Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Kislev 5766 - December 14, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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

To Be Heedful of Yeshiva Money

Rabbenu once said, in a talk, that anyone who takes food from the yeshiva without permission is considered to be stealing — to the degree that he is invalid for testimony! When he heard that some of the students refused to allow a newcomer to join their dormitory room, he also came down very harshly against them and said it was altogether forbidden. He further said that the donors who had given money for the yeshiva had likewise empowered the hanholoh to make decisions concerning the use of the facilities as they saw fit.

In general, he often spoke about vittur, not insisting on having one's way but giving in to others. He declared that he never saw anyone lose out from letting another have his way. (Hi Sichosi)

About Reading Kosher Newspapers

A young student once came to him asking for guidance. Maran later related, "The first thing I did was to have him resolve, by a handshake, not to read newspapers." And here, he was referring even to the best of them . . . This was before he even began advising him how to study. Only after the student agreed to keep this stipulation, did he launch into a program for studying. This was Maran's educational approach. (HaRav S. Markowitz)

Guidance to a Tat [Help Fund for Yeshiva Students] Treasurer

When the yeshiva used to appoint treasurers for the Tat fund, we would present them to him. He would invariably say, "Know that you will, in the future, go on to build your own homes. You must learn how to be sensitive to your fellow man. This is part of your education!" He instructed them in other matters, but the main thrust of his words was that these treasurers train themselves in compassion and empathy. (HaRav S. Markowitz)

Scholarships? Depending to Whom

Although he was concerned for the entire yeshiva world, he was primarily concerned for his own yeshiva, and if he showed leniency towards other institutions, in his own establishment he was strict. A person once told me that in his own yeshiva, he offered special stipends to the more studious students in order to promote a higher degree of study. I went to Maran to ask his opinion on this matter and he immediately said: "Here — no!" One must not make money an incentive for learning. And this was his attitude in many things concerning his own yeshiva: He was very precise and particular in maintaining the most perfect standard. He sacrificed a great deal to this end. (HaRav S. Markowitz)

His Concern for a Ben Yeshiva

We were once standing and waiting to enter and speak with the Rosh Yeshiva about urgent matters. Together with us was a father with his son of yeshiva ketanoh age who wanted to receive Maran's blessing since the boy had lost his zest for learning.

We waited while the two entered before us. We waited a quarter of an hour, half an hour — and they still had not emerged. Finally, after almost an hour inside, they came out, the father in tears [of emotion] and the boy, smiling.

The father told how they had entered and the boy had confessed that he no longer had any desire to study.

"What are they studying now in your yeshiva?" Maran asked him.

"Maseches Kiddushin," was the reply.

"Nu, come let's see if you know how to learn," said Maran. He went over to the bookcase and took out two gemoras, one for each of them. Maran told him to begin reading and he heard him out, stopping him occasionally to say in his sweet manner, "I see that you do understand what you've learned."

The boy finished reading the gemora text and Maran had him reading Rashi, making sure that he understood, encouraging him periodically. They sat thus for close to an hour until the boy discovered a new zest in the material.

This was very important to Maran, for in his eyes, someone who was no longer interested in learning was like someone dangerously ill, whose life had to be saved . . . (HaRav S. Deutsch)

Questions from the Gemora

Maran said that one had to pose questions like those of the Ketzos Hachoshen and HaGaon R' Akiva Eiger, and not to open up the gemora and begin asking generally, "Why does it say this?" and "Why does it say that?"

R' Akiva Eiger bases his questions upon other sources and proofs, and not just, "What is the logic behind . . . " (HaRav A. Garbuz)

Regarding Driving a Car

Maran maintained that driving a car was a life-risking proposition. He categorically forbade his students from learning to drive or to rent a car.

"Listen," he said, "I am an old, sick man. I don't know how much longer I will live, whether a day or a month. But I am leaving a will, and I am telling you that if any student begins to take driving lessons, don't keep him for even a day! It is forbidden to keep him in yeshiva! He has no business learning to drive; he has to learn Torah, that is his obligation. Lernen, lernen, lernen."


