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29 Kislev 5764 - December 24, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








The Torchbearer And His Amulet: The Relationship Between Reb Isser Zalman zt'l and HaRav Shach zt'l

HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt'l, 10th Kislev 5764 -- His Fiftieth Yahrtzeit

"Reb Isser Zalman ztvk'l," is a name that still evokes veneration, fifty years after his petiroh and in a generation that never knew him. There are a number of reasons for this, among the more obvious of which are his major work Even Ho'ezel and his having been one of the leading Torah disseminators and Torah leaders of his time. For us though, it is of equal importance to realize his role as one of the major links in the chain of Torah's transmission, in its full purity and clarity.

The foremost Torah leader of recent years, HaRav Shach ztvk'l, included Reb Isser Zalman in the "quintet" of Torah giants -- the Chofetz Chaim, Reb Chaim Ozer, the Chazon Ish, the Even Ho'ezel and the Brisker Rov, zeicher tzaddikim livrochoh -- who received and transmitted Torah and the means of its implementation, to our generation. They laid the foundations for the Torah community in Eretz Yisroel that has flourished since the terrible destruction in Europe.

Speaking when the Brisker Rov was niftar, a weeping HaRav Shach said that, "When the Chazon Ish was niftar, darkness enveloped the world but the Even Ho'ezel and Reb Velvel still remained. When my uncle was niftar a month later, dread and blackness closed in, but we still had the light of our master. Now that that hidden light has been extinguished, Oi! We are fatherless orphans . . ."

Throughout the half-century that he served as a public leader, HaRav Shach would consistently weigh how the earlier teachers, the transmitters of Torah, would have approached any particular issue. "How would Reb Isser Zalman have behaved in this situation?" he would ask.

In HaRav Shach's view, Reb Isser Zalman was "Klal Yisroel's rebbe" in humility and in interpersonal relations. On more than one occasion, he would attribute his forbearance in the face of the trouble that someone was causing him, to Reb Isser Zalman's example. "I thought about it," he would say, "and it's true that the Chofetz Chaim and the Chazon Ish would have turned him away and the Brisker Rov would even have rebuked him but Reb Isser Zalman . . . Reb Isser Zalman would surely have pitied him."

One of our past gedolim noted our own generation's indebtedness to Reb Isser Zalman for all the Torah we have merited as a result of his giving us his nephew HaRav Shach, who was virtually a "son and heir." He trained and groomed him to serve as a beacon in the blackness of our times and to forge a path forward for the Torah camp. In an address to a teacher's convention, HaRav Shach himself once summed up the heritage that he received from his uncle:

"I was a witness, in my youth when I merited being close to my uncle the gaon HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer ztvk'l who, besides his genius in Torah was also an elevated individual of noble character. Everything that I witnessed in him then was engraved upon my heart and absorbed in my blood [and remains so] to this day. Every story and each incident made an impression upon me and has remained as a source of instruction and understanding at every stage of life."

To mark Reb Isser Zalman's fiftieth yahrtzeit, we present the following excerpts from one of the chapters in a forthcoming book, Abir Horo'im, dealing with HaRav Shach's life and his links to the leaders of the previous generations. The material was forwarded to us by members of HaRav Shach's family, to whom we express our gratitude.

The Record

It was the eighteenth of Shevat 5729 (1969). Rebbetzin Shach a'h, had passed away during the night and her bier had been brought into the Beis Hamussar in the Cytryn building, where it would stay until the time of her levaya that afternoon -- "Bein hasedorim," according to HaRav Shach's instructions. Hundreds of talmidim surrounded the bier reciting Tehillim while outside, HaRav Shach paced back and forth, immersed in thought.

The Ponovezher Rov zt'l, whose last winter this would also be, came down to spend those difficult hours with HaRav Shach. He went over to HaRav Shach and whispered something in his ear. HaRav Shach immediately removed an aging, handwritten page from his coat pocket and gave it to the Rov to examine.

The Rov later surprised his listeners by relating that in those moments of grace, he had wanted to remind the Rosh Yeshiva of the Rebbetzin's distinguished lineage. She was descended from HaRav Meir Eisenstadt zt'l, author of Ponim Meiros, who was from the family of Dovid Hamelech. The page that the Rosh Yeshiva handed him contained a list of the generations of Rebbetzin Shach's family, fathers and sons, going back to the Ponim Meiros who was a son of the sister of the Shach. The list had been written by HaRav Isser Zalman zt'l, himself. The story surrounding the writing of this record is fascinating in itself.

