May 30, 2018
Avremele Rainitz in #1120, Obituary

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morosov recently passed away at the age of 101. * As the son of the legendary Chassid, RChonye Morosov, may Hashem avenge his blood, who was close with the Rebbe Rashab and the Rebbe Rayatzs secretary, RMendel merited to spend time as a child in the house of the Rebbe and to be on the receiving end of various displays of closeness. * RMendels life was one of nonstop Chassidishkait, hiskashrus and mesirus nefesh for the Rebbe, and he shared his memories generously with the younger Chassidim in order to guide them in the ways of Chassidim and Chassidus. * He was the last of our generation to be born in Lubavitch and all his life was dedicated to all that Lubavitch stands for.

“Some years ago, when movie reels that documented the arrival of the Rebbe Rayatz to the United States in 1940 were discovered,” said RShneur Zalman, RMendel Morosovs son, “I showed it to my father. You can see the Rebbe Rayatz descending the ramp of the ship in a wheelchair, surrounded by his secretaries and elder Chassidim. My father watched it with great emotion and suddenly began to sob.

“It was only after several minutes that he calmed down somewhat and he explained that the last time he saw the Rebbe Rayatz was on Isru Chag Sukkos 5688 (1927), when the Rebbe left Russia. Numerous Chassidim came to see him off and only a few were allowed to have yechidus.

“When my grandmother, Mrs. Chaya Bracha Morosov, arrived at the Rebbe’s court with her three sons, my father and his brothers, Sholom and Moshe, the Rebbe’s daughter Sheina brought them through the back door for yechidus. When they parted, the Rebbe said to them, ‘We will yet see one another.’

“The four of them ultimately left Russia but only my uncle, Sholom, was able to see the Rebbe, when he arrived in New York at the beginning of Shevat 5710. He met the Rebbe’s son-in-law, Ramash, who said to him: Sholom, go in for yechidus.

“My uncle said he needed to prepare for that, but Ramash insisted, saying, ‘Later, it will be too late. Go in now and make the preparations later.’ My brother went in and this was the last yechidus.

“They said that when Sholom went in, the Rebbe Rayatz said, ‘Oy Chonye,’ and was deeply moved. Then the Rebbe said, ‘He is Chonye outwardly and inwardly.’ He said that when he saw Sholom, he was reminded of R’ Chonye who was murdered by the communists.

“In any case, my father, who arrived in New York first in 5713, did not see the Rebbe again, and the Rebbe’s countenance was remembered by him the way he saw him throughout his childhood until that encounter in Tishrei of 5688. The Rebbe looked young then and powerful. So when he saw the Rebbe looking weak and in a wheelchair, he was very broken. Although it was decades after the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz, he still ‘lived’ the years of his childhood by the Rebbe Rayatz and it was hard for him to see the Rebbe looking like that.”


The Chassid, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morosov, who in his later years was referred to as the “eldest Chabad Chassid,” was probably the last of the Chabad Chassidim whose early childhood years were spent in Lubavitch and Rostov. He was born in Lubavitch on 13 Adar II 5676. His father, R’ Elchonon Dov (Chonye), was the personal gabbai of the Rebbe Rashab and the Rebbe Rayatz, which explains why Mendel enjoyed special kiruvim when he was in the Rebbe Rayatz’s presence.

R’ Mendel was the oldest child of his mother, Chaya Bracha, who was R’ Chonye’s second wife. His first wife, with whom R’ Chonye had five children, died while giving birth to her sixth child who also died.

He was born during the upheavals of war and revolution, a short while after the Rebbe Rashab left Lubavitch. Despite being born four years before the passing of the Rebbe Rashab, R’ Mendel himself did not see him.

When the war approached Lubavitch, the Morosov family fled to Kremenchug and from there to Yekaterinoslav where they lived for a few months in the home of the Rebbe’s parents, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and Rebbetzin Chana. In that period, R’ Levi Yitzchok learned Chassidus with R’ Chonye. R’ Mendel related that Rebbetzin Chana once complained to his mother that her oldest son, later to be the Rebbe, did not eat enough. R’ Mendel’s mother told the Rebbe that he had to eat and if he would eat, he would grow. Decades later, when his mother arrived in New York and had yechidus, the Rebbe stood up to his full height and said to her: So, did I grow?

Throughout the years, his father went to the Rebbe in Rostov despite the fact that at that time, Jews refrained from traveling by train in fear of gentile ruffians. One time, ruffians attacked him on his way home, and he was miraculously saved.

