||Letter by R. Sholom Mordecai b. Isaac HaKohen Schwadron (1912–1997) was known as the "Maggid of Jerusalem" for the fiery, inspirational mussar talks he delivered to large audiences in the Zichron Moshe shtiebel near downtown Jerusalem for more than four decades. R. Schwadron was born in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood of Jerusalem, he was the grandson son of R. Sholom Mordecai Schwadron, a leading halachic authority known by the Hebrew acronym, Maharsham.
An orphan at the age of 7 he was forced to live at the Diskin Orphanage in Jerusalem, an experience which heightened his sensitivity to orphans and people in difficult straits. At age 12, he entered Yeshivat Tzion under R. Yaakov Katzenelenbogen. At age 15, he entered the Lomza Yeshiva in Petach Tikva under R. Eliyahu Dushnitzer. By the age of 18 he was learning 700 pages of Gemara every semester at the Hebron yeshiva, which had moved to Jerusalem after the 1929 Hebron massacre. In the seven years in which he studied at Hebron yeshiva, he became the talmid muvhak (primary pupil) of the mashgiach ruchani, R. Leib Chasman. To the end of his days, R. Schwadron referred to Chasman as "my rebbe."
In 1936, R. Schwadron married Leah Auerbach, daughter of R. Chaim Yehuda Leib Auerbach, rosh yeshiva of Shaar Hashamayim Yeshiva. A story from the early days of Schwadron's marriage illustrates the dire poverty found in the Auerbach household. As part of the dowry agreement, R. Auerbach and his wife committed to supporting their son-in-law for the first three years of his marriage. On the first day, he came to eat breakfast and was served black bread, cream, a cup of coffee and halva by his mother-in-law. R. Schwadron ate the meal, thanked his mother-in-law, and went to learn. The next morning, he realized that his wife hadn't joined him and asked where she was. "Oh, she had to go somewhere," Rebbetzin Auerbach replied. On the third morning, when his wife still didn't join him, R. Schwadron became worried and demanded to know what was going on. His mother-in-law tearfully admitted that they had agreed to support him, but had no money to support her too. Schwadron's wife would come in after he left and make do with bread and water for breakfast.
R. Schwadron founded his own home on simplicity and lack of luxuries. He and his family lived in a small, two-room apartment in the Shaarei Chesed neighborhood of Jerusalem, which lacked a refrigerator, a bathtub, a washing machine or running water. (Water was drawn from a nearby well.) The kitchen, located in the courtyard, was so small that it did not fulfill the halachic requirement for a mezuzah. Yet despite the lack of space and conveniences, the family was known for sharing everything it had with drop-in visitors and indigent guests.
Following his marriage, Schwadron joined the Ohel Moshe kollel, where he learned alongside future Torah leaders such as R. Shmuel Wosner, R. Eliezer Waldenberg, and R. Yosef Sholom Eliashiv. In 1937, he was asked to deliver an advanced evening Gemara shiur in Shaarei Chesed, a class he led for the next 25 years. In 1943, he became mashgiach ruchani at Yeshivat Tiferet Tzvi for young teens. The talks he gave to the students, as well as his personal example of total concentration in his own learning, made a lasting impression on these boys. Schwadron exerted a similar positive influence on Sephardi students at Mekor Chaim Yeshiva, where he served as rosh yeshiva from 1950 to 1960. He taught the highest shiur, establishing personal relationships with students that often lasted 30 or 40 years. At the urging of the Brisker Rav, Schwadron became a spokesman for the Pe'elim organization, which promoted the spiritual rescue of Jewish children who had emigrated from Yemen and Morocco.
In 1952, Schwadron began teaching a Friday-night shiur for the public at the Zichron Moshe shtiebel in the Geula neighborhood of Jerusalem. It was this lecture, which continued for the next 40 years, that earned Schwadron the title of "Maggid of Jerusalem." He opened each talk with halacha and ended with fiery mussar, penetrating his listeners' hearts and inspiring them to self-improvement. A master at storytelling, Schwadron was able to draw out his audience's emotions using sing-song and mournful voices, witty remarks, and exaggerated mannerisms before delivering the "punch line" of his call to change. Often he punctuated the irony of human foibles with a booming laugh and the words, "Pilei ployim, hafla vafelle! (Wonder of wonders! Amazing!)"
In the course of his talks, Schwadron publicized many stories about leading rabbis and tzadikim of previous generations. R. Schwadron also served as the hazzan for the Zichron Moshe shtiebel on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The Gerrer Rebbe, R. Israel Alter, once said that if someone wanted to do teshuvah, he should listen to R. Schwadron's soul-stirring prayers on the Days of Awe.
R. Schwadron wrote, annotated and edited more than 25 sefarim, mainly those penned by his grandfather, the Maharsham. He also wrote and edited two famous mussar texts composed by his teachers — Ohr Yahel by Rabbi Leib Chasman and Lev Eliyahu by Rabbi Elyah Lopian.
R. Schwadron died on 22 Kislev 5758, and was buried in the Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem.