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3 Iyar 5768 - May 8, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Telolei Oros
A Collection of Insights about the Torah, following the Order of Prayer, in Honor of Shavuos, the Uplifting Day of Matan Torah

From "Telolei Oros, the Prayer Anthology" by Rabbi Yissochor Dov Rubin, who was niftar last week on Shabbos parshas Kedoshim at the age of 45.

The Importance of Order

HaRav Simcha Zissel of Kelm wrote (it was the first on his list of kabbolos on erev Yom Kippur) that the primary step in education is order.

In connection with the posuk, "And Noah the husbandman began," Chazal explain the word `vayochel' as meaning that Noah changed his lifestyle to a profane one. On the surface, this appears puzzling: What evil lay concealed in the path he chose? After all, surely his aim in planting was to rebuild the world?

Chazal explain his mistake. He should have first worked on other plants. His priorities were wrong. He should not have planted a vineyard as the first effort! This deviation triggered immense corruption in the world.

Elsewhere, Chazal stress the primary significance of order. When Yaakov was getting ready to meet Eisov, he prepared himself in three ways: with presents, prayer, and for warfare. All his preparations were made in advance, and in sequence. Everything was well thought-out beforehand.

The gemora (maseches Sota, 49), brings down the following quote: "From the day the Beis Hamikdosh was destroyed, ... the curse of each day is worse than that of the preceding." On what merit does the world stand? The answer is that the order of the kedusha recitation holds it up.

Rashi explains this as follows: The world stands on the merit of Torah learning and on the reciting of the kedusha (Kodosh, kodosh, kodosh) in its daily sequence! When the Name of the Almighty is sanctified every day in a fixed order, the world stands, as it says (Job 10:22): "A land of gloom, as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death, without any order."

Chazal comment on this: Where order is absent, it is like a gloom; darkness and the shadow of death prevail. In contrast, where order is instituted, light emerges from the darkness. We see the extent to which Chazal emphasize the importance of order; the existence of the world depends on it.

Once in a household there was a great deal of turmoil as a result of the children's escapades. The mother, who was greatly distressed by the chaos in the house, wrote the above posuk on a few notes, and hung them up in several key places around the house. Strangely enough, this had a dramatic effect on the children! They were able to internalize the awareness of how much significance Chazal attached to the trait of order. From then on, order was instituted in the household.


The Kelm Yeshiva was well-known for its stress on the trait of order. The shiur in Kelm began exactly at 9 o'clock in the morning, and by that time the Beis Hamedrash was already filled to capacity. However, at three minutes to nine the hall was only about a third to a quarter full. On the dot of nine, everyone rushed inside. Not a single talmid was missing. Such is the power of strict training to order!

This same emphasis on order was maintained even when the Nazis (may their names be blotted out) entered Kelm and burst into the Yeshiva hall. The bochurim marched to their deaths in a quiet, orderly fashion, with HaRav Daniel of Kelm (zt'l) marching at their head. The Nazis were also paragons of order. HaRav Daniel informed them, "We want to die in a quiet, orderly way, and therefore I wish to have a talk with my students and instruct them how to die." The Nazis agreed and HaRav Daniel explained to his talmidim how to die for the Sanctification of Hashem's Name. Following this, he asked them to sing the niggun of the Neilah prayer: `May He conceal us in the shelter of His hand, beneath the wings of the Divine Presence.' Finally, he told the Nazis, "We are ready now." The Nazis then shot and killed every one of them (May Hashem avenge their blood). Thus, they learned how to live and die with order. Such was the greatness of HaRav Daniel, the great Rosh Yeshiva of Kelm.


The following example illustrates how problems arise in chinuch due to a lack of order. A mother sends her daughter to the grocery store, telling her, "Buy whatever you like." The girl goes and picks out all kinds of items that catch her fancy. Then when she gets to the cash register, she discovers she doesn't have enough money to pay for everything. Obviously, this is an inappropriate way to handle the situation. The mother should have prepared an organized shopping list.

Similarly, when we wish to learn a certain maseches over a year, it is vital to prepare a plan from the beginning of the year, specifying the amount to be learned each day, including review and continuing progress. Detailed planning is very beneficial. The Steipler's advice in learning dinim was to have a daily learning program for the Mishnah Berurah in a specific sequence. Order in learning is most crucial! First the Mishnah Berurah must be gone over and then, as time goes on, the learning can be done in greater depth.

The Importance of Personal Example

Personal example is one of the most helpful factors in education. Chazal say: "If the Rav appears like an angel of Hashem's Legions, seek to learn Torah from his mouth. If not, do not." In our terms, this means that only if the teacher represents a good personal example, i.e., he looks like an emissary of the yetzer hatov, make an effort to learn from him.

The Chazon Ish writes in his sefer, Emunoh Ubitochon: "One of the most damaging situations is having an instructor who is himself not intact. However fine and proper is his teaching, since he has not incorporated it himself, his words will not penetrate his talmidim's hearts. Worse, they will learn more from his deeds than from his shiurim."

The Chazon Ish clearly held that students learn more from a teacher's personal example that from his lecture content. We see here how critical is a teacher's behavior and how vital it is to choose the right teacher!

