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13 Adar I, 5784 - February 22, 2024 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Flask Of Mann: The Thirty-First Yahrtzeit Of HaRav Nochum Abba Grossbard zt

By Moshe Musman

This is HaRav Grosbard. Either HaRav Nochum Abba or his uncle HaRav Avrohom Abba


This was originally published exactly 30 years ago in 5754, on the first yahrtzeit of HaRav Grossbard zt"l. This is the first time it is being published online. There is very little information available about HaRav Grossbard online.

We have been following Reb Nochum Abba on his journey through the prewar yeshiva world and begin the third and final part of this series with his arrival in Kaminetz.

For Part II of this series click here.

With Reb Boruch Ber

Towards the end of his life, Reb Shimon Shkop grew extremely weak and virtually stopped delivering shiurim. A group of Grodno bochurim then decided to attend the lectures of the other great teacher of the generation, who was famous throughout the yeshivos, HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz, the rosh yeshiva of Knesses Beis Yitzchok in Kaminetz.

Reb Nochum Abba travelled to Kaminetz in 5799 (1939) and quickly drew close to Reb Boruch Ber, who in turn, gave his new talmid the full benefit of his own deep wisdom. One of the Kaminetz talmidim recalls the strong impression which Reb Nochum Abba, with his sterling character and his continual striving for progress, made on the bochurim of Kaminetz upon his arrival in the yeshiva.

The significant differences between Reb Shimon's and Reb Boruch Ber's approaches in understanding many pivotal concepts in the gemora were apparent from Reb Nochum Abba's very first Torah discussion with the Kaminetz rosh yeshiva when he sought admission into the yeshiva. Nevertheless, during that discussion, Reb Boruch Ber also conversed with Reb Nochum Abba at great length on the subject of Reb Shimon's greatness.

Indeed, despite having also been a talmid of Reb Boruch Ber, Reb Nochum Abba remained faithful to Reb Shimon's approach, always regarding him as his principal teacher. He would never refer to his rebbeim by their names, with the slight degree of familiarity that is customary in yeshivos when quoting or recalling these two great teachers. Reb Shimon was always referred to by him as "Der Rov" or "Der Sha'arei Yosher" while Reb Boruch Ber was known as "Der Rosh Yeshiva."

HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz

Kaminetz alumni remember Reb Boruch Ber's shiurim on the sugya of "Tokfo Cohen." A number of the rosh yeshiva's ideas were in direct contradiction to the conclusions that had been arrived at by Reb Shimon. Reb Nochum Abba would not give way and during one of the shiurim, he defended his teacher's point of view in a stormy argument that lasted nearly half an hour. The proofs which he adduced to support Reb Shimon's approach could not be dismissed easily and on this occasion, Reb Boruch made an exception in his usual practice and allowed Reb Nochum Abba to have his say.

Whenever he repeated Reb Shimon's chidushim to Reb Boruch Ber, he refrained from mentioning the name of their owner. If Reb Boruch Ber agreed with the thought, Reb Nochum Abba would then tell him whose the chidush was. If however, Reb Boruch Ber rejected the line of argument, he would continue to conceal the identity of the originator of the chidush so as not to lessen Reb Shimon's reputation with Reb Boruch Ber in any way.

His period in Kaminetz was one of especially intense application to learning. Day and night, Reb Nochum Abba buried himself in learning gemora with rishonim and acharonim, drinking in their words with unquenchable thirst. He developed a close friendship with a gifted young bochur named Nochum Trokker, who later became famous as rosh yeshiva in the Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalaim, better known as HaRav Nochum Partzowitz zt'l. The two would spend hours together in Torah discussions.

Also in Kaminetz then was the son of the Brisker Rov, the gaon Reb Yosef Dov zt'l. Together with R' Eliyahu Mishkovsky and the Grossbard brothers, Reb Yosef Dov formed a chabura where the teachings of his grandfather, HaRav Chaim Soloveitchik, which he had brought with him from his father's home, were discussed.


