Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Adar II 5765 - April 6, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Memoirs of R' Shlomo Lorincz shlita

A Torah of Life, and Love of Chessed

Chapter Seven

"Chessed and emess met; justice and peace kissed" (Tehillim 85:11).

It is believed in this world that the four concepts of kindness and truth, justice and peace, are somehow contradictory, or self-exclusive. People think that a person who wishes to perform acts of kindness must at times forgo the value of truth. And truth comes, at times, at the expense of kindness. Chazal say that when Hashem took counsel with His Heavenly hosts before the creation of man, the attribute of truth declared, "Do not create him, for he is wholly false." Chessed, on the other hand, said, "Let him be created, for he is full of kindness."

At the perfect man, however, "Kindness and truth meet; justice and peace kiss." There is no contradiction between them. On the contrary, there is a meeting and a kissing between them. Truth does not preclude kindness nor does justice stand in opposition to peace. One complements the other.

These words were borne out by the Chazon Ish ztvk'l: He was immersed in acts of kindness throughout his days and never wavered from a steadfast cleaving to the truth.

He tackled a practical deed only after having examined it from all sides. We see this in his Torah works: that he clarified every topic from all possible angles and all the ramifications and implications that could result from it, until everything was perfectly resolved and settled without any contradictions or questions. And this was his conduct in the world of action, as well. Everything was done to perfection. Nothing was left open-ended.

When it comes to matters of action, it is generally much more difficult to reach perfection, and in this area we were witness to an incredible genius.

Fixing the Eruv, and Respect for One's Fellow Man

Maran once became informed that the eruv in one of the cities up north was not a kosher one to begin with. He decided that it must be fixed for the sake of the public, but he refrained from doing anything about it because he did not want to hurt the feelings of the chief rabbi there.

One time, however, when he learned that the rabbi had gone abroad, he hastened to go to that city and repair the faulty eruv . He did so without any fanfare and returned shortly after to Bnei Brak, with no one being any the wiser.

Anyone involved in practical matters knows that setting certain things aright often involves offending someone and hurting his sensibilities. But this did not hold true with regard to Maran. Even when it was necessary to fix that eruv, in his opinion, he preferred to rely on the existing one bedi'eved, at least for the meanwhile, for the sake of not insulting someone by mending it according to his standards in his presence.

Maran invested tremendous stores of energy and made use of ingenious inventions in order to do something in the most perfect way. Many were the times that I saw him tackle a practical problem to find a solution. On the one hand, he felt obligated to do what had to be done, but on the other hand he was afraid of hurting someone's feelings.

Maran thought hard and exerted his brain until he found the solution that answered all the requirements. And each time, I was amazed afresh. I saw his absolute genius in finding the perfect, comprehensive solution.

Restoring Marital Harmony

The following story is brought in the book Zekeineicho Veyomru Loch, heard by HaRav Sholom Schwadron zt'l from HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt'l ,who heard it firsthand from the person it happened to — HaRav Moshe Rosen zt'l author of Nezer Hakodesh.

The above rabbi served in Kaidan, where the Chazon Ish lived right after his marriage when he was being supported by his father-in-law.

"During this period, when Maran was still young and as yet unknown," tells R' Moshe, "I was already aware of his talents. I knew him already very well."

"As soon as the Chazon Ish arrived in our city, he came to pay me his respects as the rabbi and to engage me in Torah- talk. I immediately reached the conclusion that I was very small compared to him and his Torah knowledge.

"I showed him my Torah writings which I had arranged and, after perusing them, he began discussing them. I came to realize that they were not good and without hesitating much, I ripped them up.

"The Chazon Ish suggested that we study together but under the strict condition that no one know about it, that I tell no other person.

"I agreed to this condition and we began studying in partnership. That is how I, the rabbi of the city, became the student of the young R' Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz . . . And the townspeople couldn't help wondering what `business' their rabbi had with this young and very introverted man.

"They, of course, did not know the extent of his scholarship or of our partnership. All they saw was that he came to me and left some time later. Subsequently, they saw us talking together frequently upon many occasions and they thought that we had some common business matters, that I was taking care of certain affairs for this strange-seeming person. And when they asked me about our association, I would remain mute.

"One time, when Maran came to me, he said, `Yankel the tinsmith is sick. Let us both go together to visit him.' I asked him, `What do you mean? You know that it is not customary for the rov to visit people's homes.'

"While I was still pondering this strange suggestion and how the taciturn young man came to know about the welfare and feelings of a simple man like Yankel the tinsmith, I was all the more surprised to hear what he had to say next. He explained his unusual request as follows, `Look here. The tinsmith's wife does not respect her husband in the least; she abuses him, and the marital harmony in their home is very shaky. Matters are becoming worse and worse. But now that he is not feeling well, we have an excellent opportunity to change things. If we both go to visit him, it will make a tremendous impression and people will talk about it with great interest. It will lend Yankel tremendous prestige. His wife will see that people are relating to him differently too, and she will learn to respect him.'

