In the yeshiva world, the month of Elul is a period of
special [spiritual] grace. This was especially true in a
yeshiva whose leader was one of the greatest mussar
In Be'er Yaakov the atmosphere in Elul was different from the
whole year — serious and genuine. There were two
sedorim of mussar, one before minchah
and another before ma'ariv. The Mashgiach delivered
shmuessen three times a week, usually on the same
theme for the entire month of Elul. He would develop the
topic, going into it deeply and expanding it.
During the days of Selichos the atmosphere in the
yeshiva grew even more serious. His fundamental lesson for
the Yomim Noraim was that the Day of Judgment focuses
on every individual's relationship with the broader
community. What is he contributing to the community? How does
he relate to the wider group? Is he a person "whom the group
needs" — "life for Your sake, Hashem"?
I remember well his explanation of Chazal's teaching, "All
the world's inhabitants pass before Him like bnei
morone and they are all surveyed in a single glance
(Rosh Hashonoh 18). He would explain in Reb Yeruchom's
name that while the judgment focuses on each individual
separately, it examines his relations to the entire
klal. In a single glance, his connection to the group
as a whole is surveyed.
In a shmuess on Rosh Hashanah he once explained that
bnei morone alludes to a high place where there is a
narrow passage with a drop on both sides, where it is
impossible for two people to walk side-by-side (Rashi). In
the same way a person is brought in for his judgment alone
— without his roommate, without his close friend
— without having anyone else to blame. Alone and on his
own he approaches the Heavenly court. That instills awe of
The shaliach tzibbur for musaf on the first day
of Rosh Hashanah was [the rosh yeshiva] HaRav Moshe Shmuel
Shapira shlita. On the second day lhbc'l the
Mashgiach led musaf. [Listening to him] one could feel
the `service of the heart' that he put into his prayer and
his concentration on [the meaning of] each and every word.
At the Yom Tov tables in the dining room, only divrei
Torah were spoken and everyone was very careful to avoid
idle chatter on this day when the Mashgiach had said the
seeds are sown for [what] the entire year [will yield]. They
were two strained days — but well worthwhile.
As Rosh Hashanah drew to a close, the Mashgiach delivered a
shmuess. On Rosh Hashanah itself there was no
shmuess, a practice that the Mashgiach had received
from his teacher, Reb Yeruchom zt'l.
Towards sunset on the second day he delivered a
shmuess that revealed what had transpired in the
Mashgiach's inner world during musaf on the second
day, while he led the prayers.
On erev Yom Kippur before minchah the
Mashgiach would deliver a shmuess on purity, on the
meaning of the words, "we have sinned before You," on the
idea of forgiving, which is not just a trite formula [to be
summarily exchanged between friends]. If one genuinely feels
the need to ask someone else for pardon and forgiveness, the
right time to do it is not a few minutes before Yom Kippur
begins. That is the time when one is meant to say Tefillah
Zakah, which according to the Ramban is the main time for
confessing, before sunset.
In the vaadim prior to Yom Kippur, the Mashgiach used
to say that there are five areas in which a ben Torah
needs to improve, by doing which he satisfies all the demands
of teshuvoh. These are: prayer, iyun (learning
in depth), bekiyus (covering ground), mussar
and halochoh. In yeshiva, the opportunity to succeed
in each of these areas is open to him.
HaRav Moshe Samsonovitz is menahel ruchani of Kollel Beis
Abba in Kiryat Sefer and a close talmid of HaRav