The Rebbe Rashab’s ‘True and Beloved Friend’

One of three people to receive semicha from the Rebbe Maharash, Reb Yaakov Mordechai Bezpalov, later the rov of Poltava, was the Rebbe Rashab’s chavrusa and close friend who brought him comfort after his father’s histalkus.

Reb Yaakov Mordechai Bezpalov was one of the great chassidim of the Rebbe Maharash and the Rebbe Rashab, and was one of the three people who received semicha from the Rebbe Maharash. For over 35 years, he served as the Rov of Poltava in Russia.

Before the Rebbe Rashab accepted the nesius, he was his chavrusa and very close friend. He was known to serve Hashem in the way of “merirus” (remorse). He passed away on the 30th of Tishrei, 5676 (1915).


When Reb Yaakov Mordechai Bezpalov, a chossid of the Rebbe Maharash, was a young man, he had studied Torah for many years while being supported by his father-in-law on kest. At one point, in the year 5638 (1878), the funds dwindled and his support ended. Understandably concerned, Reb Yaakov Mordechai immediately sent a letter to the [future] Rebbe Rashab, enclosing a pa”n to be presented to the Rebbe Maharash.

The Rebbe Maharash told the Rebbe Rashab: “He should continue living on kest. May HaShem strengthen his heart to continue learning. And if he does so, everything will be available for him.”

Reporting this response to Reb Yaakov Mordechai, the Rebbe Rashab added, “The main thing is not to be worried and to trust in HaShem, Who supports.”


Once the Rebbe Rashab was learning with the Reb Yaakov Mordechai, while the Friediker Rebbe, who was 3 or 4 years old, was sleeping in his bed in the same room. R’ Yaakov Mordechai looked at the sleeping boy, and noted that his face showed exhibited a heightened sense of kedusha.

Hearing that, the Rebbe Rashab desired to kiss his son. Yet, he restrained himself, and instead wrote a maamar beginning “Moh Rabu Maasecha Hashem.” When the Friediker Rebbe became older, the Rebbe Rashab gave him the maamar, and told him, “This is a Chassidishe kush!” Years later, he told him the full story.


The Frierdiker Rebbe records, what he heard from his father, about the comfort Reb Yaakov Mordechai gave him after the passing of the Rebbe Maharash:

“It is only a good friend who is capable of putting a person on his feet, saving him from going down into the pit of sorrow and anguish, and raising him to broad light that would not have been fathomable in the beginning. [My father] spoke about his friends and beloved ones and counted them out one by one, speaking of their greatness.

“He said that the one person with whom he found comfort after the passing of his father, with whatever is possible to be comforted after such a terrible and shocking calamity, was only his friend from his youth, his beloved friend Reb Yaakov Mordechai. He was the first one who extended a comforting hand, a helping hand, the hand of a true and beloved friend.

“His words were loyal, his speech was pure, and they were not wrapped in the mist of honor and praise, which is the custom in such cases. He spoke of everything with open eyes and pure faith. He did not ‘climb valleys or ascend mountains,’ rather he went round the point of truth again and again, and with this, he found calmness and comfort to his soul.”


The Frierdiker Rebbe describes a farbrengen at the sheva brachos of Reb Yaakov Mordechai:

In the middle of it all, [Reb Yaakov Mordechai] began to cry bitterly, to the degree that all those present were astounded. They asked him to stop crying, but to no avail… Everyone began dancing, all besides Reb Yaakov Mordechai, who leaned his head on his hands and cried.

When they poured cups to say l’chaim, he stopped crying and began to say in a tearful voice, “The Rebbe [Maharash] told me, ‘When there is a Rebbe, there are chassidim, but chassidim who do and work.’ When a chossid is not a chossid, he makes his Rebbe no more a Rebbe. The Alter Rebbe was a Rebbe, and he made chasidim, and the chassidim, being that they were chassidim and ‘people of deed’ with avoda sheb’leiv, they strengthened their Rebbe…”

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