Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Elul 5764 - August 25, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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

by B. Yisraeli

Where did HaRav Moshe Kopshitz, who passed away on 19 Iyar this year, vanish to in Heathrow Airport? Why did he climb up to peel the paint off the wall? Why did he give instructions to give chomesh to tzedokoh rather than ma'aser? What should be the essential goal of a cheder? This series focuses on the efforts of the late gaon to keep mitzvos down to the last detail.


HaRav Moshe Kopshitz' mother once recalled that on the first day of Succos when he was three or four, seeing everyone in shul wave their arba minim he longed to take part. He found a branch in the courtyard and after running home to get a lemon he returned merrily to the shul to wave his "lulav" just like everyone else.

In his zeal for mitzvos he pursued not "inyonim" and "chumros" but explicit halochos in the Darkei Moshe, Biyur HaGra, Mogen Avrohom or Mishnah Berurah. His senses were intoxicated with the wine of mitzvos, searching for them and trying to fulfill them.

Paying Due Wages

The nickname was familiar to dozens of Jerusalem cab drivers and when he passed away they radioed a mournful message: "The beyomo titein sechoro rabbi passed away."

Whenever he would come to the end of a ride in a taxi, before paying he would say aloud, "Beyomo titein sechoro." Once he revealed to a talmid that since he had a regular arrangement with the cab company he could pay on a monthly basis, but he did not want to lose the mitzvah of beyomo titein sechoro. When R' Moshe would call in to the cab stand the dispatcher would say, "Who wants to take beyomo titein sechoro?"

Thinking the words "beyomo titein sechoro" constituted a brochoh of some sort, some drivers would answer amen.

His simple desire was to fulfill the Torah mitzvah. We all perform it anyway, so why not have intention to perform the mitzvah? He who lives mitzvas looks for opportunities--and finds them.

Coming Early and Staying Late

All of us know about the importance of being among the first ten to arrive at the beis knesses, but to what lengths must a person go to carry out such matters? To what extent does he live and breathe mitzvos?

To explain the matter R' Moshe compared it to a wedding. Some people come to the chuppah and leave. Some come just at the end, for the dancing. But there are some people who stay from start to finish, and even come early and stay late-- the mechutonim. He who sees himself as a mechuton of HaKodosh Boruch Hu arrives at Beis Hashem early and doesn't dash off.

He was also known to say, "When they arrive at the beis knesses, people feel they deserve a `yeshar koach' for showing up. But this is a mistake. The verse says, Va'ani berov chasdecho ovo beisecho. HaKodosh Boruch Hu does us chessed by allowing us to come to the beis knesses!"

At shul R' Moshe would conduct himself like a mechuton in many ways. On Yom Kippur, as well, when he davened Shacharis at Chanichei Hayeshivos and Musaf before the amud at Yeshivas Torah Ohr, he still found a way to be among the first ten in both places. He went to Torah Ohr early in the morning to be among the first ten for whom the Shechinoh descends to dwell in the place of public prayer, and then he went to Chanichei Hayeshivos to be among the first ten there.

Midnight at Heathrow Airport

All of us have heard about Tikkun Chatzos. We may know someone among the select few who recite Tikkun Chatzos during Bein Hametzorim. But R' Moshe, who lived among us as an equal among equals -- would he forego this custom? And of course he put his whole heart into it, as the pages of his siddur attest. The floor near the mezuzoh at the entrance to the living room, his chosen spot for reciting Tikkun Chatzos, absorbed the flow of tears from thousands of nights.

When his custom became known during the week of Shiva, the Rebbetzin tlct"a said that until then she had not known this was a relatively uncommon practice. For years she had assumed this was a widespread minhag in Yerushalayim.

When he went to England for a simchah in the family, as he was waiting to board for the return flight he learned that a niftar was to be transported on his plane. R' Moshe, who was a Kohen, knew immediately that he could not take the night flight. His family members boarded but R' Moshe called his brother-in-law in London, asking to return to his house to sleep.

After driving to the airport the brother-in-law began to search for R' Moshe where they had arranged to meet. Not seeing him on the benches he began looking all around until suddenly he caught sight of R' Moshe sitting off to the side on the floor, saying Tikkun Chatzos. To someone who lived life in order to do mitzvos there was no question of "What will people think?"

Every Erev Shabbos R' Moshe would go to the Kosel Maarovi in the afternoon to recite Shir Hashirim.

