R' Mordechai Meltzer (Klatzko) of Vilna

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R' Mordechai Meltzer (Klatzko) of Vilna's Geni Profile

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Rabbi Mordechai "Techeles Mordechai" Meltzer (Klatzko)

Birthdate: (86)
Birthplace: Vilnius, Vilnius city municipality, Vilnius County, Lithuania
Death: 1883 (86)
Lida, Lida District, Grodno Region, Belarus
Immediate Family:

Son of R' Asher Klatzko and Grona Klatzko
Husband of Sara Devora Meltzer and Pessa Meltzer
Father of R' Asher Yitzchak Meltzer; Devorah Meltzer; R' Shaul Aharon Meltzer; Musha Mirkin; Grona Zaltz and 1 other
Brother of R' David Klatzko and R' Shlomo Klatzko, A.B.D. Swencionys

Managed by: Eilat Gordin Levitan
Last Updated:

About R' Mordechai Meltzer (Klatzko) of Vilna

Rabbi Klatchko "Meltzer" Mordechai, son of Asher, was born in Vilna in 1797. He was named Meltzer for his father-in-law, Rabbi Leib Meltzer. His studied in the Volozhin Yeshiva, from the year 1831. He worked in a Maylis Yeshiva in Vilna, but since he had a disagreement with the head of the Yeshivah, Israel Slanter, hemoved to another Yeshivah in the Kolyoz of the chimney sweepers. He became dayyan of Vilna in the year 1844, and served there until 1852. Then he became a rabbi in Kalvaria. From there he moved to Lida. He had very good relationships with the Lithuanian Hasids. He wrote a book Techelet Mordechai. The book was published by his student, Abba Yosef Trivesh. He was known as one of the most learned persons of his generation. He passed away in Lida in 1883.

From http://www.eilatgordinlevitan.com/kurenets/k_pages/klaczko.html

Reb Mordechai Meltzer of Blessed Memory

Reb Mordechai Kaliatzka (or Klatzky) was inaugurated as the rabbi of the holy congregation of Lida in the year 1864, who was called later Reb Mordechai Meltzer.

Reb Mordechai was born in Vilna in the year 1797, which was the last year of life of the Gaon Reb Eliyahu of Vilna. The people loved Reb Mordechai, when they mentioned this date, read about him the verse from the bible “and the sun rises and the sun sets.”

In those days, “the balebatim” used to visit the yeshivas, to look for grooms for their daughters that reached (or were about to reach majority). The young Mordechai, who attracted the attention of his teachers for a long time, “was chosen with honor” to be the groom of the daughter of the very rich man Reb Lieb Gordon of Vilna, whose business was malt (in Yiddish maltz) was called “meltzer”, the name was inherited from him by his son-in-law.

In the house of his rich father-in-law, Reb Mordechai could give himself completely to study of Torah, in two ways- to learn and also to teach: in the yeshiva of Reb Dovid Shtershon and afterwards as the head of the yeshiva of Reb Myla. For some time, Reb Mordechai left the yeshiva of Reb Myla because of a contest that occurred between him and Rabbi Israel Salanter, who was very famous already then, who arrived in Vilna and was also invited by the leaders of the same yeshiva, as the author of the history of Reb Mordechai stated: “It is impossible for two rabbis to use one crown, because both of them were giant gaons in Talmud.” He returned to his place in the yeshiva only after Rabbi Yisroel decided to forgo his prestige and honor and move to another house of study.

In the year 1846 Sir Moses Montifiore visited Vilna accompanied by his secretary Halevi, and among other places he also visited Yeshiva Reb Myla whose fame reached him. The guests were very impressed by Reb Mordechai who preached before them.

In the year 1850 Reb Mordechai was elected as the head of Beit Din in Calabria, there he served in the rabbinate until 1862.

Reb Mordechai arrived in Lida in old age – about 67 years old when he was already fully recognized as a giant in the Lithuanian Torah world. He had a very tough character, very straight, that does not turn in favor to anybody, not to the leaders of the community, not to the tough rich people and not even to Torah people if he did not like their behavior – this image we get from the stories that were transmitted about him. And when something not clean happened in the year 1884, after the death of Reb Mordechai and “the meat tax” (taxa) –this was the main source of income of the community – was given to a very rich leaseholder without a public auction, as was customary, and probably, in return of private bribery to the leaders of the community – a sharp article of protest was published in the “Hamelitz”. The article begins with the words: “From the day that the great gaon Reb Mordechai Meltzer of blessed memory was taken away from us, the leaders of the community started to rule the money of the meat tax and use it like a person is using his own property.”

