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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.