Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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27 Sivan 5764 - June 16, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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The Admor of Rachmastrivka, zt"l
By Betzalel Kahn

A large crowd led by gedolei Torah and gedolei Chassidus brought to rest the Admor of Rachmastrivka, HaRav Yisroel Mordechai Twersky zt"l in Jerusalem on Erev Shabbos parshas Shlach.

The Admor was born in Jerusalem on motzei Shavuos 5689 (1929), the son of the Admor of Rachmastrivka HaRav Yochonon, the grandson of the Admor of Rachmastrivka HaRav Dovid and the great-grandson of the Admor of Rachmastrivka HaRav Menachem Nochum.

HaRav Yisroel Mordechai had his bris performed on the knees of his great-grandfather HaRav Nochum. The mohel was the Admor of Slonim, the Beis Avrohom, who had traveled from Poland to Eretz Yisroel for a visit. Yisroel Mordechai was named after the Baal Shem Tov and also after HaRav Mottele of Zaltopli, who had passed away a short time earlier.

The young Yisroel Mordechai had the merit of spending another seven years on his great-grandfather's knee, taking in his light and holiness and receiving his blessings. Throughout his lifetime HaRav Yisroel Mordechai would fondly recall those years with his great-grandfather, who kept a watchful eye on him and guarded his every step.

The night before HaRav Nochum's petiroh on 28 Shevat 5696 (1936) he said the day would come when Yisroel Mordechai would become a great rebbe.

From his early youth HaRav Yisroel Mordechai was ensconced in the tents of Torah and avodoh. From a tender age he was never exposed to mundane affairs but devoted his time and attention solely to Torah study. One of his melamdim recalled seeing the boy crying beside the aron kodesh. Rushing to him in alarm Yisroel Mordechai explained that he could not understand the words of a Tosafos and was pleading with Borei Olom to grant him insight.

He studied at Yeshivas Chayei Olom and Yeshivas Sfas Emes and later at Kollel DeChassidei Gur and Kollel Chayei Olom in Jerusalem. Everywhere he went he brought with him his tremendous hasmodoh and total dedication to Torah learning. Sleeping as little as possible, his day was packed with chavrusas, each of them unaware of the next, and at night he would make the rounds of several botei medrash.

During times of strife and war, with a palpable threat of shelling, he would continue studying nights in the beis medrash. When his father HaRav Yochonon complained to his own father HaRav Dovid that his son was sitting in the beis medrash at night while shells were whistling past, the latter said, "What you did to me as a young man he is doing to you now."

HaRav Yisroel Mordechai's tefillos were remarkable. He would spend long hours praying with tremendous deveikus. Sometimes while he stood in the corner of Beis Knesses Zichron Moshe wrapped in his tallis Jews would come watch him from the side. As a boy he once wept with yearning for the day when he would begin laying tefillin to arrive.

He was very close to gedolei hador including the Gavad of Brisk, the admorim of Gur, Belz, Husiatin and others, who all spoke highly of him. When the Admor of Machnovka crowned him in place of his father as the head of Rachmastrivka he said that even at the Tchernobel Court 80 years earlier when it had thousands of chassidim and Jews connected to the court, he would have been a novelty.

When the time came for him to wed, R' Yisroel Mordechai was chosen as the son-in-law of HaRav Sender Uri. During the Sheva Brochos the Admor of Belz, HaRav Aharon, took part in one of the seudas. While still an avreich, gedolei Yisroel noted he was destined to achieve prominence. On 13 Tammuz 5710 (1950) his grandfather passed away and his father became the admor.

Torah was the focal point of his life. While learning he would forget about basic necessities such as food and sleep. On Shabbos Night he would say over and delve into his father's teachings and later he would give a shiur on Ma'or Einayim. Late at night he would walk somebody home and then run to a nearby beis medrash to learn all night. He took part in the founding of Yeshivas Rachmastrivka in Jerusalem and would give shiurim there and engage in discussions with the talmidim.

On 20 Kislev 5642 (1982) his father passed away. The chassidim wanted to place the mantle of leadership on him but they knew he was resistant to honor, wanting only Toras Hashem. During the hespeidim for his father the Admor of Machnovka said, "We crown Rebbe, on whom it is incumbent to continue his forefathers' ways," and when HaRav Yisroel Mordechai declined by making a hand gesture the Machnovker Rebbe added, " . . . whether he wants to or not."

HaRav Yisroel Mordechai worked for the sake of Klal Yisroel with mesirus nefesh. Sometimes during his reception hours he would step out to a nearby Sephardic beis knesses to learn for an hour or an hour-and-a- half. Humble and simple by nature, he continued to avoid royal treatment. Once when a hachnosas sefer Torah ceremony was held in his beis medrash, seeing somebody planned to hang up colored lights he asked him not to.

Thirteen years ago, on 17 Tammuz, he broke his leg. The accident took place on a Shabbos Kodesh and he adamantly refused to travel to the hospital despite his terrible pain. Lying down and unable to move his leg, he began to learn in depth with a chavrusa the halochos regarding caring for the sick on Shabbos. After Shabbos, when he woke up following the operation on his leg, his first concern was to check whether he was wearing a tallis kotton.

The doctors suggested exercises to improve his ability to walk, but he refused saying, "As long as I can walk from the table to the bookcase to take down a gemora, I don't need anything else." Throughout his years of suffering nobody knew when we felt pain, for he never mentioned it.

Recently he grew extremely weak, but continued his holy avodoh with exalted mesirus nefesh. Many prayed for his recovery, but on Friday morning with many people at his bedside at Shaarei Chessed Hospital reciting Shema Yisroel, he returned his pure soul to his Maker.

His aron was brought to the Rachmastrivka mikveh on Rechov Sefas Emes in Jerusalem where the purification was performed. From there he was brought into the old beis medrash on Rechov Dovid Yellin where the paroches was removed as the onlookers wept bitterly. Afterwards the aron was brought to his beis medrash in Givat Moshe where thousands of Jews were waiting for it to arrive.

His uncle, the Admor of Rachmastrivka in the US, gave divrei chizuk and called on the kahal kadosh to unite under the leadership of his son, HaRav Dovid.

The massive levaya proceeded from Givat Moshe to Kikar HaShabbat, where another large crowd had gathered along Rechov Meah Shearim and walked to the Mount of Olives. Thousands were on hand at the burial, held at the Rachmastrivka ohel at 4:30.


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