A pall of mourning descended on the yeshiva world Monday 1
Teves with the histalkus of HaRav Mordechai Shlomo
Berman, zt"l, a rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ponovezh and
one of the generation's leading marbitzei Torah.
Gedolei Torah, roshei yeshivos, rabbonim, dayonim and
thousands of Yeshivas Ponovezh students and alumni took part
in the levaya, which left his home Monday evening and
proceeded to the yeshiva where he taught Torah for over three
After lighting the seventh Chanukah candle, thousands of
bnei Torah from all over the country gathered at the
yeshiva grounds, where Tehillim were recited before
the hespeidim began.
The deceased's son-in-law, HaRav Elozor Kahaneman, spoke
first, noting his tremendous gadlus in Torah and his
fondness for each and every Jew. He recalled that the Chazon
Ish once asked his grandfather, the Ponovezher Rav, to send
him a bochur to live in his home and his father-in-law
(HaRav Berman) was chosen, soon becoming like a member of the
family. "And when Grandfather once showed the Chazon Ish my
father-in-law's chiddushim on maseches Keilim
the Chazon Ish said to him, `Show me someone [else] who
can give over Torah like this on maseches Keilim.' And
when Grandfather said he would be a godol the Chazon
Ish said he already was a godol. It was said he would
be a godol and a leader, but the generation was
"The talmidim he left behind—from the yeshiva,
from the yarchei kallah and baalei batim as
well—were all fond of him and revered him. He made all
of them feel that they were his friends. He was a gaon
and a godol in Torah and chochmoh and in doing
chessed. He did so much to bring peace, to do
outreach, to make shidduchim—all with great
humility and without fanfare — using his insight and
"He left behind his books, Asher LeShlomo and
extensive writings that have not yet been printed. He left
behind a generation that drank in his love of Torah and a
love of one's fellow man from him. In recent years he
suffered so much, and who knows how much suffering Klal
Yisroel was spared through his suffering, as the
gemora states about Rabbenu Hakodosh. He left behind
upright generations of sons and sons-in-law. May he be a
meilitz yosher and we will pray with greater fervor
for the arrival of the Moshiach and may HaKodosh Boruch
Hu heal the family and the holy yeshiva and Klal
HaRav Kahaneman was followed by HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner,
the gavad of Zichron Meir, HaRav Gershon Edelstein, a
rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ponovezh, HaRav Boruch Dov Povarsky,
another of the roshei yeshivos of Yeshivas Ponovezh, and his
son-in-law, the mashgiach HaRav Eliezer Ginsburg.
The last of the speakers was his son, HaRav Chaim Peretz, who
opened with the gemora in maseches Chagigah
that says the beams of a man's homes testify as to who he
is. As one of the "beams" in his father's home, said HaRav
Peretz, he could attest to his father's character.
"HaKodosh Boruch Hu graced my father with an able
mind, integrity and a depth of understanding beyond the norm.
But in addition, so much toil was behind it all. He had
orderly notebooks on the whole Shas by the time he was
30. And when he labored over his studies he was unaware of
the world around him. He just toiled and toiled and would
murmur his learning in his sleep.
"When he slept at the Chazon Ish's home he was tired upon his
arrival the first night. `Tell me a chiddush,' said
the Chazon Ish. `I don't have one,' said Father. `You're not
going to sleep without a chiddush,' said the Chazon
Ish. `If you don't have one of your own say over one from the
Rashash.' Thus from his youth he labored to produce
chiddushim in Torah.
"Once, when asked how long it takes him to prepare a
shiur, he said 15 years, for he labored over every
shiur. All his life Father searched for additional
shiurim [to give] to create more incentives for
himself. Father asked bochurim to come and speak to
him about their learning because they asked new questions
that honed the sugya, as the gemora says,
`Heicha at Bar Lakisho.'
"Along with his gadlus in Torah he was also a
godol in chessed. He never refused anyone. He
found time for everything—always kum ve'aseh.
His personality radiated to his neighbors and acquaintances
and in his merit they sent their sons to study in yeshivas.
