This Shabbos commemorates the 90th yahrtzeit of the Rebbe’s maternal grandfather, Harav Meir Shlomo Yanovsky, who passed away on 23 Elul 5693. A distinguished and learned Rav in Nikolayev, he also merited to be a “yoshev” by the Rebbe Maharash.
By Or Vechom Hahiskashrus
This Shabbos commemorates the 90th yahrtzeit of the Rebbe’s maternal grandfather, Harav Meir Shlomo Yanovsky, who passed away on Chof-Gimmel Elul 5693/1933. A distinguished and learned Rav in Nikolayev, he also merited to be a “yoshev” under the Rebbe Maharash.
To mark this significant yahrtzeit and to facilitate Chassidim in deriving inspiration from the Rebbe’s grandfather, Or Vechom Hahiskashrus is delighted to offer a concise overview of his life, as well as a focused resource page featuring an array of materials to explore, read, and watch about Reb Meir Shlomo.
Browse the entire site at OrVechom.com/23Elul
BIRTH & CHILDHOOD
Reb Meir Shlomo Yanovsky was born in Nikolayev between the years 5610/1850 and 5616/1856. He was the son of Reb Yisroel Leib Yanovsky and Baila Rivka, daughter of Rabbi Avrohom Dovid Lavut, author of Kav Noki and Shaar HaKollel, and the Rav of Nikolayev. Read more about his appointment as the Rav of Nikolayev here.
Upon the passing of his father, young Meir Shlomo was taken under the wing of his grandfather, who raised and educated him as if he were his own son. Later, he married Rochel Pushnitz, the daughter of Rav Yitzchak, the Rav of Dobrinka near Nikolayev, and relocated to Romanovka, where his father had resided. In Romanovka, his daughter Chana, the Rebbe’s mother, was born on 28 Teves, 5640/1880.
At the time of his grandfather’s passing on Chai Elul, 5650/1890, Reb Meir Shlomo was living in his home. Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that Reb Avrohom Dovid had left a note with the Chevra Kadisha stipulating that his grandson should succeed him as the city’s Rav. Though reluctant due to his humble nature, Reb Meir Shlomo accepted the post in deference to his late grandfather’s wishes, thereby becoming the city’s Rav at a remarkably young age.
In the introduction to his Sefer Kav Noki, the Rebbe writes, “Harav Meir Shlomo excelled in his Talmudic knowledge and in his Chassidus and his excellent midos. And — like his grandfather — he loved peace and fled from honor, and the community wasted no time to fulfill Reb Avraham David’s last request.”
A RAV & G-D FEARING JEW
Reb Meir Shlomo garnered significant renown during this time.Jews from across Russia would seek him out for guidance, often concerning government edicts and pressing challenges facing the Jewish community.
Rebbetzin Chana once shared with Reb Berel Junik that her father was not just a distinguished Rov, but also possessed a profound yiras shamayim. To illustrate, she recounted an episode concerning his annual sale of esrogim before Sukkos. Whenever a congregant was about to finalize their purchase, he would earnestly verify that they were satisfied with their selection and that the esrog met their mehudar standards. Though this practice resulted in an excess of unsold stock, what mattered most to him was ensuring that every Jew had an esrog of mehudar quality for Sukkos.
“MY GRANDFATHER WAS A YOSHEV BY THE REBBE MAHARASH”
The Rebbe frequently noted the extraordinary zechus his grandfather, Reb Meir Shlomo, had in being a “yoshev” by the Rebbe Maharash. In those times, it was customary for young men to dedicate seven months to a year following their weddings to immerse themselves in Torah study and avodas hatefilla in the presence of the Rebbe. Such individuals were known as “yoshvim.”
The Rebbe once described the lasting impact of the period spent as yoshvim under the Rebbe’s guidance, stating that the benefits extended throughout one’s entire life. Specifically concerning Reb Meir Shlomo, the Rebbe articulated, “His appointment as a Rav in his city, his eminence in paskening halacha, his yiras shamayim, and so on, all originated from the hashpa’ah he gained during his time as a yoshev by the Rebbe Maharash.”
References to Reb Meir Shlomo also appear in the sichos of the Frierdiker Rebbe, citing his attendance at farbrengens and Shabbosim with his father, the Rebbe Rashab. (See Sefer Hasichos, Summer 5700/1940, page 149, and 5703/1943, page 157. Also, Vov Tishrei 5749/1989, page 45).
GOLD FOR TZADDIKIM
While serving as the Rav of Nikolayev, Reb Meir Shlomo often recounted stories and observations about the Rebbe Maharash’s lifestyle, having been a yoshev under his auspices. He once described the Rebbe Maharash’s opulent practices: the Rebbe Maharash had two gold watches, each attached to golden chains dangling from his chest pockets. His cigarette holder was crafted from gold, and his snuff was stored in a golden box. Every utensil in the Rebbe Maharash’s home was made of solid gold, his carriage was adorned with gold, and even his cane was capped with a golden ball.
Upon hearing this, some members of the congregation, who were somewhat skeptical of the Chassidic lifestyle, questioned why the Rebbe Maharash used gold in such a flippant and extravagant manner instead of appropriating it for charitable purposes.
