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RMichoel of Nevel would walk to the Tzemach Tzedek. He was taught by the Chassid, RPeretz Chein. For a while he worked making ovens and while he worked he would talk Chassidus. In his older years he was a mashpia in Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim in Lubavitch. He excelled in Ahavas Yisroel and was an oveid. He passed away on Motzaei Shabbos 28 Cheshvan 5672/1911. The Rebbe Rashab participated in his funeral.” * This is how the Rebbe described the mashpia whom the Rebbe Rayatz called, “the crown of Tomchei Tmimim.”


The date of R’ Michoel Bliner’s birth is unknown. He himself refused to talk about it (some say in fear of an ayin ha’ra), but we can conclude from what he said at a farbrengen that he was born in the lifetime of the Mitteler Rebbe (1773-1827). On that occasion he said that when he walked to the Tzemach Tzedek in Lubavitch he was still blonde, i.e. in his youth.

On one of those occasions he witnessed an awesome scene. It was when R’ Hillel of Paritch was sick. The Tzemach Tzedek called upon ten men, including R’ Michoel, poured l’chaim, said the name of R’ Hillel and his mother, and added, “at a feast with wine there is ‘what is your request and it will be given to you …’”

He was taught in Nevel by R’ Peretz Chein, the father of the celebrated Chein dynasty. We have no details about this period in his life or the years that followed. Still, his hiskashrus to the Chabad Rebbeim was a byword. As mentioned, he would walk from Nevel to Lubavitch and this wasn’t due to lack of transportation but to fulfill the mitzva of aliya l’regel. After the passing of the Tzemach Tzedek, he became mekushar to the Rebbe Maharash and then the Rebbe Rashab.

At a farbrengen on the eve of 20 Kislev 5693, the Rebbe Rayatz told the famous story about the wagon which stopped by divine imperative on Friday when the Alter Rebbe wanted to stop. He added, “R’ Michoel the elder from Nevel knew Chassidim of the Alter Rebbe who pointed at the spot where the Alter Rebbe spent Shabbos. When he spoke about this he had excitement and an arousal of fear of heaven and feelings of lofty character, far beyond the degree of inspiration in our times from learning inyanei avoda.”

He would say that he could not finish os beis in the maamer “Ani L’Dodi,” the first in Likkutei Torah, since he dissolved in tears. He would say that it was obvious to him that if he did not learn Likkutei Torah one day, he would die. There were times that due to being preoccupied with earning a livelihood he did not learn (every day) but that is how he felt about it.

R’ Shmuel Pruss related:

“I heard from Chassidim who were witnesses that at the edge of Nevel there was a pond with a lot of fish. Every Thursday night, R’ Michoel would go there as the fishermen did their work and he would choose the biggest, best fish, pay them whatever they asked, and carry the fish on his shoulders quite a distance until the train station. There he would find a Jew traveling to Lubavitch and he would give him the fish to bring to the Rebbe’s house in honor of Shabbos. He did not stop this practice even in his older years.

“His friends once said to him: Michoel, why do you put in so much effort? You are not young and the fish are heavy. Why don’t you hire a wagon driver so the fish reach the station faster and without exertion? 

“R’ Michoel replied: What?! A horse should drag the fish for the Rebbe and not me?!”

Things that he heard from the Rebbeim in yechidus were etched into his memory and guided him all his life. In a sicha said on Shavuos 1934, the Rebbe Rayatz spoke about the advantage of someone who has the ability to imagine and can picture in his mind things of the past and he brought R’ Michoel as an example:

When he was a young man, one of his children was very sick. The doctors gave up and said nothing more could be done. R’ Michoel went to a group of Chassidim and told them the tragic situation. The Chassidim encouraged him, in order to lift his spirits, and said surely Hashem would have mercy and he should go to Lubavitch immediately.

R’ Michoel burst into tears and said he greatly desired going to the Rebbe but the doctors said it was a matter of hours, so why should he go?

One of the elder Chassidim yelled at him and said: The Gemara says, a person should not withhold himself from [arousing] mercy and certainly the heavenly defending angels would do their work by Hashem and wait until he got to the Rebbe.

