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5 Tammuz, 5784 - July 11, 2024 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Legacy of Reb Yeruchom, zt'l

by Rav Yosef Fleischman


These essays were originally published in 1996, 28 years ago.

Part II

For Part I of this series click here.

For Part III of this series click here.

The Yerushalmi (Shekalim 2,5) teaches, "Ein osim nefoshos letzaddikim, divreihem hein hein zichronon." It is unnecessary to construct large monuments for tzadikim, their words perpetuate their memory. This is especially true in the case of the Mirrer mashgiach, Reb Yeruchom zt'l, for two reasons.

First, Reb Yeruchom identified closely with his shmuessen. His lectures were not theoretical discussions but the result of tremendous introspection. Perhaps this can be most succinctly expressed by the following quote taken from his children's introduction to the first volume of Reb Yeruchom's Daas Chochmah Umussar, shmuessen that he said at the Mir Yeshiva:

"His every word, whether learned or taught, emanated from his innermost self. His holy neshomoh, his pure heart and his strength of character are the sources from which he drew most of his Torah. His soul was attached and incorporated into every nuance and utterance that left his mouth. His knowledge of Hashem was derived from his own self-knowledge."

Thus, we can understand the source, Reb Yeruchom, by studying his product, his talks.

A letter written by Reb Yeruchom

This was Reb Yeruchom's success. The Lomzer Mashgiach, Rav Moshe Rosenstein, zt'l, wrote that what made Reb Yeruchom so unique was, "He had no blemishes. Everything he did, all his movements even his innermost soul did nothing which contradicted his chochmah and yirah. He was, as I was very well aware, all beautiful, one unity of chochmah, mussar and yiras Hashem."

He wrote further, "All his words, actions and movements were based upon chochmah and da'as."

As we mentioned at the outset, Reb Yeruchom's shmuessen were Reb Yeruchom himself. If he said that Adam Horishon's downfall, Avrohom Ovinu's avoda and man's major task is to crown his mind ruler over his inclinations, then this was what Reb Yeruchom worked on. His success in his life's task is what made Reb Yeruchom so unique. Reb Yeruchom's seforim discuss many of the more minor character traits and activities that are necessary in order to achieve ultimate success.

Rav Rosenstein mentions one example of Reb Yeruchom's self- control. He recounts, "I saw for the first time what is a true baal mussar. It was the end of the summer. I sat with Reb Yeruchom at night at his table discussing Torah. I noticed a few times that his father-in-law came to his doorstep and looked in askance at me. Reb Yeruchom saw this as well but paid no heed. He kept talking to me calmly. I stayed a long time until we completed our discussion. Only the next day did I learn that his wife was at that very moment giving birth to his first child. I was truly amazed. Not only he did not excuse himself but he calmly kept talking with me as if nothing was transpiring."

This tremendous self-control was an ideal of the Talmud Torah (as Reb Simcha Zissel called his yeshiva) in Kelm. One of the minhagim in Kelm was that one did not open his mail on the day it was received.

Rav Wolbe writes in the Adam Biyekor (Page 9) that once Reb Yeruchom was expecting a letter containing his future bride's decision about the marriage. When a letter finally arrived, his chavrusa urged him to open the letter immediately. However, Reb Yeruchom calmly handed the letter to his chavrusa and said, "If you want to know what it says, here it is. You may open it."

The Mir Beis Medrash in 1981


Reb Yeruchom calls this middah, menuchoh. Reb Yeruchom explains that menuchoh, among other things, is the source of Shabbos.

The Zohar says that Hashem looked into the Torah and then created the world. Reb Yeruchom explains in many places (see e.g. the beginning of Mishpotim or Volume 2, Chapter 17) that one should not think that the Torah is merely something that is suitable for this world.

The Jewish "reformers" maintained that the Torah is antiquated and no longer relevant, afro lepumei. Many tried to show in reply that Torah is timeless and never irrelevant or outdated, chas vesholom. The Zohar however, says we must go much further. Torah is not merely timeless but it is the source, the blueprint and the motivation for the entire world.