"And I," concluded the rabbi, "could not refuse such a powerful argument and such a grand gesture. And so we both went to visit Yankel the tinsmith. On the morrow, the entire town was in an uproar. His wife could not stop boasting about the important visit she had received. From that time on, peace and harmony reigned in the tinsmith's home," concluded HaRav Moshe Rosen zt'l.

His Mercy Upon Every Man

About two years before his passing, Maran called me to him and asked me to speak to Yitzchok Ben Zvi, the president of Israel at the time, requesting amnesty for two brothers who were serving a long prison sentence for murder.

These two brothers had lived together and jointly owned a chicken coop. One night it was broken into by thieves. The brothers ran out to catch them and in the midst of a struggle, killed one of them. The court had ruled them guilty and sentenced them to a long period in jail.

I was very surprised at the request. What connection could the Chazon Ish have with men like these who had, though perhaps not intentionally, killed a man?

Seeing my surprise, Maran explained his request. According to the halochoh, these men were not really murderers for they had acted in self defense. They acted out of fear in order to protect their property and lives.

I told the Chazon Ish that I didn't think that I would be able to obtain a pardon for them. I was a young Knesset Member at the time and didn't believe I would have any influence on the president in such a problematic issue. I, therefore, asked if I could say I had been sent by the Chazon Ish. That, I felt, would be effective.

Maran agreed to this and added that in any case, he thought the pardon should not be given before they had served at least eight months of their sentence. He felt that they deserved this much of a punishment, but not more.

When I came to the president with my mission, he seemed very impressed by the Chazon Ish's concern. "I have heard a lot about him," he said. "But to see that he is so deeply involved with people whom he never met, and even to make a calculation how much of a punishment they deserve — that is really hard to believe."

Ben Zvi promised to do what he could and, after some time, they were pardoned, as the Chazon Ish had requested.

I don't know who those two brothers were, but I later learned that after they received their reprieve, they became noted people, Torah scholars and truly fine, upright men.

"I'm the One Who Deserves to Suffer"

Whoever thinks that because Maran appointed me as his agent in many areas that he exempted himself from worrying about them, is very mistaken. He did not consider me his proxy and even felt that many things were better done by himself than by a substitute; "Mitzva bo yoseir mibeshlucho."

And thereby we saw the delicate sensitivity of his feelings and the depth of his understanding of the human psyche.

For many long months, the mother of these two brothers would frequently visit the home of the Chazon Ish in order to hear from his mouth how his efforts were progressing in freeing her sons. This simple woman, who certainly had no idea how precious each moment of the Chazon Ish was, did not suffice with a mere question and answer but would sit in his house for a long time, sighing over their plight and weeping copiously before him. Maran empathized with her and shared her sorrow. Each time, he promised to find out for her what was happening, and asked her to return the following day to receive his answer.

This matter caused Maran great distress, mainly because of the precious time lost, but he refused all along to divulge to her who was in charge of all the efforts in seeking amnesty. Maran's sister, Rebbetzin Kanievsky, who knew how to appreciate his valuable time, could not bear to see his distress, and turned to him with a question, "Isn't R' Shlomo Lorincz the one who is taking care of this matter? Why don't you tell her to go directly to him? Why must you squander your time from learning over her?"

Maran replied that he was not permitted to do so. This woman, by nature and by these circumstances of being the mother of two imprisoned sons, had approached him in person, he explained, and, "I am the one who must suffer from her, even if it involves bittul Torah. I don't have the right to push off this burden onto R' Shlomo Lorincz."

What would have been easier and even more logical than casting off that nuisance onto the young askan whose time was dedicated to the public? Undoubtedly, he (I, that is) would have shouldered that responsibility with joy and a willing heart, and even considered it a privilege to ease the burden of the godol hador. But Maran had reached the decision that he was not permitted to free himself of the responsibility that had fallen to his portion, even at the price of bittul Torah.

"When I Saw the Man's Face, I was Overcome with Pity for Him"

Maran's door was open to everyone; he showed no predisposition to the rich over the poor. Maran, who sacrificed his soul for Torah study, verily to the nth degree, would nullify himself completely when it came to a Jew who needed his help.

His rebbetzin however, who cared for him with utter devotion and self-sacrifice, did not allow every person to enter at all times and to interrupt his study. The Chazon Ish once said to me, "Many people are upset with the Rebbetzin, but I must defend her.

