Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Tammuz 5763 - July 2, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Dedication and Rededication at Yeshivas Kol Torah

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

On Sunday afternoon June 15-15 Sivan in Bayit Vegan on the campus of the Kol Torah yeshiva, mezuzas were fixed to the doorposts of the new beis medrash and classrooms for the yeshiva ketanoh. Then the sifrei Torah from the old beis medrash were brought in a large procession to the new one by the Zweig Family.

A ceremony was held naming the new wing of the yeshiva gedoloh, Heichal Pinchas, donated by the Mandel Family. Speakers included HaRav Avrohom Erlanger, one of the roshei yeshivos, and HaRav Yitzchok Yeruchom Bordiansky, the yeshiva's menahel ruchani. A dedication ceremony was also held for the beis medrash for the yeshiva ketanoh, where a speech was given by HaRav Aviezer Shapira, the menahel ruchani for the yeshiva ketanoh.

Later that evening thousands packed the yeshiva's new dining hall for the late-night seudas mitzvoh.

The major speeches were given by two of the gedolei Torah who attended the event, HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, and HaRav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman.

Yated has obtained copies of the speeches and translated them. As might be expected, both speeches are not just about the events of the day, but include wisdom and lessons that are of interest to all of Klal Yisroel.

Yeshivas Kol Torah -- Building Dedication and Gathering Of Alumni

Aiding Torah Study And Gratitude For The Past

The Main Address, Delivered By HaRav A. Y. L. Shteinman

The Greatness of Facilitating Torah Study

In discussing the order of preference for distributing tzedokoh funds, the Shulchan Oruch (Yore De'ah 249:16) cites an opinion that, "the mitzva of a beis haknesses takes precedence over the mitzva of tzedokoh, while the mitzva of giving tzedokoh for youths to learn Torah, or for the sick among the poor, precedes the mitzva of beis haknesses." We see here that whatever relates to Torah outweighs all else! [This is so] even though a beis haknesses comes before other tzedokoh. There is thus immeasurable reward for whatever has a connection with Torah!

From the things that Chazal say in the gemora and the midroshim, we see that the importance of Torah study is unimaginable. Any measure that facilitates Torah study or that makes it easier to learn, is of inestimable value and greatness.

I shall mention one gemora that deals with this greatness, out of the vast amount that is said on the subject in the gemoras and midroshim. At the end of Chagigah (27) the gemora says, "Rabbi Avohu said in Rabbi Elozor's name, `The fire of Gehennom does not burn talmidei chachomim; this is deduced through a kal vochomer from the salmandra. If one rubs himself with the blood of the salmandra, which issues from fire, then fire does nor burn him. This is certainly the case with talmidei chachomim, whose bodies are entirely fire, as the posuk says, " `Why, thus are My words like fire' says Hashem, " (Yirmiyohu 23:29).' "

From this kal vochomer, we learn that fire does not burn talmidei chachomim. We must understand though -- if he has done aveiros, he will probably experience Gehennom. And if he has not done any aveiros, what is this adding? At any rate, it is written in the gemora that the fire of Gehennom does not burn talmidei chachomim and that this is derived from the salmandra.

The question is however, that while we see from the posuk that, "My words," meaning divrei Torah, are like fire, we do not see that the bodies of talmidei chachomim are like fire. The entire kal vochomer is based on this premise but where do we see that this is so? "My words" refer to divrei Torah, which are like fire. We do not see that the bodies of talmidei chachomim are like fire.

It seems that the gemora does not actually cite proof for this because no proof is necessary! It is obvious to the gemora that a talmid chochom is Torah. That is clear! The only question is, where do we see that Torah is fire? To answer this, the gemora brings the posuk that tells us, "My words are like fire." There is no doubt whatsoever about a talmid chochom's actually being Torah!

We can see how highly Chazal valued a talmid chochom! On our level, we find this astonishing. How can it be that a talmid chochom is Torah? But to Chazal, it was obvious that a talmid chochom who learns Torah properly, is like Torah itself -- not that there is Torah inside a talmid chochom but that a talmid chochom is Torah.

While there are talmidei chachomim in our times as well, we are far from grasping the meaning of the idea that a talmid chochom actually is Torah. Thus, we do not understand what was so simple to Chazal.

With this, we can see how highly we must value anything that can facilitate the growth of talmidei chachomim, and the extent to which we ought to be happy and extend assistance. The truth is that those who have assisted in the building of a place like this - - a mokom Torah, where Torah can be learned with greater ease, where there is room to learn and other things that facilitate Torah study -- [should know that] this is of such great importance.

