Monday, February 16, 2009


Guest Post by Mitch Morgenstern

Mentchlichkeit. Isn’t the lack of it often a major source of the many of the problems facing the Torah world today? I am not a Chasid. I rarely access Chasidshe Torah. But I am also a big believer in seeking the truth wherever one finds it.

One will have a hard time translating the word Mentch. The simple meaning of the word Mentch is man. But when we say someone is a Mentch -it means far more than that he is a man. It means a decent human being – one whose behavior is exemplary - a role model for proper behavior. It is in that spirit that I present the following guest post by Mitch Morgenstern. He is a descendant of the Kotzker Rebbe and a true Mentch. - HM

Tonight and tomorrow is the 150th Yahrzeit of the Kotzker Rebbe, the 22nd of Shevat. Menachem Mendel ben Yehudah Leib. His mother was Esther. The Kotzker Rebbe was born in 1787 and left this world in 1859. I always like to say a new insight on the Kotzker Rebbe or something new I learned about the Rebbe over the past twelve months.

May the Kotzker be a Melitz Yosher for Klal Yisroel and each individual Jew.

This past Shabbos, I davened at Congregation Anshe Sholem, Rabbi Asher Lopatin's Shul. His Shul is on Chicago's lakefront. The Scholar-in-residence this past Shabbos was Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Director of the OU.

Shabbos afternoon his topic was Abraham Lincoln and the Kotzker Rebbe. I was interested to hear what he he had to say and attended. Rabbi Weinreb did an excellent job presenting the Kotzker Rebbe.

Before I say anything about the Kotzker Rebbe, we have to understand that his entire life and being were Torah. The Kotzker Rebbe was credited with re-directing Chasidus, especially Polish Chasidus back to Torah,

We know that above all Kotzk stood for truth - including honesty with oneself. We also know that many times truth is subjective. Everyone in the world thinks they have the truth. My understanding is that when it came to subjective issues, to arrive at the truth, the Kotzker determined what was the Rotzon Hashem - "the will of God" and/or what is "Menchlikiet". Both played an important role in the Kotzker's worldview.

Why do I feel that Menchlikiet was a part of the Kotzker Rebbe worldview? If anything he inspired fear in people. While I do not know of too many Kotzker saying about being a Mentch, the ones I have point to this direction. Additionally, we know that the Kotzker has a number of sayings on the importance of self-esteem. Being a Mentch is a natural outgrowth of someone with proper self-esteem.

This past Friday night I was eating by my brother-in-law. Sitting next to me was a Lelover Chossid. He said over a Kotzker Vort on the week's Sedra that I never heard before and I have not seen in any book. It says:

וְאַתּה תֶחֱזֶה מִכּל-הָעָם אַנְשׁי-חַיִל יִרְאֵי אֱלֹהִים, אַנְשׁי אֱמֶת

Translated As: "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth,

The Kotzker Rebbe did a play of the Hebrew words אַנְשׁי אֱמֶת. He said that in order to be a person of truth, you have to be a Mentch. You can add that in order to be a יִרְאֵ אֱלֹהִים - one who fears God - you also have to be a Mentch.

This is the question that we all have to ask ourselves? Am I a Mentch?