‘Questions & Answers on the Shulchan Orech” by Mordechai Zelbowitz

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”Questions & Answers on the Shulchan Orech” was written by Mordechai Zelbovitz, son of Abba Leib Zelbovitz. Reb Modechai was born in Lithuania in 1868 and died in the Holocaust in 1941.

Ateres Mordechai

written by

Rabina M. Zelbovica

published around 1939

”Reb Motl Ponedeler” (Mordechai Zelbovich) was born in Ponedel and was the first son of Rabbi Abba Leib (born when Abba Leib was 19!). He was so bright that at the age of 13 he was sent to learn in Vilna and received his Smicha (rabbinical degree) by age 18!! By the 1930’s he was a Rabbi in Riga where he published his book. (Where did he live between Vilna in 1886 and riga in the 1930’s?) The Shu”t book appears online in its entirety on some Habad websites… it seems that it is a valued work in the Hassidic world. He appears in the book ”Rabbis who perished in the Holocaust”. Some intro in the shu”t book referred to him as a young brilliant person.

The Shu”t book (SHe’elot U’Tshuvot – a complication of questions and answers that arose after years of rabbi’ing) often mentions the source of the query before the particular questions, Thus, various Zelbovich’s are mentioned in the book.. father, brothers in law… I had a chance not long ago to skim thru the book. One particular shayleh (question) that came up caught my eye. It goes like this:

”The light of the toilet room goes on when I open the door. What should I do about this on shabbat? Am I allowed to use the room?”

Firstly, I found it interesting that in the 1930’s they had toilet rooms with lights…I suppose this was in the big city. Secondly, I found his p’sak/decision amazing…. After pages and pages of quotes and discussions, his final conclusion was that if you do not have the intention of turning on the light when you enter the toilet room, but rather you intend to use the toilet, then it is okay to use it. !!!! If only modern rabbis were so forgiving.

Eudice Winer Harris Nov 5, 09

Note from Steve: This digital copy of Questions and Answers on the Shulkhan Orech was found online way back in 2009, only a year after I started this site in August of 2008. As Cousin Eudice states, it was written by ”Reb Motl Ponedeler” (Mordechai Zelbovich), the eldest son of Abba Leib Zelbovich (patriarch of what we call the ”Abba Leib branch” of our extended family. While Eudice’s commentary is humourous the Rebbe’s Q&A does give un an insight as to what life in Riga was like in the 1930’s. Alas, Reb Motl Ponedeler perished in the Holocaust.

Note from Paul Silbert: The birthplaces of Rabbi Mordechai Zelbovitz’s children give us a good idea of his movements between Vilna and Riga. Mordechai’s wife Zelda, nee Brin, was from Suvainiskis. It was the custom back then for the newly married couple to settle in the wife’s home town. As it is written: ”Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife” (Genesis 2:24). Mordechai’s son Moshe was born on 7/01/1891 in Suvainiskis. His son Zundel-Zalman was born in Suvainiskis on 16/01/1895.