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27 Teves 5759, January 5, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Book Review:
The Mashgiach -- R' Moshe Aharon Stern

by R' Y. M. Stern (Available in both English and Hebrew)
Reviewed by L.M.W.

A mashgiach in a prominent yeshiva once approached R' Moshe Aharon Stern zt'l, mashgiach of Yeshivas Kamenitz in Jerusalem, upon one of his frequent trips to America. He had a delicate problem; one of his talmidim was extremely introverted and would not relate to any of the students or to his rebbeim. A closed book. No one could reach him.

R' Stern went to the yeshiva where the boy was studying, approached him and asked if he would be willing to chauffeur him around the city for fundraising purposes during his brief stay.

In the course of driving around, the Mashgiach became acquainted with the boy and he opened up. R' Stern explained to the incredulous staff that he had brought up one topic after another until he had discovered a good base for conversation. Little by little, the boy began to feel at ease and a close relationship developed. Before he was about to leave, R' Stern invited him to relocate in the Kamenitz Yeshiva in Yerusholayim. His parents, who had given up on reaching their silent son, were overjoyed at the suggestion.

Back in Jerusalem, the Mashgiach swung into high gear in preparation for his arrival in Eretz Yisroel. He enlisted ten boys as a Welcoming Committee, with each one determined to be his `best friend.' Four boys accompanied the Mashgiach to the airport, where they broke out in song and dance for their new friend in full view of his overwhelmed family, who had accompanied him on the trip. The boy remained in Kaminetz and blossomed. Asked how he had achieved this transformation, the Mashgiach repied, "If a student does not learn, this proves that his Rebbe doesn't love him enough."

During his longstanding career in Yeshivas Kamenitz, it was only natural that R' Stern be enticed to move up. The most prestigious yeshivos in the world offered him the position of Mashgiach, including Yeshivas Ponevizh. He turned down R' Shach's invitation, claiming that if he were to serve as Mashgiach in Ponevizh, he would not be able to travel abroad as often. Well, he certainly wouldn't need to, R' Shach reassured him, for he would be given a more than adequate salary. It seemed that wasn't the point at all.

"When I travel abroad, I come in contact with many families with marital problems. They are referred to me for sholom bayis and I am able to help them." This facet was very important to him, and he felt he could not curtail this area of communal work. In a rare reference to his peace making missions, R' Stern revealed to his wife that since she enabled him to leave home for long periods of time by assuming total responsibility for the family in his absence, she had an equal share in his successful efforts. The scope of this role was accentuated after his death when one of the great Rabbonim in America stated, "The women of America have great cause to mourn the death of this great tzaddik, for no one knows how many homes he built and how many homes he saved from destruction."

The Mashgiach reached out to countless individuals in need and served as a pivotal influence in the development of Torah life for countless bochurim and seminary students in both Israel and America. His biography provides a lively rendition of contemporary Jewish history. Set against a mosaic of great ancestors and relatives, the man's greatness is all the more outstanding. Torah pioneers of the early 1900s serve as the backdrop for the story. Mr. Herman of "All for the Boss" classic fame was his grandfather, and the Androns, Scheinbergs and Krauzers his close family. At stage center is the Mashgiach himself (proving again that all the yichus in the world can add up to a lot of zeroes if there is no one in front of it).

I had the privilege of hearing R' Stern speak 25 years ago in Toronto. At the time, he kept an audience in rapt attention. His introduction was modest, his delivery right on the mark. No feeling of a great man speaking down to his audience. His humility warmed the audience up and made his plea for increased yiras Shomayim eminently clear, reasonable and applicable to everyone. The echoes of that speech and many similar ones throughout the world reverberate through the book.

If you were not fortunate enough to know the Mashgiach, this is a chance to still imbibe some of his great spirit. Have you ever searched for a true friend? A person who accepts you as you are? One who doesn't preach at you, but just reaches out to you and uplifts at the same time in a non-condescending way? Who elevates and educates and acts on his ideals?

Meet the Mashgiach, a prince of a man, a giant among greats, scion of a great Torah and Klall- devoted aristocracy, steeped in simplicity, who balanced his love for Hashem with love for his fellow man. Intertwined with stories, Jewish lore and history are many wonderful insights in Chazal. Many pertinent issues are raised and seen through the eyes of this great man, as recorded by his son, R' Yechiel Michel Stern.

"The Mashgiach" is a book that will be read and re-read in homes all over the world. Related and relating to its famous predecessor, "All For the Boss" (which is presently being revised and updated for Feldheim by its author, Rebbetzin Ruchoma Shain tichye), it shares much mutual territory, but enjoys a unique flavor of its own.

As an interesting postcript: Hagaon R' Chaim Kanievsky shlita has been quoted saying that reading this book (in the Hebrew original) increased his yiras Shomayim and even enhanced his quality of Torah study!


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