On the historic day that Rabbi Shlomo arrived to America's shores to serve as rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaas, Reb Yaakov Lipshitz zt"l wrote:
"The prophecy of Rabbenu Hagodol Reb Chaim of Volozhin, has taken on a new meaning."
Reb Chaim Volozhiner had foreseen that Torah was to wander from place to place until it would reach America and finally flourish there.
"Up to now there was no one of the quality and stature of the European yeshivos to transport the Torah to its new home and to transmit it in its original form. With the arrival of R' Shlomo Heiman, a new era of Torah in America has dawned."
R' Shlomo was indeed not only a remnant of the yeshivos of old, but a prince even among the greats of Europe.
While still in Slobodka in Yeshivas Knesses Yitzchok of the gaon R' Boruch Ber zt"l, R' Shlomo was fondly known as "Der Paritcher" after his hometown Paritch. Every bochur in the yeshiva who was mechadesh a chiddush in the gemora would bring it to Rabbenu for his opinion. It was the greatest compliment and joy to the student if R' Shlomo would thoughtfully answer, "Men ken zogen dem pshat (One can say such an approach)" — a clear approbation to his chiddush.
Even his rebbi Reb Boruch Ber, it was told, would show his novellae to R' Shlomo before he gave the shiur, relying on his depth and direct way of thinking.
A talmid from his early days in Torah Vodaas related the following episode:
During a shiur, R' Shlomo posed a difficult kushye. The talmid, one of the outstanding ones in yeshiva, suggested an answer that had occurred to him while preparing for the shiur.
"If that is the answer," questioned Rabbenu, "how would you explain the relevant Tosafos?"
The talmid had an answer, but Rabbenu countered further, "If so, what about the Rashbo?"
"Isn't that why we wait for and attend the shiur?" returned the bochur. "To hear the true pshat from Rabbenu?"
For an hour following this exchange, R' Shlomo clarified the sugya in the most palatable and beautiful form.
After the shiur, the talmid approached R' Shlomo with a perplexed expression.
"If Rabbenu had the clear answer from the start, why did you draw me from one challenge to the next? Rabbenu could have solved the kushya right away."
"My son," replied R' Shlomo, "I wanted to teach you how to navigate the sea of learning. You must know not only the final conclusion to the pshat, but the route by which to reach that destination. It's imperative that you reach an understanding on your own, advancing step by step and rejecting by logic each new answer until you attain, through your own effort, the true pshat."
Rabbenu would exhort his talmidim: "If, when you meet one another, you discuss a kushya and its answer, then years later you'll not be embarrassed to meet again and look back at your youth together. Furthermore, you'll find new solutions to the problems you shared in days gone by.
"However, if you engage in idle chatter now, then in time to come you will only be ashamed to meet again and look back on the old times. This is the meaning of the gemora that tells us, 'One who parts from his friend should do so only with words of halochoh,' for that's how the two will remember each other."
A talmid related that he had already learnt in Rabbenu's shiur in yeshiva for a number of years and now felt he would prefer to learn on his own. Upon expressing his wish to the Rosh Yeshiva, R' Shlomo told him:
"Listen to me. I learned maseches Kesuvos many times in the past. Yet during the past year I decided to study it again. In the course of the year, due to zchus horabim, various pshatim became clarified to me in a new light and I was mechadesh chidushim, too. Believe me you will succeed and grow in your Torah understanding far more if you continue to learn the sidrei hayeshiva."
Even more remarkable is that the masechta mentioned — Kesuvos — had been learnt by Rabbenu by heart when he was drafted in the army during World War One.
There in the trenches he revised and reviewed maseches Kesuvos until he knew it perfectly!
Reb Shlomo Heiman, unfortunately, had no children of his own. But he and the Rebbetzin had a parent-son relationship towards all the talmidim. HaRav Shimshon Pincus zt"l told us that he heard from his father of R' Shlomo and his Rebbetzin's devotion and loving care towards those who were left orphans after the war. Bereft of parents and all close relatives, their needs were taken care of completely, including marrying them off. Since the Rosh Yeshiva had no money to cover those expenses, he and his Rebbetzin duly collected the funds personally.
Once, the Rebbetzin was doing all the wedding preparations for an orphaned girl, who was to marry a talmid of the yeshiva. When it came to ordering flowers she hesitated, deciding how much to pay. Perhaps it wasn't justified to buy expensive flowers if the source of payment was all tzedokoh money?
When she laid her doubts before Rabbenu, he immediately exclaimed, "Chas vesholom! Don't order anything less than the average price that most brides pay. When an ordinary kallah decides to step down and pay less than standard, that's courage and staunchness of principle on her part. With an orphan, however, anything below average will only add to her sorrow and yearning for her mother, with the thought that had her mother been alive everything would have been taken care of properly. In this case, even tzedokoh money must be spent generously."
It was not only in his own circles that Reb Shlomo was so highly respected, but by gedolim covering the entire Jewish spectrum of his time.
At the time when Torah Vodaas was still in Williamsburg, the Skverer Rebbe lived there and became acquainted with R' Shlomo.
Once, someone expressed his opinion to the Skverer against the roshei yeshiva who don't follow the derech hachassidus.
Immediately, the Skverer Rebbe silenced the chossid.
"Don't say such things ever again. I saw him (Reb Shlomo) walking on the street and the Shechina was resting on him!"
Towards the end of a lifetime of true ameilus baTorah, Reb Shlomo suffered a painful illness. His talmid, HaRav Don Ungarsicher, related that during his last days he entered his Rebbe's room to find him in intense pain and suffering.
Hearing Reb Shlomo muttering to himself, Reb Don bent over to listen, "Oib du volst zich gemutchet in lernen, un farshtein lernen, volstu zich nisht gedarft mutchen mit yissurim! (Had you toiled to learn and understand the learning, you would not be tormented now with yissurim.)"
At his large levaya, his great talmid muvhak Rabbi Elya Shisgal zt"l stood weeping bitterly. Upon noticing someone nearby who wasn't crying, he scolded him, "The world has collapsed and you stand by silently?"