In Elul 5681 (1921), a year and a half after the passing of the Rebbe Rashab, the Rebbe Rayatz asked R’ Chonye to come live with his family in Rostov and to be his secretary. From then on, R’ Mendel had the privilege of being around the Rebbe Rayatz and received various kiruvim from him. These kiruvim were engraved in R’ Mendel’s mind and despite the many years that passed since then, he would “live” those special moments as though they happened yesterday.

At farbrengens, he loved to tell the following story: “When I was a little boy, I would occasionally go to the Rebbe Rayatz’s yechidus room. I would pull the handle and if it opened, I went in. One time, when I entered the room, the Rebbe was sitting at the head of the table lost in thought. When he saw me, he called me over and asked, ‘Yingele, where is your yetzer tov?’ I showed him the right side of my heart. ‘And where is your yetzer ha’ra?’ he asked. I showed him the left side of my heart. ‘And where is your neshama?’ he continued. I pointed at my head. The Rebbe asked, ‘And what is inside your neshama?’ I did not know what to answer. Then the Rebbe said, ‘Within the neshama of every Jew is another smaller neshama.’

“Bachurim were standing outside and when I went out, they asked me what the Rebbe said. When they heard the final sentence, each one tried to explain what the Rebbe said. One of them said it referred to the yechida of the nefesh and one said it was the G-dly spark.”

R’ Mendel remembered the Rebbe coming to Leningrad. He said he stood near the door and saw the Rebbe as he entered the house. Afterward, he heard the Chassidim whispering among themselves that this is the chassan, and speaking in awe about his Torah knowledge.

When R’ Mendel was 11, the Rebbe Rayatz left Russia, but his image remained deeply engraved in the young boy’s heart. “I remember his davening. He would daven out loud and with a sweet tune. On Erev Pesach, my father would take me to the Rebbe’s room to hear the siyum from him [since R’ Mendel was a firstborn to his mother].”

Years later, when he visited Rostov in 5762, he walked emotionally through the rooms as he recalled how as a boy he would roam around the Rebbe’s house and even merited that Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka and her sister Sheina said the bedtime Shma with him.

He related that on the windowsill in Rebbetzin Shterna Sara’s room was a framed picture of the Rebbe Maharash, under which it had a caption with his name. “He looked exactly like the Rebbe Rayatz, just a little whiter. At that time, the Rebbe Rayatz had few white hairs, but in the picture of the Rebbe Maharash, his beard is almost completely white.”


When he was eight, the Rebbe Rayatz moved to Leningrad, and since his father was the gabbai, the Morosov family moved too. During those years, a religious Jew was unable to live in Leningrad. There was no yeshiva or melamed for children there, and since his father was busy all day in the Rebbe’s house, and could not learn with his children, his parents decided to send him and his younger brother Hershel to learn in the Chassidishe town of Nevel.

There, they learned with melamdim. At first, they learned by R’ Elya Valutzky. Since the learning took place in secret in his house, they were under his supervision 24 hours a day. They learned by him, ate by him, and slept in his home. In the center of the large room where they learned was a big table, around which they learned during the day. At night, they folded the table, lined up the chairs, put a shmatte over them and went to sleep.

On Friday and Shabbos, when they didn’t have regular learning sessions, the time was devoted to stories about the Rebbeim.

Later on, he learned by R’ Chatshe Himmelstein. When R’ Mendel spoke about him, his voice was filled with wistful nostalgia for the person that he described as a geshmaker maggid shiur.


Came Elul, all the talmidim and Chassidim of the town went to the Rebbe, to Leningrad. R’ Mendel related:

My brother Hershel and I also went to Leningrad, back home. I was very happy to go home, but the joy was marred by my brother Hershel being very sick.

Since we were still children, I was 9 and Hershel 7, we could not travel alone on the train. They sent us with a bachur from Tomchei T’mimim by the name of Leibel Lipsker who was 18.

The trip from Nevel to Leningrad took 12 hours. Since my brother did not feel well, they arranged a special place for him to rest. I, however, wasn’t able to sit in one place for so long so I walked around the train cars. While doing so, I came across a compartment that was empty except for an old Jew, a Chassid with a dignified appearance and with a long white beard. I did not know him, but apparently he knew who I was and called me over and asked me to tell him a Chassidishe story that I heard from my melamed. I told him one of the stories I recently heard and from the look on his face, I could see he enjoyed it a lot.

As soon as we arrived home, my brother was taken to the hospital where complications ensued and he passed away. After this tragedy, my parents decided not to send me back to Nevel and I remained at home in Leningrad. As a little boy, I was glad to be home.

A few months passed and one day, I took my younger brother Sholom, who was asleep in the carriage, and walked with him from one room to the next. The house was very small and when I passed the living room I saw my father sitting with an unfamiliar guest with a long black beard and a smiling face. My father called me over and said: Leave Sholom and come here.

