When the Lubavitch movement began its messianic propaganda,
Maran girded himself to fight this group and the one who
headed it. During this period, when Maran first came out with
his opposition in public, the messianic message was still
somewhat covert with innocent sounding mottos and slogans.
The public was not yet aware what lay behind them. At that
time only one blessed with a sharp eye could discern this
blind belief in a messianic Rebbe which was swelling and
taking on a more real proportion under the guise of
Maran, with his wise vision, understood what would eventually
happen and to what dimensions this movement would reach if he
did not take steps to quell it with an uncompromising
He did not stir up this steamy cauldron with equanimity, but
with reluctance. On one occasion he said to me that he would
have preferred that others wage this war in his stead. But
seeing that no one wished to involve himself, he felt
responsible to do everything in his power, brooking no
Maran's mesirus nefesh in this battle knew no bounds;
I have already described in the first chapter the outcry of
his heart, "Even if I knew for certain that they would burn
me alive, I would still not desist in my campaign against
false messianism, for this is bona fide avodoh
It should be noted that in spite of his pitched battle
against Lubavitch, Maran nevertheless recited Tehillim
when the Rebbe became sick. At the time I asked him for
an explanation, and he obliged, "My battle is against his
erroneous approach, against the movement, but not against the
people in any personal way. I pray for the Rebbe's recovery
and simultaneously, also pray that he abandon his invalid
(With regard to this, Maran quoted the words of Tosafos
in Pesochim 113b, that even when we are talking
about a situation when it is a mitzvah to hate, one should
give preference to loading the donkey of an enemy before
unloading the burden of a friend's donkey, just in order to
temper one's evil inclination.)
Constructing the World of Torah
In the wake of the battle against the Lubavitch movement,
Maran came to the realization that in the framework of
Agudath Yisroel, there was no true understanding and regard
for the world of Torah, the Lithuanian yeshivishe circle. And
then he arrived at the conclusion that the Torah world could
not be reliant on a so-called guardian from the outside
(which is how the Israeli Agudath Yisroel presented itself at
the time). It must become independent in every public matter,
and to this end, it was necessary to create its own
This is how the Hebrew [and English] language newspaper,
Yated Ne'eman, came into being, together with the
political party Degel HaTorah, and the Kashrus network of
Maran became convinced that in spite of his pleas that the
Agudath Israel publication, Hamodia, stop its support
of the Chabad movement, to say nothing about waging a frontal
attack against it, they were determined to carry on.
Hamodia even printed occasional Lubavitch
advertisements. To compound this injury, it refused to let
Maran voice his view against Chabad.
In 5745 he founded a special newspaper for bnei Torah,
together with Maran HaRav Yisroel Yaakov Kanievsky
ztvk'l. I have already noted how difficult it is to
describe the difficulties involved in establishing this
newspaper. In addition to the logistics of organizing it,
there was the problem of finances.
Contrary to his usual practice, Maran decided to borrow
$750,000 from the noted philanthropist R' Moshe Reichman as
seed money to get it started. (I don't know if the readers
can sufficiently appreciate this sum as it was valued twenty
This debt weighted upon him like a heavy lodestone. Maran
expressed his anxiety over it many times and said that he
hoped not to leave this world before having paid up that
debt. It pressed on him heavily until he was finally able,
not without great effort, to make good on the loan.
When Agudath Israel refused to declare war against Chabad's
messianic campaign, despite all of his pleading and attempts
to convince them of the need thereof, he drew the inevitable
conclusion and, in 5749, established the organization which
represents the yeshiva world, Degel HaTorah.
In 5746 Rav Yaakov Landau, the chief rabbi of Bnei Brak,
passed away and his son, a Chabadnik, was instated in his
place. Maran disapproved of this appointment and established
an independent Kashrus network for bnei Torah: Shearis
Yisroel. This step, as its predecessor, also met with
vehement opposition which did not stop at any lowly means to
sabotage Maran's plans and its establishment.
We will not dwell on facts that are well known. The founding
of the paper and the establishment of an organization of this
size are weighty undertakings, even for a person in his prime
of life. How much more so for a man of ninety! And it should
be known that Maran did not suffice with issuing directives
from the top. He was actively and fully involved in all of
the activities, in every detail, at all levels. He inquired,
motivated the people involved, did not rest or relax his
efforts at any time.
Only a leader designated for the task by Heaven, and privy to
special Divine assistance, is capable of such leadership,
which defies nature and human resources.
Maran kept all the fliers and posters containing the
vilification and the propaganda campaign against him in a
special place and requested that they be buried together with
him, saying that when he was summoned before the Heavenly
court, he would declare: "Ribono shel Olom: I did
everything I was supposed to do to the point of vile
deprecation and condemnation. Here are the posters they
plastered against me . . . "
Love Ye Truth and Peace
In the final stage of his life, Maran endured unimaginable
pain and a tortured soul, suffering when certain circles
dared blame him for imagined opposition to the chassidic
public and in causing dissension within the Torah-loyal
Those who were close to Maran know to what extent he desired
peace, and only peace. I, personally, can testify that there
was no lover of peace and pursuer of peace of his like. Maran
repeatedly stressed that he had no opposition towards them.
