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Tuesday
Jun282016

A HARSH EXILE IS WORTH MORE THAN A MILLION RUBLES

If they gave me a million rubles I would not go back to exile in Shymkent, but the merit of being in the exile of Shymkent I wouldn’t sell for a million rubles.” That is what the Chassid, R’ Chaim Elozor Gorelik, “Lozor der Melamed,” said when looking back upon his long and difficult exile. * Grandchildren tell about their grandfather.

Three Gorelik brothers and their father R’ Mendel, standing from right to left: Mordechai, Sholom Ber; sitting from right to left: R’ Chaim Elozor and R’ Mendel
The charges and sentence: Accused number 4 – Gorelik, Lozor, Accused number 5 – Gorelik, Mendel
TORAH FOR JEWISH CHILDREN

R’ Chaim Elozor Gorelik, who was known as “Lozor der Melamed,” was born in Paritch, White Russia in 5632. His parents were Mordechai and Sarah Faige Resnick. He was named Elozor at birth and the name Chaim was added during a childhood illness.

When he became of draft age, he changed his name to Gorelik, hoping to get out of army service and learn Torah instead. The name change helped and he did not have to serve.

He married Chaya Duba and the young couple lived in Szedrin where R’ Chaim Elozor taught Torah. In the morning he taught young children, in the afternoon he taught older bachurim, and at night he gave shiurim in shul for balabatim.

His granddaughter, Mrs. Faige Volovik, relates:

“He had a talent for teaching children and they loved him very much. Not surprisingly, wherever he lived over the years, he taught Jewish children.” One of his students was Zalman Shimon Dworkin, who later became rav of Crown Heights.

His grandson, R’ Eliezer Vilenkin, tells about his ability to assert his authority and maintain discipline among his students:

“A look from my grandfather was enough to let them know what he wanted. He did not yell, just looked, and that was enough.”

R’ Chaim Elozor put all his energy into his shiurim to the point that he began to feel very weak. His grandson, R’ Sholom Ber Gorelik, relates:

“The doctors told him to stop teaching so many hours and to spend more time resting. My grandfather wrote to the Rebbe Rashab about this and not long afterward the response came. The Rebbe told him to put a piece of bread with butter near his bed before he went to sleep. In the morning, when he got up, he should wash his hands and immediately eat the bread and this would improve matters.

“He did that for over ten years and boruch Hashem, he was able to continue his holy work with Jewish children and even saw the blessed results of his work.”

TRAGEDY AND ADVICE

Over the years, he had six children: Mordechai Menasheh, Aryeh Leib, Noach, Leah, Chiena, and Tzippa. Tragically, the five older ones died young. Only little Tzippa (Kozliner) remained. When his wife was expecting their next child, he went to the Rebbe Rashab and in yechidus poured out his heart and asked for a blessing that the baby that would be born would live long.

The Rebbe Rashab told him to do certain things, including moving to another city. He also told him that if a girl was born to name her Mushka, and if it was a boy, to name him Menachem Mendel.

R’ Chaim Elozor immediately moved his family to Rogatchov.

A daughter was born at the beginning of 5668 and she was named Mushka (Mussia Katzenelenbogen). A year and three months later, on Purim 5669, a son was born and was named Menachem Mendel.

A few years later, Mrs. Chaya Duba was expecting another baby. The pregnancy wasn’t easy and the couple was nervous. Upon his request, the Rogatchover Gaon came to their house and blessed the woman and the children. He told her to put a cup of water near her bed as a segula for an easy birth.

Mrs. Gorelik suffered from complications with her heart and the doctors warned her that it would be dangerous to give birth. Her due date was approaching; it was Tishrei time. R’ Chaim Elozor decided he would go to the Rebbe Rashab, as he always did. He did not travel to Lubavitch with peace of mind though, but he still did not want to give up his annual practice. He probably thought that being in the Rebbe’s presence would increase the blessings.

Indeed, he received word that his wife gave birth to a daughter and she was named Mariasha (Vilenkin).

Obviously, after the series of tragic losses, every additional child was extremely precious. His grandson, R’ Sholom Ber Gorelik, relates:

“When his later children were born, he would hug and kiss them endlessly, while praising and thanking G-d for a healthy child.”

