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30 Tishrei 5766 - November 2, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








In the Proximity of Maran R' Yitzchok Zeev of Brisk, Ztvk'l

Memoirs of Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz

Chapter Fifteen: The Tzaddik Lives by His Faith

Ein Od Milvado

Maran the Chazon Ish ztvk'l said in the name of Maran HaRav Chaim Ozer ztvk'l: "The Brisker Rov's yiras Shomayim belonged to the era of five hundred years ago." But not only in this aspect was he so outstanding; his measure of emunah and bitochon were truly shining examples for his generation.

One finds that when a person is traveling, or when his life is being threatened, he loses his equilibrium; he is not himself. Certainly, at such times he is unable to focus his thoughts upon Hashem. But with Maran, even during times of grave danger, not an iota was lacking of his steady single- minded adherence to Hashem.

In 5700, after the outbreak of World War II, Maran was staying in Warsaw when someone from his household entered his room, waving a newspaper. "What's new?" asked Maran.

The latter replied that nothing had changed. Maran took the newspaper into his hand and his eyes immediately fell upon an item stating that the Russians had given up their claim to Vilna and had relinquished it to Lithuanian sovereignty.

"How can you say that nothing is new when the return of Vilna to Lithuania is a major event!" he exclaimed.

And thereupon, Maran decided to pick himself up and escape to Vilna so as to avoid Russian rule. He urged his family to prepare themselves to go as quickly as possible. Such a trip was fraught with danger and difficulty, since the Germans ruled most of Poland and it would take three days to get from Warsaw to Vilna by horse and carriage. But the decision was cast.

Maran hired a wagon, together with several other people, and took a seat at the far end which was covered with tarpaulin, in order to hide his beard and payos from any inspection as best as he could. The trip was, fortunately, uneventful. When they reached the German-Russian border (Poland was already divided between those two countries), they had to debark and walk the remaining half kilometer to the border crossing. There, armed Germans stopped the procession. One turned to Maran and screamed, "Jew, where are your arms?"

They were terrified, but the panic was soon dispelled when the same German shouted, "Proceed!"

The simple reason for his change of attitude was that he saw a group of Russian officers coming from the other side to receive the group. Maran, however, had a different explanation for the turn of events.

"When I decided to go to Vilna and expose myself and my family to danger for a span of three days and nights, I did so based on a principle written in Nefesh HaChaim, Shaar III, Chapter 12:

"`And truly, it is an important matter and a wonderful segulah-charm to remove and nullify from oneself all harsh decrees and evil schemes, to make it impossible for evil forces/people to inflict any harm. This is that a person determine in his heart that Hashem is the A-mighty, the Only Power in the world. Ein Od Milvado — there is no power beside Him, anywhere in the world or outside it. Everything that exists is filled with His Unity. The person should nullify everything else in his heart and pay no attention to any thing or any will in the world. He should surrender his thoughts and adhere purely unto Hashem, Who is the only Master of the world. And thus will Hashem also nullify all the powers that seek to harm him and they will be totally ineffectual against him.'

"All that time, I did not for a moment stop focusing on the words of the Nefesh HaChaim except for one brief lapse. This was the precise moment when the Germans made us halt. When I heard the German officer bark, I went back to concentrating upon the holy words and this worked immediately, for just then came the order to proceed!"

Maran continued telling that he had learned this practice, in the flesh, from his grandfather, the Beis Halevi. This was the story he told:

A grocer once came to the Beis Halevi in a panic: The Russians were making a search in all the shops and his was filled with contraband merchandise. The Beis Halevi closeted himself in a room with the grocer for about half an hour. Then people came to inform them that a miracle had happened: the inspectors had skipped over the grocery - the only shop they did not enter — and he was saved.

The Beis Halevi disclosed the secret: during the time that he had been closeted with the grocer, he had studied with him that chapter in the Nefesh HaChaim dealing with trust in Hashem. This had brought about the salvation!

Hashem Decrees and the Tzaddik Executes

Maran's son told me that he once visited HaRav Yaakov Moshe Charlop zt'l the rabbi of Shaarei Chessed. After they sat for a long time, the host turned to Maran and said: "Chazal teach us that a tzaddik can decree and Hashem will fulfill his wish. Why doesn't my guest decree that Moshiach come and put an end to our suffering?"

Maran was shocked at these words and hastened to reply, "Our task is to carry out what Hashem decrees and what He commands and not to demand that He do what we wish!"

"After Having Lost My Fortune and Gained a New Level in Bitochon, I Have No Longer any Cause to Worry"

Chazal said that a person does not waive personal interests regarding his own money. When it comes to a monetary loss, a person does not give allowance to show mercy to the very person who caused the loss. This is all the more true regarding a person who cheated someone out of his entire property.