One example Reb Yeruchom cites is that people often think that since we have parents, the Torah says we should respect and fear them. However, Reb Yeruchom (ibid.) argues that the Zohar is telling us that the truth is the opposite. Hashem wanted to give us the mitzvos to honor and fear our parents. Therefore, He arranged that we have parents who give birth to us and take care of us.

In the same spirit, Reb Yeruchom explains our need to eat. Hashem was not primarily interested that we should eat and then, since we eat, we have to bentch. On the contrary, Hashem wanted us to recognize Him as the source of all our blessing. Therefore, he arranged that man must eat so that he will bentch afterwards. The original motive is the mitzvah. The physical state is tailored for the mitzvos and not vice versa.

The town of Mir in 1910

The Importance of Menuchoh

Thus, Reb Yeruchom explains the importance of menuchoh. Rashi (Bereishis 2:2) writes, "What was the world lacking? Menuchoh. With the onset of Shabbos, menuchoh was introduced to the world."

Reb Yeruchom writes (2, Page 44): "We normally think that because there is work, therefore, there is menuchoh. However, the opposite is true: work is present in order for menuchoh to exist."

The fact that there is melochoh on the six weekdays is so that on Shabbos we should attain menuchoh. Reb Yeruchom (Bereishis 146- 149) says that the idea of menuchoh is at the root of all of hilchos Shabbos: "All the halachos of Shabbos are a diet for the middah of menuchoh. When a man will stick to this diet, when he will keep all the halachos of Shabbos, he will ultimately attain, `menuchoh of peace, tranquillity and security.'"

He explains further (Bereishis 279-282) how one acquires the state of menuchoh: "There is but one path which leads man to perfect menuchoh; it is by constantly envisioning his one purpose in being in this world (to serve Hashem). One who is constantly in the same state will not be broken or even troubled."

By understanding true menuchoh we can explain why Bnei Yisroel had to receive the Torah in the desert. Would it not have been better to receive the Torah in the settled conditions of Eretz Yisroel?

Reb Yeruchom answers that the posuk in Vayechi (49,15) writes about Yissochor, "He saw menuchoh was good... and he lowered his shoulder to support [a burden]." If Yissochor realized that menuchoh was so beautiful, why carry a burden?

Reb Yeruchom answers that people have a misconception in thinking that menuchoh comes from having met all one's physical needs. If that is the basis for menuchoh, then when he does not have all his physical needs he will not be in a state of menuchoh. True menuchoh is only achieved by maintaining menuchoh in spite of difficulties, without regard to physical pleasure.

Yissochor wanted to be the teacher of Torah, therefore, he practiced menuchoh under difficult circumstances. Menuchoh is also a necessary precondition for kabolas HaTorah, and therefore the Torah had to be given in the midbar, where there were no physical amenities. Menuchoh is both the introduction to Torah and to avodas Hashem in general.

Menuchoh is both at the source as well as the result of all the mitzvos. Reb Yeruchom stresses in another article that all mitzvos lead man towards menuchoh. He writes (Devorim 2, Page 88), "We should be aware that although it says, `Along with Shabbos, menuchoh arrived,' this only means that with the advent of Shabbos, menuchoh reached an apex. Actually every mitzvah, from the beginning to the end of the Torah, even every Torah minhag, results in menuchoh. Every mitzvah a man does sets man at rest."

This is because the source of our menuchoh is our consistent goal to do the rotzon Hashem. Thus when we fulfill our goal we are certainly in a state of menuchoh. Someone who has first crowned his da'as to rule over himself can then attain a true sense of menuchoh. When man is in perfect control over himself, he, therefore, has the presence of mind to determine what really is Hashem's rotzon. It is not adulterated by extraneous interests or by any physical considerations.

This was Reb Yeruchom's own avoda and this is what he taught others. The biggest kovod we can do for him is to learn form him, to emulate his ways and perhaps achieve a mei'ein of what he was.

The funeral of Reb Yeruchom

His Derech Halimud

We mentioned previously how Reb Yeruchom understood the statement of the Zohar that Hashem looked at the Torah and henceforth created the world. Many others may not have understood the Zohar the way Reb Yeruchom did. However, this illustrates an important element of Reb Yeruchom's derech halimud.

