Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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7 Nissan 5762 - March 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Veho'Ish Moshe
Compiled by his Talmidim

The image and spirit of HaRav Moshe Soloveitchik zt"l still linger in the minds and hearts of his many students and disciples. This great man, his sterling character and personal integrity, his every word and action infused with sanctity, left a lasting impression on all. Perpetuating the heritage of his righteous forefathers, the dynasty of Brisk, the memory of Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, zt"l continues to inspire.

The Hebrew biography Veho'Ish Moshe is the product of some of Rav Moshe's many pupils who wished to compile his many lectures, teachings, and inspiring actions into one. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky supplied comments and vignettes from his youth when he learned together with Rav Moshe in the Lomza Yeshiva. This 300- page compilation contains sections on Torah, Nach, Bavli, Shabbos, Moadim, various topics in halacha, and numerous discourses and lectures. The timeless words and teaching of Rav Moshe Soloveitchik can only be described as "Living words of G-d."

The following are translated excerpts from Veho'Ish Moshe:

Rav Moshe related: When I was a youth learning in the renowned Yeshivas Petach Tikva, I merited to spend a seder in the presence of the Chazon Ish, zt"l and the Kehillas Yaakov, zt"l. To my surprise, both were hurrying to relate the story of the Exodus in order to eat the afikoman before midnight. In the midst of the seder, the Rav asked one of the children present if he had any questions, but the child, uncomfortable with the attention, remained quiet. Nonetheless, I did have a question. How could it be that year after year one tells of Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, Rabbi Yehoshua and the others who related the story of the Exodus all through the night, while the Chazon Ish and the Kehillas Yaakov hastened through it?

HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, quoting his father's sefer, writes that as the tannoim had been in Bnei Brak, the home of Rabbi Akiva, they practiced according to the opinion of Rabbi Akiva who held that sippur yetzias Mitzrayim could be recounted throughout the night. Today, however, we follow the majority opinion that states that the afikoman must be eaten by midnight.


The Rov zt"l was once asked to explain the common practice of the many young men who study in a kollel instead of supporting their families, and rely on heavenly aid to provide their needs. This seems a contradiction to the words of the Rambam, who writes in Hilchos Shmittah, "Only one who wholeheartedly dedicates his soul to the service of G-d, and who follows the straight path without diverting from it, will merit provision from heaven."

Rav Moshe responded that this applied only in earlier generations, when people were, spiritually, on an extraordinarily high level, and in which G-d related to the world with justice. Today, in a generation as spiritually weak as ours, G-d relates to the world with mercy, and any individual who desires to learn the holy Torah can merit heavenly intervention.


The Rov once commented to a woman who approached him in reference to issues of sholom bayis that success in parnossoh is granted to those who excel in sholom bayis. The proof is in the Shemoneh Esrei, "The One Who Blesses His Nation of Israel with peace." The intent of this blessing is not only for literal peace, but also in a figurative sense. Rav Shimon ben Chalafta states in maseches Uktzin, "The greatest vessel for acquiring blessing is peace, as it is written, `Hashem Will Give strength to His nation; Hashem Will Bless His nation with peace' (Tehillim 29.)" Hashem bestows His blessing in a place where there is peace. Hence, it is incumbent upon us to reside in peace, thus creating the vessel in which Hashem can bestow His countless blessings upon us.


An influential community leader in Germany passed away suddenly. The deceased had maintained close connections with respected members of the German government, and his widow wished an official government funeral. However, the German Prime Minister was away and unable to attend and the widow thus opted to delay the funeral until his return. The rav of the community turned to Rav Moshe for guidance, and Rav Moshe was adamant that the funeral should proceed at the appropriate time. Furthermore, he insisted that if the widow should not abide by his decision, then the rabbi should play no part in the service.

The widow was indifferent to the rabbi's warning and, instead, sought the service of a reform rabbi who agreed to perform the burial according to her liking. The funeral was attended by the most esteemed members of the German government, including the President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, and others, and was broadcast throughout the radio and television stations in the country. The reform rabbi, indeed, felt honored to lead such a ceremony.

Soon after, to the shock of the community, it was discovered that the deceased had been involved in the embezzlement of tens of millions of German marks, that had been reserved by the government as reparations for Holocaust survivors. Again the funeral was broadcast throughout all of Europe; this time, as the opening to the government expose of his scandalous dealings.

Through the foresight and warning of Rav Moshe, the only Jews present at the funeral of the crook were the reform rabbi and his cohorts. As a result, a tremendous chillul Hashem was averted.


A Jew who asked Rav Moshe if it is permissible to declare falsely that he had sent his son to summer camp in order to receive a large grant from the government. Rav Moshe asked if the man was currently in financial difficulty, and the latter responded in the affirmative. The Rov then responded kindly, "If you are in need, then come to me again tomorrow, and we will together collect money in the Beis Midrash. This is, indeed, a more respected manner of attaining financial assistance!"


Rav Moshe related a tale of his youth. There was a period in his childhood in which, every morning, a chicken appeared in his family's garden, laid an egg, and hopped away. This continued for some time, until, one day, the children decided to follow it; yet, after a few moments, the chicken disappeared. When recounting the unlikely tale to their father, the latter responded, "Perhaps there was an individual who passed away while still in debt to me, and who has returned to the world in this form to repay me." He immediately searched through his receipts and discovered that, indeed, there had been such a man. The next morning, when the chicken appeared in his yard, Rav Moshe's father approached her and declared, "If you are so-and- so who owed me such an amount of money, then rest assured. I forgive you, wholeheartedly." The chicken never again returned to Rav Moshe's home.


Rav Moshe was once summoned to the city of Hegenheim to participate as a sandak for the bris of a long awaited son, born to a family of five daughters. The joyous couple spared no effort in preparing a lavish meal in honor of this great simcha. Yet, when the Rov arrived with the mohel, the latter discovered that the baby was badly jaundiced and that, under no circumstances could a bris be performed that day. Rav Moshe, sensing the anguish and embarrassment of the couple, declared that, although the bris could not proceed as scheduled, all the guests were to remain and partake of the seuda and lectures in honor of the birth of the child.


A young rabbi once sought the advice of the Rov, whether to accept a position as the rav in a community in which many of its members were not shomrei Shabbos and in which the local shul had no mechitza. Rav Moshe allowed him to assume the post on the condition that he only lecture for the congregation and not pray with them. Moreover, if after a full year the congregants would not agree to erect a proper mechitza, he should resign.

The following year, the rabbi returned to Rav Moshe, proudly announcing that his congregation had agreed to erect a mechitza according to the lenient opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l. Rav Moshe was adamantly opposed, explaining that the leniency could sometimes be granted only to a shul that was already founded on the precedents of halacha. However, if a new mechitza were to be constructed, it could only be erected according to the highest standards of halacha. Though the rabbi was compelled to resign his position, Rav Moshe stood firm in his decision, emphasizing that, under no circumstances, could halacha be compromised.


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