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Jun172015

A BEACON OF LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS OF SOVIET RUSSIA

The Chassid RChaim Eliyahu Mishulovin, a man who endured profound pain and suffering, devotedly preserved the spark of Judaism and was one of the outstanding leaders of the Chabad community in Samarkand. * Presented to mark his passing on 29 Sivan 5732.

R’ Eliyahu Mishulovin was born on 2 Cheshvan 5691/1930 to his parents Eliezer and Basya. The Mishulovin home was one of Torah and Yiras Shamayim, a home suffused with Chassidic feeling. The nameChaimwas added years later for the severe joint disease that he suffered since childhood.

In the summer of 5701/1941, the Germans invaded the length of Russia’s western border and many Jews fled eastward. Many Chabad Chassidim who fled settled in Samarkand in Uzbekistan where they were warmly welcomed by local Jews. Bucharian Jewry mobilized in aid of their brethren. Despite it being a difficult time, materially and spiritually, with the war disrupting supply lines and the Russian government fighting all religious practices, they helped the Chassidim acclimate to Samarkand.

News about the “city of refuge” was passed along and soon a large number of refugees from all over Russia had gathered there, including those who settled elsewhere and were happy to join their friends in the developing Chassidic community. Although the trip was arduous and dangerous, Chassidim flocked to Samarkand.

As soon as Anash arrived there, in the beginning of the winter of 5702, a terrible famine began. The government was unable to sustain the masses of refugees. There was bread rationing with no more than 400 grams distributed per day and sometimes it was less than that. Aside from starvation, the city was stricken by epidemics, such as typhus and what was known then as “fever disease,” which affected many Jews.

After about a year, the material famine subsided somewhat and Anash looked to improve their spiritual lives. R’ Yehuda Leib Levin took the responsibility for the maintenance of the Talmud Torah while in R’ Michoel Teitelbaum’s house a yeshiva slowly began to form. Not long afterward, it became a full-fledged yeshiva with classes and shiurim that matched the level of the students.

Eliyahu, who was very bright, was accepted directly into the highest class despite his young age. The maggid shiur was R’ Avrohom Eliyahu Plotkin who greatly enjoyed his young talmid and praised his deep thinking. The years he spent in R’ Plotkin’s class had a great influence on the boy, and over the years he would describe in amazement how R’ Plotkin would be completely immersed in learning, unaware of what was going on around him.

In 5706, when Polish refugees were permitted to leave Russia, Eliyahu and his brother, Dovid Dov, went to the border for the purpose of escaping the Iron Curtain. Alas, they were too late. Having no choice, they returned to Samarkand where they lived until they left the country about twenty years later.

CHASSIDIC TREASURE TROVE

With the great exodus from Russia, most of the Chassidim had left the country. The few who remained had to start reorganizing the Chassidic community, while under the watchful eye of NKVD spies.

A special guest came to town at this time, the Chassid R’ Chaim Avrohom Duchman, grandson of R’ Mordechai Yoel Duchman, one of the great Chassidim of the Tzemach Tzedek.

R’ Mordechai Yoel, who had an incredible memory, was a veritable treasury of Torah, Chassidus and stories of Chassidim. He remembered stories and sayings that he heard from reliable sources and he remembered them down to the smallest details. R’ Chaim Avrohom merited to serve his illustrious grandfather and was the closest grandchild to him. Since the power of memory was hereditary, you can understand what a treasure trove R’ Chaim Avrohom was for the Chassidim of Samarkand, especially the T’mimim. The latter took every opportunity to spend time with him and hear his stories. You were likely to see R’ Chaim Avrohom walking slowly down the street with Eliyahu Mishulovin next to him, listening closely to yet another story, yet another aphorism.

