Last week, on Wednesday the 16th of Tammuz, the entire Torah
world was cast into a deep pall of mourning upon the
petirah of the great and renowned gaon, HaRav
Shimon Moshe Diskin zt"l, one of the roshei
yeshiva of Yeshivas Kol Torah.
HaRav Diskin was born 67 years ago in the town of Periaslov
in the Kiev region of the Ukraine. His father, HaRav Yehoshua
Zelig Diskin, was the rav of the town. The Diskin family are
descendants of the Maharal MiPrague and the Chavos Yo'ir.
When R' Moshe Shimon was a child, his family immigrated to
Eretz Yisroel and settled first in Tel Aviv. Later, his
father became the rav of Pardes Channah, where he was well-
known for his strong stands on Torah issues. In 5718 (1957)
he was involved in a tremendous public controversy over his
ruling to bury the child of a mixed marriage (only the father
was Jewish) according to the halacha -- with dignity but
outside the regular burial area. He stood firm for the Torah
view in the face of tremendous abuse and pressure.
As a youngster R' Moshe Shimon studied in Ponevezh, and was
one of its most famous and outstanding students. The
roshei yeshiva of Ponevezh loved to speak to him in
learning, and the Ponevezher Rav, HaRav Yosef Shlomo
Kahaneman, was extremely fond of him, a feeling which is
reflected in the Rav's haskamah to HaRav Shimon
Moshe's first sefer.
After his marriage, he and his wife, who is a descendant of
the Gaon of Vilna, moved to Yerushalayim, where he studied in
the Kaminetz-Knesses Beis Yitzchok kollel.
However, his yearning for dibuk chaverim (one of the
49 ways whereby Torah is acquired), drew him back to his
colleagues in the Ponevezh kollel, where he would
study until the small hours.
The period in which he studied in the Ponevezh kollel
was very fruitful in chiddushei Torah. Every
Shabbos night, a chabura, attended by many well known
talmidei chachomim would meet in his home, and talk in
learning with rischa de'Oraisa.
He also became involved in influencing students from
religious high schools (who normally went on to the army and
working careers) to draw closer to the genuine Torah way, and
was one of the founders of the Tiferes Netanya yeshiva,
geared for such students.
Many students who studied in that yeshiva became outstanding
talmidei chachomim due to the tremendous efforts and
energies he invested in their chinuch. He once said:
"Teisi li, because none of the students who studied in
Tiferes Netanya reverted to their former ways."
Later he was asked to found the famous Tiferes Tzion kollel,
in Bnei Brak which was joined by outstanding
avreichim. The kollel developed into a unique
and eminent mokom Torah.
He then moved to Jerusalem and was invited to be a ram
in Yeshivas Beis Hatalmud. Then, since 5733 (1973) he
served for 26 years as one of the roshei yeshiva of
Yeshivas Kol Torah.
Until his final day, he delivered shiurim and was
highly esteemed by his students, who were very attached to
Despite his failing health, he came to the yeshiva a few days
prior to his petirah, and with the very last vestiges
of his strength he delivered a shiur and spoke in
learning with the students. Those who saw him then said that
giving the shiur gave him a special strength. Even
though he could hardly adjust his yarmulke before
beginning, his delivery was powerful and full of life.
During his fifty years of harbotzas Torah he produced
hundreds of students, showing them a correct and clear-cut
approach to Torah study.
For many of them it was he who taught them how to understand
the sevoros of the gemora in a lucid and
straightforward manner. He was known for his brilliant and
original thinking, and thorough rigor.
His unique approach was evident in his seforim,
Ma'ases Hamelech on Rambam, Shas and Torah.
These seforim are studied in yeshivos all over the
world, and his method has become a concept in itself, to the
point that budding talmidei chachomim who wished to
praise a sevoro would often say: "That sevora
is worthy of being Reb Shimon Moshe's."
He merited the praise of the Rav of Brisk (not to his face)
after saying to him his chiddushei Torah.
He was constantly engrossed in Torah thoughts, and would
engage in divrei Torah with everyone he encountered,
opening all of his conversations with either a question or an
answer. At the shiva his son said that he would look
into a difficulty posed by R' Akiva Eiger before attending a
wedding or other public affair, so that he would have an
engaging topic to occupy him while participating
Even during his final days, when it was difficult for him to
pursue his customary learning routine, he would say to those
close to him: "Ask a kushia," or "What chiddush
did they make in the beis medrash today?"
His efforts on behalf of the general public were a special
chapter in his life. He offered guidance and counsel to
talmudei Torah teachers, enabling them give their best
to the young talmidim. He went to great pains to place
graduates of Beis Yaakov elementary schools in suitable
seminaries. He also founded a welfare organization called
Matan, which focused on the absorption and rescue of
His integrity, uprightness and honesty were known to all. He
helped spearhead the Ramat Shlomo housing project, solving
the dwelling problems of hundreds of low income chareidi
In an unprecedented act of yosher and nikyon
kapayim, he even refunded the extra money of those who
had bought apartments in the project of Degel Hatorah, on
whose board he sat, when he saw that such a step was
possible. That step made a great kiddush Hashem.