One of the Chassidim, a tailor and a friend of R’ Michoel, joined R’ Michoel on his trip to Lubavitch. On the way, they had several opportunities for cheap rides so they would not have to walk. Upon arriving in Lubavitch, R’ Michoel was able to see the Rebbe immediately.

“When I walked in,” said R’ Michoel, “and gave the pidyon nefesh for the boy, I wondered if he was even alive, as the doctors had said it was a matter of hours, and I burst into tears.

“The Rebbe read the note and said to me: Don’t cry, think positively and it will be good. Don’t cry out, you will yet attend the bar mitzvas of the grandchildren.

“In every difficult time,” said R’ Michoel (and in his household they suffered from tzaar gidul banim), “I would picture the Rebbe’s holy face and what he said, ess iz mir gevoren goot oifen hartzen (lit. and it became for me good on the heart).”


When the yeshiva was first founded by the Rebbe Rashab, he mentally assigned R’ Michoel the job of mashpia and waited for the opportunity to offer it to him. When R’ Michoel arrived in Lubavitch in one of the first years since the yeshiva was founded, the Rebbe made him the offer. (In another version, the Rebbe offered it to him when the number of talmidim grew.)

At that time, R’ Michoel was mashpia in Nevel and leaving the townspeople was hard both for him and for them. The mashpia R’ Avrohom Drizin related:

When they heard in Nevel that the Rebbe wanted to take R’ Michoel and make him the mashpia in the yeshiva, the townspeople were crestfallen. It was hard for them to part from their beloved mashpia whose guidance and impact on the town was immense and whose love for each of them, elder Chassidim down to young boys, was famous. Spontaneously, they all signed a request to the Rebbe that he agree to leave them their mashpia who has such a profound influence on them.

The family added their own request to this letter: R’ Michoel has problems with his feet, especially in the cold and rainy season, and his family in Nevel can treat him, which they would not be able to do if he is in pain in Lubavitch. The letter was given to a family member who immediately left for Lubavitch and presented the letter to the Rebbe.

The Rebbe read the letter, thought about it and then said: Michoel needs the yeshiva more than any other place. As for his health, he will be well here.

Obviously, after hearing that, they had nothing else to say and R’ Michoel moved to Lubavitch. He had been widowed a while before and he moved to Lubavitch with one of his sons, Shmuel, who opened an inn for the bachurim and guests. It was one of the eighteen inns in Lubavitch and it was called, “the inn of Shmuel Michoel’s.”

The Rebbe Rashab, as is known, wanted to know about the particular state of every talmid and he asked that a detailed report be written often to him. He gave this task to his son, later to be the Rebbe Rayatz, since he was the acting dean of the yeshiva. In the winter of 5661, the yeshiva’s debts ballooned and the Rebbe Rayatz was busy working on improving the yeshiva’s financial state. The job of writing reports was given to the mashpiim, R’ Gronem and R’ Michoel. The Rebbe Rashab was in the health spa in Wershofen. In one letter from Shvat 5661, the Rebbe wrote to his son, “I received a letter from our friend, R’ Michoel, with great pleasure and delight. Thanks to Hashem that He has given them a heart to serve Him and to be involved in His holy Torah.”

When he gave shiurim, he did not look at the students’ faces to see whether they were listening and this had a good effect on the talmidim as the Rebbe Rayatz testified, “not in terms of comprehension or avoda, but like [the impact of] essence.”


R’ Michoel’s Ahavas Yisroel was a byword. He took an interest in others and their pain was his, especially when it came to the bachurim. The people in Nevel said about him that during the cold season he did not rest at night until he managed to get logs for the fireplace, carried them on his shoulder, and brought them to homes of the poor who shivered in the cold, especially those who had small children. Where there was nobody to light a fire, he would do so.

R’ Mordechai Perlov, in his book Likkutei Sippurim, relates:

“On Isru Chag Sukkos 5671, I had to report for the draft and I was very nervous. That day I davened early so I would have enough time to go to the holy ohalim in Lubavitch (of the Tzemach Tzedek and the Rebbe Maharash) and to get to where the wagon was collecting passengers at ten o’clock for a ride to the train station in Krasnaya.