It was on a Monday night, the night of the tenth of Kislev 5714 (1954), when Reb Isser Zalman received a visit at home from his sister's daughter, the pious Rebbetzin Gutel Shach. It was to have been a regular visit but Reb Isser Zalman gave his niece an unusual reception. As soon as she stepped into the house he said, "It's good that you came!"

He then continued, as though making a confession. "I was a spoiled child," he told Rebbetzin Shach. "The sons that were born before me had all died young and I was overprotected. We had a difficult home and your righteous mother Moras Fruma Rivka a'h, was very occupied with me and with taking care of me. When I was three, I was entrusted to a melamed but I refused to sit by myself in the cheder. Your mother a'h, would sit with me for days on end, over a long time, so that I would agree to stay and learn with the melamed. I owe her my entire upbringing and all my Torah. It's a very heavy debt."

After a thoughtful pause he continued. "However, I have repaid the debt in full by giving you the Veboilniker!"

Then he suddenly added, "I want to remind you that we do not come from an ordinary family. Ours is a distinguished family of rabbonim, extending back through the paternal line to the Ponim Meiros."

The eighty-four year old Reb Isser Zalman then climbed onto a ladder and fetched down the sefer Daas Kedoshim, by HaRav Yisroel Tuvia Eisenstadt zt'l, from a top shelf. He then sat down and wrote out the family's lineage, down to his own father HaRav Boruch Peretz zt'l, the Rebbetzin's grandfather. When he had finished writing, he took the note and handed it to the astonished Rebbetzin, telling her, "Please give this to Reb Leizer. Tell him about it. It's important that he should know."

The very next morning, right after shacharis, the Torah world sustained a bitter blow when Reb Isser Zalman's holy neshomoh returned to its source. The puzzle remains unsolved to this day. Why was it so important to Reb Isser Zalman, on the night before he died, to inform HaRav Shach of his Rebbetzin's lineage? At any rate, when the Rebbetzin herself passed away fifteen years later, that record of her ancestry was in HaRav Shach's inside coat pocket . . .

An Unshakable Esrog

In Reb Isser Zalman's view, one of the fundamental characteristics of a genuine talmid chochom was the ability to maintain an uncompromising stand on matters of principle. He himself achieved a wondrous combination of a usually gentle manner with occasional unyielding firmness, as and when he deemed it necessary.

Someone once described HaRav Shach to Reb Isser Zalman as, "a pristine esrog of the highest degree of beauty," referring to HaRav Shach's piety and superlative character.

"But his great virtue", Reb Isser Zalman responded immediately, "is that even so lozt ehr zich nisht shokelen (He doesn't let himself be swayed)!"

See Rashi in Chulin

On another occasion, a talmid chochom asked Reb Isser Zalman why he held the Veboilniker in such high esteem, over all the other great scholars and tzaddikim that were always coming and going in and out of his home.

Reb Isser Zalman thought for a moment and said, "Do you know why? Because he is govar bekulo, great in everything," adding, "To understand, look at Chulin daf 54 and in Rashi."

The visitor, who was close to Reb Isser Zalman in his own right, picked up the gemora that was in the room, turned to the right page and with deliberation, read out the dialogue between Rabbi Yochonon and Resh Lokish about Rav's character.

Resh Lokish, who lived in Eretz Yisroel did not know who Rav, who had gone to Bovel, was. He asked Rabbi Yochonon, "Who is this Rav about whom we are always hearing?"

Rabbi Yochonon described Rav as having been a talmid of Rabbenu Hakodosh, who had learned from Rebbi sitting down and had been more distinguished than Rabbi Yochonon, who had learned from Rebbi while standing. Then Rabbi Yochonon added, "And wherein lies his greatness? Govar bekulo! " which Rashi explains means, "In everything, in Torah and in piety"!

Reb Isser Zalman listened and nodded his agreement . . .

His Humility

When he wanted to illustrate the extent of Reb Isser Zalman's good nature and humility, HaRav Shach would recall his first encounters with Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz ztvk'l of Kamenitz, which took place in Reb Isser Zalman's home in Slutsk in the years before the First World War.

The Kamenitzer Rosh Yeshiva used to visit Slutsk and he would stay with the town's rov, Reb Isser Zalman, who was his old friend from Volozhin Yeshiva. These visits were the occasion for the three Torah giants spending many a long hour together, engaging in Torah debate until their strength gave out.

