Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

19 Av 5761 - August 8, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







In The Footsteps Of A Trailblazer

by R. Gertner

To mark the sheloshim of the av beis din of Shearis Yisroel, HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz zt'l, we present this interview with his long- time friend and associate, HaRav Yehoshua Shklar ylct'a, author of Yalkut Peirushim.

The two learned together bechavrusa on an almost daily basis, for forty years. HaRav Shklar's reminiscences give us some idea of the extent of his chavrusa's contribution to the Torah community in Eretz Yisroel.

First Encounter

HaRav Shklar: In 5712 (1952), the Chazon Ish zy'a, sent me to learn in the kollel in Petach Tikva. In that kollel, young and old sat side by side, all learning together. It was there that I met Reb Chaim Shaul zt', for the first time. The intensity of the learning in the kollel was incredible. The shouting and yelling among those immersed in Torah study pierced the heavens. Opposite the kollel, was a courthouse. From time to time, a Yemenite policeman named Simchi would appear and order us to stop shouting. "You are disturbing the judge from running the court in an orderly manner!"

It was at that time that Reb Chaim Shaul first shouldered the problem of the Yemenite immigrants, perhaps out of a wish to prevent more of them from becoming policemen. This was after the massive Fake- Magic Carpet aliya of the Sephardim, which in fact was an aliya, an ascent, that led to a descent! A venerable delegation of Yemenite elders arrived from Rosh Ha'ayin [where one of the large camps for Yemenite immigrants was situated]. They asked to be rescued spiritually. "Give us seforim, gemora, mishnayos." Their main need was for finances, to support a mori [their title for a rabbi] to learn with their children. Who was the one who went to collect for this? Reb Chaim Shaul of course. He and the gaon and tzaddik Rav Zeev Eidelman zt'l, went out onto the streets to collect money. The sums which they collected were sent to Rosh Ha'ayin and the mori inculcated some Yiddishkeit into the children. This was how Reb Chaim Shaul inaugurated his own glorious chapter in the general efforts to rescue Yemenite Jewry spiritually.

Against All Odds

While I was still learning in Ponevezh, there had been attempts to achieve something inside the immigrant camps Rosh Ha'ayin. The situation there was terrible. The immigrants were under virtual arrest, enclosed inside barbed wire fences. This has to be made known, so that future generations are aware of it!

The immigrants were scared out of their wits by their situation. As Purim approached, we gathered in one of the yeshiva's dormitory rooms, to try and think of some idea. In the morning, the order was given for each bochur to provision himself with a bottle of arak whiskey. We travelled to Rosh Ha'ayin. We knew which was the easiest side from which to penetrate inside the camp. We hid, cut through the barbed wire, and went inside. We distributed the bottles of arak among the olim and began to dance . . . Layehudim hoyso oroh vesimchoh . . . suddenly, policemen burst upon us and drove us away with the butts of their rifles.

In time, it became somewhat easier to work in Rosh Ha'ayin. That was when HaRav Chaim Shaul opened a high level class. It aimed to educate youths from among the olim to Torah greatness. Rav Yechiel Wislovsky learned with the boys.

Q. What was Rav Chaim Shaul's job?

A. He was the "father" of the class! The students subsequently gained entry into the best yeshivos. In addition, Rav Chaim Shaul travelled up and down the country scores of times in order to get boys into yeshivos. He travelled to Haifa, Ramat Hasharon, Acco, Tiveria, Adirim and Be'er Sheva. He didn't rest for a moment, so concerned was he that not one of them should be left without a yeshiva!

While his work bore fruit, there was one major problem: the parents wanted their sons to have a means of earning a living, that being something that they would not learn in yeshiva. What was a revolutionary idea for those times was suggested: to bring the gemora lessons forward to the morning, instead of the usual afternoon slot. This was in 5717 (1957). Rav Chaim Shaul was working within the Chinuch Atzmai framework.

