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26 Tammuz 5773 - July 4, 2013 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaRav Yisroel Yehoshua Trunk, zt"l, Rov of Kutna

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 25 Tammuz (5653)

"One cannot say that this generation is a dor yosom — an orphaned generation," commented once the Chiddushei Harim, "for we have in it R' Shiele!" This, when the latter was just a young man.

From his youth and right through to his old age, R' Shiele did not stop learning and being mechadesh Torah.

Even in his last year, when he was told that his learning was bringing on debilitating illness and that it was too hard for his heart, R' Shiele refused to stop. As he explained to his family, "Life without Torah is not the life of a human being, but that of an animal, and I am not prepared to live like an animal in the field."

Upon coming across a difficulty that he could not solve, even after methodically analyzing from all directions, Rabbeinu would walk over to the aron hakodesh and cry to Hashem, "Hashem, You gave us a Torah and I do not understand it." He would then return to his learning and reach a resolution.

When R' Shiele learned, he would see, hear and feel nothing but his learning.

When he first became a rov, it was in the small town of Vorka. The majority of the Jews there were poor and the pious Rebbetzin was finding it hard to make ends meet — even to the extent of having enough to feed the children adequately. When the larger community of Poltish asked that he become rov in their town, the Rebbetzin accepted without R' Shiele's knowledge.

The question remained of how to get Rabbeinu to his new job. No problem, the Rebbetzin said. In the morning when R' Shiele says bircas haTorah, he knows nothing of what goes on around him. Subsequently, he begins learning immediately and one can do anything one wishes, even transfer him to another city, without him noticing, so engrossed is he in his Torah learning.

The delegation from Poltish arrived quietly one night and the next morning, before the city was up, they clandestinely carried out their "kidnap."

Upon gathering in shul for shacharis, the Jews of Vorka saw that the rov was absent. A messenger sent to the house returned with a strange report: The rov and his family disappeared and the house is empty.

At that point a neighbor recalled having heard voices whispering in hushed tones about preparing a carriage for the Rov. It had been so early in the morning that he had dismissed it as a dream. Apparently the voice had been real and the Rov had been taken away.


R' Shiele's attendant would prepare a drink for his rebbe every night before retiring. During the night if R' Shiele became thirsty, he would sip from the cup. One night the shamash mistakenly prepared a glass of strong liquor instead of water. Two hours later, realizing his mistake, he rushed to Rabbeinu's room to prevent him from drinking. Too late. The Rebbe had already drunk, but had been so absorbed in his Torah thoughts that he had not noticed the difference in taste.

"I'm feeling somewhat dizzy today," he informed the shamash, without knowing why.


The Rebbetzin would relate that her husband had no idea what the local currency looked like. Once, when a poor man came to the door asking for charity, R' Shiele asked his wife to give a generous donation. She did so, but the Rov, not knowing the value of the coins, reprimanded her, "Why so little? Give him more."


When writing his teshuvos, his thoughts would flow so fast he was unable to contain them. He would begin writing on a paper and, when he came to the end, continue writing on the table itself.


Once, on a visit to the famous gaon R' Avrohom of Tchechenow, the two were discussing a certain gemora. R' Shiele quoted from the gemora, whereupon R' Avrohom corrected him that the gemora does not say those words. He brought out the gemora and was indeed shown to be correct. R' Shiele, however, was still sure of himself and decided that the gemora in Tchechenow had been printed with an error.

A few minutes after leaving, R' Shiele recalled that he had been wrong and wished to ask R' Avrohom's forgiveness. In humility, he removed his shoes and reentered R' Avrohom's room. No sooner had he stepped in, than the two of them became caught up in a lively Torah discussion. R' Shiele totally forgot the reason for his return until his host, R' Avrohom, suddenly noticed that his guest was standing there without shoes. Upon seeing this, R' Avrohom asked why he was barefoot. R' Shiele remembered that he had originally come back to ask R' Avrohom's forgiveness.


Rabbeinu was by nature a sharp person, but had a soft spot for anyone who was a talmid chochom. His love for Torah and those who studied it was immense and he would go to any lengths to help a talmid chochom.

Upon learning that the Avnei Nezer, at the time the rov in the small town of Prozavi, was living on the brink of poverty, Rabbeinu worked hard to help him. He traveled to Krushenevitz, a large town not far from Kutna, and gathered the Jews together.

"Rabbosai," he announced, "When I was in Warsaw for a simchah, I met a distinguished avreich. We spoke in Torah and I saw he had great power in Torah. Such a godol in our generation is indeed rare. I would suggest that you appoint this man as rov in your town."

R' Shiele praised the avreich so much and spoke of him so highly that the people already promised to appoint him to the position. "Just tell us who he is." And Rabbeinu revealed that he was referring to the Avnei Nezer.

Indeed R' Shiele epitomized the love of a fellow Jew that he referred to when discussing the Keruvim of the Oron in the Mishkon. "The Keruvim," he would say, "had wings going upwards but faced each other, to remind us that even when we strive to rise in madreigoh we should constantly turn to our fellow Jew to see how we can help him."


Rabbeinu himself related an amazing incident. Once in the evening R' Shiele had paskened a halacha. Later it occurred to him that the ruling might have been wrong and perhaps he had misled the questioner. As he was weighing the options, fatigue overcame him and he fell asleep.

In a dream he saw the holy Chasam Sofer appearing to him. The latter instructed R' Shiele to look into the sefer of teshuvos of the Chasam Sofer, pointing to the exact chapter. "There you will see that your psak was correct."

Upon awakening, R' Shiele checked the reference and was assured that he had indeed been right the first time.


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