Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Elul 5764 - September 1, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








A Rav in Yerushalayim shel Maaloh -- HaRav Moshe Kopshitz, zt"l

by B. Yisraeli

Part II

Talmidim from Yeshivas Kol Yaakov Speak

The famous Yeshivas Kol Yaakov, headed by HaRav Yehuda Addes, lost one of the jewels in its crown, HaRav Moshe Kopshitz zt"l.

HaRav Addes was like a brother and a lifelong friend to HaRav Kopshitz. Both brought many talmidim onto their path of Torah and yiras Shomayim.

The talmidim too, gaze at the empty seat with disbelief. Even the younger ones among them mourn his loss in the most genuine, touching manner.

"Every time I went over to ask him a question on the gemora or to consult with him, never did he fail to say, `Sholom aleichem.' And every single moment he seemed to be glad to be with me. `How are you feeling?' he would ask. `Is everything going alright?' I didn't feel he was like a father, but like a mother . . . "

Wiping away a big tear he went on. "Last Thursday, before he passed away, I went up to ask him a question on the Tosefos. He received me warmly, answering with his typical clarity and simplicity.

"Afterwards he began to speak with me in an easy manner, asking whether I remembered his visit to the yeshivoh ketanoh two years ago and what he said during Shalosh Seudos. He chatted with me amiably and we even laughed a bit, and I'm just a bochur from Shiur Aleph who he hardly saw or spoke with previously. We talked together like old friends."

Another talmid said, "When I would see him on Shabbos in the neighborhood I would turn to cross the street to say, `Gut Shabbos,' but he had already begun walking toward me even though he is the rov of the neighborhood and I'm just a young talmid. Because for the sake of other people, nothing else mattered to him."

Suicide Bombers from a Torah Perspective

"When I arrived at the holy yeshiva [from abroad] of course at first I felt homesick and missed my family. `Go to R' Moshe,' everybody said. `When you come out of there we'll see a smile on your face.'

"I followed their suggestion. Stepping in I began to tell him about my feelings. He gave me a lot of encouragement and then asked, `Do you recite the passage on Akeidas Yitzchok every morning?'

"`Sometimes, when I have the time,' I replied.

"`What lesson did you learn from the Akeidoh? That Avrohom Ovinu was whole in serving Hashem? To learn that you don't need to go as far as the Akeidoh. I agree this was a stupendous act, but how can it be that after 4,000 years the merit of this act still remains and every morning Am Yisroel asks for rachamim in the merit of the Akeidoh, and every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we make entreaties in the merit of the Akeidoh?'

"He didn't leave me wondering. His face beaming, R' Moshe continued. `The main point of the Akeidoh was the mesirus shown by Avrohom and Yitzchok, to sacrifice to HaKodosh Boruch Hu the most precious thing in their world. Avrohom went to sacrifice his son and Yitzchok-- himself. This demonstrates that such mesirus can last for thousands of years. It's as if this is the thing that stirs zechus and rachamim before HaKodosh Boruch Hu more than anything else.

"`How many siblings do you have?' I told him. `Your brothers and sisters and your parents are probably what you love most and you are sacrificing them to HaKodosh Boruch Hu to do His Will, to learn Torah now. That's more than just one Akeidoh. You have the ability to feel you have touched on the point of the Akeidoh and even more: You have done an Akeidoh with yourself, and this will stand by you for the rest of your life and for your descendents as well."

On the same matter he told another talmid, "How could it be that the Ishmaelites commit terrorist attacks with such mesirus nefesh? In the world there is a spiritual aspect associated with mesirus nefesh. [It is one of the fundamental forces of the world.] And he who is truly dedicated to a cause succeeds. This is a fundamental rule. In our day when positive mesirus nefesh, i.e. Torah and chessed, has grown lax, then automatically there is more aid for evil, and the Arabs are making use of mesirus nefesh. They take the part of mesirus nefesh that is meant to be and this is the reason why they succeed.

"If so you should know that in your homesickness and other nisyonos you have the possibility to tap into the positive mesirus nefesh in the world, which will make the power of evil succeed less. You should know that whenever you feel hardship and persist, you save lives."

His Approach to Learning

"When my chavruso and I asked him what to do if we didn't have time to cover all of the Tosefos during the bekius seder he said we should make every effort to learn all of them. A few days later we went up to ask him a question on the gemora. He told us it was a reference to the kushiyos in the Tosefos. `If you two are learning that way then it would be better to continue at your own pace, because there are two kinds of people in this matter. There are those who learn the gemora and think they are doing the Tosefos a favor by glancing at it, and there are those who encounter difficulties and the Tosefos does them a favor by having written its commentary on the gemora, and this is the correct way.'