“I remember that I cried a lot. Then I went to R’ Michoel for his bracha and I cried again. I said goodbye and left. After I presented myself and boruch Hashem was exempted, I returned to my parents’ home. When I returned to Lubavitch, one of my friends (who was present when I met with R’ Michoel) said that at one point R’ Michoel said, ‘Motke Charsoner (Perlov) took away a piece of my health, going to such a place!’ And when R’ Michoel said this, said my friend, he cried a lot and then continued to bless me. His love and devotion to every one of the bachurim was incredible.”

In his memoir, R’ Shmaryahu Sasonkin also mentions R’ Michoel’s Ahavas Yisroel:

“ … then we went to learn by the mashpia, R’ Michoel Bliner. The talmidim loved this mashpia with a tremendous, powerful love. It was a soulful delight to look at his face which was always shining with his cleverness and Chassidishkait …

“He loved all the talmidim and not just his own class. He was a compassionate father to all the talmidim, a compassionate mother, and he made sure they did not lack for anything. It was amazing that he was so connected to the talmidim that he felt their lack even before they did so themselves.”

His personal relationship with the talmidim was apparent in his shiurim too. R’ Sasonkin:

“When he explained the Likkutei Torah to us, it was pleasant to listen to. On numerous occasions it happened that he came to an inspirational passage about service of the heart and tears would stream from his eyes. 

“His influence had a great effect on his audience, the talmidim, because what he said was very impassioned and came from a pure heart. And Chazal decreed that words that come from the heart enter the heart. He, the mashpia R’ Michoel, introduced us to many complex subjects and explained them to us well.” 

So too for farbrengens: “R’ Michoel’s farbrengens were mainly words of inspiration. He would urge the talmidim to learn and daven, for the study of Chassidus not to be superficial but a desire to know what is being learned, not like one reading the newspapers where everything that you read yesterday is not relevant today, because this kind of learning does not accomplish anything … and never lead to putting into action what is required in avodas HaChassidus – avoda of the heart which is t’filla.”

R’ Michoel was a very impassioned person and what he said came from a pure heart. As we would put it, “he walked the talk” and what he said always entered the hearts of the talmidim and made a powerful impression on them even though it sometimes required exposing the talmidim’s flaws, but since he exposed them with great care and deep love, they all felt that he was revealing their flaws out of love and therefore they accepted it in that spirit.

“When he revealed our flaws and character defects we never heard him speak in loud tones, in anger, and in words that made you cringe. His way of speaking was always calm and with sweetness – and his words were never in vain. The talmidim sat crowded at his farbrengens, with love and in friendship, and listened closely to what he had to say.” 


R’ Michoel was an oveid and what he demanded of others he first did himself. He himself davened at length and therefore he would extol avodas ha’t’filla to his students.

R’ Yisroel Jacobson said that one time he stood behind him as he put on his tallis in his usual place in the south-west corner and he heard how R’ Michoel slowly and sweetly said, “ma yakar, ma yakar chasdecha” (how precious, how precious is Your kindness – the beginning of the first verse said upon donning the tallis) and it made a great impression on him.

At the 19 Kislev farbrengen of 5665, the Rebbe Rashab spoke strongly about the necessity of avodas ha’t’filla because the study of Chassidus without t’filla at length can lead to undesirable results. R’ Gronem, the mashpia, asked the Rebbe, “In Igeres Ha’kodesh it is brought that the Alter Rebbe commanded those supported by their fathers … not to spend less than an hour and a half on their davening, and this [an hour and a half of davening] is not particularly lengthy …”

The Rebbe replied, “By the Alter Rebbe everything had its established time. From boruch sh’omar until after Shmoneh Esrei he would spend one hour and this is certainly true since I heard it from my father.”

R’ Michoel suddenly yelled to the bachurim, “Listen! This is meant for you, and not for R’ Gronem!” 

The Rebbe said, “I meant the bachurim, Rashag (R’ Shmuel Gronem) too and myself … but the point is that learning alone is not enough and we need to daven at length.”