Reb Nochum Abba's superhuman labors took their toll on his energies and in the summer of 5699, he had to travel to the health resort at Luna for a rest. The Lithuanian yeshivos did not have an official recess during the month of Av. The roshei yeshivos would usually stop saying shiurim sometime in the middle of the summer, after which time those who needed to take a break would begin to leave.

Although the yeshiva was always officially in session, towards the end of summer, after a few weeks had passed and Elul was about to start, there would hardly be a soul left in the yeshivos, except for the few students who were known never to leave, R' Eliyahu Mishkovsky, for example.

Many of the region's gedolei Torah would congregate in Luna at this time of year so there was plenty to occupy the vacationing bochurim. For example, they used to follow Reb Boruch Ber and Reb Aharon Kotler around, listening to their discussions and trying to interject their own comments.

HaRav Shimon Shkop

Photographs which appear in the book Reb Shimon And His Torah, show Reb Nochum Abba in the company of the geonim Rav Moshe Mordechai Shkop, Rav Tuvia Rotberg, av beis din of Luna, and Rav Chizkiyohu Yosef Mishkovsky, av beis din of Krinki. According to Reb Nochum Abba's later accounts, the vacation would not seem too relaxing by today's standards. There was plenty of Torah discussion, repose and porridge with butter.

One day, while in Luna, Reb Nochum Abba received a message that there was a telephone call for him, which he had to take at the town's single telephone set. Wholly unsuspecting, he made his way to the telephone where he found two secret police officers awaiting him. He was taken away for questioning in connection with a forgery ring that had recently been discovered.

The forgers had been issuing bochurei yeshiva with fictitious certificates which exempted them from serving in the Polish army. Acting upon a ruling he had received from HaRav Chaim Ozer—who applied chazal's teaching that "whoever accepts on himself the yoke of Torah, has the yoke of worldly concerns removed"—Reb Nochum Abba had also made use of one of the certificates.

The interrogators demanded information about the Jewish middleman who had given him his certificate but the prisoner would not reveal anything. He underwent beatings for several days, after which their tactics changed and he was promised various benefits, including a rabbinical post in the community of his choice, if he would cooperate. Needless to say, Reb Nochum Abba remained steadfast in his refusal to divulge anything about a fellow Jew.

In later years, Reb Nochum Abba would relate how at one stage, when he had been weakened by the beatings, his interrogators managed to convince him that they already had all the information which they needed and all he had to do to gain his freedom was to confirm that the facts they had were correct. While they were spelling out to him what he could expect if he still refused to cooperate, he visualized the face of his father, who had contracted his final illness after a similar experience.

His father, HaRav Aharon Zeev, had also refused to provide information about one of the Jews of his town and he as the rabbi, the most important member of the community, had been imprisoned in the man's stead. Recalling his father's experience, he was able to withstand all temptations.

He was then taken to Vilna and confined for around three months. Several stories are told of the strength of character he displayed during this period.

Initially, no provision was made for kosher food. Reb Nochum Abba ate nothing until his friends were able to arrange that he be brought food he was able to eat. Even then, his diet consisted of dry bread and water which was brought to his cell twice a day. Between mealtimes, he was left completely alone in his cell.

He managed to scale the walls in order to reach the single window which was in the ceiling and thus discovered that the neighboring cell was occupied by another bochur who was involved in the same case. It transpired however, that whereas Reb Nochum Abba had managed to remain silent, the other bochur had cooperated to a degree and was benefiting from improved conditions as a result.

He suggested sharing some of his food with Reb Nochum Abba but his offer was refused. "I'm not interested in a tomato obtained from informing," Reb Nochum Abba declared, his integrity preventing him from compromising his steadfast refusal to inform.

On erev Rosh Hashanah, 5700, friends stood outside the prison and called to him that it would be Yom Tov that evening. Despite his weakness, he fasted all day, in order to have some bread over which to say kiddush.