"When the yeshiva learned Eizehu Neshech I went to him to raise a few maskonos and dinim and nafka minos that emerged from the Tosefos. `That's the way to learn?' he said to me. `Just to read through the Tosefos-- ve'im tomar, veyeish lomar, etc. is nothing. The Gaon says, "Im ein kemach ein Torah," means that if one does not learn the Torah and grind it like flour then there is no Torah.'"

One Has to Be Prepared

"About a week before he passed away I went up to HaRav Moshe and asked him a question on the gemora. After giving me a fabulous answer based on the Maharshoh, he said that's how people should acquire Torah knowledge and more Torah knowledge. He repeated this several times and told me this is the purpose of This World--so that at the age of 120 when we go Upstairs we'll have something to say, as is written, `Ashrei mi shebo lekan vetalmudo beyodo.'

"Upon hearing this I grinned and HaRav Moshe said, `At your age you don't understand what I'm trying to tell you, but you should know in the end everybody goes there and one has to be prepared.'"

His family members say he used to always ask, "Have you been gathering mitzvahs?" He would always drive home to them the awareness of the need to make good use of every moment, for who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Shaving and Shidduchim

"While I was involved in shidduchim I asked him whether it was permitted to shave with an electric shaver. At the time I couldn't use powder twice a week since this was while we were baking matzah as part of a chaburoh. `To bake matzah in a chaburoh is a hiddur mitzvah, but here you are playing with a d'Oraisoh,' he replied."

Care in Mitzvos

"His practice was not to tie his shoes at all in the morning until after nesi'as kapayim to avoid a sofek brochoh regarding netilas yodayim (i.e. when washing before nesi'as kapayim) and he told me to do the same. He held that the Kohanim should raise their hands after the brochoh and before `Yevorechecho.' He learned this through a precise reading of the Shulchon Oruch, which mentions raising one's hands only after the halochos regarding the brochoh, ` . . . asher kideshonu bekedushoso shel Aharon.'"

A Setback is No Reason for Despair

"Once I went up to him during the seder to ask a question that came up during the course of my learning and, as always, he added a few words of mussar and chizuk. `Imagine a certain thief who goes into a store and steals a box of candies. The storeowner chases after him and catches him. Meanwhile another thief goes into the store and steals all the money in the cash register. The moral is that the yetzer hora comes to a person and puts a bit of despair into him. At that point one must beware for then, chas vesholom, the despair can cause him to lose it all.'

"On that same occasion he also said, `A child eats a cucumber or drinks milk and, running up to his father, he asks, "Have I grown up yet?" The child knows he's consuming something healthy so he waits and waits, but to his great displeasure he can't feel himself growing.

"The Torah is not something that is felt right away, only after a period of time. A bochur leaves the seder wondering, `If I learned well, why haven't I become HaRav Shach?' Wait a bit and be patient. After many years if you learn you will turn into HaRav Shach!'"


The bochur who would bring in his lunch periodically said that sometimes (for various reasons) he would come in late for the afternoon seder. When R' Moshe met him in the foyer one day he made a remark about his tardiness adding, "I'm only telling you this because I feel hakaras hatov to you."


Once a bochur from Shiur Aleph went up to R' Moshe to ask him a question on the gemora. R' Moshe began to praise him for his question and then told him, "Your question shows you have very straight thinking, for if you anticipated the gemora's own question so precisely this speaks well of your intelligence."

After he had left R' Moshe told another, older bochur that in fact the question he had asked appeared in Rashi on the Mishnoh, but one must give praise and encouragement, especially in the case of a young bochur.


"For a certain period I didn't go to the afternoon session because I was sick and as a result I fell into a short period of laxity during which I would not come to seder. One day R' Moshe met me and said, `It seems to me I haven't seen you during seder lately. Maybe you switched to a different seat or you're learning in the kollel downstairs? Tell me so I won't think you're not coming . . . ' Thus he gave me a good feeling and tried to explain not seeing me, even though it wasn't correct."

Bein Odom Lechaveiro

A certain individual who was mentally ill would come to HaRav Kopshitz. Several times he arrived during the middle of the tefiloh at vosikin in the shteibel and mumbled all sorts of nonsense. Everyone else would drive him off. But when he came up talking nonsense to R' Moshe six or seven times during the tefilloh R' Moshe pretended to understand him. He couldn't reply because he was in the middle of his tefilloh, but he would gesture with his hand and head as if he understood, and flash him a broad smile.


"Every year before the Yomim Noro'im he would give [several talks] at the yeshiva and his practice was to repeat almost the same thing every year until it became source of curiosity. When asked about this once he replied that the yetzer hora remains the same yetzer hora, which was a testimony to his integrity and cleverness."


"R' Moshe told me in a private conversation HaRav Eliyohu Lopian once told him animals--and some people--act according to their wants. What sets man apart from beast is his ability to do what he does not want to do.

