Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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29 Sivan 5761 - June 20, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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HaRav Boruch Shimon Shneerson zt"l
by Betzalel Kahn

Motzei Shabbos kodesh (26 Sivan) after chatzos, a throng of tens of thousands of pained and bereft mourners accompanied HaRav Boruch Shimon Shneerson zt"l, the rosh yeshiva of Kochav MiYaakov--Tchebin in Yerushalayim on his last earthly journey. Among the procession, led by Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, shlita, were masses of bnei Torah and thousands of the niftar's students, as well as roshei yeshiva, admorim, rabbonim and members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah.

The great gaon, HaRav Boruch Shimon Shneerson zt"l who served for many years as the rosh yeshiva of the Tchebin yeshiva and as a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, alongside yibodel lechayim tovim ve'arukim Maran the Rosh Hayeshiva HaGaon HaRav Eliezer Menachem Shach shlita, was born in Poland in 5673 (1913). His parents were HaRav Yosef Moshe Shneerson, and Rebbetzin Nechomoh.

As a child he studied with older students under the tutelage of the well-known melamed of Cracow, Reb Moshe Chossid. A short while before his bar mitzvah, he received a brochoh from the elderly Admor HaRav Yissochor Dov of Belz who, despite his weakness, received the young Boruch Shimon with love, instructing his gabboim to call Boruch Shimon up for maftir in the beis medrash.

After his bar mitzvah he went to Radomishla, where he studied under HaRav Chaim of Radomishla who was very fond of him. HaRav Shneerson would often quote HaRav Chaim of Radomishla's chidushei haTorah. During his youth HaRav Boruch Shimon became known in Cracow as an illui who had amassed a vast amount of Torah knowledge and had received smicha.

Later on, his father brought him to Lublin where he studied under HaRav Meir Shapira and was one of the yeshiva's outstanding students. Even though he had resolved to study far from the limelight, he was considered one of the finest students of the yeshiva. His outstanding qualities were so well known that his mentor assigned him the task of testing students who sought admission to the yeshiva. He was also very close to the menahel ruchani of the yeshiva, HaRav Shimon Zelchover, as well as to HaRav Moshe of Boyan of the yeshiva's Vaad Haruchani and to HaRav Aryeh Tzvi Proman of Koziglov.

As a result of the blessing of HaRav Shimon Zelchover a miracle occurred and he wasn't drafted into the Polish army, even though he had received a draft notice.

When World War Two broke out HaRav Boruch Shimon fled to Russia, where he was miraculously saved. During his flight, when he saw that roads leading to his destination were perilous, he stopped off in a small village on the roadside and moved into a house that was on the verge of collapse, where he stayed and studied day and night for five months. Years afterward, he related that he covered a vast amount of material in that period.

When he reached Russia, the authorities continued to persecute him and they first imprisoned him for a full year, and then afterwards sent him to Siberia for another year. Later he related that three of the halochos which he had studied very thoroughly in his youth helped him in the Russian exile: the halochos of kiddush hachodesh which enabled him to construct a calendar from memory, the halochos of conducting a Seder without matzos, and the halochos of vessels for netilas yodayim.

During his five years in Russia he suffered greatly and underwent very difficult and bitter nisyonos. When Jews there received small packages of food, some exchanged treif meat for permissible food, and at that time he wrote a halachic response on the issue.

Once he was hospitalized due to a liver ailment. At that time, Jews tried to keep their Jewish identity hidden. One of the patients saw that he was davening under his sheet. The two made contact and began to study masechta Brochos together by heart. The only Jewish sefer he had in his possession while he was in Russia was that of the Or HaChaim Hakodosh, on which he made annotations and added references which he later published.

After his release from Siberia he reached Bucharia where he met his future father-in-law, the ga'avad of Tchebin. The latter, who had been a member of the Lublin yeshiva's Vaad Haruchani, knew him. In Bucharia, in conditions of hunger, poverty and want, the tenoyim of HaRav Boruch Shimon and the daughter of the ga'avad of Tchebin were held.

He reached Eretz Yisroel on a Maapilim (illegal immigration) ship after being freed by the Russians, along with many Jews of Polish citizenship. The British lay in wait for such ships and then sent them to Cypress, where the immigrants were placed in detention camps. HaRav Boruch Shimon, in a remarkable manner, succeeded in evading the British even before the ship was sent to Cypress. The British searched for him for a long time but didn't find him.

He wanted to study Torah in peace and privacy in Eretz Yisroel, but the gedolei Yisroel, headed by the Admor HaRav Aharon of Belz, who had also come to Eretz Yisroel after having been miraculously saved from the Holocaust, asked him to become involved in Torah dissemination and the rescue of the younger generation which had slowly begun to arrive in Eretz Yisroel.