Coming Home to Leave the House

In keeping mitzvos down to the finest detail he was always afraid he might stumble, so he would strive to distance himself from the slightest obstacle. As a Kohen, since his fixed place for prayer was in the mizrach he worried when the time came to wash his hands before Bircas Kohanim, if someone was still praying he would be unable to wash his hands without passing before the mispalel. Every day he would wash his hands beforehand, at the end of birchos Krias Shema, and if circumstances allowed he would wash again during Chazoras Hashatz to minimize the interim time. In recent years, when he served as shaliach tzibbur during the Yomim Noro'im, he had water brought to him at the amud, where he would wash his hands before Retzeh because of a chashash hefsek.

During the days of Selichos he would disappear for a few minutes after the Selichos, returning for Shacharis. When others took note that this had turned into a regular habit and made inquiries, he replied that the poskim cite the words of the Zohar about the exceeding merit of he who leaves his home wearing tallis and tefillin. Since it was too early to don tallis and tefillin before leaving home for Selichos, R' Moshe would rush home to put on his tallis and lay his tefillin, and then set out for the tefilloh.

The members of the kehilloh always noticed how, at ma'ariv on motzei Shabbos, he would urge the baal tefilloh to draw out Borechu, as stated in Shaarei Teshuvoh. R' Moshe would cite the Darkei Yosef in the name of R' Chaim Vital according to which HaRav Hai Gaon had written that elongating "Boruch Hashem Hamevorach" on motzei Shabbos is a proven way to attain hatzlochoh.

"People are always looking for all sorts of segulos for success. Why not take advantage of R' Hai Gaon's seguloh?" he would say, and every motzei Shabbos he would leave home for shul early to ensure that he did not miss Borechu. "What is the slight effort compared to the great promise of R' Hai Gaon?" he would explain.

He was very conscientious about Melaveh Malkoh, always making sure to wash for bread and to begin immediately after Shabbos, not leaving the house beforehand lest he get delayed and not eat before chatzos. He often said that he heard from HaRav Boruch Dov Povarsky in the name of the Chazon Ish that he who does not make sure to eat a kezayis of bread at Melaveh Malkoh will regret it in the World of Truth.

R' Moshe was also very careful in fulfilling numerous well- known dinim that are often neglected. During hagbohoh, for instance, he would bend his knees as prescribed in the Mishnoh Berurah.

He would keep a tally to insure he recited 100 brochos per day and at any given time knew exactly how many he still needed. Sometimes he would ask others where they were holding in the count, but they had no idea what he was talking about. On Yom Kippur he would ask to be called up for Maftir to gain another few brochos.

When he would come to Bnei Brak on Shabbos to be with his family, he would go to a different son or daughter for every meal. He would then go to the home of a fourth child for "Sheva Brochos," for according to his tally he was at 93 -- still seven brochos short. Therefore he would recite Borei Minei Mezonos, Borei Pri Hagofen, Borei Pri Ho'eitz, Borei Pri Ho'adomoh, Shehakol, Brochoh Mei'ein Sholosh and Borei Nefoshos.

On Shabbos he would invite guests for the meals. It added to his joy at having guests if there was a mezumon so that he could bench on a kos shel brochoh.

Before every tefilloh, including Minchah, he would give a coin to tzedokoh, citing the verse, "Va'ani betzedek echezeh Ponecho," and saying, "With just ten agorot one can make the prayer more readily accepted."

He would urge the gabboim to take out the pushka and make a point of placing the money in the pushka rather than just setting it aside.

R' Moshe would recite his prayers slowly and deliberately, but when the latest time for Krias Shema according to the Mogen Avrohom was early, before the tefilloh he would approach the chazzan anxiously to tell him he must hurry today. Throughout Pesukei Dezimroh he would keep hastening the chazzan to avoid cutting it down to the last minute.

He was always discreet in all of his practices. Because he lived a mil away from Jerusalem's Old City he would keep Purim DeProzim on 14 Adar as well.

"Does the Rov keep the chumroh?" he was once asked.

"Chumroh?" he replied. "As the baal korei, even without Purim DeProzim I must prepare the Megilloh for the next day. So why shouldn't I read it on the Fourteenth of Adar by night and by morning? Matonos Le'evionim? Shouldn't we give tzedokoh every day, anyway? And certainly Purim DeProzim is a worthy day for a seudah since the Shulchan Oruch says one should increase joy on the Fourteenth of Adar. To give a friend Shelach Manos for Purim the next day is also definitely a mitzvah."

The Ten Commandments

Family members recall once seeing him rush to the kitchen to make a cup of tea for his elderly mother. "I don't want to trouble you for a cup of tea, Moshe," she called from where she was sitting.

"It's not a cup of tea," he replied, "it's Aseres Hadibros!"


