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16 Shevat 5765 - January 26, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Memoirs of HaRav Shlomo Lorincz, Shlita

Chapter Three

Maran the Chazon Ish's Activities on the Public Front: The Commander Who Placed Soldiers at the Frontlines

The Chazon Ish's main concern was to increase the ranks of bnei Torah. The entire world was created only for their sake, and his prime concern was to develop talmidei chachomim who were totally immersed in Torah.

But at the same time, Maran was aware that we were engaged in a state of war with the secular leadership, and if we wished to establish and nurture the world of Torah we had no recourse but to mobilize loyal soldiers who would stand at the frontlines and devote their talents and energies to this holy war.

He therefore saw to it that there be public-spirited people toiling for the sake of the Torah public and the individual, representatives in the Knesset and in the municipalities who were subservient to daas Torah. Maran guided them all and accompanied their activities all along the way.

I remember how much time and labor he invested in this. First of all, in order to get me to agree to accept this mission upon myself (of going to the Knesset) and afterwards, with a tandem accompaniment of my work, guiding me every step of the way. From my first initiation into the Knesset, Maran would review every speech I prepared, offering his comments, making necessary changes and telling me what to say and what not to say.

In this same manner, he also supervised the appointment of representatives to the various municipalities, especially those connected to Bnei Brak. He saw to it that our colleague R' Shimon Siroka z'l be appointed a member of the city council, and later demanded that he come from time to time to report to him on what was going on there. Maran counselled and amended, and devoted a great deal of time to this as if there were nothing more important to him in the world.

The Chazon Ish saw to it that there were people involved in chessed. He appointed those suited to the task through his intuitive grasp that their souls were compatible to being magnanimous towards their fellow Jew. He saw to it that the shul gabboim be honest, devout, trustworthy people, for a treasurer who had questionable views might have an undesirable effect upon the worshipers.

Didn't You Already Say Kaddish?

I would like to tell here how, in the beginning of my public career, I became totally discouraged due to a certain incident that took place, and how Maran influenced me to take heart and rally, and dissuaded me from calling it quits.

In the beginning of 5713 (1953) I traveled to England, planning to stay over in Bournemouth for the Yomim Noraim, for many wealthy people spent the yom tov in that resort area. The purpose of my visit was to raise money for the youth village Chazon Yechezkel which was established by Zeirei Agudath Israel.

As the yom tov was ushered in, right before ma'ariv, I addressed the congregation in the hotel there and I must admit that Hashem graced me with success. I also spoke in another hotel in the area. But when it came time for davening, I couldn't help notice that the mechitzoh could hardly be called a proper partition and certainly not a fully kosher one, and so I opted for praying in the seclusion of my room.

My father's yahrtzeit falls on Rosh Hashonoh and to be sure, I planned to recite Kaddish, as I did each year. But since I had not prayed with the congregation the evening before, I didn't say Kaddish then, and thus the yahrtzeit completely slipped my mind. As a result I forgot to say Kaddish on the following day as well, even though now I was praying in a suitable environment. Thus, the entire Rosh Hashonoh passed without my reciting Kaddish for my deceased father even once.

When I finally reminded myself, it was already too late. I cannot begin to describe the terrible grief and remorse that gripped me. I was so terribly despondent that I firmly decided that since my communal obligations had been to blame for my having forgotten to say Kaddish for my dear father, I must draw the necessary conclusion to call an end to this public career. This was a firm decision, clear and final, and I saw no reason to even go to the Chazon Ish with a question on the matter.

I returned to Eretz Yisroel and immediately upon my arrival went to visit Maran in order to inform him of my decision to return to my study as before, since I had failed in something so critically important to me — all because of the pressure of my public concerns.

To my utter surprise, Maran said to me, "I do not accept what you just said. You did recite Kaddish!"

I thought for a moment that he had misunderstood me, and repeated what I had said previously, "But that is not so. I did not say Kaddish."

Maran replied, "You are mistaken. You did recite Kaddish. What do you think is the issue of saying Kaddish on a yahrtzeit? When a son sanctifies the name of Hashem in public, he is causing pleasure and giving honor to his parents' soul. What could be a greater source of pleasure than your having foregone personal comfort, traveled to a foreign country, prayed on Rosh Hashonoh in seclusion without a minyan — all as part of your public obligation and mission! No formal Kaddish is greater than this!"

There is no need to say that these words, issuing from the mouth of the Chazon Ish, had a tremendous impact on me and I withdrew my resignation from public life. Truly, thanks to Maran I had the privilege to continue and serve in this capacity under his guidance, and altogether for an additional thirty-three years.

