Last week I received an email from the Chofetz Chaim Foundation, announcing the illness of Rav Meir Schuster and asking people across the globe to say Tehillim for his refuah sheleimah. How apropos it is that an extension of the Chofetz Chaim is calling for davening on behalf of a man whom I never heard speak a bad word about anyone in the 15 years I’ve known him.
As I was sitting in the hospital last week with Rav Meir’s wife, Rebbetzin Esther Schuster, I remembered that many years ago, when I was living in Lakewood, I had heard numerous stories of Rav Meir picking up thousands of people at the Kotel and changing their lives. Those stories were what inspired me to come to Eretz Yisrael to do kiruv. Three days after I arrived in the Holy Land, Hashem made my dream come true, and I was hired by Rav Meir himself.
All the great things I learned from him I learned by being with him and watching him in action, witnessing his total dedication to avodas Hashem. He never gave me advice or instructions. He just quietly went about his duties. Everything I wanted to know about being a real oved Hashem I learned from his example alone.
After a short time working with Rav Meir, I became his chavrusa twice a day and his assistant in the kiruv he did through Heritage House. I would make sure to catch his minyanim where he davened at the Kotel, waving his finger up to Shamayim. Anybody who ever saw Rav Meir daven never forgot it and undoubtedly was changed by the experience.
I’d like to share Rav Meir’s schedule on an average day. First, he would get up in the middle of the night to make phone calls to America on behalf of Heritage House; then he would daven neitz (the sunrise minyan), come home and eat a healthy breakfast (something that he always scolded me for skipping, in his fatherly way); then he would jump into his car, head to Heritage House to pick up boys and girls to take them to their respective yeshivas and seminaries. With that finished, he would head back to the Old City and start his first learning seder with me until lunchtime. He would then eat his healthy lunch and head to the Kotel to do kiruv until after Maariv. Then we’d have our second seder, until I was too tired to continue. After, he’d head home for a delicious supper that his wife always had waiting for him. From there, he would have his phone chavrusa with Rabbi Abramov and then head for his few hours of sleep, to return to the same schedule the next day. For 42 years, he never took a vacation.
Like with all great people throughout history, a great woman has stood behind Rav Meir all these years. Rebbetzin Schuster has dedicated herself to helping her husband accomplish his untiring goals for Klal Yisrael. As an example, for the past 15 years, Rav Meir has gone to America to fundraise for the six weeks preceding Pesach. Rav Meir would return one day before Pesach to a totally “Pesach-dic” home. His only “job” was to pick up the matzah. Everything else was completed and prepared by his Rebbetzin.
I am forever grateful to the Almighty for giving me the zechus to work with this great man and to become part of his beautiful family. –Moishe Mendlowitz