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13 Adar I 5774 - February 13, 2014 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 19 Adar 5755-1995

The talmidim of Kol Torah were astounded. Reb Shlomo Zalman, the rosh yeshiva, raising his voice? It was well known that even when he had to rebuke people, Reb Shlomo Zalman's message was always given over in a calm, quiet way, even if the contents were sharp.

So what had happened?

It was on erev Purim and the atmosphere was already lightheaded. Walking into the yeshiva, Reb Shlomo Zalman noticed a poster that had been put up on the wall. Phrases from gemora caught his eye and he stopped to read it. His face, however, darkened as he saw mockery of various persons in the yeshiva, cleverly using the nusach of the gemora.

Reb Shlomo Zalman strode into the dining room and actually shouted at the boys, reprimanding them and putting things into their correct perspective. When it came to honoring the kovod of other people, there was no room for pleasantries or excuses.

Once, at a gathering attended by gedolei Torah and their talmidim, one of the rabbonim began to sing. A ripple of barely suppressed laughter passed through the hall. As he continued, the laughter became louder. One person sat in his chair with a totally straight face. Later, Reb Shlomo Zalman was asked how he managed to keep himself back from laughing while everyone else found it impossible.

"It's a question of halbonas ponim," replied Reb Shlomo Zalman simply. "How can one possibly smile?"

The logic was explained by Reb Shlomo Zalman on another occasion.

In Yerushalayim, the levaya of HaRav Moshe Feinstein took place on Purim. A family member asked Reb Shlomo Zalman, "How is it possible? On the one hand we must rejoice because it's Purim, and on the other we must mourn the passing of the godol hador" — implying that the levaya was disturbing the simchah of Purim.

"We are no more than soldiers fulfilling our duties," explained R. Shlomo Zalman. "A soldier obeys the commands given him, with no questions asked. If we have been commanded to feel joy and sadness, then that is what we will do. It is Hashem's command that leads and directs our every move."

The same rule stood when it came to Yom Kippur. Many a shailoh was forwarded to Rabbenu before the holiest of days by people who had been directed by a doctor not to fast due to ill health. They would ask R' Shlomo Zalman how they could possibly eat on Yom Kippur.

Rabbenu would explain that the same Ribono Shel Olom who commanded us to fast on Yom Kippur, told us to look after our health.

To one person who sighed and complained he cannot transgress an issur, Rabbenu answered sharply, "Your words contain a whiff of apikorsus."


"In the gemora Sanhedrin, it says, `One who says, "Of what use to us are the Rabbonim," is an apikorus.' This is because he judges day-to-day matters according to his own logic and doesn't consider himself subservient to rabbonim on everything.

"In this case, if a rov paskened that you may not fast, you must accept without questioning."


When it came to Neiloh Reb Shlomo Zalman was extremely makpid that the tefilloh not continue longer than motzei Yom Kippur. He would say that this is no insignificant matter to shrug off as unimportant and irrelevant.

Rather, it is particularly during this exalted time that one must think of others and not prolong the fast by lengthy davening.


It was the month of Nisan and in Yerushalayim spring was spreading its blossoms all over. A young man walking through the Shaarei Chesed neighborhood came upon Reb Shlomo Zalman facing a blossoming tree and reciting the special brochoh "shelo chissar" that is said during this month.

Turning to Rabbenu, the man pointed out that in another courtyard not far off there was a place where two blossoming trees grew together and perhaps it's better to recite this once-a-year brochoh with that extra hiddur.

"I know of the Chida's chumroh brought in his sefer Avodas Hakodesh," smiled Reb Shlomo Zalman. "I'm also well acquainted with every stone and tree in our Shaarei Chesed neighborhood. But, my dear friend, just look up at the window facing us."

Through the window, the radiant face of a certain almonoh could be seen. "Every year the woman waits for this season to come around, anticipating the day when I'll come to recite the brochoh over her blossoming tree. How can I forgo the joyous tears of an almonoh for the sake of a chumroh in my mitzvah."


Chol Hamoed was always a strenuous time for Reb Shlomo Zalman, with visitors and sheilos coming and going constantly, and of course a yom tov is a time for extra limud Torah, too. Yet one year Chol Hamoed Sukkos found Reb Shlomo Zalman leaving his house and making his way to the dwelling of a godol who had passed away some months earlier. Rabbeinu went to visit the almonoh to bring her some yom tov joy.

Upon his return, Reb Shlomo Zalman remarked to his family, "Usually on yom tov this woman had a bustling house with visitors streaming in and out in honor of her distinguished husband. I wanted to lessen the sorrow and pain that she must surely be feeling now that her husband has passed away and no one steps into her house."

Indeed, the widow was delighted that Reb Shlomo Zalman had come and even admitted to him "The Rav is my first visitor this yom tov!"


Rabbenu himself related that when he was a young bochur he was standing in a public place, involved in a Torah dispute with one of his rebbes. The older godol was an impatient person and, in the middle of the argument, he made an insulting remark.

When they had finished talking, several older bochurim came over to Rabbenu to placate him and explain that this Rebbe often used sharp language and he shouldn't be hurt by the remark.

"But I didn't feel any of this at all," continued Reb Shlomo Zalman. "Because when one is deeply involved in divrei Torah, one doesn't notice these trivial things."

Indeed, since Reb Shlomo Zalman was constantly involved in divrei Torah, he never stood up for his own honor at all.


A certain talmid chochom who had publicly criticized Reb Shlomo Zalman and his psakim was once seen passing by Rabbenu's house. Upon seeing him, Rabbenu ran out and welcomed him.

More than a little embarrassed, the man asked Rabbenu in surprise if the Rov wasn't annoyed with him. Swiftly, the Rov changed the subject and engaged the talmid chochom in a Torah discussion, after which they became true yedidim.


In the sefer Halichos Shlomo, published by the grandchildren of Reb Shlomo Zalman, a story is told.

A close talmid revealed to Rabbenu that he had just come from the hospital, where doctors had discovered he was terminally ill, R"l. They had admitted there was nothing they could do to save his life.

To his great surprise, Rabbenu spoke to him earnestly:

"You should know that you ought to rejoice that you have been informed from Heaven in advance and are able to prepare yourself for the journey ahead to the World of Truth. Now is the time to appease and ask forgiveness from anyone you have insulted or harmed and do teshuvoh for your sins bein odom lechavero, sins that cannot be atoned until the person is appeased. How unfortunate are those who are torn from this world suddenly with no warning. They cannot ask forgiveness of their fellow man, and then must suffer terribly in the next world."

Such is the perspective of a tzaddik. Zechuso Yogein Oleinu.


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