Reb Yeruchom highlights his derech in a number of places. He writes (1, Page 17), "A cardinal rule is that in order to truly understand sayings of Chazal one must explain them in a manner which is consistent with the pshat. One of the reasons the true meaning of a Chazal often escapes people is that they claim at the outset that a Chazal cannot be understood in a manner consistent with its obvious meaning."

He takes this up in his sefer on Bereishis (Page 146) as well. "Everything which we said in our previous discourse is stated precisely by Chazal. We constantly say that if people just derive one lesson from all we teach, that the basic principle is to learn Chazal, and Torah as a whole, according to their pshat, that would be enough for a man's lifetime. However, this is extremely difficult. Students are given an incorrect understanding in cheder. Then when they approach Chazal they attempt to incorporate their distorted philosophy into Chazal."

Look for the pshat in Chazal. Do not try to make Chazal say what you think. Allow Chazal to shape your thoughts.

Reb Yeruchom had a profound influence. He was perhaps unique amongst mashgiach in that the big lamdonim of the yeshiva considered him to be their rebbe, their moreh derech in lomdus as well as mussar. Reb Yeruchom could be described as a rosh yeshiva for agodas Chazal. He learned up Chazal with a depth which roshei yeshivas normally reserve for a halacha of the Rambam.

Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz zt'l said at Reb Yeruchom's yahrtzeit shmuess (5732), "As we explained in our yahrtzeit shmuess for Reb Yeruchom in 5731, a talmid is not a meturgeman who parrots over his rebbe's Torah. Rather, all of the talmid's Torah should be consistent with his rebbe's derech ... When we explain a Chazal our first thought is, `Would our Rebbe (Reb Yeruchom) have explained it this way?'"

Thus, we find many of the talmidim of Yeshivas Mir invested all their efforts in just trying to understand the pshat in Chazal. They exemplified what Reb Yeruchom says, "The simpler the pshat, the better it is."

Reb Yeruchom held this to be the most important lesson he wished to impart. This derech in learning is consistent with the constant striving for emes that epitomized Kelm and its talmid, Reb Yeruchom. If one introduces into Chazal his own preconceived notions he is not being true to Chazal. One has to listen to Chazal to truly seek the truth.

The yeshiva in 1927

Emes and Tefillah

This striving for emes is present in other facets of his derech in avodas Hashem as well. Reb Yeruchom discusses (1, section 40) the gemora in Yoma (69 B) in order to derive an important yesod in tefillah.

The gemora says that in spite of the fact that Moshe calls Hashem the hokeil, hagodol, hagibor, vehanorah, Yirmiyahu and Daniel did not describe Hashem as such. Yirmiyahu left out "hanorah" because he saw that goyim running around in the Beis Hamikdash. Similarly Daniel left out "hagibor" because he saw the goyim enslaving Jews.

The gemora then asks, how could the Rabbonim alter the nusach of davening by dropping words? The gemora's reply is, "Since they knew Hashem desires the truth they didn't utter a nontruth to Him."

Reb Yeruchom asks that didn't people of the caliber of Daniel and Yirmiyahu know that Hashem is really a gibor and a norah?

He answers that intellectually, Yirmiyahu and Daniel knew quite clearly that Hashem is godol, gibor, vehanorah. However, Hashem does not want us to daven with only our intellect. We have to say tefillos to Him which even our guf is convinced of, and only that is a tefillah davened with emes. Thus, the gemora says, since they knew Hashem is a G-d of emes, therefore, they were true to him and only said that things of which even their guf was totally convinced.

Hashem wants us to daven to Him with our entire self. This is tefillah of emes. Hashem would rather have us not say a true praise of him as long as what we do say we really are totally committed to.

In the same way, on the Seder night, Chazal tell us we should feel that we ourselves left Egypt. It is not enough for us to intellectually know that once upon a time Hashem led us to freedom from Mitzrayim. Even our guf must feel that way too and the way to achieve this is by doing all the mitzvos of the seder night. Only with all the physical mitzvos of the seder can we hope to accomplish this.

We have, therefore, seen not only a yesod in tefillah but a yesod in emes as well. In order to utter something which is emes in tefillah it must be an emes expressed by our entire being.

Reb Yeruchom was a gaon in understanding man's kochos hanefesh. This is crucial in order to grow in yiras Shomayim.


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