Ultimately, Rav Aharon Kotler took on the responsibility of financing the project and things started to move. The simple step of moving the limudei kodesh to the morning hours turned them into the primary focus of the day, and the other studies secondary. In 5719 (1959), a country wide gemora examination was organized, in order to boost the standard of the learning. Rav Chaim Shaul was the one who tested the students.

Q. And as av beis din of Shearis Yisroel, did he stop testing the pupils of talmud Torah Tashbar?

A. Absolutely not! He leaped like a lion to test the children, with the vitality of a young man. The children who saw his enthusiasm remembered it. When we learned in one of the rooms in Tashbar, Rav Chaim Shaul's voice would rise in the course of our learning. The sweet children would stand outside and hear our yelling. Those childhood memories accompany them to this day, as mature avreichim.

In general, his energy was extraordinary. When he was eighty- seven years old, he joined us for a family simchah. He arrived at the hall straight from the airport and danced with me like one of the youngsters.

Rav Karelitz is Right!

The greater the number of youths wanting to join the yeshivos, the more important it became to enable the yeshivos to accept them. The yeshivos ketanos were in a difficult position financially. The parents usually shouldered some of the burden of the tuition but it was impossible to ask this of the new immigrants, who themselves lacked livelihoods. In addition, there were also understandable problems in dealing with boys who did not come from Torah-oriented homes.

A meeting that took place in the Wagshal Hotel [in Bnei Brak] attempted to find solutions. Following the meeting, an organization called Nesiv Hatorah was set up. It undertook to see that no bochur would be turned away because of financial considerations. Rav Eliyahu Raful travelled abroad to raise funds. Rav Chaim Shaul collected in Bnei Brak and I did in Petach Tikva. Rav Chaim Shaul ran from one yeshiva to another with the dynamism of a young man. He ensured that the students were accepted and that a stipend of twenty-five lirot was received for each one.

The boys grew older. There was no Sephardi yeshiva gedolah for them in Bnei Brak. We went to see Rav Pardo zt'l, from Or Hachaim, and we asked him, "Who will marry the young ladies who graduate from Or Hachaim? No yeshiva gedolah exists [for boys of a similar type]!"

Rav Pardo declared, "Rav Karelitz and Rav Shklar are right." As a result, Yeshivas Or Hachaim was opened.

Meeting the Changing Needs

The increase in the numbers of bochurim who were being placed in yeshivos necessitated the cooperation of all the yeshivos. To obtain this, a meeting was held in the Hotel Eretz Yisroel in Tel Aviv. This was forty years ago.

The leading roshei yeshiva participated and it was resolved to focus our efforts in order to improve the situation. HaRav Yechezkel Sarna zt'l announced at the meeting that Yeshivas Chevron undertook to heighten its efforts at working with these young men. He even told Rav Chaim Shaul that he was ready and willing to travel together with him to any place necessary, in order to ensure success. And he did indeed travel and help as much as he was able.

A second meeting was held several years later, in the Lederman shul. That meeting was headed by our masters the Steipler zt'l, and ylct'a, HaRav Shach. There are those who try to obscure the past but Rav Chaim Shaul was the first to work for the spiritual rescue of the Sephardic youth in Eretz Yisroel. Nothing was done without him. He made all the decisions.

Klal Yisroel's Children

I'll never forget the bochur who was found sitting and crying by the door of Rav Chaim Shaul's home. He complained that he had not been accepted into a certain yeshiva. Rav Chaim Shaul enquired at the yeshiva and it transpired that while the bochur would be able to join the yeshiva's learning sedorim, the institution was unable to provide for his material needs. Rav Chaim Shaul spoke to other bochurim who learned there, and they undertook to see to meals for the new arrival. The problem of accommodation was solved by Rav Chaim Shaul's renting a room next to the yeshiva, where the bochur dormed for a year. At the beginning of the following year, he was fully accepted into the yeshiva.