For a number of years he served as the rosh yeshiva in Lod, refusing to head the Tchebin yeshiva in Jerusalem. He said that he didn't want to bear the burden of the yeshiva but rather to devote himself to his Torah studies, and that he felt comfortable in Lod all week even though staying there entailed being away from his home in Jerusalem. However in 5717 (1957), at the request of his father-in-law, he agreed to serve as the rosh yeshiva of Tchebin in Jerusalem, where outstanding students studied.

He published his sefer, Bircas Shimon on Bovo Kamo, at the request of his father-in-law. Afterwards, he published seforim on Bovo Metzia, Bava Basra, Shabbos and Kiddushin. He also republished the sefer Harokeach, which contains many remarkable chidushim and comments. He also published his Bircas Shimon series on Torah and the festivals, as well as some of the works of the gedolei hadoros with his comments. He also published a new edition of the Boruch Taam (whose yahrtzeit is 7th Tammuz) the Chacham Tzvi and many other seforim.

He was a great gaon in all areas of the Torah. Due to his remarkable memory and great diligence, he mastered Yoreh De'ah with the Shach by heart as a youth. His shiurim were very astute, reflecting his phenomenal bekius and straightforward thinking. He would quote from all parts of the Torah from memory, and his seforim display his tremendous command of the entire Torah. Even though his students noticed that he had kabboloh works at home, he was very circumspect and did not speak about that aspect of his knowledge. His students relate that it was only when he was in the hospital, during the final period of his life, that he asked that kabboloh works be brought to him.

After the petirah of his illustrious father-in-law, the ga'avad of Tchebin, the Admor of Gur, the Beis Yisroel, asked him to join the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, in which HaRav Boruch Shimon served for many years, together with Maran the Rosh Hayeshiva, HaGaon HaRav Eliezer Menachem Shach, yibodel lechayim arukim. HaRav Shneerson was very beloved by all of the gedolei Yisroel of the generation and he led many of the battles of the chareidim in Eretz Yisroel. For a number of decades he also served as a member of the executive board of Vaad Hayeshivos.

He fled honor and was the epitome of humility. Quietly and modestly, he would daven to Hashem and often spoke about serving Hashem with temimus and not by means of mofsim. From the moment he assumed the burden of heading the Kochav MiYaakov yeshiva, he dedicated himself to that task with mesiras nefesh behaving toward his students as a compassionate father. He also shared the pain of his fellow and of the community at large and felt close to every Jew. He was very involved in tzedokoh in an unobtrusive and modest manner.

Throughout the scores of years in which he headed the yeshiva gedola he produced thousands of students, many of whom who have become gedolei Yisroel, rabbonim, roshei yeshiva and dayanim. His students were very fond of him and were very grateful to him for the good years they spent in the yeshiva under his warm and genial guidance.

Two years ago, he suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in very critical condition. After a while he recovered and returned to direct the yeshiva with full strength and to deliver shiurim. A number of months ago he fell ill, and required protracted treatments. In the yeshivos in Eretz Hakodesh prayers were said for his recovery.

After Pesach his health improved and he was released from the hospital. Around Pesach, he moved into the yeshiva's building so that he could daven in the yeshiva with his students and deliver shiurim to them. Two weeks ago his health deteriorated, and once more his many students prayed for his recovery. However, on Shabbos parshas Shelach his health took a sharp downward turn, to the great regret of his family and students many of whom remained by his bedside throughout the day. He was niftar on Shabbos afternoon.

News of the petirah of HaRav Boruch Shimon Shneerson spread throughout Jerusalem on Shabbos, and on motzei Shabbos it spread to Torah centers throughout Eretz Yisroel and the entire the world. After Shabbos, his aron was brought into the yeshiva's beis medrash on Channah Street.

After chatzos, his levaya proceeded from Shamgar to the yeshiva. He was accompanied by roshei yeshiva, rabbonim admorim and members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, headed by Maran HaGaon HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv shlita.

At 12:30, his bier was brought to the Tchebin yeshiva, where he had delivered shiurim to thousands of students over scores of years. In compliance with his will, no hespedim were said. At night he was brought to rest in the Chelkas HaRabbonim on Har Hamenuchos, near the grave of his father-in-law and that of the Admor HaRav Aharon of Belz.

Together with his righteous wife, who helped him with great dedication throughout their entire married life, he raised an illustrious Torah family. He is survived by his sons, the rabbonim HaRav Yosef Moshe Shneerson and HaRav Nochum Shneerson, who are continuing to spread Torah and guide the yeshiva of Tchebin. His grandchildren and great- grandchildren are all following in his path, that of Torah and yirah.


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