A Basic Human Attribute

I have heard that there are two aspects [to this celebration]. One is the dedication of the building and I have also heard that many alumni of the yeshiva are here. The yeshiva has now been in existence for over sixty years, during which time there have certainly been very many [talmidim] who have left, having received tremendous benefits from the yeshiva. This is definitely a reason for great joy.

Chazal tell us that Odom Horishon was blameworthy for having been ungrateful. When Hakodosh Boruch Hu asked him why he had eaten from the tree of knowledge, he replied, "The woman that You put with me gave [it] to me . . ." (Bereishis 3:12). Chazal are very critical of these words, which show ingratitude.

There is something here that we ought to try and understand. Nowhere do we find the concept of ingratitude in connection with a gentile. Gentiles have no prohibitions, save the seven commandments [that they must observe]. Nowhere are even Jews explicitly forbidden to display ingratitude. Why was Odom held guilty for having displayed this fault?

Apparently, no posuk is necessary [to warn us against this trait] for this is what a man ought to be! A person who does not feel that he ought to be on the level of expressing gratitude [for the things he benefits from] is on a very low level indeed. A human being must be grateful, even though failing to be does not involve transgressing any prohibition and there is no command about it in the Torah.

Even once the Torah was given and we have six hundred and thirteen mitzvos, none of them forbids being ungrateful (some might but the simple understanding is that not). Chazal however understood that an ungrateful person, who is oblivious to such feelings, is on a level beneath that which human beings ought to be on.

We find that this goes even further. Chazal tell us that Hakodosh Boruch Hu told Moshe Rabbenu that he should bring all the makkos, except for several which Aharon was to bring. We find that Moshe was to tell Aharon to bring the plague of lice (Shemos 8:12). Chazal tell us that this was because Moshe benefited from the earth when he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand and was thus saved. Hakodosh Boruch Hu told him that out of gratitude, he should not be the one to smite the earth and that Aharon should do it instead.

We can understand why we ought to be grateful to Hakodosh Boruch Hu -- because He created everything. And [we can also understand] why fault was found with Odom Horishon's answer, even though there is some difficulty in this, for [the truth is that] she did lead him to sin. Still, Hakodosh Boruch Hu had done him a favor and he was lacking in gratitude. Why though, should we display gratitude to the earth? Does it feel any distress if it is not shown gratitude? Why should we be expected to be grateful towards something inanimate? Can an inanimate object do anything for a person? Does it behave in the way that it does because of its own free will?

Yet we see that our obligations even extend this far. Chazal say that this was why Hakodosh Boruch Hu told Moshe that he should not [smite the earth to] bring the plague -- because he had to show gratitude towards the earth that had enabled him to hide the body of the man he'd killed. [And we still ask ourselves:] gratitude to what? To something inanimate? Where is the gratitude here? Did the earth have any choice? Did it act out of a conscious decision?

A Talmid Chochom's Sensitivity

We find that this idea goes even further still. The Shitoh Mekubetzes (Bava Kama 92, beg. "and one of the talmidim of the R"Y . . . Migash z'l), quotes his teacher as having recounted the following incident involving the RiF. "Our teacher z'l related about his teacher the RiF z'l . . . that he once became ill and went into a bathhouse that a certain person had inside his home and he benefited from the bathhouse. Afterwards, the man invited him to stay with him until he became well. In time, the man's fortunes turned and he lost his money and was ruined through having given guarantees and the like. He owed his creditors money and things deteriorated to the point where he had to sell the aforementioned bathhouse and have it valued for his creditors. Rabbenu Yitzhak would give neither judgment nor ruling concerning the bathhouse, not with regard to its sale, nor its valuation . . . `because I had benefit from it.' "

This is absolutely impossible to understand. First, what difference does it make to the bathhouse who owns it? How is gratitude affected by considering whose bathhouse it is? Does the bathhouse have any wishes [or preferences]? Can it be said that something inanimate has done anything and that one must therefore be grateful to it?

Yet the RiF nevertheless felt that this was indeed the case, to the point where he was of the opinion that he could not act as a judge because he would be biased by the fact that he had once benefited from it. His feelings were that finely attuned, on a level that an ordinary person is hardly even aware of. Even if someone actually behaved this way it would be mere imitation; he would neither understand nor feel it. But when the RiF did this, he did feel that there was a reason! This is the point to which a talmid chochom's sensitivity regarding gratitude reaches.

