Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Adar II 5759 - March 8, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







The Life and Achievements of HaRav Yechiel Schlesinger zt'l, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Kol Torah, Yerushalayim -- 9th Adar 5760, His Fifty-First Yahrtzeit

By Moshe Musman, based on the writings of Rabbi Aharon Surasky and Rabbi Sholom Meir Wallach

Final Part

In the winter of 5708 (1947-8), Rav Yechiel set out on his mission to raise money for the yeshiva's building fund to England. (On the side, he also considered it important that there be chareidi citizens in Eretz Yisroel and he did what he could in England to encourage chareidim to move to Eretz Yisroel.) Rav Yechiel had also purchased a new coat from yeshiva funds, which was more becoming for a representative of the yeshiva than his old one was. When his mission was completed and he returned home, however, Rav Yechiel fully reimbursed the yeshiva from his own money for the coat -- though it had only been necessary to buy it because he was travelling in the yeshiva's service -- and also for several private journeys he made while away, the costs of which he had recorded in a notebook, together with all his other expenses. He handed the notebook to Reb Zeev Lang z'l, and asked him to calculate the amount due to the yeshiva so that he could take it from his private account.

During his first weeks in England, Rav Yechiel's attempts to raise money met with little success and he even considered giving up and returning to Eretz Yisroel. However he heard from his old friend and mentor, the Ponovezher Rov zt'l, that he himself had also been unsuccessful at the beginning of his own trip but had nonetheless pressed on undeterred.

In the second month of his English travels, Rav Yechiel indeed saw considerable success and he was able to return home with what in those days amounted to a small fortune which, as things turned out, would be crucial to the yeshiva's survival.

In London, Rav Yechiel was helped by Dayan Abramsky zt'l, the av beis din, and by Dayan Moshe Swift zt'l, who had known Rav Yechiel as a bochur in Mir. Dayan Swift described Rav Yechiel's untiring efforts on the yeshiva's behalf and recalled that he once met Rav Yechiel in the street in a state of near collapse.

Dayan Abramsky told Dayan Swift, "I am releasing you from attending sessions of the beis din so that you can accompany the rosh yeshiva of Kol Torah on his calls!"

Further testimony to Rav Yechiel's self-sacrifice while travelling on the yeshiva's behalf is to be found in the book, Eso Dei'i Lemeirochok, by HaRav Binyomin Zeev Jacobson zt'l. " . . . I was together [with him] in the course of a very harsh winter in London. Despite the fact that he was already a weak person, his devotion to his charge was boundless. All of us could see -- even from a distance -- this tzaddik's righteousness, cloaking everything he did in tremendous simplicity. This was a true picture of a `bowed tzaddik,' and of `an upright man of faith,' (tzaddik kofuf, ne'emon poshut)".

His dedication to the purpose of his visit is illustrated by the following story, in the light of which the story that comes after it is rendered all the more impressive.

Some talmidim of Rav Yechiel's in Gateshead invited him to visit the town and deliver divrei Torah and words of mussar. Their rebbe responded that the sole reason for his coming to England was to advance his yeshiva's cause. All his time there was dedicated to this goal and he would therefore be unable to accept any undertaking that did not bring some benefit to the yeshiva. The talmidim collected a sum of money for the yeshiva, and Rav Yechiel then felt able to fulfill their request.

HaRav Schlesinger of London recalls that while in England, his uncle "was invited to one of the family relatives, who wanted to donate a large amount of money. The members of the household received him warmly and prepared an evening meal in his honor. However, since they were not observant, he refused to eat. They asked him to at least have a cup of tea but he refused that as well, though they told him that if he wouldn't drink, they wouldn't give anything. He did not want to drink however, and they withdrew their pledge."

All in all, the trip was a great success in terms of the yeshiva's building fund, as well as in other ways. The Rosh Yeshiva's visit left a lasting impression upon those who met him, and probably the arrival of many of the English talmidim who came to learn in Kol Torah in later years was a result of this.

