each one received whatever he asked for. At the end the Rabbi asked, 'And you Moshka, what will you ask for?' I buried the sense of shame that was in my heart and I answered 'I. do not want a free gift. I want to be a simple soldier and to achieve whatever I can achieve through my work.'”



Things in Order

The Rabbi of Kobrin said, “Every time I heard my teacher giving instruction in the work of the Lord, I did not want to hear anymore until I had fulfilled whatever I had heard first. Only after that would I listen again.”


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The Faithful

After the death of Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin, his student Rabbi Mordechai Malkovitch and Rabbi Asher from Stolin divided the tasks between them. But about Kobrin they could not come to an agreement and finally Rabbi Mordechai suggested a compromise. “There is in Kobrin one Chassid whose name is Rabbi Moshe. If you can during the year convince him that he should come to you, you will have Kobrin. During this year you can approach him in any way you want to approach him and I will try to create a distance in any way I can create distance.”

And so it was that when Rabbi Moshe Lochovitch came, his Rabbi did not greet him. He did not ask anything and did not doubt but still stayed with him as before. And despite the fact that Rabbi Asher visited him and showed him a lot of signs of affection and promised him everything about this and that he stayed faithful to his own Rabbi. And so Kobrin was the domain of Rabbi Mordechai.



Angels and Human Beings

One time Rabbi Moshe raised his eyes to heaven and called, “Angel, angel, it's no special heroism to exist as an angel in heaven. You do not need to eat and drink, procreate and make a living for your family. Come down to earth and wear yourself out to find food and drink and raise children and make a living for them and we'll see if you will still remain an angel. If you can do that then you can be proud of yourself, but not now.”



Everything is Work

The Rabbi from Kobrin said “In the Gemara it was said when the Beit Hamikdash existed there was an altar for forgiveness and now a man's table is for forgiveness. There are two types of offerings, the vow which says this is upon me and the donation that says this is an offering, the vow one is responsible for and the donations one is not responsible for. So it is also about eating, two types. One eats so he will be healthy and strong to do God's work. After the eating he does not waste his time but immediately goes and busies himself in work and the Torah because this is what he has promised to eat for, and this is like a vow. The other one's eating is like giving an offering. The eating itself is work because it creates the Holy spark that is in the foods and makes it special.”


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A Response

Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin used to tell the response that General Gobin gave to Emperor Nicholai. The General was very old and worked in the military for fifty years. One time there were maneuvers in the presence of the Emperor not far from the town of Kobrin and General Gobin was the leader of one camp. Nicholai rode along the first line and addressed the General. He said, “Peace be unto you Gobin. You are a hero. Is your blood still boiling?” The old man answered, “Your highness, the blood is not boiling. The work is boiling.”



The Books

The Tzadik of Kobrin said “If I could I would hide all the books of the pious people. Since man knows a lot of righteousness it is easy that his wisdom is more than his deeds.”



There You Are

Sometimes when Rabbi Moshe heard stories about a man who was very proud of himself for achieving the highest level, he whispered some saying. When he was asked what he meant, he said there was no end to his work. “If you reach heaven you will find out that the “you” that is God is higher than you, not less than when you were on earth and you looked up to heaven. Even when someone is in the lower depths and thinks there is no way out because the fire of hell and temptation burn him, he should be forceful and believe because God is within. Then he will find Him.”



The End

The Rabbi of Kobrin said: at the end of the Book Of Kohelet it is said that at the end, when everything is said, God should be feared. In everything when you come to the end there is only one thing – God should be feared. There is not one thing in the world that does not show you the way to fear God and to work for God. All that is a commandment.



Going Up and Going Down

Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin said: When you walk by the fellows in the field, you walk from one to another. So is the path in the working of the Lord. Sometimes you go up and sometimes you go down. Sometimes the evil spirit will attack you and sometimes you will attack it. As long as you hit the final blow.



For the King

“And if one of them falls,” so Rabbi Moshe told his followers. “If one of you suddenly falls from heaven into an Abyss, he should not give up. He will come back and will take upon himself the rule of heaven and will start fighting again.” Around our town the Zaxes were fighting with the Russians. One time a Russian soldier overcame a Zax soldier and he told him, “Say pardon and I won't do anything to you.”