When the Rebbe continued to demand involvement in avodas ha’lev with a person going out of his innate limitations, R’ Michoel pointed out that perhaps the absence of davening at length on the part of the talmidim came from the limited time at their disposal because they began davening at about ten and at twelve they had to start learning. The Rebbe responded: All limitations are not imposed on anyone that we see has any aptness, even somewhat, to being a tziyur of a p’nimi, and it seems to me that this is already known to all.”  

The Rebbe once said that when you postpone the contemplation from the P’sukei D’Zimra to Shma, that made it possible to postpone meditation there too. R’ Michoel stood and heard the sicha with tears streaming from his eyes. 

The famous sicha of the Rebbe Rashab about being a p’nimi was in response to R’ Michoel explaining to the Rebbe that the bachurim were rushing the niggun, because to them it was only an introduction and they wanted something else entirely. When he stood to listen to the sichos about chitzon and p’nimi, said the Rebbe Rayatz, it looked as though boiling water was pouring on him.

When he would see that one of the bachurim was suited to daven at length, and he davened with everyone else, he would say, “He already became a yerei Shamayim (i.e. he is particular to daven with a minyan),” and would be very annoyed about this.


When the problem of the draft arose, the Rebbe Rashab started a fund for “pidyon shvuyim” (and even set aside money for it from his own pocket). The Rebbe Rashab put R’ Michoel in charge of the fund and not for naught. R’ Michoel did not stop working on this with the utmost devotion. We know this from many stories from the ziknei ha’chassidim.

R’ Refael Kahn said:

When they once took a certain bachur to the army and sent him far away, R’ Michoel went to his base and spoke to the commander and cried to him: See, I am an old man and I have no one in the world to help me except for this young man, my nephew, who supported me until he was drafted. 

In the end, the commander was moved and the bachur returned home.

On another occasion, the Rebbe Rashab showed R’ Michoel a letter from one of the T’mimim who was sent by the army to a distant place. In that place, wrote the bachur, he found a few Jews from a number of villages and they told him that on Shabbos they gathered in one village and prayed together, but they had no Torah. The bachur asked the Rebbe to try and send them a Torah.

The Rebbe exclaimed to R’ Michoel, “See what a Tamim is! Even when he is in the army, he is concerned about obtaining a Torah for Jews.” 

R’ Michoel said, “But we need to think about how to get him released,” and he immediately asked the Rebbe for the bachur’s address, made efforts on his behalf, and finally managed to get him released.

Another story on this topic was told by the mashpia, R’ Avrohom Drizin:

R’ Michoel once went with two bachurim who were about to be drafted to a certain doctor who would give exemptions in exchange for a bribe. When the three arrived, he refused to receive them and slammed the door in their faces. R’ Michoel looked into the matter and found out that the doctor had been informed upon to the government for issuing exemptions in exchange for bribes and now he was afraid to continue doing so.

R’ Michoel did not despair. He went through the back door and met the doctor’s wife. He pleaded with her to convince her husband to give the two bachurim exemptions. She asked him, “What is the connection between you and them? Are they your sons?”

R’ Michoel replied, “The two are my students.”

The woman was amazed by his devotion to his students and convinced her husband to issue the exemptions. The doctor asked for a very large sum and gave the exemptions. When R’ Michoel returned to Lubavitch, he sighed: I gave more than enough to klipa.

This is what R’ Shaul Ber Zislin had to say:

They once saw R’ Michoel in his tallis and t’fillin and holding his tzitzis in the middle of reciting Shma when he suddenly removed his t’fillin and tallis, and left. When time passed and he did not return, they went to look for him but could not find him.

After a while he came back and put his tallis and t’fillin back on and continued davening. After he finished davening, they asked him where he had disappeared during Shma. R’ Michoel said that a few days earlier a wealthy man came to the Rebbe “and when I asked him to donate to the pidyon shvuyim fund he told me to come to him before he left and he would give me a nice sum.

“I remembered that he was leaving this afternoon and so I rushed to his inn and he actually gave me a generous amount.” When they asked him how he could leave in the middle of Shma during yichuda ilaa (higher unification) he said, “Do you know what yichuda ilaa is? Obtaining money for pidyon shvuyim, that is yichuda ilaa!”


