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23 Ellul 5771 - September 22, 2011 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Rabbi Meir Leibish Malbim, zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 1st Tishrei

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 Vohlynia."

He went on to learn Toras hanistar with the Rebbe of Ziditchov, HaRav Zvi Hirsch Eichenstein, zt"l, author of Ateres Zvi.

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 seforim.

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 business.

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 parnossoh.

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 starving family."

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 generations.

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!


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