When Rav Yechiel's son, HaRav Moshe Yehuda Schlesinger ylct'a, travelled to England some twenty years later on behalf of the yeshiva, one of the communal leaders advised him, "Go to the same places as your father zt'l. The deep impression which he left behind on his visit is still etched on the hearts of those who had contact with him."

Yerushalayim Besieged

Rav Yechiel arrived back in Eretz Yisroel in the spring of 5708 (1948), and was at first unable to return to Yerushalayim because the city was cut off by fighting from other areas of Jewish population. Fighting between Jews and Arabs had escalated in the months and weeks leading up to the departure of the British administration and forces (which were to be completed by mid-May and mid-August, respectively).

From their villages and firing positions high in the hills overlooking the road to Yerushalayim (mainly at Sha'ar Hagai, the main pass at the beginning of the mountains, and Kastel, the final ridge before Yerushalayim), Arab sharpshooters fired on Jewish traffic bound for the city, killing passengers indiscriminately and burning vehicles. The road was virtually impassable and since the city's Jewish inhabitants were entirely dependent for food upon supplies that were brought along this road from the coastal plain, the Arab stranglehold on the supply route had very serious implications.

A concerted effort in the first weeks of April to dislodge the attackers was partially successful. The Kastel was held by Jews long enough to allow three large convoys of food and supplies to reach the besieged city. While the first two convoys (on the fifth and seventh of Nisan 5708) were fired upon and suffered casualties, they managed to get through with relatively minor difficulties. The third convoy however, which travelled on the tenth of Nisan and consisted of three hundred trucks carrying Pesach supplies of chickens, eggs, sugar and matzos, had a very difficult passage.

Arabs attacked at Sha'ar Hagai and a number of Jews were killed or wounded. (The shells of the six trucks that had to be abandoned still remain at the side of the Yerushalayim-Tel Aviv highway along the sharp slope of Sha'ar Hagai.) It was on this convoy, which in fact was the last civilian one to get through, that Rav Yechiel finally managed to return home.

While waiting for an opportunity to return to Yerushalayim, Rav Yechiel had asked the Chazon Ish whether money he had collected for the Building Fund could be used temporarily for the food for the talmidim. The Chazon Ish replied that a certain percentage of the money was rightfully due to the Rosh Yeshiva personally, as compensation for his efforts on the yeshiva's behalf, and since Rev Yechiel did not intend to take a penny for himself, that percentage could certainly be used for a different purpose. In fact, the lion's share of the money was used up while the siege lasted.

Life in Yerushalayim at this time was very dangerous. The city was small and much of it was within rifle range of Arab territory. Simply to go out into the street was to risk being the target of a sniper's bullet. As mentioned, Rav Yechiel deemed the nutritional needs of his talmidim sufficient justification for going out to look for a pharmacy where he could purchase vitamin supplements for the meager rations upon which the city's inhabitants subsisted during the siege. He presumably also went through the streets for tevillas Ezra.

Concerning this family minhag, Rav Elyokim Schlesinger of London recalls, "Following the custom of his forbears, he went to the mikveh when appropriate. Before my chuppah, he said to me, `You should know that our fathers kept tevillas Ezra with great mesiras nefesh.' He was pleased when I told him that I remembered, from when I was young, that my grandfather Rav Eliezer zt'l, had broken the ice that covered the mikveh. He also told me that his going to the mikveh had saved lives." Rav Yechiel also had a key to the mikveh in Frankfurt which was very unusual in those days.

Although most of the money which Rav Yechiel had collected at such self-sacrifice was used to sustain the yeshiva during the difficult period following his return, the problem of where to accommodate the growing yeshiva was resolved -- albeit several years later. Today, the yeshiva occupies beautiful (though crowded) buildings in the heart of Yerushalayim's Bayit Vegan neighborhood.

The Stern brothers, whose family belonged to the kehilla in Fulda where HaRav Boruch Kundstadt zt'l had been dayan, erected the central dormitory building. Some years later, through his ties with Reb Zeev Lang, Mr. Max Stern put up a fine, spacious beis hamedrash adjoining it. With the yeshiva's expansion in recent years, the beis hamedrash has had to be made even larger, by incorporating part of the adjacent entrance hall but it still strains to accommodate all the talmidim, kein yirbu.

