After the passing of her husband and father, R’ Motul Pevzner obm, R’ Menachem Mendel Lieberman shares with the Pevzner family: “It happened 20 years ago while I was a yeshiva student in 770. But as for me, this little tale that altered my daily routine and outlook on life is still ingrained in my soul. Full Article

Greetings, Pevzner family

I want to express my sincere sympathies and express how sorry I am to learn of the unexpected demise of your father, Motul AH.

I want to tell you a quick story about your incredible father. It is true that this “small story” occurred 20 years ago, in the year 770, when I was a yeshiva student. But for me, this tale has remained etched in my memory as a brief incident that altered both my daily routine and perspective on life.

Initially, a brief introduction

During ancient times, supervision was not a major concern when celebrating the seder in 770. Those who chose to preserve cedar did so voluntarily and after fully appreciating its worth. (There used to be someone who occasionally kept attendance records, but not anymore.)

It is hard to claim that the morning seder chasidus was frequently silent if there wasn’t a tight attendance policy.

There were two groups of bochurim in 770, as is well documented. The Israeli Kvutza bochurim who perform shiur gimel in 770 made up the greater group. The Americans known as Bochurim made comprised the second group. These are the boys who have completed their yeshiva studies as well as shlichus in yeshivas all over the world. They are currently in their final year of chasunah, during which they typically study smicha.

The American bochurim, who have already finished their education and are therefore “elter bochurim” in all senses, find keeping the seder just as challenging as the Israeli bochurim do.

This is all a setup for the following story:

In the years 5753-5754, I had the honour of attending the 770 rabbinical chatzer as a full-fledged student. Your late father Mottel Pevzner was one among the hundreds of young bochurim who attended 770 during that time.

Because I was “of the group of Israelis” and he was “of the group of Americans,” I didn’t know him. Normally, there shouldn’t be any relationship between the groups, and in our situation, that was also the case.

It happened one morning during the coldest part of the New York winter, on the last day of the month of Teves. That morning there was a lot of snow, and I recall waking up in the hostel at 14:14 to a chilly morning. We were all dressed in big down blankets and there was a powerful heater in the room, so even though it was warm inside, the outside was really chilly.

One could see the entire length of Kingston Avenue coated in black snow from the dormitory window. The boys slept in the room where I slept, and nobody got out of bed that morning. What could be nicer on such a snowy morning than a little extra time in bed.

In spite of everything, I stood up and walked away from 1414 toward Union St. The early morning silence and stillness were evident from every nook and cranny of the roadway as I recalled moving through the mound of dense snow.

It was nearly 7:20 when I entered the tiny hall. The chasidus seder will officially begin in just ten minutes, but in the meantime, I was the only one in the small hall saying the brochos and looking for my chasidus sefer to study in.

I clearly recall having a somewhat off feeling within. No one is standing or in the room except for me as I sit here alone. My terrible feeling crept up on me; perhaps I should have remained in bed a little bit longer.

It’s 7:25. And lo, I hear 770’s front door opening. As I sat in the narrow hallway, I was unable to see who had entered; instead, I could only hear their heavy footfall and the sound of feet pressing firmly into the floor.

Without even recognising the person, I knew it was the innocent Frenchman Bochur Mottel Pevzner since his earlier entrance had betrayed him; when he arrived now, I could see him panting as if he had worked extremely hard to get on time.

He entered the compact space, searched for the clock, turned to face it, and thought to himself, “Ahhhh… Blessed be He! Blessed be He! And the look on his face was one of great happiness.

He went to the library, got a Chasidus sefer, and started consistently and attentively studying.

He didn’t realise I was watching him. “Ahhhh… He muttered to himself, “Boruch Hashem, boruch Hashem. However, for me, it sufficed. A real soldier was standing in front of me. God-fearing, upright, pure, and inward. The fact that he can arrive to seder on time is his greatest luck; he pays no attention to the cold outside or his physical limits. This bliss is putative happiness!

About 15 bochurim who got up that morning attended this seder after another few bochurim arrived after 20 minutes.

I will never forget how I felt in the small hall that morning. I thought to myself, “This is Motul, an older bochur than you, his walk is hard for him, and he has every reason not to get up this morning.” Nevertheless, he gets up, walks, and arrives; his greatest joy is that he arrived in time for seder despite his lack of awareness of his surroundings.

This incident gave me a lot of motivation, and every morning (!) when it was hard for me to get out of bed from that day until the end of my school year in 770, I remembered the same delight that had appeared on Mottel’s face and I could no longer stay in bed.

Since I live in Israel and Mottel is in France, I haven’t met him since, but I owe him a lot for the inner influence his soldier character had on me, the willingness to bear burdens and the deep-seated fear of God of a rare and special real Tamim. I’ve told this story to my students numerous times over the years.

When I learned of his passing this week, I was reminded of the same incident once more, and for the first time, I wrote things in honour of him and to elevate his pure soul.

I hope we get to see him and the Rebbe soon. Broshom Vhikitzu Vranenu Shochnei Ofor.

Mendel Lieberman Menachem

The Holy Land is Elad.

A fund has been set up to support the family, a mother, and 7 Yesomim. Please go here to donate to the fund and keep your heart open.

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