In his father's house in Bialystok sat the young boy Meshel,
absorbed in his Torah learning day and night.
At the wedding of a member of the Gelbstein family a
distinguished guest took part: The renowned gaon Rabbi
Eizel Charif came to the city for the simchah.
Together with the other participants, Meshel drank wine and
made merry in honor of the chosson and kallah.
As soon as the wedding was over though, he made his way to
the beis medrash, where he delved into his limud
Torah for the remainder of the night. Arriving for
shacharis early in the morning, Rabbi Eizel passed by
the boy sitting with an open gemora. Sternly, he
looked the boy up and down and then fixed him with a stare
that seemed to say, "What are you doing with a gemora?
Go and sleep off all the wine that you drank last night,
and then you might begin to understand what you are
In reply to his wordless rebuke, the boy requested humbly
that Rabbi Eizel test him. Pointing to a certain
sugya, the latter responded, "After davening,
we'll see how much you understand."
After only a few minutes of testing, however, Rabbi Eizel
Charif was beside himself with amazement at the young
There in Bialystok, Meshel became close with the
chassidim of Kotsk, and he later rose to be one of
their most distinguished.
Subsequently, he became a talmid of the Chiddushei
At the age of thirty-four Reb Meshel moved to Eretz Yisroel,
where he lived in Yerushalayim. Despite the fact that the
Ashkenaz community in Yerushalayim was composed of
Prushim, he kept up his minhagim of
chassidim. Eventually, their antagonism melted, giving
way at first to acceptance, and later to respect and deep
admiration for his accomplishments.
In Yerushalayim, Reb Meshel founded his famous
chiddush in halochoh and maaseh: that the
mitzvah of shemiras haMikdosh is applicable even
nowadays after the Churban. If so, he held, there
should be mishmoros of Cohanim, Leviim and
Yisroelim to guard the Mokom Hamikdosh. He also
said that this would bring the final Redemption closer.
Accordingly, Reb Meshel drew up a plan where a beis
medrash would be built close to the Mokom
Hamikdosh. Therein, a group of talmidei chachomim
would study Hilchos Beis Habechiroh and all the laws
pertaining to the Beis Hamikdosh nowadays.
His plan was to rent the area close to the Kosel (today the
Kosel Plaza) and have three botei medrash there, one
for those who daven in the Nusach Ashkenaz, Nusach
Ari and Sefard respectively.
Reb Meshel even enlisted the financial aid of Baron
Rothschild to support his idea, which almost came to
fruition. However, at the eleventh hour, the entire
enterprise was cancelled by the Turkish authorities.
One of the great chidushim of Reb Meshel was that he
claimed it is osur to place one's fingers into the
Kosel's cracks. He expounds that the Western Wall of the
Beis Hamikdosh is part of the Beis Hamikdosh
itself, and therefore, anyone who is forbidden to enter the
Beis Hamikdosh — i.e. all of us these days — is
likewise forbidden to place his hands into the Kosel's
The Maharil, Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin zt"l, the
Imrei Binah and the Baal Ha'aderes zt"l are all in
It is interesting to note that Rabbi Meshel managed, with
mesirus nefesh and much toil, to have daily
minyanim at the Kosel Hama'arovi for
shacharis, minchah and ma'ariv. Until then,
minyanim had been held there only on special occasions
or in an eis tzoroh.
Rabbeinu established fixed minyanim throughout the
week and for Shabbos and Yomim Tovim. Before Yom Kippur he
had a large canopy erected to shade the mispallelim
since they would be fasting. Reb Meshel was even the first
to bring tables and benches.
Elderly Yerushalmim relate that in 5689/1929 the ruling
British were trying to decide if Jews should be permitted to
set up permanent tables and lighting near the Kosel, or if
they should only be allowed to come for occasional visits so
as not to disturb the neighbors. Upon seeing the furniture
and regular minyanim that Reb Meshel had set up, they
had to admit that the place was in constant use and
continued to allow it.
Rabbeinu wrote a unique kuntrus named Or Zorua
Latzaddik in which he brings a chiddush that a
beis medrash should be set up next to the cave of
Shimon Hatzaddik in East Jerusalem where Torah would be
learned round the clock.
He explains that Shimon Hatzaddik was a Cohen Godol in
whose days the Ner Hama'arovi in the Beis
Hamikdosh was never extinguished. We therefore have the
mitzvah of shemiras Hamikdosh for the grave of Shimon
Hatzaddik. In his merit surely we would see miracles today
too, and in the zchus of the his'orerus in this
world, Heavenly mercy would be aroused, bringing us the
Having a ner tomid at the kever of Shimon
Hatzaddik is an important part of the beis hamedrash
there. Reb Meshel relates two nissim.
Once, the amount of oil that normally would have burned
three or four days did so for eleven days. On another
occasion, as Rosh Hashonoh eve was drawing near, the oil
spilled and there remained only a few drops. A neis
took place and the fires burned for both days of Rosh
Hashonoh as though they had been filled completely.
Four times a year, Rabbeinu travelled to Chevron, city of
the Ovos Hakedoshim. There were none of the noise,
music and strange groups soliciting attention that
unfortunately plague the landscape of our holy places today.
Back then, Rabbeinu davened and learned tranquilly and
formed a close relationship with the city's gedolim
such as the Sdei Chemed.
On one such visit, Reb Meshel was accompanied by his
grandson. On the day that they were scheduled to return
home, the Sdei Chemed asked the boy when his grandfather was
planning to leave.
"This morning at ten o clock," replied the grandson.
Somehow, their departure was delayed and they only began to
leave Chevron at twelve. As they passed the home of the Sdei
Chemed, they beheld the elderly and venerable Sdei Chemed
standing outside his house with an attendant.
The latter turned to the young grandchild, "Do you know,
that from ten o clock my Rebbe has been standing here,
waiting to accompany this small grandfather of yours!" He
was referring to Rabbeinu's short stature.
Immediately, the Sdei Chemed corrected him, "He is no small
person! Rather Reb Meshel is a gaon and great
tzaddik. I would stand here waiting for him, not only
two hours, but for twenty-four.
In the beginning of the year 5767/1907, Rabbeinu fell ill.
The doctor advised him to move to an area with purer fresh
air. Following his instructions, Reb Meshel moved in with a
relative in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood, but he was back
the next day, telling the doctor that he had never spent a
night in Yerushalayim outside the Old City walls.
"In that case," conceded the doctor, "go to Chevron."
With a sense of foreboding, the family accompanied Rabbeinu
to Chevron. Perceiving what was going on, a young
granddaughter commented, "We will return to Yerushalayim
without the Sabba."
Everyone chided her, but Reb Meshel seemed to agree,
quoting, "From the mouths of babies and sucklings . . ."
In Chevron his condition worsened, until on Tuesday, the
24th of Cheshvan, Rabbeinu returned his soul to his Creator.
He is buried in Chevron, close to the tziyun of the
Reishis Chochmah, where his grave became a mokom