MECHANECH AND MASHPIA
February 10, 2015
Shneur Zalman Berger in #961, Obituary

R’ Avrohom Meizlich ah was a model of what it means to be a true mechanech and mashpia. He did not need to wait for farbrengens with many participants in order to share his heartfelt Chassidic wealth with someone else. * Already as a young man, he was a leading activist, spreading Judaism and doing mivtzaim.

LEADING THE WAY

R’ Avrohom Bentzion Meizlich was born in 1933 in Yerushalayim. On his father’s side he was a seventh generation descendant of the renowned Chassid of the Alter Rebbe, R’ Moshe Meizlich. On his mother’s side he was a descendant of the gaon, R’ Avrohom Shaag, one of the great rabbanim in Hungary.

In an interview that R’ Meizlich gave he said that in the period after World War II he went with a relative to the old cemetery in Chevron in order to visit the grave of his celebrated ancestor, R’ Moshe Meizlich. There was no gravestone, only a stone that served as a marker. “Here lies our great forebear the Chassid, R’ Moshe Meizlich,” said his uncle. Sadly, when Chevron was under Arab control from 1948 until the Six Day War in 1967, the Arabs plowed the cemetery and nothing remains of the Chassid’s grave.

In his youth, R’ Avrohom Meizlich learned in Eitz Chayim in Yerushalayim but being a doer, he led the way in the battle for Torah and Judaism. Despite his young age, he worked to strengthen Judaism among the new immigrants under HaMachaneh HaTorati (today, Yad L’Achim). The newspaper HaTzofeh reported about the parties that took place on Tu B’Shvat 5711 in the transit camps and where immigrants lived, under the auspices of the Education Ministry in collaboration with HaMachaneh HaTorati. Among the organizers of the parties you can see R’ Avrohom Meizlich’s name.

For a while, he was part of the “chareidi underground” which instilled fear in those who desecrated the Shabbos and publicly sold treif. The final act of the daring group, which was done together with R’ Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l, was the attempt to stir up public opinion during the Knesset debate about drafting girls into the army. The attempt failed and the members of the group, including R’ Avrohom, were arrested, but they were soon released.

He went on to learn in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Pardes-Lud where he became a close disciple of the mashpia, R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman. At the same time, he continued his work in strengthening Jewish awareness among the new immigrants who were pouring into the country. His activities entailed bitter battles with the authorities who tried to divert the immigrants from Torah and mitzvos.

R’ Saadia Maatof of Nachalat Har Chabad, who recently passed away, told me that R’ Zushe Partisan along with R’ Avrohom Meizlich, R’ Tzvi Greenwald and R’ Sholom Ber Laine, brought many of the immigrants from Habban, Yemen to Chabad, “and everything is in their merit.” This is a “tribe” of extended families throughout the country that are Chabad Chassidim today including the Mifi, Maatof, Samayach and Hillel families.

CHASSIDISHE WEDDING

R’ Avrohom’s marriage to Esther, daughter of the mashpia, R’ Yehoshua Lipkin, took place at the Babad hotel in Yerushalayim. It was a wedding full of authentic Chassidishe spirit and later on, the chassan wrote about his wedding:

“I brought a crate of mashke and asked my brother-in-law to put one bottle on each table, and when a bottle would be emptied he should replace it. The chevra took a lot of mashke and the Chassidishe simcha burst forth, full force. Groups sat and farbrenged and at the dais sat distinguished rabbanim like R’ Shlomo Yosef Zevin and R’ Shmaryahu Sasonkin together with my father-in-law, R’ Lipkin.

“Then one of the T’mimim who had just returned from 770 approached the dais. After taking a lot of l’chaim, he began shouting at the people sitting on the dais: You all must go to the Rebbe. Why don’t you go to the Rebbe?

“At that time, very few went to the Rebbe. The people sitting there tried to excuse themselves but the inebriated bachur proclaimed: Whoever doesn’t travel to the Rebbe won’t live out the year. 

“R’ Sasonkin yelled at him: We were taught that someone who comes from the Rebbe reviews a maamer and doesn’t talk that way. 

