The symbol of a ben Torah who earned a living on the side, Rabbi Binyamin Mordechai Altschuler, owner of the Boro Park clothier Sport a la Mode and a devoted Gerrer Chassid, was niftar on Wednesday, a short two months after his initial diagnosis with terminal disease. He was 63.
The passing of Reb Mottel, as he was called, comes four weeks before the marriage of their youngest child, a kallah, following which he and his wife were planning on moving to Eretz Yisrael. They had already packed their belongings and arranged for job replacements — his wife, Mrs. Pearl Altschuler, is the menahales of Bais Yaakov D’Gur in Boro Park.
His diagnosis days before Pesach brought all plans to a halt, as he fought an ultimately unsuccessful battle for his life.
“He was a gaon in pashtus, a gaon in middos, we never heard a word from him that was not fine,” bemoaned Rabbi Chaim Perkal, a mechutan of Reb Mottel’s, speaking shortly after the levayah ended in Yerushalayim on Thursday night. “You don’t find such people today.”
He was also a gaon in hasmadah. A day in the life of the talmid of Harav Chaim Visoker, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Beis Hatalmud was one long learning seder, broken up into periods for davening, eating and working, according to his son-in-law, Reb Shlomo Schvirtz of Yerushalayim.
“He woke up in the morning, he had a shiur, he davened Shacharis, then he had a chavrusa for three hours,” Rabbi Schvirtz said. “He went to work, he opened a Gemara. He came home, ate something and then rushed out to say a shiur in Daf Yomi.”
Reb Mottel’s ehrlichkeit in business, and the kibbud av he exhibited for his elderly father with whom he worked at Sport a la Mode, set an example for all who came in contact with him, as one longtime customer recalled.
Calling Reb Mottel an “extraordinary individual,” Rabbi Avraham Y. Heschel, who knew him for more than 20 years, said that he learned much from observing Reb Mottel.
“For all those who were privileged to know him, this is a terrible loss,” Rabbi Heschel said. “People entered his store to buy a raincoat, and left with far more than a garment. I recall when his elderly father would also work in the store. Watching him interact with his father was an inspiring experience. His kibbud av was exemplary.”
Born in 1950 in Paris, where his parents, Reb Yehuda and Sarah Chaya Altschuler, lived for several years after WWII, Mottel came with the family to New York as a 5-year-old child.
He learned in Yeshivah Beis Hatalmud, later going to Yeshivas Mir in Yerushalayim, in the shiur of Harav Chaim Shmulevitz, zt”l. He then returned to the United States and married into the Greenbaum family of Australia. His wife, Mrs. Pearl Chana Altschuler, is today a foremost mechaneches as principal of Beis Yaakov D’Gur in Brooklyn.
Following his marriage, Reb Mottel learned in Beis Hatalmud’s kollel for a few years, then became a maggid shiur in the Gerrer mesivta. About 30 years ago, he began working in the coat store founded by his father, taking over when his father was niftar.
The Altschulers had four daughters, marrying off three of them and celebrating the engagement of their youngest a few months ago. They were planning to move to Eretz Yisrael where their daughters lived following the chasunah on 12 Tammuz.
Then Reb Mottel was diagnosed days before Pesach. His emergency surgery was on Erev Pesach, finishing hours into the Seder night. But his brave battle for life was tragically brief.
Reb Mottel is survived by, ybl”c, his esteemed wife, Mrs. Pearl Chana, and children, Mrs. Yocheved Leah Perkal, Mrs. Itty Schvirtz, Mrs. Esther Tzirel Weiss, and Chaya Sarah, and grandchildren.
Shivah will be observed at 4623 11th Ave. until Tuesday morning.
Yehi zichro baruch.