Reb Mordechai ben Reb Shaul Staiman
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Reb Mordechai ben Reb Shaul Staiman o.b.m.
It is with tremendous pain and sorrow that we made this "memorial page"
in the loving memory of our dear friend and copy editor, Reb Mordechai ben
Reb Shaul Staiman, who passed away, on Tuesday, 22 Tamuz, 5763 (July 22,
Reb Mordechai Staiman was a very kind person, who gave tirelessly from
his time and effort for the success of our organization "Torah Publications
For The Blind," and this publication "Living With Moshiach" in
Reb Mordechai Staiman has been a prolific writer, editor, publicist,
and copywriter for over thirty nine years. His articles have appeared in
many publications including, The Jewish Press, Wellsprings,
The Algemeiner Journal, N'Shei Chabad, Beis Moshiach,
Chabad, Country Yossi Family Magazine, and L'Chaim.
He also published 5 books.
He will be dearly missed by all very much.
May his memory be a blessing for us all.
NIGGUN: Stories behind the Chasidic Songs
that Inspire Jews (1994)
Waiting for the Messiah: Stories to Inspire Jews With Hope (1996)
Diamonds Of The Rebbe (1998)
Secrets of the Rebbe that Led to the Fall of the Soviet Union (2001)
His Name Is Aaron and other amazing Chassidic Stories and songs. Includes
story of the escape of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe from World War
II, Germany. (2002)
To order the books, in the USA call: 1-877-505-7700, of go to: Mitzvahland
- One Stop Judaica Shop, at:
In his own words
Once Upon A Pain - Reprinted from
L'Chaim issue #140 (20 Kislev 5751 - Dec. 7, 1990)
Friends writting about him
Did Reb Mordechai Staiman inspire you?
Did you enjoy reading his writtings?
Please send to us your stories about Reb Mordechai Staiman, you can e-mail
them to Rabbi Yosef Y. Shagalov
(A never before published article, written
(in January 1997) by Reb Mordechai Staiman)
"Who is blind?" a Ladino writer once asked. His answer: "He who declines
to see the light."
Thank Hashem, chasidim of the Rebbe have been seeing the light
for almost 47 years, and can't wait till the ultimate light arrives with
Moshiach. Yet for years one Lubavitcher chasid named Rabbi Yosef Y.
Shagalov was bothered about something. Over and over, he used to wonder:
"What about the blind and the hard of seeing? They're certainly not
declining to see the light. There must be something I can do. But what?"
Suddenly it was no longer a brain-solving problem. The solution had hands
and feet. In his sichos, on Shabbos Parshas
Eikev, 5751, the Rebbe further lit up the path to the Redemption,
by announcing that the publication of the Tanya was printed in (Hebrew)
braille. Now, the way was open, for spreading the teachings of
Chasidus, to people who never before had the opportunity to taste
this spiritual knowledge, in a new window for the soul.
And just as quickly, Rabbi Yosef Shagalov, taking his cue from the Rebbe,
sprang spiritedly to his own feet and let his fingers do the talking on his
Out of this emerged one of the most important Lubavitcher publications,
Living With Moshiach, ever to hit the Orthodox Jewish market. The
weekly magazine, which is generally 16 pages long but has hit the "newsstands"
with 64 pages, has a twofold purpose: 1) to keep the visually impaired and
the blind up to date on Moshiach matters, and, by doing so, 2) help hasten
his arrival, as the Rebbe himself has encouraged all of us to do many times.
The "newsstands" that Shagalov reached were the libraries for the visually
impaired and blind all over the U.S. and its worldwide territorial possessions.
And due to the generosity of certain benefactors, the magazine also reaches,
free of charge, thousands of blind and handicapped Jews, public service libraries
and nonprofit organizations, and countless others also via the Internet.
As for the publication itself, a breakdown of its material, culled from many
chasidic sources, as printed in L'Chaim Weekly Magazine, shows a definite
emphasis on the teachings of the Rebbe.
