Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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6 Kislev 5766 - December 7, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
HaRav Shach: The Father of Yeshivos in Our Generation

Covering Ground

In a compilation of letters and Torah essays (Part I, Siman 3), he writes: "Regarding your question about how to study, whether to cover ground quickly as opposed to slowly and more thoroughly: To be sure, one cannot make a hard-and-fast rule to bind everyone, but each person must proceed according to his abilities and tendencies, and to the way that best suits and appeals to him. He should learn according to his inclination, but one should not stay on one section for a long time."

I heard from HaRav Itamar Garbuz that despite the fact that Rabbenu was often preoccupied with a certain question and found no respite until he resolved it, nevertheless, even during that period, he continued to study according to his regular pace, and did not detain himself by dwelling upon it; rather, he would think about it in every spare minute. (Hi Sichosi)

The Regimen of Study — Not Necessarily

Rabbenu wrote that one must cover four dapim a week, and he was opposed to the seder bekiyus, rapid coverage study, in yeshivos. He maintained that one should study the same topic all day and to cover that amount of material while studying it in depth [in the time available].

I asked him about this, saying that one could not change the norm of the yeshiva where only two dapim were covered per week in the afternoon session. He said: "If they know this thoroughly, this is also good." The study, he said, must be in-depth. (HaRav Zevulun Shub)

Bar Mitzvah Resolutions

I would like to tell a story to which I was witness and which I feel duty bound to relate, as if it were Rabbenu's will and testament to convey regarding the proper manner in which to raise a yeshiva bochur.

I brought my pre-bar-mitzvah son to Rabbenu in Sivan, 5754, asking what resolution he advised for him to accept upon himself when becoming obligated in mitzvos. Rabbenu's face lit up and he said: "There are two things you should undertake: 1. To distance yourself from unworthy friends, and to choose only good friends! And 2. not to roam the streets, but to proceed directly from your house to the yeshiva and from yeshiva to your house."

Afterwards, he added: "There is one more important thing: To eat at mealtimes and go to sleep at the proper time!"

This is how he felt a yeshiva student should preserve himself. First and foremost — to distance oneself from evil, from unsavory companions and not to roam the streets unnecessarily. This was his main prescription for molding a ben Torah. (HaRav Y. Sokol)

Talking About Approaches

Maran R' Isser Zalman once entered his yeshiva in Slutsk and observed some of the students discussing the various schools of study: R' Shimon's and R' Naftoli's and so on. He turned to them and said, "Although you are discussing important things, nevertheless, such talk will not produce gedolim. Do you know who is going to become a godol? Leizer'ke (Maran R' Eliezer Shach), who is sitting in the corner over there, not wasting a moment, not brooking any diversion." (HaRav Y. Sokol)

A Doubt During the Shiur? Don't Deliver It

Maran once told me that someone in Yerushalayim once asked Maran R' Chaim what to do if, during the delivery of a prepared shiur, a question suddenly arose in his mind regarding it. He said not to deliver it, even if he was able to reconcile the question.

Maran then admitted that he actually had, many times, stopped in the middle of the delivery of a shiur and not continued . . .


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky told that once when he was a ram in Petach Tikva, a question-and-rebuttal arose in his mind concerning a shiur he had given. He later went over to each and every student and explained the error and its resolution so that the truth would be clear to one and all. (HaRav M. Kotler)

Not to Be Late

Once when he spoke at a women's teachers convention, he said that the first thing that any educator or teacher must do is to take care to come on time, because one who comes late provides a bad role model and projects contempt for the entire educational framework. (HaRav M. A. Braverman)

Asking Permission from the Menahel

When he once needed to travel to a meeting of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah during the learning seder, Maran went to ask permission from R' Avrohom Kahaneman, for he was, after all, only an employee, and not an administrator. A truth-and-value system. (HaRav M. Schwartz)

To Live the Shiur

A young avreich once came to Maran on Chol Hamoed Pesach. Maran asked him if he had already begun preparing the masechta, Pesochim, which they would be studying in the upcoming zman. He said, `No.' Maran voiced his surprise and said, "How could that be? I am already eating with Pesochim, sleeping with Pesochim and even breathing Pesochim all the time! When I rest, it is also uppermost in my mind. For sure! That is what we will be studying next zman!" (HaRav M. Schwartz)

Concern for Every Student

We saw and experienced in the flesh how he was concerned with the spiritual progress of every single student. I recall how once, when the Mashgiach was ill, he approached me and asked me if I was aware of any student who needed chizuk. I pointed out a certain one who, the previous day, had approached me and said that he was feeling a letdown, a setback in his study.