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The Zax soldier spit in his face and said,“There is no pardon. This brings shame to the King.” The Russian screamed, “Say pardon. If not I will cut your head off.” But even when the sword cut the vein in his neck, the Zax repeated what he had said. “This brings shame to the King.”



With Simplicity

Before the holiday of Passover when Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin went out to bring up water to make the Matzot, he said to those who stood around him, “It is a King's way to teach his men various tricks of war, but during the battle itself they must discard everything that they have learned and simply shoot. So there are a lot of secrets in drawing our water, but while I'm doing it I do only what I'm commanded to do.”



With a Broken Heart

There was a tailor in Kobrin who was asked to sew an expensive dress for the wife of an important ruler. He made it too narrow, and he was chased away. He came to Rabbi Moshe and asked for advice. What shall he do in order not to lose the clients that he had from among the noblemen? Rabbi Moshe told him, “Go back and offer to fix the dress. Open all the seams and sew them as they are.” The tailor listened to the advice and did the work again with a broken heart, the one that he ruined in his pride in the beginning, and it succeeded. This story the Rabbi Moshe likes to tell.



The Soul and the Evil Inclination

The Rabbi of Kobrin said, “The soul says to the evil inclination what Abraham our Father told Lot: 'You go to the left and I'll go to the right. If you go to the right, I'll go to the left. If you want to lead me to the left,' the soul says to the evil inclination. 'I will not listen to you and I will go to the right path. Even if you advise me to go with you to the right, it is better that I go to the left.'”



Bitter and not Bad

The Rabbi of Kobrin said, “When a man suffers he should not say bad, bad. Nothing that the Holy One, Blessed Be He does to a man is bad. But the man can say bitter because there are bitter herbs among the medicines.”


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The Good Sufferings

Rabbi Michael Malkovitz was sick in his leg and all his life he suffered greatly, then the Rabbi from Kobrin visited him and with him were the students of Rabbi Mordechai Malkovitz. During the meal the guests said, “To life! For a complete recovery! You really are asking for the best.” Rabbi Michael said, “How could you bless me with such a blessing? If not for my suffering only God knows what would be my end.”



Not On Bread Alone

During the Shabbat meal Rabbi Moshe took a piece of bread in his hand and told his people around him, “It is said not on bread alone man shall live but on the word of God man will live. Life comes to man not from the material bread but from the sparks of Godly life that is in him. If you want to know where God is, look at this piece of bread. Here he is. Everything exists through his vitality and if this disappears everything crumbles and becomes zero.”



Shehakol

A follower of Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin had some work to do in the Fortress. One time he became worried and did not know what to do, so he left everything and traveled to Kobrin and went directly to the house of the Rabbi without even looking at his own house. At that time the Rabbi was brought some food for breakfast and the Rabbi made a blessing over the food and did not notice the follower who came in and did not greet him. The man stood there and waited until the Rabbi finished his meal so he could share with him his worry. Finally the Rabbi said to him, “Zalman, I thought that you look like your father, but now I see that you do not look like him. One time your father came to me and brought me a bundle of worries, and when he came in I was sitting for breakfast just like now and I blessed the blessing of “Shehakol” (a general blessing). At that moment I saw that your father turned around and was walking away. I said to him, “Avramel, don't you have a request?” And he answered no, and he walked away. Do you understand? When a person of Israel listens to this blessing he has nothing more to ask because he has already received the answer to all his questions and his worries.” And while he was speaking the Rabbi Moshe extended his hand to his follower. The man remained quiet, left the Rabbi with a blessing and went back to his work with a rested heart.


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Do Not Push

One time when the candles of Hanukkah were being lit the crowd pushed a lot to see how the Rabbi of Kobrin would light the candles. Then he said “And it is written: 'when the crowd saw and they moved and they stood from afar.' Whoever is pushing is standing from afar.”



