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23 Marcheshvan, 5779 - November 1, 2018 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly
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NEWS
A Story about the Chazon Ish

by Yated Staff

The 65th yahrtzeit of the Chazon Ish was 15 Cheshvan (October 25 this year).

The Chazon Ish on his way to participate in laying the cornerstone of the building of Ponovezh Yeshiva
ChazonIshPonovezh

The Chazon Ish was a great talmid chochom and a leader of the Jewish people. He commented on a range of issues that come up in life. One of his important observations was: "The Torah way is to maintain peace with everybody and to overlook insults... Just as it is inappropriate for an intelligent person to be angry with and take revenge against an mentally ill person who harms him, so too, it is inappropriate to be take revenge against and be angry with a person who harms you because they are emotionally ill or lacking a good character. [In this matter,] there is no difference between a rogue or a lunatic (Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim, Shabbos 56).

R' Efraim Wallach, manhig ruchani of Yeshivas Bircas Efraim, tells the following story:

In his youth he heard parts of the details but now the full story came to light due to a letter discovered this past month. The letter is dated Monday, Parshas Mishpotim, 5708, that is, close to 71 years ago.

"My father z"l, Dr. Yosef Wallach, a renowned Swiss doctor, lent the large sum of one thousand pounds to HaRav Spitzer from England. The latter wanted to return the loan at the appointed time, but the outbreak of the Second World War made this impossible. The roads were dangerous, nor was there any way to transfer the money. So he did not pay it back. By the time the war was over, that sum was of negligible value.

"Rav Spitzer was a devout Jew and knew that repaying the debt would involve the transgression of ribbis. The Swiss francs he had received had been converted to English money, which was all but valueless after the war. He did not want to cause my father any loss, but under the circumstances, he wasn't sure if or how to repay the loan."

The letter which was discovered tells that Rav Spitzer went to the gedolim in England, among them HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky and HaRav Rabinov who were at a loss for a way to repay the loan. Better to wait a while, they suggested, but to continue meanwhile to explore the problem of usury.

Time passed. The Ponovezher Rav visited England and the problem was presented to him. The letter states, "I discussed the question whether the prohibition of interest was midOraysa or mideRabbanan. He also told me not to return the loan at this point. The matter should be brought to a din Torah."

"As I mentioned before," Rav Wallach continues, "Rav Spitzer was a G-d-fearing man whose conscience bothered him and he certainly did not want to cause a loss to my father. He writes in the letter that he was in a quandary. Three months later, he wrote to his father-in-law in Bnei Brak, HaRav Asher, delineating the problem in detail, adding that if he wanted a more specific account, he could ask the Ponovezher Rav. He begged him to clarify the problem among the rabbonim in Bnei Brak."

HaRav Asher sent his brother-in-law, HaRav Munk, to the Chazon Ish. He, too, was hesitant to advise upon the question at once, saying that the problem was too complex, being that the borrower and lender did not live in the same country with the same currency. He could not answer immediately about the intricate laws of interest.

Several days later, the Chazon Ish made his ruling. Since the issue actually involved questionable usury, Rav Spitzer should not return the loan. The father's letter continues: "Since my conscience still bothered me regarding a monetary loss, and the loan had indeed, been of great assistance, the Chazon Ish made the suggestion that to assuage my feelings of indebtedness I could donate the sum to charity and the Heavenly Court would decide to whom to accredit the mitzvah."

"Rav Spitzer suggested to my father in that letter as follows: `Tell me to whom to send half of the sum as charity.' My father replied in a return letter that it took him time to digest the idea but he couldn't go against this recommendation of the Chazon Ish. He told him to send the money to Yeshivas Mir in Yerushalayim. He notes that his family numbers eight members, besides which he also supports his father- and brother-in-law and finances are very tight. Nevertheless, his is ready and willing to comply to the directive of the godol hador."

 

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