I heard a story along these very lines from HaRav Chaim Kamil, rosh yeshivas Ofakim:

"The Chazon Ish himself, once told of dispatching an avreich to help a certain sickly woman. The avreich demurred on the grounds that he had not yet davened mincha, besides which he had a yahrtzeit that day. Rabbenu said to him that helping the woman was also considered an act of kindness for the elevation of his parent's soul."


Before embarking on my first trip abroad in Marcheshvon 5709 (1949) on behalf of Zeirei Agudath Israel, I went in to Maran and asked his opinion whether I should agree to go. Maran asked me what were the deterrents to my going, the negative side to the question. I explained that it was wartime (the Israeli War of Independence) and there was a danger that I would be cut off from my family. Another factor was my weak state of health.

Maran replied thus, "The needs of the klal overrule the danger to you as a private individual. With regard to your health — I will pray for your welfare and you will be healthy."

He continued, "But there is one thing I would like to ask: Are you sure that your wife is completely resigned to your going? With all her heart?" He meant to say that he was certain that outwardly she agreed, for had she objected I would surely have mentioned it as a deterrent for my going. His question was if she really and truly was willing that I go, for if not he would not let me go either, even if it was important for the public welfare.

This was a tremendous lesson. For the sake of the public, a person is permitted to endanger his life. In the case of questionable health, one can rely on prayer helping. But when it comes to causing distress to one's wife, nothing can condone that, even if the public welfare hangs in the balance.

Visiting the Sick on Erev Yom Kippur

The tremendous importance the Chazon Ish accorded to a public figure, the great esteem in which he held him, can be learned from the following fact:

After the elections of 5711 (1951), I became ill. During this period, before I was elected to the Knesset, I was a frequent visitor of the maabarot immigrant camps. There I contracted typhus. I lay ill in Assuta Hospital and before Yom Kippur of 5712, my wife went to ask Maran if I should fast. After he made an extensive and thorough investigation, he ruled that I must eat.

On Erev Yom Kippur in the afternoon, I was surprised to see none other than Maran, in person, come to visit me.

He said to me thus, "I had no doubt that you would obey my ruling and would eat on Yom Kippur. But I was afraid that you would be distressed over the fact that you had to eat. That is why I came especially to tell you that just as it is a great mitzva to fast on Yom Kippur, so is it a mitzva to eat with a happy heart. `Go and eat your bread in joy.' "

He then wished me a gmar chasimoh tovoh, and left.

For Maran, this was an extremely difficult visit. During those days, the trip to Assuta Hospital was roundabout and took a very long time. Yet he took a bus and went. And why did he go to all that trouble? To reassure a young man so that he not be distressed about having to eat on Yom Kippur!

You Have No Right to Disturb Him

We can see his high esteem for public askonim from the following story as well. This was told by his sister, Rebbetzin Kanievsky o'h.

As will be told later, Maran was very instrumental in obtaining amnesty for two brothers who were falsely accused of murder. His sister, the Rebbetzin, saw that this episode was taking up much of his precious time. The mother would come periodically to see if there was any progress in the case and each time Maran would reassure her that he would inquire of the person handling it and that she should return on the morrow for a reply. He refused, however, to divulge to her who this mysterious person was. The Rebbetzin once asked him, "Why can't you simply send the woman to the man directly to find out what progress is being made in the case? Why must you continue to be the go-between?"

Maran replied that he could not do what she suggested. "She is a difficult woman, a nudnik [tardonis]. I can stand the suffering and the inconvenience, but under no circumstances can I cause R' Shlomo Lorincz to suffer for it."

This story should open many an eye.

Maran was old and feeble. His body was broken. And yet he refused to disturb and inconvenience a young man who was at the prime of his strength, even though I would have been more than glad to rid him of that nuisance. Still in all, he shouldered the heavy burden and assumed the responsibility as go-between, for the sake of not causing me undo bother and disturbance.

HaRav Shraga Feivel Steinberg told me something along this line. Once Maran summoned him and asked him to convey to me a certain suggestion concerning the battle against the national service law for women. Since it was a complex matter, R' Shraga suggested that Maran summon me personally and convey the information to me firsthand.

Maran did not agree. He said, "I simply cannot disturb him one more time. He was by me already once today."