To this, Reb Meir Shlomo would retort, “Petach, petach (fool, fool), who do you think this gold was created for? For you and me? Or maybe for the goyim, lehavdil? No, it was all created for him!”
A BA’AL MENAGEN
Reb Meir Shlomo was renowned as a ba’al menagen, and his niggunim continue to be sung to this day.
In the Rebbe’s reshimos from Tishrei 5693/1932, he mentions that it was his grandfather who taught him the niggun L’chatchila Ariber of the Rebbe Maharash—a melody that the Rebbe would often request to be sung in subsequent years.
The niggun Vollach is credited to Reb Meir Shlomo due to his particular fondness for it. Originally a shepherd’s song from the Eastern Vollach region, Reb Meir Shlomo was deeply taken by this melody. It is told that once, a messenger arrived to inform him that his son-in-law, Reb Levi Yitzchok (the Rebbe’s father), was unwell. Upon hearing the news, Reb Meir Shlomo’s face turned ashen, and he began to sing this niggun. After completing the niggun, he declared, “If there is a decree upon him, I shall stand in his place.”
Another celebrated niggun attributed to Reb Meir Shlomo is the niggun of Rachamana, which the Rebbe introduced on Simchas Torah in 5720/1959.
WITH THE REBBE
The Rebbe’s bris took place on 18 Nissan 5662/1902 in the home of his grandfather, Reb Meir Shlomo. A memorable story involving the Rebbe’s grandfather unfolded during this bris:
Reb Asher of Nikolayev, the city’s shochet, who was also appointed by the Rebbe Rashab to edit the final version of the Tanya for errors, was among the attendees. Observing that Reb Asher was abstaining from the food—since he refrained from eating outside his home during Pesach, a practice followed by many Chassidim—Reb Meir Shlomo addressed him: “I should really take you to task for not partaking of the meal today. But what action can I take against you, when I owe you my very life?”
The backstory is that several years earlier, Reb Meir Shlomo had contracted typhus and had been gravely ill. At that time, typhus patients were quarantined outside the city and were generally left to perish. Learning of his friend’s dire condition, Reb Asher committed to visiting the quarantine camp daily. He would read from the Tanya outside one of the windows, hoping Reb Meir Shlomo could hear. For thirty days, Reb Asher carried on with this routine, uncertain if his friend was even able to hear him.
Against all odds, Reb Meir Shlomo recuperated and returned home. Upon reuniting with Reb Asher, he expressed his heartfelt gratitude: “You granted me life! Each day, after hearing the Tanya, I felt invigorated and healthier. The Tanya you read emboldened and inspired me, fortified my faith, and enabled me to resist yielding to the illness.”
From birth until he was nine years old, the Rebbe resided in Nikolayev in proximity to his esteemed grandparents, Reb Meir Shlomo and Rebbetzin Rochel. As time went on, it became financially impractical for the family to subsist on a city Rav’s salary and it was decided that Reb Levi Yitzchok should seek an official position of his own, as detailed by Rebbetzin Chana in her diaries.
Upon Reb Levi Yitzchok’s appointment as the Rav of Yekaterinoslav, the family relocated but would return for visits periodically. Regarding such visits, the Rebbe wrote in the beginning of a hadran associated with his grandmother Rebbetzin Rochel’s yahrtzeit, “24 Tishrei, the yahrtzeit of my grandmother Rochel, wife of Reb Meir Shlomo Yanovsky—many weeks during summer months over several years were spent in Nikolayev, where she cared for me.” Additional details about these visits can be found in the work “The Early Years” by JEM.
There are many other interesting stories from this time when Reb Levi Yitzchok was in Reb Meir Shlomo’s home. You can read more here.
It’s well-known that while the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin celebrated their wedding in Warsaw, the Rebbe’s parents hosted their own festive meal in their home. Rabbi Yitzchok Goldshmidt recounted that during this meal, Reb Levi Yitzchok invited his father-in-law, Reb Meir Shlomo, to dance with his daughter Rebbetzin Chana. Reb Meir Shlomo ultimately consented and danced with her. From the writings of Rebbetzin Chana, we know that during the meal, Reb Levi Yitzchok also had the chance to dance with his father-in-law, as well as his brothers. She described how the dance stirred deep emotions in everyone present.
Reb Meir Shlomo Yanovsky passed away on 23 Elul 5693/1933, exactly 90 years ago. He was buried in Nikolayev, where he had served as the city’s Rav. Tragically, the cemetery was later destroyed by the Soviets and transformed into a park. (His wife, Rebbetzin Rochel, was murdered by the Nazis on 24 Tishrei, 5702/1941.)
For many years, the Rebbe recited kaddish for his grandfather on 23 Elul (as well as for his grandmother on 24 Tishrei), but the reason behind this remained unknown to the Chassidim. It was only in 5746/1986 that the Rebbe disclosed this information and delivered a sicha about his grandfather.
To read and learn more about the incredible life of Reb Meir Shlomo Yanovsky, visit OrVechom.com/23Elul