The Chilling of the Heart

One follower expressed before the Rabbi of Kobrin his sadness that every time he traveled to him, his heart became excited and it seemed to him as if it was going to fly up to heaven. But after he arrived the fire was extinguished and his heart shrank to much smaller than in his own house.

The Rabbi answered, “Remember what King David used to say. 'My soul is thirsty.'” And then he said, “Yes in Holiness I saw you. What David asked from God is so he would allow him to feel in the Holy place the same excitement that took hold of him when he was in the dessert, and without water. Because first God in his mercy sends men the excitement for Holiness but then when the man begins to do it, immediately it is taken away from him so he will do it himself and arise to a complete awareness.”



The Tricks of Satan

The Rabbi of Kobrin said, “In the past when Satan wanted to prevent a Chassid from going to his Rabbi he would dress as his father or his mother or his wife and would try to influence him that way. And when he saw that he could not influence him and all those delays only made the person believe even stronger, he invented a different trick. He made peace with the man and took care of him. He befriended him and talked to him pleasantly.” And then he said, “Oh, you turn my heart. Go and travel to your Rabbi and allow me to travel with you and pray the way you wish and let me pray with you. Study the way you wish and I will help you to study.” And then came a time when Satan said to him, “Sit on the chair of this Tzadik and I will sit with you and we will stay together!”



Supplements to the Shulchan Aruch

The Rabbi of Kobrin used to say, “My father of blessed memory thought that in addition to the fourth section of Shulchan Aruch there is missing one other section that teaches how to behave with great figures. I think there is missing even a sixth part, that shows us how to deal with good-for-nothings.”



Receiving the World

A Chassid of Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin was very poor and complained to the Rabbi that his being poor stopped him from praying and studying the Torah. The Rabbi told him, “These are the times when the greatest righteousness is more important than prayer and studying the Torah, and that is to accept the world as it is.”


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The First Meaning

A writer came to Rabbi Moshe and asked him about the Kabbalah and the meanings of its secret writings. The Rabbi answered, “The meaning of the Kabbalah is to accept the rule of heaven and all the meanings are to aim the heart to heaven. When a person of Israel says, 'My God. He is mine and I am His,' how could it be that his soul would not leave his body?” And while saying that he fainted.



A Free Gift

After the death of Rabbi Yitzchak of Verki, one of his followers travelled to Kobrin and Rabbi Moshe said to him, “Why did you come to me to Lithuania? Don't you have enough pious people in Poland?” The guest answered, “The late Rabbi said that it is a commandment to know the pious man, the Rabbi of Kobrin, because he speaks the truth. So I came to your highness to learn how to find the truth.” Rabbi Moshe said “You cannot find the truth. When God sees a man who risks his life to search for the truth, he gives him of the truth a free gift.” And this is what was said: “You should give truth to Jacob.” And he took between his fingers a little bit of tobacco and he spread it and he said, “You see even less than this,” and then, again he took in his fingers a little bit of tobacco and he said, “Let it be less, as long as it is the truth.”



A Real Fear of Heaven

“If I had,” the Rabbi of Kobrin said, “a real fear of Heaven, I would run in the streets and scream, 'Why do you not fulfill what the Torah says? You are Holy.'”

The Rabbi from Kobrin said, “Among the followers of the Magid of Mezritch, may he bless us and defend us, was one whose name was Rabbi Manli. He used to say, 'If we say, during the prayer, among the righteous you should be elevated, there is no Manli there. And then with the lips of Holies you will be blessed. There is no Manli. And then among the Holy you will be praised. There is no Manli. There and then it is said among the tens of thousands of the house of Israel with you, there is no Manli there either.' And then he added, 'That could Rabbi Manli say, but we cannot say that because it is also said that it is the duty of all creatures before you to praise and to thank and say I am also among them.'”


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The Stake and the Batar ([Aramaic] – The body follows the head)

The Rabbi of Kobrin said, “A leader in Israel should not say in his heart that the master of the universe chose him because he is the greatest and the best of all. If a King hangs his crown on a tree by a wall, will the stake say that it is his beauty that attracted the eye of the King?”