The Day Wanes

As the weeks passed, Rav Yechiel's illness worsened. Yet with supreme effort he continued delivering his shiurim. When, towards the end of that summer, he had to enter the hospital, his talmidim went with him. They would arrive in pairs, gemoras in hand at his specific request and would sit by his bed, learning.

Rav Yechiel lay on his bed suffering, his eyes closed, as the bochurim learned together quietly. When they encountered a difficulty, they would hear the Rosh Yeshiva's voice clarifying the matter for them. When he heard a Rashi read incorrectly, Rav Yechiel, from his bed, was able to correct the reader.

One time his son asked if it was not bitul Torah for the bochurim to come. He answered, "A bochur must know that sometimes it is necessary to do certain things."

HaRav Schlesinger of London writes, "He wrote his booklet on caring for children on Shabbos when he was already bedridden and he asked me to show it to the Chazon Ish. Our master took the booklet in order to study it overnight. He returned it to me the next day with his comments, which testify to the high esteem which he had for my uncle's writings."

It seems that this work had been in preparation for a long time, possibly years. The incident which had provided the impetus for its compilation had taken place when Rav Yechiel visited a fine, upright family of friends on one of the chareidi settlements on Shabbos, and had noticed that in taking care of their young children, they were inadvertently stumbling into forbidden melochos deOraissa.

He was eager to do everything possible to fill the vacuum in this area and to provide the necessary halachic guidance. Although the booklet "How Should I Care For My Children On Shabbos And Yom Tov?" is a slim one, Rav Yechiel commented that he had invested as much in preparing it as in a large sefer. His characteristic reticence in issuing practical halachic rulings dictated that every ruling be preceded by a thorough review of the halochos and that every sentence be formulated in a way that ensured that it reflected the halocho with the utmost clarity and precision.

Rav Yechiel consulted a children's doctor while preparing the booklet but the major contribution to its production was apparently his weekly chavrusa with HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt'l. The two had first met when the yeshiva was situated near the old Sha'arei Chesed neighborhood where Rav Shlomo Zalman lived and a close friendship developed. For several months they learned together every Shabbos, from just after the morning seuda almost until mincha, clarifying the practical application of hilchos Shabbos to life in modern homes. (Rav Yechiel's kuntrus can thus be regarded as the forerunner of the comprehensive Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchosoh, which was published several years later by HaRav Yehoshua Neuwirth ylct'a under Rav Shlomo Zalman's aegis.)

It should also be mentioned that Rav Yechiel himself once commented that when the time came to appoint a new rosh yeshiva, Rav Shlomo Zalman (who was his junior by some ten years), would be a suitable choice. Before the shiva for Rav Yechiel had ended, Rav Shlomo Zalman was asked to fill the position.

Another product of this period was She'al Ovicho Veyageidcho, Rav Yechiel's commentary on the Haggodo shel Pesach. In the form of explanations of various passages in the Haggodo, he conveyed some of his fundamental ideas about our ancestral faith and the uniquely Jewish method of its transmission from generation to generation. He writes, "In the father's replies [to the Mah Nishtanoh], the two principle ideas which the seder night comes to teach and to implant within our hearts and those of our children have thus been explained: the first idea, which has two aspects -- that the foundation of our nation's physical existence as well as its spiritual existence, is independent of any natural process, coming rather, entirely from Hashem, Creator of the world -- Vekeirevonu, Hashem has drawn us close . . . -- This is attested to by the contrasting allusions to which we applied the questions in mah nishtanoh. The second - -'avodosoh, to His service -- that the purpose of our nationhood is only `ba'avur zeh, for this,' because of and for the sake of our fulfillment of His mitzvos, as servants who fulfill their masters, in the manner exemplified by na'aseh venishma, meaning that actual physical fulfillment must precede understanding and knowledge." The Haggodo was first issued for Rav Yechiel's sheloshim and last year was republished by the yeshiva for his fiftieth yahrtzeit.

