A crisp autumn wind blows through the tiny train station in
the town of Molota. People turn their collars up and pull
their coats around them as they anticipate the incoming
A young boy, his expression serious far beyond his tender
years, stands next to his father awaiting his farewell
brochoh and last minute instructions. Leib is not yet
bar mitzvah, but in conjunction with the mishna that
tells us "exile yourself to a place of Torah," he is leaving
his hometown to learn in the great yeshiva of Mir.
Looking up expectantly at his father, Leib watched as the
older man removed his fur-lined coat and handed it to his
son. "Take it — it'll warm you in the cold winter."
Leib, however, refused to take the coat, unable to imagine
that he could be comfortably warmed while his father
shivered in the cold. His father insisted, pushing the coat
away from him and then draping it around his son's
"Listen my son, I've already had my intense learning years.
I'm no longer at the stage of shteiging constantly.
You, on the contrary, are starting out now in your prime
years, a time when you should continually be in a state of
aliyah, climbing upwards in Torah, and it is
therefore imperative that you have the warm coat."
The young Leib heard his father's words and grasped their
inherent instructions — that he was to shteig
constantly. With this in mind he entered the portals of
Yeshivas Mir and, during his entire first year there, he
made sure to be the first one to enter the beis
medrash in the morning and the last to leave at night,
Under the guidance of his great rabbonim and
mashgichim, he excelled until he belonged to an elite
group of distinguished bochurim, most of them a few
years his senior. During bein hazmanim this
chaburah took upon themselves to learn 10 pages of
gemora each day be'iyun, and to say
chiddushei Torah on at least one of them.
Reb Leib became very close to the mashgiach, Reb
Yeruchom, who was later to give rare testimony to his
sterling character. When the Mashgiach's close friend, the
tzaddik R' Elya Lopian, was looking for a suitable
match for his daughter, Reb Yeruchom told him, "I can
suggest for you a bochur who has never worked upon
his middos — simply because he hasn't had to.
The boy was born with a blessed nature and an inclination to
do only good. His name is Leib `Molota' (after his
When Reb Yeruchom was told that the wedding was scheduled to
take place in England, where the illustrious R' Elya Lopian
lived, a tremor shook his body. England of those days was a
virtual wilderness as far as Torah was concerned and sending
off such a promising bochur into spiritual desolation
was very risky.
Even though, as Reb Yeruchom himself put it, "the house of
R' Elya is no England," it's an island of holiness within
the British Isles, nevertheless he urged them to ask the
advice of the Chofetz Chaim before making so treacherous a
Although the plan was to return to Poland and the yeshiva
world a short while after the wedding, Reb Leib followed R'
Yeruchom's bidding and traveled to Radin.
The venerable Chofetz Chaim was already frail and aged,
having come almost to the end of his long and fruitful
When Reb Leib entered, the Chofetz Chaim began to say the
prayer of "Boruch She'omar." He continued through the
brochoh stressing the words meaningfully, " . . .
Boruch merachem al ho'oretz, boruch merachem al habriyos
. . . boruch podeh umatzil, boruch Shemo," and then
proceeded to repeat the aforementioned phrases.
Those present were sure that their Rebbi, in his weak state,
had forgotten that he had already davened shacharis.
However, Reb Leib understood that the message was for him
and an answer to his question. His journey to England would
be a "redemption and a salvation."
Indeed, as it turned out, the salvation was not for Reb Leib
himself, but for the Torah and Jewry of all of England and
Europe. Rabbeinu stepped onto British shores and immediately
perceived its barrenness.
As he related, on one of his first days there, he was
passing by a fish shop and stood to watch as the fishmonger
deftly wrapped a large fish in sheets of printed paper.
Stepping closer, he stood transfixed in horror, realizing
that the printed matter was in Hebrew and contained
divrei Torah. Upon his inquiry of the one-day-a-year-
Jew as to what he was doing, the boor scratched his head and
explained, "These are the Talmudical works of my late
father, G-d bless his soul. I've got nothing to do with them
so I reckoned they would at least come in useful for
wrapping the fish!"
This was the spiritual vacuum into which Reb Leib entered
— and eventually succeeded in filling with true Torah
values and spiritual satisfaction. With his charisma and
charm he drew Yidden from all walks of life towards
him. With his phenomenal memory and amazing talents he drew
from the wellsprings he had imbibed in Mir and slowly
succeeded in creating a dramatic transformation.
In the winter of 5685 (1925), when Reb Leib traveled from
Mir to Baranowitz to try to procure a visa to Eretz
Yisroel, one of his rebbes blessed him that he should
not succeed in his quest. The blessing was fulfilled and he
could not obtain a visa.
The young Reb Leib stayed on in Baranowitz and joined the
shiur of Reb Elchonon Wassermann, Hy"d. During
the shiur, Reb Leib gave his opinion and thought on a
certain point and, immediately afterwards, was cornered by
Reb Elchonon, zt"l, who asked him to stay in
Baranowitz and study with him when he prepared his
shiurim. All through the winter months, Reb Leib
learned together with Reb Elchonon and, as he says in the
introduction to his sefer Arza Devei Rav on
Yevomos, his derech halimud was greatly
influenced by Reb Elchonon. It was at this time that one of
the maggidei shiur in Baranowitz took ill and Reb
Elchonon asked R' Leib to step into his place for several
Reb Leib also merited to bask in the glory of the Brisker
Rov, zt"l. When the rosh yeshiva Reb Leizer Yudel
Finkel, zt"l, sent a chosen group of talmidim
from Mir to Brisk, Reb Leib was among them.
The Brisker Rov took a great liking to the bochur and
spent much time "talking in learning" with him. When he went
on his daily walk, Reb Leib would accompany him, learning
much in the way of pure hashkofoh and clear guidance
during those sweet "leisure" hours with the Griz.
As Hashgochoh would have it, just at the time that
Reb Leib was in England for his wedding, his mother-in-law,
the Rebbetzin Lopian passed away. It fell on the newlywed
daughter to look after her orphaned siblings and run the
busy household that R' Elya's was.
Thus, Reb Leib and his Rebbetzin stayed in England under the
wing of R' Elya who once said concerning his son-in-law, "He
is a living Mesillas Yeshorim."
After a while Reb Leib was appointed rosh yeshiva of
the Yeshivas Beis Yosef of Gateshead. Under his guidance and
great strength, the institution grew by leaps and bounds,
soon becoming the fortress of Torah of England and Europe.
Today the Yeshiva continues to produce thousands of
talmidei chachomim who spread the light of Torah the
In retrospect, we now understand why the Chofetz Chaim said
not only "Boruch podeh umatzil," but also "Boruch
merachem al ho'oretz, boruch merachem al habriyos."