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12 Sivan 5766 - June 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The First of Sivan 5766

By HaRav Yehoshua Shklar, one of the first talmidim of Yeshivas Be'er Yaakov, his disciple-son

Speech is one medium of communication; writing is another. A third is the outpouring of a heart.

But wait — the heart feels, it doesn't talk!

In Tehillim, though, we find that Dovid Hamelech says, "For Your sake, my heart says, `Seek out My face'; I will seek out Your face, Hashem" (27:7).

Sometimes one's heart speaks. When it swells with emotions that overflow, it speaks . . . it communicates.

I gave expression to my heart's outpouring upon the petiroh of the teacher and rebbe of my youth — back in the Lomzha Yeshiva in Petach Tikva between 5704 and 5707 (1944-47) — in what I said while among the family and senior talmidim during the shivah, in the niftar's home. I told his sons that their father was the source of all my feelings of love for Torah and its sweetness that I have been conveying to others throughout my life.

I am fortunate to have had teachers who instructed me and illuminated my path in life for me, from when I set out in my childhood and in youth. They enriched me with sensitivity to love of Torah and its sweetness and with sensitivity to the meaning of Chazal's statements. One of them was their distinguished father zt'l. The other was my teacher and rebbe, HaRav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt'l, the mashgiach of Yeshivas Ponovezh while I learned there, between 5707 and 5710.

Since then decades have passed, yet their clarity of insight into the meaning of Chazal's teachings and the sensitivity of how they conveyed it, remain etched upon me as freshly as if I had heard them today.

I described to the family my friendship with their father from my younger years, as a fourteen and fifteen year old in the Lomzha Yeshiva in Petach Tikva. It was then that he transmitted love of Torah and hearty satisfaction in learning to me in such abundant measure as has enabled me to convey them further, to sons and disciples, over generations, be'ezras Hashem.

Let me start from the beginning.

There is a wonderful passage in the Ramban's commentary on the words, "Love your friend as [you love] yourself (Vayikra 19:18). Towards the end of his remarks [on posuk 17] when he defines the essence of the command to "love," he concludes, ". . . but he should love bestowing an abundance of good upon his friend, as a person does to himself, and should impose no limits on this love."

This feeling, of there being no limits to his love, was one which his talmidim felt immediately, on their first meeting with him. That captured me. Right away, at the first meeting with him I witnessed genuine, boundless love.

I came to Yeshivas Lomzha in Petach Tikva after completing the third level at Yeshivas Beis Yosef, Bnei Brak under my teacher and rebbe the Steipler ztvk'l. The very best bochurim from the yeshivos abroad were learning there then, and we adopted their approaches to learning.

There were two chaburos that were delivered twice a week by the leading students in the yeshiva, HaRav Simchah Kaplan zt'l (who later became the Chief Rabbi of Tzfas) and my teacher and rebbe, the Rosh Yeshiva.

From the very first chaburah I heard from him, his clarity and joy in delivering novel insights swept me away. This influenced me profoundly, to the point where I was drawn after him and became utterly attached to him.

When announcing Rosh Chodesh we first pray for, "a life of fear of Heaven and fear of sin" and later repeat the request, asking for, "life with love of Torah and fear of Heaven within us." This second kind of yiras Shomayim is a higher level, one that comes from love of Torah. This was something that we young talmidim saw tangibly in the Rosh Yeshiva.

I shall never forget him learning mussar in the afternoon of erev Rosh Hashonoh in the ezras noshim. In an agitated, tear-laden voice he repeated the statement in Shaarei Teshuvoh, "For on Rosh Hashonoh man is judged and his verdict is sealed on Yom Kippur," again and again.

He was descended from Torah nobility and we saw how he conducted himself with royal bearing — with awareness of his station and reluctance to be swayed by things that were insignificant.

I would like to mention an incident that has remained with me to this day that illustrates this point. It was when the watch that he received upon becoming engaged to the daughter of Rav Aharon Weinstein zt'l, rosh yeshivas Beis Yosef in Tel Aviv, was stolen from him on a Friday night, several days after the engagement. He showed no sign of sadness. He was happy all Shabbos long. He sang and was in high spirits while learning. Here we saw genuine nobility. "I love Torah; how important is the loss of a watch when compared with love of Torah?"

