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1 Av 5759 - July 14, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Chassidus Ashkenaz Restored: HaRav Yechiel Schlesinger zt'l -- 9th Adar 5759, His Fiftieth Yahrtzeit
By Moshe Musman, based on the writings of Rabbi Aharon Surasky and Rabbi Sholom Meir Wallach

Part I


HaRav Yechiel Schlesinger zt'l, rosh yeshiva and founder of Yeshivas Kol Torah, Yerushalayim, lived - almost - in our own times. His yeshiva, one of the largest and best known in Eretz Yisroel today, has a major role in the growth of the Torah community there, and in other countries. The most important and immediate lessons to be learned from him are to be gained from studying his character: his love of Torah, his brilliance, his human qualities, his zeal and alacrity, his single-minded dedication to spreading Torah and above all, his fear of Heaven and of sin, that are noticeable at every point in his life. Yet our account starts long before HaRav Schlesinger was born, and it includes much background material along the way, on the premise that the more detailed the portrayal and the fuller the context, the greater will be the impact of his story.

The spiritual and cultural tempest which beset German and Central European Jewry over two centuries ago with the coming of the "enlightenment," ravaged the spiritual glory of old and established communities that had existed in those lands for many hundreds of years. In the birthplace of the Reform movement, by the mid-nineteenth century, there remained in the large cities, relatively speaking, just a handful of families that remained steadfast in their faith and in their commitment to Torah. Yet those few still exemplified the deep yet simple faith, the Torah scholarship, the righteousness and piety and the nobility of character that had once typified the Jews of their lands.

From amongst them arose a number of valiant individuals, who led the faithful remnant and voiced their protest over the grave damage that had been and was being wreaked upon their brethren. However, even though gedolei Yisroel of the stature of the Oruch Leneir, the Wurtzburger Rav and HaRav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt'l, were worthy defenders of authentic Judaism, revered by all segments of world Jewry, they could not reverse the clock. It was too late to repair the damage caused by the tides that had passed over German Jewry and swept its spiritual treasures away.

Besides these gedolim, whose names and work have remained well-known to Torah Jews all over, there existed numerous other great individuals, who lived, who taught and who led the faithful among the German communities. Their spiritual stature too, recalled the chassidei Ashkenaz in the period of the Rishonim and was a continuum with the glory of German Jewry during the five centuries that followed. It was to these men that the Seridei Eish was referring when he wrote, "It ought to be recorded for posterity that amongst the German rabbonim were tzaddikim, men of piety and holiness, to whom multitudes would have flocked in other countries, to benefit from the radiance of their Torah and [their] yirah" (ShuT Seridei Eish, chelek II, siman 53).

Many of these great men are not better-known today both because of their own deep humility and also because owing to what had happened -- and the fear of it happening elsewhere -- it unfortunately became common to regard German Jewry in its entirety as being somehow tarnished. And indeed, despite the presence of such truly illustrious individuals, there was no way back for the multitudes. It was only along HaRav Hirsch's path of Torah im Derech Eretz that sizable numbers of Yidden were able to remain within or to rejoin, the ranks of Orthodoxy.

In the following articles, we survey the ancestry, the life story and the work of one of the contemporary chassidei Ashkenaz: HaRav Yechiel Schlesinger zt'l.

Although HaRav Schlesinger only attained his full stature by drinking from the Torah wellsprings of the Hungarian and Eastern European yeshivos of his time, he represented a type of greatness that is associated with earlier generations of German tzaddikim. He blended Torah greatness with exceptional piety, absolute integrity and intense holiness. A scion of a long and noble line of German Jewish ancestors, HaRav Schlesinger was a key figure in the transplantation of one of the withered branches of German Jewry to the holy soil of Eretz Yisroel, where it flourished anew, in healthy spiritual surroundings.

