Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Cheshvan 5762 - November 7, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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The Hesped Delivered By HaRav Shach's Son-In-Law, HaRav Meir Tzvi Bergman, Rosh Yeshivas Rashbi, Bnei Brak at the Levaya on Erev Shabbos Parshas Vayeiro

We have become orphans; our father is gone!

We have been virtual orphans for the past few years. The Rosh Yeshiva did not want to speak or to lead; he remained closed up within himself. But our father was still at home. Now we have reached the stage where "our father is gone." Our father has been taken away.

Rav Yaakov Emden comments, regarding the Rambam's statement that the king secreted the Oron Hakodesh in the tortuous hideaways that Shlomo Hamelech prepared during the building of the Beis Hamikdosh, that the Rambam did not write a work of stories and events but a work of halochos.

Rav Yaakov Emden answers that the question of whether the initial sanctification of the Beis Hamikdosh remains in force even after its destruction depends upon whether the Oron Hakodesh was exiled to Bovel at the time of the churban or it was hidden in its place, because the holiness of the Beis Hamikdosh is dependant upon [the presence of] the Oron Hakodesh. As long as the Oron Hakodesh is in the Beis Hamikdosh, even if it is hidden away, the holiness [of the Bayis] remains. This is why the Rambam mentions that the Oron Hakodesh was placed in hiding -- in order to buttress his ruling that the original kedushoh remains: because it was instated for the future too.

Rabbosai, although the Oron Hakodesh was hidden away during the latter period, it was with us, where we are, and from there, the kedushoh spread outwards to everyone. Now it has been taken away from us. Oh! oh! The Oron Hakodesh has been taken away!

On Moshe Rabbenu's words to Klal Yisroel (Devorim 31:29), "For I know that you will become corrupt following my death," Rashi cites Chazal's question that the posuk (Yehoshua 24:31) says, "And they served Hashem throughout Yehoshua's lifetime." Chazal explain that as long as a person's talmid remains alive, as long as Yehoshua, who was Moshe's talmid, remained alive, it was as though Moshe himself was still alive because Yehoshua was his successor.

We ought to be aware that today we are accompanying the holy elder the Chofetz Chaim, the gaon HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer, the Chazon Ish and the Gaon of Brisk, whose talmid our master was. These four leaders of their generations, transmitters of our heritage -- they are the ones who set the Torah up firmly.

I do not presume, choliloh, to be able to appraise or to convey our master's greatness. He was a unique phenomenon in his application to Torah study and in his toil and effort over learning Torah. The amount he labored in order to learn Torah when he was younger was literally beyond human nature. He merited the opening of the mysteries of wisdom, of Torah's depth.

"Torah, Torah gird yourself in sackcloth and wallow in the dust,/ Make yourself mourn as though for an only son, and utter bitter eulogy,/ For those who wielded your oars and who spread nets,/ Who navigated and captained you upon the mighty seas,/ Who arranged your systems, who straightened out difficulties,/ Who deciphered your hidden secrets and revealed mysteries,/ Who will [now] smooth out hills and hew away mountains?/ Who will take difficulties apart and resolve crises?/ Who will clarify [questions about] neziros and arrange nedorim?/ Who will cultivate your depths [reform the sinners]?/ Those who tend [i.e. the chachomim] have been cut down,/ And who will do your battle and return home?/ The weapons are lost and the mighty have fallen." (Kinos -- Arzei Halevonone)

He merited raising generations of outstanding talmidei chachomim, amongst them the greatest sages of the generation. The volumes of his profound work Avi Ezri, have taken their place among the classic seforim and are used by every rosh yeshiva. He was the teacher and the luminary of Yisroel.

I want to note his integrity and his purity of mind and character. Every thing that he did was free of any personal, self-serving, bias. When Degel Hatorah was founded and every vote was precious, being potentially crucial to a candidate's losing, I was present when someone came and asked him who to vote for. His answer was, "Who is your rov?" The man replied with the name of a certain rebbe. Our teacher told him, "You should vote according to the opinions of your rov."