Reb Mordechai did not play favorites to rabbis “the book authors”, that flooded the book market with new books very often, and refused to write “favorable introductions” that usually appeared at the beginning of the book. Even though there was some favorable introductions of his on some books of great giants of Torah because he saw in them real innovations and of great importance to the Jewish Torah world. Thus, for example, on the books of Reb Meir of Radin (“Mishnah Derurah”, “Chofeitz Chaim”), or on the book of Reb Yaakov Kapshtein that was mentioned above. In the last years of his life he would agree to sign an introduction for the sake of peace, especially when he lost his eyesight and he could not read the book..

Being loyal to this approach did not leave after him any written material, even innovations in Torah of his own. However, his students and his friends who loved him used to write down on notes things that they heard from him and interpretations of Torah. Only after he died, did Reb Asher his son worked diligently to collect these notes that were spread out and gave them to one of the most best students of the rabbi, one of the most knowledgeable teachers in Vilna who had a good style as an author, Reb Ay Trivish, who edited all the material and printed them as a book which was called “Techelet Mordechai”, which was accompanied with pages about the history of the rabbi and words of honor for his personality.

At the end of his days, Reb Mordechai was dealing also with Kabbalah and the writer of the history of his life added “because many broken hearts, many who suffered from sickness, used to stream to him with the belief of help and salvation that comes from his blessing.”

Old and full of days, at the age of 86 Reb Mordechai died in the year 1883. A special structure was built on his grave in the Lida cemetery and on the gravestone was inscribed the following: “From ancient generations a precious star appeared in our land a rabbi, a gaon mighty as he was is hard to find in our generation the holy words of the Talmud and Midrashim and all their interpretations all of them were engraved on his heart and his tongue as fresh received from Sinai he went down to the depth of the sea of Talmud and brought up pearls in his treasures in many written sources his teachings were carried there you can see his mighty power anything that was hidden and difficult that was brought to him he was quick to answer properly he made himself a name also in Kabbalah to him were revealed hdden mysteries God's love and the love of people of him will both testify Calabria and Lida his righteousness and his holiness will testify.”

We are bringing here some of the stories that were going around about Reb Mordechai from the period of the rabbinate of Lida.

When Reb Mordechai entered his position in Lida, the leaders sent him his salary at the end of the first week. The rabbi checked the amount and found out that instead of twenty-five guilden he was supposed to get they sent him only twenty. He immediately called the leaders. When they came, he told them you know very well that my salary was set to be twenty five guilden a week. And now since you sent me only twenty you will think my salary is only twenty guilden and accordingly you will send me next week only fifteen, therefore, let it be known to you that my salary is twenty five guilden but you sent me only twenty guilden.

On the way Reb Mordechai felt about “the authors of books” this story will testify: Reb Mordechai arrived for a visit in Vilna. All the scholars and knowledgeable people in Vilna came to welcome the rabbi and they asked him how he felt as is customary: “Vos macht eir, Rebbe?” (What does the Rabbi do?), he answered them immediately “Kein seifer nit” (Anyway not a book).

In the court of Reb Mordechai in Lida were famous religious judges of great knowledge in Torah like Reb Yaakov Kapshtein that we mentioned already, Reb Shlomo the Dayan that merited great honor, etc. But there were also some that the rabbi did not respect, especially because they liked to drink, God forbid. When sometime a person came to the rabbi to ask for these judges the rabbi made a face of question and wonder “Why are you looking for them here? Is my house a bar for drunks?” (Vos is by mir – a sheink?)

There is a story about Reb Mordechai when two authors wrote one book, a commentary on “Baba Kama”, Reb Mordechai read the book, he found empty verbiage. “And what name,” – asked Reb Mordechai “did you call your book?” “ Rabbi,” they said “we did not yet find a nice name for our book. We want a name that will be short and both of us should appear in it.” “If so” the rabbi smiled and said “there is nothing more beautiful for your book then this name: The Ox and the Trap.”

There is a story about Reb Mordechai that he had a verbal confrontation with a rich man who was an idiot. The rich man was using insolent and abusive language trying to humiliate the rabbi. “You too,” said the rabbi, “are like a loaf of bread.” “Rabbi,” said the man, “there is no comparison.” “That's what I meant,” smiled and said the rabbi – “You are the rudest of the rude, you are so low that there is nothing that can be compared to you.”

from http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/lida/lid089.html

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R' Mordechai Meltzer (Klatzko) of Vilna's Timeline

1797
1797
Vilnius, Vilnius city municipality, Vilnius County, Lithuania
1883
1883
Age 86
Lida, Lida District, Grodno Region, Belarus
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