This past Sunday, 8 Sivan, tens of thousands of bnei Torah
accompanied the great gaon HaRav Zalman Rotberg
zt"l on his last earthly journey. HaRav Zalman Rotberg
was the rosh yeshiva of the Beis Meir yeshiva, and a member
of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Degel Hatorah. A
talmid of the European gedolei Torah, he was 89 at
the time of his petiroh.
HaRav Rotberg was one of the greatest marbitzei Torah
umussar of our generation and who was meshamesh
the gedolei HaTorah of previous generations. He taught
Torah for over sixty years to thousands of students, and
produced legions of talmidei chachomim who themselves
became gedolim in Torah and mussar.
The bitter news of HaRav Rotberg's petiroh became
public close to twelve noon on Sunday, 8 Sivan. Soon the
poroches was removed from the Oron Hakodesh of
the beis medrash, and by one o'clock his mitoh
was brought from the Maayanei Hayeshuva hospital where he was
niftar, to the beis medrash of the Beis Meir
yeshiva. Students who had studied under him and heard his
Torah and mussar shiurim for scores of years assembled
in the beis medrash. The Torah world deeply mourned
the loss of one of the gedolei hador, who had played a
major role in strengthening Torah and Torah study in Eretz
At four in the afternoon, tens of thousands of mourners from
all over the country gathered around the beis
Prior to the beginning of the levaya, Tehillim and the
13 Middos were recited in unison. Afterwards words of
hesped and his'orerus were delivered. The first
hesped was delivered by the moro de'asra of the
Zichron Meir neighborhood, HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, who
wept over the loss of one of the gedolim of our times,
who as a youth merited to study under HaRav Shimon Shkop. He
then cited the words of the gemora, "Fortunate is one
who grew up in Torah, whose prime labor is in Torah and who
does nachas to his Creator." Then he said: "All of us
are familiar with the extent of the niftar's ameilus
beTorah and know that throughout his life he had a good
name and was niftar with a good name, having merited
to spread Torah and yirah for scores of years and to
produce many students, all with an unusual humility."
HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz called to the tzibbur to
contemplate the great loss of one of the gedolei
haTorah. He said: "Even before World War II, HaRav Shmuel
Rozovsky and the niftar came to Eretz Yisroel
together. HaRav Rozovsky often described how Rav Zalman
strengthened him during that period. Both were broken and
shattered, but nonetheless fulfilled, "Lulei Sorosecho
sha'ashu'ai, oz ovadeti be'onyi." HaRav Zalman motivated
and inspired HaRav Shmuel and all of the bnei yeshiva.
This vitality stemmed from simcha of the Torah.
"Throughout his life HaRav Zalman Rotberg fulfilled Rabbenu
Yonah's teaching that a person shouldn't think of himself,
but should rather make efforts on behalf of his fellow.
Together with his righteous Rebbetzin, he attended to the
needs of the generation. She devoted herself to the
chinuch of bnos Yisroel, according to the Torah-
true way transmitted from generation to generation. He was a
loyal representative and wise servant of HaKodosh Boruch
Hu for his entire life."
Other hespedim were delivered by HaRav Gershon
Edelstein, who said that we should use the occasion of the
death of tzadikim for teshuvoh, HaRav Boruch
Dov Povarsky, who called R' Zalman the "tiferes of
Torah, HaRav Aryeh Finkel, one of the most prominent
talmidim, HaRav Tzvi Markowitz, and HaRav Shraga Domb
(the mashgiach of Beis Meir). The niftar's son,
HaRav Tzvi, parted from his father saying that he was the
father of all, and that the Torah they learned from his was
like the Torah of "Abba." He added the request that HaRav
Zalman be a meilitz yosher for the entire family and
for all of the students whom he so loved.
The levaya proceeded to the Netzivei Ponevezh yeshiva,
where the niftar was buried at sunset.
HaRav Zalman Rotberg was born in 5673 (1913) in Lepnishock, a
city in Lithuania's Vilna district. His father, HaRav Tuvia
Rotberg Hy"d was a close student of the Chofetz Chaim,
who referred to his as "kodosh." He also studied in
the famous Kollel Kodshim in Radin. HaRav Tuvia was
eventually appointed rav of Luno, a city near Grodno.
In that illustrious Torah home, HaRav Zalman's unique
personality as an ish Torah was fashioned and the
foundations of his remarkable soul were laid.
Already in his childhood, the attributes which he displayed
throughout his life, and which caused him to be esteemed by
all of the gedolei hador, were evident. These
attributes were: amazing hasmodoh, outstanding talents
nobility of spirit, refinement, and a special chen and
chesed which defined his entire being.
Even before he was thirteen he began to study in the Grodno
yeshiva under HaRav Moshe Mordechai Shkop, the son of HaRav
Shimon Shkop and the son-in-law of HaRav Shraga Feivel
HaRav Shimon Shkop and HaRav Zalman's father HaRav Tuvia were
very close. Rav Tuvia helped HaRav Shkop in his efforts to
support his yeshiva and in 5689 (1929) he even accompanied
him on a trip to the United States. HaRav Zalman also drew
very close to HaRav Shimon Shkop, who thought highly of him
and regarded him as a devoted student.
When Zalman was only fifteen he went to the Mirrer Yeshiva,
where he became close to HaRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel and
HaRav Yeruchom Lebowitz, from whom he derived the foundations
of mussar and daas.
After some time he was forced to return to Grodno as a result
of an order to report for army service. During that period,
his relationship with his rav muvhak HaRav Shimon
Shkop grew even stronger, and he would sleep in HaRav
Shimon's room every night.