Despite his suffering I never heard a single groan escape his
lips. Once I heard him say he was thinking of taking a three
year leave of absence from the yeshiva to work on Seder
Taharos, `But what can I do if it didn't work out for
me?' That was the only time I heard a "complaint" about his
"All of us know how much he labored to find daled
minim. Once on Erev Succos the Ponevezher Rav came and
told him he did not have daled minim. Father gave him
his own, for when it came to others he had no concept of
saying no. His forfeiture in money matters and his exactitude
in mitzvas were remarkable. Now we have lost all this and we
pray to HaKodosh Boruch Hu, `Veru'ach kodshecho al Tikach
mimenu' and may we merit seeing the arrival of Moshiach
Tzidkeinu speedily in our days, omen."
Following the hesped the mass levaya set out
for the Ponovezh Cemetery where he was buried.
Mordechai Shlomo Berman was born in Russia in 5690 (1930).
His parents were HaRav Yehuda Yitzchok and the daughter of
Mordechai Shlomo Mowshowitz. When he was about four years old
his parents moved to Eretz Hakodesh, settling in Tel
His father began to serve as one of the leading rabbonim in
the city and he studied Kabboloh with HaRav Dessler
While still young Mordechai Shlomo gained a reputation for
his exceptional aptitude, hasmodoh and good
In 5704 (1944) he began to study at Yeshivas Ponovezh, where
he soon emerged as one of the leading talmidim. He
clung so tight to the Ponevezher Rav that he became a
talmid muvhok and their souls became bound together.
On one occasion HaRav Dovid Povarsky visited the Brisker Rov.
When asked who the top bochur at the yeshiva was, he
answered, "R' Shlomo Berman."
His unusual talents became evident. His hasmodoh knew
no limits. He had unusual intelligence coupled with an
astonishing memory. His familiarity with all the secrets of
the Torah was stunning. From a very early age his life was
totally dedicated to Hashem, and it was clear to all that he
was destined for greatness.
During this period he became the Chazon Ish's yeled
sha'ashu'im, sleeping in his home for six years. The
Chazon Ish said he felt a special bond with him as if he were
his own son. In several of his books the Chazon Ish brings
chiddushim in HaRav Berman's name.
When the time came, the Chazon Ish suggested that he marry
the Steipler's daughter and they were wed in 5712 (1952). He
continued learning in the yeshiva, putting all his
considerable talents into his efforts.
In Elul 5714 (1954) the Ponevezher Rav appointed him rosh
yeshiva and from then on he delivered shiurim to
thousands of talmidim who relate how he imparted them
a love of Torah. He would totally devote himself to the task
of explaining even the hardest of sugyos to all of his
talmidim, knowing how to tap every individual's
understanding to the limit.
If he discerned one of the talmidim did not understand
the foundation the shiur was built on he could sit
with him and repeat the matter over and over again just like
Rav Preida, always with love and affection.
Besides his regular shiurim he would deliver
chaburos on Seder Kodshim to aspiring
talmidim who wanted to add to their learning. He also
gave shiurim during yarchei kallah and would
travel to Tel Aviv, Petach Tikva and Yesodot to teach
baalei batim, earning a reputation as a fascinating
teacher who instilled many of his listeners with a love of
He had a close relationship with HaRav Shach, who often
consulted him regarding chinuch, yeshiva matters and
the leadership of Klal Yisroel. His books, entitled
Asher LeShlomo on Shas, won great acclaim from
gedolei Yisroel, who praised their depth, straight
thinking and clear ideas.
He had to stop giving shiurim years ago due to
Parkinson's disease. Last Friday morning he did not feel well
and he was taken to Mayenei Hayeshua and tefillos for
his recovery were held in Torah halls, but on Monday morning
he returned his purified soul to his Maker, with his family
at his bedside reciting Shema Yisroel and Hashem Hu
The mittoh was brought to his home on Rechov Saadyoh
Gaon, the home that sent forth rays of Torah light for
HaRav Mordechai Shlomo Berman zt"l is survived by sons
and sons-in-law who are great figures in Torah and Mussar,
grandchildren and great-grandchildren carrying on his
legacy, the Rebbetzin, who cared for him with great devotion,
his brothers and sisters and thousands of talmidim
mourning his loss bitterly.