HaRav Schlesinger's immediate goal upon arriving in Eretz Yisroel in mid 5699 (1939), was to establish a yeshiva for the sons of the olim and refugees from the German lands. Although the number of such families among the Torah faithful members of the new yishuv was continually increasing, there was no Torah institution to cater to their own distinctive character and orientation. The need for such an institution was urgent, for the result of them not finding their place in the Torah community would likely be their absorption into institutions that belonged to other, less committed ideologies. HaRav Schlesinger also envisioned the establishment of a Torah community grouped around the yeshiva, that would work to recapture some of the spiritual glory of German Jewry in its heyday.

Heaven willed otherwise however, and the vision was not realized in its entirety. After literally giving his entire life to his talmidim and to the yeshiva which he built for them, HaRav Schlesinger was called to the yeshiva shel ma'aloh at the early age of fifty, just under ten years after the yeshiva's opening. In the half century that has passed since then, the institution which he founded in Yerushalayim with such purity of intention and self- sacrifice, has flourished. Yeshivas Kol Torah gradually became, and today remains, one of the largest and foremost yeshivos gedolos in Eretz Yisroel, where some of the finest students in Eretz Yisroel's yeshiva community learn alongside many bochurim from communities all around the world whom the yeshiva attracts. In many respects, the indelible impression of HaRav Schlesinger's ideals and ambitions has always shaped the yeshiva and the education it has provided, as the thousands of alumni in Eretz Yisroel and around the Jewish world attest.

Our survey of the rosh yeshiva's family background -- peopled by eminent personalities who are worthy of study in their own right -- is followed by the story of his yeshiva years in some of the prewar Torah centers of Hungary, Germany and Lithuania, and the period of his rabbonus in Frankfurt which culminates in the riveting account of his and his family's last minute escape from Nazi Germany.

With HaRav Schlesinger's arrival in Eretz Yisroel, the focus of story shifts to the painstaking work of establishing a yeshiva tailored for the needs of a particular group, while remaining dedicated to the highest ideals of the yeshiva world, and the ongoing, sober yet impassioned presentation of age-old truths to the wider community, upon which the success of such an endeavor depends. Above and beyond the fascinating interaction of differing traditions and approaches which was played out in HaRav Schlesinger's experiences, and most important for us, is the portrait which emerges of a great marbitz Torah who dedicated every fiber of his being to drawing his fellow Jews closer to Torah and to raising new generations of bnei Torah, who would always remain firmly bound to the strong roots he enabled them to sink in the beis hamedrash.

@SUB TITLE = Reb Getschlik Schlesinger: Talmid of the Oruch Leneir

In 5596 (1836), HaRav Yaakov Ettlinger zt'l, the author of the Oruch Leneir, set out from Mannheim, where he had headed his own yeshiva in the town's kloiz for ten years, on his way to Altona in response to that community's invitation that he serve as their rov. He was accompanied in this move by two of his greatest and closest talmidim, who were to assist him in opening a yeshiva in his new domain.

One of the two was HaRav Elyokim Getzel Schlesinger zt'l (who was also known as Reb Getschlik), to whom several teshuvos in Binyan Tzion and in Oruch Leneir on Yevomos are addressed. Some of the details of that trip, which have been handed down by family members, give an idea of the complete dedication to Torah and the degree of immersion in its study which typified those generations.

As the two talmidim did not possess sufficient means to hire a coach, they made their way from Mannheim to Altona on foot -- a distance of some five hundred kilometers. At night, they lodged at inns along the way and spent most of the dark hours immersed in Torah discussions.

HaRav Schlesinger was eventually called to Hamburg to head the local kloiz, where the sound of Torah study could be heard virtually around the clock. Despite his sharp mind, his piercing intellect and his broad Torah knowledge, Reb Getschlik did not adopt the title Moreinu, since this honor was reserved for ordained rabbonim only. Since they were not informed otherwise, it was assumed by everyone that the new head of the kloiz never had semichah conferred upon him.