HaRav Schlesinger of London has recorded the following story, which took place at this time. "When the time of the bar mitzva of his first born, HaRav Moshe Yehuda arrived, my uncle was already in the hospital. He asked me to prepare his son's drosho and also noted which topic and which Rabbi Akiva Eiger were to be discussed. With siyata deShmaya and because of him, I prepared the drosho, which pleased him. It is generally accepted in the family that I was close to the Brisker Rov zt'l, though it was not so. At that time, it was very hard to get an audience with him for his home was open to all. I was something of a household member there, on the instructions of the Chazon Ish zt'l, who told me that I had to find a way to the Rov. [However,] though a year had passed, I had not yet merited our master's addressing a single word to me. My uncle said to me, `You are close to the Brisker Rov. Take my son, so that he can repeat the drosho to him.'

"Though this placed me in a quandary, I could not refuse. I asked one of our master's [i.e. the Brisker Rov's] sons, with whom I was close, to convey my uncle's request to his father. To my amazement, when our master heard my uncle's name, he called me inside and the boy repeated his long drosho in its entirety while our master listened right to the end, which he was not accustomed to do. He wished mazel tov and we went out.

"We had not reached the end of the street when our master's son came running after me and said that our master was calling me. Naturally I was shocked but, with no choice, I [went back and] entered our master's room and saw him bending over the Rambam which the bar mitzva boy had just reconciled. He asked me, `Who said this chiddush?' I was shocked but I answered bashfully, `I did.' He said, `Zitst (Sit down),' and from that moment I was fortunate to be close to him -- all in my uncle's merit."

HaRav Bundheim recalled Rav Yechiel's adherence to every requirement of halocho during his illness, despite the personal difficulty it involved. Before he made any brocho, Rav Yechiel rinsed his mouth and cleaned it carefully, though it was an effort for him and every movement distressed him (see Orach Chaim siman 172).

A Tzaddik Takes Leave

At the beginning of 5709 (1948), the government was about to introduce identity cards to all citizens. Everyone was called upon to hand in a photograph of themselves and the deadline for receiving the pictures was fixed for Chol Hamoed Succos. From his hospital bed, Rav Yechiel adjured his talmidim and family to make sure they were photographed before the festival began. Rav Yechiel himself tried not to be photographed at all and, although he did not require this stringency of others, he wanted to ensure that they avoided the melochoh on chol hamoed.

The time he too a photograph was after the war when he sent his mother-in-law, who had survived the camps and was in Switzerland, a picture of his family whom she had not seen for many years. Aside from this, the only pictures of Rav Yechiel that the family has are those made for identity cards.

Erev Succos 5709 -- Two of the gedolei Torah of Yerushalayim, who were also teacher and pupil, lay mortally ill in Sha'arei Tzedek Hospital: HaRav Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky zt'l, av beis din of the Eida HaChareidis, and HaRav Yechiel Schlesinger.

HaRav Dushinsky was then over eighty years old and was very frail. On erev Succos, he passed away. Those close to Rav Yechiel were afraid of the effect that the news would have on him and HaRav Boruch Kundstadt zt"l, who led Kol Torah together with Rav Yechiel, stayed at the bedside of his friend and colleague for several hours that day to keep away any visitors. Since HaRav Dushinsky's levaya was held in the hospital grounds (where he was temporarily interred, since the passage to the cemetery on Har Hazeisim was closed to Jews as a result of the fighting) it was possible that a number of the participants may have decided to use the opportunity to pay a bikur cholim visit to Rav Yechiel, leading him to realize what had happened.

However, Rav Yechiel realized by himself. When he heard the quiet that had descended upon the neighboring room, he burst into bitter tears and took upon himself to learn mishnayos for his rebbi's merit. Five months later, shortly before he himself passed away, Rav Yechiel told his nephew, HaRav E. G. Schlesinger who had also learned Torah under HaRav Dushinsky, the place he had reached in the mishnayos and asked him to complete learning them. Whether any obligation rested upon Rav Yechiel under the tragic circumstances of his own petirah is unlikely, yet even so, he wanted his promise to be fulfilled and the mishnayos learned in his teacher's merit.