Last year, at the prize giving for Sephardi bnei Torah, Rav Chaim Shaul stood on the dais and contemplated the tens of first rate bochurim sitting opposite him, from such places as Dimona, Ofakim and Be'er Sheva. Suddenly, he started to dance, just like a young child, Ashreinu, mah tov chelkeinu . . . !

He ascended to Heaven in the week that we read the words, "When he avenged My vengeance" [which are written about Pinchos]. It was once proposed to add a ninth grade to the Chinuch Atzmai schools, which would have meant the students spending another year learning secular subjects.

A certain rabbi arrived from the United States, trying to persuade the Chinuch Atzmai to copy the pattern of the American high schools, where secular studies continue all the way through the yeshiva ketanoh years. In the middle of the meeting, Rav Chaim Shaul arose and cried out, "Die kinder zennen Klal Yisroel's kinder! The children belong to Klal Yisroel and you can't do what you want with them!"

The plan was dropped. That was Rav Chaim Shaul.

The very establishment of Shearis Yisroel was not a straightforward operation. During that period, I would accompany him home after our learning. I wanted to prevent, were the need to arise, any attempts to shame or disgrace him, that his detractors might try to perpetrate. He himself however, was completely unafraid.

In his communal work, he carried the banner that HaRav Shach had raised aloft. He was ready immediately for any job that he was called upon to do.

Nisht Krum!

Q. Did you learn together every day?

A. Almost every day. I would hurry to talmud Torah Tashbar every afternoon to learn with him. Sometimes we learned in his home and sometimes, in the offices of Vaad Hakashrus. Wherever I was able to learn with him, I would go. When I was working on the book Yalkut Peirushim, I would prepare the sugya well beforehand. When I arrived to learn, I was the first to speak. I would start saying something and he would spring on me, "You're contradicting the Shach!"

I wondered where this Shach was. Rav Chaim Shaul went over to shelf and showed me which words of the Shach's were incompatible with what I'd said. He was a gaon, but everything was hidden. At his advanced age and in his dignified position, he would go to hear others speaking, without any embarrassment whatsoever.

While we learned in Tashbar, we would use the tea room. He himself would dry the table and arrange the place so that it was fit for learning in.

When we learned in the offices of Vaad Hakashrus, he would disengage himself from the vast array of concerns and within minutes be deeply immersed in the sugyos of Yeish Nochalim or Arvei Pesochim.

He used to learn with tremendous enthusiasm. His cries pierced the heavens. Once, a sales agent from Gush Katif encountered us. Upon hearing the cries, he reacted with mock panic, "What's going on here? You're trying to kill each other!"

In his enthusiasm for learning, he would sometimes yell at me, "Am ho'oretz!" I took these expressions seriously. For me, they served as pointers towards straightening my understanding.

He would demand, "Nisht krum! Nisht krichen oif die vant! Not crooked! Don't climb the wall! Just learn the peshat in the proper way!" He was the classic example of ligen in learning, of immersion in learning.

All Worthwhile

Two days before he passed away, I was with him in the hospital. He smiled at me and made a gesture of greeting. The professor attending him said that his body was no longer functioning but that his mind was as clear as that of a young person.

Now he has arrived in the World of Truth and is meeting all the gedolei Yisroel on whose behalf he fought for the sake of Torah education. He is telling them, "Your work is going on!" and is greeting them with the news that, "The bochurim are attending yeshivos; it was all worthwhile."

When one visits Itzkovitz [the famous shtieblach in the heart of Bnei Brak] today, one sees hundreds and thousands [coming to daven]. One sometimes forgets that there were people who paved the way for the growth of the Torah world. Rav Chaim Shaul was one of the trailblazers of the Torah world!

