The talmidim of Kol Torah were astounded. Reb Shlomo
Zalman, the rosh yeshiva, raising his voice? It was well
known that even when he had to rebuke people, Reb Shlomo
Zalman's message was always given over in a calm, quiet way,
even if the contents were sharp.
So what had happened?
It was on erev Purim and the atmosphere was already
lightheaded. Walking into the yeshiva, Reb Shlomo Zalman
noticed a poster that had been put up on the wall. Phrases
from gemora caught his eye and he stopped to read it.
His face, however, darkened as he saw mockery of various
persons in the yeshiva, cleverly using the nusach of
Reb Shlomo Zalman strode into the dining room and actually
shouted at the boys, reprimanding them and putting things
into their correct perspective. When it came to honoring the
kovod of other people, there was no room for
pleasantries or excuses.
Once, at a gathering attended by gedolei Torah and
their talmidim, one of the rabbonim began to sing. A
ripple of barely suppressed laughter passed through the
hall. As he continued, the laughter became louder. One
person sat in his chair with a totally straight face. Later,
Reb Shlomo Zalman was asked how he managed to keep himself
back from laughing while everyone else found it impossible.
"It's a question of halbonas ponim," replied Reb
Shlomo Zalman simply. "How can one possibly smile?"
The logic was explained by Reb Shlomo Zalman on another
In Yerushalayim, the levaya of HaRav Moshe Feinstein
took place on Purim. A family member asked Reb Shlomo
Zalman, "How is it possible? On the one hand we must rejoice
because it's Purim, and on the other we must mourn the
passing of the godol hador" — implying that the
levaya was disturbing the simchah of Purim.
"We are no more than soldiers fulfilling our duties,"
explained R. Shlomo Zalman. "A soldier obeys the commands
given him, with no questions asked. If we have been
commanded to feel joy and sadness, then that is what we will
do. It is Hashem's command that leads and directs our every
The same rule stood when it came to Yom Kippur. Many a
shailoh was forwarded to Rabbenu before the holiest of
days by people who had been directed by a doctor not to fast
due to ill health. They would ask R' Shlomo Zalman how they
could possibly eat on Yom Kippur.
Rabbenu would explain that the same Ribono Shel Olom
who commanded us to fast on Yom Kippur, told us to look
after our health.
To one person who sighed and complained he cannot transgress
an issur, Rabbenu answered sharply, "Your words
contain a whiff of apikorsus."
"In the gemora Sanhedrin, it says, `One who says, "Of
what use to us are the Rabbonim," is an apikorus.'
This is because he judges day-to-day matters according to
his own logic and doesn't consider himself subservient to
rabbonim on everything.
"In this case, if a rov paskened that you may not
fast, you must accept without questioning."
When it came to Neiloh Reb Shlomo Zalman was extremely
makpid that the tefilloh not continue longer
than motzei Yom Kippur. He would say that this is no
insignificant matter to shrug off as unimportant and
Rather, it is particularly during this exalted time that one
must think of others and not prolong the fast by lengthy
It was the month of Nisan and in Yerushalayim spring was
spreading its blossoms all over. A young man walking through
the Shaarei Chesed neighborhood came upon Reb Shlomo Zalman
facing a blossoming tree and reciting the special brochoh
"shelo chissar" that is said during this month.
Turning to Rabbenu, the man pointed out that in another
courtyard not far off there was a place where two blossoming
trees grew together and perhaps it's better to recite this
once-a-year brochoh with that extra hiddur.
"I know of the Chida's chumroh brought in his sefer
Avodas Hakodesh," smiled Reb Shlomo Zalman. "I'm also
well acquainted with every stone and tree in our Shaarei
Chesed neighborhood. But, my dear friend, just look up at
the window facing us."
Through the window, the radiant face of a certain
almonoh could be seen. "Every year the woman waits for
this season to come around, anticipating the day when I'll
come to recite the brochoh over her blossoming tree.
How can I forgo the joyous tears of an almonoh for the
sake of a chumroh in my mitzvah."
Chol Hamoed was always a strenuous time for Reb Shlomo
Zalman, with visitors and sheilos coming and going
constantly, and of course a yom tov is a time for
extra limud Torah, too. Yet one year Chol Hamoed
Sukkos found Reb Shlomo Zalman leaving his house and
making his way to the dwelling of a godol who had
passed away some months earlier. Rabbeinu went to visit the
almonoh to bring her some yom tov joy.
Upon his return, Reb Shlomo Zalman remarked to his family,
"Usually on yom tov this woman had a bustling house
with visitors streaming in and out in honor of her
distinguished husband. I wanted to lessen the sorrow and
pain that she must surely be feeling now that her husband
has passed away and no one steps into her house."
Indeed, the widow was delighted that Reb Shlomo Zalman had
come and even admitted to him "The Rav is my first visitor
this yom tov!"
Rabbenu himself related that when he was a young
bochur he was standing in a public place, involved in
a Torah dispute with one of his rebbes. The older
godol was an impatient person and, in the middle of
the argument, he made an insulting remark.
When they had finished talking, several older bochurim
came over to Rabbenu to placate him and explain that this
Rebbe often used sharp language and he shouldn't be hurt by
"But I didn't feel any of this at all," continued Reb Shlomo
Zalman. "Because when one is deeply involved in divrei
Torah, one doesn't notice these trivial things."
Indeed, since Reb Shlomo Zalman was constantly involved in
divrei Torah, he never stood up for his own honor at
A certain talmid chochom who had publicly criticized
Reb Shlomo Zalman and his psakim was once seen passing
by Rabbenu's house. Upon seeing him, Rabbenu ran out and
More than a little embarrassed, the man asked Rabbenu in
surprise if the Rov wasn't annoyed with him. Swiftly, the
Rov changed the subject and engaged the talmid chochom
in a Torah discussion, after which they became true
In the sefer Halichos Shlomo, published by the
grandchildren of Reb Shlomo Zalman, a story is told.
A close talmid revealed to Rabbenu that he had just
come from the hospital, where doctors had discovered he was
terminally ill, R"l. They had admitted there was
nothing they could do to save his life.
To his great surprise, Rabbenu spoke to him earnestly:
"You should know that you ought to rejoice that you have
been informed from Heaven in advance and are able to prepare
yourself for the journey ahead to the World of Truth. Now is
the time to appease and ask forgiveness from anyone you have
insulted or harmed and do teshuvoh for your sins
bein odom lechavero, sins that cannot be atoned until
the person is appeased. How unfortunate are those who are
torn from this world suddenly with no warning. They cannot
ask forgiveness of their fellow man, and then must suffer
terribly in the next world."
Such is the perspective of a tzaddik. Zechuso Yogein