It all began with the sending out to the blind and visually impaired a Happy
New Year's Card for 5753, with the Rebbe's message, printed in large, 22
point type and also in braille. This was then followed up by four 9" by 12"
holiday magazines issues, under the banner: "Moshiach -- Holiday Series."
These included Moshiach and Chanukah, Moshiach and Yud Shevat,
Moshiach and Tu B'Shevat and Moshiach and Chof Beis B'Shevat,
all 64 pages long.
At the same time Rabbi Shagalov printed these issues for the
visually impaired, he joined forces with Rabbi Menachem
Sheingarten, who used his braille machine to publish the issues for the totally
It was an exciting time for the two rabbis, for so many reasons, because,
as it says in Living With Moshiach as well as many other places, "It
is our fervent hope that our learning about Moshiach and the Redemption will
hasten the coming of Moshiach, Now!"
One of the most thrilling yet almost frustrating moments came on the night
of Kislev 19, 5753, when, if you recall, the Rebbe, recovering slowly
from his stroke, made an appearance -- although appearance is not
the right word for this ecstatic occasion -- for six hours at a
farbrengen in 770. That night all of Crown Heights seemed much brighter
and hopeful. And on that same night, two chasidim -- Rabbi Shagalov
and this writer -- were laboring to prepare the first "blind" issue for the
printer the next morning -- and willing to give their right arm (only kidding
of course, but it's a good expression to stress their urge) to be with the
Rebbe. Imagine: six hours of basking in the Rebbe's light! What a gift! Yet
time was of the essence, and if we didn't finish tonight -- and it looked
as if we'd be working long through the night -- we could just forget about
the Chanukah issue and our new readers. We'd have to start all over next
holiday, with different material.
So, finally, what did we do? The Rebbe's ways and means won the day -- or,
in this case, the night. Here we were trying to follow his directives, to
spread Yiddishkeit to the blind. Surely, if we asked the Rebbe what
we should do now on this very night, to come to see him in 770 or to spread
the wellsprings of Chasidus in doing what we were doing, there was
no question what the Rebbe would want us to do. So we remained at our
"drawing-board," editing and editing, until the wee hours in the morning
(try seven or eight a.m.), and the publishing of our first issue was, thank
G-d, a big success. Letters from Jews immediately started coming in from
around the nation, thanking us for reaching them in their remote places and
bringing a lot more than a bit of Chasidus to their lives. They were
so happy that other Jews cared enough to reach out to them. The same elation
and gratitude were expressed at the "770" Chanukah rally, sponsored by Kolel
Tferes Zkeinim -- Levi Yitzchok, the Lubavitch Torah Institute for seniors,
headed by Rabbi Menachem Gerlitsky. At the rally, each elderly man and woman
was presented with a free copy of Moshiach and Chanukah.
Then, as with all smooth-running machines, a glitch finally came up. Rabbi
Sheingarten moved, lock, stock and barrel, including the braille machine,
with his family to Buenos Aires to become the Rebbe's sheliach there.
But this did not deter Shagalov's determination one bit. So, until he could
come up with about $20,000 to buy his own braille machine, Shagalov, soon
thereafter, began to print a small (in size) weekly magazine, about, as we
mentioned earlier, 16 to 64 pages long. This is the Living With Moshiach
series he now spends many sleepless nights producing (besides holding
down a full-time job during the days). So far he's put out, under the auspices
of the Lubavitch Shluchim Conferences on the Moshiach Campaign, Committee
for the Blind, more than 90 issues. It all began at the urging at the
Shluchim's convention of 1992. There, one of the resolutions called
for publication of Moshiach written material for the blind and the visually
Suiting the action to the word, the magazines issues took hold, and what
issues they were! Even non-Jews were impressed. One case quickly comes to
mind. As part of the labor-of-love task of mailing off the issues, Shagalov,
one night a week, delivers his ready-to-mail bags of booklets to the post
office. One night he was approached by an elderly black female postal worker.