When he was once asked about an argument between neighbors he said that since generally they disagree over money matters they should put aside a small sum every month. "Just as you set aside ma'aser gelt. When a different of opinion over money arises, use this money to alleviate the strain since the money will already be earmarked as sholom gelt."

R' Moshe would set aside one-fifth of his income as ma'aser gelt as soon as it came into his possession and would urge avreichim to do the same, particularly avreichim with financial problems. On the other hand he would forbid avreichim in debt from giving ma'aser, saying that now their obligation was to pay back their debts.

Recently, when he was told about the government funding cuts he remarked, "Nu, now we must begin giving chomesh to tzedokoh.

"Where Are You Holding?"

When people were debating whether to pursue a certain course of action he would advise them to consider whether they would be pleased to have it mentioned in their eulogy--if not they should refrain.

If someone wants to assess his spiritual level, R' Moshe would say, he should examine what he spent most of the day thinking about--besides the time he spent learning or davening. If his thoughts centered on gashmiyus, honor, money, etc., then he is materialistic, and if his thoughts centered on ruchniyus then he is spiritually inclined.

His yiras Shomayim drove him to do cheshbon nefesh on every matter that arose. When one of his family members who had come of age was having difficulties with shidduchim, R' Moshe sat down to contemplate what the source of the problem might be. Then he recalled that when he had installed an air conditioner in his home the shaft covered part of the space on the wall left unfinished as a zecher lechurbon. R' Moshe had planned to have a new zecher lechurbon left on the shaft, but for some reason the painter neglected to do so. Concluding that this was the reason behind the delay with the shidduchim ("E'eleh es Yerushalayim al rosh simchosi"), he immediately climbed up to peel off the paint.

He would work on himself in private, and only occasionally would his practices burst out between the slats. When HaRav Yaakov Addes once happened to ask him, "Vu halt men?" ("Where are you holding?") he replied, "Boruch Hashem I eat from everything, but just a bit . . . "

He was working on himself in this area so this is where he was holding.

When asked to give a talk in public he usually tried to avoid speaking. Once he was asked why he avoided giving talks but always readily agreed to give halochoh shiurim. R' Moshe said that knowing what to say in a mussar talk is no problem; the problem is holding by it ("mithalten"), which is hard work.

Before R' Moshe would enter the horo'oh room next to the shul he would step up to the aron kodesh to whisper a few words. One of the regulars at the beis medrash once stood near enough to hear the words of his tefilloh: Ribono Shel Olom, help me not to falter in [rendering] halochoh . . . "

Empathy -- Nesi'us Ol

An avreich once spoke with R' Moshe at length about a certain public matter. While they were deliberating the matter, another avreich from the kehilloh stepped up to speak with R' Moshe about the same matter. R' Moshe listened intently to every word, though the account was totally inaccurate. The first avreich then resumed his conversation, but upon finishing he realized that perhaps he, too, had not been the first to speak with R' Moshe on this matter...

Not long ago R' Moshe met a childhood friend at the Kosel Maarovi. "Mazel tov," R' Moshe said approaching him. "Your bar mitzvah was 47 years ago today." His friend was very flattered that R' Moshe remembered the date after so many years.

One of R' Moshe's talmidim once confided his shidduch problems in him, explaining that things had reached a critical stage but for some reason he had not heard from the girl's side for several days. R' Moshe offered him encouragement, relating several stories and sayings by Chazal, telling him to have faith in HaKodosh Boruch Hu that everything would work out fine--yeshuas Hashem keheref ayin. That evening the girl's parents called to notify the bochur they agreed to the match.

The young man rushed to R' Moshe with the happy news and R' Moshe rejoiced with him wholeheartedly. Later the bochur learned that R' Moshe had gone to the parents' home and sat with them at length to resolve all their doubts and settle the matter.

A man from the neighborhood looking for work once recalled how he had received a job offer from outside the city, but needed protektsia. "No problem," said R' Moshe. "We'll go there together in a cab and I'll speak with them."

In the meantime the job offer became irrelevant, but when R' Moshe met the job-hunter two weeks later he asked, "What happened with the job? Where have you been? I've been waiting to drive out there with you."

A talmid chochom and kehilloh member recounted, "One day I saw the Rov standing at my doorstep. When I opened the door in astonishment he simply said, `You haven't come by to pick up the recommendation for the Memorial Fund for Jewish Culture and I was worried you might miss the deadline for sending it abroad.' In the most natural way, following a hard day of toiling in Torah and working at Yeshivas Kol Yaakov, here he was schlepping along his bag and walking up several flights of stairs to bring a member of the kehilloh a letter that could help him with parnossoh . . . "

Once he was told about a rov who arrived at a distinguished yeshiva and the rosh yeshiva thought the rov should approach him to say, "Sholom aleichem." Meanwhile the rov felt the rosh yeshiva should come up to him. Thus each stood his ground ignoring the other. When R' Moshe was told the story and asked who was right he said, "Neither of them was right."