Five years after Reb Getschlik's arrival, an additional maggid shiur was engaged to help teach the growing numbers of lomdim in the kloiz. Although the new teacher had received semichah, and was perfectly entitled to be called Moreinu, for the community to do so would be awkward for it would give the misleading impression that Reb Getschlik was somehow subordinate to him. The problem was solved when a letter arrived in Hamburg from the Oruch Leneir himself, informing the community that his talmid Reb Getschlik actually had received a semichah from him years earlier, but out of modesty he had been reluctant to have it known, and had even asked his rebbe to help him keep it a secret. Now, however, in view of the circumstances, the Oruch Leneir felt that it was correct to make it known that the community's first teacher also fully deserved the title Moreinu.

It was not just his title that Reb Getschlik made efforts to conceal. He also hid the true extent of his Torah greatness. One Purim, having fulfilled the mitzvos of the day, a slightly inebriated Reb Getschlik was asked if he would agree to be tested on his knowledge of mishnayos. The retort was, "Do you imagine I'm drunk?" and it was accompanied by Reb Getschlik's ready agreement to tackle questions on any mishna anywhere in Shas. Whichever mishna his colleagues started reading from, he continued by heart. After completing the text of the mishna, he went on to repeat the comments of the Bartenura and ended up with the Tosfos Yom Tov. Some hours later however, Reb Getschlik deeply regretted his uncharacteristic behavior and he used it as an example to his own talmidim of the dire consequence of indulging in too much drink.

Reb Getschlik's greatness was recognized by the members of his generation, both great and small. In a reply to someone who had written asking him about repenting his sins, HaRav Ezriel Hildesheimer zt'l, wrote, "As to giving advice about undertaking fasts and the like -- I am not the man to consult. However, for this purpose, I know a man of G-d, who is like very, very few others that I know, the rav and gaon Rabbi Getz Schlesinger, an extraordinary talmid chochom, a holy and a pure man. He may be able to make tikunim available to you."

Rav Binyomin Ze'ev Jacobson zt'l, relates that Reb Getschlik was the only rov in Germany who was referred to by people as hakodosh. There were many who travelled to Hamburg to seek a brocho from him, among them a young R' Yaakov Rosenheim zt'l, who recalled in his memoirs being taken by his father to Hamburg when he was eighteen years old to see Reb Getschlik. The latter's grandson, HaRav Yechiel (he was sometimes also known as "Michel" which is a diminuitive for the name "Yechiel"), knew that stories circulated about how his grandfather's prayers and blessings had been instrumental in various wondrous occurrences and events.

Though there were many outstanding talmidei chachomim learning in the Hamburg kloiz, it was to Reb Getschlik that the communal leaders unanimously turned when the city's rov, HaRav Osher Stern zt'l, was niftar just two weeks before Pesach, asking him to fill the position. Typically, Reb Getschlik replied that he agreed to stand in only as a temporary replacement to deal with the pressing shailos that demanded attention just then. The community was in no great rush to find anyone else, however, and Reb Getschlik remained in the rov's position for almost a full year, until the community was shaken by an event that had dire consequences.

When nearly a year had passed, an incident involving a mistakenly contracted kiddushin took place. Reb Getschlik's fear of sin was boundless and he ruled stringently, requiring that a get be given, to counter any shade of suspicion that the kiddushin had been effective. Powerful elements in the community were opposed to this, preferring that the entire incident be hushed up in order to save the faces of the respectable families whose members had been involved. Reb Getschlik fought to have the matter made known and when his efforts met with no success, he resigned his post. He remained deeply troubled however by the lack of action on the part of the parties and their supporters, and the possibility of tragedy that was being courted. As a result, he became weak and took ill. His situation worsened during the summer months and he passed away in suffering on the twentieth of Elul 5660 (1900).

The following description of Reb Getschlik and his life's work was engraved upon his matzeivoh: Ner Yisroel, Pillar of Torah and Storehouse of Yiroh, the gaon and chossid . . . fluent in every part of Torah; he stood like a raised banner for all his generation and the light of his Torah illuminated afar; holy and pure from the day of his birth . . . he devoted every day and each moment to his Maker's glory and he chose to shelter in his G- d's sanctuary; he pursued justice throughout his life; his deeds were kindness and truth; humility and going modestly with his G-d were the crown of his character.