In her hand was a copy of the previous week's issue of Living With
"Rabbi, Rabbi," she excitedly asked Shagalov, "where can I get this every
week?" The lady's eyes were very moist as she looked at Shagalov.
"Why?" he sincerely asked her.
"Because, in it, you have the holy words of G-d!"
From then on, Shagalov left some copies at the post office for the postal
workers to read.
A typical issue will contain the weekly Torah portion, adapted from the works
of the Rebbe; Maimonides' Twelfth Principle of Faith; the Rebbe's Prophecy
about Moshiach and the Redemption; times for candle-lighting, or where to
phone for further info; ads about the "Good Card" and "Moshiach In The Air"
radio and TV programs; the Rebbe's call to action, like, for example, enrolling
your child in a Torah summer camp; many highly interesting and relevant subjects;
and, of course, the Rebbe's photograph.
"What a joy it is to open a magazine such as yours and see the beaming face
of the Rebbe. I feel all lit up each time I see him," is the typical response
in letters by visually impaired readers.
Many of his magazines revolve around specific holidays. Shagalov goes to
great pains to produce -- ah! if he only had the money and time to produce
a 120-page issue every week, he'd do it -- the most compact Moshiach issue
he can produce in 18 point type. "It's not easy," he smiles, knowing that
he has to be realistic; he can't write a tome every issue on one subject.
But he tries, he really does. And his work pays off in many ways.
The week after Chanukah 5755, about 4 in the morning, a Jewish male postal
worker approached Shagalov at, where else but the post office, and said,
with a feeling heart, "Rabbi, your Chanukah issue was unbelievable. All my
life I never knew the complete story of Chanukah. Never had a proper Jewish
education, but your magazine feeds me, and I guess I've been starving for
information most of my life as a Jew. So, G-d bless you and your organization."
And the letters keep coming in, according to Shagalov. "You know you're making
it big-time," he said, "when you receive a letter, which I did this past
March, from an eye doctor in a faraway state. He wrote to tell me that somebody
showed him one of my magazines and he would like to subscribe, in order for
his patients to read it in his waiting room. Nu, nu, when you
can get your Living With Moshiach magazine in waiting rooms of doctors,
to me, that's big-time."
Yet, Shagalov is the first to admit, it's often a struggle to get out each
weekly issue on time, although you'd never know it by his almost heroic pluck.
As soon as Shagalov is ready to print his magazine, donors are rarely on
his doorstep, begging to pay for the printing costs of each and every issue
So, the man who deeply loves his Rebbe, and believes "with complete faith
in the arrival of Moshiach," has to wear many hats to get the job done. "I
do what I have to do," says Shagalov. Of course, he wishes more financial
supporters would remember this great cause, promoted and endorsed by the
Rebbe, and help finance the magazine's production. One rewarding way this
can easily be done, Shagalov points out, is for a donor to pay for a particular
issue, thereby dedicating it to himself, his family or a recently departed
loved one. Address all correspondence to: Enlightenment For The Blind, Inc.
602 N. Orange Drive. Los Angeles, CA 90036 USA. [or via
email, or via the Internet, at the
"Enlightenment For The
Blind, Inc OnLine Donation Page"]
During one of those long nights putting out Living With Moshiach,
this writer turned to Shagalov and asked: "Yossi, how come you devote so
much of your life, waking and sleeping, to the Rebbe's Moshiach Campaign?"
"I'll tell you," he said.
Shagalov's personal history itself reveals part of the answer. His grandfather
was Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon
Halevi Shagalov, the previous Rebbe's sheliach in Gomel, Russia,
who was brutally murdered by Stalin's henchmen for carrying out the previous
Rebbe's directive to spread Yiddishkeit throughout Russia.