When a rov would come to daven at Beis Knesses Chanichei Yeshivos, even though he was old enough to be the rov's father, he would immediately walk over to him to extend warm greetings and seat him in a place of honor. And when he would enter another beis knesses he would walk straight to the rov--even if he was considerably younger--to say sholom aleichem.

Putting His Pride Aside

R' Moshe would travel great distances for the sake of the bein hazmanim yeshiva and kollel at his shul and cared about it greatly. He would go door-to- door together with the organizers to solicit donations from generous Jews in order to sustain the enterprise, which cost $20,000 per bein hazmanim. Despite his standing, he was not spared humiliation.

Once a potential contributor said a third person was superfluous (R' Moshe came collecting with the two organizers) and kept pouring out his wrath, which apparently had been building up inside him over some other matter. R' Moshe remained calm.

After the man had calmed down somewhat, R' Moshe turned to him politely and asked him to take part in the holy enterprise. The man gave them a donation, but then he was reminded of his past outrage and again began pouring fire and brimstone on R' Moshe and the pair of avreichim. Throughout the outburst R' Moshe remained serene.

After they took their leave, turning to the two avreichim R' Moshe said, "He was not angry at me. After all the money is not for me personally. So what difference does it make to me what he said?" Then he went on to the next address.

On another occasion when he set out to raise funds for the bein hazmanim yeshiva he suffered an overdose of disparagement and degradation, which upset even him. After they went outside he said to his companions, "Is what I'm doing an aveiroh? If so I'll stop right away!"

But then he went back to knocking on doors, well aware that he was liable to suffer further abuse.

Those who knew him said that even in situations where various people tried his patience, he was never known to raise his voice, even in the most extreme circumstances.

Joy in Torah

R' Moshe's Torah made him radiate joy. Torah was his great source of delight. When he heard a good vort or chiddush he was absolutely blissful--a sight to behold!

Once an avreich stepped up after Shacharis to speak with him. R' Moshe asked if the matter was urgent because if not he wanted to "reinvigorate" himself, meaning he wanted to adhere to his set morning routine of reciting a few chapters of Tehillim and learning a bit of gemora.

As a bochur he once delivered a chaburah that made a great impression on one of the roshei yeshivos who happened to hear it. Another of the listeners suggested to the rosh yeshiva that perhaps it was not R' Moshe's Torah learning at all, but rather had been stolen from someone. But the rosh yeshiva dismissed the suggestion saying that R' Moshe gave the chaburah with great joy, the kind of geshmack and pleasure reserved only for those who come up with chiddushim on their own.

Torah study was the hinge on which his entire life revolved. (He was a ram for many years in the Kol Yaakov yeshiva in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood.) When bochurim would ask questions about whether to leave the yeshiva for various reasons he would always offer the following advice: "If there will be complaints against you in Shomayim for having stayed in the beis medrash to learn then you should go, but if there won't be complaints it would be best to stay."

R' Moshe was particularly fond of telling stories about the Chazon Ish's youth, how at the age of 20 he couldn't learn for a year, and later how he learned on his own and turned into the Chazon Ish. HaRav Yehuda Addes once said that he could happily hear the story again and again because R' Moshe told it so sweetly that listeners were moved to spiritual elevation and yearning to learn Torah.

No wonder that on the day of the bar mitzvah of his son, his successor HaRav Naftoli, he went to the Kosel Maarovi where he sat and cried for hours, praying for his son to grow in Torah.

Regarding the cheder he helped set up, he said the primary function is to preserve children's innate joy in Torah learning before the learning itself, which is sometimes ruined for life because of various forms of pressure. It's a shame there is no cheder that engraves this matter on its banner, he added, and boasts that this is its area of excellence--inculcating children with the joy of Torah learning.

Elul and Rosh Hashanah -- Hearing the Tears

The sound of "...venislach" after Kol Nidrei, followed by Shehechiyonu, still rings in the ears of those who heard R' Moshe reciting them like a son speaking to his father. They say one could hear the tears flowing . . .

The cry of "Achas!" and all of the avodoh of Yom Kippur and the sight of R' Moshe the Kohen, the yearning to set eyes on the avodoh in the Beis Hamikdosh coming through every word . . .

HaRav Yehuda Addes, who sat beside him during weekday Shacharis for over 25 years at yeshivas Kol Yaakov, says, "He would cry during the regular Pesukei Dezimroh. `Halleluhu bereki'a uzo'--and the tears would flow, `Hemechaseh shomayim be'ovim'-- and he would burst out with tears of joy. And he would contain his weeping only by force. It was an awesome sight."

