Living Legacy: The Chernobyler Maggid, zy”a
By: Yehuda Alter
20 Sivan marks the 185th yohrtzeit of Rebbe Mottele (Twersky) of Chernobyl, known as the Chernobyler Maggid, the father of all the Chernobyler dynasties that continue to this day.
He was born to his father, Rebbe Menachem Nachum, the founder of the dynasty and ardent talmid of the Ba’al Shem Tov and his successor the holy Maggid of Mezrich, in the year 1770, in the town of Chernobyl.
He married the daughter of Rebbe Aaron Hagodol, founder of the Karliner dynasty, and they gave birth to Rebbe Aaron of Chernobyl, Rebbe Moshe of Koreschov, and Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel of Cherkasy. When Rebbetzin Chaya Sarah passed away, he married the daughter of Rebbe Dovid Leikes, a student of the Ba’al Shem Tov. Together, they had Rebbe Menachem Nachum of Makarov, Rebbe Avrohom of Trisk, Rebbe Dovid of Tolna, Rebbe Yitzchok of Rachmastrivka, and Rebbe Yitzchok of Skver.
From these holy branches came forth so many great tzaddikim who led, guided, and inspired the Yidden of Ukraine through the darkest of times.
When the Russian government decreed that every family must take a family name, the maggid chose the name Twersky, in tribute to the holy city of Teveria, where the talmidim of the Ba’al Shem Tov settled.
The kedushah of Rebbe Mottele was otherworldly, and he barely ate.
The tzaddikim of his generation revered him, among them was the Sar Shalom of Belz, who said that if the Chernobyler maggid lived in his region, he would walk great distances in order to be in his presence.
He would travel around, bringing Yidden closer to their Father in Heaven. He would say: “until the arrival of Moshiach, if a Yid will emanate a sincere sigh toward Hakodosh Baruch Hu, it is all in the merit of the Ba’al Shem Tov.” He would say, “Why do I live in Chernobyl? Because in Russian the word means black and white. And this is my avodah: I turn blackened souls into white ones.”
The Torah of the maggid was compiled in the sefer Likutei Torah, and was described by tzaddikim as containing the loftiest Torah.
In his lifetime, he chose the tiny hamlet of Anatevky, outside Kiev, as his resting place for the sole reason that it did not contain a church.
Upon his passing in the year 1837, he was indeed interred there, and it continues to be an important stop on the itinerary of thousands of chassidim upon visits to Ukraine to effect yeshu’os 185 years after his passing.