Rabbi Mordechai Machlis is one of the greatest examples of a ba’al chessed, someone who does good deeds.
He exemplifies this in the way that he lives his life, not for his own needs, but for the needs of everyone around him. He and his family open up their modest home every Shabbat, and host hundreds of people for meals. These people are a wide variety of all different types of people- not only Jews.
Just watching him feed that many people in and of itself is awe-inspiring, but to watch him interact with them then, and really every day of his life, is just mind-boggling.
He greets everyone with a huge smile and a hug, and he is genuinely ecstatic every waking, and probably sleeping, second of his life.
Last year, when I was Shana Alef (first year) at Yeshivat Lev Hatorah, I got to experience this firsthand.
Rav Machlis was, and still is, a teacher in our Yeshiva.
I was blown away by his excitement to help others, and I decided that I wanted to do something of my own to help. Guys from yeshiva frequently went to the Machlis’s on Friday afternoon to help with their Shabbat preparations, and although I participated, we wanted to get the whole Yeshiva involved.
Yonatan Friedman, a Shana Bet (second year) guy, came up with the idea to have a basketball tournament, involving the whole Yeshiva.
I jumped on the idea and details quickly came together. We would organize a 3-on-3 round robin, with teams playing in short games until they lost twice.
Each guy would have to pay a certain amount of money, and he would be signed up to play in the Yehsiva-wide basketball tournament. Anyone who didn’t want to play was more than welcome to give donations, and all proceeds went to the Machlis family.
After a week or so of intense planning, the tournament got underway. Rebbeim, madrichim, shana alef and shana bet all crowded around the courts to watch each game unfold.
There were cheers as the underdogs scored, and boo’s as the favorites scored.
As commissioner/organizer/referee, I was universally booed, and even received a threat that my bed would be flipped.
After the final whistle, our 6’ 5” 350 pound friend lifted the championship trophy (a piece of paper) and everyone trickled inside. It had been an exhausting five rounds of basketball in four days, and everyone was hoarse from yelling.
The next day, when I got up the courage to approach Rav Machlis with his new, “anonymous” donation, the smile on his face washed away all the stress from the week.
I could have been giving him 1 shekel, and I could have been giving him 1 million shekel; I would have been greeted the same way.
What better way to truly live only in the world of chessed for even a minute, than bringing a Yeshiva together to bring one family and one nation together as well?