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8 Tishrei 5771 - September 16, 2010 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Let Us Rejoice And Be Happy With This Torah — Stories and Anecdotes Excerpted from Sorosecho Sha'ashu'oi

by HaRav Eliezer Man Shach

A Great Man's Prayers

Rav Dovid Zimmerman relates: "One Hoshanoh Rabba towards the end of our master's life, a childless avreich arrived at his succah. He and his wife had not had a child for almost twenty years. Our master was in a good mood and even though he usually avoided giving blessings — and would sometimes argue and bargain before agreeing to do so — the attitude he took towards them during Succos was different to that of the rest of the year.

"On this occasion, the avreich witnessed his own salvation. Two talmidim who used to visit our master frequently were there at the time. Our master told the avreich that now was an auspicious time. Together with his two talmidim he convened a beis din and, wearing a very serious expression, he said, `We decree that ploni shall have a healthy child this very year . . .'

"The two talmidim saw that it was a good time for making requests and they asked for relief of their own personal problems. Our master agreed.

"Heaven answered all the supplications that were made on that grand occasion."

The Greatest Blessing

The medrash explains that Yitzchok blessed Yaakov with Torah:

" `The dew of the Heavens' is the Written Torah (which was given from Heaven as we have it);

`And the fat of the land' is Mishnah (which was transmitted by the mortal Sages orally);

`And a multitude of grain' is Talmud (the grain is the main part of the crop and Talmud is the main part of our study of halochoh);

`And of wine' is Aggadah (`Wine gladdens man's heart' (Tehillim 104:15) and so does Aggadah).

(Bereishis Rabba 66:3, according to the explanation of Maharz"u [HaRav Zeev Wolf Einhorn zt'l])

Rav Menachem Savitz of the United States relates: "Once while we were in Eretz Yisroel, we — a group of bochurim — accompanied HaRav Elya Dov Wachtfogel on a visit to HaRav Shach. That day, HaRav Shach was feeling unwell and one of those who were with him asked our whole group to refrain from asking him for blessings. Rav Elya Dov entered HaRav Shach's room and the two of them spoke together privately for fifty minutes.

"Afterwards, HaRav Shach called everybody else to come inside. He took each of us by the hand and said, `Nor Torah (Only Torah), nor Torah, nor Torah,' adding his apologies for not having the strength to give each of us a personal blessing according to our requests.

"Rav Elya Dov pointed out that `Nor Torah' is the greatest blessing in the world.

"HaRav Shach enjoyed his reaction greatly and said, `Rav Elya Dov understands things deeply and correctly'."

And He Appeared to Him and Fell Upon His Neck and Wept More

Rashi (Bereishis 46:29) explains that these words "express profuse weeping . . . but Yaakov did not fall upon Yosef and kiss him; our Teachers explained that this was because he was reciting Krias Shema."

Rav Yosef Sheinin relates: "HaRav Shach's son R' Efraim ylct'a, spent many years in chutz la'aretz. When he returned to Eretz Yisroel with his children, I remember that all the members of our master's family were standing and waiting for him. I was there when he entered the house. Rebbetzin Gutel, his mother, stood up and cried out, `Our son has arrived!'

"HaRav Shach's response was, `Just a few moments and I'll have finished the Tosafos'! "

And They Traveled from Refidim and Came to the Sinai Desert

The Or HaChaim (Shemos 19:2) explains that "the Torah does not merely inform us of the place that they left. It means to tell us that they had moved away from weakness and feebleness and prepared themselves for heavy work . . . for a major part of the preparation for meriting the acquisition of Torah is to be strongly and mightily occupied with it, for laziness ruins its attainment. The Torah alludes to this here, at the receiving of the Torah".

In every respect HaRav Shach embodied being "strongly and mightily occupied with Torah." He was completely untainted by laziness. Throughout his life, day and night, he toiled in Torah uninterruptedly, with every limb and with every ounce of strength.

HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz zt'l, related that Rav Dovid Frankel told him that he once had a strong yearning to see what HaRav Shach's nights were like. He would come every night to watch. Several times each night after the lights had been extinguished, he would see HaRav Shach get up eagerly, put on a light, take a sefer from the bookcase and study it for a minute or two, turn off the light in his room and go back to sleep. He would do this repeatedly in his sleep, a number of times each night. On Monday nights, before Tuesday's shiur kelali in the yeshiva, it would happen with greater frequency, all night long. HaRav Shach's nighttime sleep was a casual thing. His entire being involved being "strongly and mightily occupied with Torah."

Moshe Brought the People Out Towards Hashem

Rashi explains that Hashem arrived at Har Sinai before Yisroel did "differently from the practice of flesh and blood, that a teacher does not await his pupil." The Mishnah Berurah (Hilchos Shavuos) brings the Magen Avrohom, "who cites this as the simple reason for the custom to remain awake all of Shavuos night learning Torah. Yisroel slept that night and Hakodosh Boruch Hu had to wake them in order to receive the Torah, as the medrash says. It is up to us to rectify this."

