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Tuesday
Dec262017

VETERAN MIVTZAIM PARTNERS

For more than thirty years, they travel together, in the snow and cold, rain and heat, to do Mivtza Mezuza in yet another Jewish home in Brooklyn. * Every Wednesday, after finishing the daily shiur of Rambam they both attend, they get into a car, one as the driver and one as the direction finder, in their attempt to do what the Rebbe wants of them. * Avrohom Rainitz joined R’ Mordechai Chein and R’ Hirshel Morosov on Mivtza Mezuza and reports to us.

Photos by Segev PeledWednesday, 7 Tishrei, 9:00 in the evening. The daily Rambam shiur in the kollel Tiferes Zkeinim finished, as did Maariv, and the friends, RMordechai (Mottel) Chein and RTzvi Hirsh (Hirshel) Morosov, opened the door of Tiferes Zkeinim which is connected to 770 and exited into the hustle and bustle of Kingston Avenue. They made their way between the stands selling the four species and cellphone accessories, walking alongside the many guests streaming towards 770. I joined them and together, we headed for RMottels car.

R’ Mottel, who is almost 80, took the wheel as the veteran driver he is, and drove to the offices of Mivtza Mezuza in Crown Heights. R’ Hirshel sat in the back. Despite his age, he insists on maintaining a youthful lifestyle, always busy and on the move.

We stop at 518 Crown Street. This is where R’ Zalman Deitsch a”h lived for many years. He devoted his basement to the work of Mivtza Mezuza and till today, his wife continues the family tradition. This is where groups of Chassidim go out to volunteer on behalf of this holy mivtza.

R’ Hirshel got out to bring the mezuzos and the necessary materials for the weekly trip. In the meantime, R’ Mottel told me about how he got started with Mivtza Mezuza, over forty years ago! In the summer of 1974, there was a massacre in Maalot, when terrorists held schoolchildren from Tzfas who were staying overnight in Maalot, as hostages, and murdered them during a failed IDF rescue operation. Afterward, when the mezuzos were examined at the school in Tzfas, the number of mezuzos found to be pasul was the same as the number of those murdered. When additional victims were discovered, they found more pasul mezuzos, the same as the number killed.

The Rebbe referred to this and asked to promote awareness for the need of checking mezuzos for their kashrus in connection with the already existing Mivtza Mezuza. As the Rebbe said, “I was passionately involved with Mivtza Mezuza. They pushed me and gave me no rest from demanding and speaking about mezuza, I myself don’t know why, etc. And now everyone saw how this entire event was connected with the mitzva of mezuza.”

“In response to the great passion of the Rebbe,” said R’ Mottel, “R’ Zalman Deitsch called and asked me whether I could come on Mivtza Mezuza. At the time, I worked at Empire Press and was very busy, but there was no question at all since the Rebbe had spoken about it with such fervor, that it wasn’t possible to consider otherwise. Everyone went on Mivtza Mezuza.”

How long have you been going together?

R’ Mottel found it hard to remember the beginning. “More than thirty years, that’s for sure, but maybe R’ Hirshel remembers. Ask him when he comes.”

R’ Hirshel came and he also had a hard time remembering. He himself began going on Mivtza Tefillin thirty-forty years ago. At first, he went once a month and then he increased the frequency to once a week. When did he join up with R’ Mottel? He really did not remember but it was before R’ Shmuel Kesselman began running the office.

Some brief research turned up that R’ Shmuel Kesselman started running the office in Tishrei 5754, so this twosome is in existence more than twenty-five years and very likely over thirty years. It took them some time to digest this astonishing fact which they had never thought about before. A chavrusa of thirty years for Mivtza Mezuza …

We set out. R’ Mottel had no idea how to use “waze,” but he had no need for it. After thirty years of traveling weekly throughout Brooklyn, the two of them know nearly every street in Brooklyn. They nostalgically recalled the early years, when they got assignments in Queens too. “It was very hard finding addresses there,” remembered R’ Mottel. “There are streets with identical names but a different suffix (street, place, road), and if you mistakenly got to the wrong street, it took a long time to fix the mistake.” At a certain point, he asked that they be assigned only to locations in Brooklyn.

“But our mistakes had a purpose too,” said R’ Hirshel. “We once got lost and had to stop and ask a passerby for help. R’ Mottel asked him whether he is Jewish and the man said yes. He asked him whether he goes to synagogue; this was a few days before Rosh Hashana. We had to convince him about the importance of going to shul. I don’t know whether we were successful with him, but our encounter certainly did something.