"R' Moshe told me he recalled a eulogy HaRav Lopian gave when a bochur at Yeshivas Chevron passed away, saying he could remember the two-hour hesped word for word."


"Once I had an important errand to do, but nevertheless I was uncertain about going. Maybe it wasn't really important enough to take precedent over my yeshiva studies. When I went to R' Moshe to seek his advice he said, `Let me tell you a general rule: Whenever you have doubts about whether to go to a certain place or not, you should stay and learn. Because if you go and you really didn't have to go you lose. Whereas if you really should have gone and you stayed, you don't lose since you learned during that time--ve'ein sofek motzi miydei vadai."


"When I came to get tested first I went up to him to extend greetings from the rosh yeshiva of my yeshivoh ketanoh. He seized the opportunity to show an interest in me, giving me a good feeling about myself. When I turned to leave, since there was still some time left before the test he said, `In the meantime you should read Tehillim. With that everything will go just fine.' Then he said several times, `There's nothing like tefilloh, especially if you can shed two or three tears.'


"There's a saying attributed to the Gaon that if one does not rise up he descends. 'Orech chaim lema'aloh lemaskil. . . ' An avreich asked him about all his acquaintances who remained at the same level. Said R' Moshe, `They're not at the same level. The pshat is that they keep going up and down from one day to the next, therefore they stay in the middle, but one should always be headed up."


"One day, to relate what a rov beYisroel should be, he told me a tale about a town that had appointed a new rov. Soon afterwards the wealthiest man in town held a wedding and had an animal shechted to mark the occasion. A question arose and he came to ask the rov. After looking into the matter, the rov proclaimed the meat kosher. The man was very happy and set about preparing delicacies for the seudoh.

"Later the rov took another look into the matter and found the meat to be prohibited. What could he do? If he went back and told the rich man all the food was prohibited the man would not be able to show his face in town since the guests would have nothing to eat. He would grow angry at the rov and might even cast doubts on the rov for not having looked into the matter properly from the start.

"This rov is required to forego all of his honor by retracting his original ruling in order to avoid placing a stumbling block before the people of the town."


"When an earthquake struck R' Moshe did not forget to recite bircas Oseh Maaseh Bereishis despite the great alarm in the beis medrash," said the talmid E. M.

Last Will and Testament -- The Final Day

A cedar tree is cut down. Beside the twelve orphans, whose eyes tell the story of their pain, is a great talmid chochom, marbitz Torah and rov of a kehilloh kedoshoh. With a broken voice and tears welling in his eyes he cries out, "Kol Hashem behodor--if one has the merit. But if not--kol Hashem shover arozim!" And R' Moshe's voice rose up from the depths of his heart, overflowing into the streets near Beis Knesses Hagodol. "Hashiveinu Hashem eleicho venoshuvoh!"

His cry was a demand, a warning to do what had to be done. Kol Hashem beko'ach! Do teshuvoh and mend your ways!" A short time later the blow was doubled.

HaRav Moshe Kopshitz was placed in the eye of the storm. He was taken away from us with thunder and lightning so that his voice would continue to resound. And even after his histalkus, the voice continues to plead with us to straighten our crooked hearts and to improve our conduct, both bein odom lechaveiro and bein odom leMokom- - then we will merit kol Hashem behodor.

Every stone placed on the matzeivoh of the gaon from Yerushalayim at Har Hamenuchot Cemetery must help new growth of yiras Elokim take root, following the path of kol Hashem behadar he sounded in his private life.

A Gust of Gan Eden

On the day of his passing he issued his final wishes on several occasions. The shiur he gave, the hesped, even the atmosphere in his home -- all remained as a last will and testament.

Everyone needs a bit of encouragement or reassurance from time to time. One person needs some extra admiration and appreciation, another person needs a smile and a pat on the back and a third needs assistance from a gemach for a month or two. In these "simple" things R' Moshe became one of the gedolim of our generation. He was an exemplar of chessed--in word, deed and thought. Those who knew him -- his family, thousands of talmidim and the members of his kehilloh -- felt his acts of kindness in a personal way and will never forget.

The talmid chochom put in charge of the Lag B'Omer bonfire received a going-away present shortly before R' Moshe's histalkus. After leaving the house of mourning, R' Moshe met the gabai of the beis knesses at the local community center. With a light smile on his lips R' Moshe said, "I must say the big, beautiful bonfire you arranged last night was big, fabulous and praiseworthy."

Then he went to the levaya of Rebbitzen S. and was maspid her. He then continued on his way and walked up the staircase in exhaustion, stepping through the doorway that had never been barred before any man, day or night.

Feeling not well, the Rov went into his room to lie down. He made shehakol and had a drink. And his soul prepared to leave his body.

At that moment an avreich talmid chochom knocked on the door, asking to speak with the Rov regarding urgent tzedokoh matters.

"The Rov is not feeling well, but why don't you wait in the living room?" suggested the Rebbetzin. "Perhaps he'll feel better in a little while."

