By Menachem Cohen
Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of the Israeli Knesset parliament, is mourning the passing of the elderly Lubavitcher chossid, Reb Mottel Lifshitz, who passed away last week.
“I spoke with him on the phone a few weeks ago,” Edelstein told COLlive. “After my wife’s passing, he comforted me in a video clip that his daughter sent me. When I heard about his passing, I watched it again.”
“It wasn’t a secret that he was elderly. I always joked with him that on his 100th birthday, we would bring him to Israel. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to it,” he said about the 97-year-old chossid.
The Ukrainian-born Edelstein got to know “Reb Mottel” from the times they spent in Moscow, secretly practicing Judaism under the watchful eyes of the Soviet regime.
For over 25 years, R’ Mottel was the sole Shochet and Mohel in Russia’s capitol city until the early 90’s when the “Iron Curtain” came down. He was known by his beloved nickname “Mottel der Shoichet.”
But Edelstein, who held key positions in the Israeli government for the last two decades, says that nickname didn’t do justice to the devoted chossid who sat in the Russian gulag in Siberia for 7 years.
“The definition he gave himself, Mottel der Shoichet, was the most incorrect description, because he was everything: Mohel, shochet, chazan, activist, teacher, organizer and officiator of Jewish weddings,” Edelstein says.
“With all due respect to kosher shechita and food -which is important in itself- lots of babies that were circumcised at the time owe a lot to Reb Mottel, as well as many couples -like myself- owe it all to Reb Mottel.”
One example he gave was when police discovered the location of a bris that was about to be held in an apartment in Moscow and R’ Mottel remained hiding outside until they left.
“When he came, he was pale as a ghost. The most clean white shirt was red compared to his face,” he recalls. “But he understood that if not for him, the bris would not happen in time. This story taught me many things, and of course, what real Jewish heroism is.”
VIDEO: Reb Mottel sings Chabad niggunim