This past Monday, tens of thousands of broken hearted, grief
stricken Torah Jews accompanied the rosh yeshiva of
Ponovezh, Maran HaRav Dovid Povarski zt"l on his last
earthy journey. The levaya, which proceeded from the
Ponovezh yeshiva was one of the largest Bnei Brak has ever
The bitter news of the petirah of the rosh
hayeshiva, which spread like wildfire on Sunday night,
left all of the world's bnei Torah bereft of a
Deep mourning enveloped the yeshiva from the moment the
bitter news was heard a bit after 10 p.m. on Sunday night,
and hundreds of students, who were deeply attached to their
rav, walked about in silence, refusing to believe the sad
Hundreds of students flocked to his home on HaRav Wassermann
Street, waiting for the bier. When it arrived, they burst out
into heart rending cries.
Throughout the night, shifts of students remained in the home
and, along with the family, recited Tehillim beside
the bier. Students arrived from all over the country in the
late hours of the night, bereft and grieved, and joined those
who were reciting Tehillim.
In the morning, the students immersed in the mikveh,
and the taharo was conducted immediately after
shacharis kevosikin. Afterward, the Tehillim
shifts continued, as thousands began to fill the nearby
streets. At 9:30, the bier was removed and, accompanied by a
huge throng, was transferred to the main study hall of the
Ponovezh yeshiva, in whose tents the Rosh Hayeshiva had
dwelled, day and night, for 54 years, which was a majority of
even his long life.
Although the walk to the yeshiva should have been brief, it
took a long time because of the immense size of the throng,
and because of the weeping and the grief all felt. At 10 a.m.
the bier reached the yeshiva's beis medrash, and R'
Tzvi Eisenstein, therosh yeshiva of Tiferes Tzion
began to recite Tehillim.
The large beis medrash of the yeshiva was filled to
capacity -- even after all its furniture had been removed --
and including the porches and the roofs of the building.
Masses crowded around the yeshiva's doors, and in the nearby
streets. The Ponovezh yeshiva was surrounded by hundreds of
thousands of people in a broad radius of streets. Due to a
lack of space, the hespedim had to be broadcast by
Bnei Brak was paralyzed for many hours due to the
levaya, and many streets, in addition to those in the
proximity of the yeshiva, were closed to traffic. The peak
hours were from 10:30 in the morning until 3 in the
The entire yeshiva world of Eretz Yisroel came to the
levaya of the HaRav Dovid Povarski, rosh
yeshiva of Ponovezh, the mother and source of so many of
the yeshivos in the country. All came to accompany the pillar
of Torah who had gone to his eternal rest.
The hespedim began at 11 a.m. First of the
maspidim was R' Eliezer Kahaneman, the son of the
nosi of the yeshiva, R' Avrohom Kahaneman, who parted
from the niftar in the name of the Kahaneman family
after knowing the niftar for eighty years. HaRav
Kahaneman's stirring and emotion-filled words caused the
entire throng to burst into tears. "We cannot part from him,"
he said. "We will take with us what Rabbenu taught and the
guidance he offered us."
Maspidim were, HaRav Boruch Dov Povarski (a son),
HaRav S. Wosner, HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman, HaRav Michel
Feinstein, HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, HaRav Gershon
Edelstein, HaRav Nosson Tvi Finkel, HaRav Arye Finkel, HaRav
Sholom Povarski (a son).
After the hespedim, as the Rosh Yeshiva left the
beis medrash for the last time, a great wave of pain
swept the assembled mourners. The tens of thousands formed a
flood of humanity that flowed from the yeshiva to Chazon Ish
Street toward the Bnei Brak cemetery. It was there, at about
3 p.m. that the Rosh Yeshiva reached his final resting place
in the Netzivei Ponovezh section.
The Hesped of HaRav Boruch Dov Povarski
Abba hakodosh. Throughout my life, I never took a step
without consulting with you, and without asking your
permission. This is the first time that I have to take a step
without you. Abba hakodosh, I ask of you...
"This is the day on which the world came into being. On that
day, Hashem Elokim called to weeping and mourning. Today,
Hakodosh Boruch Hu calls to Klal Yisroel to
weep and mourn." This maamar was said in relation to
the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. But Chazal say that
the death of a tzaddik is a greater calamity than the
Destruction. If so, this day is more mournful than the one on
which the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed.
