Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Yahrtzeit: The Rebbe Reb Mordechai Dov of Hornosteipel (Elul 22)

As usual, I don't feel adequate to writing something about the Rebbe Reb Motele, especially without the appropriate amount of time for such an undertaking. But, we are in luck. Here is an edited transcript of the Rebbe's remarks at the yahrtzeit seudah on Elul 22, 5766 (2006). Very, very worthwhile!

One of the great losses, tragedies, shortcomings, of the particular season in history in which we find ourselves, is that we are missing heroes of particular measure. From my earliest recollections, (I was exposed to conventional stuff however they were all in the periphery) the heroes that we grew up with were the portraits painted for us by our parents of our grandparents, great-grandparents, their grandparents, and the anecdotes and stories of their lives. There was no question as to where the center of our lives was directed and how our lives ultimately were crafted around them.

A great many of these anecdotes described occurrences that were larger than life, how the greatness and sanctity of these people allowed them access to abilities that could transform our ordinary world into a supernatural one. But in retrospect, at the same time that we were learning about the greatness of these people in their capacity to marshal these other-worldly forces to achieve all kinds of things for Klal Yisroel, what was being stressed for us was the excellence of character that these people had attained in their lives. More than the wondrous stories, the emphasis was on the righteousness of these people, their saintliness of character. The wonders and the miracles were secondary to the miracle that was their character.

How humble they were. How self-effacing they were. How selfless they were. What mesirus nefesh they had and how much they cared for other Jews. How brokenhearted they were about the fact that they simply were not able to serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu at a level that they felt they should have, could have, that their forbearers had been able to do.

How forgiving they were of offenses against them personally. How hard they would work to create relationships of peace with everyone. How hard they would try that no one would learn of what they were doing, whether it was going to the mikveh under circumstances that most people would not think possible in the middle of winter in places that were brutally cold, breaking the ice and doing all kinds of things to toivel, or whether it was in their charity and how they found it impossible to go to sleep at night knowing that there was a penny in their house which had not been distributed – it would keep them awake.

My father was the baby of the family. His oldest sister, Tante Devorke, who was considerably older than him, recalled how the Zeide Reb Motele would rouse her in the middle of the night to go deliver tzedaka someplace so people wouldn’t know where the tzedaka was coming from.

Another dimension of message we received was not only the expansiveness of their saintly character, but that they did everything in the world to try to hide themselves so that nobody would know how much they were learning, they wouldn’t know how much they were giving away or when they were giving away, or what they were doing.

It’s impoverishing for our generation to grow up without these kinds of portraits, these types of heroes, and it’s even more dispiriting when they are replaced by the cheap tinsel that’s offered today in the popular media.
The Rebbe Reb Motele in particular stood out amongst all these remarkable descriptions of his life, not by the extraordinary, but by how extraordinary his ordinary was. How remarkable and how wondrous were the simple things of everyday life.

He had a childhood friend by the name of Dan (דן). The Cherkasser, who was extremely protective and who knew that his young grandson Motele was someone whose uniqueness was being kept under wraps, was suspicious that he may abuse himself. He therefore instructed this friend Dan to be with him as much as possible, to sleep in the same room with him in order to make sure he got enough sleep. Several nights after he began this watch and made sure Reb Motele went to sleep on time, he woke up in middle of the night and there was Reb Motele sitting on the floor, reciting Tikkun Chatzos. He was eleven, maybe twelve years old at the time. He sat their weeping his heart out. When he was finished and Dan threatened to snitch, Reb Motele pleaded with him not to tell. Reb Dan told Reb Mottele, “I’ll make you a deal. I won’t tell if you promise me that when you become a Rebbe that you let me be your gabbai.” Reb Mottele struck the deal and that’s how Reb Dan became the gabbai.

Later on, after Reb Motele passed away, there was room in the ohel for one other grave. Who it was who was going to be buried there was hotly contested between Reb Dan, his gabbai, and Reb Yankel the Rav in Hornosteipel. They finally agreed amongst each other that the first one to die would have the right to be buried next to the Rebbe. Because of the terms of their agreement, whenever one of them would get sick, the other one would be found in Beis Medrash a whole day saying tehilim that he should recover. Years later, after the Rebbe Reb Leibele had already moved to Kiev, on one Erev Shabbos at the last minute he abruptly announced that they were going to Hornosteipel for Shabbos. Despite it being a several hour journey he insisted that he had to go. That Shabbos Reb Dan passed away. Had Reb Leibele not been there the suspicion was that Reb Yankel the Rav may have tried to renege on the deal.

It is a little bit sad these days what we think is great. On the other hand, I can tell you this much: our grandfathers did not have to live in the times that we live and deal with the stuff that we deal with. I would not sell our generation short in that regard. To maintain our faith and our integrity in our times is not a small achievement. In the Hoshainos we ask Hashem, “Hoshaina Shalosh Sha’os, Help us three hours.” The Rizhiner said it’s referring to the last three hours of history, just before Moshiach comes. Those last three hours are going to be so difficult to maintain one’s faith. He said we will be holding on by the edge of our fingernails and it’s those last three hours that we call out to Hashem and we say, “Hashem, help us hold on for those last three hours!” We are getting very close to those last three hours.

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