Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Shvat 5772 - February 2, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Mashgiach" Reb Yeruchom Levovitz, zt"l

In Honor of His Yahrtzeit, 18 Sivan

The long nails of the maskilim were digging ever deeper into the walls of holiness in Am Yisroel. Particularly targeted and all the more vulnerable were the bochurim of the yeshivos, whom the maskilim knew were steeped in Torah's wisdom. They drew them into arguments, intending to sow seeds of doubt in their hearts — seeds that often took root and then grew, leaving the young boys confused, and eventually leading them astray.

Against this backdrop, the Rosh Yeshiva of Mir was searching for a suitable mashgiach for the great Mirrer Yeshiva; a mashgiach whose strength lay not in his deeds only but also in his word power, to counteract the wily words of the `enlightened' apostates and to create a firm grounding and atmosphere for the yeshiva bochurim; a mashgiach who could thwart the danger from this ever-present enemy attacking from within and without.

These qualities he found in R' Yeruchom and from the day he stepped into Mir, R' Yeruchom charged it with its unique atmosphere, famous until today.

R' Yeruchom's background was Torah and yir'oh. After his marriage, he left home to learn in the renowned talmud Torah of Kelm, where he sat and learned for ten years continuously, returning home only twice a year for Pesach and Succos.

Such was the respect engendered by R' Yeruchom, even from the non-Jews that, towards the end of his life during his final illness, the gentile neighbors laid grass on the roads surrounding his house so that the Mashgiach would not be disturbed by the noise of passing carriages and wagons.

During the years that he was mashgiach in Mir, R' Yeruchom yearned to leave this holy work and return to his studies and tikkun hamiddos in Kelm. His sense of duty, however, bade him stay and, undecided, he consulted the "Goral HaGra." The posuk he found was from Shemos (25,15), "The poles shall be in the rings of the Aron, they shall not be removed from it," a clear indication that R' Yeruchom should stay, assisting those who were learning Torah and not desert them.

The Mashgiach tried to give over the spirit of Torah and mussar that he had imbibed in Kelm. "I once went to visit Reb Nochum Velvel Ziv, zt"l, the son of the Alter of Kelm. I found him crying bitterly over the petiroh of his brother-in-law, the tzaddik, R' Zvi Hirsch Broide, although quite some time had already passed and the mourning period had long since been over.

"`Isn't it forbidden to mourn over the deceased longer than prescribed by the Shulchan Oruch?' I asked.

"Replied R' Nochum Velvel, zt"l, `The gemora says that if a person cries more than three days over the dead, HaKodosh Boruch Hu tells him, "That's enough, you need not have more mercy than I." This refers to when one cries for the niftar himself. However, when I cry for myself, bemoaning the fact that I no longer have my rebbe to guide me, the longer the time since my Rebbe's death, the greater the pain and deeper the loss."

He further explained with a moshol.

A philanthropist took upon himself to fully support a destitute family, supplying their every need. Every month they received a generous stipend, enabling them to live comfortably and even to put away some savings.

When this rich benefactor passed away, the poor family mourned his death, knowing they had sustained a great loss. As time passed and their food supply dwindled, their sadness grew. When they had to use their savings, all the more so. However, after an even longer time, when they were left totally destitute again — then their sadness knew no bounds.

"I am the poor man," concluded R' Nochum Velvel, sadly, "and the more time passes, the more profoundly I feel that I am bereft of my guiding light."

"This is how a tzaddik in Kelm spoke and felt!" explained the Mashgiach.

Not only did R' Yeruchom teach the bochurim, but it was in his zchus that the whole yeshiva was saved from decimation at the hands of the Russian Army.

For the tefillos of Rosh Hashana, the Mirrer Yeshiva would move over to the large beis haknesses which shared a courtyard with the other, smaller botei knesses of Mir. There they would daven together in one building, the older bochurim together with the younger ones, under one roof.

Once, in the middle of davening, word spread that the Russian police had surrounded the courtyard and were intending to carry out a search for deserters. Almost all the yeshiva boys were guilty of forsaking their army duty.

Fear and tension gripped the yeshiva as they tried to decide what would be the best way to try to escape detection. Should they disperse throughout the various minyanim and try to camouflage themselves among the elderly members and married men? Or should they just lie low and stay where they were, to avoid undue attention?

The majority were of the opinion that the safest would be to spread out among the other shuls, but for the final decision they turned to R' Yeruchom. The latter pondered for a few long moments and, to everyone's astonishment, bade all the bochurim stay together to daven.

Perhaps the unity of their tefillos would pierce the heavens and HaKodosh Boruch Hu would save them from this tzoroh.

A unique tefillas Rosh Hashana began, one that would remain forever etched in the hearts and minds of all those present.

With the proverbial sword at their necks, the yeshiva prayed as never before, each boy knowing his very life hung in the balance.

And lo — a nes golui. The Russian soldiers began their search, methodically going through each of the shuls, leaving no `stone' unturned. Systematically they went from one minyan to the next, while the tefillos in the Mirrer Yeshiva became ever quieter yet ever more fervent.

As though the largest beis haknesses were invisible, the Russian gendarmes ignored it and left the compound. Never before or since was "Mi yichyeh umi yomus" said with such devotion.


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