@SUB TITLE = The Lamed-Vovnik of Hamburg: HaRav Eliezer Lipmann Schlesinger

HaRav Yechiel's father, HaRav Eliezer Lipmann, combined the traits of greatness in Torah and character with modesty and utter self effacement, just as his father Reb Getschlik had. An appreciation of his true greatness lies beyond us. Based upon the little we know, we can only imagine what his stature must have been.

Reb Getschlik for example, was well versed in kabolo as well as in the revealed Torah and though he transmitted this knowledge of his to his son, Rav Eliezer Lipmann himself did not reveal this knowledge of his to anyone. Those who were knowledgeable enough themselves however, such as the Admorim who used to stay as guests at the Schlesinger home in Hamburg, noted that every movement of Rav Eliezer's was made in accordance with the dictates of halocho as well as the teachings of kabolo. He was thus known to them as "the Lamed-vovnik of Hamburg." He was also referred to as Hechosid mei'Ashkenaz and Reb Yeruchom Levovitz zt'l, the Mirrer mashgiach, described him as a living Mesilas Yeshorim.

HaRav Eliezer Lipmann received semichah from his father when he was eighteen years old. His main teacher however was HaRav Ezriel Hildesheimer, who also conferred semichah upon him. When he was about to become engaged, Rav Eliezer Lipmann stipulated that he be allowed to travel to Bobruisk, Russia to learn for a year before the wedding. He wished to study there with HaRav Refoel Shapiro, son-in-law of the Netziv and father-in-law of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik zt'l. The Netziv had been an acquaintance of Reb Getschlik's and this was apparently why the son of the latter particularly desired to learn under the son-in-law of the former. Though he learned with great application while in Russia, Rav Eliezer Lipmann was loathe to live as anybody's guest and he supported himself by giving private lessons in mathematics to the son of one of the town's wealthy scholars.

He maintained this practice throughout his life, and was unwilling to derive the slightest monetary benefit from learning and teaching Torah, in accordance with the basic halocho as stated in the gemora. He taught limudei kodesh for thirty-six years in the Hamburg Talmud Torah School, yet he refused to accept any salary for those hours, his source of income being the lessons in mathematics and chemistry which he also gave there. He also conducted shiurim for ba'alei batim and other young people, his schedule beginning well before daybreak and ending late at night -- yet he would not take any payment from them.

With such a teacher, the pupils in the Hamburg Talmud Torah never lost sight of the goal of their education. HaRav Eliezer Lipmann's students testified that one could draw fear of sin even from his classes in math and chemistry, not to mention from his limudei kodesh.

Incidentally, his knowledge of mathematics was so extensive that he was offered a chair in that discipline at the local university, a position which would have afforded him a much more comfortable livelihood than the one he eked out from his few hours of teaching. He turned the post down however, giving two reasons for doing so. First, he explained, a minute of teaching Torah to Jewish children was worth more than the most lucrative professorship and second, he had an older brother who was also a scholar of mathematics and he feared that it would cause his brother distress were he to accept the appointment.

Rav Eliezer would rise at four a.m. and begin his day with two shiurim for ba'alei batim, before shacharis. The family was always particular about tevilas Ezra, and his brother R' Yechiel was known to break the ice that covered the surface of the mikveh in the winter in order to immerse himself. While all could see that Rav Eliezer's days were filled with teaching Torah, none could guess at the depth of his learning until his hearing began to fail and the doctor attributed it to exertion and mental effort.

Likewise, the true breadth of his Torah knowledge was revealed to all when, in his old age, Rav Eliezer Lipmann's sight failed him, and he continued giving his shiurim on gemora and commentaries by heart. When his son Rav Yechiel was invited to address the Hamburg community, he reviewed his speech at home in his father's hearing. Rav Eliezer Lipmann derived much pleasure from listening, but he also put his son right several times on the exact wording of the gemoras he was quoting, though he had no seforim in front of him!