He was released on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, just one day before he was to stand trial. All the prisoners were being released due to the rapid approach of the Russian army to the outskirts of Vilna, shortly after the outbreak of the War. On Reb Chaim Ozer's advice, he returned to Grodno after Yom Kippur to locate his mother and remained there until after Reb Shimon's passing, a few weeks later.

The Kelm Talmud Torah

In The Kelm Talmud Torah

In the summer of 5700 (1940), Reb Nochum Abba travelled with his mother to the Kelm Talmud Torah, where they spent six months. An apartment close to the Talmud Torah was rented for them by the family of the Alter of Kelm, who still remembered his father, who had learned there in his youth.

The Kelm yeshiva constituted a world of its own which still basked in the radiance of the Alter and his great teacher, Reb Yisroel Salanter. At this time, the yeshiva was led by the third generation, the Alter's son HaRav Nochum Zeev Ziv and sons-in-law, HaRav Doniel Movshovitz and HaRav Gershon Myadnik, Hy'd.

The impressions of the Elul and Yomim Noraim which he spent in Kelm, which was also the last in the yeshiva's history, remained with Reb Nochum Abba for the rest of his life. In later years, when his own rigorous avodas Hashem during Elul would serve as an example of the true perspective on the season of Divine judgment, he would always speak in awe about that Elul in Kelm.

Ever since the Chofetz Chaim had passed away, Reb Elchonon Wassermann would leave his own yeshiva in Baranowitz each year to spend the Yomim Noraim in Kelm. The custom in Kelm was to call people to the Torah without any titles at all before their names. Even Reb Doniel and Reb Gershon were called up simply, "ya'amod Doniel...ya'amod Gershon."

Reb Elchonon's arrival in Kelm however, always posed a difficulty. It was unthinkable to call up one of the generation's leaders simply by his first name, but on the other hand, it was not possible to change the local minhag. The solution they found was that whenever Reb Elchonon was to be called up, he wasn't called at all; they just signaled to him to come to the bimah!

The Talmud Torah in Kelm, from whence Torah and mussar emanated to the entire world, occupied no more than two average-sized rooms. If fifty people were inside, it was extremely crowded.

During the Yomim Noraim, when there were many visitors, people had to pray outside in the corridor. The heads of the yeshiva regarded the building as private property and consequently, anyone who wished to enter had to ask for permission. The seating arrangements were made with the utmost precision. Places were assigned by the Talmud Torah's heads according to each individual's level and estimated spiritual welfare. To be allotted a place inside the beis hamedrash required very special merit. Survivors of Kelm remember that Reb Nochum Abba was given a seat inside.

Reb Nochum Abba drank from the wisdom of Reb Doniel, assimilating many lessons about day-to-day living. He related to Reb Doniel how, when war broke out and he escaped from Suvalk, he had taken with him a little money, some manuscripts, his fathers writings, a kiddush cup and a pair of candlesticks.

He originally had five thousand dollars, a fantastic sum in those days. It was dangerous to travel with that much with but on the other hand, he was unwilling to leave them behind for the advancing Russians. He had therefore burned all the money up in the oven before he left. He told this to Reb Doniel, who expressed his disapproval. Money, Reb Doniel said, should not be destroyed in times of war and suffering.

Another lesson that Reb Nochum Abba perfected in Kelm was the maintenance of "military discipline," of standing before Hashem like a soldier stands before his King. Despite all the inner feeling and enthusiasm he experienced while praying, he made a point of appearing punctually for each tefillah and was careful to repeat each word in a measured, orderly way, taking the same care over the words of prayer as one usually takes when counting an amount of money (as Chazal express it). Any outward manifestations of the outpouring of his soul, with the exception of tears, were kept in check, as would befit a subordinate speaking to his commanding officer.

Reb Nochum Abba would describe the special inspiration that was reflected in Reb Doniel's personality during the Yomim Noraim, when his piety and purity of heart would shine with extra luster.