Consequences of Ingratitude

At the other extreme, we find something similar in the posuk, "And a new king arose, who did not know Yosef" (Shemos 1:8). The gemora (Sotah 11) brings a difference of opinion over the meaning of "a new king" -- whether he actually was a new king, not the previous one, or whether he was the same king, but who promulgated new decrees. Rashi cites the gemora's question: why, according to the second opinion, does the posuk say, "who did not know Yosef," when he knew Yosef well?

Chazal say that, "He acted as though he didn't know him." This implies criticism of Pharaoh. Why did he pretend not to know Yosef?

Let's consider the situation at that time. Pharaoh was very concerned. Bnei Yisroel were multiplying at a very fast rate, ". . . and it will be that when war befalls us, they will join our enemies and fight us and throw us out of the land" (1:10). He worried that bnei Yisroel would elbow the Egyptians out of the country's affairs; that the Egyptians would find themselves slaves or that they would have to flee while Klal Yisroel, the offspring of Yaakov and their descendants, would start ruling the land.

Did gratitude oblige them to hand the entire country to bnei Yisroel, or to allow a situation to develop where the Egyptians would have to flee? Would that have been fair? Were the Egyptians dutybound to such an extent? Must one abandon his entire country and hand it over to bnei Yisroel just because Yosef once did them a favor?

Granted, gratitude ought to be shown Yosef because he saved them from starvation by preparing stores of food during the years of plenty. A year later there was a terrible famine and they had to sell everything they owned, livestock and land, in order to eat. Yosef did all this for them, so they were certainly obligated to show him gratitude. But to the extent of paying as high a price as giving away their country and losing control of it and having to run away? Could any consideration demand that they do such a thing?

It seems that this is what happened. There are two ways of looking at everything. On the one hand, one could say, why should you, Pharaoh, suspect the Jews [of harboring such plans]? Have they ever done anything to you that you can see as a reason to fear that they might be planning on revolting and throwing you out? They are peaceful citizens who make no trouble at all. Why should you invent accusations against them? If someone is ungrateful however, even if he sees quiet folk, he can suddenly be gripped by delusions, as though they want to rule over him and throw him out of his land. Things can go as far as that when a person doesn't feel gratitude.

Had the Egyptians shown gratitude towards Yosef and his family who had done their country a great favor, had they acknowledged that Yosef saved their entire country since otherwise they would all have died of starvation, and after Yosef had governed their country for so many years, receiving nothing special in return -- they would not have imagined such fanciful things.

Someone who doesn't feel gratitude, denies having received any benefit. So Pharaoh "did not know Yosef," means that, "he acted as though he didn't know him." That was how he was able to imagine such things, that led him to behave in such a way, getting bnei Yisroel to build fortified cities, taking so many people and forcing them to do such crushing work. And all because he lacked gratitude! Had he felt gratitude, all his concerns would have vanished.

"Therefore, the matter of bad traits are very much worse than the aveiros themselves" (Shaarei Kedushoh, cheilek I, shaar II)! We must be aware of the importance of good traits. Even if they are not written in the Torah explicitly and no specific obligation rests upon a person, as long as he does not experience these feelings, he is capable of doing the very worst things. Bad traits can sometimes be worse than sinning, for they can lead a person to all types of sins. This is what one must learn.

Towards the Future

We see people who learned here so many years ago, who have gathered here and who want to remain in contact. They ought to feel gratitude to the place where they developed, where they grew and attained things. Certainly everyone who was here has had some benefit. This gratitude itself should be a lesson to continue on this path. When one goes forward with this feeling, it will certainly help in every area and will lead to continued growth and ascent in Torah, in yiras Shomayim and in good traits.

May Hakodosh Boruch Hu help all of you to impress all these things upon yourselves and to remain in contact with the mokom Torah where you developed. May this be of benefit to them and to all the generations that follow them.

May Hakodosh Boruch Hu truly help us all to grow in Torah and yiras Shomayim, until the time comes when we see the fulfillment of "the land shall be filled with the knowledge of Hashem, like the water covers the sea" and may we merit the true redemption bimheiroh veyomeinu, omein.

This address was delivered at the dedication of the new beis medrash of Yeshivas Kol Torah on Sunday, June 15- 15 Sivan.

