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12 Kislev 5772 - December 8, 2011 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Maran Rosh Hayeshiva — HaGaon R' Elozor Menachem Man Shach, ztvk"l
To mark the end of the sheloshim

Yegias HaTorah

Rabbi Chaim Shlomo Leibovitz heard from a talmid of his grandfather, Rav Boruch Ber zt"l, who had a chavrusa with Maran during the period that the latter got married. He told him that on the Rosh Yeshiva's wedding day, that talmid of his grandfather reasoned he would have some free time, for surely the chosson would be busy. However, the Rosh Yeshiva sat and learned with him until half an hour before his own chuppah.

Furthermore, on the following morning at six o'clock, the chavrusa was awakened by an urgent knocking on his door. To his surprise, there stood the chosson in all his finery. His eyes widened in wonder as he opened the door and Maran asked if he was feeling well. "I've been waiting here for you an hour-and-a-half, wondering why you haven't come to learn," explained the chosson. "I reckoned you're probably not feeling well."

When the Rebbetzin was ill in the hospital and the doctors decided to amputate her leg, the Rosh Yeshiva was informed that the operation would take ten hours. During all that time the Rosh Yeshiva, who was fasting, paced back and forth outside the operating theater without saying a word besides for a short conversation with the Ponovezher Rov when he came to him.

When the ten hours of the operation were over, the Rosh Yeshiva, zt"l, returned home, immediately sat down and began writing chidushei Torah on the Rambam on Hilchos Malveh Veloveh. After one and a half hours writing, a sigh burst forth from his lips that he has no more strength. Only then did the Rosh Yeshiva break his fast. (This story appears in the hesped of HaRav Heisler, who accompanied the Rosh Yeshiva that day, in greater detail.)


When he would walk in the streets, one could see on his face expressions of deep thought and concentration and from time to time he would nod or shake his head, murmuring, "That's not a svoroh," or "this is the correct svoroh." More than once he could be found sitting for four or five consecutive hours thinking through a svoroh.


Neki Kapayim

When the Rosh Yeshiva, zt"l, was a young boy learning in Slutsk in R' Isser Zalman Meltzer's yeshiva, the famous dayan of Brisk, HaRav Simchah Zelig Riger zt"l, sent his son to learn in the same yeshiva. Since the boy needed help with his learning, his father asked Reb Isser Zalman to appoint a bochur who was a talmid chochom to study together with him and he, the father, would pay.

R' Isser Zalman sought out the best bochur for the job and asked his nephew Reb Elozor Menachem to learn with the son of the dayan. At the same time, he knew he was doing his nephew a favor, the boy was truly destitute at the time.

The Rosh Yeshiva zt"l agreed to do as his uncle asked him and he learned with the son of the dayan.

After a month, R' Isser Zalman went to deliver the money R' Simcha Zelig had sent to his nephew. The latter, however, refused to accept a penny, his explanation being that the whole deal was ". . . a mekach to'us. I was told that the bochur needs help in his studies, but I've seen that he learns well and doesn't really need my help." Thus he argued that payment here was incorrect and he refused to accept the money as charity.

R' Isser Zalman was at a loss and decided to ask the advice of his son- in-law, R' Aaron Kotler, zt"l. Surely R' Aaron's sharpness would find a way to resolve the matter and see to it that the Rosh Yeshiva, zt"l, would not refuse to take the money he had earned.

Reb Aaron instantly came up with a brilliant solution. The whole sofek is whether the boy needs help in his learning or not. Give him a test on a difficult Tosafos in Shas which he should study for on his own. If he doesn't do well it's a sure sign that he needs help and Rav Shach will agree to teach him for payment.

The son of the dayan himself later related that he had no idea what R' Aaron was trying to achieve and when he was given the Tosafos to learn for a test, he threw all his strength into learning it well. After much toil and effort he grasped the material and when he was tested he did very well.

When the Rosh Yeshiva, zt"l, heard the results of the boy's exam, he was delighted that here was the raiyoh that he may not accept the money.


Rabbi Meir Heisler, shlita, relates that in 5731 when the Rosh Yeshiva was ill in the hospital, he was there together with the family when the doctor came in. The family began to ask his advice as to the Rosh Yeshiva's condition and treatment and obviously the doctors listened and weighed up carefully the options, standing before Rav Shach with yiras hakovod.

In the middle of the conversation Rav Shach asked his family what they were discussing with the doctor. When he was told that they were considering how to treat him, he announced, "I do not want you to treat me with preference over my neighbor in the next bed, an elderly Yemenite man. What will be with him, will be with me, and anyway," continued the Rosh Yeshiva, "I think it is gezel for the doctor to give me more attention than any other patient. He is paid to treat all patients in the hospital without taking time from one for the sake of another."


R' Meir Zvi Bergman, shlita, son-in-law of HaRav Shach and Rosh Yeshivas Rashbi, claimed that his father-in-law never gave him an approbation for his yeshiva, saying he could not use his status for the sake of his family.

The Rosh Yeshiva was once told that there was a teaching vacancy in Chinuch Atzmai and he could put a word in for his granddaughter so she could receive the job. The Rosh Yeshiva shuddered at the thought. "Do you think I would use my work in Chinuch Atzmai as a tool to gain positions for my family? Never!"


A close talmid of his came to the Rosh Yeshiva with a sefer he had published. Thumbing through the pages, Maran noticed dedications to those who had donated money towards the printing of the sefer.

The Rosh Yeshiva said sharply, "When I printed my sefer Avi Ezri, I took no donations. Instead I printed just a few, sold them and then printed some more."

Seeing the face of his talmid fall, he then added softly, "On the other hand, my uncle, R' Isser Zalman did take money from others for his seforim."


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