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HaRav Mordechai Zuckerman, zt"l
HaRav Mordechai Zuckerman, zt"l
by Betzalel Kah
The Torah world was orphaned on Shabbos Kodesh when it lost one of our generation's great baalei mussar and conveyors of Torah, HaRav Mordechai Zuckerman zt"l at the age 92. On his last earthly journey he was accompanied by thousands, led by gedolei Torah and mussar.
HaRav Zuckerman was born in Smorgon in 5672 (1912) and raised in a home of Torah and chesed. In his youth he studied at Yeshivas Lida under HaRav Yaakov Neiman before traveling to Radin to learn at the Chofetz Chaim's yeshiva where he studied assiduously for eight years, including two years of close ties with Maran the Chofetz Chaim. During the Chofetz Chaim's elderly years, when he would step out for a walk with his talmidim, HaRav Zuckerman was among them.
After transferring to Kelm, HaRav Zuckerman continued to shape his character, maintaining a daily schedule with precise hours for tefilloh, Torah study and Mussar-- diligence and scrupulousness for which he was known for the rest of his life.
After World War II broke out he arrived at the Kovna Ghetto where he became a disciple of HaRav Avrohom Grodzensky. As a talmid muvhok during an extended period he was trusted to record all of HaRav Grozhinsky's Torah learning in writing.
After his rebbe passed away HaRav Zuckerman acted as guardian for his daughters, who eventually married leading roshei yeshivos and baalei mussar.
While in the Kovna Ghetto he worked hard to uphold Torah, gathering together all of the children to teach them Torah and imbibe them with yiras Shomayim. His efforts riled the Germans, who sought to kill him. On one occasion they managed to track him down, but one of HaRav Grozhinsky's daughters pleaded with the would-be murderer to leave him alone since he was in the middle of prayer. He acquiesced, saying next time his life would not be spared.
When the war ended toward the end of 5705 HaRav Zuckerman was convinced the Moshiach would arrive by Rosh Hashanah and was bewildered when his prediction failed to materialize.
He traveled to France, married and came to Eretz Yisroel. Upon his arrival he consulted with the Chazon Ish, who advised him to settle in Jerusalem. He also recommended HaRav Zuckerman to an elite kollel, but with space lacking he was not accepted. Later the kollel agreed to accept him on Shabbosim.
During this period HaRav Yechezkel Sarna asked him to serve as spiritual director of Yeshivas Chevron, but HaRav Zuckerman's wife asked her husband to continue his learning. He spent the next several years studying at Beis Knesses Achvoh in Zichron Moshe, where he continued to grow in Torah and mussar. Afterwards he was appointed Rosh Kollel Chevron at Beis Medrash Prushim in Givat Shaul, where he learned and taught Torah to thousands for over 56 years.
An emblem of diligence in Torah, a group of lomdei Torah and anshei mussar formed around him. With his astounding yir'oh, numerous people came to seek his advise and blessings. He would receive everybody graciously and would bless each of them from the depths of his pure heart, imparting to them bounty, faith and trust. Throughout his lifetime he invested prodigious energy into his prayers which burned like fire, and the brochos he recited were remarkable.
He had a study chavrusa with HaRav Shlomo Wolbe ylct"a for many years, and passed on the fundamentals of mussar to his many talmidim.
In his approbation for HaRav Zuckerman's unsigned book on Shaarei Teshuvoh HaRav Shach wrote, "Since [he] prefers to remain anonymous I am informing the masses that all this emanates from a man of purity, filled with wisdom and yiras Hashem and who has been learning Torah industriously for years and years."
HaRav Zuckerman prayed Shacharis kevosikin all his life. During the month of Elul he was thoroughly removed from earthly concerns as he prepared for the Day of Judgment. He lived meagerly throughout his lifetime.
On the 3rd of Elul he fell sick, but despite his severe weakness he continued to display deveikus, never ceasing to utter phrases of bitochon and yeshuoh. In his 92nd year he had begun to regularly recite the 92nd chapter of Tehillim, "Mizmor shir leyom haShabbos" and hinted he would like to pass away on Shabbos Kodesh. Rotzon yerei'ov yaaseh--indeed on Shabbos Vayeiroh his soul rose up to Heaven from Jerusalem's Shaarei Tzedek Hospital.
The levaya set out on motzei Shabbos from Beis Medrash Prushim in Givat Shaul, his fixed place of Torah and tefilloh for decades. Eulogizers included HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, HaRav Avrohom Yitzchok Ulman, HaRav Chaim Sarna, HaRav Mendel Chachik and his sons HaRav Nechemia and HaRav Zalman Dovid.
HaRav Mordechai Zuckerman zt"l is also survived by his son Yitzchok Ze'ev, sons-in-law and grandchildren, talmidei chachomim yirei'im veshleimim following in his path of Torah and mussar.