As to the teacher-disciple relationship — the older one grows, the deeper grow one's discernment and appreciation of what one has received. The idea of teacher and disciple comes to encompass a broader dimension.

This happened when four of us moved from Ponovezh, where we had been learning, to establish the yeshiva in Be'er Yaakov led by the Rosh Yeshiva, with my teacher and rebbe HaRav Shlomo Wolbe zt'l as menahel ruchani. The four of us were Dov Wein, Yitzchok Grodzensky, Tzvi Rabi and Yehoshua Shklar (myself).

Slowly, other bochurim joined us. Those were days of spiritual delight, filled with the pleasure of the clarity and depth of the Rosh Yeshiva's shiurim. Together with my colleague and dear friend Rav Dov Wein, I learned together with the Rosh Yeshiva in his home during the evening seder. That was a taste of Olom Habo . . .

For the Shabbos meals the Rosh Yeshiva would sit with us in the hut in the orchard that served as our dining room . . . songs and Shabbos zemiros on his lips — "Yetzaveh tzur chasdo kehilosov lekabeitz . . ." (zemiros for the second meal). That was when he taught us the tune to, "Se'u morom eineichem ure'u Mi boro eileh . . ." (Yeshayohu 40:26). With what yearning and emotion he sang these wonderful words. I'll never forget it.

His happiness was at a peak when his relative, one of the brilliant scholars from the remnants of the Volozhin Yeshiva who was renowned for his tremendously broad knowledge, HaRav Naftoli Tzvi Rif zt'l arrived at the yeshiva. He told us, the members of the kibbutz, to surprise him with our knowledge of different masechtos. If my memory doesn't fail me, he told each of us to speak in learning from a different masechta of gemora.

I'll never forget how impressed Rav Rif was and how he said in amazement, "This is literally like Volozhin . . . young bochurim with such broad knowledge!" The Rosh Yeshiva's heart radiated joy and happiness — these were his own bnei yeshiva, for whom he had sacrificed himself.

The Rosh Yeshiva was also the rov of the settlement of Be'er Yaakov at that time. Connected as he was to the Brisker dynasty [his father was a brother of Reb Chaim Soloveitchik's rebbetzin], he considered it his first duty as rov to attend to the education of the boys and girls. There was a State Religious School there that was affiliated with the Mizrachi movement but the place was more of a "state" institution than a "religious" one. There were students there whose families belonged to all the different groups and it was imperative to open a school under the auspices of the Agudas Yisroel — Fourth Stream. A committee composed of the esteemed local activists, R' Gershon Edeles and R' Zanvil Rosenberg, Dov Wein and myself, was formed, with the Rosh Yeshiva serving as chairman.

The hardest task was to obtain the signatures of twenty plus parents who wished to move their children to the new Agudas Yisroel school. A deadline was set for closing the enrollment.

I will never forget the fateful Friday when the enrollment was to close at twelve noon. Missing that deadline meant that the Ministry of Education wouldn't issue a permit. But the Rosh Yeshiva was also a responsible leader, in charge of the education of the sons and daughters of the members of his community. It was a matter of providing the children with a pure, unsullied education. He accompanied me from the very beginning of that fateful Friday, to every single home in the Yemenite settlement and the surrounding area to get parents to fill in application forms. With the energy of a young man he worked without rest but the deadline was approaching . . .

Hakodosh Boruch Hu stood by us and at the very last minute we gathered the necessary application forms and swiftly conveyed them to the Secretary of the Council, Binyamin Ehrenfeld. He pronounced the emotion laden words that we'd been waiting to hear . . . "You've won! You'll have an Agudah school. You'll get a permit from the Education Ministry." All was light and joy in the Rosh Yeshiva's home. There would be somewhere to send the local children.

To close this appreciation of our mentor and teacher, I would like to mention his fatherly concern for his talmidim. This showed itself in some unbelievable ways, one of which I shall mention.

When a shidduch was proposed for one of his talmidim he made a long trip to the home of the girl to speak to her parents and also to have a glance at what kind of books she read. That shows the concern and sacrifice of a father for his son.

For me, this is indeed a private loss. As an individual — among many others — I owe him my entire life. Maybe this article in his memory has managed to express a little of my gratitude to him. May his merit stand us in good stead.

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