JEWISH FORCEFULNESS

The Communist Revolution, which began in 5677, brought many troubles to the Jewish people. The new communist regime oppressed mitzva observers and required every citizen to send their children to government schools where the children were inculcated with atheistic and communist ideology.

A new era began and R’ Chaim Elozor, like many other Chassidim, knew that he had to go “underground” if he wanted to continue teaching Jewish children. He sent his son Mendel to learn in the Tomchei T’mimim yeshivos that were founded in Charkov and Nevel.

Much pressure was exerted on R’ Chaim Elozor and he was forced to send his two daughters, Tzippa and Mussia, to school. Every Shabbos the two came up with excuses for missing school.

Their regular absences aroused the ire of the teachers and the principal. Their father was called down for an urgent meeting, in the course of which they tried to threaten him if he continued with his Jewish stubbornness. But he told them that his daughters would not attend school on Shabbos, no matter what.

Indeed, that is what happened and the school looked away.

WAVE OF ARRESTS

The economy of Russia during those years was an unprecedented disaster. Starvation prevailed and yet, R’ Chaim Elozor, who made just a little money teaching children secretly, agreed to adopt the children of his fellow Chassid, R’ Yaakov Moskolik.

R’ Reuven Galperin relates:

“In 5683, my grandmother died, and her husband, R’ Yankel (Zuravitcher) Moskolik, was left alone with his children. The communists were after him and he sometimes had to go into hiding. He couldn’t continue raising his children this way, so R’ Chaim Elozor agreed to ‘adopt’ his four children.

“The girls, Matale, my mother Bluma, Frieda, and Mindel, lived with the Goreliks for six years, with R’ Chaim Elozor and his wife Duba doing all they could to raise his children like their own.”

From Rogatchov, R’ Chaim Elozor moved to a town called Lukonya where he served as rav. About two years later he moved to Stari-Russiya where he continued teaching children secretly.

In Stari-Russiya there weren’t many Jewish families who were religious, and R’ Chaim Elozor was afraid that the atmosphere would have a deleterious effect on his children. In 5695 he moved again, this time to Malachovka near Moscow, where there was a concentration of Chassidim. He worked as a watchman at night and during the day he continued teaching the children of Chassidim.

Three months after he arrived in Malachovka, he was arrested together with his son, Menachem Mendel.

It was Elul 5695/1935, when the NKVD began a wave of arrests. Heading their wanted list was R’ Avrohom Maiyor-Drizin who was the menahel of Yeshivos Tomchei T’mimim in the Soviet Union. The attempts to arrest him failed, but in the first wave of arrests seven Chassidim were arrested: R’ Chaim Elozor, his son Mendel, R’ Yaakov Moskolik, R’ Meir Avtzon, R’ Yitzchok Goldin, R’ Shlomo Matusof, and R’ Abba Levin.

The Chassidim sent letters to the Rebbe Rayatz in which they informed him of the arrests and asked for a bracha for those who were incarcerated and for all the Chassidim who went underground. Not long afterward, the Rebbe’s coded letter arrived at the home of R’ Zalman Alpert (Kornitzer):

“Until Hashem, blessed be He, has mercy and they recover [are released] with Hashem’s help, all those who are sick [incarcerated], be careful and may Hashem send a complete healing to the sick and watch over all who are healthy and prepare their livelihood for them amply and peacefully, and may they and their entire households be healthy and whole materially and spiritually.”

GOING INTO EXILE

The seven prisoners were transferred to the secret police station in Moscow, Lubyanka, where they were tortured by the NKVD interrogators. They demanded information from them about who organized the chadarim and yeshivos, who taught, who financed it, who were the directors and which parents sent their children to these institutions. Despite the harsh questioning, the Chassidim remained silent. They were then transferred to the Butyrka prison where they remained until they were sentenced.

After many weeks of waiting, the charges were read to them:

“The accused organized learning for boys and youth called cheder and yeshiva, in Malachovka near Moscow. The learning took place in the apartments of counter-revolutionaries. They gathered youth who were on the intellectual level to serve as teachers and they were taught so they could serve as teachers. They taught Talmud and various commandments of the religion.”