"How come I devote all my life to this great cause?" the 38-year-old
Shagalov said to me. "Because the Rebbe prophesied that
'The time of our Redemption has arrived!' and
'Moshiach is on his way!' And Because I won't do any less than my
grandfather. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. All his life he pushed
Yiddishkeit; all my life I'll do everything I can to hasten Moshiach."
So, now, who is blind? Clearly not the readers of Living With Moshiach!
By Rabbi Alexander Zushe Kohn(1)
"Mordechai the Jew... sought the good of his people and spoke for the
welfare of all of his seed." I can think of no more succinct description
of Reb Mordechai Staiman o.b.m. than this verse from the Book of Esther.
Like the legendary Mordechai of Shushan, Mordechai Staiman sought to inspire
Jews with a love for their heritage and their people. That's why he wrote
Niggun, a book about the power of Jewish song, and that's why he wrote
Diamonds of the Rebbe, a book about famous Jewish personalities whom
the Lubavitcher Rebbe inspired to greater spiritual achievement. Waiting
for the Messiah tells the story of our people's yearning for the Redemption,
and Secrets of the Rebbe describes how Chabad's Mesirus Nefesh
activities on behalf of Russian Jewry led to the fall of the Soviet Empire.
Mordechai's last masterpiece is called His Name is Aaron, and its
amazing stories will warm even the iciest of hearts with the fire of Chassidism.
Mordechai saw himself as an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in every sense
of the word. Instead of using his unique writing skills to create a New
York Times bestseller -- which he could have a done on a Monday afternoon
-- he devoted himself to bringing the joy of Judaism and Chassidism to as
many Jews as possible. In addition to his Jewish bestsellers, Mordechai sent
numerous articles to many Jewish publications, copyedited all editions of
the weekly Living with Moshiach digest (for the blind and visually
impaired) for free, edited Chassidic Stories Made In Heaven,
prepared a rough draft of a Moshiach encyclopedia, and, for a number
of years, proofread L'Chaim weekly.
Mordechai once related how on the night of Yud-Tes Kislev, 5753, when
the Rebbe appeared on the balcony for six consecutive hours, he and his friend,
Rabbi Yosef Y. Shagalov were laboring to prepare the first "blind" Chanukah
issue for the printer the next morning. The temptation to go and bask in
the Rebbe's light was very powerful. But they didn't go, because Mordechai
maintained the Rebbe would tell them to sacrifice their noble aspirations
for the sake of another Jew -- all the more so for the sake of many Jews,
some of whom would be learning about Chanukah, and about Chassidism, and
about Moshiach for the first time in their lives.
"Even the Gentiles liked him," notes a close friend of the Staimans. "He
would say nice things to people whom you and I would be afraid to talk to,
and this generated an atmosphere of peace between the Jews on the block and
their gentile neighbors."
Mordechai was forever trying to make people smile. When I first met him,
a decade ago, he cracked some good humored jokes with me, and for the next
ten years he didn't stop. This was especially amazing considering that Mordechai
suffered his own fare share of pain, and could easily justify being miserable.
I remember visiting him at home after his heart surgery. The minute I
saw him, I could tell that he was in a lot of pain. He whispered that
he can't really talk because he's very weak. Then he said, "One minute,
I'll be right back." He went into a back room and emerged with pad and
paper in hand. He then proceeded to interview me -- not without managing
a few good-hearted wisecracks in-between questions -- about a subject he
was planning to write about in one of his upcoming books.
So, the next time you think of Reb Mordechai Staiman, go ahead and make a
Jew smile; tell a Jew a Chassidic story; sing a Jew a Niggun. And
if you don't know how, let Mordechai himself do it for you. For though Mordechai
will be sorely missed, "he has left us the writings," (to paraphrase
the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom DovBer, at the time of his passing),
which will continue to inspire Jews all over, until the last page of history
has been written.