The stories were so dear to his heart that in order not to forget them he wrote them down. He added many other stories that he heard from elder Chassidim in Samarkand including R’ Dovber Itkin, R’ Yisroel Noach Blinitzky, R’ Simcha Gorodetzky, R’ Yerachmiel Chadash, R’ Benzion Maroz, R’ Mendel Futerfas, R’ Shmuel Kraslaver, his teacher R’ Avrohom Eliyahu Plotkin, R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman and others.

TAKING HIS YOUNGER BROTHER UNDER HIS WING

In 5714, he married Fruma Sarah, daughter of the Chassid R’ Avrohom Zaltzman. He worked for a living making signs for factories. Since he was artistic, he was successful. Although he worked many hours a day, when he went home he would immediately take his younger brother, R’ Michoel (later, mashpia in Nachalat Har Chabad), and sit and learn with him.

His brother later said, “He was mechanech me. I learned Gemara with other teachers and not just with him, but he was the one who opened the gates of Chassidus for me; he taught me Tanya.”

The strong impression that his learning with his brother made on him is apparent when, with a twinkle in his eyes, he says how after he learned chapter 24 of Tanya with his brother, he could not understand how one could do a sin – it’s literally avoda zara!

In addition to learning inside the text, his brother had him learn material by heart. On long summer Shabbos afternoons, when other children were playing outside, he would read to Michoel and test him on Tanya by heart.

That was not the full extent of his learning. He was a real genius in Chassidus. At six in the morning R’ Yerachmiel Chadash would go to the Mishulovin home to learn with R’ Eliyahu. R’ Yerachmiel was over seventy and had been one of the zitsers (married full time learners) in Lubavitch before the yeshiva was founded.

In Samarkand there was a Chassidishe melamed, R’ Benzion Maroz, who had been a melamed in Kremenchug and a talmid in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Lubavitch. He said that in Lubavitch, only R’ Shaul Ber Zislin knew how to learn Chassidus, and this young man also knows a little…

COMMUNITY MATTERS IN SAMARKAND

R’ Eliyahu’s Yiras Shamayim was legendary. Every year, he worked for an entire day as the mashgiach in the matza baking chabura of the rav of the city, R’ Shmaya Marinovsky. His job was to supervise the kneaders and he would walk behind them and be particular about every piece of dough that he came across. His payment for a hard day’s work was one whole matza and he was thrilled to have it.

In later years, R’ Eliyahu was made in charge of community matters. For example, he was responsible for obtaining flour for shmura matza or an esrog for Sukkos.

Although he was often confined to bed with his joint disease, he was a dominant figure in the community and many people would consult with him about how to avoid or limit the threat of the ever present secret police.

R’ Chaim Eliyahu was full of life and found favor in the eyes of G-d and man. On those Shabbasos when he could go to shul, he was one of the main speakers at farbrengens and people enjoyed hearing what he had to say. Even elder Chassidim, such as R’ Mendel and R’ Berke, enjoyed talking to him.

DOING AS R’ SHMUEL MUNKES DID

R’ Eliyahu was once sitting with his good friend R’ Aharon Zubrovsky in the shul in Samarkand, in the evening before Mincha. The person in charge of the food walked in and gave them a big pot of compote. In the Chabad shul in Samarkand it was customary to eat a third meal every Shabbos and R’ Yerachmiel Chadash would review a maamer from 5666.

The atmosphere was uplifted. The shul did not have electricity and so the meal took place in the dark, which added to the elevated atmosphere. The menu was always, bread, herring, and compote.

When the pot of compote was placed near the two friends, one of them lifted the cover and discovered, to his dismay, that the dried fruit from which the compote had been made were completely wormy. The friends, who were still young, knew that at the meal, in the dark, nobody would believe them and when they did not see the worms they were likely to transgress biblical prohibitions in their eagerness to eat the fruit after the herring.

When the congregation began Shmoneh Esrei, and they were facing forward, each of them grasped a side of the pot and emptied it into the garbage pail and then returned to their places where they davened Shmoneh Esrei without anyone seeing what they had done.