"She can hardly see and that is the reason that she limits the visitors. Believe me! Were it not for the fact that I see the broken heart reflected in the expression of the people who come to me, I would also refuse to receive them. I hurts me very deeply that I must devote so much time at the expense of my study to deal with people. But when I see their faces, I feel the pain in their hearts and my wellsprings of pity overflow. I receive those people and devote all the necessary time to each one in order to help them.

"I am sure that if the Rebbetzin could just see the expressions of pain and misery on their faces, she would surely allow me to receive them. But what can she do that she cannot see? She acts according to her logic, and according to logic, there is no justification to let them disturb me from my Torah study."

How is it Possible Not to Let them Enter?

Several days before his passing, Maran's weakness increased sharply. His private doctor, Dr. Moshe Hammer, was summoned quickly and, after examining him, he said that Maran's heart was not functioning properly. He ordered absolute bed rest for the patient.

His brother-in-law, R' Shmuel Greineman, begged that he stop receiving people and suggested that they not be allowed to enter his room. "How can we allow visitors when he is in such a state?" he asked.

Maran however, refused, countering, "How can we not allow visitors? These people come from afar; their hearts are pained. They have not come for their own pleasure, but to seek comfort..." (from the words of HaRav Shmuel Greineman in the eulogy he gave in Yeshivas Ponovezh).

@Bullet Section=Visiting the Sick

My doctor, Dr. Nachman Frei, told me that he had been close to the Chazon Ish. He once happened to mention to the Chazon Ish that one of his patients, a lonely man, was hospitalized in Assuta hospital. He had no relatives and no acquaintances, and this fact was compounding his illness and impeding his recovery.

"On the very next day," tells Dr. Frei, "when I came to visit the patient, I found the Chazon Ish sitting by his bedside."

Even a Chosson from His Room and a Kalla from Her Canopy

The following story was told to me by Mrs. Siroka, widow of R' Shimon Siroka zt'l, another askan of Zeirei Agudas Yisroel.

A year after their marriage, Maran summoned R' Shimon to him. It was a short time before Pesach and Maran wanted him to conduct the seder together with several Holocaust survivors, orphans residing in the Sarah Schenirer House in Bnei Brak. This request, of being in the company of a group of girls, made R' Shimon feel very uneasy and uncomfortable, and he asked for some time to think it over. After a few days, R' Shimon returned to the Chazon Ish and said that he was declining; he felt incapable of accepting that responsibility.

Maran told him that he had not found anyone else suitable for the task, adding, "It is a tremendous mitzvah. These are embers rescued from the infernal fire. If no one is found to conduct the seder for them, they will be inconsolable. If you don't agree to spend it with those orphans, I will have to do so myself."

To be sure, at these words R' Shimon agreed to come with his wife and fulfill that task.

Strict About Preserving the Rebbetzin's Honor

On the eve of my wedding in 5705, I came to Maran to invite him personally. Maran gave me his blessing and when we parted, asked that when I went outside I should stand under the window of his room for a few minutes.

This request sounded very strange to me, but the riddle was soon solved. I duly stood under his window and it was opened. Maran then handed me his sefer on maseches Zevochim, inscribed with his personal blessing and autograph.

I couldn't refrain from asking why he had not given it to me while I was still in the room!

He explained, "My Rebbetzin feels that I should not give away any of my seforim as gifts. This is our only income; we have no other source of livelihood and since she is the one who is concerned with that, she insists on it. I didn't want to cause her pain and felt that if she saw you exit with it, she would instinctively know that I had given it to you as a wedding gift. That is why I am passing it to you through the window."

This taught me a great lesson — to what degree a person should be sensitive to the feelings of his fellow man, especially one's wife. Just consider to what extent one should honor one's wife "even more than one's own self!"

Ezer Kenegdo

Once when I was sitting with the Chazon Ish, the Rebbetzin came in to wish me "Mazel Tov." She had heard me request a blessing to succeed in Torah study, and reacted, "You don't need any blessing from the Chazon Ish. If you study and persevere and put your whole heart into Torah like Avrohom Yeshaya, you will be a great man like he is."

She then began elaborating in detail how the Chazon Ish was totally devoted to Torah and how the yoke of parnossoh lay on her shoulders. She described how difficult it had been all along to secure even a minimal income, but she had done it with love and personal satisfaction, knowing that through her efforts, her husband would grow to become the godol hador.

A Sense of Pleasure for the Rebbetzin

Along these lines, we find a similar story written in Maasei Ish by R' Arye Shechter:

R' Arye's father, R' Yaakov z'l, heard that the Chazon Ish supported himself from the sale of his books. The first time he went to visit, he inquired about those works. Maran told him that he had authored nine works. My father wished to buy them all. When he asked how much they cost, the Rebbetzin intervened and said in Yiddish, "Candles [light — the light of Torah] are expensive."