Reb Doniel was physically short in stature and very weak and frail. During the Yomim Noraim, when the beis hamedrash was crowded with people, everybody could see the extreme lengths to which Reb Doniel went in order to avoid brushing against someone or disturbing them in any way. He would contort his frail frame like a snake, in order to stay clear of knocking against someone else. Reb Elchonon once said in Reb Doniel's presence that the posuk, "and to this I will look, to a poor man of crushed spirit, who trembles over My word," was applicable to him.

Upon Reb Nochum Abba's departure from Kelm, around Chanukah 5701 (1940), just some six months before the town and its inhabitants were murdered by the Nazis, his friends presented him with souvenirs of his sojourn with them. Reb Doniel gave him an old copy of sefer Tehillim which he had inscribed.

HaRav Yisroel Zeev Gustman

In Search Of A Way Out

Reb Nochum Abba and his mother managed to escape to Vilna which was still the capital of an independent Lithuania. All the yeshivos of Lithuania, Poland and Russia had poured into Vilna where, under the guidance of Reb Chaim Ozer, they sought ways of escape from the rapidly closing trap in which they were caught.

For Reb Nochum Abba, this was a chance to make the acquaintance of the Brisker Rov, who was then in the city. Despite the crowds of bnei yeshiva in Vilna at the time, the Brisker Rov delivered his shiurim to a very small, select group of bnei Torah. Nobody else was allowed in to hear the shiur, or to pray with the minyan which was held in the Brisker Rov's house.

As soon as he arrived in Vilna, Reb Nochum Abba was admitted to this group. He developed a very close friendship with the Brisker Rov's son, HaRav Dovid Soloveitchik, a friendship which lasted for many years.

Several possibilities for escape were open to the Brisker Rov and he decided to cast the Vilna gaon's goral to determine which route he should take. The resulting posuk was, "They shall ascend mountains and descend valleys to this place which You have founded for them" (Tehillim 104). Accordingly, the Rov planned to travel to Eretz Yisroel via Turkey. He asked Reb Nochum Abba to accompany him, promising to make all the necessary arrangements.

For various reasons however, Reb Nochum Abba decided to join the Mir Yeshiva and travel via Japan. In later years when he expressed his regret at having missed this opportunity to continue learning Torah from the Brisker Rov, his listener pointed out that had he not joined Mir, he wouldn't have gotten to know Reb Chatzkel and his mussar approach. The answer Reb Nochum Abba gave was typical. "When one goes on one's way with the Truth, one arrives at the Truth —I wouldn't have lost out!"

In Vilna, he stayed with HaRav Yisroel Zeev Gustman, who was then the rav of Vilna's suburb of Shnipishok and the rosh yeshiva of Netzach Yisroel—Ramailles. When HaRav Gustman opened his yeshiva in Yerushalaim, he invited Reb Nochum Abba to serve as the mashgiach. This proposal was declined, as were all others which were suggested to Reb Nochum Abba.

He would nevertheless come occasionally to the yeshiva in Rechavia to deliver a shmuess and the two maintained their close friendship until the end of HaRav Gustman's life.

The Far East

The Russian authorities ordered the Mir Yeshiva to be split into four groups. Reb Nochum Abba was with the group that was situated in Kaidan before travelling across Russia to Japan, via Vladivostok. During the two week journey on the Trans-Siberian railway, Reb Nochum Abba subsisted on toast which he had prepared before setting out, lest there be problems of kashrus on the way.

He spent eight months in Japan, leaving early together with Reb Chatzkel so as to be in Shanghai before Yom Kippur, to avoid the well-known question concerning the International Dateline.

It was during this period that he drew especially close to Reb Chatzkel, who had learned for many years both in Radin under the Chofetz Chaim and in Kelm, together with Reb Nochum Abba's father, HaRav Aharon Zeev Grossbard.

