Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Adar I 5760 - February 23 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by

Opinion & Comment
Torah Until the End

by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

In honor of the first yahrtzeit of Maran HaRav Dovid Povarsky zt'l we are publishing these excerpts from the new sefer Yishmeru Daas based on his mussar in recent years. These excerpts show his extraordinary dedication to Torah under the most trying circumstances.

From the Introduction

From Sivan 5755 onward, Maran HaRav Dovid Povarsky was too weak to continue his regular shmuessen that had been said every three weeks in the Yeshiva, and instead he gave them in his home at the start of every leil Shabbos. Although the basic principles were the same as the shmuessen in the yeshiva, these shmuessen said at home were replete with instructive anecdotes from his mentors, the gedolei Yisroel. Maran thoroughly humbled himself before HaRav Yeruchom Lebowitz zt'l, the renowned mashgiach of Yeshivas Mir, and he used every story about him as a guide in his life.

These shmuessen were said with real mesiras nefesh. It is only proper to point out some incidents that throw light on the Rosh Yeshiva's enormous sacrifices for disseminating Torah.

On Shabbos night of parshas Acharei Mos, 5756, the Rosh Yeshiva presented a shmuess, even though it was only two days after he had returned from the hospital. While still attached to an IV infusion, and despite his weakness, he delivered the shmuess. We needed to tie his hand to the table so that the IV needle would not move when he spoke.

A week later, parshas Emor, he also gave a shmuess. That Shabbos morning, Maran told me that on the preceding Thursday he had not been able to eat or drink. Doctors checked his throat and found something adhering to his esophagus. That night the family rushed him to the hospital and the doctors inserted a tube into his throat. The Rosh Yeshiva suffered greatly from this treatment since it had to be done without anesthetic because of his advanced age. After the doctor successfully removed what was stuck there, the Rosh Yeshiva said jokingly, "I was yotzei fasting Bahab today." (That day actually was the fast of Bahab.)

He returned home at midnight, and according to doctors' orders he was forbidden to eat anything for two days and was only allowed to drink diluted liquids. Maran commented: "Who would have thought that after all this I could speak on leil Shabbos. It was a simple chesed from Shomayim that I could." It is amazing that during the shmuess it was not apparent at all that for the last few days he had been nearly fasting.

On leil Shabbos, parshas Lech Lecho, 5757, he delivered a shmuess while suffering from pneumonia and attached to a supply of oxygen. The next morning he arrived as usual for shacharis in the yeshiva although it was raining. During that week he continued coming to the yeshiva and gave all his shiurim although he was attached to oxygen and other medical apparatus.

Later he could hardly see and when he needed to study Torah his talmidim and relatives read to him or else he studied from special extra-enlarged dapim of gemora. He would prepare the shiurim and shmuess by heart.

Maran never repeated the same shmuess; he would always prepare a new one. Although he did repeat principles that he had already mentioned once, he would always say the shmuess in a novel way. It is amazing that even when he was absolutely unable, because of pikuach nefesh, to say a shmuess that he had already prepared, he would nonetheless prepare a new shmuess for the next time, and not use the one he had already prepared. Although we do not pretend to be able to understand why he acted like that, it is possible he was afraid that the shmuess would be given in a routine fashion (melumodoh) and not with the necessary freshness.

Even during his last shmuessen, when he had no strength left and needed to put in a phenomenal effort to prepare the shiurim and shmuessen, you could not detect any change in him. Even at the last shmuess that we were zoche to hear, on leil Shabbos parshas Vayeiro 5759, when he was so weak that it took him some ten minutes to walk from the bed to his chair, he said a shmuess for an entire hour (not the regular forty minutes). He mentioned in his shmuess almost twenty references, among which were topics we had never heard from him before. The Rosh Yeshiva had prepared all this by heart! (I heard that he had prepared even more but decided to shorten the shmuess!)

Two weeks later he prepared further shiurim and shmuessen, but unfortunately, from Thursday of parshas Toldos he was bedridden and unable to speak. When I visited him during these last weeks I saw him engrossed in his studies and he did not even notice when someone entered the room.

Maran never objected to any medical treatment, unlike other patients in such a condition who would protest and needed to be forced to undergo painful treatments. Even in such a terrible condition we tangibly saw how he continued to behave in such a way that no movement, either large or small, would be uncalculated.