He held it was a great zechus to be shaliach tzibbur during the Yomim Noro'im and to rouse the entire congregation, therefore he would encourage avreichim to serve as shaliach tzibbur during the Yomim Noro'im, even in remote locations.

One avreich was asked to serve as baal tefilloh in Petach Tikva. R' Moshe urged him to accept the task. The avreich, who wanted to learn the precise nusach, asked R' Moshe to prepare a cassette of the tefillos for the Yomim Noro'im. R' Moshe agreed, but when he opened the machzor and turned on the tape recorder he was so overcome with emotion he burst into tears and could not go on.

"Don't Cast Me Aside!"

On the second night of Rosh Hashanah 5764, he offered a parable to illuminate the request, "Al tashlicheini milefonecho . . . "

Imagine a war during which a series of explosions left numerous wounded and dead. Arriving on the battlefield, the medical staff begins to perform triage. When they skip over someone who merely appears to be dead he summons the last of his strength to cry out, "I'm alive. There's more to be done with me."

This is our state on Rosh Hashanah. We are badly wounded just like the soldier ready to die and we cry out, "Don't cast me aside! I'm alive and there's more to be done with me!"

Elul Blood Pressure

R' Moshe's roommate at Yeshivas Kol Yaakov revealed that every year, two weeks before Rosh Hashana, R' Moshe's blood pressure would rise.

According to HaRav Addes, during Elul R' Moshe saw the gates of Gehennom open before him.

At the end of his first granddaughter's wedding, turning to a family member he leaned toward his ear. "Leil Rosh Hashanah is just 12 weeks from now," he whispered. R' Moshe's immediate family members recall that he would issue such reminders whenever he thought Yom Hadin might be forgotten.

On Rosh Hashanah itself he appeared perfectly calm. Once he explained he was so assured because it is written that he who davens kevosikin is guaranteed not to falter all day long. Since R' Moshe always davened kevosikin on Rosh Hashanah, with such a guarantee he could be at ease. Once he even said he could not understand why people pass this up all year so easily, for with such a small effort one can merit such a great promise.

While speaking during the weeks before the Yomim Noro'im he would cry. When he was told his crying was difficult for his listeners and was asked to refrain, he said that when he spoke, he spoke to himself. Thus it was impossible to show restraint.

Most of all, he would arouse the public when he stepped up as shaliach tzibbur. All who heard his tefilloh understood that his heart was speaking more than his lips and the tremble in his voice spoke of the great emotion welling within him.

From 5723 to 5735 he was shaliach tzibbur for Shacharis on Rosh Hashanah and Kol Nidrei and Ma'ariv on Yom Kippur at Yeshiva Lemetzuyonim. Afterwards he served as shaliach tzibbur during the Yomim Noro'im in Kiryat Mattersdorf. Starting in 5738 he would step up to the amud for Musaf of Rosh Hashanah at Yeshivas Kol Yaakov and on Yom Kippur at Yeshivas Torah Ohr.

After the kehilloh was set up in Romema and the beis knesses built, he would daven Kol Nidrei at Chanichei Hayeshivos and for Ma'ariv he would daven at the amud at Yeshivas Torah Ohr, Musaf at Chanichei Hayeshivos and Ne'iloh back at Yeshivas Torah Ohr.

As a baal tefilloh with a pure heart it was no wonder the members of the kehilloh and the yeshiva would all want to have him daven at their amud.

HaRav Moshe Kopschitz, zt"l

HaRav Moshe Pinchos HaKohen Kopschitz zt"l was niftar Sunday night 19 Iyar after passing away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 63.

HaRav Kopschitz was born on 26 Teves 5701 (1941). His father was HaRav Tzvi Kopschitz, the son-in-law of HaRav Shmuel Hillel Shenker, who was the son-in-law of HaRav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld. At the age of just ten-and-a-half he entered Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi and in 5715 began to study at Yeshivas Chevron. In 5722 (1962) he married the daughter of HaRav Ben- Tzion Bradpiece of England.

In 5729 he began to deliver shiurim at Yeshivas Kol Torah, and also at Yeshivas Mercaz HaTorah under HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l. Later he assumed the post of rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva Letze'irim Beis HaTalmud and then he went on to became rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Kol Yaakov. Meanwhile, in 5749 (1989), he was also appointed rov of Kehillas Chanichei Hayeshivos and rov of Jerusalem's Romema neighborhood, where he invested many hours of his time into the kehilloh members' spiritual development.


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