It's a great loss.

Friday, 7 June, 2024 - 7:08 am

I remember his shouting; it's precisely those shouts that came to my mind and heart when the message arrived: 'Moshe Kotlarsky OBM'. The cliché says 'speak of the dead as saints' to express the glorification of a person after their death; there is always a sense of glorification when the person is no longer with us. This time, it isn't like that. Really, it isn't.

The Chabad feeds on Facebook are full of stories about Rabbi Moshe; almost everyone who met him has something good to say about him, and it's all true, all correct. The stories are unique and amazing, and above all, there isn't an ounce of exaggeration in them. How do I know? Because I simply experienced quite a few of them myself.

I had the privilege of knowing Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky. I had the privilege of him accompanying our Shlichut in Basel from the moment it was proposed somewhere at the beginning of the millennium. It was the support of a strong back that you knew you had when you needed it. There is that solid knowledge of a young emissary that there is one person whose phone is waiting for your call. I remember sitting like today on a certain Saturday night in his office with my friend from Basel, Mr. Danny Rothschild, of blessed memory, together with his son, Rabbi Mendy, who continues his path, may he live a long and good life. At the beginning of the conversation, Rabbi Moshe apologized that the phone was on the table, saying, 'I am simply available to the Shluchim all the time.' And when Danny smiled at me with a wink, I told him, this great, smiling, and humorous man sitting in front of you means what he says. I even had the privilege of waking him up once in the middle of the night.

I remember the Upsherin - the hair-cutting ceremony of my son Moshe. It was three years into our Shlichut, and I felt a need for Rabbi Moshe to come and give his strength and validity to our mission. Simply and quite innocently, I called New York and asked to invite him to come, and he answered me, Zalman, if you invite, I will come, with God's help. Just like that. And he came. He came by train; he landed in Zurich and took a train to Basel. So simple. Try to imagine how much strength and power there is in this for a young emissary couple.

But as mentioned, none of this came to mind when I heard about his passing. I don't know why, but it was that episode of the shouts that came to mind, not the shouts themselves but a sentence I wrote on a piece of paper to my wife that came to my heart. It was about 17 years ago after something I was involved in, which he perceived as a rash action on my part that had no place. I thought differently then and still do today, but that's not the point. He actually called me, asked how I was doing, and then began to wash me with shouts, with all his might. He had might, he had a voice, and he had a sharp tongue when he wanted to, and this time he wanted to and used it. Like today, I remember Dvora pale beside me, hearing the tone and approach through the phone receiver, signaling to me with concern, what’s happening? And I took a piece of paper and wrote on it the Talmudic phrase, 'Moses our teacher loved Israel,' as if to say to her confidently, don't worry, this Rabbi Moshe who is washing me now loves Israel; it will end with this phone call, and that's it. There isn't an ounce of fear in my heart.

The hidden things of the heart are fascinating, and if these moments arose from our 22 years of conduct, it seems they expressed my deepest confidence that this man simply wanted my good. 

It's a great loss.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe lost his highest-ranking general this week, Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Kotlarsky, of blessed memory.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalman Wishedski

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