The following is a hesped for HaRav Yitzchok Zilber
zt"l whose second yahrtzeit is 8 Av.
It is very difficult to eulogize one who has passed away
since it is impossible to evaluate his inner being and
workings. But the little that we do know is very indicative
and representative of the greatness of this deceased.
The gemora in Sanhedrin 107a tells that Dovid
Hamelech asked Hakodosh Boruch Hu, "Master of the
World, why do we state (in our prayers)`the G-d of Avrohom,
the G-d of Yitzchok and the G-d of Yaakov'? Why don't we say,
`the G-d of Dovid'?" Hashem replied that the Patriarchs were
put to very difficult trials whereas he, Dovid, was not
tested [for his loyalty]. Upon this, Dovid declared, "Test me
and try me . . . "
What are those tests which Avrohom Ovinu underwent? The
mishnah in Ovos tells us of the ten trials, the
pinnacle of which was, of course, the Akeidoh.
Throughout his life, a person is subject to trials.
Everything he does is the result of a choice: to do or not,
to submit or to overcome. The tests of the Ovos,
however, were of a much more critical, decisive nature, as we
see from the Akeidoh, which was surely an
Hashem tells Avrohom to take his "son, your only one, the one
whom you love, Yitzchok."
Chazal say: Hashem said, "Your son."
"But," said Avrohom, "I have two sons."
"Your only one."
"But this one is exclusive to his mother and that one is
exclusive to his mother."
"The one you love."
"But I love them both."
Finally, Hashem was explicit. "Yitzchok."
This son was so dear, so precious, unique and beloved. It was
precisely this son which Avrohom was asked to bring up and
slaughter as a sacrifice. Who can begin to describe such a
This was the type of test which our ancestors were required
to pass. Yitzchok's trial at the Akeidoh was equally
difficult . . .
The midrash tells us that Avrohom Ovinu was able to
surmount this terrible difficulty and go, even eagerly and
willingly, to carry out the command of Hashem. Yet he wept
the entire way. No wonder. A father going to slaughter his
beloved son. Any son would have been difficult, but this son
had been the hopes and prayers of his entire century-long
life. What sacrifice!
Considering all this, how, Hashem asked Dovid, could he
expect people to say, `the G-d of Dovid' in the same way they
said `the G-d of Avrohom?'
We can ask why Dovid requested this altogether. For what
purpose? In order to boast, G-d forbid? For the sake of his
honor? Did Dovid Hamelech lack honor?
The fact is that he would have merited a higher spiritual
level if people were to say "the G-d of Dovid . . . " It is a
level that greatly enhances a person's soul. He certainly did
not need it for his personal prestige; he surely wanted to
attain a higher spiritual level.
The truth is that Dovid Hamelech was found worthy of being
one of the four `wheels' of the Heavenly Chariot, as it were,
not that we have any concept of what that means. He did not,
however, attain that higher honor of having people praise
Hashem as the "G-d of Dovid."
Why not? Because Hashem said that he did not withstand trials
in the same manner as did the Ovos. Dovid asked for a
trial and Hashem provided it, but he did not live up to his
own expectation; he failed.
This does not detract from the greatness of Dovid Hamelech at
his level, as the Midrash testifies. In Olom
Habo, all of the seraphs, angels and celestial
beings, all the treasure vaults of hail, the clouds of glory,
the stars, constellations and ministering angels — all
run before him in great deference . . .
Fearsome things are brought in Ohr Zorua (Reish Hilchos
Shabbos) which defy description, and all revolve around
Dovid Hamelech. And yet, he did not reach that exalted level
whereby Jews declare, "the G-d of Dovid . . . "
The person who departed this world also withstood trials and
tests, in terms that we are able to understand. His entire
life was filled with varied tribulations and hurdles which
one cannot begin to describe. He, himself, wrote how keeping
each and every Shabbos was a new difficulty of utter self-
sacrifice. These tests were very hard for him, with no
respite till the very end of his life.