What is the inner meaning of the destruction of the Beis
Hamikdash? Chazal have explained that the true tragedy lies
in the departing of the Shechina from its place. Where
did the Shechina concentrate itself? In Kodesh
Kodoshim -- the place of the Aron Habris, which is
the Torah hakedosha.
Today, a living sefer Torah has been taken from us.
Who merits to be a living sefer Torah? Chazal teach
that a living sefer Torah is one who has purified and
sanctified himself to the point that he has no body, and
everything is kedusha and taharo. One who is on
such a level merits that the Shechina rests on him.
Abba hakodosh, we felt that you were a living sefer
Torah. Your body was pure and holy. Chazal teach that
during the 40 days that Moshe Rabbenu was in Heaven, the
Torah was his nourishment. There is a reality in which one
derives his vitality from the Torah. Regarding Abba, we saw
that he was never interested in the pleasures of this world.
His entire vitality came from the Torah, from words of
yiras Shomayim, from the virtues of humility and
The gemora says: "They sent from Tomm, `Who is a
ben Olom Haboh? Shayif ayal, shayif nofik, goris
be'Oraissa todir.' The rabbonon all looked at Rabba bar
Ulla." It thus implies that only one in a generation has
these virtues. We saw them in Abba. We saw in him a model of
what it is to be here, but to live in Olom Haboh. He
was totally pure, without any ulterior motives. All of his
cheshbonos were not for himself. He was modest and
When R' Akiva died, a Bas Kol cried out: "You are
summoned to Olom Haboh. Tosafos explains: Summoned
without a trial; without suffering. When Abba's soul departed
his body, his external form did not change at all, because
his body was also soul. His life was the life of the soul,
and he constantly cleaved to Olom Haboh. This is the
level of "without a trial, without suffering," because such a
person was already in Olom Haboh while he was on
earth, and there is no need to pass a verdict saying that he
deserves Olom Haboh.
"When he died, diligence ceased." Where can we find such a
person, who awoke at chatzos lailo in order to praise
Him. One time, my mother hid his shoes so that he shouldn't
go to the yeshiva so early. What did he do? He went out
barefoot. The walls of the beis hamedrash will testify
to that. We have lost all this.
"The lips of Hashem will preserve wisdom, and they will seek
Torah from his mouth." Chazal teach that if the rav is like
an angel of Hashem, people will seek Torah from him. The
meforshim explain that this refers to a rav who is an
emissary from Shomayim to transmit Torah to Israel. In
every generation, those who will be Torah's transmitters were
selected. He was a transmitter of Torah, yirah and
mussar. He transmitted what he had heard from his
rabbonim -- R' Yeruchom and the Griz of Brisk, under whom he
merited to study in Vilna. He was the genuine talmid
all of his life, and never left the tents of Torah. Regarding
every one of his activities, he would contemplate: what would
R' Yeruchom have done under similar situation?
Eyewitnesses report on the great esteem in which R' Yeruchom
held him. He would stand up in Abba's presence. Abba drew
from his rav much yirah and chochmah which he
transmitted to his students with love and messirus.
Fortunate is one who has toiled in Torah, has grown in Torah
and who is niftar with a good name. What is "a good
name?" It is comparable to a fragrance, which wafts from one
end of the world to the other, so that all delight in it.
Such was the image of Abba. Merely looking at him was an
inspiring and an edifying experience. He was one of whom
Hakodosh Boruch Hu says: "See this being which I have
created in My world."
We are orphaned. A void has been created. Who will guide us?
Who will show us the way? Entreat the Hakodosh Boruch Hu
to enable us to continue in the path which will cause
nachas to Him. May we not deviate in any manner from the
way you raised us. We ask that you be a meilitz yosher
for us. Plead with before the Kisei Hakovod, you who
immersed yourself in Torah all your life, out of exertion,
under duress. When you suffered pain, and the doctor ordered
you to go to the hospital, you went to the yeshiva and said a
shiur. Surely you will merit to reach the Kisei
Hakovod. Be a good interceder for the yeshiva, and plead
that it follow in your way, and may we merit Techiyas
Hameisim with rachamim and His many kindnesses.