Government officials thought that something was suspicious.
Perhaps they had charged such high prices at the outset that
they were embarrassed by the surplus and therefore returned
the money. A thorough investigation found that they had
charged a reasonable price, but had just managed to build the
apartments below budget. One time when he was at a ceremony
in which they were praising the fact that the money was
returned, he turned to his neighbor and said with quiet
irony, "They're just praising me for not being a thief."
Thousands of people led by roshei yeshiva, rabbonim,
dayanim, and bnei Torah participated in the
levaya from Yeshivas Kol Torah, starting on schedule
at 11 a.m.
After the entire congregation had recited a number of
chapters of Tehillim, verse by verse, the rosh
yeshiva of Kol Torah, HaRav Moshe Yehuda Schlesinger,
delivered a brief hesped:
"Rav Shimon Moshe was a great gaon, a gaon in Torah
dissemination, a gaon in chessed. He is taking all of
the Torah which he bequeathed to his students in our sacred
yeshiva, along with him to the World of Truth. He will become
a good interceder on behalf of his family and on behalf of
the students of our holy yeshiva who were even more important
to him than his own family."
HaRav Gershon Edelstein, one of the roshei yeshiva of
Ponevezh and a brother-in-law of the niftar, began his
hesped with the verse: "Al bomosecho cholol, eich
noflu giborim, mi'neshorim kalu umei'aroyos goveiro, la'asos
Giborim -- these are the mighty in Torah and
avodas Hashem. They are the defenders of Klal
Yisroel. Eich noflu giborim -- How have the mighty
fallen, is a lamentation over Klal Yisroel. He
taught Torah with every vestige of his strength. Everyone saw
that all his thoughts focused on Torah, and on his devotion
to the yeshiva students.
Hane'ehovim vehane'imim bechayeihem uvemosom lo nifrodu.
Mineshorim kalu umei'aroyos goveiru -- The lovely and the
pleasant in their lives, even in their death they were not
divided. They were swifter than eagles; they were stronger
than lions. These are the praises Dovid Hamelech uttered
in his eulogy of Shaul and Yehonoson. "Lovely and pleasant"
to Klal Yisroel. Pleasant in good character traits, in
love of one's fellow. These are the ones who safeguard the
generation with their righteousness. This is both a
lamentation and a eulogy.
"It is difficult to part. He was unique. When asked about his
suffering, he said that he wasn't willing to forego his
pains. Such a level is the embodiment of Shivisi Hashem
lenegdi somid. How high a level. The trait of love for
one's fellow was imbedded in him, his humility and his
ability to sense the Torah's truth had a deep impact on his
students. I am distressed over your petirah, my
brother. There is so much to say about your love of your
HaRav Boruch Dov Povarski, one of the roshei yeshiva
of Ponevezh, began with: Zeh dodi; zeh rei'i -- This
is my beloved; this is my companion. The concept
`companion' constitutes the highest level of interpersonal
relations. When the Torah states the mitzvah of ve'ohavto
lerei'acho komocho -- Love your fellow as yourself, it
stresses that this applies only if one's fellow is one's
friend. He lived according to the ideals of ahava ve'achvo
vesholom verei'us -- love and harmony and peace and
companionship, and `mine is yours, yours is yours,' during
his entire life. Light is a lucid element, which is sweet
only in a Torah environment. Only one who merits the Torah's
light savors this sweetness. Wherever you studied, you
merited Torah's light. Every word, every sentence you uttered
was sweet and pleasant. The light was sweet, and the Torah
shone for you.
"Everyone says `chidushei Torah.' But there is also a
concept of `mechadshim es haTorah.' Every
chiddush which a talmid chochom utters is
kissed by Hakodosh Boruch Hu. What we merit in this
world is by dint of our talents, but talents do not go up to
Shomayim. They remain here. Only toil in Torah goes up
to Shomayim [provided that one uses his talents for
the sake of Torah].
"Reb Shimon Moshe, you made maximal us of your considerable
talents. You had many talents, and you toiled and exerted
yourself in Torah. The result was chiddushim which are
sweet and pleasant.
"`How shall gold be dimmed.' There is the good crown. So many
merits, of Torah dissemination. Every one of his
hanhogos was unique.
"How have the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished.