In the file that spans six pages, the words “anti-Soviet” appears dozens of times for the purpose of establishing the final accusation, paragraph 58, titled “Traitors to their homeland.”

In the end, miraculously and with heaven’s mercy, they were given a relatively light sentence, three years of exile in Kazakhstan.

Shortly thereafter, the prisoners were taken to the train station to be sent to exile. The daughter Mussia describes the emotional parting scene:

“I was with my mother at the last encounter before my father and brother Mendel went to Kazakhstan. We stood behind bars and spoke for a few minutes during which our tears flowed. My father said to me: There are big tzaros and everyone is ‘sitting,’ including priests and professors.

“I will never forget the way my father looked at that time. On his head was a towel. At first I did not understand why and then I realized that he did not have a yarmulke and so he put a towel on his head.”

The long trip from Moscow to Kazakhstan was briefly described by R’ Shlomo Matusof in his Rishmei Biurim:

“After Tishrei, they transferred us to the prisoner train and returned the t’fillin that were taken from all of us, and other items. We also received packages of food from our families and we were considered ‘wealthy’ prisoners with baggage. They moved us from station to station like we were regular prison inmates. At every important stop they brought us to the local prison, and this is how we spent a month or more.

“We arrived in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, and spent a few days in jail. Then we went to Alma Ata (Almaty), the capital of Kazakhstan, and from there we traveled to Shymkent, a district city in Kazakhstan. That was the last stop. They left the Goreliks, father and son, to live in Shymkent. They sent Yitzchok Goldin and Meir Avtzon to Turkistan. They sent Yaakov Moskolik and Abba Levin and me to a little village, thirty-five kilometers away from Shymkent, by the name of Halkina.”

Although the prisoners were not sentenced to hard labor, just staying in this exile was unbearable. The living conditions were terrible. There was no running water or electricity, the local residents lived in abject poverty in mud hovels. Under these miserable conditions, the prisoners had to arrange food and minimal living conditions. Obviously, under the circumstances, none of the locals were going to help traitors.

Every week, they had to show up and sign in at the NKVD office to prove they were still in the place to which they had been exiled and had not escaped.

R’ Chaim Elozor’s daughter, Mariasha, decided to travel to Shymkent to be of help to her father and brother. A half a year later, Chaya Duba joined them, together with her grandson Mottel Kozliner.

R’ Berel Vilenkin, a grandson, relates:

“The period of exile is shrouded in mystery, because my grandparents, mother, and uncle Mendel did not like talking about those hard times. However, some years ago, my cousin, Mottel Kozliner, told me a little about what my grandfather and uncle went through.

“My grandfather was already over sixty and he wasn’t healthy. His condition was extremely fraught after the interrogations and torture he endured. It was clear to me that he would not survive without outside help. His daughter, my mother, went to Shymkent by regular train. When she arrived there, she found out that the prisoners, including my father, had not arrived yet. Having no choice, she had to wait for him. In the meantime, she found shelter in the home of a local Kazakh to whom she told she had run away from home.

“Every day, my mother went to the train station to look out for the prisoners. She was very nervous about the delay and realized that the prisoners were being moved from place to place. She cried a lot during that time, praying that her father and brother would arrive quickly and in peace. Some weeks passed before she saw her father and brother alight from the train of prisoners.

“As mentioned, a half year later my grandmother also came, along with Mottel Kozliner, who came to learn Torah with my grandfather.

“My mother was a seamstress by profession and this is how she supported the family. She also helped them with cooking, obtaining food, and whatever was needed. My grandfather, despite knowing his daughter well, could not help but be moved by her self-sacrifice, for she was already of marriageable age, and instead of building her home, she willingly went into exile in order to help him. From the depths of his heart he blessed her that she merit a good husband.

“His prayer was answered and my mother married my father, R’ Sholom, son of R’ Shneur Zalman Vilenkin, the Rebbe’s melamed.”

