Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Menachem Av 5772 - July 26, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky, zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit: 5th Av

With the progression of World War II, the large city of Vilna became a haven for Jews of all the areas around it. Hoping that the Nazi scourge would take longer to reach and overcome Vilna, they converged on the city, swelling its population day by day.

As the Rov, R' Chaim Ozer had much of the responsibility for everyone on his hands, his house became not only a "beis vaad lachachomim" but for everyone and anyone who was going through a hard phase (and who wasn't?). All found an open door and an even wider open heart ready to come to their aid.

A classic example of R' Chaim Ozer's ability to "multitask" was told by the Brisker Rov, R' Yitzchok Zeev Soloveitchik, zt"l.

When the latter arrived in Vilna, he went straight to the house of R' Chaim Ozer, where the conversation, beyond the initial greeting, turned into a deep Torah discussion at once. The Griz began with the chiddushim he had worked out while fleeing Warsaw to Vilna, and R' Chaim Ozer continued in pilpul.

When they had finished their lengthy discussion in Divrei Torah, R' Chaim Ozer amazed his guest by telling him that while they had been talking he had arranged board and lodging for R' Yitzchok Zeev and that a meal was ready for him. Thus he was known to be able to learn Torah, listen to the brokenhearted tale of a widow pouring out her woes to him, while at the same time reading the many letters sent to him from all over the world.


R' Chaim Ozer's care for a fellow Jew above and beyond his own concerns was legendary.

R' Chaim Ozer's daughter was deathly ill, her condition deteriorating daily. On the day that was to be her last, Rabbeinu mysteriously locked himself into his room, leaving strict instructions that under no condition may he be disturbed, even for a matter of pikuach nefesh, until he would leave his room.

In the adjacent room, the sick girl lay surrounded by the doctors who had been summoned by the family. As the minutes ticked by, those present saw her life ebbing away. Their fervent whispers of Tehillim were transformed into a loud, desperate cry, culminating in a calling out of Shema Yisroel. Much as they wished to call R' Chaim Ozer, his forewarning restrained them and nobody dared to knock on his door. Surely he was pouring forth the prayers from the depths of his heart for the recovery of his only daughter.

Apparently, however, the gates of heaven were closed to their prayers, and the girl's gezeiroh had been sealed. She breathed her last without her father's presence at her side, and still no one dared to call the now bereaved R' Chaim Ozer. He had explicitly forbidden them to call him even for a matter of life and death, and so the family waited.

After an hour, the Rov emerged from his room and inquired as to his daughter's welfare. Upon being told the bitter news, he tore keriah and then entered her room to mourn his loss.

During the shiva, a family member asked R' Chaim Ozer what he had been doing when he was alone in his room during his daughter's last moments. Why did he forbid the family to disturb him? Surely he was aware of the severity of the situation as well as they were? Surely he too felt that the end was near. Why did he not allow them to call him?

Rabbeinu's reply supersedes all we have heard or seen in bein odom lechavero.

"Yesterday I received a difficult sheiloh concerning an agunah, a woman whose husband has disappeared without a trace. She has suffered to the end of her tether and is waiting for a heter to remarry. Due to the complexity of the situation, I knew the matter required learning hilchos agunah well and concentrating fully on the subject so that I could determine the correct psak.

"Knowing full well that my daughter's life was slipping through my hands, I realized that if I would have to sit shivah, I would be forbidden as an ovel to learn. The unfortunate agunah would have to wait another whole week to receive an answer. Another agonizing week of painful uncertainty. How could I be the cause of such sorrow for such an extended amount of time?

"I decided to gather my wits and concentrate on the subject with all the power I could muster in this difficult time, to look into the halachos and permit her to marry again and start her life anew.

"After I had done so I would find out what had happened to my daughter."


His greatness not withstanding, R' Chaim Ozer's humility almost reached a degree of self-deprecation.

The great war against the spiritual foes of Klal Yisroel, the maskilim, was on in full force. It was just during this time that R' Chaim Ozer was appointed rov of Vilna, much to the chagrin of his "enlightened" adversaries.

They fought against the new rov tooth and nail, spreading rumors about him and causing him no end of trouble, until the Chofetz Chaim publicized a letter in which he made clear his support for R' Chaim Ozer and his opposition to the maskilim.

They then turned their wrath on the Chofetz Chaim, announcing that he himself had fallen into the trap of loshon hora.

A second public notice was sent out by the Chofetz Chaim, proclaiming that in a case like this, where the kovod haTorah of R' Chaim Ozer is at stake, not only is it allowed but it is even a mitzvah to write such a letter.

The Brisker Rov related that at this point they spread terrible libelous reports about R' Chaim Ozer, hurting him to such an extent that he was heard to say concerning one of them:

"What does the fellow want of me? Don't I send him food every Friday morning, for him and his family, to last him all through the week?!"

Added the Griz, "Even following this incident, R' Chaim Ozer continued his great chesed towards this particular person, sending him the weekly food packages as always, despite the anguish he was continuously causing him.

The dayan of Krinick, HaRav Chizkiyohu Yosef Mishkovsky, zt"l, relates a story that occurred in his presence while he was discussing divrei Torah with R' Chaim Ozer.

"We were in the middle of talking when someone burst into the room and began shouting at Rabbeinu, berating him for not recommending that his father be appointed rov of a certain kehilla (for according to R' Chaim Ozer the man was not suitable to the post).

Since Rabbeinu did not reply to the man's ranting, he turned even worse and spoke in a terribly chutzpadike manner, spewing out shameful epithets and expressions. Retaining his calm demeanor, R' Chaim Ozer arose, moved over to the next room and continued his Torah conversation with me.

"When I asked him," continued the Rov of Krinick, "`Doesn't patience have a limit, too? Can one just allow such a brazen person to speak to the Rov as he wishes?"' The Rov answered me in his sweet, sincere way, 'What do you want of him, he is just concerned for his father's honor!'"


One summer, R' Chaim Ozer was going out of town. He was offered a choice of two houses for his holiday. One was spacious, beautifully kept and clean, but the kitchen was set apart from the other rooms. The other lacked the luxury of the first, but its kitchen was close to the dining room.

Naturally the Rebbetzin wished to take the first house and R' Chaim Ozer, too, was so inclined. However, he suddenly had a change of mind.

"Let's ask the opinion of the maid. After all, she's the one who has to go to the trouble of bringing the food from the kitchen to the dining room, where she'll serve us. Perhaps, just for the sake of luxury she will not be too pleased to go to the other end of the house from the kitchen." And so the decision was made according to the wishes of the maid.


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