The Hesped of HaRav Sholom Povarski
"I fear as I open [my mouth to speak]. How can I speak about
so great a man? Who am I to merit to eulogize our great
Our heart's joy has been transformed into mourning. Yesterday
we had our Abba hakodosh. Today we don't have him. The
crown of our head has fallen. Woe to us, for we have sinned.
The crown of the yeshiva hakedosha. The crown of
Klal Yisroel. Woe to us, for we have sinned.
"Your thoughts are not Mine. Your ways are not Mine."
This is beyond my comprehension.
"Who raises up . . . "
HaKodosh Boruch Hu raises up, and along with this,
lowers Himself, in order to behold [what is occurring] on
We saw Abba, "Lowered in order to observe on earth." Abba,
the one who raised. We didn't know how far he reached. The
crown of our head. Woe we have sinned.
A crown -- how may types of crowns did we have?
A crown of Torah. It was 86 years since he left his father's
home -- from a place of Torah to a place of Shechina --
higher, higher bakodesh. 86 years.
Such remarkable hasmodoh. Such deep yegia,
He once told me that when he was in the Mirrer yeshiva, he
did not miss one seder, one shiur, one
tefilla. It was only when he had to travel for
shidduchim, that for the first time, "Dovid's place
The Torah was an integral part of his nature. We saw this
concretely. One time he had a temperature of 40 (104). He
almost couldn't speak. Suddenly he got up. They asked him
where he was going. He said, "To the yeshiva." Chazal say:
"Dovid Hamelech told the Ribono shel Olom: `Every day,
my feet take me to the beis hamedrash.'
20 years ago, I came to visit him on Thursday night as usual.
He had bronchitis, fever and was coughing. I asked him if he
planned to get up at night to learn as usual. He replied: "Of
I asked him. "How can you get up in such a condition?"
He did not answer. I asked again, and he did not answer.
Ima hinted to me that I shouldn't relent, but should continue
to ask. I tried again.
I asked him: "Is it: `It is Torah, and I must study'?" and he
did not reply.
After a few moments, he told me about a certain rebbetzin,
who was in critical situation and it was important that she
eat, even on Yom Kippur. However, Yom Kippur arrived and she
refused to eat. Her family brought a great professor to
persuade her. After a brief conversation with her, the
professor said to her: "You can fast."
The members of her family were astounded. The professor
explained: "Fasting is truly dangerous for her. But I saw
that eating will be even more dangerous for her."
"That's the answer to the question you asked me," he said.
Torah study was his health.
He had the crown of mesiras nefesh for everything
Listen to this story:
One Friday night, I asked him: "When I was an infant, did you
sing Koh Ribon Olom at the Shabbos table with me on
"Yes," he replied.
"Then why don't we sing zemiros now?" I asked.
He replied. "When we lived in Vilna under the Nazi regime, I
did not know where you would grow up. So I sang the
zemiros so that you would have a recollection of them.
That you would imbibe them. Boruch Hashem, in Eretz
Yisroel, we aren't afraid of that. It's better to go to
The he added : "I suffered for many years from ulcers. Let me
tell you how I contracted that disease. In the summer of
5600, we were in Vilna. I did not know whether we would ever
emerge from there. At that time, I davened to the
Ribono shel Olom, saying: Either take us out of here,
or take us to You -- father, mother and children -- because
if not for Your Torah what need have we of life.
"That summer, I contracted ulcers."
When he told me this story, I recalled the maamar
about Shaul who went out to the war taking his sons with him.
At that time, say Chazal, HaKodosh Boruch Hu said to the
angels: "See the being which I created in My world."
One who goes to a house of festivities does not take his son
with him, because of mar'is ayin.
But Shaul took his sons with him to war, knowing that his
sons would be killed. Regarding this, HaKodosh Boruch
Hu said: "See the being which I have created in My
Every father prays that his sons will live. And this one can
pray that his son not lose Torah. "See the being that I have
created in My world."
"Your thoughts are not Mine, and your ways are not Mine," We
have no concept of "his uplifting." We see only "He lowers
himself to observe."
Abba kodosh, be a good interceder on our behalf in
this difficult period which is along the lines of "the candle
of Hashem has still not been extinguished."
"He was the candle of Hashem."
Kibbud eim obligates me to mention that Ima had a
significant part in all that you did in your life -- your
learning, your hasmodoh, for she served you so loyally
and with such messirus.
May we merit continue in your path, and according to the
legacy you transmitted to us.