“The bachur immediately reviewed a maamer by heart that he recently heard from the Rebbe.

“The farbrengen continued for a long time. The management of the hotel urged the families to leave, but the guests refused. It was only toward morning that the wedding-farbrengen ended.”

FORTY YEARS OF LEADERSHIP

For forty years, R’ Avrohom was involved in chinuch and was considered a successful educator. He told Beis Moshiach about the beginning of his educational career:

“It all began one year in the 50’s when one of the teachers in the school in Kfar Chabad became sick. The hanhala of the school asked the hanhala of the yeshiva that was in Lud for a suitable replacement. R’ Shlomo Chaim asked me to be the substitute. Although I was a chassan, I accepted the job with kabbalas ol. After I married, the hanhala of the school asked that I continue working for them. I taught in the school in Kfar Chabad for four years.”

He then went to work as the menahel of the Chabad school of the Reshet in Nes Tziyona. A short while later he went to the Rebbe for the first time. This trip entailed miracles which he would often relate, as his grandson, R’ Shmuel Gewirtz, recounts:

“When my grandfather was recently hospitalized, I went with a tiny bottle of vodka in my pants’ pocket. In the middle of the visit, I suggested that we farbreng and took out the bottle and poured it into cups which they gave out for medication. My grandfather sang a few niggunim and told some stories about avoda and haskala of Chassidus, including the following episode.

“At the beginning of that school year, they asked him to run the Reshet school which had just opened in Nes Tziyona. There were only two classes in the new school and R’ Avrohom himself taught one of them. The Chabad school, which had just opened, was attached for the interim to the religious school in Nes Tziyona but it was only natural that the menahel of the religious school was nervous about Chabad and tried to undermine the development of the Chabad school.

“R’ Avrohom went to the Rebbe for Tishrei and told the substitute teacher that if the menahel would ask about him, he should say he did not feel well that day which is why he was the substitute. The menahel came one day and asked about R’ Avrohom and the teacher blurted out that he had gone to the Rebbe. The menahel took the opportunity to report him to the supervisor at the Education Ministry. A letter was sent to R’ Avrohom saying he had to report to the supervisor’s office as soon as he returned to the country.

“R’ Avrohom, in the meantime, was unaware that anything had happened in his absence. When he had yechidus, he asked whether he should continue with chinuch in Kfar Chabad or in Nes Tziyona. The Rebbe asked for details and in the end, there was one question for which R’ Avrohom did not have an answer and so the matter remained unresolved.

“While he was still in the US he found out about the supervisor. R’ Avrohom reported this to the Rebbe’s office so it could be conveyed to the Rebbe.

“On Motzaei Shabbos B’Reishis, R’ Avrohom went for kos shel bracha as he held two cups, one for himself and one for his father-in-law. When he held out the second cup and asked for wine for his father-in-law, the Rebbe looked at him with a smile and said: With your right hand. R’ Avrohom exchanged cups and the Rebbe poured the wine. When he wanted to say l’chaim to the Rebbe, he lifted ‘his’ cup which was now in his left hand. Once again, the Rebbe told him with a smile: With your right hand. 

“R’ Avrohom exchanged cups and said l’chaim and then continued on his way, but he was called back by the Rebbe. The Rebbe bent down and took a small bottle of vodka from under the table and gave it to R’ Avrohom saying: This is for Nes Tziyona. That was the Rebbe’s decisive answer.

“When R’ Avrohom returned to Eretz Yisroel, he went to the office of the supervisor who asked him about his unauthorized trip. R’ Avrohom said he was uncertain as to where to work and he had gone to consult with the Rebbe. ‘And? What did the Rebbe say?’ asked the supervisor. ‘The Rebbe blessed me to continue in Nes Tziyona and even gave me a bottle of mashke especially for Nes Tziyona to say l’chaim there.’

“R’ Avrohom took out the bottle, put it on the table and explained to the supervisor that the bottle was still closed and now the time had come to open it and say l’chaim together.