"Every person should institute a schedule of review, whether it be after each perek, after every twenty dapim or upon the completion of a masechta. He should not go on to another masechta until he knows that one thoroughly, and then he should go on and learn a second masechta, and on until he becomes very fluent in an entire seder or two. Without thorough knowledge, one cannot achieve any degree of proficiency in Torah study."

Review always held a major place in his approach. By reviewing each masechta many times, it becomes entrenched in one's memory, to remain there ever after. There was no limit to review. As the Vilna Gaon said to R' Chaim Volozhiner: All your days can be spent in study and review.

In each successive zman, a student should set aside at least half an hour to review what he learned in the previous zman. (Michtavim Uma'amarim)

To Learn with the Primary Rishonim and the Great Acharonim

In his Michtavim Uma'amarim, Part I, Siman 47, Maran writes:

"The primary method is to study gemora, Rashi, Tosafos. If one encounters difficulties, if one is studying with a partner, then working on it together usually clarifies things. One should look up the works of Rishonim, like Ramban, Rashbo, the Ran and the Rif. In masechtos that have Shitah Mekubetzes, one should also look up that. [In summary, just look at] the more famous Rishonim mentioned above and suffice with that.

"To be sure, one should study the prominent acharonim like the Pnei Yehoshua and HaRav Akiva Eiger, but not to pay attention to what the roshei yeshivas of the latter generation said, even from the previous generation, for one cannot rely on that. Instead, one should study the above commentaries."

Maran's grandson, HaRav Ben Zion Bergman shlita, related that in his early years he used to study with Maran every day when he returned from yeshiva for the afternoon break. When he reached shiur alef in yeshiva gedola, they studied the chapter, Naarah Hameorasah, and dwelled at length upon the innovations on it.

Maran asked him, "What did they say about the words of the Ran concerning `Nisroknah?" R' Ben Zion expounded on all the commentaries he had heard on the subject.

Rabbenu listened, and then said, "All that you need to know from what you just said is that the Ran says thus and the Rashba challenges it and replies as he does. The reply is not quite satisfactory, however, and can be reconciled in this manner. But more than that, you need not know at all!"

Rabbenu did the same with regards to his seforim. He made sure that no copies of his own Avi Ezri be on the yeshiva bookshelves, so that the students would not study from them. He said that after the shiur, the students could study from them in order to review.

HaRav A.V. once asked him why he printed his works altogether, if he did not want people to study from them. He replied they were designed for maggidei shiur, or if someone wished to thoroughly clarify a certain subject. But he did not recommend studying from his works on a regular basis. (Hi Sichosi)

The Teachings of the Rishonim Bring the Greatest Pleasure

When we were learning Nedorim, he used to read aloud the longest passages of the Ran, and we waited until he finished. Then he would look up and not notice any particular signs of enthusiasm on our faces. He would turn to us, puzzled, and ask, "Doesn't this interest you? It is so geshmack!"

Everything connected to Torah was like a precious gem, even if it was not a particularly scintillating innovation. Every question and resolution of the Ran was an entire world! (HaRav M. Eichenstein)

Going for Chizuk

A certain orphaned yeshiva student frequently went to different yeshivos for the purpose of chizuk, as was an accepted practice. His widowed mother, however, was afraid that this wandering about would interfere with his chances for a good shidduch. She asked someone to inquire by the Rosh Yeshiva if her protest was valid or if she had nothing to worry about.

I went in and presented the question. Maran asked if the student really learned well during this chizuk, if he saw blessing in his study. If that was the case, he told me to tell the mother that she had nothing to fear. Her son would find blessing wherever he studied, if that was what he felt was good and beneficial for him, no problems would result. (HaRav B. D. Diskin)

Does Preserving Life Supersede Yeshiva?

A father who suffered from heart disease had a son who cleaved to Torah and who went to study in a yeshiva. His father was set against it, for he wanted his son to have a career in the army. When he went so far as to say that his disappointment was shortening his life, the son was at a loss what to do.

I went in to Maran and presented the student's dilemma. Maran thought the problem over very seriously and then said, "If the father wanted his son to study some trade, the question would be valid. But the army represents hefkeirus, unbridled freedom. The father has no right to take his son's life and just waste it, abandon it to futility. There is no question of kibbud av even if it appears to damage him. [On the contrary,] in the merit of his son's Torah he will live longer." (HaRav B. D. Diskin)

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