(Yated Hashavua 20.7.01, pg.29)

He Sacrificed Himself for the Sake of the Truth

by HaRav Eliezer Halevi Dunner

In this period when the whole Jewish nation is mourning for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh, we have been struck twice over. Chazal said in Rosh Hashonoh that the death of tzadikim is as severe as the burning down of the House of Hashem. This means that when the Beis Hamikdosh was in existence there was an abundance of spirituality in the world. Similarly, tzadikim increase spirituality in the world, and therefore their departure from this world is as devastating as the burning of the Beis Hamikdosh, the ruchniyus of the world is diminished in both cases.

The same is true on the material level. The gemora says in Kesuvos that the mizbeiach gives nourishment, which according to Rashi (ibid.) means that the world receives nourishment in the merit of the korbonos brought on the mizbeiach, which bring abundance to the world. That is why we say "Rachem no . . . ve'al mizbechacho in Al Hamichyoh. The supply of food in the world is dependent on the activities of the mizbeiach, and if the mizbeiach is missing, there is a shortage of food. Similarly, the material abundance of the world is dependent on the merit of tzadikim, as Chazal said in Taanis: "The whole world is sustained by the merit of Chanina my son." R. Chanina himself does not need anything, but the whole world is sustained in his merit.

If I may be permitted to add this, I would say that in the merit of the Rov ztv"l not only did we derive pleasure from an abundance of material good, but we also enjoyed gashmiyus becoming ruchniyus (the infusion of spirituality into gashmiyus), in that he made sure that the food of bnei Torah would have the best kashrus. With his passing we feel the lack of these benefits.

We have to be very careful about eulogizing the av beis din zt"l. The gemora in Yevomos says that there was a terrible punishment for Shoul not having been eulogized properly, and the gemora in Sukkos says that a solar eclipse takes place if an av beis din is not eulogized properly. Why is this specific punishment considered appropriate and why is it considered so severe, seeing that the sun returns to normal after half an hour? Furthermore, astronomers can now predict solar eclipses in advance.

There is a frightening way of understanding this punishment. It is a heavenly warning about the failure to give an appropriate hesped for an av beis din. Hashem reminds us of the beginning of Creation when the sun and the moon had an equal role, and the moon said to Hashem that two kings do not share one crown, as a result of which Hakodosh Boruch Hu diminished the moon's dimensions, and made the sun ruler and the moon secondary. The phenomenon of the solar eclipse teaches us that an inferior person sometimes does not appreciate the greatness of a great personality.

Thus the moon stands between the sun and the earth, diminishing the sun's light, as if to say, "I am greater than you." We are therefore shown that after about half an hour the moon returns to its original size. This is a warning about not eulogizing an av beis din properly, and thinking that we are greater than he and know about true greatness. So we see that it is not at all a simple matter to be maspid the Rov. To be maspid ninety years of avodas Hashem and self-sacrifice is no easy task. We shall recall a few incidents from his life, in the hope that we can learn from and be inspired by them. This would be a great merit for his soul.

@Big Let Body=His avodas Hashem was truly remarkable. He had an immense thirst for Torah from his youth. When he was a small boy he heard that the Vilna Gaon had written that Brochos contained three more letters than Bovo Basra. The youth Chaim Shoul Karelitz then decided to sit down and count all the letters, until he concluded that this statement was only correct according to the Vilna Gaon's hagohos. This is the cheshkas haTorah of a small child.

As a young bochur he learned all three Bovos forty times over one year with his chavrusa in yeshiva. Such were the attainments of previous generations.

The Tur opens his sefer with the statement of Yehuda ben Teimo: "Run like a deer, be mighty as a lion . . . " The Shulchan Oruch too starts with, "A person must gather up strength like a lion when getting up in the morning to serve his Creator." Zerizus is the key to Orach Chaim and to all avodas Hashem. The Rov's zerizus was remarkable. I remember him coming to my house to ask me to join the beis din of Shearis Yisroel saying that a younger man was needed to help with the activities of Shearis: he was already over eighty at the time. I must say that on many occasions I could not keep up with him, and sometimes this was really a cause of embarrassment.