Young and Old Follow the Rosh Yeshiva
by Chaim Walder
An old, bearded man sat on the famous porch of the Ponovezh
yeshiva, leaning on his cane and immersed in thought. He
didn't weep. Every now and then he looked down at the massive
throng which filled the entire hill of the yeshiva and all of
the nearby streets. In order to look at the throng he was
forced to turn his body, and it was evident that this was
very difficult for him.
He noticed the papers in my hand, and said: "I don't know
what to think, what to feel. You are children. What do you
know? I knew R' Dovid from the time that no one could have
imagined such a scene as this. Bnei Brak still wasn't Bnei
Brak, and our community was small and frightened. And the
yeshiva world? There was no such thing! Perhaps a few
bochurim who studied, and they were very worried about
"I sit here now and recall what happened fifty, sixty years
ago. I know that he was a genuine man of truth, a true
godol beTorah. Every night he came here to study in
the yeshiva, when Ponovezh still wasn't Ponovezh -- and all
that it is today wasn't even a dream.
"It saddens me that he is gone, and it saddens me that you do
not know him. But I think of R' Dovid and I know that he is
happy that things are as they have become, what you see all
around. I do not cry because I know that all this is the
answer to all those years that he sat and learned in want and
in humility, without asking anything for himself. This crowd
of bachurei chemed is his, it is R' Dovid's. I sit
here, not far from his bier in the beis medrash. I am
very saddened by his passing, but how can I cry when I know
how happy he is?"
Suddenly, he bursts into tears, which shake me to the core of
my soul, and a shudder passes through all those who are
nearby, for what do we understand, and what do we know about
a cry of grief, of happiness, of emotion, of a murky past?
Those who are standing near me and hear the words of the old
man, know that they reflect all of the goodness which R'
Dovid bestowed on us throughout his life, and of the great
loss his petirah has brought.
Bochurim approach me, at first hesitantly, and then
with more confidence, feeling that they have a mission. I
listen to their stories and descriptions and write:
"He was a Kelemer," says one. "A genuine Kelemer. He did not
make one superfluous movement. Even his smallest actions were
calculated. He always walked to the yeshiva along the path
near Beis Pick. One time, a fire broke out as he was walking,
but he didn't even notice it. Someone approached him and
said, `HaRav, there is a fire in the building there.' He
didn't even turn around."
"One time," says another, "someone spilled water on him. He
did not even look up to see what happened. Some say it was so
as not to hurt the one who had accidentally spilled the
water. Others say that there was simply no reason to do so,
it would have been a superfluous movement."
"Nobility, stability, self-control, hasmodoh, yegia,
kevius, consistency. These were the traits which
characterized him. As long as he was healthy, learning did
not stop for a moment in Ponovezh. He would arrive in the
yeshiva in the middle of the night to begin his day.
There are many stories about his nightly study. One story is
particularly shocking. Every night, a different student would
escort him from his home to the beis hamedrash. One
time the bochur whose turn it was to take him, didn't
wake up. R' Dovid went by himself and he fell on Wassermann
Street. For a full hour, he lay there in the nocturnal cold,
until an avreich passed buy, picked him up and
accompanied him to the yeshiva. If not for that avreich,
who happened to tell the story, no one would have known
about the incident. R' Dovid didn't say a word, perhaps so
that the bochur wouldn't feel guilty, and perhaps
because there was no need to tell it. R' Dovid wasn't one of
those who spoke extraneous things.
"Purim, the bochurim accompany him to his home,
singing," relates one of the students in the present tense,
as if he still hasn't internalized the thought that this
Purim they wonĄt accompany their beloved rosh
hayeshiva, and as if he has forgotten that the last
accompanying is taking place here and now. "I met him on
Purim in the afternoon, and he was weeping. We asked him why,
and he said that he was so upset by the kovod they
showed me, that he couldn't study all night."
I try to speak about the topic of kovod, and all say:
"Kovod was inconsequential to him."
The throng reaches the cemetery, which is transformed from
white into black. Moreinu veRabbenu, the rosh
hayeshiva, HaRav Dovid Povarski is brought to eternal
rest in Bnei Brak, the city he helped become the Ir HaTorah.
As we return, we feel we have left part of ourselves in the
Netzivim plot. A generation goes, but what will become of