“In general, this type of work does not enable us to get feedback, because every week we go somewhere else. Every Wednesday, we go to the office of Mivtza Mezuza and are told where to go. Sometimes, it’s to take mezuzos down to be checked and sometimes it’s to put up a mezuza. Infrequently, it works out that exactly one-week elapses from when we take down the mezuzos and the sofer finishes checking and we need to go and put the mezuzos back up. Usually, we go to someone different every week.”

You don’t feel you lose out by not having any idea of what you accomplished on your visit?

R’ Hirshel: “We feel like the bachurim who go on Merkos Shlichus. You make one visit and have no idea what you accomplished. But, like the Rebbe once said in connection to Merkos Shlichus, there is no doubt that every one of these visits accomplishes something. Although we don’t know how and what, we have no doubt that our work is worthwhile.”

R’ Mottel: “Of all the holy mivtzaim, it is Mivtza Mezuza that is most similar to Merkos Shlichus, because unlike the other mivtzaim in which you meet a person on the street, during the ebb and flow of life, with Mivtza Mezuza the person calls you to their home and opens the door to you. Now it’s your ballpark. Before I started working with R’ Hirshel, I would go on Mivtza Mezuza with R’ Moshe Slonim a”h. He instilled this point in me: The moment you enter the house, you have the opportunity to talk about anything. After all, they invited you!

“In fact, when we enter a home, we try to use our Chassidic ‘sense of smell’ to sniff out what needs chizuk, tefillin, kashrus, taharas ha’mishpacha. We talk to each person based on what it seems to us needs strengthening.”

Please share a miracle story that you experienced over the years.

They both remembered the story of the “mute child.”

He was three years old and his speech developed normally but then he suddenly turned mute. A friend of the family recommended to the frightened parents that they write to the Rebbe. After receiving the Rebbe’s answer to check mezuzos, they made contact with Mivtza Mezuza. Two men were sent to remove the mezuzos for checking and amazingly, in one mezuza, the words “and you shall speak in them” were missing. As soon as the mezuza was fixed, the child began speaking as though he had never been mute. R’ Mottel and R’ Hirshel returned the mezuzos to the family and when they arrived, the happy mother called to her little boy, “Hey, Yankele, come and talk to them.” And the boy stood there and spoke to them.

R’ Mottel: Speaking of miracles of Mivtza Mezuza, I think that one of the first miracles of the Rebbe with mezuzos happened with my family. This is what happened.

Our family left Russia in shifts. My brother and I left in 1947 together with my grandfather. My father was arrested at that time and my mother decided to remain in Russia so that when he was freed, he would have someone to care for him. Her mother decided to stay with her and only my grandfather went with us. My grandmother stayed another ten years and in 1957 she was able to leave for Eretz Yisroel and join us in Kfar Chabad. At that time, my father was hiding in Samarkand and my mother did not know where he was. She was living in Lvov.

Not surprisingly, even after she arrived in Eretz Yisroel, she remained very fearful of the KGB. She often woke up in terror at night after having nightmares in which KGB agents were chasing her.

At a certain point, I wrote to the Rebbe about this and asked for his blessing. The Rebbe responded on 5 Nissan 5717: Regarding what you write about your grandmother’s fears that she imagines frightening things, she should check the mezuzos in her room and set aside every morning some coins for tz’daka, and as per her situation, she should read or be told before going to sleep stories of the Rebbeim and stories of Chassidim in general, and surely she says the Bedtime Shma, at least the first paragraph and the blessing of HaMapil.

Right after receiving this answer, we gave in all the mezuzos for checking and to our surprise, all the mezuzos were kosher. We put them back on the doorposts in the hopes that the nightmares would stop but she continued to wake up from them. I consulted with mashpiim, I think it was R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman, and he told me that in the event that we did what the Rebbe said and the problem was not resolved, we had to inform the Rebbe. I informed the Rebbe that all the mezuzos were found to be kosher and the problem persisted.

In the next response, which the Rebbe sent on 5 Elul, he wrote these unequivocal words: In response to your letter in which you write that you checked the mezuzos and they were found to be kosher, if this is certain, then surely they were not put up according to halacha in the proper place at the right height, etc. In any case, something is amiss with the mezuzos based on what you write about your grandmother’s condition.

Shocked by this letter of the Rebbe, we thoroughly checked all the walls of the house, and just as the Rebbe foresaw, there was one doorway which did not have a mezuza altogether. Since these were Arab houses with numerous doorways, there was a doorway that was not in use and therefore, nobody noticed that it did not have a mezuza. But the Rebbe in New York saw the problem and wrote about it quite forcefully.

Many years later, in 5748, I went with R’ Eliyahu Gross to Edmonton to raise funds for Beis Rivka. We stayed with a member of the Ghermezian family, a Canadian family originally from Iran, who had built some of the biggest malls in the world. On our visit to his office, I noticed not a single mezuza. My friend, R’ Gross, explained to me that they were afraid to publicly identify as Jews and that is why they did not put mezuzos on the office doorposts.

