Living Legacy: Rebbe Mordechai of Neshchiz
by Yehuda Alter
Today, the eighth day of Nissan marks the hillula of one of the greatest luminaries of the Chassidic movement—Rebbe Mordechai of Neshchiz, sometimes called the “Alter Rebbe of Neshchiz” who was a talmid of the Mezericher Maggid.
He was born in in the year 1748 in the town of Niesuchojeże (Neshchiz), today in Ukraine. His father was Rebbe Dov Ber of Tolchin, a descendant of the Megale Amukos, and through him directly to Dovid Hamelech. His mother was Rebbetzin Gittel.
He was an ish kodosh, who would in time become famed for his piety and the miracles that he would perform, and many great tzaddikim of next generation were among his thousands of talmidim.
In his youth, he dealt in business, and he would take off a portion of the earnings from each transaction and put it away in order to purchase an esrog for Sukkos. Once, he traveled to the great city of Brod with the sum of money that he had so painstakingly accumulated, overjoyed with the mitzvah that he was about to acquire. On the way, he came upon a Yid, a watercarrier, whose horse died on him… the man was devastated, because his horse was his source of livelihood.
Without thinking twice, he took out the entire sum of money and gave it to the Yid, saying, “what is the difference? Esrog is a mitzvah, and this too is a mitzvah!”
Rebbe Mordechai became close to Rebbe Mechel of Zlochev, and through this he became a disciple of his rebbe, the holy maggid of Mezrich.
Rebbe Mordechai was known to be a great ba’al mofeis, and was revered by the tzaddikim of his generation, many of whom would send people in need of salvation to his door.
Among his talmidim were the Beis Aaron of Karlin, Rebbe Uri of Strelisk, Rebbe Meir’l of Apta (author of Ohr Lashomayim), and many others.
The Me’or Voshemesh wrote in the name of Rebbe Mordechai that, although many people journey to tzaddikim for the Torah or the tefillah—the true purpose should be that that tzaddik should implant within them true yiras Shomayim.
He was known to be extremely stringent with all matters of Pesach, and was indeed niftar only days before the holy Yom Tov of the year 1800. He was interred in the beis Hachaim in his hometown, and the ohel continues to be a place for tefillah and yeshu’os.
He left behind illustrious sons, and was succeeded by his son, Rebbe Itzik’l of Neshchiz, author of Toldos Yitzchok.