It is well known to what extent Maran literally sacrificed himself in this matter, and it is clear to me that the effort and the emotional exertion involved in this battle actually precipitated his demise. Still in all, he took the effort to spare me the disturbance whenever he felt it was unnecessary to bother me.

His Attitude Towards Zeirei Agudath Israel

The Zeirei Agudath Israel (Z.A.I.) movement, whose platform was an unswerving obedience to daas Torah and to Torah leadership, was very close to the heart of Maran. Upon one occasion, we were privileged to have him publicly express his support of this movement.

Before the opening of the national conference of Z.A.I. which took place in 5711, I came to Maran to invite him to participate. My main purpose was to receive his blessing. I did not actually expect him to come, but I felt obligated to extend the invitation out of courtesy. I never dreamed that he would come, since he never participated in such events.

To my surprise, he took his coat and said, "Come, let's go." He actually sat at the national conference for a long time, and when I accompanied him back home I expressed my surprise at his having found interest in the talk of those young members.

He then said, "Actually, nothing there interested me (from which I understood that he had not paid any attention to the speeches, but had had his mind focused on Torah), but I devoted my time and lent my presence to the conference because I wanted to show my support for Zeirei Agudath Israel."

We were once called to a din Torah before Maran over some monetary matter. Maran warned the litigant, saying, "Remember, you have no right to say anything negative about Z.A.I."

My friend R' Avrohom Dayan z'l told about his last encounter with Maran. "It was the eve of the 13th of Cheshvan, 5714, a day before the demise of the Chazon Ish at 10:30. Maran was lying on a bench on the porch and I noticed that he was more fatigued than usual. I made my questions as brief as I could so as not to disturb him too much. When I was about to leave, Maran detained me and asked, `What is new with Z.A.I.? Do you have a great many debts? How is the construction proceeding with your various institutions?'

"Even during his extreme debility, one night before his passing away, he exerted himself to keep abreast with our communal affairs."

Why did the Chazon Ish make such a large contribution to a vocational school (Chazon Yechezkel)?

I once visited him and told him about Z.A.I.'s plans, formulated by R' Avrohom Rein, to establish two vocational printing schools in Petach Tikva.

Maran conferred his blessing upon this endeavor and even contributed money from his own pocket towards it. Upon seeing my surprise at his placing such importance on this project of a printing school, he replied, "We must show concern for those who need a vocational school. We must see to it that such students remain within our framework and not become dropouts from our ranks, G-d forbid."

Then he added, "But you are justified in asking. For that reason alone, I would not have given such a large donation. My real intent is to strengthen the Z.A.I. movement thereby, for by your showing that you are concerned in finding good solutions to practical problems, like that of providing a vocational school for weaker students, you will gain more support. I have confidence in the movement because of the ideology behind it, and I wish to show my support. Incidentally, I am doing this by way of a significant donation to a specific project, which is a relatively large sum."

Violence — a Foreign Offshoot in our Vineyard

One of the instances in which Maran took action through the vehicle of Zeirei Agudath Israel was in the episode of the "Pact of Zealots."

The organization "Pact of Zealots," or as it was called in Hebrew Bris Kanoim, was active in Jerusalem and in other cities. Its members would note cars that traveled through the religious neighborhoods on Shabbos and then burn them during the week, for example. Z.A.I. published a denunciation of such actions, written by R' Moshe Sheinfeld zt'l under the name, "Violence is a Foreign Offshoot in our Vineyard."

Today we are already free to reveal who was behind this article. We were, of course, opposed to the approach of the Bris Kanoim activists but we did not dream that their actions should be censured in public. Who then, was it who showed and taught us that violence is totally foreign to our camp and our weltanschauung? None other than Maran!

Maran summoned us and asked us to publicize the outcry, saying that actions such as those are totally contrary to the way of Torah. We, the Zeirei Agudath Israel people he said, must go all out against them so that our members and other youth would not get swept up with actions of that sort.

"Every Decision Takes its Toll Upon Me in Blood"

Whoever turned to Maran sensed his devotion and willingness to sacrifice himself for every person, every individual, regarding any problem they approached him with. He would invest all of his strength, focus his full attention and concentrate upon finding a solution to whatever question was presented to him. I saw him many a time immersed in deep thought over a difficult problem; his tremendous exertion was visible upon his face.

When the Knesset was debating the question of German reparations, I came to Maran to ask him what position Agudath Israel was taking on the matter. This question, it will be remembered, raised a furor in the public at large. Mass demonstrations were held throughout the country. Things came to a head when the members of the Herut party (who were opposed to taking what they called "blood money" from Germans) demonstrated in front of the Knesset and stones were hurled at the building.