Knowledge and Humility

Rabbi Moshe repeated to one of his relatives about the Baal Shem Tov himself: “When I arrived at the stage of great understanding, I understood that I haven't even begun the work of the Lord.” And then a man said, “Didn't our sages say 'If you bought knowledge what are you missing'?” R' Moshe answered “I heard an explanation for this saying: 'You bought knowledge if you think that you already bought knowledge, but you're still missing the 'what?' For instance, humility. If it is clear to you that you are missing knowledge, then what did you buy? That means you bought something, namely, humility'.”



Those Who Put Their Hopes In You

On the eve of Rosh Hashana before the afternoon prayer, the Rabbi of Kobrin put his head on the notes lying before him and said, “Master of the universe you know my stupidity and my guilt. They are not hidden from you. But what should we do with the creatures who think that I am real? I would ask of you, do not make those who hope be ashamed of me.”



Overcoming

On the eve of Rosh Hashana when Rabbi Moshe approached the ark, all his limbs began trembling. He held himself onto the pillar and even then the pillar started shaking here and yonder. And the pious man could not stand on his feet until he tilted himself completely backwards and then it seemed as if he was pushing his trembling inside. But now his leg stood firmly in place and he started praying. The leader of the congregation, Rabbi Moshe, said before the Rosh Hashana prayer, “A King became angry with his rebellious people and sat in judgment of them. Nobody dared approach him and ask for mercy. Among the crowd was also the head of the rebels. He knew that he deserved death. He approached and spoke to the King.” So also ends high Holidays, when the leader of the congregation stands in front of the ark and prays for the people.


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Sacrifice

The Rabbi on Shabbat was standing and praying Mussaf in front of the ark. When he arrived at the place where we were to do the sacrifices of our duty, he fainted. When he came to he finished the prayer. During the meal he spoke about the sacrifices. He became excited and he called, “Master of the Universe, we will sacrifice ourselves before you instead of a sacrifice.” Everybody understood then the reason for his fainting in the synagogue.



The Fool

They asked the Rabbi from Kobrin, “Why do they call the Cantor a fool?” He answered: “You know that the world of melody is close to the world of repentance. When the Cantor, sings he is in the world of the melody. And how is it possible that he does not jump to the world of repentance to do a complete repentance? Is there any greater folly than this?”



With All His Might

Rabbi Moshe said, “When the Jewish person says 'Baruch,' he has to say it with all his might, so much so that he doesn't even have energy left to say the following 'Atta.' So it has been said that God will exchange his energy. And we say, 'God in Heaven, all the energy that I have in me I give to you in the first word. Please give me in return a renewal of new energy so I can continue with the blessing.'”



To The Ark

The Rabbi of Kobrin said: “It is written, 'You and all your household come to the ark,' meaning, when you say an 'ark' before God, blessed he. You come into it with all your limbs.” Then one of those who listened asked, “How can a big person get into a small ark?” The Rabbi answered, “He who sees himself as bigger than the ark, we don't have any business with him.”



And He Who Does Not Know To Ask

When Rabbi Moshe came in the Pesach Haggadah to the place where it says “he who does not know how to ask,” he would stop his reading, sigh and say: “And how about he who does not know how to pray? Please, God in heaven, open his heart so he can pray to you. ”


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Who Knows One

When Rabbi Moshe came in the Passover Haggadah to the song, “Who Knows One,” he said, “Who knows one? Who can know the one, the special one? Even the angels are asking, 'Where is His place of honor?' 'I know one,' as the sage said. 'Where will I find you and where will I not find you?' The angels answered too: 'The whole earth is filled with His glory. I can recognize the special one in the work that He is working within me.'”



The Ladder

The Rabbi of Kobrin said, “It is written: 'And he dreamt that there was a ladder standing.' But this every person has to know: I say I'm one of the many pieces of clay of the earth. One of the numerous am I, but its head reaches to heaven. Up to heaven my soul reaches and there angels of God go up and down from that ladder. Even the going up and down of the angels is dependent on my deeds.”