Not to the chassidic Admorim nor to their chassidic
following. But when certain actions were taken that were
contrary to halochoh and to the Torah way, he was
forced to react.
However, whenever he spoke out against a negative phenomenon,
he was forthright and showed no distinction between one
community or following and another, one circle or another,
between those who were distant from him and those close to
Maran did not bear rancor against any person, and would
forgive all those who insulted him. However, he often
clarified his stand, both in speech and in writing, that the
slander spread against him about his persecution of chassidim
was something he could never forgive, for it had transformed
him into a baal machlokes, a hate-monger, at a time
when he loved peace and pursued it to the nth degree.
After the election campaign of 5748, in which Degel HaTorah
and Agudath Israel ran on separate lists for the first and
only time, Maran imposed upon me the task of effecting a
consolidation of ranks to insure that such a dichotomy never
occur again between the two chareidi parties, either in
national or in local elections.
According to his directives, I suggested that Agudath Israel
make certain far-reaching concessions in order to ensure
cooperation and peaceful collaboration of the entire body of
chareidi Judaism at all times. With the help of Hashem, I was
successful in my mission, thanks to very significant
concessions on the part of Maran. And indeed, since then, our
Torah-true community has appeared in all municipal and
national elections as one united bloc.
The Power of Decision Without Trepidation
With all of the pain and sting surrounding the controversy,
Maran said that whoever was in the position of decision
making must have no fears or reservations regarding being
branded a `quarrel monger.'
At the founding meeting of Degel Hatorah in 5749, Maran
stated: "They say that we are quarrel seekers . . . I heard
in the name of R' Yehoshua Leib Diskin an explanation of
Chazal on the verse, `And Bnei Yisroel mourned Moshe.' Rashi
quotes that this refers to the men. When Aharon HaKohen, who
was a pursuer and lover of truth, passed away, it says that
all of Israel wept over him since he would make peace between
man and wife, friend and enemy.
"R' Yehoshua was puzzled by this. The Torah seeks to tell of
Moshe's praises. Why then mention here that only the men
"The truth is that there is a great element of praise here.
Aharon HaKohen loved peace and pursued it, so it is no wonder
that everyone loved him. But Moshe Rabbenu's task was to
judge and pass sentence in matters of argument and
disagreement, in dinei Torah between two factions. He
had to rule in favor of one side and against the other, so
that it was inevitable that people would be hurt or might
accuse him of favoritism, prejudice and fomenting dissension.
It is impossible to justify everyone. The fact that not all
of Israel mourned his passing shows that he was truly
impartial and ruled according to the dictates of pure
Applicable and fitting are these words to the very one who
uttered them. By innate nature, Maran was basically a peace
lover, yet he was not deterred from overriding this trait if
he felt it necessary as a leader to denounce one public or
another when they conducted themselves contrary to the way of
Maran as Principal Posek
One of the faults of which Maran was accused by Lubavitch
followers was based on an approbation which Maran had written
for a work dealing with halachic issues. Maran wrote
that he was unable to write a haskomoh for the content
of the work since he, himself, was not involved in the study
of practical halochoh. "If he is unable to rule
halachically," they argued insolently, "how can he rule in
issues involving the public?"
From the following story we see that this argument is refuted
from its basically faulty premise. One of the greatest, most
unique poskim of our generation, HaRav Shlomo Zalman
Auerbach ztvk'l, determined that even though Maran was
not involved in practical halochoh, when it came to
clarifying any halochoh, he was considered in his eyes
like one of the major authorities.
In a chol hamoed visit of HaRav Shlomo Zalman in my
home at a time that I was serving as chairman of the Knesset
Financial Committee, I asked him whether the Institute of
Science and Technology for Halachic Matters was under his
supervision. I told him that I had received a budget request
from this institution, and I explained that if they were
under his guidance I would feel under obligation to see that
they receive an increased budget allocation.
Maran R' Shlomo Zalman replied that the institution was to be
considered vital and worthy, and surely I should do all in my
power to help it, but it was not under his regulation.
However, whenever they asked his halachic opinion in any
particular matter, he gave it.
I then asked R' Shlomo Zalman, "If this institute is truly so
important, why don't you undertake a more active, responsible
role in it so that everyone can rely on its decisions?"
He replied that it was too great a responsibility; he could
not stand up to such a great burden by himself. He added that
if two other poskim were to join in shouldering that
responsibility, he would be willing to be the third.
"Who would you suggest as those two halachic authorities?" I
"Maran HaGaon R' Elozor Menachem Shach and Maran HaGaon R'
Yosef Sholom Eliashiv," was his reply.
"Regarding HaRav Eliashiv, I have no doubts, for he is truly
recognized as a prime halachic authority. But how does Maran
R' Shach fit into this particular category? He is not
actively involved in halachic matters."
Replied R' Shlomo Zalman, "If Maran R' Shach is willing to
join, he is no lesser versed in halochoh than in the
chidushei Torah upon which he expounds in his yeshiva.
He is a gaon beyond compare, and if he takes it upon
himself to deal in halochoh, he will be the greatest