Rav Menachem Cohen related: "The Brisker Rov zt'l, married off his son Rav Meshullam Dovid ylct'a, in 5715 (1955). The wedding and sheva Brochos were held in Netanya and the Rov invited HaRav Shach to join them for Shabbos and participate in the Sheva Brochos meals. HaRav Shach was very excited at the prospect of spending a Shabbos with the Brisker Rov.

"On one of the next days HaRav Shach met a certain talmid chochom and asked him if would also be taking part in the Shabbos Sheva Brochos.

"When he replied, `I wasn't invited,' HaRav Shach looked at him in astonishment and asked him, `Would you also have waited to be invited to kabolas haTorah?' "

I am Hashem

The Rishonim discuss why all the Aseres Hadibros are in the singular. In the Medrash Tanchumah Chazal explain that "When Hakodosh Boruch Hu spoke, each member of Klal Yisroel said, `He is speaking to me' . . . Rabbi Yossi bar Chanina said, `The speech communicated with each person according to his individual strength.' "

One of the lessons that HaRav imparted is the importance of the Torah study of each and every member of Klal Yisroel, to the point where Hashem's speech at Har Sinai was in the singular, as though addressed to each and every individual.

Rav Yisroel Meir Zachariash told the following story: "In special circumstances that involved fulfilling the mitzvah of kibbud eim, I once needed to travel to America. I visited HaRav Shach at home to consult him and he consented to my going. In the course of our conversation he asked me, `What will happen with your shiur?'

"I told him that not that many people took part and it didn't matter if it stopped.

"His immediate reaction was, `Even if a single Jew takes part in a shiur, one must make sure that it is isn't stopped.' "

Wherever I Make My Name Mentioned, I will Come and Bless You

The gemora (Brochos 6) learns from this posuk (Shemos 20:21) that when a person sits learning Torah, even alone, the Shechinah is with him. In this connection, HaRav Shach would quote the gemora in Gittin (6, about Rav Yonoson and Rav Evyasar) from which the Nefesh HaChaim shows that when a person occupies himself with Torah in this world, every word he utters also emanates, as it were, from the Mouth of Hashem.

The second brochoh of Bircas Hatorah we say, "Who teaches Torah to His people Yisroel" in the present tense and we likewise close the third brochoh with the words "Who gives the Torah" — all the time.

HaRav Shach would often encourage the bochurim to go and learn by telling them, "Your Chavrusa is waiting for you — Hakodosh Boruch Hu learns together with you."

Two and a Half Amos Long, an Amoh and a Half Wide and an Amoh and a Half High

The Baal Haturim points out that, "all the Aron's dimensions were incomplete numbers to teach us that everyone who learns Torah has to break and lower himself".

Rav Avigdor Sondelheim related that he once went to visit HaRav Shach with his brother-in-law, in whose yeshiva one of HaRav Shach's great-grandsons was learning.

"My brother-in-law, the Rosh Yeshiva of our master's great- grandson, started praising the bochur and tried to start a conversation along those lines.

"HaRav Shach's response was, `You should know that success in Torah doesn't depend on abilities. It depends on good character traits. Someone with a fine character can acquire Torah. This is a very profound matter. Many very gifted individuals were unable to fulfill their ambitions and in fact did far worse [than they might have].' "

See and Make According to Their Structures That You Were Shown on the Mountain

The Yalkut says, "This teaches us Moshe's praiseworthiness. He acted in accordance with what Hashem told him." The fact that Moshe acted as he was commanded, according to what he was shown on the mountain, without adding or subtracting anything, is praiseworthy.

The author of Keli Yakar writes in his sefer Olelos Efraim about the Torah's warning not to add to or subtract from any of the Torah's mitzvos, "Don't add and then you won't come to subtract. In other words, don't bring yourself to the point where you subtract. If you add, then you'll end up subtracting, along the lines of `Whoever adds, takes away'."

HaRav Shach was a staunch defender of the form and character of the yeshivos. He would repudiate any proposals to institute changes, even the very slightest ones, to the original form of the holy yeshivos.

HaRav Chaim Zeev Schneider related: Two talmidei chachomim headed one of the yeshivos for baalei teshuvoh. They wanted to make a certain change in the way their yeshiva was run, for the benefit of the talmidim (who numbered about thirty). When HaRav Shach heard about it, he viewed it as something that should be opposed and he called the two heads of yeshiva to his home. He sat with them for two hours, despite his advanced age and the raised temperature that he had that day, explaining the dangers of the step they were contemplating.

In the course of his conversation with them, one of the household entered and hinted to the visitors that they were staying too long. When our master noticed, he rebuked the fellow and said, "I'm looking after my health, don't worry!"

He continued reviewing every detailed aspect of the situation with them — what they should do and how they should do it and explaining his position to them. Amongst other things he told them, "I am the last one left who saw the yeshivos in their glory before the First World War and I remember how the yeshivos were then. I feel that I am responsible for preserving the character of the yeshivos!" He added, "This is the most important thing to me. The yeshivos are the apple of me eye!"

Although they were discussing a yeshiva for baalei teshuvoh, that had only thirty talmidim and no individual "tradition" of being a yeshiva, since the institution called itself a yeshiva, it was incumbent upon its leaders to preserve the authentic character of the holy word "yeshiva".

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