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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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."