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1 Adar I 5765 - February 9, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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HaRav Efraim Zalesnick zt"l

By Betzalel Kahn

Thousands of bnei Torah, including leading roshei yeshivos and talmidei chachomim from Jerusalem, participated in the levaya for HaRav Efraim Zalesnick, zt"l, who passed away at the age of 74 on 25 Shevat.

Rav Efraim Zalesnick was born in Av 5691 in Jerusalem to HaRav Shlomo Zalman, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Eitz Chaim. His mother was Leah, a descendant of the Levush. The young Efraim studied at Eitz Chaim from a tender age, continuing there through yeshiva gedoloh.

When the yeshiva studied maseches Nedorim, R' Efraim's fellow students said he studied the maseches 16 times, and when they studied Pesochim he went through it eight times.

In 5716 (1956) he transferred to Yeshivas Brisk, where he was among HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik's first students while the Brisker Rov, HaRav Yitzchok Ze'ev, was still alive. HaRav Yitzchok Ze'ev once said that R' Efraim's comments and questions were worth dwelling on. R' Efraim's fellow students at the yeshiva envied his close relationship with the Brisker Rov.

R' Efraim also had close ties with HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer, whose home he slept in for a certain period of time. On Leil Shabbos he would arrive in the middle of the seudah and speak about his learning with HaRav Meltzer, who said the young man had great yiras Shomayim. HaRav Yitzchok Zalesnick, the deceased's late brother, was HaRav Isser Zalman's talmid muvhok and shamash for many years until his histaklus.

After his wedding HaRav Efraim Zalesnick continued his studies at the Yeshivas Brisk kollel and in the winter of 5726 (1966) he began giving shiurim at Yeshivas Hametzuyonim in Jerusalem. Later he began giving shiurim at Yeshivas Eretz Tzvi under HaRav Mendel Atik, establishing it as his place of learning. He continued to deliver shiurim there until his very last days.

At Eitz Chaim, as a boy and later as a bochur, he learned bechavrusa with HaRav Shmuel Auerbach ylct"a. Years later when he published his book Darkei Shmuel, HaRav Zalesnick sent a messenger to buy a copy but HaRav Auerbach insisted on delivering the book to his friend himself.

In their youth they once went to the Chazon Ish to ask questions on their learning and the Chazon Ish asked for his mother's name to daven for his success.

Shortly after his wedding HaRav Yitzchok Ze'ev saw he was concerned over his spiritual state and said he had nothing to worry about since marriage is a good thing, and he later said that apparently the Brisker Rov had read his mind.

HaRav Shach was also very fond of him and was always glad to receive him whenever he came to Bnei Brak.

Over the course of several years he regularly went to see Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita to discuss various halachic questions with him and Maran held him in high esteem.

Renowned for his hasmodoh HaRav Efraim would stay up whole nights learning. He would retire at dawn then rise up like a lion a short time later, go to the mikveh and tefilloh and then give his shiur at the yeshiva.

He was afraid of sin and totally dedicated to kedushoh, tohoroh and prishus. Once his family members bought him a new mattress, but he complained that it was the yetzer hora itself and was loathe to sleep on it. When his son bought him a chair with armrests in his latter years he said it would encourage the yetzer hora. His son replied that his brother, HaRav Avrohom Yaakov, had had a similar chair for years.

"How can you draw a comparison?" demanded HaRav Efraim. "My brother does not even have a yetzer hora!"

He always refused to sit in the Mizrach and eventually stopped attending bar mitzvas because he did not want to be forced to sit at the table of honor.

HaRav Efraim's friend since childhood, HaRav Avrohom Erlanger, said he wanted to learn with the deceased bechavrusa because if he was tied to him in This World surely he would have a chance of being with him in the World to Come. It was impossible to interrupt his learning, recounted HaRav Erlanger, because he would do a taanis dibbur throughout the time he allocated for Torah study.

Several years ago a godol beTorah arrived at his home and asked his son-in-law to write HaRav Efraim a note to inform him of his arrival. But HaRav Efraim wrote back an apology saying since he was in the middle of learning he would pay him a return visit later, though it would entail a trip outside the city.

Every day he would learn uninterrupted from 3:00 p.m. until 7:45 p.m., asking any visitors to leave a note. Often he was so engrossed in his learning that he did not even notice when somebody slipped him a note. Only at the end of this session when he sifted through his pockets did he see who had come to see him.

In 5727 during the Six-Day War he remained at home most of the time because he could not concentrate on his learning while sitting in the rooms reinforced with sandbags. When fighting broke out, his wife did not come home for a day-and- a half. When she finally returned he did not exchange a word with her until the end of his learning session in order to avoid interrupting his learning even for a moment.

The concept of bekius was unknown to him. He would study in intense concentration and remained totally severed from mundane affairs. His sons recount how once, upon returning home, he commented on a notice posted along the way saying that Prime Minister Shamir was scheduled to take part in a certain event at a beis knesses. "How can they bring a man like that into the beis knesses?" he wondered. "And anyway, isn't Begin prime minister?"

Ramim often asked to borrow his written notes on various sugyos, which have yet to be published, saying that they contained fabulous chiddushim not found elsewhere.

When his wife wanted to bless him for success on Erev Yom Kippur he said he only needed blessings for good health. His condition suddenly declined and after just a few days in the hospital he passed away last Friday 25 Shevat in the morning.

At the levaya, which set out on Erev Shabbos from his home on Rechov Ralbach in Jerusalem's Geula neighborhood, brief words of parting were offered by his brother, HaRav Avrohom Yaakov Zalesnick, and tearful hespeidim were delivered by HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, HaRav Avrohom Erlanger, HaRav Eliashiv's son-in-law Elchonon Berlin, HaRav Yehoshua Dovid Turchin, HaRav Don Segal, his brother-in-law HaRav Zevulun Shub and his son HaRav Yitzchok Ze'ev.

HaRav Efraim Zalesnick zt"l is survived by his sons, HaRav Yitzchok Ze'ev, HaRav Avrohom Yeshayoh, HaRav Chaim, HaRav Isser Dov, HaRav Yom Tov and HaRav Aryeh Leib, his son- in-law HaRav Moshe Yaakov Eisenberg, and grandchildren, all following in his path of Torah.


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