Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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7 Adar 5772 - March 1, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Avnei Neizer: HaRav Avrohom Borenstein, zt"l, of Sochatchov

In honor of his yahrtzeit

The shiur of HaRav Berish Borenstein, the rov of Biala, was in full swing in the presence of his great and learned talmidim. In the corner, the rov's young son was listening in to the shiur that was apparently on a level way beyond his years.

Suddenly, the little boy asked a profound question on the sugya. The talmidim were baffled with the kushya and in vain groped to find a solution. Almost immediately little Avrohom gave a clear answer to his own question, proving in its brilliance that the kushya was no problem at all.

Striding over to his clever son, the Rov gave him a light slap on his cheek and sternly told him not to get accustomed to answer so rashly to questions that great talmidei chachomim had difficulty solving.

Years later, the Avnei Neizer was at his sick father's bedside and, to his astonishment, his father Reb Berish began to beg forgiveness of his son. The father explained, "When as a small boy you answered your own difficult question with such ease and speed, I was afraid that you would take pride in your wisdom, chas vesholom, so I brushed off your words and smacked you. However, the truth is that your words were the Torah's truth and therefore I beg your mechilah!"

Humbly, the Avnei Neizer replied, "Already at the time I understood that my answer was correct and your reaction was for the sake of my chinuch. But because of the mitzvah of kibbud av I kept quiet."

At a wedding, a wealthy man came up to the Avnei Neizer, introducing himself as a former classmate in cheder. The Rabbi looked him up and down and then replied, "The difference between us is that you didn't invest any effort into your Torah learning, preferring to rely on your sharp mind, whereas I, when I wanted as a child to learn the `seven types of wisdom,' I contained my desire and directed my talents into my Torah learning."

"Once on a Thursday," related the Avnei Neizer, "I asked my father why he doesn't learn with me the sugya of shikul hadaas in gemora Sanhedrin. My father threw the ball into my court, telling me, `If you want to learn it, who's there to stop you? Go and learn it on your own!'

"I immediately sat down and began to study the sugya, continuing all through the night. Following shacharis the next morning I continued learning, oblivious to the time that was passing until my mother called me to say she had already lit the Shabbos candles. I changed into my Shabbos attire and after mincha and kabolas Shabbos I had time until midnight to learn, for that was when my father was wont to make kiddush. Having finished eating the seudah, I continued learning until it was time to daven shacharis.

"During the second Shabbos meal, my father asked me if I had started learning the sugya. Upon hearing my positive reply, he asked me if I had been mechadesh. Again, I answered in the affirmative. He then started to discuss the sugya, our pilpul continuing until it was almost shki'ah: time for mincha and seudah shelishis. After ma'ariv, we continued learning again without a break until close to midnight."

It is no wonder therefore that the Avnei Neizer at the age of bar mitzva was fluent in Shas Bavli with all the Tosafos.

After his marriage to the daughter of the holy Rabbi of Kotsk, the Avnei Neizer stayed with his father-in-law.

Rosh Hashonoh morning in Kotsk brought its usual aura of holiness. A hush fell over the shul as the time drew near for Tekiyas Shofar. However, the Rabbi's place was empty. Time ticked on, yet the Kotsker was unduly late. Finally, after some time, the Rabbi entered and tefillos continued as though nothing was amiss. It was only in the aftermath of Rosh Hashonoh that someone bold enough asked the reason for the Rabbi's delay and heard the cause.

During the short break before Tekiyas Shofar, the Avnei Neizer went into the small room next to the main beis medrash and became totally absorbed in a difficult gemora. When the Rebbe, on his way to Tekiyas Shofar, passed the room and noticed his son-in-law in a world of his own with the sugya, he stood next to him watching and waiting until he finished. Somewhere in his subconscious mind, the Avnei Neizer noticed he had company and was startled to see the Rebbe himself observing him. He wanted to stop immediately, but the Kotsker urged him, "Continue learning until you've finished and you'll thereby confuse the Soton so that our shofar blowing will have its desired effect!"

The Avnei Neizer expended great effort into lowering himself to the level of the talmidim who learned his shiur. His powerful brain was continuously churning out new chiddushim at a speed that they would have been incapable of grasping. Since he felt it was his mitzvah to teach them he refrained from saying all his thoughts so that his talmidim would understand.

On one occasion when he was asked to slow down a little so that his students could fully comprehend the shiur, he said that before every word emanates from his lips there occur to him twenty possible words in his mind. As it is he is finding great difficulty in condensing his words and thoughts. To condense them even more was beyond his ability.

With mounting excitement, the town of Sochatchov prepared itself for the arrival of their new rov, the Avnei Neizer. A day before he was due to take on his leadership, HaRav Chaim Elozor Wachs zt"l author of Nefesh Chayoh, came to Sochatchov and gave a public drosho. Before finishing, he told the townspeople:

"I want you to know that receiving this new rov of yours is as though you are standing round Har Sinai and receiving the Torah itself. Each one of you must accept the Rov upon himself and make sure to honor him like the honor and respect due to a sefer Torah!"

When the Rebbe of Alexander zt"l was ill, the Avnei Neizer went to visit him and was concerned to hear the sick Rebbe let out a sorrowful sigh upon his entry. The Alexander Rebbe explained that his sigh was not an expression of his physical pain, but, "When I saw the honorable Rebbe the Avnei Neizer at my door, I realized perhaps I am causing a sefer Torah to travel from one place to another needlessly, chas vesholom, a disgrace to the live sefer Torah that you are!"

During his final illness, the Avnei Neizer had great difficulty swallowing food. Seder night came and he wanted to fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzo but was unable to do so. After a few unsuccessful attempts, he began to say the Zohar HaKodosh on Achilas Matzo. As he continued saying the words, his ecstasy escalated until he ate two kezeisim in one go.

When it came to Shulchan Oreich his family, thinking that he had recovered, served him the yom tov fish. However, try as he might, he was unable to eat it.


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