Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 21, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







In Honor of his Yahrtzeit 2nd Adar

By Yisroel Friedman

In 5537 (1777) a great light began to shine forth from the small town of Vadislav, namely the birth of R' Binyomin Zev Lev ztvk"l. His father, the Shemen Rokeach, taught him as a young boy, when he already decided to study the difficult seder Nezikim.

He learned in the yeshivos of R' Eliezer Kempne of Prostitz, and of his brother-in- law R' Yirmiyohu of Mattersdorf.

When he became of age he married Feigele, the daughter of HaRav Yitzchok Eisik Elkish zt"l, Rav of Ushpitzin from the dynasty of the Rebbe R' Heschel and the Moginei Shlomo.

For six years he studied without any financial burden, being supported by his father and father-in-law. When those years were over he accepted rabbonus in Raspersov and subsequently he became rov in Amshinov.

As a young avreich he wrote the first volume of his sefer Shaarei Torah and a unanimous decision was made by the rabbonim of Poland that it should be printed right away despite the young age of its author--he was only twenty four at the time. However he refused to have it printed until he reached the age of forty.

When it finally came out in print, the sefer was adorned with the warm approbations of all the gedolei hador: his father the Shemen Rokeach, the Chasam Sofer, R' Akiva Eiger, R' Mordechai Banet, the Boruch Taam, the Beis Efraim, and the Nesivos, HaRav Shmuel Landau, a HaRav Elozor Flekeles of Prague. It immediately gained wide acclaim in the Torah world.

As rov in Kellin, Behman, he raised the banner of Torah high, fighting boldly against the Maskilim who, realizing against whom they were battling, were considerably subdued. They did not dare to air their depraved views as long as the Shaarei Torah was in town.

The peak of his rabbonus was in Verbau. There he founded a yeshiva which became famous for its outstanding talmidim, many of whom served later as rabbonim of prestigious kehillos.

He raised a distinguished family, starting with his son R' Yirmiyohu zt"l, rov of Ujheil and author of Divrei Yirmiyohu.

On Adar 2, 5611, the great light was extinguished as the Shaarei Torah's neshomoh returned to its source. The Levushei Mordechai, R' Mordechai Winkler, recounted that at the time of his passing a pillar of flaming fire was seen rising from his house. He was buried in Verbau where his kever can be seen today.


"If you have learnt much Torah, do not keep the good to yourself, because for this you were created (to spread it to others)."

These words of Chazal cited in Pirkei Ovos are the reason why our gedolim , in addition to shouldering the responsibility of their generation, invested endless time and effort in teaching their talmidim, who drank their words thirstily. Thus they passed the Torah down from one generation to the next.

The Shaarei Torah was known for his genius and his immensely sharp mind even as a youngster.

When he had finished the first volume of his sefer Shaarei Torah, the Boruch Taam zt"l wrote that even the gedolei hador would find the sefer helpful in their learning -- as was proven when he published it. Indeed, many great and elderly talmidei chachomim learned regularly from his sefer , toiling to understand the deep concepts he had written as a young man of only twenty- four.

His greatness in Torah and unusual hasmodoh in its study was a lesson to his talmidim, as one of them related in awe: "When the brother of the Shaarei Torah, HaRav Leib Mintz, came to visit him after an absence of twenty years, Rabbenu greeted him joyfully, inquired as to his welfare and that of his family and immediately led him to his study where he began to learn with him for many hours."

Once, a talmid heard him exclaiming earnestly, "I cannot think of a greater pleasure, even that of Gan Eden, than if I were given a crate full of seforim of Shas and poskim to pore over day and night; then I would need no worldly pleasures at all."

Indeed to sit in the yeshiva with the Shaarei Torah was an uplifting experience. The whole study hall was like a market, only with words being bought and sold. Questions and answers were exchanged, the Shaarei Torah bouncing from the words of the gemora to Rambam to Rashbo, Ramban, Ritvo, from the Rishonim to the Acharonim -- and to everything he had something to question or to add, ensuring the lively participation of all his talmidim.

As a father cares for an only son, the Shaarei Torah tested the level of each bochur to see if he excelled in his learning or if perhaps he needed a bit of extra coaching. He knew each one of them personally and tried to sharpen each to the maximum ability of the talmid.

When the sefer Nodo Biyehudoh came out he scheduled a lesson in the new sefer with four talmidim who, he reckoned, could thereby gain a clear derech halimud.

During a regular shiur the Shaarei Torah, as was his style, introduced the sugya with various questions and contradictions, discussing all angles until he gave a novel answer that tied up all the loose ends and presented a perfectly clear picture of the sugya, causing the eyes of his talmidim to light up in recognition of the truth.

Then, turning to a bochur close by, he asked him to bring a sefer Rambam Hilchos Me'ilah from where he would bring a clear proof to his chiddush. His mind still preoccupied with the lesson itself, the talmid did not fully concentrate on what he had been told to do and brought in a Rambam Hilchos Miloh!

His friends noticed his mistake as soon as he put the sefer down in front of the rov and a moment later it hit him too. The Shaarei Torah realized that he had to act fast if he wanted to save the boy, as smirks were already appearing on the faces of some of the bochurim. His amazing sharpness and overwhelming pity for the boy propelled him into quick thinking.

After a moment's hesitation he proclaimed loudly, "In Hilchos Miloh we find a wonderful proof." With astounding depth he explained a perfect proof of his chiddush.

He later explained, "I did not intend to bring this raiyo and though I usually do not like to veer from the initial pshat, this time I made an exception to avoid embarrassing a talmid."

Many years on, the talmidim were discussing this incident, marveling at the presence of mind of their rov and at how he managed to fabricate a proof from a totally different subject. However, they decided in conclusion, "Of his greatness and genius we always knew and tried to learn from him. But here we learnt something new: that in order to save a Yid from embarrassment one must do the utmost, even if it requires bringing heaven to earth as the Shaarei Torah did, summoning all his powers of thought and concentration to create a perfect answer where it surely did not exist previously. This we must truly aspire to emulate!"


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