On Monday the levaya of Mr. Ernest Gutman of
Baltimore, MD, U.S.A., set out from Yeshivas Kol Torah in
Bayit Vegan, one of the numerous institutions Mr. Gutman
supported loyally for many years.
The rosh yeshiva of Kol Torah, HaRav Moshe Yehudah
Schlesinger, was maspid first. He told the assembled
that Yeshivas Kol Torah was one of the first yeshivos that
provided an air-conditioned beis medrash, enabling
the avreichim and talmidim to learn with
unparalleled hasmodoh even in the scorching heat that
so characterizes Israeli summers. This unprecedented step
certainly prompted many other yeshivos to provide air-
conditioning for their botei medrash as well.
The Rosh Yeshiva said, "He was a godol in humility and
modesty and exuded pleasantness in all aspects of his life.
He did not usually contradict people, but he vehemently
opposed one statement I made. When I praised his efforts in
obtaining and providing the air-conditioning system in the
yeshiva and told him that in his zechus all the
talmidim are learning with greater hasmodoh,
he refused to agree that it was in his zechus."
HaRav Schlesinger concluded his words quoting a
mishnah in Ovos where Rebbe Yochanan ben
Zakkai asks his five students to tell him what is the proper
path a person should cling to. "Rabbi Elazar Ben Aroch
answered, Lev tov. This epitomized the niftar.
His whole demeanor and all his actions reflected his
good heart. As his son-in-law said in his hesped,
`His name was Yitzchok ben Mordechai Gutman -- that's what
he was, a good man.' "
Mr. Ernest (Yitzchok) Gutman was born in 1914 to Max
(Mordechai) and Rosalie (Rivka) Gutman in the German town of
Ellinger. His father was a cattle dealer, as he was too. In
his youth, he studied under Dayan HaRav Yechiel Michel
Schlesinger, the founder of Yeshivas Kol Torah in Jerusalem
and father of the present rosh hayeshiva there. When Hitler,
yemach shemo, rose to power, Mr. Gutman left his
hometown and family behind, and set out for America.
He arrived in Baltimore, Maryland in 1938 and was appalled
by the level of Yiddishkeit there. In a letter he
wrote to a friend, he describes the situation and expresses
his disappointment with the Kehilla. He wrote, " . .
. there is no yiras Shomayim here, very few women
wear head coverings. . . "
But to return to Germany would have been like stepping into
the lion's den, so instead of deserting Baltimore because
its level of shemiras hamitzvos was not up to par, he
spearheaded many projects to raise the city's standards. To
remain Torah-true in an environment steeped in yiras
Shomayim and Torah is hard enough, considering all the
outside influences that may come one's way. But to do so in
a community not up to par in Yiddishkeit requires a
formidable effort. Mr. Gutman did not let this deter him.
He was the "first" in many things. He introduced
yoshon to Baltimore's Jews, brought in the first
cholov Yisroel products, and started both a keilim
mikveh and a city mikveh. He initiated the first
neitz minyan in Baltimore and began the Agudas
Yisrael minyan, which met in his house for well over
a decade. When the time came to purchase a shul
building and hire a rov, he was instrumental in those
aspects as well.
Mr. Gutman helped start Bais Yaakov, was an active supporter
of the boys' Talmudical Academy, and gave tremendous
financial support to the Baltimore yeshiva, Ner Israel, as
In addition, he was also among the first in projects that
didn't pertain specifically to Baltimore. When HaRav Aharon
Kotler zt"l wanted to make a worldwide kenes,
Mr. Gutman was first on the list.
Immediately upon coming to Baltimore, he found a spot in the
yeshiva and was one baal habayis who learned there on
a steady basis. He became very close to the
mashgiach, HaRav Dovid Kronglas, and learned daf
hayomi with him daily, before it became so popular. It
was not unusual for him to review the day's daf two
or even three times each day. Together Mr. Gutman and HaRav
Kronglas made a siyum on Shas, something that
today is becoming increasingly common today due to the
worldwide Daf Hayomi program, but in those days it
All the maspidim stressed that the niftar was
deeply connected to the Torah world and a tremendous
ba'al tzedoko. After coming to America in 1938, with
only $39 in his pocket, Mr. Gutman worked as a Fuller Brush
salesman, walking up and down steps, going from door to
door, while lugging a thirty pound suitcase full of
merchandise for sale (brooms, mops, brushes, and other
household goods). During this period he earned $15 a week,
yet gave $25 to tzedaka. One specific donation
recorded in his ledger from those days was a case of Coca
Cola to Yeshivas Ner Israel in Baltimore--a rare treat.