Torah In Its Purity: Foundations and Roots

by HaRav Shmuel Auerbach

"How awe inspiring this place is!" (Bereishis 28:17) -- Yeshivas Kol Torah -- that was founded by holy giants of men. It is "a well that was dug by princes, cut out by nobles of the people, through the lawgiver, with their staffs" (Bamidbor 21:18). Every great endeavor that is established and that endures, is dependent upon its foundations and its roots.

At the beginning of his holy work Mesillas Yeshorim, the Ramchal also uses such an expression: "The foundation . . . and the root." Every beginning must start from the foundations and the roots.

I once heard from HaRav Aryeh Levin ztvk'l who heard from HaRav Zissel ztvk'l who quoted HaRav Yisroel Salanter ztvk'l as having provided an illustration that enables us to gain a little understanding of the assertion that the Gaon ztvk'l, is said to have made, namely, that there is not one superfluous word in the Mesillas Yeshorim.

Rav Yisroel explained that the [opening] words, "the foundation of piety and the root of service" do not simply constitute a double expression. There is a [fundamental] difference between a foundation and a root.

The stronger a foundation is, the better it can support a building. But the act of building must still be carried out. By itself, the foundation is only a place that can be built upon. If nothing is built, there will be nothing there at all.

A root, on the other hand, is also something strong but unlike a foundation it will grow by itself even if nothing is done. Granted, without any investment of effort its growth won't be all that prolific, and the more work that is put into tending the root, the stronger the resulting tree will be. However the root differs [fundamentally] from the foundation in that it has its own inherent power of generation.

This is the implication of the words of Mesillas Yeshorim, which speak of piety as having a foundation. Chassidus, piety, [is related to the word chesed, kindness and it] implies relating to Hashem with "kindness," meaning, going above and beyond one's obligations in serving Him. By way of illustration, the Mesillas Yeshorim likens this to, "what happens with a son who loves his father. If his father reveals, even to a small degree, that he wishes to have a particular thing, the son will bring it to him, or he will do it for him to the greatest extent that he possibly can, even though his father only mentioned it once and even then only partially." Such a type of service [which does not take place unless there is an indication, to fulfill the father's wishes] is symbolized by building on an existing foundation.

In connection with serving Hashem however, the term "root" is used. Where there are good roots, service of Hashem takes place "automatically." Of course, the existing roots must be continued and added on to, progressing to ever higher levels of serving Hashem.

Founders and Planters

Yeshivas Kol Torah's foundation and its root, in every sense, are both anchored to holy giants of men. I remember as a child when the yeshiva was at its previous location. [I remember] davening in the shul in Shaarei Chesed when the gaon and tzaddik HaRav Yechiel Michel Schlesinger ztvk'l, who was a frequent visitor in my father's house, would speak to baalei batim about the yeshiva. The times were hard, following the terrible churban -- may Hashem help us that there should never again be anything like it and that we merit the complete redemption. In those days, it was nigh impossible to speak to baalei batim about sending their sons "to learn in yeshiva" or about supporting a yeshiva where the learning did not serve any "tachlis" -- chas vesholom.

I remember one baal habayis who literally drove him away, and Reb Yechiel Michel returned again, together with HaRav Kundstadt zt'l. It was patently obvious that they had no other motivation besides increasing Heaven's honor and Torah's prestige. That alone motivated them; nothing else.

My father and teacher too, the gaon of Klal Yisroel, may he be remembered for everlasting life, came to the yeshiva in order to disseminate Torah.

What is so special about that, one might think? Yet it still needs to be said. He came for that purpose alone - - to disseminate Torah and to teach talmidim, without any other intention or any other agenda. Here then, where the yeshiva's foundations and its roots rest upon such holy and great men, there can be no doubt that the place merits great siyata deShmaya. Its continued progress must build upon these foundations. These roots must be further cultivated and worked upon.

Yet, even where foundations and roots are deeply embedded, freedom of choice remains. Here in the yeshiva, the deep first roots of this great edifice still exert an influence. While it is of course impossible to retain the level of previous generations, when one sees the yeshiva today, boruch Hashem, [one sees that] those who continue leading it -- may Hashem lengthen their days for good and pleasantness -- have merited to continue those foundations and roots faithfully, to a very great degree. This is why everyone has gathered here; this is the goal that unites the entire gathering.

Constant Renewal, the Key to Success

Chazal say that divrei Torah need continual strengthening (Brochos 32). To this end, we say daily in the brochoh of Ahavoh Rabboh "for the sake of our ancestors who trusted in You, favor us too and teach us . . ." We make this request despite our being descendants of "our ancestors who trusted in You."