Due to the Russian draft decrees, which put increasing
pressure on yeshiva students, HaRav Zalman decided to flee
Russia for Eretz Yisroel. He arrived here on the 18th of
Sivan, 5696 (1936), along with his close friend HaRav Shmuel
Rozovsky zt"l who later became a rosh yeshiva of
The arrival of two of HaRav Shimon Shkop's finest talmidim
in Eretz Yisroel had an impact on the country's bnei
Torah. As soon as they arrived in Eretz Yisroel, the two
began to study in the Lomzhe yeshiva in Petach Tikvah, which
at that time was one of the largest Torah centers in the
In that yeshiva, the two toiled over their Torah studies very
intensely and in great poverty, attaining very high levels in
Torah and yirah
In 5701 (1941), a yeshiva letze'irim was founded in
the Ir Ganim section of Petach Tikvah. In that yeshiva, HaRav
Zalman served as a ram and, together with HaRav Shmuel
Rozovsky, delivered shiurim to the young
During that period, he frequented the home of the Chazon Ish
in order to speak with him in learning. In 5702 the Chazon
Ish made a match between him and Soroh, the daughter of Rav
Meir Karelitz the Chazon Ish's oldest brother, who had been
rav of Lachowitz and was one of the great Torah leaders of
When HaRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel arrived in Eretz Yisroel,
where he hoped to reestablish the Mir, he asked HaRav Zalman
to draw together all students of the yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel
to Yerushalayim. This formed the first kernel of what in time
became the illustrious Mirrer yeshiva we know today. HaRav
Zalman served as both menahel ruchani and maggid
shiur in the Mir of Yerushalayim until the arrival of the
Mirrer students from Shanghai. The students who studied in
the Mir at that time are currently among its greatest
In 5714, HaRav Zalman moved to Bnei Brak where he began to
serve as a ram in the Tifferes Tzion yeshiva.
Following the petiroh of his father-in-law HaRav Meir
Karelitz in Adar 5715 (1955), HaRav Zalman established the
Beis Meir yeshiva in his memory. The Beis Meir yeshiva opened
in 5718 with six students, and slowly developed into a large
yeshiva with a number of buildings on Devorah Hanevia Street
in Bnei Brak.
The Kehillos Yaakov, HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky,
davened there on a regular basis, and was involved in
every aspect of the yeshiva.
HaRav Zalman Rotberg delivered both daily and general
shiurim in Beis Meir for forty-five years and produced
thousands of students. His shiurim and discourses were
well known for their unique clarity and for the amazing
manner in which he elucidated the difficult aspects of the
each and every sugya studied in the yeshiva. His well-
known sefer, Mishneh Tuvia and his kuntrus, Chever
Shiurim, published by the students of the yeshiva, are
also known for their lucidity. In 5724, HaRav Rotberg founded
the Or HaTorah yeshiva for Sephardic students, and was
personally involved in their chinuch and progress in
Torah and yiras Shomayim.
He was a gaon of great stature, who had imbibed his
Torah from the Torah giants of the previous generation. He
bequeathed this Torah to the thousands of talmidei
chachomim and bnei Torah whom he raised as his
very own sons within his yeshiva.
His Torah shiurim were highly acclaimed for their
depth and for their penetrating manner in which they
contributed to the understanding of the sugya. He was known
for the conceptual structures which he established and
developed in his shiurim.
He was also well for his mastery of Toras hamussar, in
all of its various sources and aspects. He acquired the
foundations of mussar and daas from his mentor,
HaRav Yeruchom Lebowitz. The sichos and ma'amorei
machshova which HaRav Zalman delivered and wrote were
compiled into a sefer called Tuv Daas.
These sichos gained famed throughout the entire Torah
world, and many came from outside to listen to them.
He delivered his last mussar discourse on Shabbos
Zochor this year. He spoke at length about the difference
between Pharaoh and Homon, explaining why we are obligated to
stamp out the memory of Amolek and not that of Pharaoh.
HaRav Rotberg's dedication to the yeshiva and to its
thousands of students was boundless. He ignored his own
personal needs and life, and submerged himself in the needs
of the yeshiva and its students, sparing no effort to ensure
that they could devote themselves to their studies with
HaRav Zalman devoted himself to each student with endless
patience, listening to their problems and questions, and
probing the recesses of the hearts. In a kindly, warm manner
he would chart a Torah-true path for them. Despite his many
burdens, he received each visitor warmly and genially. All
who approached him knew that he would listen to them
attentively and patiently, and respond to them with a warm
and loving smile. Only those who knew how precious every
moment was to HaRav Zalman could fully appreciate the extent
of his mesirus nefesh toward those who sought his
Recently he fell ill, and when his condition grew worse
prayers were recited for his full recovery in yeshivos all
over the country. While bnei yeshiva everywhere davened
for him, he returned his pure soul to its Maker.
He is survived by his wife and by his son HaRav Tzvi, the
rosh yeshiva of Beis Meir, as well as by his daughters who
are married to: HaRav Zeev Shapira, a ram in the
yeshiva, HaRav Eliezer Markowitz, rosh kollel in the
yeshiva, HaRav Daniel Ginzburg, a ram in the yeshiva,
and HaRav Yosef Yizra'eli, rosh yeshiva of Tifferes Moshe. He
is also survived by grandchildren, great-grandchildren and
thousands of students who deeply mourn the loss of their
beloved and esteemed mentor.