A STORY ABOUT MENDEL LEIB
Told by Dr. Shlomo Kodesh,
Ashdod, Israel, June 10, 1997 Taken from: "Shlomo Kodesh
Tells the Stories of His Father's Home", 1995.
Telling you the story about
Mendel-Leib Rabinowitz demands some confession on my part - I wasn't
the most diligent student in town in the realm of Talmud. It does
not mean to say that I was not knowledgeable or sharp enough, but
my natural curiosity constantly diverted me from matters of faith
towards more secular reading.
Having noticed that, my father
decided to take urgent measures: first, he constructed a study room
for me which was isolated from the rest of the house. But, that
effort proved to be totally unsuccessful since seclusion gave me
even more freedom to plunge into popular Hebrew books and magazines.
Then father came up with the
idea of a private tutor - he hired a shrewd Hassidic rabbi who would
spend a certain number of hours with me. But those lessons also
came to a halt despite the relatively high learning fees father paid
for me. The poor man ouldn't stand my mischieviousness.
Utterly desperate, my pious
father was looking for a solution and, at last, decided quite
cleverly that I would study with a partner (in Havruta). He also
chose just the right kind of chap for the task: Efraim Oshri (later
a Brooklyn rabbi and the author of the famous "Khurbn Lita" or
"Annihilation of the Lithuanian Jews").
Miraculously enough, the new
system did work and we proceeded from one Gemorah page to another
and in case of problems used to turn to my father, a Talmudic
scholar himself, for guidance. The only day, however, when we
couldn't consult him was Thursday - the Market Day - when father
gave my mother a hand at her store on the Market Square. Indeed,
that day was a bit of a celebration for all shopkeepers in town,
since crowds of Lithuanian peasants were flowing into Kupishok from
So who did we go to in case of
Talmudic difficulty? Mendel-Leib Rabinowitz - one of the most
renowned scholars in town. However, he was also busy at his gloomy
shop of agricultural instruments. I remember we once entered his
store packed as elsewhere on Thursdays and watched Mendel-Leib
bargain with a peasant over an instrument.
They seemed to be deeply
absorbed by the argument, but he asked: "And what do you want
boys?" We shyly answered that we had a "kashe" (a Talmudic
question). Having heard that, he left in the middle of the argument
abandoning all his customers into a dark back room and invited us to
follow. There we presented our question and Mendel-Leib remained
with us until the issue was resolved no matter how many clients were
awaiting him at the store.
This is just one example of
those people's character and Mendel-Leib was one of those devoted
souls for who nothing was more important than sacred Jewish values.
Rabinowitz was born in Utena, Lithuania, (1866-1931), the son of
Boruch-Mordechai Rabinowitz and his wife Chana-Feiga. In 1885,
he married Mina Alufovich, who was born in Kupishok (1866-1941),
the daughter of Khaim Alufovich, and they had the following
children: Chaya-Gitlia (1886-????), Rochlia (1889-????),
Josel-Shebsel (1891-1891), Mausa-Icikas (1891-1941), Base-Dveire
(1895-1941), Iankel-Meier (1898-1898), and Ginda (1905-1941).
Two of his children married. Mendel-Leib's son Mausa-Icikas
married Seine (1903-1941), a girl from Daugavpils, and they had
a son, Mendel-Leib (1937-1941). His daughter Base-Dveire
married Beno-Leizer Meyerowitz of Kupishok, the son of Naftali
Meyerowitz and Malka Peres, and they had four children: Mendel-Leib
(1932-1941), Elija (1933-1941), Solem (1935-1941) and Khaim
(1938-1941). All direct descendants of Mendel-Leib Rabinowitz,
including his wife Mina, were killed during the Holocaust.