In Every Place

The Rabbi of Kobrin said “The Holy One said to every person as he said to Moses, 'Take off your shoes. Remove the lock from your habit and you will recognize that the place where you now stand is Holy Earth. And you will recognize that the place where you now stand is Holy Earth at every time.”



Here It Comes

The Rabbi of Kobrin said “It is told in the Midrash that when Moses came and told Israel 'in this month you will be saved', they told him 'our Rabbi Moses how are we to be saved, and all of Egypt is filthy with our alien worshipping?' So he told them 'since He wants you to be saved, he does not pay attention to that alien worshipping of yours.'” As it was said, “The voice of my beloved, here it comes, jumping over the mountains and trotting over the hills.” And so it is now. When a man settles his mind and wants to go out and be saved or liberated from his bad habits, immediately comes his evil inclination and whispers to him, “how could you be liberated, haven't you spent your days in vanity?” But the righteous ones say to him, “since God wants to save you he will not notice the past, but will jump over everything and come to save you.”



Because He Spoke

The Rabbi of Kobrin taught, “It is written, 'And Moses brought back the words of the people to God.' First, he brought them the commandments of the Lord, the announcement that they would be a Kingdom of priests and a Holy People. And the people answered, 'All that God spoke we will do.' Meaning we do not want to worship God only to achieve higher status, but only because God has spoken to us. That answer was God in the eyes of Moses and he took it to God in their name and in his name.”


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One Should Not Fear Death

When the Chassidim sat during the holiday of Shavuot around the table, the Rabbi of Kobrin said, “It is written, you speak with us and we will listen and God should not speak because we will die.” Is it possible that Israel in its greatest ascending hour refused to hear the word of God because of the fear of death? Isn't it as if the soul leaves its holster to cling to the light of life? With a lot of growing dedication the Rabbi asked again and again, twice and three times, his question until he fainted. With lot of effort, they revived him. He sat on his chair and finished his words. So perhaps we will die. Their main worry was that they would have to leave the work of God on earth.



The Humble One

The Rabbi of Kobrin was asked, “How can it be that Datan and Aviram say about Moses that he is ruling over them. Doesn't the Torah say about him that he was the most humble of all people?” The Rabbi explained “when Moses sat on the pious chair he behaved as a mighty one so they knew he ruled over them. But inside his heart he was more humble than anyone. Not so for the people who walk around with a bowed head and call themselves humble. This is a false humility. The real humility is hidden in the heart.”



The Things That Were Not Accepted

On a Shabbat, at his table after he said the Torah, Rabbi Moshe added, as he turned to his followers who were seated in front of him, “I see that all the things that I said were not accepted even by one of your hearts. If you will ask how I know this when I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet, I will tell you a great principle: Things that come out of the heart go into the heart. But if things do not find anyone to accept them, God is helping the person who is speaking, and all his words come back to his own heart. I now feel that all my words are knocking on my heart.”

Some time after his passing away one of his friends said: If he had before someone to speak to he would have lived longer.



The Rest

Once when he was old, the Rabbi of Kobrin was seated at his table with his followers and they saw that he was very weak. His aid asked him to go and rest a little. The Rabbi said, “You fool, my only rest is when I sit together with Israel.”


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If I Knew

Rabbi Moshe said, “If I knew for sure that I had helped one of my followers with the work of God, I would not worry at all.” And next time he said, “If I knew that I had said one Amen appropriately I would not worry at all.” Another time he said, “If I knew that after my death they would say in heaven that they are bringing a Jew I would not worry at all.”



The End

On the great Shabbat a few days before his death, Rabbi Moshe said several times the words, “Bless God my soul,” and then he whispered and added, “You my soul, whichever world you will be in you will praise God, but what will I ask of God, Blessed be He? I will praise God through my life, I will only ask that as long as I live I be able praise him.” On the last day of Passover he spoke at his table at length before the Birkat Hamazon (the blessing of the food) and then he said, “I have nothing to say anymore. Let us say the blessing.” On the following day he became ill and a week later he left the world.