Reb Chatzkel invited his old friend's son for one of the Shabbos meals. Reb Nochum Abba, who had long before made a resolution not to eat out on Shabbos as this stole valuable learning time, turned down the invitation. Only after Reb Chatzkel had persisted for a number of weeks did Reb Nochum Abba finally accept. From then on, the two were inseparable. Reb Nochum Abba was Reb Chatzkel's Shabbos guest throughout the next six years, eventually becoming his main disciple and the propagator of his teachings.

Their relationship was remarkable for Reb Nochum Abba was already a mature and developed student who had already achieved a very high level of refinement through his own efforts, guided by his teachers in Grodno, Kaminetz and Kelm, over the years.

Nonetheless, he subordinated his own ideas and became totally subservient to Reb Chatzkel's approach and requirements in avodas Hashem. Reb Chatzkel, for his part, withheld none of his wisdom and insight from his pupil and devoted himself to guiding Reb Nochum Abba to perfection in every aspect of his character.

In discussing the famous question of the International Dateline, Reb Nochum Abba related how the universal practice among all the refugees had been to make Shabbos at the same time Jews all over the world made it.

When Reb Chatzkel received the Chazon Ish's ruling that Shabbos be observed a day later than everywhere else, he entered the beis hamedrash on what had until then been Friday night and, banging his hand on the bimah, announced "Vehu Rachum...!" thus signaling the beginning of an ordinary weekday Ma'ariv. The bnei hayeshiva were utterly astounded until the mashgiach explained something of the Chazon Ish's greatness to them.

Something of the atmosphere that prevailed in the yeshiva during the Shanghai period can be discerned in the following lines from a letter written by Reb Chatzkel after the end of the war. (The letter appears in Ohr Yechezkel, letter #33) "[There is] plenty of revealed Providence which is apparent to everybody, in all our affairs, as regards both our physical sustenance and matters of our souls. The spirit and vitality of the yeshiva has been running high all the time; it did not undergo the slightest change from [how it used to be during] the peaceful, tranquil times. Even now, when the question of emigration is under consideration and demands a quick resolution, for we cannot stay here any longer [first] on account of the climate which is responsible for various unusual diseases, R'l, and [second] because of the fresh troubles which every day brings, [even now,] nothing has affected the yeshiva; everything is running as before."

That the bochurim were capable of setting aside their concerns for themselves and the families they had left behind in Europe; that they were able to ignore the crushing conditions and the many perils of their day-to-day existence, that despite all this, they labored in Torah, published seforim, prayed with great intensity and worked on improving themselves—and they did all of this just as though they were living at peace in normal surroundings—all this was largely due to the mashgiach Reb Chatzkel, who fanned the flame of desire for Torah, saw to it that the pace never slacked, aroused everyone's emotions by calling attention to the plight of Jews the world over and utilized every opportunity to strengthen faith and trust in Hashem's Providence.

In recalling those difficult times, Reb Nochum Abba would describe the unbearable heat and how, seeking relief from the intense, oppressive humidity, the Japanese would flock down in the evenings, to the beach in droves, while all the while, the refugees were confined to their ghetto. Many times, on their way to shacharis, the bochurim would see corpses littering the streets, victims of the rampaging diseases, waiting to be removed en mass by lorry.

Reb Chatzkel once revealed to Reb Nochum Abba that every time he stood before an important decision, he was aided from Heaven in discerning the correct course. One of his own teachers, he said, always appeared to him. Either HaRav Nochum Zeev Ziv, or HaRav Tzvi Hirsch Broide (the son and son-in-law respectively of the Alter of Kelm), or Reb Yerucham Levovitz, the Mir mashgiach would come to him and tell him what to do.

At one stage, there was considerable support for a proposal to move the yeshiva out of Shanghai to a distant town. It appeared that the yeshiva's situation would be greatly improved there and there would be less danger to life. Reb Chatzkel opposed such a move, arguing that it would cause bitul Torah. The older talmidim, Reb Yerucham's pupils, realized that there was a deeper reason for Reb Chatzkel's refusal and they sent Reb Nochum Abba, from whom they knew Reb Chatzkel would hide nothing, to try to find out what it was.