I will tell you another awesome incident, in which I was involved. Everybody knows how difficult it is to obtain funds for supporting Torah scholars. A very wealthy man once met me and said that if I brought him a letter from his rov, who lived in Eretz Yisroel, he would give me one hundred thousand dollars, on the condition that our teacher and master, the Rosh Yeshiva, would ask his rov for the letter.

I agreed and when I came to our master, my father-in-law and told him the story. He promised me to ask for it but asked me when I needed it for. I told him that I'd need it in a few months time, when I'd be meeting him. When the time came and I needed the letter, I came to him and reminded him of his promise. His response was, "I should be meeting him this evening and then, beli neder, I'll ask him for it."

That evening, I was waiting for the letter and when he returned he told me that he'd forgotten to ask for it but that they had to meet the next day as well and he would see to it then. When he came back on the second evening and I came to get the letter he told me, "Sit down a moment and listen. It's true that I promised you and I'm going to ask you to forgive me, because I speak to that rov about communal matters, concerning Klal Yisroel. If I ask him for a letter, he'll certainly give it to me but then I'll be beholden to him and I won't be able to carry out my charge faithfully."

What responsibility and purity of character when working for Klal Yisroel is reflected in this incident!

I would like to read out a piece from our teacher's testament:

"Since no man knows when his time will come, I have resolved to take stock of all that has been, particularly regarding those hidden things where one can be mistaken and can mislead others [in failing to distinguish] between good and bad, and thinking that something is a mitzvoh, when in truth it is an aveiroh and is springing from a bad trait. All should feel sick and faint about this. Woe to us from the day of judgment! Woe to us from the day of rebuke! Who will emerge righteous before You in judgment?"

What demands he made on himself and [how many] reckonings, [from the fear] that even a good deed that is a mitzvoh, might really be an aveiroh, emanating from a bad trait! How awe inspiring! And he was honest, taking nothing for himself. I would like to mention the gemora in Kesuvos (104), "At the time of Rebbi's death, he extended his ten fingers heavenward and said, `Ribono Shel Olom, it is clear and it is known to You, that I have labored in Torah with my ten fingers and have not derived pleasure from even the smallest finger. May it be Your wish that my rest be peaceful.' A heavenly voice went out and said, `He shall come [in] peace shall they rest upon their couches,' " and the gemora continues at length.

Oh, rabbosai . . . Ribono Shel Olom . . . it is clear and it is known to You, that he labored in Torah with his ten fingers and did not benefit with even his little finger -- I have already mentioned our teacher's toil in Torah.

In last week's parshah, Lech Lecho, the posuk (Bereishis 15:17) says, "The sun had set and it had grown dark." The gaon, the author of Meshech Chochmoh, zt'l, says there that until the time of Avrohom, we do not find the sun being called shemesh. Rather, it is referred to as the mo'or hagodol. Avrohom revealed that the sun is the shamosh, the servant of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. It is His great servant, that illuminates the world and which gives song and praise to His Name.

Today, we are accompanying Hakodosh Boruch Hu's great servant, who illuminated the world with song and praise to Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

In the parshah of the orei miklot, the Meshech Chochmoh notes that the Torah refers to bloodshed as tum'oh. In this vein, he comments that these cities were like mikvo'os, where unintentional murderers could become purified. His meaning seems to be that these cities were full of yeshivos, because they had been allotted to the Levi'im and also because if a talmid were exiled to one of them his teacher was exiled there as well, and if the rov were exiled there his talmidim also had to go there. Thus, being in the ir miklot was like immersing oneself in "the waters of comprehension," as the Rambam writes at the end of Hilchos Mikvo'os [in reference to Torah].