About two years ago we went out to the fields at harvesting time of the wheat for the purpose of matzoh baking for Pesach. I remember how he ran, jumped on to the combine harvester, and switched it on himself. We would often offer to be meshamesh him but he consistently refused. Even when he was in hospital, he refused absolutely to let us assist him.

My rov, HaRav Eliyohu Lopian ztv"l, who was well- known for his alacrity, told me that he was especially particular about the middo of zerizus, because when he reaches the Heavenly Tribunal he will be asked whether he kept the whole Torah. He did not want them to open up the first section of the Shulchan Oruch and fail in that first question! I think that this awesome zerizus was among the av beis din's greatest merits, and we all have to learn from his example.

Members of the Karelitz family are known for being very taciturn. The Rov once told me that his father, Rav Meir Karelitz zt"l, when he was appointed rov, made it a condition that he not have to give a drosho on Shabbos Shuvoh and Shabbos Hagodol. He was afraid of public speaking. I heard that the Chazon Ish was not capable of making Havdoloh when there were ten people standing in front of him. Rav Chaim Shoul was no different. He was very taciturn.

However, when there was a need to speak or to offer sharp rebukes, this trait disappeared. He would suddenly acquire a fearless power of speech. About a year ago he told us that some respectable people had come to see him to suggest a partnership regarding a certain matter with a rabbi belonging to a sect whose views the Rosh Yeshiva disapproves of. He shouted at them until they quickly left his house.

At the meetings of the Shearis Yisroel beis din he would also usually keep quiet. He only spoke when necessary, and when the need arose he also told us off. If one knows that everything is lesheim Shomayim, there can be no complaints.

In our generation, when darkness is covering the earth, we have to reflect on the example set by the Rov. His hashkofo and leadership should serve as a model for a true av beis din: to be taciturn on the one hand, but totally fearless when the need arose, on the other hand. He fulfilled the commandment not to fear anybody and constantly searched for the authentic and undiluted hashkofo. Even when people close to him behaved improperly, he did not hesitate or fear. It is said about the Chofetz Chaim that it is not true that he did not speak; he just knew what to say and what to refrain from saying, and that is what we have to learn from him.

He was totally subordinate to the Rosh Yeshiva, may Hashem lengthen his days. He told me that 15 years ago when HaRav Shach wanted to establish Shearis Yisroel there was a lot of opposition to this. It is difficult to believe, but people would actually spit at him on the street. I asked him why he had taken this responsibility upon himself. He replied, "I felt that the coat I was wearing was the only coat which could absorb the spitting and the degradation."

He followed the hashkofo and daas Torah of HaRav Shach with utter self-sacrifice. At first his behavior surprised many people, who said that he was a baal machlokes. He for his part stuck to the truth with total self-sacrifice, and eventually everyone appreciated his foresight.

In parshas Pinchos it says that because of Pinchos's kano'us for Hashem's sake, "I am giving him My covenant of peace." What is the connection between kano'us and peace?

The peace referred to is one between us and our Father in Heaven. Unfortunately, some people think that we should make concessions, arguing that we should seek peace instead of making machlokes. However, in parshas Pinchos it says the opposite: peace between ourselves and our Father in Heaven is more important. We have to fight and argue with all types of compromisers and reshoim, because we have to consistently stand up for our hashkofo in a determined way.

This is the meaning of "Talmidei chachomim increase peace in the world": it is the talmidei chachomim who, despite their firmness, increase peace in the world, and not the baalei batim with their views.

Towards the end of his life, I visited him in his house almost every day. Once when I went to see him he was in a very bad state, and I was not even sure whether he could see or hear me. I greeted him and then he shot up and said to me, "I heard that there are elements in the Torah city of Bnei Brak who are cooperating with the meshichistim contrary to the proscription of our Torah and contrary to the opinion of HaRav Shach shlita, who fought against this with all his might."