I went over and my father asked me to repeat the story that I told to R’ Meir Simcha Chein on the train from Nevel to Leningrad. I didn’t know which Meir Simcha he was referring to. I did not know a Chassid by that name and I definitely did not remember telling him a story.

It was only after my father reminded me about the man in the empty train compartment who asked for a story that I remembered and happily repeated the story:

In the time of the Alter Rebbe, the Chassidim worked especially to draw close young scholars who would be able to absorb the depth of Chassidus. Those young men who were exposed to the special flavor of Chabad Chassidus often needed mesirus nefesh to make this move to become full-fledged Chassidim, since many of them were supported by their fathers-in-law. The Misnaged, upon hearing that his son-in-law had gotten involved with Chassidus, would stop supporting him.

There was a story with a young man who discovered the light of Chassidus. When his wealthy father-in-law found out that his son-in-law had become a Chassid, he told him that although he would not stop supporting him, he wanted to personally speak with the Alter Rebbe.

The rich father-in-law went to the Alter Rebbe and complained: Chassidus ruined my son-in-law! Before knowing of Chassidus, he sat and learned diligently for 18 hours a day. Once he started learning Chassidus, he began lessening his hours of learning and now he sits idle!

The Alter Rebbe said: You are making a mistake. Until now, your son-in-law learned three hours for you, so you would see that he’s learning, another three hours for the shvigger, so she would see that he’s learning, three more hours for his wife, so she would see that he’s learning, and three hours for the neighbor who would also see that he learns, and even a few hours for the cat, i.e., whenever the cat passed by the door and the son-in-law thought someone was looking at him, he would run and open a book so everyone would think he is learning. He only learned a few hours for real, because that is what Hashem wants. Now that he has learned Chassidus, he understands that “everything before Him is as naught,” and you, the shvigger, his wife, the neighbor, and the cat are no longer important in his eyes, so he isn’t running to learn every time you pass by. So it’s no wonder that it seems to you that he is learning less …

I told all this to the guest who, the entire time, stood with folded arms and with a big smile on his face.

After the guest left, I asked my father who he was and why they suddenly thought of the story about the Alter Rebbe which I was asked to tell them.

My father said: The guest who just left the house is Rabbi Shaul Ber Zislin (he later served as rav of the Chabad community in Tel Aviv) who heard the story from Rebbetzin Shterna Sara, the wife of the Rebbe Rashab, who told him that she heard if from R’ Meir Simcha Chein. He told everyone that he heard it from R’ Chonye’s Mendele.


In the winter of 5687, Mendel was standing near his house when a stranger approached him, walking alongside the government agent in charge of the building that he lived in, and asked where R’ Chonye Morosov lived. R’ Mendel smelled the danger and after saying he has no idea, he ran to tell his father that the NKVD was after him. R’ Chonye told him to come to the office immediately where he gave him some bundles of letters having to do with the Rebbe Rayatz’s activities, and told him to run away from the house. A few minutes later, the NKVD knocked at the door. Thanks to R’ Mendel’s quick thinking they did not find the incriminating documents, but even without that, they sentenced R’ Chonye to three years in exile which ended at the beginning of 5690.

Upon R’ Chonye’s return from exile, the Rebbe Rayatz was no longer in Russia; he had left two years earlier in Tishrei 5688. R’ Chonye decided to go underground and he took on a false identity and went to live in Vitebsk. R’ Mendel went to Polotzk where he learned in the underground yeshiva.

After a short time, the family moved back to Leningrad where R’ Chonye continued to be the Rebbe’s secret agent. He lived in a separate apartment while his family lived in an apartment registered in his son Mendel’s name.

In the winter of 5698, the NKVD caught up with R’ Chonye and arrested him again. A short while later they also arrested his son R’ Shmuel and both of them were murdered shortly after their arrest. The secret police also tried to arrest the younger son Pinchas, but he managed to escape from his house via the roof and to flee the city. R’ Mendel, who was afraid that he was next, escaped with his mother and moved to Moscow. In the big city it was easier to go unnoticed.

In the meantime, World War II began and when the Germans approached Moscow, R’ Mendel took his mother and fled eastward to Tashkent in Uzbekistan.


During the trip from Moscow to Tashkent, a Jew with a full beard boarded the train. This was a rare sight in Russia in those days. He went over to R’ Mendel and asked who he was. When he heard he was the son of R’ Chonye, he sat next to him and taught him a niggun. R’ Mendel asked who this Chassid was and was told his name is Moshe Charitonov. R’ Mendel knew his brothers, Aharon and Sholom, especially Sholom who davened for the Rebbe’s minyan on Rosh HaShana in Leningrad.