@SUB TITLE = In the Eyes of Two Who Knew Him

Here are some personal recollections of a grandson of HaRav Eliezer Lipmann, ylct'a, HaRav Elyokim Getzel Schlesinger, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Horomoh in London, who stayed for a time in his grandparents' home when he was a young boy of six.

HaRav Schlesinger recalled the impression which the atmosphere of restraint in the home made upon him, even at such an early age. He was also impressed by his grandfather's measured, controlled movements. If he behaved too boisterously, a serious expression would enter his grandfather's eyes and he would pass his hand over the child's head. When this happened, his grandmother immediately called him from the room because grandfather was "angry."

One night, a meeting was held in the house on some communal matter and, as was customary, a blank sheet of paper was laid beside every place for recording notes and comments. The following morning, young Elyokim Getzel surveyed the table. Every sheet was covered with scribbles and writing, with one exception -- the paper before his grandfather's place was clean and unmarked.

When the days of selichos arrived and Rav Eliezer Lipmann wanted to awaken his young grandchild to accompany him, he did so by standing next to his bed, repeating over and over again, "Selichos, Getschi, selichos. Getschi, selichos. . . "

He continued thus for a long time, his calls growing neither louder nor quicker; neither did he put out his hand to shake the boy awake. This was the pattern each and every day; he was woken by the same calm, restrained calling.

Further light is shed upon Rav Eliezer Lipmann's illustrious personality by the following lines of hesped which were delivered by his mechutan, R' Yaakov Rosenheim, who extolled the almost forty years during which, "he influenced generations of talmidim with his shiurim in gemora, that were based upon his deep and broad Torah knowledge, and which were at the same time shiurim in faith and true yiras Shomayim. . . For a short time, he even served as director of the Talmud Torah, but he resigned this post so that he could devote more time to Torah. He was a talmid chochom in the full sense of the expression, by virtue of his fundamental knowledge of the sources of halocho in Shas and poskim; knowledge that was neither sullied by the slightest shadow of unclarity, nor undermined by any trace of doubt or of guessing an answer. Such knowledge was the product of unceasing application, of a wonderful memory and of a systematic way of thinking. These endowments brought him extraordinary tranquility of spirit, which constantly directed him upwards, along the path of the upright . . .

"His clear thoughts, his determined spirit and his deep emotions, were all branded with the seal of true yiras Shomayim. Thanks to them, he knew how to imbue his household, the school and the community with the piety of German Jewry, how to show favor to a young child with a glance full of love and how to feel the suffering of Klal Yisroel. He served as a living example of trust in Hashem and of living in the light of His Torah. I heard one of the honorable elderly members of the kehilla saying, `One would have to traverse seas and continents in order to learn Torah and middos from Lipmann Schlesinger' -- and that is no exaggeration. Another maspid enumerated the levels of the Mesilas Yeshorim, showing how he had attained every one of them -- that too is no exaggeration. The hundreds, rich and poor alike, who found counsel and guidance in his blessed home, will testify that it was so. The hundreds of disciples who were fortunate to obtain Torah and yiroh from him, will also testify that it was so, as will his own family, his three sons and his daughter, the products of his training and his heritage!"

@SUB TITLE = First Blossoms

The home in which HaRav Yechiel grew up was also shaped by his mother, a daughter of HaRav Nochum Zev Wreschner zt'l, whose father, the rov of Zarkov, had been a very close talmid of Rabbi Akiva Eiger zt'l. Her mother was a granddaughter of the Beis Meir on both sides, as well as of the Pnei Yehoshua and the Moginei Shlomo.

According to family tradition, her son, HaRav Yechiel, was the hundredth rov among the descendants of the Beis Meir. Although Rav Nochum Zev possessed a record of his family's lineage to Rashi and thereby all the way back to Dovid Hamelech, he belittled it so that misplaced pride would not turn the heads of any of the family. It was in the home that HaRav Nochum Zev's daughter, Sorah, built together with HaRav Eliezer Lipmann that HaRav Yechiel received his earliest education.