The Rosh Yeshiva immediately ran towards him and I saw with my own eyes how he spoke to him and even stroked him affectionately in the very beis medrash. (HaRav A. Kister)

An Excuse Already in the Morning

In a vaad which HaRav Refoel Tikochinsky zt'l delivered to us, he told of the time when he was a student in Yeshivas Ponovezh. Maran entered the beis medrash one night and gathered several students around him. He posed a difficult question to them and they attempted together to resolve the problem but could find no answer.

Maran returned home but the next morning he did not appear for davening, which was extremely rare for him. In the beginning of the morning session, he entered, again gathered a group around him, and now proceeded to answer the question in a most marvelous fashion.

When they asked him how he had come to this answer, he said that early in the morning he had traveled to Jerusalem with the very first taxi available. The Brisker Rov had provided him with the response to his question.

To this degree was his devotion to truth. This indicates studying Torah purely for its own sake. (HaRav P. Bronfman)

What Occupied the Mind of Maran . . .

One Wednesday night, there was a very turbulent meeting of chareidi askonim regarding the future. Things grew so stormy that it came to blows and the police were called in to restore the peace. The crux of the matter was whether Maran's will would be fulfilled or not and it became the focus of public discussion.

Maran gave a weekly shiur in Yeshivas Grodno in Ashdod on Thursday afternoons. We had no doubt that as soon as he had finished delivering it and was en route, he would begin thinking about the matter of contention.

Not so. On Friday morning, he entered the beis medrash and began telling us a svorah on the laws of mezuzoh, to reconcile a question of R' Akiva Eiger. He then told us that as soon as he entered the taxi after the shiur, he had begun thinking about the question. He had delved into the question all night long until it had become clarified.

From here, we were able to see what really preoccupied his mind. It was not internal politics or such matters, stormy as those issues might be, but Torah; in this case, the question of R' Akiva Eiger on hilchos mezuzoh. (HaRav K. Adler)

About Learning the Ketzos

Maran said that once, yeshiva students would study Ketzos Hachoshen. But since indices had been created, people no longer knew the Ketzos as thoroughly. Instead, they opened up an index and found the source they needed.

Before these indices had been compiled, if one wished to know the Ketzos, he had to open it up and study it thoroughly. (HaRav A. Garbuz)

The Tradition not to Question the Ketzos

One of his students told me that once, in a shiur klolli, Maran quoted the Ketzos and challenged it with a question. Afterwards, that student went over to him and asked him to explain the question, since he thought it might be possible to refute it.

Maran said: "Today I transgressed a personal resolution which I had once made, never to question anything written by the Ketzos before thinking it through eight times in search of my own answer. Since I was pressed for time, I only reviewed the question four times."

Again, it is remarkable to what extent he pursued the truth. (HaRav P. Bronfman)

Tefilloh in Yeshiva

In Elul of 5748, Maran suffered from edema in his feet. Despite his bloated legs, and the difficulty and great pain he had in walking, he insisted on climbing up to the yeshiva for prayers. He once told me, coming back from davening, that the doctors had removed three and a half liters of water from his legs.

During the last period that he went up to the yeshiva, he admitted several times that he was at the end of his strength, and had been unable to even contemplate going in the first place. But then, he had thought to himself that — who knows? — if this were the very last prayer in his life, how could he bear the thought of praying alone, at home?

And so, this repeated itself three times a day, for a long period. (Hi Sichosi)

To Befriend the Younger Students

At the end of the last shiur on the evening of the 27th of Shevat, 5754, Rabbenu said, "I don't have the strength to go on. But there is one thing I do want to ask of you: Make sure the older bochurim have contact with the younger ones, that they talk to them, learn with them, befriend them.

"If they ask questions, take the trouble to answer them, for these young boys come to me with their questions and I am unable to answer them all . . . " (Hi Sichosi)

To Give Way to the Younger Ones

Once, when the yeshiva became overcrowded, some of the newer students wanted to add some benches to the beis medrash so that there would be room to sit. The veteran students objected on the grounds that it was too full as it was, with no room to move between the benches.

Rabbenu discussed this in a shmuess, saying, "Chazal note on the verse, `And Cain said to Hevel his brother, and it was when they were . . . ' What did he say? What were they discussing? They said to one another: `Let's divide the world up. One of us will take the land and the other, the movable assets.' Then the argument arose: One said: `The land upon which you are standing belongs to me.' While the other said: `The clothing you are wearing belongs to me.' One said, `Remove it,' and the other, `Begone!' In the end, Cain rose up against Hevel and killed him.

"Cain possessed all the land in the world, and still, it irked him that Hevel was occupying four cubits of it. The Torah is showing us here to what degree of depravity a person can be reduced: that even if he owns the entire world, he begrudges another a tiny portion of it to stand on; he cannot bear seeing him there and tells him to begone.

"Whoever does not allow the young newcomers a place to sit," concluded Maran, "is verily acting like Cain!" (Hi Sichosi)

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