Dovid Hamelech says this about Yehonoson three times. Dovid
knew Yehonoson well, due to their friendship; he knew him in
all areas. He said `how have the mighty fallen' three times
about his friend, because in each facet of Yehonoson's
character he saw the aspect of might. Exertion in Torah,
humility and love of one fellow -- in every aspect, your
greatness was evident. So we say: How the mighty have
HaRav Avrohom Erlanger, one of the roshei yeshiva of
Kol Torah, began his hesped with: "Woe to us that we
must eulogize one of the pillars of our holy yeshiva, and one
of its greatest forces of influence, woe that we must
eulogize one of the those who flowed with Torah day in and
day out. He lived Torah, taught it and educated others in
Torah, receiving everyone with the glow of ahavas
We beseech Hashem to grant us a life instilled with ahavas
Torah and yiras Shomayim. Every conversation of
his, was essentially Torah study. He had such a prodigious
amount of ahavas Torah. The joy and delight he exuded
when he made chiddushim was evident from his very
demeanor. His face would glow with happiness, which he would
impart to all of his students, all of his
"The sun has set at midday. Only a few days ago, he still
delivered a shiur and accepted students into the
yeshiva. When we visited him at his home, he spoke in
learning. He was the embodiment of good character traits.
Derochecho darkei no'am -- its ways are those of
"We worked together for decades. He never disgraced his
fellow, never displayed anger, even when there were
differences of opinion.
"In Pirkei Ovos it says: Make your Torah fixed; Say
little and do much; and receive every person in a genial
manner. These three attributes converged in him. In the midst
of his avoda, he left us.
"His Torosecho keva was implemented with vitality,
Torah for its own sake. Hashem was constantly before his
eyes, as was his awe of gedolei Yisroel. He felt the
power of Torah and yirah. He was steadfast and
persistent in his Torah study under all circumstance.
"I asked him once how he felt, and he said: `Half in Olom
Haboh.' He was always in a state of happiness, embodying
the words of Chovos Halevovos that one should
internalize his sorrow, and present a happy appearance.
"When one of the members of the chabura passes away,
the entire chabura should be concerned. We saw the
embodiment of truth before our very eyes. He studied eight
pages of gemora a day between the study sessions of
the yeshiva, in order to be able to complete the entire
Shas by the end of a year.
"He went to great pains not to cause others suffering. He was
a model for us, and we must recall his outstanding character
traits, and make resolutions to strengthen ourselves and to
HaRav Shmuel Deutsch, one of the roshei yeshiva of Kol
Torah began: "Hatzvi Yisroel, al bomosecho cholol, eich
noflu giborim. Your beauty, Israel, upon your high places
is slain. How are the mighty fallen.
Al bomosecho cholol refers to Torah dissemination. He
spread Torah until only a few days ago. In the middle of the
stage, in the middle of his great harbotzas Torah, he
fell. How have the mighty fallen in the middle of the battle,
in the middle, the sun set in midday [i.e. before its time].
He was in the middle of publishing his seforim. He
said a number of times during the this past year that he
wanted still to be mezakeh horabim. In the middle of
his sacred labor, the sun suddenly set.
"Tzar li olecho ochi, no'amto li me'od -- I am
distressed about you, my brother; You were very pleasant to
"I say this, and everyone here, all of the thousands of
participants in the levaya, who had any sort of
contact with him, can testify that they too feel tzar li
olecho ochi, no'amto li me'od.
He related to everyone with dedication, and with geniality
and tremendous warmth. He was thoroughly versed in all
aspects of the Torah, and a genius in the performance of
chessed to his fellow, helping all to secure their
needs. He almost didn't take a step without making a
chiddush in Torah. Scores of times, he would open R'
Akiva Eiger, see a question and contemplate a possible
teirutz. He even went to sleep while meditating over
R' Akiva Eiger. He was totally Torah, and when he made a good
chiddush, he would tell everyone he met about it.
"He was the living embodiment of ki heim chayeinu.
Torah constituted his lifeblood. Even when he was very weak,
he made great efforts to come to the yeshiva to deliver
shiurim, because speaking in learning with the yeshiva
students is what gave him vitality. He produced many
students. In the yeshiva his mesiras nefesh in
speaking with students, guiding them and showing them the
truth was evident to all. How abundant the amount of Torah
they imbibed from him, how great the extent of the true
hashkofo he taught them.
"He lived only in order to instill his students with Torah
and yiras Shomayim. He was a role model of honesty and
His son, HaRav Yitzchok Zev Diskin concluded the
hespedim with stirring words, explaining that when
Moshe Rabbenu said, `I am 120 years old today,' he meant to
convey that the wells of wisdom were closing with his
passing. Moshe Rabbenu was saying his own hesped. He
was saying that with his passing, a chapter in the
mesora was ending.
"We, his family and students, have lost our mesores
and wells of wisdom," HaRav Yitzchok Zev cried out.
"Until yesterday, the wellsprings of chochmah were
amidst us; now they have been sealed."
After the hespedim, the massive levaya
proceeded toward Har Hamenuchos. Many walked the whole way.
By the late afternoon, the earth had closed over one of the
great marbitzei Torah and servants of the community,
who will be greatly missed.