Beware of ‘Machine-Made Rabbonim’!

In guiding his students in Yiddishkeit and identifying authentic Torah leaders, R. Yechezkel (Chatche) Himelshtein warned them about ‘Machine-Made Rabbonim’ who become certified through a “program” without years of in-depth study.

R. Yechezkel (Chatche) Himelshtein was born in Schedrin (5639) and was an early talmid of Tomchei Temimim in Lubavitch. In 5668, he was appointed to serve as the mashgiach for the younger bochurim in the Chadorim and Shiurim in Lubavitch, and was responsible for supervising their learning and caring for their material needs.

R. Chatche had no children of his own, and devoted himself completely to caring for his talmidim. He was known as a stern mashgiach, but was also kind and caring. Under Communist rule, he taught Nigleh and Chassidus with mesiras nefesh in the underground yeshivos. In 5693, R. Chatche left Russia and moved to Latvia, where he served as a mashpia in the branch of Tomchei Temimim in Dankara. He was killed by the Nazis in Riga in 5702.


R. Chatche was a no-nonsense mashgiach and the bochurim feared him.

Three boys in Lubavitch once fell upon a prank: they found a local goat, gave it mashke to drink and led it into the yeshiva’s main Zal. The goat jumped around the chairs and tables and created an uproar. The mashgiach R. Chatche immediately expelled the three from yeshiva, writing about young Avremel Zaltzman, “The boy still needs his mother…”

The threesome went before the mashgiach and pleaded to be allowed to stay, but R. Chatche remained silent. They decided to try their luck with R. Chatche’s wife, who was more mellow, but she could not sway her husband. When they found out that their expulsion was approved by the yeshiva’s menahel, the young Frierdiker Rebbe, they gave up on reversing it.

After leaving for the train station, Avremel returned to try once more with Rebbetzin Rivkah who let him in to speak to the Rebbe Rashab. Crying, he begged to learn in Lubavitch, and was allowed to return.


According to the seder established in Tomchei Temimim, the younger boys attending the chadorim and the shiurim followed a strict schedule of learning. Aside from during Yomim Tovim, they had very limited participation in the happenings of the Rebbe’s chotzer.

At the onset of Shabbos each week, the Rebbe Rashab would deliver a maamar in the older Tomchei Temimim yeshiva, while the young bochurim had regular seder. R. Chatche longed to be by the maamar, and he would always be looking for a replacement so that he could hear the maamar from the Rebbe.


As a mechanech, R. Chatche imbued his students with yiras Shomayim and taught them to identify genuine rabbonim.

“You’re all familiar with ‘mashinover (machine made) matzos,’ which aren’t labored and worked. Instead, you just pour flour into one side of the machine, and out comes a matzo from the other side.

“In a similar manner, there are ‘mashinover rabbonim,’ who instead of toiling in the study of Shas and Shulchan Aruch, they enter kollel ignorant, and come out after a little while with certification of a rov…”

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