A web site has been established in the loving memory and also featuring the
works of Reb Mordechai Staiman, o.b.m. You can find it at:
1. Rabbi Alexander Zushe Kohn is the founder of
"myChassidus.com" Spreading the
Wellsprings Further. He can be reached at:
email@example.com, or at
Reprinted from L'Chaim issue #140
(20 Kislev 5751 - Dec. 7, 1990)
When storytellers gather at a Shabbat dinner, candle lights flicker
and the whole world dances in the shadows. This happened to me once,
unimportantly, when I was in extreme physical pain from recent lower-back
surgery. Who wanted to hear -- who could hear -- stories! I had had enough
of them, all beginning with "Once upon a pain..."
Yet, here I was, my wife and I, at the beginning of another Shabbat,
in the company of a family of Lubavitch storytellers. The hosts and guests
took their seats. I waited till the last moment to sit. Doubts that I should
have ventured out in the first place, notwithstanding the Shabbat,
added to the pain in my back and right leg. Would I be able to sit for more
than a few minutes at a time? How was I going to make kiddush, standing,
when I could hardly hold myself together let alone hold a brimming cup of
wine in my right hand and a prayer book in my left? How successfully, with
newly self-taught Hebrew rushing around in my head, would I carry out my
determination to read everything in Hebrew? How was anything I had to say
or hear that night going to be sufficiently removed from my surgery and pain
to make me forget myself and remember G-d?
But the candle lights flickered, we blessed our washed hands and the
challa, and the meal began. There were tales of the Baal Shem Tov,
of course, and mention of Rebbe Israel, the Maggid of Kozhenitz, who
was so weak he had to be carried to services for more than 15 years and who
regained his strength only when he prayed, singing and dancing feverishly,
his body well again -- just for that time.
I didn't come to hear that. My pain never seemed to go away. Then, too,
surrounded by the hosts' sons, I really wanted my own son seated next to
me and my wife at the table. So I closed my eyes and went looking for my
21-year-old son Ari, who lived in Japan and seemed very far away from Judaism.
[Ed. note: Ari means lion in Hebrew]
When I opened my eyes, I suddenly saw on the wall a painting of a man standing
next to a lion. "Who is that?" I asked my host. Smiling, he said, "That is
the cover to my old story, Ariel and the Lion." I enjoined him to tell me
Ariel had to travel. He joined a caravan upon the condition that they halt
the trek for Shabbat. Agreeing, the guide took Ariel's money, but
when Shabbat arrived, he refused to stop. His excuse was that they
were at the edge of a forest full of cutthroat brigands. Ariel, undaunted,
chose to stay alone there to celebrate the Shabbat and the caravan
As he prayed, Ariel heard rumblings and felt hot breath on his neck. He looked
up. It was a ferocious lion. There was nothing else to do so he kept on praying.
He prayed, ate, dreamed and celebrated Shabbat -- the lion remaining
where he was all the time. When Shabbat ended, the lion motioned to
Ariel to get on his back. Together they made their way through the forest
until they reached the caravan, that is, the remnants of it. All the travelers
had been beaten and robbed and not much was left of the wagons. With the
lion's help, Ariel arrived at his destination.
I didn't have to ask the significance of it all. My own son, Ari, travelled
some 6000 miles in that moment to tell me. Ariel and the lion. Ari my son,
the lion. G-d had brought me back to Judaism just last year. He'd do the
same for my son Ari, I firmly believed, and for my daughter Lisa, Arielle.
That's why I had to leave my sickbed and come here for the Shabbat
meal: to be delivered; to see a new day. As the Maggid of Kozhenitz
said, "Every man must free himself from Egypt every day."
If you think this story is about forgetting my own pain for a while, perhaps,
it is. But on the way home, my wife, Ada told me about a difficult experience
that one of the storyteller's sons had had recently. Yet that night, at the
Shabbat table, he spoke with such gusto that it was impossible to
know that he was under any ordeal.
"In all things we trust G-d."
Whoever said that said a mouthful. I'm getting around to appreciating that.
Slowly. After all, with G-d's help, I'm leaving Egypt and working my way
toward the Promised Land.
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