Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Sivan 5766 - May 31, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Memories of HaRav Shach, zt"l

Memoirs of Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz

Chapter Twenty-Four: Where His Greatness Is — There Lies His Humility

Part II

His Honor — No Such Thing

An American Rosh Yeshiva, disciple of one of the luminaries of the previous generation who was considered a gaon in his own right, came to spend some time in Eretz Yisroel. Sad to say, his hashkofos were misguided, and when he was about to publish his shiurim Maran feared that they might be accepted by the chareidi bnei Torah public. Maran, himself, wrote an article in Hamodia clarifying for the public the essence of this person so that the public would not be led astray.

I begged Maran not to publish this article in his own name. I argued that it was below the dignity of a person of his stature to write an article in a newspaper, just like another columnist. But Maran refused to listen and said to me, "What do you mean that it is below my dignity? There is no such thing. A person mustn't think that he deserves honor. But even if there was a question of personal prestige, still the issue in question is so important and the need so great that this must tip the scale against the value of honor and in favor of publishing the important truth."

Maran Appears at the School Gate of the Razi- Li Talmud Torah

Maran, in his utter humility, never asked someone to come to him. Whenever he needed someone, he would — at best — say, "Tell so-and-so that if by any chance he is in the vicinity, I would be happy to speak to him . . . " But to ask someone outright to come to him, was unthinkable to him.

Whenever Maran had something to discuss with the Vishnitzer Rebbe zt'l, he always went to him, a fact which gave the Rebbe a very unpleasant feeling. The Admor begged to be informed [of the fact that R' Shach wished to see him] so that he could go to Maran, but Maran refused to hear of this. This was his way — if he wished to meet someone, he was the one who had to exert himself. And this was true even if the person in question was not a revered public figure like the Vishnitzer Rebbe, but even an ordinary person.

Maran once troubled himself to go all the way to the Razi-Li cheder in order to get a Sephardic boy enrolled. When I heard about it, I ask Maran why he had to go in person; he could easily have asked me or a grandson of his to go in his name. Wouldn't the administration have agreed to accept the boy he was recommending on that basis?

But Maran refused to hear of it. He went in person, for every child was considered by him a son. For one's children, you go by yourself and don't send a messenger. Maran could similarly have asked the principal to come to him and the latter would have considered it a great honor. But in his great humility, he was incapable of asking such a thing.

How deeply was Maran moved whenever a young boy greeted him. He once said to me, "Do you know, R' Shlomo, your son has tremendous derech eretz. I am deeply impressed by him."

I asked him on what grounds had he judged him to be well- mannered and respectful. Maran replied, "Your son is always the first to greet me. I have tried to anticipate him but I never succeed because he sees me already from afar and is always ahead of me."

I didn't know which son he was referring to and when I checked into it, I learned that it was my youngest son, Avrohom Yeshaya, a boy in fourth grade. His path would cross that of Maran frequently and he was always the first to say, "Sholom."

Maran was impressed that a small child was first to greet him? There are no words to define this degree of self- effacement, of humility. A child of nine wishes him a good morning and he is `dismayed' that he can never preempt him.

The Admor of Vishnitz was Forced to be Mesader Kiddushin

When my daughter was engaged to be married to HaRav Yehuda Arye Schwartz, rabbi of Nachlas Siroka in Kiryat Herzog, I arranged to honor Maran with siddur kiddushin, both because he had officiated at the weddings of my other children and also because he happened to be my future son-in- law's rosh yeshiva.

The evening before the wedding, R' Chaim Meir Hagar ztvk'l, the Vishnitzer Rebbe, sent two of his gabboim to inform me that he intended to come to the wedding. At this point, the Rebbe was ill and confined to a wheelchair and, assuming that from a medical standpoint he would be unable to attend the wedding, I had not gone personally to invite him. Instead, I had sufficed with sending a printed invitation by mail, as to all the other guests.

I was therefore greatly surprised that the Rebbe had sent his two gabboim to inform me that he was coming. I told them as much and apologized that I felt very uncomfortable at not having gone personally to invite him. What was I supposed to do now, I asked them, adding that I had already assigned all of the kibbudim to various important people and would not even be able to show my deference in any way.

They replied, "Whatever you decide to do is your own business. Nevertheless, courtesy dictates that you and the mechuton, R' Moshe Schwartz, come in person to officially invite the Admor to the wedding."