"How expensive?" he asked. "Half a lira?"

"Candles are expensive," she repeated.

"So how much? One lira?" Her answer was the same.

When he reached the sum of two lira, she smiled. The Chazon Ish then took out all nine volumes, wrapped them up in paper, tied the bundle with string, and received eighteen lira payment. R' Yaakov took the parcel and went home to Tel Aviv.

Before he had even reached home, R' Zelig Shapira was already waiting for him. "The Chazon Ish said that one book doesn't cost more than 35 grush and that you don't need all nine. One, meanwhile, is enough. All he intended was to sell you only one sefer. The reason he did what he did," R' Zelig explained in the name of the Chazon Ish, "was to give the Rebbetzin some satisfaction."

Like an Only Son

HaRav Chaim Chaikin zt'l told the following:

In 5691 (1931), several students from Yeshivas Radin were spending the summer break in the resort town of N. which was close to Vilna, in order to be close to Maran HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky ztvk'l of Vilna. Also HaRav Elchonon Wasserman ztvk'l from Baranowitz and Maran the Chazon Ish ztvk'l were spending their vacation there.

"When my master and teacher, Maran R' Elchonon Wasserman, met me there, his first question was: `Have you already visited the Chazon Ish?'

"To be sure, we went to him immediately and remained with him for a while. My friends left after some time but I, as a landsleit, remained in the room. I was suffering from a slight cold at the time and while talking with the Chazon Ish, I was suddenly attacked by a headache. When it became stronger, I suddenly emitted a groan, `Oh, my head hurts!'

"The Chazon Ish left the room immediately and I couldn't understand why. He came back a few minutes later, however, with a thermometer and ordered me to take my temperature. I was deeply impressed by this act — of a godol beTorah serving as a messenger boy for a young yeshiva student. This was not a full-fledged sickness, or even the hint of a sickness. Nevertheless, Maran was most concerned about someone else's health in the same way that a father is concerned for his only son and tries to calm him and ease his discomfort in the quickest way possible."

When Did the Chazon Ish Accept a `Pidyon' Gift?

The Chazon Ish was once taking a walk with a talmid, when they were accosted by an embittered woman who dearly wished to give him a pidyon money gift. She held out ten shillings and Rabbenu took them willingly and gave her a warm blessing which caused her great visible pleasure. Then she continued on her way.

The student knew that Rabbenu was not accustomed to accepting gifts from people and was most surprised. Rabbenu sensed his wonder and said, "In this particular case, the biggest kindness I could do for the woman was to take her donation."

Chillul Hashem is Worse than Chillul Shabbos

I would like to present an incident that ostensibly does not have anything to do with this article, but it was a subject dear to the heart of the Chazon Ish. It has to do with the use of electricity on Shabbos which is generated through the desecration of the Shabbos. As is known, the Chazon Ish forbade using Israeli (Jewish) produced electricity on Shabbos. This also included using running water which was pumped through electricity.

In Ginzei Shaarei Zion, from the notes of HaRav Ben Zion Bamberger zt'l, we find the following excerpt:

"I heard from the Chazon ish . . . that when the Tel Aviv harbor was being built, the authorities generated a lot of publicity to sell shares in the enterprise. They also encouraged the Orthodox public to invest in it, while promising that it would preserve the sanctity of the Shabbos.

"When they later refused to honor their promise, and the chareidi representative in the municipality demanded that they do, a secular representative stood up and asked, `And why do you use electricity on Shabbos?' This raised a furor in the press, and the Chief Rabbinate was forced to come out with a declaration saying that their representative visited the electric company and was given a two hour tour and saw that all that was done on Shabbos was — oiling and repairing the machinery and setting the controls. And if they did not do these things, everything would be in danger.

"Is this an answer?" asked the Chazon Ish. "`Only' these melochos de'Orayso, and nothing else . . . And what else do they during the other hours of the day, outside those two hours when they were being inspected? In my opinion, if all Shabbos observers would unite and refuse to use electricity on Shabbos, the Electric Company would capitulate and stop desecrating the Shabbos. By them, it is only a matter of provocation [to the religious public]. But chillul Hashem is a greater sin than desecrating the Shabbos!"

It should be noted that even in this matter, we saw his sensitive feelings towards others. When young couples used to come to receive his blessing, he would gently suggest that they refrain from using electricity on Shabbos, but he would not demand it. He would just mention it as a simple request. Maran knew that no one would refuse his request and needless to say, people always agreed to do it. But even in a matter that was so close to his heart, such a strong principle by him, his delicate nature would not allow him to demand it outright and to force his opinion upon anyone else.

The 8th and final installment is scheduled for the Pesach issue.


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