Teves-Shevat 5709 (1949) -- Rav Yechiel's rebbetzin was in the last month of pregnancy and, as previously, he insisted that she spend Shabbosos in the hospital in order to minimize any chillul Shabbos, despite the difficulties that her doing so would cause in their home under the circumstances.

Despite his own problems, Rav Yechiel's heart still ached over the spiritual welfare of his brethren. When his talmid, Reb Dovid Grosberg who cared for him in the hospital, mentioned that three thousand olim had recently arrived in the country, Rav Yechiel burst out crying. In response to Reb Dovid's amazement he explained, "There must be hundreds of children among them and what kind of chinuch will they get?"

On a visit to the Rosh Yeshiva, one of the rabbonim of the yeshiva was entrusted with an important mission. It shows how exact his cheshbon hanefesh and hakpodoh bedin was. Rav Yechiel told him about a certain couple at whose wedding in Frankfurt he had been present. There had been some halachic reservation about their kesuvoh and they needed a new one written. Since the original kesuvoh had been drawn up by the city's rav, it had been proper to refrain from pointing this out at the time. However, the matter needed correcting.

As Shevat drew to a close, Rav Yechiel's illness progressed and his situation worsened. The full grandeur of his personality was evident during this critical period. He accepted his terrible suffering with love for his Creator and never lost sight of the duties and obligations that were still incumbent upon him. He continued learning Torah with his last vestiges of strength and he prepared himself for the transition that lay ahead. No word of complaint escaped him. Referring to his departure from his family, he told R' Moshe Schweber "it would have been good" had he been able to continue raising his children. A minute later he caught himself and said that was not the right way to put it. "It would have been pleasant for me (mir angenehm)," he said. (Meaning, that we never know what is good, but we can say what we prefer.)

Final days

Adar arrived and the situation was critical. While talmidim and friends intensified their prayers for his recovery, Rav Yechiel himself was looking forward, fully aware of his position. At this time, he drew upon the powers of endurance that he had developed throughout his difficult life to ensure that his spirit emerged unscathed.

In his last week, he asked his talmid HaRav Yehoshua Neuwirth ylct'a, to move his bed nearer to the window. He wanted to see the new moon and to make kiddush levonoh. He was filled with joy at being able to fulfill this mitzvo. Only a few days would elapse before he would be meeting the Shechina again . . .

Motzei Shabbos parshas Tetzaveh -- After havdoloh, Rav Yechiel addressed those who were with him and said, "Take the becher home. It won't be needed anymore . . ."

7th Adar 5709 -- This was the yahrtzeit of Rav Yechiel's father, Rav Eliezer Lipmann Schlesinger zt'l, and for Rav Yechiel, it had always been a special day of introspection and self-examination. His nephew R' Elyokim Getzel was with him and he heard Rav Yechiel reproving himself saying, amongst other things, "When a person comes before the Heavenly court, nobody can help him there, no relative and no friend. Just the person himself stands there for judgment . . . "

8th Adar -- Rav Yechiel wanted to encourage his rebbetzin, tlct'a who, with tremendous dedication, had willingly undertaken a life of relative poverty, following him first to learn and then to disseminate Torah, and continually assisting him in all his undertakings. His message to her was concise. "Boruch Hashem, there is nothing to regret. I have merited establishing a yeshiva, moreover, in Yerushalayim ir hakodesh. I have also merited to kindle eight lights . . . Nothing to regret . . . and much to be thankful for."

The rebbetzin continued to devote herself to the yeshiva and, after consulting with the Chazon Ish, she went to Europe and worked on the yeshiva's behalf.

That same day, Rav Yechiel called over his nephew and asked him to watch over his children's Torah chinuch. "It was not a vague request," recalls HaRav E. G. Schlesinger. "He conveyed to me the character of each of his children and which points required special attention in each particular case."

