"Wherein lay the tremendous power of Reb Simcha Zissel, founder of the holy derech of Kelm?" remarked the Chofetz Chaim. "It lay in the greatness of a talmid like Reb Leib!"
Reb Leib Chasman — a name that rings of the old mussar giants of Kelm. His every move was guided by mussar and gave us a life of mussar to follow.
As a youth in Kelm an esrog-seller showed him a beautiful esrog, truly a mehudar. The next day the same socher brought him an esrog that was even more mehudar than the previous day's.
Confident that the new esrog would be Reb Leib's choice, the man was ready to hand it over. He was surprised therefore when his customer seemed to prefer the first esrog and chose to buy it.
"The truth is," explained Reb Leib, "I am in essence not obligated to buy the second esrog which is of better quality since I cannot afford it. Besides when you brought me the first esrog I decided that night to buy it. In this case I have the hiddur mitzva of, "Vedoveir emes bilvovo!"
The year was 5687 (1927). The place was Eretz Yisroel. A letter arrived to the Alter of Slobodka, HaRav Nosson Zvi Finkel zt"l. The sender, Reb Yehuda Leib Chasman was requesting humble permission to come up to Eretz Yisroel where he wished to serve as a shamash, making the rounds every morning and awakening people to rise to serve their creator. He would then have the rest of the day to learn Torah.
The Alter of Slobodka's reply was swift in coming, though not exactly in the affirmative.
Of course Reb Leib should come to Eretz Yisroel. As to the job of shamash, the Alter had other plans. He offered Reb Leib a similar type of work that would also involve awakening people. However instead of pulling people out of their beds he would be rousing the bochurim of Yeshivas Chevron out of their spiritual stupor bringing their hearts closer to avodas Hashem.
When the Alter received Reb Leib's telegram in reply, stating that he had accepted the job of mashgiach in Chevron Yeshiva, his joy was boundless.
"Do you know who's coming?" he informed the bochurim in genuine excitement. "The illui in Toras hamussar, Reb Leib!"
In an emotional gathering Reb Leib took leave of his community in Stutchin. In his farewell drosho he begged them for forgiveness. "Not for slighting anyone perhaps, for I never hurt anyone at all. The reason why I am asking you mechiloh is due to the fact that an institution was set up here in town by the maskilim. Not that I didn't protest. I forcefully opposed its opening but I should have personally lain at the entrance and prevented them from opening it with my body. Perhaps then I would have prevented this terrible destruction in our midst. For this I beg you all to forgive me as I take leave."
In Eretz Yisroel Reb Leib became the mashgiach, mentor and guide for the bochurim, leading, directing and rebuking when necessary.
Once a group of boys went to hear a renowned speaker who happened to be an apikores. Reb Leib scolded them for going to listen to someone so lacking in yiras Shomayim, whose ideas and opinions are surely perverted and against the Torah.
Lamely the bochurim tried to excuse themselves. We didn't go to listen to the contents of the speech chas vesholom, only to enjoy the style and manner of this excellent orator.
Reb Leib was not swayed and explained his point in a moshol.
A fire broke out in a shul causing untold destruction. As the flames spread, the Aron Hakodesh caught fire and the sifrei Torah began to burn Rachmono litzlan. In the middle of the panic a bystander calmly leaned forward to light his cigarette from the devastating flames.
"You're doing the same thing!" concluded Reb Leib in agitation. "While this speaker burns the holy sifrei Torah with his heretical words you wish to enjoy the flames of his rhetoric."
At the death of a non-religious writer, Reb Leib commented.
There are various types of murderers: one kills on purpose, another accidentally, one kills a single person while a fourth can kill many. The common denominator between them is that with the death of the murderer himself, the killings stop and he can no longer cause harm.
However a writer who espouses hashkofos contrary to the Torah is a rotzieach rabim bemeizid, who continues causing deadly harm even after his death, since whoever reads his works falls spiritually dead. There is no worse than this type of murderer.
The Holy Land was in an uproar. Word had spread that on a certain kibbutz, treifos were being eaten. Even rabbits had become permitted.
A talmid entering Reb Leib's house found the mashgiach crying copious tears. The shocked talmid was sure something tragic had happened.
"In the Torah it is written, "So that the land should not vomit you out when you defile her!" If we've just heard that the Holy Land is being defiled by Jews, sooner or later the land will spit us out."
Reb Leib continued worriedly, "I still have the strength to flee but what about the Rebbetzin? She's frail and old. How will she have the strength to leave here?"
During the mashgiach's later years there was an important gathering of rabbonim and gedolei Torah. One rov who wished to convince the others to agree with his opinion stood up and announced.
"Rabbosai! I'm over seventy and don't have the desire for kovod that younger people have, which is why I'm sure my opinion is correct."
Reb Leib's scathing mussar was quick to come. "If until the age of seventy a person doesn't work on himself and keeps seeking honor even in small amounts, when he passes the seventies he already seeks endless kovod."
Three days before his petiroh Reb Leib was lying on his bed totally bereft of strength. Two talmidim gave him to eat and drink and tended to him. When the time came for learning mussar in yeshiva, Reb Leib instructed the boys to go to yeshiva to learn . Then, reconsidering, he called them back.
You can stay here. Here you can see how worthless is the power of man. Even a drop of water he cannot swallow by himself. This is the most powerful mussar lesson!