In 5671, R’ Michoel became weak and found it difficult to function normally. At first there were still talmidim who went to him to hear him teach Tanya and Chassidus. Then he taught just one student, Avrohom Aharon Sosnitzer, and in the end he did not teach Chassidus at all and was satisfied just to be in the zal.

At that time, his salary was five rubles a week (some say 15 rubles a month). R’ Eliezer Kaplan (the yeshiva’s financial administrator) suggested to the Rebbe Rashab that they stop sending him this weekly (or monthly) salary since the yeshiva’s coffers were empty and R’ Michoel was no longer teaching. The Rebbe rejected this suggestion and said, “He is worth the money if only because the T’mimim will look at him. He is a tziyur of an elder Chassid.”

In the summer of that year he became even weaker. He could not even walk to shul and had to daven at home. At this point, his talmidim helped him and some of them went to his house regularly to serve him. One of them, R’ Mordechai Perlov, told about those days in his book:

“One day in the summer of 5671, I went to his house to serve him. It was about two in the afternoon and I found him lying on the sofa. When he saw me he said, ‘It’s good you came.’ I thought he wanted me to help him. When I went over to him he said, ‘I want you to bring me a minyan of men.’ At first I did not understand what he wanted, but then I realized he wanted to say Vidui. 

“I said to him, ‘What for? Hashem will yet give you long life.’ He stopped me and said, ‘Surely with His help that is how it will be, but you do what you are told.’ Then he listed the names: R’ Gronem, R’ Avrohom Dovid (of Klimowitz) – ‘if he already finished davening,’ and he listed all ten. ‘And of course,’ he said, ‘you are included.’ Then he added, ‘If you don’t find them, bring others instead of them, but there should be a minyan and not more.’

“I immediately called all those he wanted and when we had all gathered he took a Siddur and said the deathbed Vidui. We all cried. As for R’ Michoel, when he finished saying Vidui, he said, ‘Nu, now we need to bring mashke.’

“When they brought a bottle of mashke he told them all to say l’chaim and then said, ‘All Jews believe in the resurrection of the dead, but I already experienced it. It’s been a long time since I feel total shutdown. My head is empty and I do nothing. Suddenly, some time ago, I began thinking about topics (in Chassidus) with the liveliness of my youth. My eyes and heart opened. The same thing happened the next day and the day after that. At the time, the Rebbe was at his summer place and I immediately wanted to travel to him and tell him, but due to some reason I did not go. I hoped that this situation would continue and would remain constant but after some days it all dissipated. Please tell me, isn’t that literal resurrection of the dead?’

“His health worsened at the end of 5671 and he could not walk. Erev Yom Kippur he asked that he be brought to the large hall of the yeshiva ‘where I want to be on the holy day.’

“They placed his bed on the southern edge of the hall, near the ‘second room’ (a room off the main sanctuary for those who davened at length) and he spent the day there. When the Rebbe Rashab finished davening Maariv on Yom Kippur night, he went over to R’ Michoel and asked how he was. They discussed the amounts a sick person is allowed to eat and drink on Yom Kippur.

“R’ Michoel finished the fast without having to resort to any medication or any eating or drinking.”


On 27 Cheshvan, Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah, R’ Michoel felt that his end was near and he said to those near him, “I must see the Rebbe.”

They said, “It is Shabbos.”

He said, “So what? I must see the Rebbe.”

They began telling him that the Rebbe was still davening (the Rebbe Rashab would daven at length) and he asked, “How do you know?” They said that it had been checked and the Rebbe was still davening.

R’ Michoel relaxed and rested for half an hour and then woke up and said again and again, “I must see the Rebbe.” When he saw that they were ignoring him, he raised himself up in bed and despite his tremendous weakness and poor health put on his outer garment and announced, “I am going to the Rebbe.” It was to that extent that he yearned to see the Rebbe before he passed away from this world.