As a boy, Yechiel attended the Hamburg Talmud Torah, where his father HaRav Eliezer Lipmann taught. The institution had been founded by HaRav Mendel Frankfurter z'l, and its program of studies had been arranged in accordance with the Torah im Derech Eretz outlook by a previous rav of the city, Chacham Yitzchok Bernays zt'l, who had been a colleague of the Oruch Leneir (who served as rav in neighboring Altona), and who was the rebbe of HaRav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt'l.

Young Yechiel's overpowering love for learning Torah was apparent very early on and he would spend hours engrossed in learning gemora and commentaries. In the Hamburg Talmud Torah it was obligatory to go outside for recess and get excercise. Yechiel used to take a gemora and walk from one side of the school yard to the other during the recess period.

Besides his great love of Torah, his piety, his fear of sin and his righteous conduct were also apparent to his mentors and his friends from a very young age. His tefillos were offered amid great emotion and deep yearning. He took great care over every syllable he uttered and every movement he made. His father greatly rejoiced over his young son and once, as he fondled Yechiel on his lap, he was heard to exclaim, "I don't know how I merited having such a gifted son!"

When Yechiel was older, he began learning with the city's rav, HaRav Avrohom Shmuel Binyomin Spitzer zt'l, a native of Hungary and a product of its yeshivos. HaRav Spitzer trained his talmid in the approach to learning of the yeshivos where he himself had developed. Each sugya was studied comprehensively, with all the relevant opinions of Rishonim and Acharonim, as well as any other sugyos that had a bearing on the topic. The thrust of the study was directed towards achieving a thorough understanding of the practical halocho that resulted from the varying interpretations of the gemora and the resultant opinions.

The high estimation in which HaRav Spitzer held his talmid is apparent from the fact that he conferred semichah on him, which he usually made a point of refraining from doing. To a request from one of Rav Yechiel's colleagues for a similar honor, the rav responded that he would only agree, "when you display the same fluency in maseches Chulin, gemora, Rashi and Tosafos page by page, with the gemora open in front of you, as Rav Yechiel does without it!" (And on another occasion, the rov remarked, "I'm not worried about the future of Torah Jewry in Germany if it can raise a godol like Reb Yechiel!")

It was on HaRav Spitzer's recommendation that Rav Yechiel set out for the yeshiva of HaRav Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky zt'l (the Maharytz), in Galante, which was then one of the most thriving of the Hungarian yeshivos, for what was to be one of the happiest periods of his life.

@SUB TITLE = A Rebbe for Life

A very close relationship developed between HaRav Yechiel and HaRav Dushinsky, and it remained so until their deaths, only several months apart in 5709 (1949). HaRav Yechiel regarded HaRav Dushinsky as his rebbe muvhak, and on a number of occasions the latter showed the extraordinary estimation he had for his beloved talmid, whom he addressed in one of his teshuvos (chelek I, siman 51), "My beloved and cherished talmid, outstanding and exceptional in Torah and yiras Shomayim. . . "

The Maharytz would tell other gedolim, his colleagues, that his talmid Reb Michel from Hamburg, possessed the quality of "making his teacher wise." He would extol his outstanding talmid's tremendous toil in Torah to them and his total application, and would reveal his discovery that Reb Michel learned far into the night, with his feet immersed in a bowl of cold water to keep him awake. (Another method which Reb Yechiel used to fight sleep was to hold a burning candle between his fingers, which soon aroused him if he slumbered for more than a few moments.) In addition, HaRav Dushinsky would often remark that Reb Michel was at home in all of Shas and those close to the Maharytz related that Reb Yechiel was a very close confidante of his while still a bochur in the yeshiva.

The method of study employed in the Hungarian yeshivos of those days differed markedly from that of the Lithuanian ones. While in the latter, the major part of the time was devoted to the students' independent learning, the learning in the former was centered around shiurim, of which there were usually three: an in-depth shiur [iyun], a simple shiur [bekius] and a topical [sugya] shiur that dealt exhaustively with a particular subject in the gemora that was being studied.

