The small village of Voltzisk in Vohlynia was the place where Reb Meir
Leibish zt"l was born in 5560 (1800). When he was orphaned from
his father Reb Yechiel Michel Weisser at a very young age, his mother
married the rov of the shtetl, HaRav Moshe Halevi Horowitz,
zt"l, author of Emek Chassidim. The child was brought up
by his stepfather, with whom he learnt Torah so fast and so well that
within a short time he became known as "der Illui fun
He went on to learn Toras hanistar with the Rebbe of Ziditchov,
HaRav Zvi Hirsch Eichenstein, zt"l, author of Ateres
In the year 5598 (1838) he became rov in Wieshnow. At that time he had
already married his second wife, the daughter of the wealthy Rabbi
Feivish Apotshinski of Lonshitz.
He was appointed rov of Kempna in 5601 and after 14 years he took on
rabbonus in Bucharest, Romania. There he toiled to fortify the walls
of Yiddishkeit that were being breached by the Maskilim.
This incurred the latter's wrath and hatred and they became a
dangerous threat to the Malbim, and even had him imprisoned.
Expelled from Bucharest in 5624 (1864), Reb Meir Leibish lived a few
years as a private servant of Hashem in Lonshitz.
This ended in 5629, when he was appointed av beis din in
Charson. Over the next few years he was rov in several places starting
with Lonshitz then going on to Ohilov and Koenigsburg. Towards the end
of his life a request came from Krementschug that he be their leader.
On the way to that town the Malbim fell ill and never recovered. He
was niftar on the first day of Rosh Hashanah 5642 (1882) in
Kiev, where he was buried.
He wrote many seforim, all of which were lovingly received by
the lomdim of the time. His works include: Artzos
Hachaim on Shulchan Oruch Orach Chaim, with the
approbations of the Chasam Sofer and the Sha'arei Torah,
ztvk"l, Artzos Hasholom, Sefer HaTorah Vehamitzvah, Mikro'ei
Kodesh, Eretz Chemdah, and many more.
* * *
During the Malbim's active years he suffered greatly at the hands of
the maskilim, who fought against him on all fronts. The Malbim
was a particularly irksome thorn in their side due to his expertise
and fluency in Hebrew grammar. Grammar was the tool the reformers
often used to mislead simple and trusting Jews, and the Malbim, with
his immense wisdom and knowledge of the subject, could refute their
every claim, weakening the effectiveness of this tactic for them.
The maskilim succeeded in having the Malbim imprisoned and it
was only due to the philanthropist and askan Sir Moses
Montefiore that he was eventually released.
Rabbi Meir Leibish then decided that he would no longer accept any
rabbinical post. Heaven seemed to agree with his decision, for soon
after he inherited a massive fortune. Thus Reb Meir was able to live
in Lonshitz in peace, devoting his time to Torah and writing his many
He invested his wealth in a winery and his wife managed the business
together with one of the local Yidden. However, when the latter
saw that the Malbim did not work but rather "just sat and learned," he
tricked the Malbim's wife causing them to lose their entire
Devastated, the Malbim watched as his dream of living a peaceful Torah
life faded before his eyes. Particularly disturbed was he that he
would now be forced to once again take up rabbonus as a
In no uncertain terms the Malbim informed his former business partner
that he did not forgive him and that he would meet a bitter end. His
words were fulfilled when subsequently this Jew became deranged.
Once again the Malbim was a rov and leader, this time in Ohilov. There
he tended his flock like a caring shepherd, doing much to alleviate
the pain and despair of the poor and destitute.
Once a woman came in to the Malbim and broke down in bitter tears. Her
husband had just passed way and there was no one to support her and
her poor orphaned children.
"What was your husband's business?" asked the Rov gently.
"A wagon driver," she replied, adding, "even if I wanted to, I could
not do the job in his stead!"
The Rov then inquired of the woman what sort of job she reckoned that
she could do. Sobbing, the widow replied, "Rabbi, I know how to bake
delicious foods. If only my husband had left me some capital, I could
rent a room and oven and I'm sure that I could successfully support my
The Rov advised her reassuringly, "Let's make a deal and be business
partners. I'll invest the money and you the manpower and Hakodosh
Boruch Hu will surely bless the venture with success."
So saying, he brought out the large sum of 100 rubles as his
investment. Once again the widow dissolved into tears, but the Rov
admonished her, "If you cry, I will cancel the deal. Hashem only
bestows his blessing on a place where happiness reigns. Go happily to
your work and have much hatzlochoh!"
True to her plan, the widow rented a room and oven and began to bake.
Along with the delicious aroma wafting through the town, the word
spread that the taste of this widow's baked goods was "something
you've never tasted before!"
A steady stream of customers came to the bakery and even the local
gentiles became regular clients. The venture was indeed a success.
Six months passed, and the widow came to the Malbim to inform him that
business was booming.
Taking out her notebook with all her accounts, she pointed out to the
Rov that since he was a partner he should receive his share of the
profits, a sum amounting to hundreds of rubles.
The Malbim appeared to be working out the accounts, turning the pages
of the notebook and contemplating the next move. Turning to the widow,
he announced, "Well, don't give me the money now. I'd like to invest
it to further our business."
Every time the woman came to Rabbi Meir Leibish to present him with
his share of the profits he gave the same answer, never benefiting
from his mitzvah!
The Chevra Kadisha who saw to the Malbim's last needs on this
world recounted the following amazing fact to be passed down to the
The Malbim passed away on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. The
following night when the Chevra Kadisha lifted the sheet from
his pure body, they were dazzled by a holy light that suffused the
whole building. For a while, the men stood there in shock, trembling
and unable to come near to this holy niftar!