On one such visit, Reb Boruch Ber spent a long time relating story after story about the Shaagas Aryeh that he had heard while in Volozhin. Rav Shach later told his grandson that Reb Isser Zalman already knew many of the stories and had even told them to him beforehand. Yet, a greatly impressed HaRav Shach stressed, not once during all the hours of the recital did Reb Isser Zalman give the slightest indication of this to Reb Boruch Ber. In fact, he expressed his amazement at the stories, as though he were hearing them for the first time, while thanking Reb Boruch Ber for reviving his spirits with his stories of the great gaon.

HaRav Shach repeated one of the stories to his grandson and close talmid, Rav Avrohom Yeshaya Bergman. For most of his life, the Shaagas Aryeh lived in abject poverty and could not even afford to buy ordinary writing paper. When he wanted to record his chiddushei Torah, he had no choice but to write them on the walls of his home. Eventually, the walls became filled from top to bottom with his copious chiddushim. When there was no longer any room, the Shaagas Aryeh limed the walls and again filled them up with his lucid chiddushim. This repeated itself a number of times. The walls served as a simple substitute for writing paper.

HaRav Shach mentioned that his son-in-law HaRav Meir Tzvi Bergman had also heard this story from the Chazon Ish.

It Happened to Me

The Mirrer mashgiach, Reb Yeruchom Leibowitz ztvk'l, described Reb Isser Zalman as "representing the quintessential `straightforward human being' as Hashem made man, without the complications and convolutions that people instill within themselves by their own design (See Koheles 7:29)." Ironically, it was Reb Isser Zalman who taught HaRav Shach an early lesson in recognizing some of those complicated ways.

The incident took place towards the end of the First World War. Lithuanian Jewry knew that HaRav Chaim Soloveitchik was living as a refugee, together with tens of thousands of others, in Minsk. Reb Chaim had become a legend in his lifetime. People remembered the shiurim that he had delivered in Volozhin, in the yeshiva's heyday, before its closure by the authorities in Shevat 5652 (1892). Others recalled him from the kibbutz of young Torah scholars that had gathered around him in Brisk whose rabbonus he had assumed following the yeshiva's closure and his father's petiroh.

The pristine clarity of Reb Chaim's approach had spread throughout the yeshiva world. HaRav Shach, who was then in his twenties, had already managed to imbibe most of Reb Chaim's Torah and his ideas, through the greatest of his talmidim, Reb Isser Zalman, who would travel to him from time to time to visit him and to hear his divrei Torah.

HaRav Shach made a special visit to Minsk for a few weeks, in order to meet Reb Chaim and to receive Torah and wisdom from him. In fact, at that time, Reb Chaim was suffering from a serious liver ailment and his life was drawing to a close.

Reb Chaim was not old; he was only sixty-five. But the wanderings he had undergone and the general suffering of his people in the past years had left a deep imprint upon him. His love for his fellow Jews was unlimited and the grievous troubles that the war had inflicted upon them had affected his health. Reb Chaim also foresaw what the future held for three million Jews in Russia and he was simply unable to contain his anguish and apprehension.

Old age came swiftly to the godol hador, who had always exhibited such spirit and joy in living. Now he was overcome by the unbearable burden that his people would have to bear. His health was precarious and even the young iluy who arrived from Slutsk was not granted free access to him.

"I looked for somewhere I'd be able to sit and learn," HaRav Shach later related. "I found one of the city's kloizen and I sat there and learned. I met an elderly Jew in the beis haknesses, a pious, Heaven fearing fellow, who engaged me in conversation. He told me about one of the people who was renowned as a wonder worker among Lithuanian Jewry. He had many stories to tell. They poured forth from him in profusion and I tended to believe him.

"When I left Minsk and returned to Slutsk, I told my uncle HaRav Isser Zalman . . . about my sojourn there and about Reb Chaim and I also told him about the beis hamedrash that I'd stayed in. I told him the stories that the fine looking Yid had told me, stories that had greatly impressed me, several of which the man told me he had been involved with himself, leaving no room for doubting their veracity."

At that time, HaRav Shach was a pure, ascetic young man who was unacquainted with the vanities of the world and did not recognize dishonesty. Reb Isser Zalman saw his talmid's unease and decided to shock him and teach him a basic lesson about the convoluted hearts of people who do not remain as straight as they were created.