He added: "I will be the first one to write a protest, and we have to ensure that everyone will protest this terrible act. I have seen that a staunch hashkofo has been the source of my vitality."

In parshas Pinchos we find that Moshe Rabbenu said at the end of his days: "Let Hashem . . . set a man over the congregation."

In the last will of the Rov too we saw how concerned he was that anyone who did not have the hashkofo of the Rosh Yeshiva should not infiltrate the beis din of Shearis Yisroel. He insisted that the assignment which HaRav Shach had imposed on him could not be amended in any way, and sent his will to HaRav Eliashiv. The day after the levaya he ruled that we have to follow the instructions of the niftar's will. We as bnei Torah have to take inspiration from his example and adopt an undiluted hashkofo.

If we would have had the merit of hearing the Rosh Yeshiva give a hesped on the Rov he would surely have thanked him for all his activities for the sake of Klal Yisroel, and perhaps he would have applied to him the posuk, "I remember the affection of your youth. How you went after Me in the wilderness in a land that was not sown," because at the time people did not really understand this insistence on a pure hashkofo, and matters were not as obvious as they are now. The Rov with mesirus nefesh ensured that any developments would not contradict the daas Torah of HaRav Shach.

We have to follow his example, and only then can we ask him to pray for us and for the chizuk of the Shearis Yisroel community, which he founded with such self- sacrifice. This will be a zchus for him and for us until we shall merit the comfort of Tzion and Yerushalayim bb"o.

HaRav Eliezer Halevi Dunner is a member of the Shearis Yisroel beis din and rav of the Adas Yisroel communities in Eretz Yisroel.

(Yated Hashavua 20.7.01, pp.24+27)

His Face was a Seguloh for Yiras Shomayim and Middos Tovos

by Rav Shlomo Lorenz

When thinking of HaRav Chaim Shoul Karelitz zt"l I am reminded of Rebbi's statement in the gemora (Eruvin 13b): "The reason that I am sharper than my friends is that I saw R. Meir from the back, and if I would have seen him from the front, I would have been even sharper." Anyone who had the good fortune of meeting Rav Chaim Shoul can testify that after seeing him they immediately felt a special awakening of yiras Shomayim and middos tovos. He was not a man of words, but his very appearance managed to convey his ahavas Torah and yiras Shomayim to those who met him.

I myself can testify that whenever I met Rav Chaim Shoul it was an experience equivalent to studying a mussar book. I only had the merit of meeting his famous rov, HaRav Boruch Ber Leibovitch zt'l once in Warsaw. Apart from what he told me at that meeting, I still have engraved in my memory the image of his holy face, which inflamed my Torah and yiras Shomayim. I had the same experience every time I met Rav Chaim Shoul.

He had exceptional yiras Shomayim and every commendable character trait, especially the middoh of emes, which he observed in a meticulous manner. Whenever he heard about some falsehood, or even a twisted version of the truth, his whole body would start shaking, as Rashi says on the posuk "And with the blast of Your nostrils": "The breath that issues from both nostrils."

He was a courageous and tireless fighter against any injustices, right up to the end of his life, as can be seen from his last letter, written about a month before his petiroh. He was a living example of someone who "hated and despised falsehood" (Tehillim 119, 163). He not only hated but also despised falsehood.

Rav Chaim Shoul was known as a big kano'i who was feared by anybody who tried to behave in an anti-Torah way. Many were those who thought twice about the possible reaction of Rav Chaim Shoul, the Pinchos of our generation. The very fear of his reaction saved many from transgressing. Like all his middos, his kano'us was authentic. Since he acted only according to the instructions of the gedolim, it was not utilized on all occasions, and not always to the same extent. It was not a case of kano'us for its own sake.

