Weekly Chasidic Story #996 (s5777-14 / 4 Tevet 5777)

A Heaven-Shaking Change of Name

"What will become of me? I will remain here forever. Even after I recuperate, no country will accept me, since I was once sick with typhus."

Connection: Seasonal: Kaddish Day for holocaust martyrs

A Heaven-Shaking Change of Name


Mr. Mordechai Weinberger (who passed away in 2015) lived in Montreal, Canada. His name used to be Greenfeld, but a superb act of love for a fellow Jew led to a change in his last name.

Reb Mordechai's childhood friend was a yeshiva student whose last name was Engel. They were reunited in a displaced persons camp after the War, and they both applied for a Canadian visa. The first requirement for a visa was a letter of good health from a doctor, because no country in the world will agree to accept sick people. Reb Mordechai received his visa, but Engel couldn't because he had typhus when he applied.

When the boat was about to leave, Engel came to say goodbye to his friend, and began crying bitterly. "What will become of me? I will remain here forever. Even after I recuperate, no country will accept me, since I was once sick with typhus. What will be with me? Will I never be able to build a Jewish home with children of my own?"

Reb Mordechai had mercy on his friend, and with supernatural strength and love, he gave him his visa. "Your name isn't Engel anymore. For now on, you will be called Greenfeld," he told him. "Go and save your life."

Reb Mordechai returned to the desolate transit camp. It took some time, but eventually, Reb Mordechai received another visa to Canada. How? Someone by the name of Weinberger had a visa to Canada, but he died before he could use it, and Reb Mordechai managed to receive it. That is when Reb Mordechai's name was officially changed to Weinberger.

The Al-mighty granted him success, and he was blessed with Torah and wealth together.

Once, Reb Mordechai asked his Rebbe, the "Imrei Chaim" of Vizhnitz, whether he should go back to using his previous name, Greenfeld. The Rebbe replied, "Whenever someone says 'Reb Mordechai Weinberger' it creates a tumult in heaven, because it reminds heaven of the self-sacrifice you performed for another Jew.

"Why should you want to lose this?" smiled the Rebbe.


: "Torah Wellsprings" - R. Elimelech Biderman (Emor 5776 - adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the translation of R. Baruch Twersky)

Biographical note:
Rabbi Chaim-Meir Hagar, the Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz [ 15 Kislev 5648 - 9 Nissan 5732] (Dec. 1887 - April 1972)], after the Holocaust moved to Bnai Brak in Israel where he established the post-war Vizhnitz community. He also became one of the main rabbinical leaders of Agudat Yisrael in Israel. Upon his passing, his two sons, Moshe-Yehoshua and Mordechai, became the Vizhnitz Rebbes in Bnai Brak and Monsey, NY respectively. Three of his Bnai Brak granddaughters are married to the current Rebbes of Skver, Belz, and Satmar.

Connection: This coming Sunday is the Fast Day of the Tenth of (the Jewish month of) Tevet, when also Kaddish is said for those holocaust martyrs whose date of death is not known.



Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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