On erev Shabbos of parshas Beshalach he was rushed to the hospital and remained unconscious until Monday parshas Yisro. When he regained consciousness and was able to move, we sat him down in a chair and a devoted talmid asked him whether he wanted to look over his notes. The Rosh Yeshiva bent his head as a sign of consent and began analyzing them. This all happened when he lacked even the strength to close his mouth and swallow what was put before him.

His mesiras nefesh not to change his daily schedule was incredible. I remember that more than fourteen years ago Maran came to mincha in the yeshiva entirely bent over, suffering from acute back pains. His grandson stood behind him and held him with his two hands so his grandfather would not fall. Despite all this, that same night he returned again to give his shiur kloli as usual, standing up for almost an hour.

On Shabbos parshas Korach 5754 I visited the Rosh Yeshiva and saw him studying, although noticeably in great pain. He told me that this week he had suffered an excruciating pain deep near his back. He said he was afraid that it was from the lungs, since for a long time he had been suffering from an infection in his lungs, and now he was afraid that his end would be soon.

When the doctors checked him over they said that everything was all right and that the pain was from the spine. They prescribed sedatives to minimize the pain, but he refused to take the pills. The students who saw how he was suffering during the shiur in the yeshiva suggested he sit on a chair, but he refused, claiming that he could not say a shiur when sitting. I asked Maran how he could arrive daily for Shacharis in such a condition, while undergoing such insufferable pain. He answered that he did not go by himself: others carried him. (He meant that others support him when he walked, and he regarded that as "carrying" him.)

One night thirteen years ago, Maran fell from the chair in his house. Despite agonizing pain he arrived alone, early the next morning, at the yeshiva. Later that morning a doctor examined him and saw that he had cracked his shoulder bone. The diagnosis: he must bandage his hand for two weeks so it would not move. "There is no need to bandage it," said Maran. "I can be careful that it will not move."

Maran never showed any signs of anger toward another person. On the contrary, Maran would befriend someone who deserved anger more than anyone else.

His concern for the yeshiva and his talmidim was shown with real mesiras nefesh. The yeshiva was of prime importance for Rabbenu and even in his most difficult times he did not stop looking for ways to help the students succeed in the yeshiva. He was always concerned and did his best to insure that no slacking would occur in the yeshiva's study.

One Yom Kippur when he stood up in the morning he took his pill of antibiotics as usual, but it fell into his wind pipe and started chocking him. Those who witnessed this held his two sides and he began to cough so he could spit out the pill. Only after ten minutes did he manage to remove it. He said: "It was a rachamonus on those who were there and saw me suffering. I thought at that moment, since everything is from Shomayim why did this happen? Can we imagine if I had not managed to arrive at the yeshiva for the tefillah of Yom Kippur? One of the baalei tefillah was sick [and did not daven before the amud], Maran HaRav E. M. Shach shlita does not feel well, and if also I were not there how would the yeshiva look?"

These were the thoughts that bothered him. He did not think about himself, although he himself said that he almost choked, but rather about those around him and about the yeshiva.

I heard one story from him about himself when he was young, at the most eighteen years ago, on Shabbos parshas Vayishlach 5756. He told me this innocently in the middle of discussing another topic without any special intentions. "After World War I, when the yeshiva moved to Poltava, I contracted some foot infection that forced me to travel to the baths of Marienbad. When I was in the baths hundreds, maybe thousands, of bandits attacked the city. I did not have a place to hide since I did not have a room, and therefore I sat in the corridor of the baths with some other people. Suddenly a Jewish woman came by and yelled at us: `Kinderlach! Why are you sitting so exposed? Go hide yourselves!' She meant that we should at least hide in the toilet rooms. I, however, did not want to go there, since if I went there and they grabbed me I would not be able to say Shema Yisroel. In the end they did not come, and I was saved."

"Someone like that is not a person [but rather a mal'ach -- Rashi]. Another view is that this is a person" (Shabbos 112b).

Maran HaRav Dovid Povarsky zt'l was rosh yeshiva in Yeshivas Ponevezh of Bnei Brak. He was niftar 6 Adar, 5759.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.