The Main Thing

After the passing away of Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin, one of his students met with the Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk, and the pious man asked him, “What was the most important thing about your Rabbi?” The student thought for awhile and then he answered “whatever he was busying himself with at the moment was the main thing for him.” (From the Book of M. Buber “The Hidden Light” Tales of the Chassidim)




The Kobrin Dynasty

From the mouth of R' Menachem-Meir Meyerson (Gvat)


R' Menachem Meir-Meyerson, one of the veteran Chassidim of the Rabbi of Kobrin, was close to the “Court” and one of the “Family” who was fortunate enough to immigrate to the land of Israel after his sons and daughters. His daughter Tzipora, of blessed- memory, who was among the earliest immigrants of the „Hashomer Hatzair", was killed in a traffic accident in Rishon LeTzion at an early age. R' Menachem Meir then went to live with his daughter and his son-in-law in Gvat. He answered positively and willingly to the request of the messenger of our editorial office to tell something about the Kobrin dynasty.
R' Moshele was born in Piesk, near Kobrin, to a father who was a baker. While he was still a youth it was recognized that he would go far and become an important and great person. From early childhood he excelled with his lofty ideas and character. The following story will serve as an example.


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The mother of R' Moshele was a great, pious woman. She used to distribute bread free of charge to all the groups of the poor people that passed Piesk in the year of the drought, and for that those who received it would bless her. But it also happened that very poor people repaid their benefactress with curses that insulted her and pained her very much. Then she would burst from so much sorrow and hurt, sobbing while saying bad things as to why she deserved all that. When the child Moshele heard her complaints, he called, “Mother, if they only bless you and praise you, you can accept the blessing with great satisfaction and willingness, meaning that you only ask for your own good and pleasure. But if they repay you for your good deeds with curses, then the good deed that you did was done for its own sake completely and out of pure intentions.”

When R' Moshele grew up, he married the daughter of a resident of Kobrin, whose name was Flier. And why Flier? Because as a communal worker he dedicated himself completely to examining the public buildings in town and with his initiative they supported those and fixed the old synagogue with columns (flies). His father-in-law gave him food and fixed him a small apartment in the warehouse of the building. And in his small apartment sat R' Moshele all his days and studied the Torah. One day when he became ill, he stubbornly refused to leave the place and see the doctors, but he asked that they bring him before R' Mordechli from Lachovitch. So his father took him to Lachovitch, and lo and behold, he became well and healthy. From then on he travelled to Lachovitch.

As far as his sources of livelihood, he said, “In my early days I tried several occupations, from a teacher to a lease holder.” He worked also as a collector and a head leaseholder. He said, “It is not true that the worries of making a living interfere with the work of the Lord.” He used the verse, “Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart.” And Rashi adds “So that your heart should not argue with Hamakom (the Place).” But according to R' Moshele, Rashi meant a real place and not to God. So a person of Israel should not use the excuse that the place and the work conditions are what is interfering with his worshiping or working for the Lord.

R' Menachem-Meir continues the verse: “who will climb the mountain of God and who would rise in his Holy place with clean hand and heart.” (From the Book of Psalms, Chapter 24.)


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R' Moshele interpreted it, “To go up in the house of the Lord, namely, to go up the mountain, is not a big deal. You can sometimes jump from the mud to heaven and roll back and think even further. The supreme step is to stand up in the Holy place and not fall back. Only he who rises to heaven because of his wishes without any side issues or materialism can reach that step. Something like to make it an axe to dig with, namely to make it a reason to make money, with and without any wishes to become high and mighty, something like a clown to show off. ”

R' Mordechli from Lachovitch admired and respected R' Moshele very much, so tells R' Menachem Meir. One time on Purim the Rabbi from Lachovitch addressed his followers and said, “Since on this day we give every beggar a gift, every one of you should say what he wants to achieve, a level of working for the Lord, and so it will be done.” Everyone asked what they asked and R' Moshele was silent and did not ask a thing. “Moshka, why are you silent?” asked R' Mordechli. R' Moshele answered, “I hate gifts. I would like to achieve the highest degree in working for the Lord only with my work.”