At the same time he had a gentle and kind disposition. Whenever he found it necessary to become upset with somebody, he would immediately go up to the person and talk to him in a kindly manner. "Kindness and truth meet, justice and peace unite" (Tehillim 85:11). These two pairs of concepts seem totally antithetical, but if all one's acts are genuinely only for the sake of Heaven, then they do not contradict each other: "Kindness and truth have met, justice and peace have united," and so it was with Rav Chaim Shoul zt"l.

His anovo was limitless, and revealed itself especially in his willingness to accept any task, even if it did not befit his status, to put it mildly. I asked him several times why he did not let some younger people take over certain tasks, and why he had to degrade himself to undertake these activities himself. But instead of replying, a characteristic smile appeared on his face, as if to say, "What sort of question is that? What is kovod? The only kovod is kvod Hashem, and every other factor is subordinate to that."

This may be compared to Dovid Hamelech who leapt and danced before Hashem, as a result of which Michal the daughter of Shoul despised him in her heart. Afterwards she also rebuked him openly: "How did the king of Yisroel acquire renown for himself today, who uncovered himself today in front of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself." (Shmuel II 6:20). To which Dovid replied as follows: "Before Hashem Who chose me above your father, and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of Hashem, the Jewish people, will I make merry, and I will be yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in my own eyes. (ibid., 6:21-22)."

When you are acting for the sake of Hashem, any considerations of personal kovod are irrelevant, as Rashi says (ibid.): "`I will yet be more vile' - - in front of Him, more than I have just degraded myself."

It is little wonder that someone who lived with such an intense awareness of the fact that he on his own was insignificant, should have accepted upon himself the most difficult tasks, most of which were performed away from the public glare. Most well-known was his appointment by HaRav Shach to serve as the head of the Shearis Yisroel kashrus organization. He was almost eighty at the time, and knew only too well that this task would be a very difficult one, involving very long hours and tiring journeys to distant destinations overseas.

It would be difficult to find a similar example in our generation of a man who is willing to take on a burden, which is extremely onerous even for a young person. How was this possible, and what were his thoughts when he agreed to accept this awesome duty without any hesitation at such an advanced age? There was no question in his mind, since HaRav Shach's command had to be obeyed unquestioningly. We saw that he was granted the necessary strength by Hashem, and in him was fulfilled the posuk, "Those that trust in Hashem will gain strength." In his old age he lost none of his energy, and managed to serve as watchman with youthful vigor almost to his last day.

Moshe Rabbeinu, about whom the Torah tells us that he had a speech defect, when he heard the divine call "Moshe, Moshe" from the burning bush, immediately made an all-encompassing one-word response, "Hineni." Avrohom had made the same reply before the Akeidah, and Rashi writes there: "Such is the answer of the righteous: it is an expression of humbleness and readiness." (Bereishis 22:1). For that reason Hashem testified about him, "Now I know that you fear Hashem." (ibid. 22;12). Yosef too said Hineni when his father asked him to go to his brothers: "Hineni is an expression denoting humility and readiness. He was zealous to perform his father's bidding, although he knew that his brothers hated him." (Rashi, ibid., 37,13). Consider this matter carefully and you will understand it.

These thoughts are very much applicable to the special personality of Rav Chaim Shoul, who was the personification of real anovoh. He hid his greatness in Torah, mussar and every possible virtue, but at the same time he was always willing to say Hineni and accept upon himself any task with perfect alacrity, especially if this was requested of him by the gedolim.

What is the source of this wonderful capacity to say Hineni? The posuk says, "As a reward that Avrohom listened to Me, and kept My charge, My commandments, My ordinances and My laws." Rashi says on "`that Avrohom listened to Me': when I put him to the test." "`and My laws': this refers to Torah shebe'al pe and halocho leMoshe miSinai."

How do the words "that Avrohom listened to Me" imply that this was when he was put to the test at the time of the Akeidah? It could be that it was only possible for Avrohom to stand up to the test of "Take your son, your only one," because he had ceased to exist and was merely observing the commandments and instructions of Hashem: nothing else existed in the world.