“The supervisor closed the door to his office and they said l’chaim. Needless to say, the matter ended there and R’ Avrohom ran the school in Nes Tziyona for many years and oversaw its tremendous growth.”

After ten years in Nes Tziyona, he moved and became a teacher in the vocational school in Kfar Chabad. In this position he developed warm ties with the students and showered them with warmth and love along with Chassidishe hashpaa. One proof to the strong relationship he had with his students is the fact that every year R’ Avrohom went to the Rebbe for Tishrei and he always took along some talmidim. 

MASHPIA WITH ALL HIS HEART AND SOUL

R’ Avrohom was a dynamic personality and led the way in hafatzas ha’maayanos. When the Rebbe told him to work with IDF soldiers during the Yom Kippur War, he went to the Sinai Peninsula with a group of his students, as he told me some years ago:

“When the war broke out, I was a 12th grade teacher. On Chanuka I went on mivtzaim in the Sinai with students from the school. They all worked with holy excitement and we traveled together on public transportation till the Sinai. The students went around themselves to the various army posts and gave out coins for a blessing as emissaries of the Rebbe. Despite their youth, they entered the large army camp there and got permission to address the soldiers. They set up two crates, one on top of the other, and the speaker stood on them and told the soldiers about Chanuka. Then they gave out coins for tz’daka and bracha. It wasn’t an easy trip and it took a lot out of them.”

R’ Avrohom was a teacher in the vocational school for decades until he retired, but he never left the position of mechanech and mashpia. In recent years he served as a teacher of Chassidus and as a mashpia in Tomchei T’mimim in Rishon L’Tziyon. “Those were fantastic years for him,” said one of his grandchildren. “He considered it a privilege to teach in the yeshiva whose initial founder had been his teacher, the mashpia R’ Chaim Shaul Brook.”

R’ Avrohom put all his strength into preparing shiurim and farbrengens. In yeshiva they say that R’ Avrohom would surprise the bachurim with valuable gifts or pamphlets that he treasured because he gave everything he had to the T’mimim, the main thing being that they be immersed in Torah study and the avoda of t’filla. Three times a week he would attend the Chassidus class in the morning and at 7:00 on the dot he would stand in the doorway of the zal and make sure seder began on time. If there were latecomers, he might devote an entire shiur to the importance of kabbalas ol in keeping the s’darim.

Over the years, R’ Avrohom received guidance from the Rebbe about chinuch and he shared this with the staff.

Upon his passing, a list was found in his coat pocket with the names of the talmidim from the yeshiva along with personal notes about each one, who needed encouragement, etc.

During his final illness, the bachurim went to visit him now and then. Each time he would say: When R’ Shaul was sick, he did not allow the bachurim to visit him because he said, “Talmud Torah is greater than Bikkur Cholim. What are you looking for – mitzvos?” Still, each time the bachurim went to visit, the members of the household said his condition improved. The last time the bachurim visited him was on Chanuka, and he asked for detailed information from each of them about their learning. When he heard that Shabbos Chanuka was an “off” Shabbos (as it is in all yeshivos) he exclaimed, “If you listen to me, you will remain in yeshiva for Shabbos. How can you not be in yeshiva for Shabbos Mevarchim?!”

Before the bachurim left, he parted with them emotionally. “You have no idea how much kochos the Rebbeim are giving you. Every day in yeshiva is incredible spiritual strength for life. Use every minute in yeshiva!” Those were his parting words to the bachurim he loved so much.

His daughter Shaindel:

“My father belonged not just to us but to the many talmidim who were raised in our home and were like his children. Wherever we go, we get comments like, ‘Ah, your father saved me. He saved my family!’ My father, with his pure faith, made a huge impact on peoples’ lives.

“It was amazing to see the tremendous admiration he felt toward his talmidim. In Tishrei one of the years, he pointed out a bachur from the yeshiva in Rishon L’Tziyon where he worked as a mashpia and said to me, ‘He’s a real hero. What efforts he made in order to come to the Rebbe. I couldn’t stand off to the side and not help him. So I lent him half the ticket.’”