One time on Rosh Hashana the Lachovitchi prayed before the ark the afternoon prayer with a lot of enthusiasm with R' Moshele beside him. Because of his excitement, R' Moshele fainted and just fell flat on the floor. When the Lachovitchi saw that, he raised his voice and said, “The residence of above and the residence of below,” and R' Moshele became stronger and stood on his feet.

After R' Mordechli left Lachovitch, R' Moshele continued to travel to R' Nochkov his son. At the beginning he did not find in him exceptional and only after years did he grasp his greatness.

When R' Nochka left Lachovitch, his followers began to travel to R' Moshele in Kobrin. By the way, even before he became a Rabbi he dedicated himself completely to collecting money for the Lachovitch Commune in Palestine. When R' Moshele was designated a Rabbi his followers acquired for him a lot around the Ratner Street in Kobrin and they built a synagogue and a bath house. They also dug a well there. One Rosh Hashana, R' Moshele said, “We read today in the prayer that everyone that still has breath in his nose, his God is with him and his Kingdom is everywhere.” He said, “Everyone should remember before his death that his soul is already at the end of his nose and the Kingdom of God rules everything.”


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R' Menachem-Meir tells then that later he lived in Brisk. In Brisk there lived Feivel, the shoe maker, with his four sons who worked for the Russian army in a fortress. This Feivel was a well-to-do Jew and a follower of R' Moshele. His sons traveled to R' Nochka and continued with R' Davidel his son. When I came to say the evening prayer, the followers told me that we should visit Feivel the shoemaker who was on his sick bed. We came to visit him and he was dying. Meanwhile the followers, the Hassidim, spoke among themselves that Feivel should be reminded of the saying of the old Rabbi about all who still have breath in his nose. They asked Feivel, “Do you hear what we are saying?” Feivel took his hand and indicated the end of his nose.

One time R' Moshele said that when he was still a child he played during the days of Elul in the street with some children. His sister, Chasia, came out and scolded him. She said, “On days such as these you engage in such frivolity, even the fish in the water tremble.” “Her words influenced me and I started trembling and I'm trembling to this day.”

They asked R' Moshele, “Why don't you issue a book?” He answered, “I already issued a book. My book I wrote on the hearts of the masses of Israel.” When R' Moshele married his grandson, Reuven Tzeilengold, to a daughter of the family of R' Yoshole Ostrover, on the side of her mother, he could not, because of his weakness, travel to the wedding to the town of the bride. So they transferred the wedding to Kobrin. Also R' Yoshole Ostrover came to the wedding with a crowd of Chassidim, important people, rich learned people, and people of action.

The wedding took place in front of the Shtibel and it was the days of the month of Cheshvan, days of mud. And when they went to the Chupa, R' Yoshole Ostrover held up the edges of the cloak of R' Moshele so it would not, God forbid, get muddied.

On the Sabbath night when they set the table, they put two arm chairs at the head of the table. In one arm chair sat R' Moshele and in the other they put R' Yoshole Ostrover. R' Moshele opened by saying words from the weekly portion of the Torah and made his listeners so enthusiastic that the Chassidim of Kobrin could not overcome their feelings and from time to time someone would clap his hands, sometimes Chatzkel, the carpenter, and sometimes Yankel Rashes, the tailor.


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Then R' Yoshole Ostrover asked one of his entourage, “Who are those people who are clapping?” And they said to him, “These are artisans of the Chassidim of Kobrin.” Said R' Yoshole, “The old man of Kobrin should live many years and healthily because he puts so much faith and fear of God in between the Chupa Poles.”

Before his passing away, R' Moshele ordered that everybody that knew him and had stepped over the threshold of his house at least once should come to the first memorial day. So many Chassidim came, including R' Yoshole Ostrover. When they returned from the cemetery, R' Yoshole entered the room of R' Moshele. He bent over the table close to the chair of the late Rabbi and stayed there alone for some time. When he came out he said, “The words of the Torah that I heard in Kobrin I will now say about Kobrin: 'You are Holy because I am your Holy God.' R' Moshele said, 'You will be Holy despite yourself. You will be Holy because you have part of God in you.' And he added, 'Because I'm Holy, your God, I know and feel the Holiness of the creator but I do not have in my mouth the power to express everything that is in my heart.” “And this idea,” says R' Yoshole Ostrover, “I would like to say about Kobrin. I know the Holiness of Kobrin and recognize it but I cannot express it with my mouth.”

