His was a life of almost constant hardship and poverty, yet a life of total devotion to Hashem.
Orphaned of his father as a child, Rabbi Meir was brought up by his mother. One early morning before daylight, he felt his mother gently waking him to rise for davening and Torah learning. Seeing it was considerably earlier than usual, the young Meir turned over onto the other side to continue his sleep. After a few minutes he felt again that he was being awoken. This time he got up, but was astonished to find his mother still asleep in bed. She had not woken him at all.
The realization at that point struck him that he was being prodded from Heaven to rise and serve his Master.
From that day on Rabbi Meir decided to devote his entire existence to avodas Hashem.
His mother eked out a meager living by making and selling liquor. Every morning after he had finished davening, she would present her son with two rolls.
One day at the usual time she approached Meir and said sadly, "Today you didn't pray as well as usual and cannot have your rolls."
Her accuracy was uncanny. "How do you know my dear mother, that today I didn't manage to daven with as much kavonoh as I should have?"
His mother then revealed to him that every day while he davened she cooked the liquor and in the zchus of his tefillos the results were excellent.
"Today, however, everything burned and I immediately understood that your tefillos did not rise straight to Heaven, as usual." After promising to invest greater effort in his tefillos, he once again received the rolls.
Even after he married, Rabbi Meir lived in abject poverty. Yet this did not deter him from being steeped in his Torah and avodoh day and night.
For most of the week he would fast all day, only eating his meager daily meal of kasha in the evening.
Since they only had one plate in the house, his Rebbetzin would borrow a second one from a neighbor so that she too could sit and eat together with her husband.
One day Rabbi Meir stayed away learning longer than usual and the couple's `supper' was left waiting on the table. Seeing that the Rebbetzin had not returned the plate yet, her neighbor came to fetch it. The Rebbetzin requested that she wait until Rabbi Meir came home, but the woman had no time to wait. Losing her patience, she grabbed at the plate, accidentally spilling its precious contents over the floor.
Tears welled up in the Rebbetzin's eyes and then spilled over her cheeks, as she realized that she had nothing to serve her husband when he would come home to break his fast.
This was the scene to which Rabbi Meir returned a few minutes later. After hearing the reason for her tears, Rabbi Meir declared, "This is the last of our trials of poverty. Very soon the time will come when we'll yet eat out of plates of silver and gold!"
Indeed, several days later, the Rav of Stavnitz was appointed to serve in Pintchov, a larger town. The smaller kehilloh of Stavnitz, now without a rov, asked Rabbi Meir to fill their void. He did so and, true to his words, in honor of Pesach, one of the wealthy Jews of Stavnitz presented the new Rav Reb Meir with a set of silver plates lichvod the yom tov.
Rabbeinu was one of the close talmidim of Reb Yaakov Yitzchok, the Chozeh of Lublin, even traveling to him when he was a Rav himself.
The Chozeh once remarked of Reb Meir that he didn't get distracted from his fear of Hashem Yisborach, even for a single second all day.
Once, when Reb Meir was in Lublin to see his Rebbe, his tattered clothes were in an even worse state than usual. He went to the mikveh in Lublin and tarried there a long while, immersing himself many times.
A wealthy Jew, seeing what he thought was a lowly beggar with no decent clothing immersing so much in the mikveh, began to taunt him.
"Why are you wasting your time there?" he mocked. "Go and do something for your living."
Extremely embarrassed, Rabbi Meir left the mikveh.
The man who had hurt him stayed on in Lublin another two weeks, until a messenger arrived to tell him that his house and all his wealth had been ravaged by a devastating fire.
Left a pauper, the man hysterically burst into the room of the Chozeh to beg for his help. The holy Chozeh's supernatural eyes scanned the kvittel in his hand and beyond. "It seems that you scorned a talmid chochom and great tzaddik recently. Only when you will succeed in being mesaken this aveiroh will your former wealth be returned to you."
Years later, when Rabbi Meir was already renowned as one of the gedolei hador, he spent a Shabbos in the hometown of the formerly wealthy Jew.
On Friday night as the davening was about to begin, a cry rang out from the beggar's row as one of them fell to the floor in a faint.
His fellow congregants rushed to his aid, but as soon as the man came to he began crying aloud to Rabbi Meir: "Forgive me, Rebbe, have mercy on me."
He related to the crowd how he had mocked a poor, destitute Yid in Lublin and had subsequently lost his wealth. The older members of the community, who remembered when good times had smiled on the man, nodded knowingly. They too recalled the dreadful fire that had swallowed his possessions in his absence.
"Rabbosai, this is the talmid chochom and great tzaddik to whom the Chozeh was referring."
Rabbi Meir's honor was restored and from that day the wheel of fortune turned once again, this time for the better.
From Stavnitz, Rabbeinu went on to become rov in Apta.
The takeover took place in the wake of remarkable events:
One night the Apta Rov, the Ohev Yisroel, awoke with a gripping fear. He revealed to his family that he had heard an announcement in Heaven that Rabbi Meir would become rov in Apta, meaning that he was destined soon to pass away, for, "two kings cannot share one crown."
The Ohev Yisroel decided that the best way to prolong his life would be to move to another town, leaving Apta available for Rabbi Meir.
With utmost urgency, the Apta Rov called together the roshei kehilloh and, after explaining his position, packed his household together and moved to Yas in Romania.
In turn, the roshei kehilloh went to Rabbi Meir, asking him to fulfill the decree of the Apta Rov and serve as rov in Apta, which he did in 5679 (1919).
Interestingly, some years later, when the Ohev Yisroel was niftar on 5th Nisan, the news reached Apta on Erev Pesach. Not wishing to spoil the Rov's yom tov with the news of his Rebbe's death, the people of Apta refrained from telling him. However, following the Seder, Rabbeinu wondered aloud, "I saw my Rebbe, the Ohev Yisroel, surrounded by a light so dazzling I couldn't even look at him, and his son, Reb Yitzchok Meir, sitting on the floor as one in mourning."
His puzzle was solved when the people around him revealed the sad news of his Rebbe's passing.
One of the closest talmidim of Rabbeinu was the Tiferes Shlomo of Radomsk. He would often recite a tefilloh composed by Rabbeinu, insisting it was a powerful segulah for parnossoh when said with kavonoh.
The Tiferes Shlomo, a Kohen, would relate that on the Sholosh Regolim, when the kohanim go up to bless the Yidden with their bircas kohanim, his Rebbe, Rabbi Meir, who was a Levi, washed his hands.
"From the power of my great Rebbe's water," declared the Tiferes Shlomo, "I drew spiritual strength and yiras Shomayim for the following half a year!"