Thursday night, the 9th of Adar 5709 -- Rav Yechiel was making his final preparations. Shortly before his petirah, his brother Dr. Falk Schlesinger z'l, who was assisting him, removed Rav Yechiel's watch from his wrist. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Schlesinger showed a talmid (R' Ezriel Hirsch) who was present, that the watch stopped working precisely at the moment Rav Yechiel's neshomo left him. Later, Dr. Schlesinger said that it started working again by itself the following day.

In his final moments, Rav Yechiel read the posuk (Tehillim 4:5), "Tremble [before Hashem] and do not sin; take this to heart [when lying] on your couch and be silent forever." After this he said the piyut, Yigdal Elokim chai, which is based upon the Rambam's thirteen principles, with strong, unshakable faith. When he reached the final verse -- "Meisim yechayei Keil, berov chasdo; boruch adei ad, sheim tehilloso, Hashem will revive the dead, in His great kindness; may the name of His praise be blessed for ever and ever." He repeated it again and again, until he returned his neshomo to its Maker. (When the Brisker Rov asked Dr. Schlesinger what Rav Yechiel had done in his last moments, he was very impressed when he told him that he had reviewed the thirteen principles.)

In torrents of rain, and shrouded in grief, crowds of bnei Yerushalayim and its yeshivos, talmidim of Kol Torah and olei Ashkenaz accompanied Rav Yechiel as he was taken from the yeshiva, where he had been eulogized by gedolei Torah and leaders of the generation. In the course of his hesped, Rav Yechiel's colleague HaRav Kundstadt mentioned that the Rosh Yeshiva had asked him to announce that half of his merits belonged to his rebbetzin, tlct'a, who had stood at his side with devotion through the years.

To the sound of the weeping and lamenting of his talmidim and followers, Rav Yechiel's body, purified through a life of toil in Torah and of suffering, was <%- 2>laid alongside the grave of his rebbe HaRav Dushinsky, in the Beis Hachaim plot on the grounds of Sha'arei Tzedek Hospital, as the rain continued to pour down.

Afterword: In Retrospect

In conversation with two of his closest confidants, the Chazon Ish once either himself referred to Rav Yechiel as a second Chofetz Chaim, or remarked that it was said that he was such.

HaRav Schlesinger of London writes, "He lived for approximately fifty years and it is amazing that in his short life -- and for several years he was ill -- his personality developed to such greatness and he was active in so many endeavors. Quality however, need not necessarily be accompanied by quantity and `a little of what is pure is truly a lot,' in the words of the Chovos Halevovos. It is hard to believe that fifty years have already passed since he departed. All the experiences with him and memories of him are as alive as on the day they took place -- in fact even more so, for `a man does not fully comprehend his rebbe's mind for forty years.' With the passage of time, everything one has seen or heard from a great man takes on new meaning and added depth. This is the everlasting, eternal quality of the truth."

In retrospect though, perhaps this comparison can be extended beyond Rav Yechiel's personal righteousness and Torah greatness, to include his powerful influence on shaping future generations. In his appreciation of Rav Yechiel, Reb Fishel Gelernter wrote, "He felt that restorative properties of Torah could revive whoever studied it, if they developed into bnei yeshiva and bnei Torah whose prime objective is immersion in Torah and delving into the depths of halocho, like a talmid chochom whose Torah is a permanent fixture in his heart. He viewed the spirit of Torah and of Judaism as the determining factor in every field of life, neither capitulating to the pressures of circumstances and routine on the one hand, nor recoiling from reality, as it is, on the other.

"In founding his yeshiva, his own way of life was evident . . . He recognized the only fundamental principle which is capable of guaranteeing [the survival of] Judaism, namely, [the importance of] each and every ben Torah, for whom Torah is permanent and fixed while all other concerns are temporal and of secondary importance. The yeshiva saw its purpose in disseminating Torah not only among those sectors whose principle occupation was Torah study. It undertook to teach, in the yeshiva way, all who knocked at its doors, with the result that even those who saw their vocation outside the walls of the beis hamedrash, left suffused with Torah and yiras Shomayim . . . and would continually return, from the world of parnosso, to a place of Torah and yirah.