In the following story, Maran testified about himself that he did not qualify as `a person' in that sense, for he reacted with no more than silence when his own entire property was stolen.

Upon his marriage, Maran received a very large sum for his wife's dowry which he invested in a large building in Warsaw. Real estate in the city skyrocketed and the experts advised him to sell. He duly met with a potential buyer but nothing came of the deal.

World War I broke out meanwhile, after which the price of the building soared even higher. Deciding that now was the time to sell; Maran met with a buyer and was about to finalize a sale by their going together to the government land offices to register the transaction.

Maran was shocked to learn that the building was not even registered in his name any more, but in the name of a person whom he did not even know. An inquiry showed that this was the person who had wanted to buy the building before the war.

Maran summoned the man and asked him how he done such a thing. "I must confess," the man said, "that I forged your signature and transferred the property to my name. Meanwhile, I sold it to someone else and have lost the entire sum. Had I any money in my possession, I would surely pay you. The only thing you can do is report me to the police. I know I did a wrong thing, but I have no way of paying you back."

Maran told me, "I asked myself if I was really prepared to deliver a person over to the police and decided not to do such a thing. And that's how I lost my entire fortune."

After being stripped of his savings, Maran immersed himself in the chapter on bitochon in Chovos Halevovos, and his fortification in this trait found expression in his work on the Torah, where he comments on the posuk, "Kavei el Hashem — Put your hope in Hashem, strengthen and encourage your heart, and put your hope in Hashem."

Maran explained to me his commentary, with the help of a parable:

A king once met a friend and noticed that he seemed depressed. "Why do you look so sad today?" he asked him.

The friend replied, "I am worried about the future and how I will manage to support myself."

Said the king: "Don't be concerned. I will give you a large sum of money. Invest it and you will become rich. This will be your guarantee for the future."

Some time later, they met but the king's friend was as dispirited as before.

"What's the matter?" asked the king.

"To my misfortune, I had many setbacks and I lost all my money. There can be no security in money," said the friend.

The king gave him houses to rent and live from that income.

"But what if the market becomes glutted and there is more supply than demand?" the friend asked.

The king decided to give him forests and land as a source of income. This, as before, did not prove to be a stable, secure method of livelihood, and so the king gave his friend a chain of factories in order to grant his friend financial security and banish care from his heart. When this too failed, the king admitted that there was nothing more he could do to ease his friend's worries; nothing in the world was absolutely certain.

"With Jews," explained Maran, "it is different. Each Jew has a way to insure his future with absolute certainty. `Put your hope in Hashem, strengthen and encourage your heart, and put your hope in Hashem.' But why is the phrase kaveih el Hashem repeated? Because when a Jew places his hope and trust in Hashem, he is rewarded by having Hashem strengthen his heart, and his hope is thereby doubled. His initial faith is compounded (Chiddushei Maran R' Yitzchok Zev al haTorah 53).

After reviewing the chapter on trust, Maran turned to his wife and said, "Up until now, we thought we were rich. But now that we are stripped of our wealth, I have gained a new level in bitochon and we are truly rich, for now we have no reason to worry."

Maran continued in the same vein by explaining the verse, "On the day I fear, I put my trust in You." The true faith comes to the fore on "the day I fear." A person who trusts from a position of security, is not considered a baal bitochon. Only after he is exposed to danger does his real trust come to the fore, when it is put to the test.

"Who is to Blame for this Trouble?"

Whenever misfortune strikes, there are always people who are quick to search for something or someone on whom to place the blame. Maran did not subscribe to this approach. He was accustomed to saying that everyone must blame his own self.

He would remind those around him what Yonah Hanovi had said when a great storm broke out, threatening to capsize his ship. The sailors were terrified and each shouted to his own G-d. When the sea continued to rage, they cast lots, which fell upon Yonah. They approached him said, "Tell us, are you to blame for this terrible storm? What shall we do to stop it?"

This ship was filled with idolaters, each one shouting to his own idol. Their baggage of sin was surely greater than Yonah's. But Yonah did not attempt to lay the blame on them. Without hesitating, he immediately assumed the full responsibility and told the sailors to cast him into the raging sea. He assured them that it would be calmed since, "I know that it is because of me that this storm has arisen against you."

Maran added that Yonah was not only making this statement for that particular occasion. Chazal say (Megilloh 14a) that Jewry was blessed with many prophets who numbered in total double those who left Egypt, but of all that they said, only prophecy relevant for all time was transcribed, whereas the contemporary messages were not recorded. Had Yonah spoken only for his generation, it would not have been written down for future generations. His message to us was that with every challenging event that happens to us, we must examine our deeds and place the blame squarely upon ourselves.

