By a grandchild
Walk; as if we could walk to yesterday.
Listen; for words that fade…
Sit, as we yearn to, near our Zeide, R’ Chaim Menachem Tiechtel, in his small, Jerusalem apartment with a porch and breezy winds bringing in the freshest air in the world.
His eyes are blue and expressive, his bearing regal, and his voice poetic and strong. Looking at his noble, lined face, one could guess he lived there for at least forty years, married to Chaya Feigel, his soul mate, and kin. Surrounded by pictures that grace every mantel and shelf, he would joke that he needed another room just for them; one would know he established a fine family of children and grandchildren. Staring at him one would never decipher though, the invisible scrapes and bruises from the long, exile night.
In his library, he proudly takes out a brown, hard covered journal that was once hidden in a coffee can. It is an original manuscript that his scholarly father, Reb Yissacher Shlomo, had written from the attic, hiding from the Nazis. Using no references or other books, but only memory alone, the author of “Mishnah Sachir,” composed another tome, “Eim Habanim Simaicha.”
The papers were covered with words from margin to margin, with flowing, evenly spaced letters, as if his father, the head Rav of Pishtian, Slovakia, could sense the urgency and yet still remain driven to teach and give hope. His father, hy’d, was later murdered by peasants on a train from Auschwitz to Mathausen, when he stood up and defended a fellow Jew who held a meager slice of bread. His brother Meir was also killed, and another brother Dovid perished while hiding, for lack of medicinal care.
This, you did not see in our Saba’s eyes. This, you knew from history, but in him, the strength was only a fire, to publish his father’s books. Every extra earned dollar went for printing costs, translating into many languages, and to procure only the finest binding. His experience in the war was dark, but his eyes were still resplendent with warmth, his voice, pure love. At one Friday night meal as he sat at the table, clothed in his silk blue bekishe, he began to share.
“Oi ! Meh Haya Lanu! Woe was to us! We were running from the claws of the Nazi beasts, as my father had urged us to flee. We went from Belgian labor camps to Vichy, France. There the Rebbe’s cousin, Reb Zalman Schneerson, housed a quasi orphanage. He hid us, though we were older than the legal limit permitted. One night, while hiding downstairs we heard the S.S. at the door. Our hearts were beating in our ears, as we heard them storm through.”
“What’s down there?” came the gruff echoes.
“Only books,” we heard Schneerson reply.
At this, Savta interrupted with a weary wave of her hand. “Ah, why talk of those dark times.”
He looked at her with the softest look, gentleness and respect in his eyes, as he, this giant of a man said, “It is when we look back, that we can truly thank Hashem for the good.”
There in that Schneerson home, together with other orphans, he studied Chabad Chassidus. In his family, he had siblings that were Sanzer Chassidim, Toldos Aharon, the Halbershtam family from B’nei Brak, and even a Gaon in Slobodkia who later studied Tanya. Yet, knowing his father’s high regard of Chabad, Reb Chaim Menachem directed a Chabad school in France, and later settled in Shikun Chabad, the neighborhood of Chabad in Yerushalayim with his wife, where he raised his family as proud Chassidim and Shluchim of the Rebbe.
He cared that we remain the golden links. With his gentle ways and his voice like a song, his life beckoned of the shine of the days to come.
R’ Chaim Menachem passed away on 22 Nissan, 5774, on the last day of Pesach, known as the day of Moshiach. He was 91.
He leaves behind his wife, Chaya Faigel, and his children, the renowned educator HaRav Yissacher Shlomo Tiechtel – Crown Heights), HaRav Dovid Tiechtel – Shliach in Natzret Elit, Mrs. Esti Bistritsky – Shlucha in Tzfas, Israel, Mrs. Gita Volpo – Shlucha in Netanya, Israel, Mrs. Bracha Levin – Shlucha in Paris, France, and Rabbi Meir Tiechtel – Shliach in Paris, France, and their families, children and grandchildren all around the world.
The family is sitting Shiva in Jerusalem. To send words for Nichum Aveilim, words of consolation please post here or send an email to [email protected]