"Reb Isser Zalman however," recalled HaRav Shach, "dismissed it all with a wave of his hand. `It's all nonsense and lies,' was his immediate reaction. `Sometimes when people say, "It happened to me," that is the greatest lie of all.' "

On Behalf of the Chosson

In the introduction to Avi Ezri on Haflo'oh, which he published in 5722 (1962), HaRav Shach briefly mentions, "My uncle mori verabbi, the great gaon, Maran Reb Isser Zalman Meltzer ztvk'l, and my aunt the Rebbetzin, Moras Baila Hinda z'l, who were like parents to me since my youth."

When HaRav Shach became engaged in Kletsk to Rebbetzin Gutel a'h, Reb Isser Zalman signed the teno'im, "on behalf of the chosson, HaRav HaGaon Morenu Eliezer Menachem Shach." The kallah was in fact his close relative who lived near him. Reb Isser Zalman however, stood in loco parentis for HaRav Shach and acted as his patron.

With Reb Itzele Ponovezher

HaRav Shach's great admiration for the gaon HaRav Yitzchok Yaakov Rabinowitz zt'l, who was known as Reb Itzele Ponovezher, was instilled in him by Reb Isser Zalman.

HaRav Shach had learned under Reb Itzele in Ponovezh in his youth and it was with veneration that he would recall his character and the way he labored in Torah. Several years later, his estimation of Reb Itzele increased further still and he considered him the greatest gaon of his time. This was in consequence of Reb Isser Zalman's opinion that Reb Itzele ranked even higher than the other, far better known gedolim of the time.

A special relationship developed between HaRav Shach and Reb Itzele's foremost talmid, HaRav Nochum Boruch Ginzburg zt'l, author of Mekor Boruch and rov of Yanova. They met for the first time during the Second World War, when the Kletsk yeshiva found refuge in independent Lithuania and the Mekor Boruch, who was a leader of the Lithuanian rabbonim, worked to have the yeshiva relocate to his town.

The yeshiva spent several difficult months there but HaRav Shach was oblivious to the exile and the fearsome war conditions that prevailed. He and the Mekor Boruch learned together day and night, reviewing some of the hardest sugyos throughout Shas, according to the approach of their rebbe, Reb Itzele. At that time, they also managed to learn maseches Zevochim together in depth, in its entirety.

In a way, this period marked the completion of a cycle. The Mekor Boruch was a native of Ponovezh. He had grown up in the home of the renowned tzaddik, HaRav Naftoli Hertz Krechmer, author of Noam Hamitzvos, from whom HaRav Shach had received much Torah and yiras Shomayim while hearing his shiurim in yeshiva ketanoh in Ponovezh.

Both HaRav Shach and the Mekor Boruch greatly admired Reb Itzele and Reb Herschel. This was evident from the stories that they told about their personalities and the relationship between them. Some of these stories are recorded in the introduction to Mekor Boruch. HaRav Shach also used to tell them over the years and some of them were recorded in the introduction to Noam Hamitzvos by the editor, HaRav Elchonon Yosef Hertzman.

This Shall Be My Resting Place

HaRav Shach resolved that when the time eventually came, his final resting place should be on Har Hamenuchos near the kever of Reb Isser Zalman, and an adjacent plot was reserved for him.

However, when HaRav Yitzchok Halevi Epstein zt'l, a close talmid of Reb Isser Zalman's, was niftar, HaRav Shach gave up his option for the plot out of gratitude to Reb Yitzchok, whom Reb Isser Zalman had sent to welcome him upon his arrival in Eretz Yisroel. HaRav Shach and his family had arrived from the European inferno as penniless refugees, and Reb Yitzchok had helped them settle down.

Reb Yitzchok was a native of Kletsk and, as one of the most assiduous students in HaRav Aharon Kotler's yeshiva Eitz Chaim there, he had been greatly influenced by HaRav Shach. They enjoyed a very special relationship and after Reb Yitzchok's petiroh, HaRav Shach concerned himself with the needs of Reb Yitzchok's family as though they were children of his own.