"What can I say to them?" Reb Chatzkel asked Reb Nochum Abba, "Everything that I am doing here is the equivalent of open miracles from Heaven!"

When the murmuring about moving grew even more audible, Reb Chatzkel went up to the bimah and accepted full responsibility for the decision, reading out the words of the gemora, (Pesochim daf 8,) in the name of Rav, "The responsibility rests on me and hangs from my neck."

Pulling himself erect, his face radiant with trust in Hashem, Reb Chatzkel added, "If I would be Rav, I would also say "the responsibility rests on me!"

Some time later, it became apparent that he had been right. While things quieted down in Shanghai a few days later, following the Japanese surrender, civil war broke out in Tiensin, the town they had wanted to move to. Nationalists were fighting Communists but as usual, the heaviest casualties were absorbed by the refugees.

On another occasion, when special efforts had yielded forty visas for entry into the United States which could be utilized by members of the yeshiva, Reb Chatzkel decided that despite the grave dangers that threatened everyone in Shanghai, the yeshiva should not be divided. He despatched HaRav Dovid Kronglas, one of Reb Yerucham's senior talmidim (who later served as mashgiach of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore), to the American Embassy to declare that the yeshiva had decided to forgo the visas.


In 5707, with legal entry to Eretz Yisroel all but impossible, Reb Nochum Abba no longer entertained hopes of getting there directly from Shanghai and he joined one of the last groups of bochurim to leave Japan, bound for the United States.

Two months after his arrival he joined the teaching staff of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva, the institution he was to serve for the next thirteen years. It was Reb Aharon Kotler's idea to concentrate a number of the European talmidei chachomim who were then arriving in America, into this yeshiva as well as Torah Vodaas. Lakewood drew between eighty and ninety percent of its talmidim from these two schools which represented the only real hopes for raising a generation of American bnei Torah.

His success was phenomenal. Many distinguished talmidei chachamim in America today ascribe the foundations of all their future Torah learning to the years they spent with Reb Nochum Abba. The challenges faced then by the European yeshiva rebbeim were almost insurmountable.

Before the war, even in families which maintained uncompromising standards of orthodoxy, the idea of complete dedication to Torah learning was foreign. The goal of most families was for their sons to attend college and become professionals. Individuals could not swim against the current and the most that could be done was to send a handful of American boys to European yeshivos, something that was impossible anyway once the war broke out.

HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, now rosh yeshiva of Slobodke, Bnei Brak, noted that amongst the Torah scholars who arrived in America after the war, there were some who wanted to maintain the same standard of learning as they had in Europe: they opened institutions only for European talmidei chachamim. Naturally, with no local input, these institutions had no future.

Other rabbonim saw no way of changing the Orthodox American Jewish scene and, while they themselves represented the finest values of the Torah world, they resigned themselves to the fact that they would not be successful in bringing about fundamental changes in their pupils.

Reb Nochum Abba, said HaRav Hirsch, was one of the very few who was able to reach out to the American boy and open his eyes and heart to the ideals of the great European yeshivos.

Reb Nochum Abba therefore aimed at achieving far more than introducing his talmidim to learning gemora. He wrought a complete change in their outlook and scale of priorities. The secret of his success can perhaps be summed up by the fact that he coupled the exacting and (initially, at any rate) alien standards that he demanded from his pupils, with boundless love for them and an ability to understand each one of them and their surroundings.

He once said that before entering the room where his pupils awaited him, he prayed that he would love them. The relationships he forged with his talmidim were such that many of them remained in close contact with him until the end of his life.

One of his pupils recalls the three messages which Reb Nochum Abba used to transmit.

First, gemora is not just another subject alongside say, chemistry and math, but it is the foundation of a Jew's Torah study to which his best efforts should be devoted. The main part of the day is the time spent learning gemora for it is the main form of spiritual nourishment for the Jewish neshomoh. In his efforts to get his talmidim to reassess their view of learning Torah, he would make a point of playing down the importance of their secular studies.