R’ Avrohom was a mashpia through and through. As it’s explained in Chassidus, the way of a mashpia is to influence and he looked for every opportunity to share his spiritual wealth. He never waited for a farbrengen with many participants but regularly impacted his environment in pleasant ways. Every conversation with young or old, talmid or colleague, member of the household or any encounter with a Chassid was interwoven with interesting and useful words of hashpaa.

CHASSID AND MEKUSHAR

As a Chassid and mekushar to the Rebbe with every fiber of his being, R’ Avrohom went to the Rebbe every year for Tishrei. The first time he went was for Tishrei 5721/1960 on the first charter flight.

He told about his first yechidus and the miracle that occurred, at his last farbrengen in the yeshiva in Rishon L’Tziyon:

“Many Chassidim came from Eretz Yisroel and the Rebbe agreed to see them between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur (although this was not the usual time for yechidus). But there were only three days in which this could be done. The secretariat therefore ran the yechidus very exactingly so that everyone would have a chance. Each of the guests was given a blue paper on which he had to fill out his name, about his family, and the number of children and his occupation so it could be given to the Rebbe as soon as he walked in. 

“When I received the paper I was very surprised that the Rebbe needed these notes. The story went through my head about R’ Shmuel Munkes who told the Alter Rebbe before his arrest – ‘If the Rebbe is a Rebbe, then what does he need this for?’ When I brought this up to R’ Leibel Groner he yelled at me and asked where my kabbalas ol was.

“Then, when I walked into the yechidus with the blue paper, I just stood on the threshold. Before I got any further, the Rebbe asked me how my wife is and continued to discuss other personal matters. I saw that the Rebbeim hide things in a mantle of ‘nature’ but they are really completely above nature. The Rebbe has intimate knowledge of each of his Chassidim and mekusharim, in the most precise and supernatural way.”

For R’ Avrohom, every word of the Rebbe, every act or instruction, was holy of holies, and this is what he taught his children, as his daughter Shaindel relates:

“When my father merely heard the word Rebbe, he would stand like a soldier and listen up. I remember one morning about 42 years ago when my father woke me up early in great excitement and asked me to say the morning brachos with great concentration, to say some lines of Tanya, and to make spiritual preparations. Then he handed me, with trembling hands and sparkling eyes, a letter which had arrived for me from the Rebbe. My father also woke up the rest of the family and they all stood in great excitement to hear what the Rebbe wrote. Then there was an entire farbrengen on every word that the Rebbe wrote in his handwriting – holy of holies.

“Despite his multifaceted communal work, he sat with us children every day, at the same time, to learn Chitas together. Everybody knew that everyone’s presence was important.

“Every morning, he would wake us up with a Chassidishe niggun before going to teach. And with all his responsibilities he always found the time to listen to things on our mind. He would sit with us children, the girls too, every Shabbos from six in the morning, and teach kuntres U’Maayan MiBeis Hashem or Likkutei Sichos [he took part in translating the first volumes of Likkutei Sichos].”

When he went to the Rebbe for Tishrei, you could see R’ Avrohom at Seder Chassidus. You might see him running on Kingston from the mikva toward 770 so he wouldn’t, G-d forbid, miss the minyan with the Rebbe.

He demanded more of himself than of others, even of those fifty years younger than himself. He never made peace with physical limitations, as though he forgot how old he was.

CHASSIDISHE SIMCHA TILL THE LAST MOMENT

He fell ill two months ago and was in and out of the hospital. After Chanuka he returned home but did not regain his strength. On Shabbos VaYechi, while davening Shacharis, he lost consciousness and after being revived he was rushed to the hospital. Despite all efforts he passed away on Motzaei Shabbos at the age of 82.

R’ Avrohom is survived by his wife and a beautiful family who go in the ways of Torah and Chassidus: R’ Yosef Yitzchok, shliach in Mexico, R’ Moshe, R’ Menachem, Mrs. Henya Elishevitz, Mrs. Batsheva Gewirtz, and Mrs. Shaindel Schechter.

(With thanks to the grandchildren, Shmuel Gewirtz and Chaim Meizlich, for their speedy and generous help.)

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