This would explain how he managed to obey Hashem's command, which flew in the face of all intellectual and emotional logic and contradicted everything Avrohom had preached throughout his life, when he had stood alone and fought openly against the child sacrifice practices of the idol worshipers. Then he was commanded to sacrifice Yitzchok, his only spiritual heir, who could continue his life's work of disseminating the belief in one G-d. Despite all this, Avrohom said Hineni, in other words, there was no more father, no more son, nobody to continue his work, nothing. Avrohom had ceased to exist.

This is what Chazal mean: " `Man and beast You preserve, Hashem' -- these are people who are wise, but comport themselves like animals." (Chulin 5b). Only that way can they stand up to tests like the Akeidah. Our test in observing the chukim of the Torah, which we do not understand, such as the prohibition of eating pork or wearing shatnez, is only due to our inability to comprehend the reasons behind them; our intellect and emotions do not rebel against them. The Torah was given to every Jew, and each of us has the ability to observe it, whereas in order to pass a test such as that of the Akeidah, which every component of the human being opposes: the body, the nefesh and the neshomoh, one has to stop being wise, and turn into a "beast," to nullify the ego, and to recognize that only Hashem exists.

Rav Chaim Shoul was sharp and had an amazing intellect. He was a giant of Torah and an expert in all areas of life, and yet he still behaved with temimus. In him was fulfilled the Chazal about "the people who are wise, but comport themselves like animals."

I think that we can say without any exaggeration that Rav Chaim Shoul fitted this description. He obeyed Hashem and the directives of the gedolim so that nothing was in the range of the impossible. As soon as he heard the call, he responded with a Hineni. He nullified his self.

Anyone who knew him realized that he did not live for himself, he was a faithful servant of Hashem, and in the choice category of those who respond with a Hineni. That was why all the gedolim saw in him a unique personality: the Chazon Ish, the Brisker Rov and ylct"a HaRav Shach. I had the merit several times of hearing them pour lavish praise upon him, and these praises were of a different order to those used when they praised other Torah personalities. Suffice it to quote HaRav Zalman Rotberg, a brother-in- law of Rav Karelitz, who said in his hesped at the levaya that when his wife asked the Chazon Ish who would inherit from them, he replied, "Rav Chaim Shoul Karelitz is our heir!"

I cannot conclude this article without mentioning Rav Chaim Shoul's active involvement in Zeirei Agudas Yisroel over a period spanning about sixty years. He was a member of its executive board and of the Nesius. No topic, however trivial, was beneath his dignity, and no undertaking was too difficult or burdensome. Whenever he was asked to do something, or even without being asked, he always said Hineni. He took part in all administration meetings, serving as spiritual guide and director. His very presence at these meetings ensured that we would not adopt any inappropriate decisions.

Rav Chaim Shoul is no more. Men of truth have left this world. Woe for those who are gone and cannot be replaced! Rav Chaim Shoul did not leave a replacement, but still, his memory has not disappeared with his passing, and we can continue to draw inspiration from him as we did during his lifetime, when we had the merit of seeing him. Chazal tell us that when Yosef Hatzaddik was put to the test, an image of his father appeared to him, which helped him overcome the temptation. I think that this also teaches us that although he did not actually visualize his father's image, the very recollection of your father is the equivalent of visualizing him, despite any physical separation from him.

Rav Chaim Shoul may no longer be with us, but if we continue to remember him and his image, we will develop a heightened yiras Shomayim, humility, emunas chachomim, and good character traits, just as we did during his lifetime. We will also accept any task and responsibility, which the gedolim request with a special Hineni approach, as exemplified by the life of Rav Chaim Shoul zt"l. Perhaps that is the pshat in the posuk, zecher tzaddik, when we recall the image of a tzaddik, this will be livrocho, a blessing for us.


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