It was my practice to consult Maran on every question that required a decision either way, and that is what I did in this case as well.

After hearing my explanation of both sides of the question, pro and con, he asked, "Must you be present at the time of the vote in the Knesset? You are currently on sick leave; why can't you just leave it at that?" I replied that it was not imperative for me to be present at the voting, but I still wished to know, in general, what the daas Torah was in the matter.

He replied to me in the following words: "People think that I produce halachic decisions with a flick of a wrist, that I whip them out of my sleeve, so to speak. Know then, that every decision I make costs me in health. It is produced with blood. I must mobilize all of my strength in clarifying the matter in the light of halochoh. If the matter is imperative, practically speaking I have no choice and I must sacrifice my health to reach a decision. But if it is not imperative for you to participate in the session, stay at the convalescent home and don't bother me with the theoretical question of reaching a decision in a matter that has no practical application and is not relevant, if it is only a question of satisfying your curiosity."

Indeed, I did remain in the convalescent home and did not participate in the discussions or the voting that took place in the Knesset.

The Foundation of a Torah Movement

I once explained to several friends from abroad who had slight fanatical leanings what the difference was between Zeirei Agudath Israel, Neturei Karta and Mizrachi. The difference is not expressed by the degree of fanaticism. The point is: Daas Torah every step of the way.

Many were the times that I prepared a speech, being convinced that my view was the right one, but still it was clear to me that I had to consult with the Chazon Ish.

It happened often enough that I was completely taken by surprise. Things that I thought were perfectly in order he rejected, and things that I thought were not right he indicated were correct and true.

The fundamental principle of a Torah-led movement is to consult the gedolim at every step of the way, and not only when questions arise.

Speeches that Were Formulated by the Chazon Ish

As I have told, Maran accompanied and guided me throughout my tenure in the Knesset. Concerning this, one particular story comes to mind which illustrates how meticulous he was about every particular.

We used to meet periodically at Zeirei to discuss certain positions that I was to take in the Knesset. At one such meeting we were dealing with a vote that was to take place concerning the appointment of Chaim Weizmann as president for a second term. I held the opinion that we should oppose his election since he symbolized the revolution against Toras Moshe, for he was not observant and was even opposed to the Old Yishuv. It was not fitting that such a person should represent the entire country and stand as the head of state. I prepared a fire-and-brimstone speech and intended to show it to Maran en route to the Knesset.

For some reason or other, I was unable to get in to see Maran and asked R' Shimon Siroka to show him a copy of my speech. I went on to the Knesset and awaited a reply. Not receiving any, I was certain that he had approved it. I sat there until the chairman called out my name as the next speaker in line.

Just then, an usher brought me an urgent telegram from R' Shimon in which he informed me that he had shown the text of the speech to Maran "and he directed me to tell you to bury it." I did not understand why, but I informed the speaker that I was foregoing my turn.

Later on, I went to Maran and he explained me the reason for his opposition. "Before a person speaks, he must know what he expects to achieve by his words. In this matter, we would certainly not accomplish anything, since Weizmann will surely be chosen anyway by unanimous vote. As for our obligation to protest what is wrong, that does not apply here either. This being the case, your words would only serve as incitement, whose damage is clear; the president will surely be voted in to a second term and will nurse a grudge against the religious public because of the insult to his honor."

A Shame for the State

An additional incident in which Maran changed the content of my speech took place when HaRav Yisroel Grossman was imprisoned for the `crime' of having demonstrated against the desecration of the Shabbos.

I prepared a speech in which I attacked the government which had imprisoned a Torah leader, a distinguished rosh yeshiva, placing him together with common criminals merely for the `crime' of having protested against chillul Shabbos.

I showed Maran this speech but he objected to its content and dictated to me a speech with a totally different tone. This is what he told me to say:

"Know, gentlemen, that nothing will happen to the Rosh Yeshiva in jail even if you place him together with thieves and murderers. He will continue to immerse himself in Torah. But what a stigma, what a shame it will be to the State of Israel to have put a Rosh Yeshiva behind bars!"

Along the same lines, when R' Amram Blau zt'l sat in jail for having organized a demonstration against the desecration of the Shabbos, Maran went to visit him. I accompanied him and asked Maran about the significance of the visit. He replied, "The fact that R' Amram is sitting in jail is nothing to get excited about, for the whole world is a prison. But I am going to visit Shabbos, which is in jail . . . "


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