We went to him and he laughed, saying, "I am aware that you haven't invited me, but I intend to come, nonetheless."

The Rebbe explained that he wished to come to show his friendship and his gratitude.

I had a problem. How could I not given him a kibbud? I could only offer him one of the blessings of siddur kiddushin, but that was not sufficiently respectful. What was I to do, standing right before the chuppah, when I see the Rebbe being wheeled towards me on his wheelchair, flanked by a whole coterie of followers!

Maran saw him and immediately went over to him and said, "Rebbe, you will be the mesader kiddushin."

The Rebbe replied, "No, I will not. I am certain that you were asked to officiate, for otherwise how could you be in a position to transmit that honor to someone else?"

Maran however, insisted that this is how it had to be and finally, the Vishnitzer Rebbe capitulated, understanding that if Maran had made up his mind, it was final and nothing could change it. And so, he agreed to be mesader kiddushin.

Maran intuitively understood that when the Rebbe arrived he would have to be honored, and that I did not have anything to offer, for anything less than officiating would be far below his dignity. And so he forced him, so to speak, to accept the honor that had been reserved for him, R' Shach. The chassidim were deeply impressed by this gesture, and Maran's prestige was raised a great many notches as a result of it.

His Closeness to Jewish Children — Comparable to None

A special facet of Maran's extreme humility was evidenced in his relationship to children. He did not have to `stoop' to their level for his heart was never lofty nor his eyes elevated. He felt very close to them and had no problem communicating with them. Many were the times that he sat amongst them and joined them in their games . . .

Whenever he addressed cheder children, upon different occasions, he spoke their `language' and his words would leave an indelible impression.

Whenever people came to Maran with young children to receive a blessing, Maran would hand out candies. My wife used to bring large quantities of sweets and chocolates from Switzerland with a superior hechsher, which he would distribute to children.

Maran never allowed anyone to fetch the chocolates from the closet, as any one of us would probably have done. Who would bother getting up for little children? But Maran got up himself, despite his very advanced age and weakness, went over to the closet, took out the sweets, and would dispense them to the children from his own hand.

Humility and Forcefulness — Intertwined

When we speak about Maran's great humility, we are duty- bound to tell about the other side of the coin as well. When it came to the battle for Torah, this same humility did not stop him from standing stalwartly like a hero in combat, without paying attention to anyone. The following story illustrates Maran's deep love for his fellow man, how he shared the burden of each and every Jew, how he felt their pain and empathized to the highest degree — and yet, how he stood his halachic ground.

On Yom Kippur of 5744, before the services in Yeshivas Ponovezh, Maran came to me (as I have already written, he was incapable of summoning someone to him) and said, "Something is disturbing me to the extent that I am unable to begin my prayers."

I asked him what had happened. He told me that several days prior, a ba'alas teshuvoh had come to him with a question: "I want to know if I am permitted to continue living with my husband or if we must separate."

"After she told me the circumstances," he told me, "I decided that I could really not find her any leniency and that they would have to separate. But this has troubled me ever since. So much so that I cannot even begin to pray today. I beg you, study this matter thoroughly, with all of the commentaries, all of the poskim, everything you can find on the subject, and tell me what you have come up with."

The pain of a young ba'alas teshuvoh so deeply touched Maran's heart that he could not even begin praying on Yom Kippur! Let us stop and think at what level of chessed he stood, what deep love for a fellow Jew, what devotion and empathy he felt for others!

I immediately began studying the subject and, after having very thoroughly examined it in depth, I was able to dredge up sources to permit the marriage to be valid, as I have explained in my work, Milu'ei Shlomo. I went back to Maran and presented all that I had been able to find to permit this marriage to continue. I told him that most of the accepted poskim of our days are of the opinion to allow it, and expressly showed him the opinion of the Chasam Sofer on the subject, who maintained that in such a case a woman was permitted to remain married to her husband.

Nonetheless, Maran was unable to accept this according to his own daas Torah. I asked him why he couldn't make peace with the Chasam Sofer's clear-cut ruling which permitted it, and he replied, "When something in my sight is obviously forbidden, even the opinion of the Chasam Sofer will not make me change my mind."

He then added, "This must surely strike you as pride, for who am I to go against the Chasam Sofer? But I must be true to what I see as right and correct in my eyes."


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