In an account that he wrote about the yeshiva in Kletsk which was published in Pinkas Kletsk, Reb Yitzchok stressed HaRav Shach's role in forming the yeshiva's character during the time that he learned there. In a passage about the rabbonim of the yeshiva he wrote (originally in Yiddish), "Besides the Rosh Yeshiva (HaRav Aharon Kotler ztvk'l) a very special place in the yeshiva was occupied by the gaon Rav Elozor Menachem Shach, who himself had been a student of the yeshiva when it was in Slutsk and who married the niece of the gaon Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer. He particularly devoted himself to the younger talmidim, teaching them and showing them an original way of achieving a fundamental understanding and depth of thought. His wonderful personality, his astonishing application and his extraordinary gift for clear explanation, drew crowds of talmidim to him, who were very attached to him. He formed their characters through his unique personal example. HaRav Shach was fortunate to escape from the vale of death together with his family. Today he heads the Ponovezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak."

If He Would Have Followed Our Approach Exclusively

When, in 5738 (1978), HaRav Yitzchok Zalaznik zt'l, published a new volume of Reb Isser Zalman's Even Ho'ezel from the author's manuscript, HaRav Shach departed from his usual custom and wrote and signed an introduction to the new addition to his uncle's sefer.

He wrote, "I am too small in stature to comment even briefly on the sefer Even Ho'ezel, by my uncle, my master, teacher and rebbe, the true gaon and the tzaddik who supported the world, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer ztvk'l . . . I am just another of his thousands of talmidim whom he raised in Slobodka, Slutsk and Kletsk and latterly in our Holy Land, in Yeshivas Eitz Chaim. In particular, I myself was raised and educated by him like a father does for his son for several years that I spent in his home."

In another letter he writes, "And I, the small one, was fortunate in that he drew me close and taught me like a father teaches his son."

In his introduction, HaRav Shach stresses his uncle's straight thinking and his quest for the truth. He writes, "His righteousness led him to seek only what was close to the truth and not to follow the gleam [of a sharp thought] that would not withstand scrutiny. His straight mind stood him in good stead. I know with certainty that he was praised for this by his rebbe, Reb Chaim of Brisk zt'l. We merited seeing that when he started speaking, his explanations illuminated the beis hamedrash."

In writing, "His righteousness led him to seek only what was close to the truth," HaRav Shach was basing himself on a comment of Reb Chaim's which his son Reb Yitzchok Zeev repeated to him.

"Father z'l, said," the Brisker Rov told HaRav Shach, "that had Reb Isser Zalman followed our approach exclusively, he would have become the gaon of all geonim but his righteousness prevented him."

Rav Refoel Yehuda Meltzer zt'l, rov of Rechovot, saw this recorded in Rav Feivel Meltzer's notes in HaRav Shach's name.

Another rare comment of Reb Chaim's, that he made while in Volozhin, was that, "The only one who understands me is Zunye Mirrer!" HaRav Shach repeated this to his grandson Rav Avrohom Yeshaya, quoting the Brisker Rov. "And in those years," he added, "Volozhin was packed with Torah giants."

To Be Occupied with Divrei Torah

The great care that HaRav Shach took to refrain from having benefit from others so long as it was in his power to do things for himself, was another trait that he took from Reb Isser Zalman. For example, Reb Isser Zalman was very careful not to allow others to fetch seforim for him from the bookcase, as is known to his many talmidim.

HaRav Shach once explained the reason for this custom. Besides not wishing to trouble others, he said, taking pains to fetch a sefer in the course of learning is itself an inseparable part of toiling in Torah.

On another occasion, HaRav Shach related that Reb Isser Zalman had told him that while the Chofetz Chaim was busy arranging parcels of Mishnah Berurah for sending away, he would murmur the words, "La'asok bedivrei Torah."

Reb Isser Zalman's Amulet

When Reb Isser Zalman took HaRav Shach under his wing in Kletsk at the height of the First World War, he steadfastly declined to make any arrangements for him to lodge or take his meals anywhere other than in his home. In response to his Rebbetzin's queries, Reb Isser Zalman told her that, "As long as the Veboilniker is with us, we will be safe from the dangers of the war and of the Bolsheviks. He is our amulet," he added.

Reb Isser Zalman's talmidim judged this to have been the reason that, after sustaining a serious leg injury from a stray shell in the 1948 war, Reb Isser Zalman preferred to spend the initial period of convalescence in the home of HaRav Shach and his Rebbetzin. At first, he would not heed the entreaties of his family or the pressure that certain distinguished rabbonim exerted on him to leave besieged Yerushalayim and move to the home of his daughter, Rebbetzin Sarah Ben Menachem, in Petach Tikva.