LATER YEARS

In 5729, R’ Chaim Eliyahu was able to make aliya and he settled in Kfar Chabad. He worked in the Tzach offices. Every Shabbos, two of the elders of the Kfar, R’ Zalman Butman and R’ Mulle Breizin, went to his house to learn. They could have learned in shul or in each other’s homes. However, they preferred to learn with someone decades younger than they were, even though he could not be physically present to join them in the learning. Now and then, he would make comments from his bed in the other room.

Despite his weak health, pain and suffering, he continued to write down stories of Chassidim. In 5731, when he had amassed a sizable number of stories, he wrote to the Rebbe and asked whether to publish them. The Rebbe circled the question and wrote, “If they were not published yet and if (obviously) it is reasonable to assume they are true.”

His poor health prevented him from publishing the stories and he was unable to go with his son who wanted to celebrate his bar mitzva at the Kosel. His brother Michoel went instead of him. His condition was so serious that he was unable to go up the stairs of Beit Shazar in order to hear the first broadcast of the Rebbe and so he heard it from outside. When the Chassidim came out after the broadcast, the excitement was visible on his face, “A Jew sits in New York and pushes the entire world toward G-dliness!”

He yearned to see the Rebbe, but was not able to realize this dream. He was hospitalized a number of times and underwent a complicated heart operation, an operation that was new in Eretz Yisroel at that time. Even during these difficult times, his strong Chassidic spirit was apparent, the spirit that carried him through Samarkand. Every time his brother Michoel came to visit him, he urged him to put t’fillin on with other patients who, like him, were bedridden and could not move. When his brother was shy about doing so, he said in astonishment, “Michoel, what happened to you? Mivtza t’fillin!”

After the operation, he was weakened as a result of certain exercises the doctors insisted upon. His heart gave out on 29 Sivan 5732/1972. Attending his funeral were nearly all those who had left Samarkand.

Forty years after his passing, the Rebbe’s directive was carried out when at the wedding of his grandchildren, the sons of R’ Gluckowsky published some of the stories as a t’shura.

 

STORIES FROM R’ CHAIM ELIYAHU ABOUT THE REBBE RAYATZ FOR GIMMEL TAMMUZ

WHAT WAS HIS MERIT?

When the Rebbe recovered from typhus in Rostov, he told the Rebbetzin details of his illness. Since the Rebbetzin did not hear well, the Rebbe spoke loudly and R’ Yisroel Neveler, who was in the house, heard the story. The Rebbe related that his father told him that he tried on his behalf in a number of supernal chambers and his prayer was not accepted and now he would go to the chamber of the Baal Shem Tov and he would return in two hours with an answer. When he returned, he had good news that his son would live and marry off his daughters.

“Do you know how I found merit in the chamber of the Baal Shem Tov? It was in the merit that I would sit every night until midnight and be busy filling out receipts for Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim.”

AS HIS CHILDREN ARE ALIVE, SO IS HE ALIVE

At the bris of the Rebbe Rayatz’s grandson, when the mohel reached the part when the baby’s name is said, the Rebbe alluded to him to name the baby for his father. The mohel did not understand and the Rebbe gave the sign again and did not say it. One of the people present, who it seems was not a Chassid, said to the Rebbe “not in his presence,” meaning that it is permitted to say one’s father’s name when he is not present. “Ah! In his presence, in his presence!” exclaimed the Rebbe.

A MIRACLE OF THE SHULCHAN ARUCH

When the Rebbe was in Leningrad, he was invited by one of the Chassidim to a Pidyon HaBen of his grandson, the son of a son who went astray. The Rebbe happily went but did not eat anything. When he was questioned about this, he asked whether they had immersed the new dishes. The Chassid was amazed by the miracle, but the Rebbe explained, “It wasn’t a miracle. When I came to eat, the laws of immersing dishes came to mind and I wondered why.”

 

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