The Meshech Chochmoh writes that just as someone who is purifying himself in order to eat terumoh must immerse himself in a mikvoh and also wait until nightfall, the death of the Cohen Godol, who is like the sun for the whole world, who serves Hakodosh Boruch Hu through his avodoh, is also a kind of nightfall. It seems that the purifying effect of the day's end lies in the fact that with nightfall, a new day has begun; a new reality has come into being. When the sun of the Cohen Godol sets, a new era begins, a new world.

It is in this light that I understand the gemora in Mo'ed Koton, which says that when Rabbi Yochonon died they said that the sun had set at midday, while in reality it sets in the evening. Ordinarily though, when the sun sets at day's end it continues shining elsewhere and the moon gives illumination where the sun has set. When the sun sets at midday however, it just gets dark.

Now the sun has set and it has grown dark. It has become pitch black. Oi gevald! The sun has set at midday and everything has grown dark. It is a new world.

The foundation of emunoh is that the world has a Creator who guides it. This was a belief which we saw [implemented] in such a concrete manner by our teacher, who would constantly speak about it -- and now he has been taken from us.

"Men of faith are lost; they approached in the merit of their deeds,/ They filled the breaches with might; they repelled the decrees,/ They were a protective wall for us; and a shelter on the day of fury,/ Banishing anger with their prayer; stopping wrath with their beseeching,/ You answered them before they called You; they knew how to entreaty and how to please You,/ You were merciful like a father for their sake; you did not turn them away empty handed,/ In our many offenses we have lost them; they have been gathered in from among us because of our sins,/ They have travelled to their resting place; and have left us behind sighing,/ The erectors off fences are no more; those who could calm anger are finished,/ There are none who rise to stand in the breaches; who are fit to appease you with prayer,/ We have traversed all corners; and have found no remedy,/ We have returned to You shamefacedly; to apply to You, Hashem, in the time of our troubles." (Selichos Lechamishi)

Through his position in protection of our religion and regarding the character of the yeshivos and of Klal Yisroel, [which he maintained] with such self sacrifice, he merited that the foundations of religion in Klal Yisroel were laid at his behest. He raised Torah's honor and the honor of those who learn Torah, wonderfully. We are duty-bound to ensure that all that he established and achieved in his lifetime should continue in his spirit.

He sacrificed himself for Klal Yisroel and he was a genuine friend to every individual, doing favors and offering guidance, as his talmidim and those who came to see him can testify. I would like to read a further excerpt from his testament:

"I would also like to ask all those talmidim who know that they received some benefit from me, whether in Torah, whether in yiras Hashem or whether in good character traits, to do chessed towards me and to learn for the elevation of my neshomoh, even a single mishnah, or a single mussar thought, and this shall be my reward. For I too, sacrificed myself for the sake of your success in learning and if it will be in my power to do anything or to advocate good for you, I will do so beli neder."

At the end of the testament he concludes,

"And my prayer is that I should merit to stand before Hakodosh Boruch Hu after having done complete teshuvoh,

From me, who parts from you with love,

signed . . . "

I would like to thank all the talmidim who took part in serving our teacher in the past days and years, especially HaRav Yechezkel Eschei'ek sheyichyeh, who served the tzaddik faithfully. It is impossible to mention everybody, but I would like to note my son Chaim sheyichyeh, who served his grandfather for years. May our teacher champion their cause. I request forgiveness for myself and in the name of our entire family, in the name of all the talmidim and of all Klal Yisroel.

May he be a good advocate for Yeshivas Ponevezh, where he disseminated Torah for so many years. May it prosper and spread Torah among Klal Yisroel, until Moshiach's arrival.

I would like to mention Klal Yisroel's present situation, especially of those dwelling in Eretz Yisroel. The situation is fearsome and terrible. We ask our teacher to stand before the Kisei Hakovod, just as he used to protect Klal Yisroel in his lifetime . . . and ask Hakodosh Boruch Hu to tell the destroyer to stop. We have offered up such a great sacrifice but we must be ware that a korbon requires teshuvoh.

Let us repent and we will merit the complete redemption, " . . . and death will be swallowed up forever."


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