The Maharytz would often combine all three, delivering them together and lecturing for long stretches -- sometimes up to six hours -- at a time. He would elaborate at great length and in great detail on the comments of all the major Rishonim, and would then go on to show how the points raised by the Acharonim were thereby addressed. (HaRav Dushinsky's contemporaries were amazed at the amount of time he allotted to the delivery of his shiur, wondering how it was that a communal rav and leader, who was burdened with a thousand different queries and concerns, found the time and the strength to say any major shiurim, let alone such long ones.)

Despite his own grueling regimen of independent learning, Reb Yechiel attended all of HaRav Dushinsky's shiurim, standing up throughout as he feared that he would doze off from exhaustion if he sat down. Since all the other talmidim were seated though, he would bend down over the table, so as not to be any higher than the others. Although it was not generally his practice to interrupt the shiur for questions, the Maharytz would stop in order to respond to Reb Yechiel's points and comments, and would discuss them with him.

In his burning love of learning, Reb Yechiel was somewhat overextending himself. As well as depriving himself of sleep, everything else was done as quickly as possible, or sometimes not at all. Letters home were composed hurriedly, while he leaned on a window sill in the beis hamedrash.

HaRav Dushinsky made a point of ensuring that his talmidim maintained order and cleanliness in themselves and in their surroundings. He had occasion to upbraid Reb Yechiel about such matters, noting that he was going about in creased trousers and with unpolished shoes. Out of concern for his talmid's health, his rebbe asked the owner of the house where Reb Yechiel lodged to make sure that all the lights were extinguished by a reasonable hour -- but this did not help. In fact, Reb Yechiel overworked to the point where he required treatment at the local hospital.

When the Maharytz moved with his yeshiva to Choust, after having been invited to serve there by the community in 5680 (1920), Rav Yechiel returned to Germany. He nevertheless maintained contact with HaRav Dushinsky, consulting him about every major step he took in life. On a number of occasions, Rav Yechiel would praise the approach to learning and the guidance offered in the Hungarian yeshivos, which were close to his heart.

Almost twenty years later, when Rav Yechiel arrived in Eretz Yisroel, HaRav Dushinsky (who had been appointed seven years before as av beis din of the Eida HaChareidis and successor to HaRav Yosef Chaim Sonenenfeld zt'l), honored his distinguished talmid with delivering a shiur in his yeshiva; an honor which his older talmidim said he had not bestowed on anybody else throughout his fifty years as a rosh yeshiva. Twice a year, on Shabbos Hagodol and on Shabbos Shuvoh, Rav Yechiel would make what was then a trek across the city, from his home in Yerushalayim's Kiryat Shmuel neighborhood to Beis Yisroel, to listen to the drosho of the Rov.

@SUB TITLE = One Chapter Closes and a New One Opens

It was at the request of his father, HaRav Eliezer Lipmann, that Rav Yechiel then joined the Rabbiner Seminar in Berlin, in order to attain the further, secular, qualifications that were necessary for obtaining any position as a rov in the land of his birth. By so doing, he was treading a path that several past gedolei Torah had followed, such as the Oruch Leneir, the Nachal Eshkol and others. The Seminary, which had been founded by HaRav Ezriel Hildesheimer, was led at that time by HaRav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman zt'l, (author of Teshuvos Melameid Leho'il) whose Torah knowledge and character made a deep impression upon HaRav Yechiel.

HaRav Hoffman was succeeded by HaRav Avrohom Eliyohu Kaplan zt'l, a young and brilliant talmid chochom, who was one of the finest products of the famous Slobodke Yeshiva of Kovno, Lithuania. It was through HaRav Kaplan that HaRav Yechiel made his first acquaintance with the Lithuanian approach to learning, with its emphasis on logical analysis, accurate definition, and deep, penetrating reflection, so as to reveal the building blocks of each topic and discover the ideas and concepts that were the underpinnings of its discussion in the gemora. For Rav Yechiel, there now began a process of fusion of the Hungarian and the Lithuanian approaches in his own learning (though it is more accurate to regard them as stresses on different aspects of the learning, rather than two distinct approaches). He found no contradiction between them and adopted the best of each.