This being so, we cannot begin to delineate his achievement
and level. Just as Dovid Hamelech could not attain the
exalted level of the Ovos, so must we understand that
his greatness, in the context of our generation, was
extraordinary, gevaldig! Astonishing and exemplary.
I would like to add several words here. The deceased came
from a country which sought to eradicate every vestige of
Yiddishkeit. Truth to say, they did, in fact, succeed
in estranging the majority of Jewry from their heritage and
belief in Hashem. It was most difficult to hang on to one's
religion there. Those who made it here to Eretz Yisroel
and wish to return to their roots, to their ancestral
belief, to restore what was forcibly taken from them —
the Torah — have a very difficult trial to overcome. It
is not easy, and yet they wish to do so and they wish to
strengthen themselves in Yiddishkeit.
In Bamidbor 1:49, Hashem tells Moshe, "But do not take
a census of the tribe of Levi; do not take their head count
from among the Jews." Rashi comments, "The legion of the King
deserves to be counted separately. Furthermore, Hashem
foresaw that there would be a decree of death over all those
aged twenty and over to die in the desert. And so He said:
Let these not be included in the same census because they did
not sin with the eigel. Thus, all those who were
counted, except Kolev, Yehoshua and several others, did not
merit entering the Promised Land and they died in the desert,
for they sinned.
It appears from the above that all of Israel sinned with the
eigel, all six hundred thousand of them. There is,
however, a midrash that says otherwise. The Torah
tells us that three thousand men died because of the
eigel. This refers back to the verse that states, "He
shall pay five head of oxen instead of the [stolen] ox." What
is the connection?
The Gaon explains that the Golden Calf is the same species as
an ox. One of the animal figures engraved upon the Heavenly
Chariot is the ox and those who sinned, blemished the
Heavenly chariot. And so, even though only one out of a
thousand actually sinned, then from the six hundred thousand,
six hundred sinned. Why then did three thousand die? The
midrash explains that if one must pay five times the
amount of damage, then three thousand is precisely five times
So we see that not all of Jewry sinned. Some actually sinned
while others aided and abetted but did not sin directly. So
why do we say that only the Leviim did not sin and
should not be enumerated together with the rest of the
`sinners?' And that all the Jews aged twenty and up died in
the desert because of the sin of the eigel?
We see an awesome thing here. While the majority of Jewry did
not sin — only six hundred did, and three thousand were
punished because of those six hundred — but no group
actually separated itself and distanced itself from the
sinners. And so, even if they did not explicitly sin they
were part of the whole. They belonged to the body of the
nation. Therefore they did not merit to be counted separately
and all of them died in the desert.
The tribe of Levi did, however, detach itself from the
others; they distanced themselves. The Levites were set apart
from the rest of the nation and they became a self- contained
unit in this context. And therefore they deserve to be
counted separately. And therefore did Hashem say: "But do not
count the sons of Levi . . . " For if he had not done so but
rather included them in the sum total, then it would be
tantamount to including them with the sinners as if they had
also sinned. And then, they would not have entered Eretz
Yisroel but would have died in the desert.
Hashem specifically wanted them to be set apart and unique, a
group unto itself. They are the King's special legion, and as
such they must be counted by themselves, almost like a nation
unto itself. Completely disconnected. So we see how important
it was for them to have their own camp, totally apart from
the rest of the tribes, and altogether unto themselves.
You have been fortunate enough to enter Eretz Yisroel
and to separate yourselves from those who follow crooked
paths which is, sadly, the majority of immigrants. You must
form your own unified group, and fortify this group in many
ways so that you and your families, your children, will merit
the goodness which Hashem promises to those who do His
If you do this, as your great rabbi and mentor R' Yitzchok
taught you, and distance yourselves, as he made sure to do,
from all those who have lost every vestige of emunoh,
if you exert yourselves to the utmost to toil for Torah and
increase your yiras Shomayim, you will become a very
special camp, a holy division. And you will thus merit for
you and your family much goodness; you will merit Torah and
yiras Shomayim, ruchniyus and gashmiyus.
May Hashem help you all and in this merit, may all of Klal
Yisroel live to see the true Redemption, speedily and in
our days, Amen.