Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Iyar 5766 - May 3, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
We Have Lost a Living Example of Closeness to Torah

It has been a difficult week for the Torah community with the loss of three great rabbonim: HaRav Moshe Teitelbaum, HaRav Moshe Halberstam, and HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira zichronom livrochoh. Our remarks in this small space are not intended to fulfill the obligation of hesped tzaddikim. That must be done elsewhere — in this issue and in subsequent issues. In this space we only write about matters from which we can draw practical conclusions or which apply to hilchos dei'os that are relevant to many of our readers. In this issue we focus on HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira zt"l.

The Rosh Yeshiva of Be'er Yaakov reached truly elevated levels of closeness to Torah. He was outstanding in his constant and permanent dedication to Torah learning, and lived in an atmosphere in which there was nothing else but the simchah of Torah.

He often said that wasting time is the worst sin, and he often quoted the interpretation of Rabbenu Avrohom the son of the Rambam, that Soroh's fear of Yishmoel was that he would distract Yitzchok and then Yitzchok might not fully dedicate himself to the pursuit of the shleimus that he could achieve.

On the famous posuk, "Ki ner mitzvah veTorah ohr" (Mishlei 6:23), he would explain that the mitzvah is like a candle that overcomes the darkness, but if one looks away he still sees the darkness and may fall. Torah, in contrast, is light, and when it is present there is no darkness at all.

This is how he lived. Seven years ago after he had a heart attack, he requested one of the volumes of his published Torah chiddushim as soon as he was able to ask. When his family asked if it was really proper under the circumstances for him to undertake the effort involved in study, he answered that he was afraid that his hours were already numbered and, since in recent days he had been having second thoughts about something he had written in that sefer, he wanted to go over it before it was too late.

On the posuk, Zos haTorah Odom ki yomus bo'ohel . . . (Bamidbar 19:14), R' Yonoson said, `One should never refrain from divrei Torah, even at the time of death.' (Shabbos 83b). In his sefer on Chumash, Zohar Mishevo, HaRav Shapira explained that it is not that Chazal mean to caution about the necessity of divrei Torah in order to successfully pass over into the Next World, but that the obligation of talmud Torah itself does not allow any interruptions, even at the time of death. That time also falls under the rule that Torah should not be abandoned at any time whatsoever.

At the funeral of HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer, HaRav Aharon Kotler said that the passing of tzaddikim is like a thunderclap in that both were created "to straighten out crookedness in our hearts." Both bid us to stop and think outside of our normal thought paths.

When R' Yochonon was niftar the maspidim said: It is a difficult day for Yisroel; a day as difficult as when the sun set at midday.

However, the original application of the phrase "the sun set at midday" was to the passing of Yoshiyohu Hamelech, who was killed when he was relatively young and at the peak of his powers. R' Yochonon, on the other hand, lived to the age of 120. How can his passing be compared to the sun setting at midday?

HaRav Aharon Kotler explained that in general, the coming of darkness as part of the normal cycle brings benefits. As the Gra points out in his commentary on Chumash, it brings a period of rest for the weary. Nonetheless, it was not said to be tov, since it also brings loss.

However, when darkness comes in the middle of the day, during the period when people are active, it brings no benefit whatsoever, only loss.

It was in this sense that even the passing of R' Yochonon, who had reached a ripe old age, was compared to the setting of the sun at midday. Even though his generation had already long benefited from his shining light, it still strongly felt the beneficial effects of his influence and suffered their loss.

During this last year when he has been weak and ailing, maranan verabonon asked everyone to daven for HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira zt"l. In discussing the matter, HaRav Eliashiv shlita said of him, "He is unique in our generation in his closeness to Torah and in his bein odom lechavero."

This is what we have lost.

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