The 23rd of Elul is the Yahrzeit of the Rebbe’s grandfather – R. Meir Shlomo Halevi Yanovsky, eminent scholar and chasid.
Rabbi Meir-Shlomo Yanovskiy was the grandson of a tzadik and a scholar – Rabbi Avraham-David Lavut, disciple of the Tzemach Tzedek and the author of the book «Shaar ha-Kolel». Rabbi Avraham-David Lavut served as the Rabbi of Nikolayev, Ukraine. After his passing Rabbi Meir-Shlomo Yanovsky received an offer to take this post.
The story that the Rebbe tells happened after this appointment:
– For a number of years my grandfather was a “yoshev” (“sitter”, see below) by the Rebbe Maharash – the Fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe. And then was appointed as a Rabbi in Nikolayev. At first the city residents opposed to the entire concept of Chassidus.
When he told the local residents about the Rebbe Maharash and how he conducted himself, they came to him with complaints:
“How could the Rebbe Maharash use two gold watches? And how could the Rebbe Maharash use golden vessels? When he needed to write and sign, it was with a gilded pen and pencil; he had a golden box for snuff, to hold cigarettes he had a golden cigarette case!”.
… My grandfather listened to these complaints with indifference, and then responded:
“Fools! Who do you think gold was created for?.. HaShem created gold so that a tzaddik (a truly pious person) can use it, And were it not for this the world would not need any gold at all.” (Toras Menachem Hisvaaduyos 5742 vol. 1 p. 341)
Who is a “yoshev”?
The Chassidim who studied in the Beis Midrash of the Rebbe Maharash were known as the “sitters” – “yoshvim”. Yeshivas “Tomchei Temimim” had not yet been established and it was customary at that time for young men soon after their marriage to travel to the city of Lubavitch and spend time in the company of the Rebbe Maharash.
“In the case of my grandfather, he was later appointed to the important rabbinic position held earlier by his grandfather, and this came about mainly because of his intense training and study during this time in Lubavitch”. (From the Rebbe’s talk on Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech, 23rd Day of Elul, 5746 (1986).
Meir Shlomo Yanovsky was the Rabbi of Nikolayev, in the Ukraine, from 5650 (1890) until his passing on 23 Elul, 5933 (1933). His daughter Chana married R. Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, father of the Rebbe.