I once heard of a teacher who knew how to give over material in the most fascinating way. However, in one of her classes she raised the issue of modesty, certainly an important and respected subject. The problem was that the teacher did not impose on herself the standards she was expecting of her talmidos in the lecture. Therefore, the girls burst out laughing!

A teacher can make the most impressive demands, but if she herself does live up to the standard, her words will meet only scorn and derision, will not be taken seriously, and certainly will have no impact on her talmidos.

Avrohom Ovinu was the first Jewish teacher. He gave the young Yishmoel a tender, fine calf to train him in the mitzvah of hospitality. He taught Yishmoel how to carry out the mitzvah of chesed with mesiras nefesh. As we know, this occurred on the third day after Avrohom's bris, the most difficult and painful day. Yishmoel, son of the maidservant, was in a similar situation, it being also the third day after his bris. Despite the enormous difficulty, Avrohom's personal example influenced Yishmoel to fulfill the mitzvah of hospitality with mesiras nefesh. Some say that even up till today the children of Yishmoel excel in the virtue of hospitality due to the impact of Avrohom Ovinu's teachings.

Thus we see the power of genuine education by means of demonstrating mesiras nefesh for a mitzvah, and a personal example.

It is well known that there are countless Jews who sacrificed their lives for a detail in halacha, even a minute one. Clinging tightly to truth and principle, and to the knowledge acquired in their childhood, they never deviated from the straight and narrow path, no matter what conditions they faced. The story of Rav Nachman bar Yitzhak (Shabbos 156), is a case in point. When he was born, the astrologers told his mother, "That one is destined to be a thief." As a preventative measure, the mother constantly kept a head covering on the baby, so that he would be imbued with yiras Shomayim. She always taught Rav Nachman that he should never lift a finger, nor move an inch, without his head covered, and he kept to that. As time went on, he grew up to become a tremendous talmid chochom, and was approached to take up the post of Rosh Yeshiva.

However, before the final decision was made on his appointment, his character was closely examined. On the day that Rav Nachman was called to the yeshiva, he was followed, and his behavior carefully observed. It was a stifling and oppressively hot day, and Rav Nachman bar Yitzhak, who was walking along a path inside a fruit orchard, sat down in the shade of one of the richly laden fruit trees. Soon he leaned backwards and dozed off. When he opened his eyes, he caught sight of a luscious, juicy fruit over his head. His throat was parched with thirst and the fruit was very inviting, so he stretched out a hand to pick the fruit. However, as he inclined his body, with his hand in midair, his head-cover slipped off. Instantly, he recalled his mother's words, managed to overcome his desire for the fruit, and retrieved the head cover. Those who witnessed this act were amazed at the awesome level of yiras Shomayim exhibited by it. Based on this, the decision was made to appoint him as rosh yeshiva.

All the school children since that time have been reared on the foundation of his Torah learning.

On the foundations of that occurrence a child grew up who would one day be appointed the Rosh Yeshiva of Baltimore Yeshiva. The rov in question was in the habit of taking a weekly flight to Miami, staying overnight there, and the following day returning to his home in Baltimore. In Miami, aside from the five hours that he spent sleeping, he would spend every spare moment disseminating Torah and giving shiurim to retired elderly people in numerous Old Age Homes. He kept this up for a long period of time.

On the last flight before he was appointed rosh yeshiva, when meals were served on the plane, the rov opened his bag and took out a sandwich wrapped in foil, prepared for him by his wife. He removed the wrapping from the meat sandwich and the delicious smell of the meatball assailed him. He placed it on the tray in front of him and went to the back of the plane to wash his hands for hamotzi. The rov struggled to maneuver along the narrow aisle, taking care that no one should touch his hands. Suddenly he went pale, and a cold sweat broke out on his forehead. He sat down heavily in his seat. After a few seconds he recited the brochoh of hamotzi and broke off a little piece of the roll his wife had prepared for him. Every so often he broke off a few more little pieces. All the while the person seated next to him (a gentile) did not take his eyes off him. Finally, the gentile could not contain his curiosity and asked, "Is that the way you and other Jewish people generally eat?"

Just another nuisance, the rov reflected and kept quiet. After a moment of silence, the gentile repeated his question, adding that he was not asking in jest. The rov then replied, "Since you really want to know, I will give you an honest reply. When I came back to my seat after I had washed my hands in accordance with Jewish Law, I remembered a Jewish law that I had learned in my youth which says that it is forbidden to eat any meat that is left unobserved. That's the reason I could only eat the home-baked roll."

Now it was the gentile who turned pale and began to tremble. His voice was very high pitched as he said, "Tell me how I can understand and learn more about this amazing Judaism of yours. You should know that because you followed your childhood teaching, you were saved from eating pork, because when you got up from your seat I had a yearning for your delicious smelling meatball and I switched it for the one I was served on the plane."

One hour after he landed in Miami the rov received a call telling him that the Rosh Yeshiva of Baltimore had passed away and that he had been appointed to take his place.


HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky said that we can boost particular areas we wish the talmidim to improve on by telling them stories of tzaddikim as examples. Even though we might be far removed from the lofty heights that the tzaddikim achieved, by setting our sights high we can at least aspire to them and gradually rise up towards them.

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