Maran's son, R' Meshulom Dovid shlita, added another fact that Maran was accustomed to relate:

Whenever his father, HaGaon R' Chaim, went to visit the rabbi of Lodz, R' Eliyohu Chaim Meislish zt'l, the chassidim would gather to catch a glimpse of R' Chaim's face and would affix their gaze upon him without wavering. Maran wondered at this, and asked about it. The chassidim replied that it was written that it was an especial segulah for piety to gaze upon the face of a tzaddik. R' Chaim retorted, "But doesn't it say, `Your people are all righteous'? If everyone were to look at himself, it would be far more conducive to G-d-fear!"

Open Miracles — for Whom?

Many miracles took place in the period of the Israeli War of Independence and immediately afterwards on the military front. The armies of seven aggressive Arab nations attacked the small country numbering only half a million Jews, barely armed, and yet the Yishuv witnessed supernatural victories, time after time, rescuing it from the enemies who sought to swallow it alive.

This phenomenon served the Mizrachi people as positive proof that Heaven was favoring their way and approving the establishment of a Jewish state as the `dawning of the Redemption,' via the Jewish army.

Maran had a different explanation for those events. This is what he told me:

It is obvious that Jewish sinners were not worthy of miracles, and since the State of Israel was established by heretics, it was inconceivable that the miracles were being done for their sake. One could not see thereby a justification for their philosophy.

On the other hand, Maran also dismissed the idea that these miracles were being performed by the forces of evil, for the avenging angels were holy creatures too, who have no power to do anything against the decree of Heaven.

What is signified, then, was that there were people who deserved those phenomenon, but if the Zionists thought that they were the ones, they were wrong. Rather, it was the bnei Torah, who survived the great destruction, and who continued the unbreakable chain of Torah.

Scoffers and Mockers

Inter alia, Maran quoted the words of Rashi on the verse, "These are the generations of Yitzchok ben Avrohom; Avrohom begot Yitzchok." Rashi says that the scoffers of the generation claimed that Sarah became pregnant from Avimelech, for up until the abduction, she had been childless for the many years of her marriage. What did Hashem do? He formed Yitzchok's face in the very image of his father, so that all had to admit that Avrohom had sired him.

Maran asked why Chazal used the term `scoffers of the generation'; would it not have been more apt to call them `the wicked ones of the generation'?

He replies that these evil ones were not denying the fact of the miracle, since this was obvious to all; even the most impious ones could not refute it. Rashi explains this, as well, on the verse, "Who would have believed of Avrohom that Sarah would suckle sons?" Why is the plural form used? Because on the day celebrating the weaning of Yitzchok, many noblewomen brought their infants and Sarah suckled them so that they could not claim that she had brought a foundling into her home.

If, then, it was so clear that the birth of Yitzchok was a miracle, why did those scoffers claim that Avimelech was the father? If Sarah experienced a miracle, why not Avrohom as well?

What disturbed those sinners was not the fact of the miracle, per se, which they could not deny but the question for whom had the miracle transpired. If for Avrohom, it would obligate the entire world to accept his worldview and sovereignty and to recognize the G-d of Avrohom as well. Those scoffers, who are forever seeking to cool off the impact of yiras Shomayim in the world through lightheadedness and mockery, feared that the miracle would lead people to embrace Avrohom's way. In order to weaken the impact, they claimed that, yes, a miracle had occurred, but it had happened via Avimelech and not to Avrohom, and if so, it did not obligate anyone.

Maran continued and said that he had no doubt that this was the true approach. The miracles that accompanied the establishment of statehood were performed solely for the sake of the Torah scholars toiling in Torah. This obligated us to make necessary inferences, and whoever evaded them, belonged to that category of the scoffers of the generation.

In conclusion, he said that it was a mitzvah to publicize this approach, and he asked me to do so at large, for this was the true attitude and outlook for understanding the nature of those apparent miracles.

A few days later, Maran asked me if I had fulfilled his request, that is, if I had publicized his view. I told him that I had repeated his words in many subsequent public addresses. In fact, just the day before, a huge rally had taken place in the Tel Aviv Beit Ha'am where I had conveyed that message to the public.

Maran asked me to repeat what I had said but I explained that when I address a large public, I use certain rhetorical methods and tricks which I did not feel at ease to reiterate before him.

Maran did not relent and insisted that I repeat every word I had said for he wished to know how exact I had been. I summoned up my courage and went over my speech, word for word. It took a long time, but Maran listened avidly, and when I had finished, he said: "I give this my full approval. You truly know how to convey what I say without changing anything."


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