In the first stage of his recovery, he preferred to lie and recover from his wound in his niece's home, close to his "amulet."

A Sage Sees More Than a Prophet

Further testimony to Reb Isser Zalman's debt of gratitude to his sister Moras Fruma Rivka, and his "settlement" of the debt, came from R' Alter Rovnitz, who heard Reb Isser Zalman speaking to his niece.

He related that when she married HaRav Shach, following the chuppah, Reb Isser Zalman told her, "I caused your mother much distress when I was younger but I have repaid her by obtaining Reb Elozor for you."

Then, looking ahead to what only became apparent in the very distant future he added, "And you should know that even if you own a ten-room apartment, you won't have enough space at home for all the honor that will be yours because of Reb Elozor!"

(Bederech Eitz Hachaim)

The Tale of a Semichoh

Several years after his marriage, HaRav Shach was offered a rabbinical position in an important and distinguished community. Although he was then disseminating Torah and yiras Shomayim in HaRav Aharon Kotler's yeshiva in Kletsk, he weighed the suggestion carefully because it would also have afforded him the opportunity to continue spreading Torah. In anticipation of a possible acceptance, he obtained something that he had not needed hitherto: a document of semichoh stating "yoreh yoreh, yodin yodin", affirming that he was empowered to rule on all questions of halochoh.

Reb Isser Zalman, who was already in Eretz Yisroel, was a party to the deliberations and he was glad of the opportunity. He swiftly dispatched a special letter of semichoh to his beloved talmid. One of the things he wrote in it was that, "he is truly great, like one of the renowned geonim of Klal Yisroel."

HaRav Shach was then in his early thirties. "The renowned geonim of Klal Yisroel" were men of the stature of the Chofetz Chaim, Reb Chaim Ozer, Reb Shimon Shkop and Reb Boruch Ber, who were powerfully illuminating the skies of Lithuanian Jewry and of world Jewry as a whole.

A Tale of Two Semichos

Reb Isser Zalman became rov of Slutsk in 5664 (1904). He had already been serving as the rosh yeshiva in Slutsk for six years. He had no document of semichoh because he had never planned on doing anything but disseminating Torah. When the communal leaders of Slutsk resolved to appoint him as their rov, Reb Isser Zalman wrote to his rebbe Reb Chaim and to the HaRav Yechiel Michel Epstein ztvk'l, the rov of Novardok and author of Oruch Hashulchon, asking them to send him the necessary affirmation.

The Oruch Hashulchon immediately mailed him a letter of semichoh, while Reb Chaim sufficed with a brief telegram that simply bore the words, "Yoreh yoreh, yodin yodin."

HaRav Shach once discussed the incident. One can understand Reb Chaim, he said. He was acquainted with Reb Isser Zalman and knew that he was qualified to rule on questions about halochos anywhere in the Shulchon Oruch, even though formulating halachic rulings had never been Reb Isser Zalman's ambition, nor had he had particular training in doing so. How though, he asked, could the Oruch Hashulchon have sent off a letter of semichoh without first having tested Reb Isser Zalman's knowledge of Shulchon Oruch and its commentaries? Even though Reb Isser Zalman had a reputation as a godol beTorah, who could say that this meant he was equipped to make halachic rulings?

One must conclude, said HaRav Shach, with a note of implied criticism for the talmidim to whom he was speaking, that Reb Isser Zalman could not have had a reputation as a genuine godol unless his teachings revealed a true understanding of Torah in accordance with halochoh. Since the Oruch Hashulchon knew that Reb Isser Zalman was indeed a genuine godol, it was clear to him that he knew how to rule and judge questions of halochoh and that he deserved a letter testifying "Yoreh yoreh, yodin yodin."

Nevertheless, HaRav Shach once told his grandson Rav Ben Tziyon Bergman, Reb Isser Zalman resolved never to make any halachic ruling unless he had found it written explicitly in one of the works of the poskim. He would refer questions for which no source could be found to other morei horo'oh. After a time however, as the result of a certain incident, Reb Isser Zalman began to rule himself on all the questions that arose in the town.

On another occasion, HaRav Shach related that when he initially became rov in Slutsk, Reb Isser Zalman spent much time studying the topics that are dealt with in Yore Dei'oh. He would ask his talmidim to formulate complicated shailos involving injuries to fowls, as though they were real questions for which answers had to be found.


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