People could not believe their eyes and before they recovered he had begun walking to the door, but his strength failed him and he fell. They immediately raised him up and laid him back on his bed. His disappointment over not being able to see the Rebbe was great and this was apparent on his face. That Motzaei Shabbos he passed away.

When they informed the Rebbe, he said to delay the funeral until his two sons came to Lubavitch, one from Nevel and the other from Vitebsk. When they reported to the Rebbe that the sons could only arrive Sunday night, he said to make all the preparations and the funeral would take place at night.

They asked: But it is the height of winter and it is rainy and there is so much mud and it will be very hard to walk at night.

The Rebbe said it was out of the question to leave the body overnight.

So, they asked, perhaps the funeral should take place by day without the sons.

The Rebbe said: The first Kaddish that the sons say after they close the grave is a very lofty matter for the soul of the departed.

It was a harsh winter night and the mud in the streets was deep and the people had a difficult time extricating their feet from the mud with every step they took. Nevertheless, the Rebbe Rashab went out to escort R’ Michoel and all the residents left their houses with lanterns in their hands to light the way. Of course, all the talmidim of the yeshiva with their teachers and mashpiim followed the bier. The Rebbe walked halfway where a vehicle awaited him to bring him back, while his son, Rayatz, was one of the pall bearers and he walked all the way to the cemetery. On the way, he said a lot about R’ Michoel and praised him highly. He said, “The crown of Tomchei T’mimim was taken away.”



In Av 5664, the Rebbe Rashab published the booklet Eitz HaChayim for the T’mimim at the end of which he explained the purpose of the founding of the yeshiva and the methods and times for learning. He wrote, “Those listening to the mashpiim Rashbatz and R’ M (Bliner) should listen from within the text and listen well to what they teach and afterward review what they heard and two together should review it, not less, and they should review what they heard well and what they do not remember or did not understand they should ask the mashpia.”

R’ Michoel’s method of teaching was simple without expansive explanations; just each line and its translation. However, in a letter that the Rebbe Rashab sent his son in Petersburg in the winter of 5665 we find the following: “Regarding the complaint of Mordechai (Chafetz) of Disna, it’s news to me that R’ M (Bliner) explains things, for until now we heard from the listeners that he does not explain anything but just says what is written in Likkutei Torah. That the explanation precedes knowing the simple meaning itself is certainly a minus, because when you have the main thing then you can add to it, but with R’ M you could speak and tell him about the deficiency and that it needs rectification because he accepts the truth without any inner annoyance and will try to correct the matter Iy”H.”

One time, when the Rebbe Rayatz went to give a report to his father, they got to talking about R’ Michoel’s way of teaching. Aside from what the Rebbe Rayatz wrote, he added verbally:

“The mashpia R’ Michoel is drawn to the truth. His conception and way of explaining are not that earth-shattering but his yearning and his draw to the truth make a powerful impression on his students.”

The Rebbe responded, “The truth is drawn to him since truth is drawn only to one who is a vessel for truth as we know from keilim d’Tikkun that they don’t only contain the light but also draw down the light. When R’ Michoel was a young man who made ovens, he already had a sense of the truth.”



The Rebbe, my father-in-law, related that in Petersburg lived a wealthy man by the name of Shmuel Michel Treinin. He did business with the royal family and was orderly by nature. In addition he was of morose disposition, and as such, was particular that his clothing be buttoned, each button in its proper buttonhole.

One time, R’ Michoel Bliner (Michoel der alter) went to him on behalf of a bachur who had to be freed from the army so he could learn Torah. Treinin needed to go with him to one of the nobles who could do something about the matter.

Upon going there, they had to traverse the main street of Petersburg-Leningrad. R’ Michoel would walk in Petersburg the same way he walked in Lubavitch … Apparently he hadn’t davened yet and had just finished what it says in Shulchan Aruch about preparing for davening and therefore, his buttons were not fastened properly.

Treinin said to him carefully, since he was afraid that R’ Michoel would “come down” on him: Since we are walking on the main street, which was called Nevsky Prospekt, perhaps you should fasten your buttons. 

R’ Michoel gave him a look and said: Gevald R’ Shmuel Michel, what are you immersed in! 

(sicha of 13 Tammuz 5715)


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