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Sunday, 16 Shevat, 5695 [January 20, 1935].

To my dearly beloved daughter, Chayah Mushka:

Thank G‑d we are alive and well, and may we continue to be so. Joyfully, I have received your precious letter, dearest daughter. I thank you for your past letters, and beg you to continue writing to me ....

Last week I wrote a letter to your dear sister, our daughter Shaindel, and your brother-in-law, our son-in-law, Rabbi Mendel [Horenstein]. In that letter I happened to discuss an incident that occurred in Liozna at a chassidic farbrengen led by Reb Shmuel Munkes and attended by the Alter Rebbe’s chassidim. That story mentions a certain Mordechai Horodoker, who at the time was still a young man. Later, this Mordechai Horodoker became one of the renowned young scholars of the Mitteler Rebbe’s circle, and one of the most revered followers of our great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek.

While writing that story, I reminded myself of the entire history of Mordechai Horodoker, as related by the chossid Reb Shmuel Dov Borisover. This Reb Shmuel Dov came to maturity under Reb Mordechai’s tutelage; he used to say that it was due only to Reb Mordechai Horodoker that he did not come under the influence of the misnagdim, but remained a chossid.

Reb Shmuel Dov told my father that when he was twelve years old, he was brought to Minsk to learn. Being a child with great aptitude, he was admitted to the yeshivah; he was assigned “days,”1 and a place for him to sleep was arranged in one of the local homes.

He studied in Minsk with great diligence for four years, and achieved a fine reputation in the yeshivah. On his way home (a small village near Borisov) he stopped over in Czasznyk,2 where he had a rich uncle, his mother’s brother. He had been advised from home to travel to Czasznyk and spend several weeks there. In several weeks’ time there was to be a fair in Czasznyk, which his father would attend. His father would meet him in Czasznyk, and they would return home together.

This chossid Reb Shmuel Dov was a cheerful Jew — chassidim in general used to make every effort to be joyful — and also very clever. My uncle Reb Zalman Aharon used to say that by nature he disliked stupid people and preferred clever people. One of Reb Zalman Aharon’s greatest pleasures was to spend time conversing with Reb Shmuel Dov. Anything Reb Shmuel Dov said was not easily forgotten; he was also fond of witticisms.

Referring to his trip from Minsk to Czasznyk, Reb Shmuel Dov used to say that our forefather Yaakov made out better in material business in Charan than he — Reb Shmuel Dov — did in Czasznyk; for Yaakov obtained his cousins as wives. But in spiritual business, Reb Shmuel Dov purchased better merchandise than Grandfather Yaakov; Yaakov only bought raw materials, but Reb Shmuel Dov learned how to convert the raw material into a finished product.

“When I arrived in Czasznyk,” Reb Shmuel Dov related, “I discovered a large group of young and middle-aged men learning Chassidus with deep understanding and great diligence. After I had come to the large beis hamedrash a few times, to learn Gemara and Poskim in the Minsker style, some people approached me to discuss what I was studying.

“In those days my haughtiness was still quite evident whenever I discussed my studies, and I was eager to demonstrate my prowess with pilpulim. But they soon made me sweat! They called me appropriate names, and within a week’s time they scrubbed clean the gross hide that I had grown in the Minsker Yeshivah. Some young men began to befriend me and to study Chassidus with me.

“For the first few weeks, I studied only Chassidus, laboring with my deepest abilities. A new world opened up for me; every word was precious to me. I would attach myself to any chossid who would give me time, until eventually I was admitted to the circle of Reb Mordechai Mashpia.

Reb Mordechai had been sent to Czasznyk by the Mitteler Rebbe, who instructed the Czasznyk chassidim to raise the sum of six common rubles (two silver rubles) a month for Reb Mordechai’s salary, and to appoint him as the mentor of the chassidim. In fact, there were also Strasheller Chassidim and Czernobyler Chassidim in Czasznyk, so this caused quite an uproar. To tell the truth, even the other chassidim had the greatest respect for “the Rebbe,” meaning our great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek, and they were in great awe of Reb Mordechai Mashpia.

“Reb Mordechai Mashpia was so impressed with me,” related Reb Shmuel Dov, “that he admitted me to his cheder; this was in a small space partitioned off from the side-room of the Lubavitcher shul. I spent a year and nine months under Reb Mordechai’s tutelage. Afterwards, I visited home for a few months, and then returned to Czasznyk. I got married, stayed for several months, and then made my first trip to Lubavitch in 5597 [1837], remaining there for almost a half year.”

This Reb Mordechai was a chossid of the Alter Rebbe. Right after his marriage, as a young man of eighteen or nineteen, he traveled from Horodok to the Alter Rebbe in Liozna; this was during the last years before the Alter Rebbe’s move from Liozna to Liadi.

Reb Mordechai began studying Chassidus while still young, before his marriage. He had a good chassidic education, and would always associate with chassidim; however, he came from mixed chassidic origins. His father, Reb Simchah Zissel, had lived in Kalisk, and had for many years been a follower of the famous tzaddik Rabbi Avrohom of Kalisk.

Footnotes
1.
Families would host him for meals during the week.
2.
This name, and most of the other place names in this translation, are spelled in the Polish style taken from maps of that era.
From the writings of the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn; translation/adaptation by Yanki Tauber.
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