His financial situation allowed him to live more lavishly
than he did. Rabbi Menachem Porush, in his hesped at
Yeshivas Kol Torah, compared Mr. Gutman to the
mishnah in Ovos describing the miracles in the
Beis Hamikdash, which states, "Lo chibu hageshomim
eish shel atzei hama'arocho-- the rains did not
extinguish the fire on the altar." Rabbi Porush said, "Even
in the times when he was blessed with an abundance of
gashmiyus, we can say about the niftar, eish tomid
tukad al hamizbeiach, in all his travels and
experiences, he guarded the eish kodesh and
kedushas hachaim to live a life of Torah."
His son-in-law said, "My father-in-law was a simple, yet
complex person. He had his principles and stood up for
them." Mr. Gutman was very stringent in all matters of
halocho, and only acted according to them. He wasn't
looking out for leniencies. He could be very stubborn for
what he thought was the right way to do things, even if it
wasn't popular or "in style."
Because of his concern for others and never wanting to cause
any form of tirchoh detziburo, Mr. Gutman didn't tell
his family when he was sick until the last six months when
it was really apparent.
The maspidim stressed that Mr. Gutman grew up among
gedolei Torah in Europe and his whole desire was to
be among gedolim and the world of Torah. His house
was full of gedolim who came to Baltimore. When the
Ponovezher Rav came to Baltimore, Mr. Gutman was his host.
Numerous other gedolim were also recipients of Mr.
Gutman's hospitality. Whenever any godol came to
Baltimore, he went to greet them. The excitement he felt
when meeting them, speaking to them, receiving a
brochoh reflected the reverence he had for rabbonim
and daas Torah.
Rabbi Porush said one can learn from him how a ba'al
habayis should be a talmid chochom and
masmid. He would get up before dawn, sometimes at 2
or 3 a.m., to have a morning seder before going to
the neitz minyan. "I once saw him running, saying, `I
must finish something in the gemora; I haven't
finished yet today.'"
Tefilloh betzibbur was very important to Mr. Gutman.
Until three days before his death he davened three
times daily betzibbur, and throughout his life he
always davened with theneitz.
Mr. Gutman was a tremendous baal tzedoko and gave
generously to institutions and individuals alike. His son-in-
law mentioned that a man who wanted to go into business came
to his father-in-law for a loan. Mr. Gutman gave him
thousands of dollars and told the man, "Pay me whenever you
can. There is no due date." This person is now a very
The niftar was very attached to the old German
minhagim. He knew all the special zemiros and
tefillos of the ancient German tradition. When a
family member was expecting a baby he said a special
tefilloh every day until the baby was born. When he
heard about yoshon, he researched the matter
thoroughly and introduced it to his community.
Since the death of HaRav Kronglas, Mr. Gutman learned
Minchas Chinuch with his son, R' Ezra Kronglas. Even
at the very end of his life, when he was racked with pain,
he would not forgo his learning sessions. A few days before
he was niftar, they learned five lines of Minchas
Chinuch together. Every few seconds, Mr. Gutman would
rest, regain a bit of strength and then continue learning
until the next bout of pain. His perseverance and diligence
Mr. Gutman was extra careful in reciting the tefilloh
for Kiddush Levonoh as was his father before him, as
there is a special shemiroh that one who is
mekadesh the new moon will be saved from death that
month. His father passed away in a month that he hadn't said
Kiddush Levonoh. HaRav Shimon Schwab, for many years
to rov of the German Glen Avenue Shul in Baltimore and later
rov of the Washington Heights community, was also very
careful about this mitzvah and passed away in a month that
he hadn't said Kiddush Levonoh.
Mr. Gutman was very careful about this mitzvoh as well and
even when he was so ill, he pushed himself to say the
blessings over the new moon, thus reassuring himself and his
family that he had the special protection. On Thursday, the
day before Mr. Gutman was niftar, he sent his family
home because he knew that he had been mekadesh
levonoh that month and had its shemiroh. The
next morning, on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz when, so to speak, the
protection of the month of Sivan departed from him and he
hadn't yet had the opportunity to receive the month of
Tammuz's protection, Mr. Ernest Gutman departed this
Yehi zichro boruch.