"These aims threw open the yeshiva's gates before all groups and communities in Eretz Yisroel . . . the spirit and the approach of the yeshiva's founder can be seen in its unique path -- to train a generation, with no distinctions of community, country of origin or occupation, towards the ideal of [being ] bnei Torah, towards [continual] progress in Torah knowledge and yiras Shomayim in the spirit of the posuk, `I have asked one thing of Hashem, that I shall request, my dwelling in the house of Hashem all the days of my life . . . ' He exemplified the life of a ben Torah to his talmidim, in whose world nothing exists save the dalet amos of halocho."

Though Rav Yechiel's vision of recreating the glory of the German kehilla in Yerushalayim, was not realized to the extent that he had hoped, his work and that of the other roshei hayeshiva towards the initial spiritual rehabilitation and the subsequent spiritual flowering of the members of their native community was crucial. In fact it would be grossly inaccurate to view the wider vision as a failure. While there may be no central kehilla where chassidus Ashkenaz can be witnessed in the renewed glory of its heyday, many hundreds of Kol Torah alumni belonging to communities from all corners of the Jewish world, were raised in the yeshiva to strive for the ideals of chassidus Ashkenaz. Thus, through Kol Torah, many of those sterling qualities have once again become diffused among Klal Yisroel, rather than remaining localized.

In recent decades, the strongly German component of the yeshiva's leadership has been joined by some of the finest products of the Lithuanian yeshivos, thus slightly blurring the old distinctive approach. Nonetheless, the foundations which Rav Yechiel laid are still recognizable.

Irrespective of the nuances of their own training, all the yeshiva's teachers exemplify the straightforwardness, honesty and sincerity that are identified with the yeshiva. The yeshiva continues to play a major role in the expansion of the Torah community in Eretz Yisroel. Rav Yechiel showed his talmidim what a true ben Torah is, and inspired them to follow his path. In so doing, he planted a sapling that has grown into a mighty tree, that flourishes to this day.

For the Sake of Shabbos

Many are the examples of Rav Yechiel's scrupulous observance of Shabbos. HaRav Schlesinger of London writes, "Once during the midday meal on Shabbos, one of his daughters cut her finger deeply. He sent me to Dr. Levy, a G-d fearing doctor who lived nearby, and warned me not to do anything before I came back and asked him. I got back and told him that according to Dr. Levy an operation was necessary or she was liable to lose her finger. My uncle immediately responded, `Merely danger to a limb? It's forbidden to do anything!' [Meaning, no chilul Shabbos with melochos that are forbidden by Torah law, for those forbidden by the rabbonon are permitted where there is danger to a limb.]"

After Rav Yechiel's fourth child was born on Shabbos, he would pray -- and he wrote a tefillah for his wife to pray -- that subsequent births not take place on Shabbos. The rebbetzin would thereafter spend the last few Shabbosos of her pregnancies in close proximity to the hospital, to minimize as far as possible any chilul Shabbos that might have been necessary. Rav Yechiel was determined about carrying out this arrangement and no personal considerations of the difficulties involved would deter him. (A source for this care can be found in the Mogen Avrohom, 330,1, quoting the Sefer Chareidim.)

In fact, from that time on, the children were either born shortly before Shabbos began or just after it had gone out. Rav Yechiel himself had been born and had his bris on Shabbos. He learned Hilchos Milo and did his sons' milos himself in order to `atone' for his own bris having been on Shabbos. This too, is mentioned in the seforim of early authorities as a measure of special piety.

In addition, on his way to kabolas Shabbos, Rav Yechiel would go with the mazhirei haShabbos, those venerable sons of Yerushalayim who would enter shops at candle lighting time to warn of the approaching Shabbos. To his sons he explained the obligation to join those who provided the necessary rebuke and reproof in spiritual matters.


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