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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rav Mottel Pagremanski

The recent hundredth birthday of Bel Kaufman, Sholom Aleichem's grand daughter, was the subject of an article in the New York Times.  This reminded me of a story.

My mother's sister was married to Rav Mottel Pagremanski's brother, Reb Yosef Pagramansky, the Rov of Shidlova, or Shidleve.  In case you don't recognize the name of the town, it was a couple a miles down the road from Tzitavian.  Reb Mottel used to spend summers with his brother, and, lehavdil bein chaim l'chaim, my mother used to go there as well to visit her sister.

Late one night, the household was woken by hearty laughter.  It turned out that Reb Mottel was reading a book of stories by Sholom Aleichem and he had burst out laughing.  Busted!

This story will mean nothing to people who are unaware of who Reb Mottel was.  To those people who know something of him, and of his awesome gadlus in Torah and Yiras Shamayim and Ahavas Chesed and Mussar, it will mean a great deal about shleimus in the tradition of Rava and Reb Yirmiah.

A short bio of Reb Mottel.
Rabbi Mordechai Pogremanski was a great Torah scholar and famous in the world of the Lithuanian yeshivas. Two years before the war he became the spiritual leader of the Heide yeshiva in Belgium. He returned to Lithuania a short time before the outbreak of the war and spent the war years in the Kovne ghetto. He was scrupulous in preserving the life of Torah in the ghetto with great devotion. By a miracle he was saved from extermination and fled to Poland when Lithuania was annexed by Russia after the war. When it became known to Rebitzen Recha Shternbuch that Rabbi Pogremanski was in Poland, she made contact with him and managed to smuggle him to Czechoslovakia and later into France, for his presence in Polish territory without documents was hazardous. In Bailly, France, the rabbi immediately became the spiritual leader. He moved to Aix Les Bains and thereafter to Versailles, where he headed a yeshiva. The state of his health was bad, and the Sternbuchs called out the best doctors to save him. They brought him to Switzerland, but in 1949 Rabbi Pogremanski passed away. 


Eli said...

This kind of story brought a ban upon R. Kamenetzky (followed by a surge in the book's price). Are you looking for a similar exposure surge?

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

I heard from my Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchok Sorotzkin, that Rav Mottel was so illuyish that he didn't know how to spell his own name!

b said...

My father Zatzal and tibadeil le'chaim my mother, who both grew among the greatest of our gedolim, spoke of Reb Mottel with extraordinary superlatives, mostly about his personality and spirituality. His gadlus batorah, I suppose, was taken for granted.

So few people now living heard of him; ironically, having escaped the holocaust, he died so soon afterwards. The compounded tragedy involving this extraordinary man makes me treasure anything I hear about him. Thank you for writing.

Michael Kopinsky said...

"... it will mean a great deal about shleimus in the tradition of Rava and Reb Yirmiah."

What does this mean?