He engaged in the secular studies in the knowledge that other disciplines served only as "handmaidens" to the only true wisdom, the wisdom of Torah. From his youth, Rav Yechiel had an inclination for natural science. (It was said that he knew the names of a thousand species of plants.) However, the discipline to which he had since dedicated his life -- Torah - - led him to pursue a different course in the studies which he now had to undertake. He concentrated on Semitic languages, receiving his doctorate for a comprehensive dissertation on The Construction of Aramaic in the Talmud and the Midrashic Literature. The depth and the breadth of knowledge which this work displayed resulted in its becoming a standard textbook for courses in this field. As a result of his outstanding performance, Reb Yechiel was also offered a choice of academic posts, all of which he of course declined. Many scholars who saw his doctorate were convinced that it could only be the fruit of a lifetime's dedication to research in this field and when Rav Yechiel's rebbetzin heard about this in later years, she asked him how long it had actually taken him to compose. He replied, "I wrote it in the course of one year, in the time that remained after completing the fixed sedorim of Torah learning." Although we don't know exactly how much time remained to Rav Yechiel after his regular sedorim, it should be noted that in other years we know that he was in the habit of learning virtually all through the night as well as the day.

His reply is reminiscent of the Netziv's, to a certain maskil who had expressed his amazement at the former's mastery of Hebrew Grammar, despite the fact that he spent all his time learning Torah, while the maskil, who had devoted himself to the study of grammar all his life, was in no way superior to him. The Netziv replied by comparing his own situation to that of a customer making a large order at a store, who is not charged for the packing materials he needs to take away his purchase, and the maskil's to that of a stranger who enters the store after him and asks for a quantity of free wrapping paper and string, for which he is of course expected to pay in full.

During this period, Rav Yechiel also made a specialized study of the times of day in halocho. He produced two monographs on this topic entitled Sho'os Zemaniyos and Eizehu Bein Hashemoshos? (clarifying the opinion of the geonim who disagree with Rabbenu Tam), and these appeared in the rabbinical periodical Yeshurun, published in Berlin by Rabbi Dr. Joseph Wohlgemuth zt'l. These works too, remain important sources for subsequent lomdim researching this topic, and several other works written since have been based on Rav Yechiel's conclusions.

When the halachic debate over the international dateline arose with the arrival of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Japan in the early years of the Second World War, Rav Yechiel was one of the authorities consulted regarding which days should be kept as Shabbos and Yom Kippur. His nephew, HaRav E. G. Schlesinger of London recalls having asked Rav Yechiel in later years why he did not republish the pamphlet on bein hashemoshos. His uncle replied that he had since retracted many of the things that he had written there as a young man and that he intended revising the work and publishing a new, different treatment of the subject. Sadly, this plan was never realized.

Rav Yechiel had perhaps originally expected to seek a position upon completion of his studies in Berlin but as a result possibly of HaRav Kaplan's urging, or at least his influence, he decided to first travel eastwards, to slake his tremendous thirst for Torah in the great Lithuanian yeshivos. When HaRav Kaplan was niftar suddenly at a very young age, his talmid from Hamburg was asked to be one of the maspidim. However, when Rav Yechiel went up to speak and stood facing the aron, his tears choked him and, completely overcome, he was unable to utter a word.

The distress which having to spend part of his time involved with other studies for his doctorate occasioned Rav Yechiel, and his great joy at finally being freed from their yoke, are evident in his reaction upon their completion. As soon as he heard that he had received his doctorate, he sent a brief telegram home containing the message, "Ben chorin la'asok beTorah (Free to study Torah)," to which his father HaRav Eliezer Lipmann commented, "I was waiting for such a telegram."

Already a talmid chochom of considerable standing, HaRav Yechiel had the greatness to regard himself as a talmid, as he readied himself to imbibe Torah and mussar from some of the greatest personalities of the generation. It was towards Slobodke, where his mentor HaRav Kaplan had developed, that he first set his sights.

End of Part I

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