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[Page 147]

not to worry, to take a basket and go into the forest to gather mushrooms, which she would use instead of meat. He said he would go over to Ivan and borrow garnitz wheat, grind it with a small hand mill, and make challahs out of it. This was what they ate on the Yomtov.

        Before Grandfather became famous as a holy man, there was a tragedy in the family. A Jewish neighbor hit one of Grandfather's sons; the boy died from the injury. Grandfather remarked that the neighbor would have a bitter end because of what he had done to the boy. Not long thereafter the neighbor went insane and started barking like a dog; his own children started dying also. Only one daughter remained alive, and years later, when Grandfather was already in Drohitchin, he once told Grandmother to be prepared to give out more pennies than usual for charity because the daughter of that neighbor who was wandering the world would be coming. The door soon opened, and there she was, a poor woman, who announced that she came from Kholozhin. Grandmother understood everything...

        It once happened that someone stole Grandfather's anvil, and Grandfather was thereby left with no way of making a living. Grandfather said that the thief wouldn't benefit from the theft, and that anyone using it would twist his hand. Shortly thereafter, Grandfather found out that the gentile blacksmith, who was the person who stole Grandfather's anvil, was killed under a wagon carrying coal. The person who bought the anvil from the thief couldn't work with it at all, and ultimately returned the anvil to Grandfather.

        Grandfather didn't actually work much. Most of the time he studied and prayed, so Grandmother was the one most involved in the blacksmith shop, helping the workers hammer the anvil. Later, Grandfather used to brag what a great wife he had, since thanks to her making a livelihood, he was able to spend his time studying Torah. Thanks to her, Grandfather became a rebbe.

        During World War I, when the battlefront approached Kholozhin, Grandfather once ran out onto the street on Yom Kippur night to get some fresh air. The German patrol ordered him to halt, but since Grandfather didn't hear well, he continued on his way. The Germans shot off two bullets; then they brought two doctors from Berlin who operated on Grandfather and saved his life. Unfortunately, he never recovered the strength he had before the event.

        Shortly thereafter, Grandfather and his family moved to Horbacha, a village 18 kilometers from Drohitchin. I still remember that in my childhood hundreds of people

        [photo:] The funeral of the Kholzhiner Rebbe (the Blacksmith), R. Eliyahu Mordechai Levinovitz. He died on October 20, 1932, and was buried in the new cemetery in Drohitchin.

[Page 148]

came from far away to ask Grandfather for advice and blessings. He would open a holy book, look at a page, and then touch the page with his eyes closed. Sometimes he would repeat it three times, opening and closing the book until he found the right verse. Then he pronounced his blessing. His table was covered with various locked charity tin boxes into which he would tell his visitors to drop their charity contributions when they received his blessings.

        On every eve of a new month Grandfather would call over one of the ritual slaughterers, sometimes Yosef David Schub, and other times Moshe Prager, and ask them to help him distribute the charity money for yeshivas, elementary religious schools, as well as ordinary needy Jews. Grandfather always required a receipt for the money he received, and always kept an eye on them.

        A fire once broke out in Drohitchin and was headed for the house of Chayka the pharmacist. Chayka went running to Grandfather, begging him to save her house. He went to her house stood with his cane at a wall of her house that was starting to get singed. He raised his cane, and the fire stayed in the air and didn't touch Chayka's house. The singed wall remained as a sign of the event for years afterward.

        Avraham Baum, son of Shimon the butcher, was going through very difficult times and was unsuccessful in making a living. To make matters worse, the Poles took away much of his livestock, and there was almost no food on the table. Avraham went to ask Grandfather his opinion. Grandfather told him to request the government to compensate him for the animals that were taken away. At first Avrahamele didn't want to do it, and wondered what would come of this advice. However, when Grandfather told him that he would be a partner in the “business,” he therefore submitted a request for compensation, which he received. Avrahamele then asked Grandfather what portion he deserved as a partner. Grandfather asked him for a glass of wine for kiddush on Friday night as his portion of the partnership. So Avrahamele provided wine every Sabbath for Grandfather's congregation.

        Grandfather's son, Yitzchak, had a small soda water company; a tax official found saccharine in the factory, which caused Yitzchak to convicted to several years in jail. Yitzchak went to Grandfather to save him from this misfortune. Grandfather threw him out of his room, and told Yitzchak that Yitzchak was responsible for his own misfortune, and that he would have to suffer for his own sins. Yitzchak didn't give up, and engaged the ritual slaughterers, including Gedaliah Grossman, who convinced Grandfather to save his own son from misfortune. Grandfather told Yitzchak that before going to court, Yitzchak should say a certain verse, and then look the judge in the eye, and not look anywhere else, even if he should hear someone call his name. The result was that the judge freed him.

        On Rosh Hashanah, 1932, Grandfather went home from synagogue and complained that he didn't feel well. The entire family became very worried; he was already in his 80's, and his daughter (my mother) was pregnant with her tenth child, which was also a concern. After Rosh Hashanah, Grandfather called for his son and said, “This is a bad month.” “Why?” wondered his son, “Do you need money to give charity? I'll lend it to you.” “No, that's not what I mean,” responded Grandfather, who then called for the ritual slaughterer, R. Yosef David Schub, and held a long conversation with him. He told Schub that he wanted to be buried with two bags of receipts that he had collected for his charity contributions. The two bags were hanging on the wall right in front of him.

        That Sabbath my mother was about to have her baby, and they called for Sarah Pisatesky the midwife. The wagon driver, Berl, however, didn't want to harness his horse. Grandfather then ordered Berl to harness his horse right away and bring the midwife to his daughter. With G-d's help the baby – Grandfather's tenth grandchild from his daughter – was born, and Grandmother gave him a mazel tov. Grandfather said that the new baby boy should be named Eliyahu Mordechai, which caused a stir in the house – was the baby going to be named for Grandfather himself? It was decided that Grandfather's decision should be ignored. However, on the Sabbath, the day of the circumcision ceremony, Grandfather surrendered his holy soul.

        Grandfather's wish was fulfilled. After the funeral the circumcision was performed, and the grandson was given the name, Eliyahu Mordechai. Hundreds people from the region attended Grandfather's funeral, and the newspapers wrote long articles about the funeral, and offered praise for the Kholozhiner Blacksmith and Rebbe.

Thursday, Jan. 4, 1951 – Haifa, Israel

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