R’ Motul – The French Bochur That Changed My Life

R’ Menachem Mendel Lieberman shares with the Pevzner family after the passing of their husband and father R’ Motul Pevzner obm: “It happened 20 years ago when I was a yeshiva student in 770. But to me, this story remains burned in my soul, a small story that changed my daily routine and outlook on life.” Full Story

Dear Pevzner family,

I am very sorry to hear about the untimely passing of your father – Motul AH and I would like to send you condolences from the bottom of my heart.

I would like to share with you a small story from your amazing father. It is indeed a “small story” that happened 20 years ago when I was a yeshiva student in 770. But to me this story remains burned in my soul, a small story that changed my daily routine and outlook on life.

First, a short introduction:

In those days the keeping seder in 770 was conducted in such a way that supervision was not a strong point. If someone decided to keep to seder, he did so understanding the value in it and on his own initiative. (There was someone who occasionally recorded attendance, but not beyond that.)

Needless to say that without strict attendance policy seder chassidus in the morning was often quiet.

As is known, two groups of bochurim were in 770. The bigger group being the israeli Kvutza bochurim who do shiur gimel in 770. And the second group being the American Bochurim. These are the guys who finished their yeshiva studies, also finished shlichus in yeshivas around the world, and now they are in their last year before their chasunah, in this year they usually study smicha.
If with the Israeli bochurim keeping seder is very difficult, then with the American bochurim it is even more difficult, since these bochurim have already finished their schooling and are “eltere bochurim” for all that implies.

All this is a prelude to the next story:

I was privileged to study as a full-fledged student in the 770 rabbi’s chatzerin the years 5753-5754, among the hundreds of young bochurim who studied in 770 was also your late father Mottel Pevzner.

I did not know him, since I was “from the group of Israelis” while he was “from the group of Americans”. Usually, there isn’t, and there shouldn’t be any connection between the groups, and that was the case in our case as well.

It was one morning, the last day of the month of Teves, at the height of the New York winter. It snowed heavily that morning, I remember waking up to a freezing cold morning in the dormitory at 1414. In the room there was a powerful heater, in addition we were all covered with thick down blankets, warm inside but cold outside, very cold!

From the window in the dormitory one could see all of Kingston Avenue covered in black snow. In the room where I slept, the boys slept and no one even thought of getting up that morning. And what’s better than staying in bed a little longer on such a snowy morning.

Despite everything, I got up and left 1414 in the direction of Union St. mikveh and from there to 770 in order to arrive in time for Seder Chassidus. I remember myself making my way through the pile of heavy snow, the silence and stillness in the early morning was clearly visible from every corner of the street.

When I arrived at the small zal it was already 7:20. In just 10 minutes seder chassidus will officially begin, but the small zal was empty, only I sat there by myself saying the brochos and finding my chasidus expedition to study in.

I remember very well that inside I had a somewhat strange feeling. I am sitting here alone, no one is up, no one is present. The bad instinct crept up on me, maybe it would have been better to stay in bed a little longer…

It’s 7:25. And lo and behold, I hear the main front door of 770 open. I could not see who entered, since I was sitting inside the small zal, I only heard heavy footsteps, of feet treading hard on the floor.

Without seeing who it was, I already knew it was the innocent French Bochur Mottel Pevzner, his different walk betrayed him, and I knew he was the one who was now entering, I saw him all panting as if after a supreme effort to arrive on time.

He entered the small zal, looked for the clock on the wall, turned towards the clock and said to himself: Ahhhh… Boruch hashem! Boruch hashem! And a special supreme happiness was visible on his face.

He went to the library, took a Chasidus expedition and began studying diligently and persistently.

He didn’t notice that I saw him exclaim the “Ahhhh… Boruch hashem, Boruch hashem” he said to himself. But for me it was enough. in front of me stood a real soldier. Straightforward, innocent, inner and God-fearing. He doesn’t consider the cold outside, the physical limitations, the greatest happiness for him is to be able to get to seder on time. This happiness is pute joy!
After 20 minutes a few more bochurim arrived, and then a few more, this seder amounted to maybe 15 bochurim who got up that morning.

I will not forget what I felt that morning in the small zal – I said to myself here, Motul, an older bochur than you, his walk was hard on him, he had all the excuses not to get up this morning. Still, he gets up, he walks, he arrives, and his great happiness is that he was able to get to seder in time without considering what is happening around him.
This event gave me a big boost, and from that day until the end of my school year in 770, every morning (!) when it was difficult for me to get up, I would remember the same joy that was on Mottel’s face, and I could no longer stay in bed.

Over the years I have told this story many times to my students, I have not met Mottel since then, as I live in Israel and he in France, but I owe him much of the inner influence that his soldierly character had on me, the acceptance of burdens and the inner fear of God of a rare and special genuine Tamim.

When I received the news of his passing this week, I remembered the same event again, and for the first time I put the things in writing in memory of him and for the uplifting of his pure soul.

May we soon get to see him again together with the Rebbe. Vhikitzu Vranenu Shochnei Ofor vhu broshom.

Menachem Mendel Lieberman
Elad – the Holy Land

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