On Shabbos, as we had the Shabbos meal with them, I told the story of my grandmother. They were so excited by the story that the next day they wanted to order 30-40 mezuzos to put up on all the doorposts in their office building.

***

R’ Mottel drove down Ocean Parkway and as we approached our destination I asked:

How does Mivtza Mezuza work? How do people from all over New York get to the mivtza’s office?

R’ Hirshel: First of all, there are dozens of shluchim in New York. When someone asks them to put up a mezuza in their home and they can’t personally do so, they give the information to the office. At the office, they deal with every request down to the last detail. It often happens that people who enjoyed the excellent – and free – service of Mivtza Mezuza, recommend it to their friends.

Aside from that, at the office, they enter every house call into the computer which, every week, produces a list of people who need to be visited to have their mezuza checked. People in the office call them and after arranging a time, we – either us or other people – get the information and go and collect the mezuzos.

There are men who want to go on mivtzaim but find it hard to go on Mivtza Tefillin on Fridays; it’s a stressful time. Mivtza Mezuza is something they can do by choosing one day a week which is convenient for them and going at a time that is good for them. At the office they will set them up with people who want to be visited at that time.

How long does it take?

R’ Mottel: Brooklyn is big and it depends how far we are sent. And it also depends on how many mezuzos have to be dealt with. Today, for example, the address is nearby, about twenty minutes each way, and only six mezuzos need to be put up. Sometimes, it’s a large house with twenty or thirty mezuzos, and then it takes a long time. Sometimes, people keep the mezuza holders, so when we arrive, we first need to place the mezuzos in their holders and only after that, put them up.

What do you do on a typical trip – how do you pass the time?

When I asked R’ Mottel, he told me that on nearly every trip, he gets to hear a maamer Chassidus, because R’ Hirshel has the good habit of using the travel time to review a maamer. When R’ Hirshel does not come prepared with a maamer, R’ Mottel always has a tape of sichos of the Rebbe in the deck, and they listen to sichos and maamarim of the Rebbe.

But even if it’s not a maamer or sicha, says R’ Mottel with a half-smile, there is also the “idle talk” of Chassidim, which is different than that of the rest of the world. He shares with me a story that he happened to hear today from Rabbi Schwei, about the man who took his son out of a Litvishe yeshiva and placed him in a Lubavitch yeshiva. His friend asked him to explain the reasoning, since in both yeshivos they talk about the same “Abayei and Rava,” and Rashi and Tosafos don’t change either, from one yeshiva to the next. The Chassid explained to his friend: Although there is no real difference during the learning, but when the session ends they close the Gemaras and start schmoozing, and that is where you can see the major difference. I want the “idle chatter” of my son to be of the Chassidic variety.

We arrive at the destination. Since there is no parking readily available, R’ Mottel stops the car near the house, and I join R’ Hirshel, while R’ Mottel waits for us in the car. We are greeted by a young couple, who invite us to come in. For some reason, their faces appear downcast. R’ Hirshel looks over the doorways in the house, in order to identify what the mezuza needs are, and notices that there are two children’s rooms. Naturally, he asks them how many children they have, and the pained response echoes powerfully in the small home: We had two children, but now we only have one left…

R’ Hirshel is momentarily stunned into silence, but quickly regains his composure. He is here on shlichus, after all, and if this is the situation, he needs to encourage and support them. He begins telling the story of the couple who asked the blessing of the Baal Shem Tov for children, and were not answered. After much importuning, the Baal Shem Tov agreed to bless them, but shortly after he was born, the child passed away. When the weeping parents came to the Baal Shem Tov, he revealed to them that the soul of their son was a very lofty soul, which only needed a short time in this world to rectify some small matter, and then could immediately return to Gan Eden. R’ Hirshel concluded by suggesting that perhaps their son had to go through something similar.

R’ Hirshel asked the husband to put up the mezuzos, and as they spoke he told them about the “letter in the Torah for Jewish children” campaign, and the couple quickly signed up their young son, as a segula for protection.

Later, when I spoke with R’ Shmuel Kesselman of Mivtza Mezuza, he told me that the parents of the young woman had their mezuzos checked a number of times by him, and immediately after the tragedy with their grandchild had called him to check their mezuzos, and to send a team to check what was needed by the young couple.

When I returned to Crown Heights, I thought to myself that if “Hillel obligates the paupers, and R’ Eliezer ben Charsom obligates the wealthy,” then this amazing team of Chassidim, neither of whom are very young, who go out weekly on mivtza mezuza, obligate all of us to make a personal accounting, and to simply get up and go out on mivtzaim!

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