Years later, when R’ Mendel moved to Crown Heights and sang the niggun, it was unfamiliar to those who were knowledgeable about Chassidic niggunim. R’ Moshe Teleshevsky, who recorded the Nicho’ach series, asked R’ Mendel to sing the niggun. R’ Mendel wanted to be sure that he was singing it right and he called R’ Shimshon Charitonov, R’ Moshe’s nephew, and sang it for him.

R’ Shimshon said he had never heard that niggun from his father and it did not sound like his father’s style. But a few days later, R’ Shimshon called R’ Mendel and said that he searched through his father’s writings and found the notes for this niggun.

In 5704, R’ Mendel married Rosa, daughter of R’ Yitzchok Elchanan (may Hashem avenge his death) and Mrs. Mariasha Shagalov. After the war, he managed to obtain Polish passports and he left Russia under the agreement signed between Russia and Poland that enabled Polish citizens to leave Russia. After a long journey that began in Uzbekistan and continued with stops in Poland and DP camps in Germany, and then France, R’ Mendel and his wife immigrated to Dublin, Ireland where he worked as a shochet. In 5713 he went to the Rebbe and settled in Crown Heights.


He had yechidus with his family and asked what he should do regarding his father’s yahrtzait. Until then, they had no information about their father’s fate. They had heard from someone named Aharon Kuznitsov, who heard from a gentile in some camp that several weeks after R’ Chonye’s imprisonment, they executed him. The gentile specified a date that corresponded to 8 Nissan. R’ Mendel also heard, from someone else, a Jew who worked for the NKVD, about the barbaric way they killed his brother Shmuel in front of his father and then killed his father. This Jew also gave the date of 8 Nissan, but R’ Mendel refused to believe these stories so that he did not even tell his brothers.

The Rebbe told them that they first had to release their mother from being an aguna and as far as a yahrtzait the Rebbe said to do according to what they heard recently. As mentioned, R’ Mendel did not believe what he heard and so he did not think this is what the Rebbe meant, but thought the Rebbe meant what they heard from their father in prison. So he said to the Rebbe that since his father was imprisoned in Adar, they had heard nothing from him.

Upon leaving yechidus, they met another Chassid who did not know his father’s yahrtzait and the Rebbe told him to observe it on 10 Shevat, since this is the hilula of the Rebbe Rayatz. Based on this, they thought that since their father was certainly not killed on 10 Shevat, for he was arrested in Adar, they would establish his yahrtzait on 2 Nissan, the hilula of the Rebbe Rashab.

It was decades later, after the fall of communism, that the truth came out that he was murdered on 8 Nissan. That’s when R’ Mendel realized what the Rebbe meant when he said to do as he heard recently, referring to the testimony that he heard and refused to believe.


R’ Mendel worked in sh’chita in the United States, but after discovering serious kashrus issues, he decided to leave the field. At that time, his friend, R’ Michoel Teitelbaum, opened Oholei Torah and R’ Mendel joined the staff.

R’ Mendel was a member of the board and also served as a mashpia in the yeshiva g’dola. In this role he instilled a special chayus for Chassidus in the talmidim.

He was in elevated spirits at his farbrengens with a gentle smile on his face, and his Chassidic wit contained deep messages that only intensified with time.

At an advanced age, his mind was clear and he would recall the days that he merited to rub shoulders with the great Chassidim, to take in what they had to say and learn from their ways. His colleague, the mashpia, R’ Nachman Shapiro, noted that along with his stories and memories of earlier generations, R’ Mendel placed an emphasis on hiskashrus to the Rebbe MH”M and strengthened the belief in his prophecies and the imminent Geula.

Even in his final years, when he was weak and could not walk to shul, his mind was lucid. His family arranged a minyan in his house and whoever wanted to soak up some Chassidic liveliness combined with authentic recollections of Lubavitch, would go to R’ Mendel Morosov’s minyan. After the davening, they would proclaim “Yechi,” and then R’ Mendel would sit and share Chassidic memories along with the marching orders from the last sichos we heard from the Rebbe. Even when groups of Polish Chassidim came to farbreng with him, he emphasized the need to bond with the Rebbe and he spoke about the Rebbe being chai v’kayam even after the concealment of Gimmel Tammuz.

R’ Mendel passed away on 1 Shevat this year at the age of 101. He is survived by his wife, his sons: R’ Shneur Zalman and R’ Hershel, and his daughters: Mrs. Rochel Goldberg, Mrs. Shterna Sara Lesches. Mrs. Esther Friedman, Mrs. Leah Goldman, and Mrs. Henya Milecki, in addition to hundreds of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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