A minute later the Rov's footsteps could be heard. "How can I help?" he asked, walking toward the mitzvah. "Please sit down and I'll hear what you have to say. The air here is particularly fine."

A broad smile spread across R' Moshe's face and the two began to speak about tzedokoh, both in terms of halochoh and practical application. Then suddenly particularly fine air rushed into the living room -- aviro deGan Eden.

These final moments were like the holy moments before Kol Nidrei when R' Moshe would wrap himself in a tallis, his every word filled with kovod and kedushoh. And now he was wrapped in the tallis of the World of Truth.

He Used to Say . . .

by Rav A. Chafetz

R' Moshe used to say . . .

If you stand at a distance he would speak to you from a distance. If you drew a bit closer he would tell you more, and if you stood very close then every moment you were in his presence everything was there for the taking. And who wasn't very close to him?

One of his great speeches was on the ramach evorim and shasa gidim (the 248 limbs and 365 sinews of the human body). This talk expanded across the world around him, from the days at Yeshivas Chevron through Kol Torah, talmudei Torah, yeshivos ketanos, bein hazmanim yeshivas. From Torah Ohr to Romema.

His Character

If you didn't know R' Moshe Kopshitz, you will not understand.

There are people whose speech conveys what they have to say. And there are great Jews whose silence conveys what they have to say. And then there are certain people whose facial expression conveys what they have to say.

R' Moshe Kopshitz' talmidim couldn't say how he conveyed what he had to say--whether his voice spoke of yiras Shomayim, whether his joy spoke of ahavas haTorah or whether his face spoke of good middos-- they couldn't say how, but the message came across clearly.

In common parlance people refer to this as a "radiant personality," or tofeach al manas lehatpiach in the language of the gemora. Baalei hamussar prefer to call this "a brimming cup spilling cold water all around."

His being spoke with indescribable pleasantness.

The first time one met him his face seemed to say, "What can I do for you? I'm ready to help."

And the clever smile, the witty joy were ever on his face. Within moments he already knew what the person before him needed; even before the inquirer got his bearings R' Moshe had already grasped the matter and knew who the bochur or avreich standing before him was all about.

And if he saw he really was in need of a kind word he would hasten to envelope him with boundless kindness, even more than the person received from his mother and father as an infant. If a chossid came to him, R' Moshe would speak in his own language. If a Litvak addressed him R' Moshe would communicate using concepts he could relate to.

A Belzer chossid would hear a vort from the Admor of Belz and a Gerrer chossid would hear a piercing remark by the Sfas Emes. And the pat on the back at the end of the short conversation would give him the encouragement and inspiration to last a whole month.

If he saw lackluster eyes that had not been lit by intense Torah learning for a long time he would spin the conversation around and around, using a maxim or wise remark he would devise ways to shatter the vanities or the bitterness distancing the person before him from the Torah. Then suddenly, while flashing a bright smile or at the climax of an interesting anecdote, he would sweep him into a sugyo like baalim metaplim beneveiloh. "It's gevaldik," he would say, bending his head and waving his hand about and laughing with his whole body. "What you are asking me is just what the Tosefos asks. What a great sheiloh! And the pshat is as sweet as honey. So why do you say your Torah learning has no sweetness to it?"

And as he parted from R' Moshe's dalet amos and the final aspects of the sugya, he knew no love could compare to the love of Torah.

And if R' Moshe looked at a person with his sharp eyes and found him in need of a bit more yiras Shomayim, even a Jew with a graying beard or an avreich in a long coat, at that moment he might discover the big avenue or beis medrash has not just four corners, but many corners. R' Moshe would sit or stand beside him and find a way to seclude himself with the individual hidden from sight and to move his soul without saying even a single word of reproach . . . And all this would take place discretely, but right in the middle of the street. The two would seclude themselves and This World would shrink beneath their feet while the world of reward and punishment would open up all at once . . . The world where there is no eating and drinking, but Gan Eden and Gehinnom for the tzaddikim and the resho'im. Tzaddikim yoshvim ve'atroseihem berosheihem venehenim miziv haShechinoh.

R' Moshe's broad forehead was not furrowed with creases. One moment the conversation was invigorating and sometimes almost amusing, but then it would meander until a tear appeared in the corner of his eye. After the brief conversation the avreich or bochur understood how it was possible to shed a flood of tears without any material suffering, how it was possible to have a cry over Mussar without any bitterness. Tears of Torah. Tears welling from the mind in the heart.

He would say one should be good towards Shomayim and good towards humanity. Happy is he who has studied Torah. Happy is the father who taught him Torah. Happy is the rebbe who taught him Torah. R' Moshe who had studied Torah--how pleasant were his ways, how upright his deeds.

But if you never met R' Moshe face-to-face you may not understand.


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