We can also learn about the bare living conditions in Shymkent from the story of his granddaughter, Devorah Boroshansky:

“In those days we lived in Samarkand. I was once upset about not being able to light the oven. At that time, R’ Berel Yaffe was staying in our house, who also had been in exile in Shymkent. When he saw I was upset he said, ‘You are upset over a stove that does not light. In Shymkent we would split every match lengthwise because there was a shortage of matches. Obviously, it wasn’t easy to light an oven with a split match.’”

Rivka Gorelik, a granddaughter, adds:

“It was very hard obtaining food. It was also hard to obtain pots and dishes, because they did not have money for new ones. They had to find old ones that could be kashered. My mother would tell how after much effort she obtained a pot which they kashered and used.”

Those exiled tried to maintain a life of Torah and mitzvos as much as possible in the wilderness of Kazakhstan. R’ Mendel Gorelik said that one Shabbos they managed to arrange a minyan in the home of R’ Berel Yaffe, also in exile. Others exiled to the area also somehow managed to get there, including R’ Yaakov Moskolik. Throughout the Shabbos there were t’fillos with a minyan and farbrengens in which the mashke and tears flowed.

On Motzaei Shabbos, when they went out to sanctify the new moon, R’ Yaakov Moskolik said bitterly, “The moon is crying over us when it sees what a harsh situation we are in.”

That was the last time R’ Chaim Elozor and Mendel saw R’ Yaakov Moskolik. A short while later he was arrested again and his whereabouts are unknown. May Hashem avenge his blood.

EXILE AND A MILLION RUBLES

After three years in exile, R’ Chaim Elozor was supposed to be released but the legal documents stating his sentence term were lost. He had to remain in exile until the documents that listed his exact sentence were found. His exile was extended until his daughter Mussia received a bracha from the Rebbe Rayatz. A short while later, the exiles and their families returned home to Malachovka. This was in 5699.

R’ Eliezer Vilenkin, a grandson, relates:

“My grandfather once said that if he were given a million rubles, he would not return to exile in Shymkent; on the other hand, he would not sell the merit of being in exile in Shymkent for a million rubles.”

A FUNERAL AND BRIS SIMULTANEOUSLY

With the outbreak of war between Germany and Russia, the Germans conquered large swaths of Russia. Tens of thousands of civilians left their homes and escaped deep into Russia.

Among the refugees was the Gorelik family that went to distant Samarkand in Uzbekistan. They remained there for a few years until the end of the war.

The Rebbe sent word to the Chassidim that they should learn the first twelve chapters of Tanya by heart. R’ Chaim Elozor, who was seventy already and had suffered a lot, began learning the chapters of Tanya by heart. Every so often he would ask his son-in-law R’ Sholom Vilenkin to test him.

Along with learning Tanya, he taught Torah to his grandsons and granddaughters. He taught Chumash to his grandson, R’ Sholom Ber, and alef-beis to his granddaughters.

After the war, they heard of the possibility of leaving Russia with Polish passports. Many Chassidim escaped across the border at Lvov with forged papers.

R’ Chaim Elozor decided to try and leave. He and his wife and daughter Mariasha went to Lvov, with a stopover in Moscow.

Divine providence wanted otherwise and while in Moscow he suddenly became sick with pneumonia. This was in addition to the pains and infirmities he suffered from in those years.

On Monday, 9 Kislev 5707, he passed away. He was buried near the grave of Rabbi Moshe Leib Ginsberg, son-in-law of the Rebbe Maharash, in Malachovka.

As he was buried, far away, his grandson was being circumcised. His granddaughter, Devorah Boroshansky, relates:

“I was in the Gorelik home as they all planned on going out for the bris, when suddenly there was knocking at the door. It was the mailman who brought a telegram announcing the passing of my grandfather. My uncle Mendel put on non-leather shoes, tore his garment and went to the bris of his son.”

Before the bris, R’ Mendel asked Rabbi Shmuel Notik, may Hashem avenge his blood, whether he could name his son for his father when he had already decided to name him for the Rebbe Maharash. R’ Notik said yes, and so, as the grandfather was brought to his final resting place, the G-dly soul entered his newborn grandson who was named Chaim Elozor.

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