After having convinced his pupils to make a full commitment to Torah, he often had to defuse the anger of the boy's family who were usually very far from being able to accept such ideas. In most cases, he was ultimately successful; often, the whole family moved much closer to Torah as a result.

Second, he imparted the idea that Torah provides an all encompassing framework for the Jewish life. There is no necessity to resort to the forms of recreation or diversion enjoyed by the surrounding society, however innocuous they may be. He took a stand against television, attending baseball games and other manifestations of the infiltration of the gentile culture.

On one occasion, a big ball game was to be held, which most of the yeshiva meant to attend. The hanholo had even consented to the pupils attendance but Reb Nochum Abba would not reconcile himself to such a situation. He stood by the door of his classroom as if to challenge anyone to defy him and go to the game.

While he left no room for confusion as to what he did not favor, he always made his views felt in a pleasant way. When it was fashionable for boys to wear large fringes over their foreheads, he remarked one day at the end of the shiur that, "Those who don't [wear a fringe] look better."

Nothing more was needed for the fringes to be removed within a short space of time.

He also introduced the concept of night seder into the yeshiva. Initially, he spoke to the other rebbeim and they started coming back into the beis hamedrash at night to learn. Gradually they were joined by one boy after another until the third seder became an accepted feature of the yeshiva day.

The third lesson Reb Nochum Abba inculcated was the idea that everybody has some shortcomings which require an effort to overcome. One of the most basic teachings of mussar is that a person is not "basically okay" as he is but he must work to control and refine his negative traits. Members of society at large, which included Reb Nochum Abba's American pupils, do not see themselves as lacking perfection and needing to improve their characters.

Reb Nochum Abba's success in conveying these lessons was such that Reb Aharon remarked that he had no more work to do with boys who came to him from Reb Nochum Abba's hands. One of his talmidim said that whoever had spent a year with Reb Nochum Abba, left his class being able to understand the basic form of a sugya, with knowing how to pray, with deep faith, a clear Torah outlook and with the foundations of mussar.

He knew on which boys he could make demands and on which he could not and, understanding the American mentality, he moderated his requirements for each individual. Even those who did not fulfill his hopes nevertheless retained his scale of values throughout their lives. Laymen who had been through his hands stood out for their dedication to learning and Torah ideals.

When Reb Chatzkel left America for Eretz Yisroel, Reb Nochum Abba yearned to join him but his teacher did not agree to this. In one of his letters to Reb Nochum Abba (Ohr Yechezkel, letter #317,) he wrote, "I say again, after the knowledge that reached me today of your great success... that we are unable to rule hastily on this matter, to desert such important achievements."

In 5711, Reb Chatzkel wrote to say that he had asked the Chazon Ish whether Reb Nochum Abba was allowed to leave America. The Chazon Ish ruled that in view of Reb Nochum Abba's success, he would only be allowed to leave if he found a replacement who was able to do the same work. This was also the verdict of the Brisker Rov when Reb Nochum Abba approached him with this question after his wedding, which took place in Eretz Yisroel in 5714. Despite the Rov's known misgivings about America, he told Reb Nochum Abba that he had to return to his post, instructing him to keep his return to Eretz Yisroel in mind.

Unwilling to raise his family in America, Reb Nochum Abba departed for Eretz Yisroel in 5720, when his oldest son reached the age of three. The other reason which brought him to Eretz Yisroel at that time was to help take care of his aged mother, who spent her remaining years living with him and his family.


Having reached the point where Reb Nochum Abba finally arrived in Eretz Yisroel, we have come full circle in our appreciation of his life and personality. In closing, we must note that while our account leaves us with much to reflect on, our portrayal of this great man is far from complete. Most importantly perhaps, we should realize that even with all that we have said, as with all true tzadikim, he remained essentially hidden; after all our attempts at describing him, the true dimensions of his greatness are known only to Hashem.


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