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29 Kislev 5773 - December 13, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Maharam Ash — HaGaon Rabbi Meir Eisenstaedter zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 24 Teves

Rabbenu the Maharam Ash, one of the greatest talmidim of the Chasam Sofer, zy"a, made sure to cleave to his teacher so as to derive lessons from his every nuance. His soul became entwined with that of his Rebbe's to the extent that he felt his life and that of Klal Yisroel depended on the Chasam Sofer. Consequently, the Maharam Ash, for thirty years, would daily lie prostrate on the floor and daven for the well-being and health of the Chasam Sofer. Despite the fact that he was a practicing rov in a few communities while the Chasam Sofer was alive, he never paskened a practical halochoh that wasn't yet printed.


In the year 5592 (1832) there was a devastating earthquake in Tzfas, causing the tragic death of many Yidden. Most of the surviving Jews of the yishuv in Tzfas were left without a roof over their heads.

Unable to rest while Yidden were suffering so, the Chasam Sofer announced that he would cancel his shiur and set off to collect funds to send to them. The decision shocked the talmidim, for anyone of Pressburg and the surrounding area knew that the Chasam Sofer would not cancel a shiur Torah for any reason. Even Yom Kippur night had its hours set aside for learning the Seder Ho'avodah with the talmidim. Likewise, even on Tisha B'Av, there was a shiur on Hilchos Tisha B'Av.

Nevertheless, on this occasion, the Chasam Sofer deemed the mitzvah of supporting those who live in Eretz Yisroel of paramount importance, overriding even his shiur.

Upon hearing of the announcement, the Maharam Ash trembled for, in his words, without the shiurim and Torah of the Chasam Sofer, the world had no [guarantee of] existence.

Unlocking a small cabinet, the Maharam Ash withdrew a small bag, checking its contents carefully. There was a large sum of money: his savings of a lifetime that he had collected over the years in order to marry off his three daughters.

The Maharam Ash traveled to Pressburg, where he presented his teacher with the money.

"Here, Rebbe," he pleaded, "take this money for the poor of Tzfas, but don't cancel the shiur Torah. Meanwhile, I'll go and collect my money again."


The Gaon, Reb Shimon Sofer zt"l, rov of Cracow, related that once, when he was young, he saw the Maharam Ash arriving at their home from out of town. "Although I was young," related R' Shimon, "I sensed by the demeanor of this great talmid of my father that something was bothering him greatly. In answer to my question, the Maharam Ash answered me brokenheartedly, `A few days ago I received a letter from your father, Rabbenu. In contrast to past letters that I have been privileged to get, in this letter one of the titles with which my Rebbe usually addresses me was omitted, giving me no peace. I know that this is no chance, but that behind every action of Rabbenu there lies a deep reason. So I have come to ask.'

"I asked which title was missing and the Maharam Ash replied, `The title "my pupil," was left out. Apparently I must have fallen in madreigoh and am no longer fitting to be the Rebbe's talmid.'

"Immediately I went to my father's room and told him of Maharam's arrival and of his concern over the omission of the word `talmidai' in his letter.

"`What should I do?' replied my saintly father, `How can I give myself the honor of calling the Maharam Ash my talmid? Of late he has risen to great heights and is greater than I in Kodshim and Taharos!' "


So beloved and respected was he by the Chasam Sofer that once, when they were stuck in an halachic argument, the latter forwarded both opinions to the Chavos Da'as, Reb Yaakov of Lisa zt"l, saying, "My friend disagrees with me and I would like to know who is correct."

On another occasion, the shiur reached a standstill with a kushya that no one could answer. "Wait a little while," said the Chasam Sofer. "Soon Rabbi Meir will come and solve the whole problem," as indeed he did.


The Maharam Ash told his talmidim that his greatest regret was for a mistake of his youth. His Rebbe, the Chasam Sofer, wished to learn with him secrets of Kabboloh, but the Maharam Ash, afraid that he was undeserving of such heights, declined. It was this that forever filled him with remorse.


His humility is clearly manifested in a letter written in his own handwriting (that was recently printed in Otzros HaSofer Vol. 12).

Someone had sent him money as pidyon together with a request that the Maharam Ash daven for him. "Who am I to daven for myself let alone on behalf of others?" he writes. He continued that in deference to the sender's respect, he was not returning the money as he would have liked to. He then added that naturally he would daven for him, but on no account should he ever send money as pidyon.


The Divrei Chaim of Zanz related that once on a Shemini Atzeres, the Maharam Ash was about to take leave of the succah. After saying the customary tefillos, he stayed at the succah entrance, unable to part with it. For a long while he remained rooted to the spot until he was heard to say that each plank and every branch of the schach would bear testimony before Hashem that he had kept the mitzvah of succah in its truest sense.


The Maharam Ash was careful not to defile himself in any manner possible. The townspeople were familiar with the sight of the rov going to mikveh via a long, roundabout route so as not to have to pass a church that stood along the most direct way. One of the bishops of that establishment sensed that the rov was deliberately avoiding passing his house of worship and became incensed.

He rallied the gentile public at a meeting and together they decided to ambush the rov on his next walk to the mikveh and to "finish off the old Jew."

However Hashem guards His pious ones. The next day, as the rov began to make his way along his usual circuitous route together with a talmid, a goy walking in the same direction chose to walk between the two, which prevented them from speaking divrei Torah together. This disturbed the Maharam Ash so that he turned on his heel and went by the shorter route, passing the church. The crowd of goyim who saw him realized they had been told a false libel and left him alone.


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