The Gaon explains that this trust refers to their having put na'aseh ["we will do the mitzvos"] before nishma ["we will listen to whatever Torah tells us"]. In other words, although our ancestors already received the Torah and we thus possess an ancient Torah that is available to anyone, we see that this alone is not enough. Every time we pray, we ask again, "favor us too and teach us . . ."

Hakodosh Boruch Hu renews creation each day. The world is renewed and Torah, which is the root of the entire creation, is certainly renewed daily. The Zohar comments that there are new heavens each day. Chazal also say that, "A person's yetzer renews itself and overpowers him each day" (Kiddushin 30), as the Chovos Halevovos puts it, "He is awake to you [and is busy trying to catch you] but you are asleep [and oblivious] to him." We are also constantly obliged and dutybound to renew our [commitment to and our] efforts in Torah, always drawing strength from divrei Torah.

As mentioned earlier, there is tremendous Heavenly assistance thanks to the [yeshiva's] foundations and roots. However, it is wholly conditional upon our possessing all the means of Torah's acquisition, toil and labor, making efforts to clarify and to elucidate and amassing knowledge of Torah that is both broad and deep. We must not be narrow or self- limiting. The aim of acquiring breadth in Torah knowledge and profound understanding that makes it possible to arrive at halachic conclusions -- these are all values that are deeply rooted in the yeshiva.

We must always experience renewal in divrei Torah, feeling them to be as new and fresh as when they were given at Sinai. We must feel more joy in Torah and there must be more of the "correct behavior [derech eretz] that comes before Torah," which is also among this edifice's roots and is one of its distinctive features. We must experience renewal in every area.

Torah in its Purity

Upon such an occasion, it is difficult for me to refrain from saying what is in my heart. I mentioned what I saw as a youngster at the time when the yeshiva was being established. Those were times when, if one looked at things through mundane eyes, it was difficult to see how young men could possibly be trained to learn Torah alone, without any other purpose. The citadels of Torah had been destroyed and to learn Torah alone involved sacrifice. To be in a position of learning Torah in its full holiness and purity -- to learn Torah exactly as it was given -- called for great self- sacrifice.

Things have changed today, boruch Hashem. The products of those who sacrificed themselves [for this end] have themselves taken root and produced a rich yield. Today it is generally understood that Torah means just Torah, without anything else and without any additions. When applied in this sense, the saying, "Whoever adds, detracts" is to be understood in the very strongest terms.

[Yet] there are people today who want to chas vesholom open "Torah institutions" which are not run on the lines of Torah's full purity and holiness. These people portray themselves and their institutions as having received their approach here, in this yeshiva. They also mislead the public, invoking the names of Kol Torah and of my father and teacher ztvk'l.

I remember that my father wanted to issue a declaration together with other gedolei Torah, concerning the yeshivot tichoniyot (yeshiva high schools), so that they should at least not present themselves as part of the yeshiva world. I heard him explaining that even by their lights -- and only according to those who are mistaken and think that it is necessary and that there are some whom it will help and that everyone knows that apart from our camp etc. -- they should at least call themselves tichon dati (religious high school) or some other name that makes it clear that they are not related to the yeshivos or to the yeshiva world.

A yeshiva is something holy. Our ancestors were never without yeshivos and they -- those places where Torah is not learned in full purity and holiness -- may not present themselves as being on the same path as the yeshivos and serving as an alternative to yeshivos kedoshos.

I feel dutybound to register a protest against this phenomenon. It is a dreadful injustice. There is no Torah in it, no menschlichkeit and no Yiddishkeit in speaking in the name of "Kol Torah" or of "my father and teacher" ztvk'l and saying things that are directly opposed to his opinions and to the fundamentals of the yeshiva, things which went right against his grain.

I shall end on the same note that I began. The foundations and the roots of this place are sublime indeed. I remember HaRav Yechiel Michel Schlesinger zt'l hinting that in wishing to involve Father zt'l in the yeshiva, his intention was also to lay great foundations, so that the yeshiva would have even greater Heavenly assistance.

This entire gathering, which is solely to sanctify Heaven, as with any gathering for that purpose, is a blessing in and of itself. With all my heart, I give my blessing that this great edifice should continue, with both material and spiritual resources, making Torah great and mighty and developing gedolim in Klal Yisroel.


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