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7 Nisan 5766 - April 4, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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A Living Mishnas Rav Aaron — A new Book of the Life and Ideals of Rav Aaron Kotler, zt"l

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

"Chazal say that a talmid doesn't understand his rebbi for forty years, yet it's over forty years since the Rosh Yeshiva's petiroh and we're still trying to understand him."

These words uttered this year by Rav Zev Tikotzky, a talmid of the Rosh Yeshiva at the annual yahrzeit gathering for the Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Aaron Kotler zt"l, encapsulate the reverence and awe in which his talmidim and the entire Torah world held him. While the Rosh Yeshiva's legacy has undoubtedly grown over the years with the proliferation of the olom haTorah in the United States and in Eretz Yisroel that he fought so hard to establish, and his accomplishments for the klal are, to a degree, known, the generations that have been born since his petiroh in 1962 know little about Rav Aaron the person, Rav Aaron the rosh yeshiva, and Rav Aaron the undisputed manhig hador.

A newly released book, distributed by Feldheim, fills this void. In a book interspersed with translations of a wide array of shmuessen from the highly acclaimed Mishnas Rav Aaron on mussar and machshovoh, enhanced with hundreds of fascinating stories from the life of Rav Aaron which illustrate how his teachings were put into practice, studded with beautiful pictures, the Rosh Yeshiva and his teachings come to life.

One can read fascinating stories about Rav Aaron's hasmodoh and yegiah, his amazing warmth and ahavas Yisroel, his chesed, his anovoh, his midas ho'emes, his bitochon — and then encounter an inspiring shmuess and be amazed to see how the Rosh Yeshiva derived it all through his broad and deep knowledge of Torah. Mishnas Rav Aaron and the Life of Rav Aaron thus complement and elucidate each other in this book. Hence, its appropriate title: A Living Mishnas Rav Aaron.

Readers will undoubtedly find this book interesting and inspiring. As the Lakewood Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Malkiel Kotler, writes in his haskomoh, "It will be a tremendous chizuk for bnei Torah who will [be inspired to] shteig in limud haTorah and for everyone who `will absorb the fragrance' of my grandfather's Torah and yiras Shomayim."

Additionally, there are interesting and inspiring vignettes such as an encounter as a youth with the rector of the Kovno public school (gymnasia) while on vacation in Ramashok, descriptions of the love of Torah of the townsmen of Kletsk, footnotes with stories about other wonderful Jews who were associated with the Rosh Yeshiva, and a number of fascinating chapters about the Rosh Yeshiva's devoted Rebbetzin, about his son and successor, the Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Shneur zt"l, and about the venerable masgiach, HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel zt"l.

The book was written by Rav Yitzchok Dershowitz, a talmid of the Rosh Yeshiva who is an accomplished talmid chochom and a kollel member of the Bais Medrash Govohah, who undertook to perpetuate Rav Aaron's legacy to the generations of Torah Jews who gained so much from him but who weren't privileged to know him personally. Through A Living Mishnas Rav Aaron they, too, can become talmidim of the Rosh Yeshiva.

The clearest statement of the book's conception is that made by the author in his Preface:

A Living Mishnas Rav Aharon is not a biography in the conventional sense and in fact contains relatively little historical information. Nor does it focus in detail on the Rosh Yeshiva's klal activities. Rather it is a sefer in that it attempts to study and present in a lively form the teachings of the great, saintly Rosh Yeshiva and pre- eminent Torah leader of his generation Maran Rav Aharon Kotler, ztz"l (hereafter referred to as "The Rosh Yeshiva") as found in his Mussar writings ("Mishnas Rav Aharon"), many of which appear here in English for the first time, as transmitted by students and as demonstrated by his personal life. It is replete with memories and impressions of talmidim and contemporaries, and contains a wealth of stories and anecdotes, which combine to demonstrate how he lived as he taught. In this sense, it serves as a biography too — a biography of a "living Mishnas Rav Aharon."

Included in this work are chapters with some material on three partners, if you will, in the Rosh Yeshiva's life's work: his esteemed wife, Rebbetzin Rivka Chana Perel, his son and successor Maran Rav Shneur, and the revered long-time Mashgiach of Lakewood — Maran Rav Noson Wachtfogel, zecher tzaddikim livrochoh.

HaKodosh Boruch Hu has given me the great zchus to have studied under the Rosh Yeshiva in the last two and a quarter years of his life, and afterwards, in Bais Medrash Govoha until this day. As such, I have personally observed and, at times, even participated in some of the stories recorded here, or heard them from other talmidim throughout the years. . . .

It is also interesting, constructive and particularly appropriate at this time to include one piece from the work itself.

On Conducting One's Bein Hazmanim

" . . . It's necessary to arrange one's Bein Hazmanim (intercession) so that he doesn't have a loss, chas vesholom (the loss that otherwise occurs when one interrupts his learning without a real "heter"). His intentions should be to strengthen himself for the next zman, which is the only heter for interruption. He should, of course, make sure that he doesn't start his Bein Hazmanim earlier than he is supposed to, nor should his learning slacken off towards the end of the zman. The interruption itself should not be total, rather he should make set times for learning and, most importantly, he should not take his mind off learning. He should delve into seforim, "talk in learning" with friends, his conversations should be in Torah and he should see to it that he is in the company of bnei Torah." (p. 75)


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