Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Kislev 5763 - November 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Rabbi Yitzchok Zelig Hirsch zt"l
by R' Doniel Berger

In honor of his sheloshim, the twelfth of Kislev, I write these words to galvanize the remembrance of our beloved friend, Reb Yitzchok Hirsch, o.b.m. I write on behalf of his many close friends in Yeshiva Torah Ore.

He was just an ordinary person, good, caring, with a sense of humor. I still remember when he first came to yeshiva. I had been married just a few months when I contracted mono. Luckily it wasn't severe and I was able to return to the yeshiva after about a month, although on condition that I rest frequently. As it was, there happened to be an empty bed in my former room to fill the need. That was until Yitzchok arrived; he needed a bed. Now what was I to do? Yitzchok solved the problem by allowing me the use of his bed when he didn't need it.

Yitzchok was in the yeshiva for five years, first as a bochur and then as a yungerman, until they diagnosed his dreaded disease just a year-and-a-half ago. It began on Shabbos. His family was invited to eat by one of the chevra. He began to have terrible chest pains and it was decided to call for medical assistance. He was rushed to the hospital where he underwent many medical tests.

His diagnosis shocked us all. It was decided that he should travel to America for further testing and treatment. After two lengthy operations and many months of aggressive chemotherapy, it appeared that Yitzchok would recuperate. After more months of recovery, he decided to return to Eretz Yisroel where he so desired to continue his spiritual growth. With his new lease on life he couldn't wait to get back to his chavrusas in yeshiva.

But it wasn't long until he began to suffer from terrible back aches. Once again, he found himself undergoing a thorough medical examination. The dreaded disease returned, fiercer that before. Although the doctors told him that his chances were not good, Yitzchok was relaxed knowing that it was decreed in heaven and he trusted in Hashem that everything would turn out for the best. Yitzchok found himself returning to the States. The disease ravaged his body and caused him tremendous suffering, but his faith stood firm.

He had originally only planned to learn in Eretz Yisroel for a short time, but he, like many others, was imbued with the kedushoh of the land, which inspired him to strive for shleimus in avodas Hashem.

He couldn't stop learning. He would rise early in the morning to start his day with a seder before davening. His chavrusas testify to the fact that he would try his hardest not to interrupt the time allotted for learning.

On the bus, you would find him totally immersed in a sefer. He made it his duty to study halachah every day. Even on his many hospital visits for treatment he would be found with a sefer, not wanting to miss a precious moment of learning.

Tefillah was no less important to him. After his early morning seder, he made sure that there was the necessary time to prepare properly for davening neitz. His custom was to use a gartel belt for davening and he would not daven unless he had one, even in trying times. When he was only wearing a hospital gown and too weak to reach for his gartel, he made sure to reach for something that lay nearby, whether a towel or sheet or belt of a robe. He made it his duty to make a list of and daven for other sick people, especially the other patients.

The last chapter of Tehillim states, "Praise Him with the blast of the shofar. Praise Him with lyre and harp. Praise Him with drum and dance. Praise him with recorder and flute. Praise Him with resounding cymbals, Praise Him with resounding teru'oh." Rav Avigdor Miller zt"l explains that different instruments arouse different emotions and that we are obligated to praise Hashem with all of our emotions. Yitzchok served and praised Hashem with all of his emotions, in joy and happiness.

Well-known religious singers dedicate some of their time to visit patients in medical centers and uplift them with song. They often came to sing songs that are tefillos, like Ovinu Ov Horachamon, Racheim, and others. When Yitzchok was so weak that he was hardly able to utter anything, he used a letter board to spell his request to hear Tov Lehodos Lashem, ulezamer LeShimcho Elyon (It is good to praise Hashem and sing to Your Supreme Name). It became extremely difficult to use his hands when they were severely swollen with water and he was unable to lift them. He still found the strength to bring his hands together in a clapping motion.

It states in Pirkei Ovos, "Three things serve as the foundation of existence, Torah, Avodoh (tefillah), and chesed." Each of these activities provides essential nourishment and sustenance for the entire universe, without which the world we live in would cease to exist.

Yitzchok's passing was more than a personal loss, he personified all three; he kept the world going. His character was no less great. Besides being a friendly, gentle, smiling individual, he exemplified honesty.

Rav Sholom Schechter related the following story to emphasize this point. During early check-in for an international flight, Yitzchok was informed that his baggage was overweight and would incur a charge prior to boarding. However the charge was eventually overlooked both by the airline and by Yitzchok. Later, Yitzchok took the time to write a letter to the airline requesting to be billed for the forgotten charge. A copy of the letter was only discovered after Yitzchok's passing.

Yitzchok followed in the ways of the Ovos. He passed away erev Shabbos parshas Lech Lecho. He followed in Avrohom's footsteps: "Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you" and he exemplified Avraham's attribute of chesed, "Please use my bed." He shared the name of Yitzchok Ovinu and sought to serve Hashem with temimus just as a korbon to be brought before Hashem is required to be tomim -- without blemish. He exemplified Yitzchok Ovinu's attribute of gevurah and the way he davened revealed his yiras Shomayim and yiras cheit. Sadly, this time there was no "ram caught in the thicket"; Hashem desired his precious child, our Yitzchok. He exemplified Yaakov Ovinu's attribute of emes with his impeccable honesty.

We prayed for his recovery. The name Yerachmiel Yitzchok Zelig ben Shaindel was circulated to as many people as possible. He wanted people to daven for him, but requested that it should not be done during learning seder. From his chaveirim he requested that they daven for him at the Kosel, but not during time set aside for learning.

We went to say Tehillim at the Kosel. We accepted upon ourselves one hour of learning without interruption. We brought in Shabbos five minutes earlier. We shared in his suffering. We shared in his pain. We pleaded, "Don't take our beloved chaver."

"I'm in Hashem's hands. He knows what's good for me."

"Mitzvah lihiyos besimcha tomid" - it's a mitzvah to be happy all the time. Should it not have said, "It's a mitzvah to be happy" since there are always sad periods in our lives? What is the meaning of "all the time"?

If we truly believe that everything is orchestrated by Hashem and everything that Hashem does is for our best we would always be happy knowing that we are fulfilling the will of Hashem. Yitzchok was besimcha tomid.

May the remembrance of Reb Yitzchok Zelig ben Yisroel Shlomo HaKohein's virtues be a ner tomid in our hearts.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.