Living Legacy: The Saraf of Molgenitza

Living Legacy: The Saraf of Molgenitza

Yehuda Alter 

The fifteenth of Iyar marks the yohrtzeit of Rav Chaim Meir Yechiel Shapira, known as the Saraf of Molgenitza, one of the great luminaries of the Chassidic movement, and a rebbi to many Admorim of the later generations. 

The Rebbe was born in the town of Grenitz in the year 1789 to his father Rav Avi Ezra Zelig ABD Grenitz. His mother was Rebbetzin Leah Perel, the daughter of the Koznitzer Maggid. 

He was a renowned Ga’on and a great ba’al mofeis, a man of extraordinary holiness. Thousands of chassidim flocked to him to learn a derech in avodas Hashem. His avodah was known to be with great deveikus… he was wrapped in a holy fire when serving Hashem, and this is how he earned the title “Saraf.” 

Tzaddikim would say that since the days of Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev, they have not seen an avodah with such fervor and fire as they saw by the Saraf. 

As a child, the Rebbe was once visiting his grandfather, the Koznitzer Maggid, when he fell ill. His grandfather sent a kvittel to his Rebbe, the Chozeh of Lublin, who immediately replied, “He will yet be the successor of his grandfather,” and soon thereafter, the child became completely healed. He spent much of his childhood in the home of his illustrious grandfather from whom he acquired most of his Torah.  

It was in the court of his zeide that he became close with the Chidushei Harim of Gur who was a talmid of the Koznitzer Maggid, and the two tzaddikim spent much time learning Torah together. He also journeyed to many of the great and renowned tzaddikim of his time, and considered himself a talmid of theirs. 

Together with Rebbe Itzik’l of Worka, he served as the Nosi of the Kollel Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness for the needy of Eretz Yisroel. 

He married Rebbetzin Gittel, the daughter of Rav Elozor of Lizensk, the son of the Noam Elimelech. 

Once, the Divrei Chaim of Sanz was in a town where he was to meet the Saraf. The Sanzer Rov immersed himself in the mikvah multiple times in anticipation of meeting the great tzaddik. 

The Saraf had a great inyan to repeat stories of tzaddikim of the previous generations, and tzaddikim attested that through telling these stories, the Rebbe brought back many Yidden who were already distanced from Yiddishkeit, R”l.

When his uncle—Rav Moshe of Koznitz who had succeeded his father the Koznitzer Maggid—was niftar, the Rebbe moved to the town of Molgenitza, and began leading the chassidim. He became known for his holy fire, and he drew thousands of followers from throughout Poland—including a number of future Admorim. There are countless stories of the Rebbe’s incredible avodah throughout the years.

The Rebbe was nifar on 15 Iyar, 1849, leaving behind illustrious children and an incredible legacy. 

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