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3 Teves 5765 - December 15, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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HaRav Mordechai Shlomo Berman, zt"l

By S. Bruchi

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 decades.

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 unworthy.

"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 intelligence.

"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 Yisroel."

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 situation.

"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.

His Biography

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 Aviv.

His father began to serve as one of the leading rabbonim in the city and he studied Kabboloh with HaRav Dessler for years.

While still young Mordechai Shlomo gained a reputation for his exceptional aptitude, hasmodoh and good middos.

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 Torah.

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 HaElokim.

The mittoh was brought to his home on Rechov Saadyoh Gaon, the home that sent forth rays of Torah light for years.

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.



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