In the tent of R' Moshele there was put in a frame a portion of his will saying that he would not like anybody to dare and get up and say praiseworthy things about him. “But it is permissible for everyone to say about me that I was a lover of Israel. I said that about myself and others have my permission to say it too.”

R' Menachem knows to tell about the Kobrin dynasty: When R' Moshele died, his grandson R' Nochka, who was a handsome man and attracted people with his noble external looks, was also internally the same, and a very learned and wise man. He talked about the Torah, “about a phrase which says 'and I will have mercy on those on whom I would have mercy,' and repeats with two different wordings.” And he said, “Why does it repeat it twice? Isn't one time enough?” But he said that this repetition comes to tell us how great the mercy of the Lord is. He is ready to forgive even a person whom he forgave before and who repeated his evil doings. He is ready to have mercy on a sinner who continues to do bad even after he has been forgiven for other bad things.


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R' Menachem also heard about Yahalel, the well-known Hebrew author. This Yahalel, who worked as a bookkeeper at Brotzki in Kiev, was the brother-in-law of R' Nochka, the brother of Tzipa-Yente, his wife. Both the brother and the sister were the grandchildren of R' Moshele. Nochka held the crown of Rabbi about 35 years and then died in the city of Kamen during his travels in the town of Wolin. R' Menachem-Meir, who accompanied him, was present when he died.

When R' Nochka died, his place was taken in Kobrin by R' Davidel and another offspring of the Kobrin dynasty, R' Ahrele, his brother who planted roots in Domchva and became a Rabbi there. That arrangement was preceded by a conflict between the brothers. R' Ahrele, who was also ordained as a Rabbi, wanted the seat of the Rabbinate in Devin, a small town filled with Chassidim of Kobrin. In addition he also wanted the money collection in the community of Kvitch.

The followers of R' Davidel suggested to him that he be satisfied with the position in Devin, but R' Ahrele was firm and when both of them could not agree, they traveled to Chortkov to bring their issue before R' David Moshe Friedman, the Rabbi of Chortkov. R' Davidel traveled with R' Menachem Meir Meyerson only. With R' Ahrele traveled his wife, his father-in-law, and the sexton of his father-in-law, a whole entourage.

Until they came to stand before R' David Moshe, there were a number of little conflicts between the sides. One time the wife of R' Ahrele said, “Isn't it true that from R' Nochka there were left only two belts, one of silk and one of simple cloth? Why did R' Davidel take the silken belt and deprive R' Ahrele, leaving him only the simple belt?”

One other time, when R' Davidel and R' Ahrele were invited to a circumcision in Chortkov, a conflict arose between one of the entourage of R' Ahrele and R' Menachem-Meir. The conflict developed into curses and slaps. From here to there the matter was brought before R' David Moshe. He heard both sides and issued a verdict. R' Ahrele received only the Rabbinate in Devin. The crown of the Rabbi and the collection of money for the community would go to R' Davidel. Both sides went back to Kobrin and the situation changed completely. R' Ahrele gave up the seat of the Rabbinate in Devin, went to Dumsha, and became a Rabbi. There he created a wide base and became an important person. He had wealthy Chassidim and important people and people who knew the Torah. He conducted his court with a high hand until he became ill with a difficult illness. He traveled to Vienna and there he died after an operation.

And when R' Davidel died in Kobrin, the dynasty was continued by his son R' Moshe Aaron. R' Menachem-Meir did not say very much about R' Moshe Aaron. It seems as if he preferred to stay in the courtyard of memories about the early Rabbis.

(Written by A. H. Zaritzki)



kob277.jpg [22 KB] - Rabbi Davidel
Rabbi Davidel


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