fbpx

Rabbis of LA | This Year, 44 Is Rabbi Mordy’s Magic Number

When Rosh Hashanah arrives the first week of October, Rabbi Mordechai Einbinder will turn 44 twice.
[additional-authors]
May 2, 2024
Rebbetzin Chave and Rabbi Mordy

When Rosh Hashanah arrives the first week of October, Rabbi Mordechai Einbinder will turn 44 twice: 

His 44th wedding anniversary with Rebbetzin Chave, mother of their 11 children, and the next day his 44th anniversary as leader of the sprawling Chabad of the Valley community based in Tarzana.

As arguably the most outgoing Jew in the entire San Fernando Valley, Rabbi Einbinder, known to all as Rabbi Mordy and in his 60s, was asked if he is slowing. “In some ways,” he said. “But I have become energized and taken on new things in other ways.  

He has his own theory of relativity. “If you’ve two hairs on your head, you are pretty bald. The same two hairs in your chicken soup in a restaurant on Pico Boulevard, it’s a lot. You send it back. You see, it’s relative.” But when “a man reaches 60, three things in his life get worse: First is your memory. The other two I just don’t remember.” But he recalls with precision the day his life was shaped for him. Born into a traditional Chabad family, the youngest of four and the only boy, he grew up in New Haven, Connecticut. Einbinder was 12 and a half years old when his parents drove him to Crown Heights for a revealing visit with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It was the first of many he would have with the legendary late leader of Chabad. They conversed in Yiddish, which the young boy had learned. After imparting blessings, the Rebbe switched to English. “When you grow older, you will become my personal emissary.” 

More than 50 years after the childhood forecast, Einbinder wears the Rebbe’s emissary designation as a golden badge.  And the Rebbe’s prediction came true. After moving to Southern California in 1976 as a yeshiva bochur to work with the late Rabbi Joshua Gordon, who made the valley bloom for Chabad from his Encino headquarters, he was one of a dozen young men chosen to be the Rebbe’s representative and strengthen Chabad’s Torat Emet yeshiva in Jerusalem. Returning from Israel as educational director of the empire Rabbi Gordon was building, he was asked to partner with Gordon.

The young Einbinder at first demurred. “I did not come out here to raise money,” he said. “But I saw what Rabbi Gordon went through every day, and I had a knack for it. I started bringing in a lot, a lot of money.” He discussed the offer with Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, appointed by the Rebbe as leader of Chabad in California in 1965. Einbinder pledged “I will not elevate myself without the Rebbe’s blessing and guidance.” The Rebbe concurred. Ever since “we have been partnering to build Chabad of the Valley,” today comprising a sprawling 32 institutions.

“We reach out to everybody. We have in our synagogue people who can’t read Hebrew and people who are religious scholars. We have the full potpourri and kaleidoscope, which is the Rebbe’s work.”

As Einbinder pointed out, “since 1980, there has been an explosion of Yiddishkeit. Many different shuls have opened. People have pointed the finger at us. Other than the market Ventura Kosher Meats back then, there wasn’t much in our realm of religiosity.”He takes pride in the variety that identifies his shul, also known as Chabad of Tarzana. “We reach out to everybody,” he said. “We have in our synagogue people who can’t read Hebrew and people who are religious scholars. We have the full potpourri and kaleidoscope, which is the Rebbe’s work.”

Einbinder’s father was a model of a deeply religious parent and a lifelong Torah learner, a pillar of the community. He owned “a decent business,” the younger Einbinder said, as a wholesale paper distributor. The elder Einbinder wanted his only son to eventually take it over.

His father’s vision never had a chance though after the Rebbe’s prophetic words when young Mordy was en route to becoming bar mitzvah. “Those words about being an emissary built me up,” he says. “My father was champion of the community when it came to kindness, sweetness and goodness. Both of my parents were very special – I could talk for hours about them.”

With that, he launched into a childhood scene stamped on his mind with love. One day when he was seven, he walked in the front door and immediately could see the family atmosphere had been disrupted. “When I see it’s not the normal tempo, I say ‘Ma, what’s wrong?’ She said my father had been called in for an audit by the IRS.” Even after his mother explained what IRS meant, it made scant sense to her son. “My father was a very honest person,” Einbinder recalled. “It would make us nervous how honest he was. The elder Einbinder insisted his tax returns squeaked with cleanliness. At first, the government agents did not budge. “We noticed the amount of charity you gave this past year,” they said. “We know you always give a lot, but this year it is off the scale … It’s a major part of your income. We want proof it is real.” Seemingly unshaken, Rabbi Einbinder’s deeply religious father showed the agents every receipt and canceled check. His records were scrupulously itemized. 

“Charity is the most important thing in life,” the elder Einbinder said. He told the IRS agents that his mother had died during the past year, and when a mother passes away, the greatest way to elevate a soul is by giving charity. With that, the rarely stunned IRS agents stood up, walked over and hugged the man they wrongly had suspected. The IRS eventually apologized to him.” 

When the conversation returned to the present day, Einbinder talked about the Gaza war. “Not a week has passed,” he said, “that I haven’t spoken about it between Mincha and Ma’ariv, and on Shabbos. I don’t look for peace. I look for safety and security. Peace will come when Moshiach comes. A two-state solution is a tragedy.” 

Fast Takes with Rabbi Mordy

Jewish Journal: What do you do in your spare time?

Rabbi Mordy: I try to sleep.

J.J.: The most influential book you have read outside of Judaism?

RM:  George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” Political satire touched me deeply.

J.J. Do you have any unattained goals?

RM: All of my goals are unattained because when persons find completeness and totality in what they are seeking, then they are missing the point. This is what the Rebbe accentuated: You are getting older, slow down. But don’t retire because then you will get old fast.

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Beauty Without Borders

I was amused by this scene of an elderly, ultra-Orthodox couple enjoying a coffee while a sensual French song came on. Do they have any idea what this song is about? I wondered.

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.