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Revere and Severe

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

Revere and Severe

On one of his visits to the wealthy philanthropist R’ Binyamin Banisch, R’ Elchonon Wasserman decided to enter through the side exit of the house and not through the regular front door. This was because there was a big snowstorm followed by rain which dirtied his boots with mud and he didn’t want to dirty up the nice white carpet of R’ Banisch. The side entrance was was where the kitchen was which had tiles and not carpeting. When R’ Banisch saw R’ Elchonon enter the kitchen, he was visibly upset and told R’ Elchonon that all the years he educated his two daughters that there was nothing more important than kavod hatorah. He pleaded with R’ Elchonon to enter through the front entrance with his dirty boots and sit on his nice couch even if it meant getting it filthy. R’ Elchonon then entered through the front door and sat on the couch.[1] After that, R’ Banisch gave him his regular generous donation. Fast forward years later, when after escaping communist Russia to a temporary dwelling in Hamburg, the Banisch’s eventually moved to Petach Tikva in Israel. It was there that he said to his friend, R’ Yitzchak Greenberg, “Today I have no more money (because the Bolsheviks during the communist revolution stole everything) but I have two diamonds the Bolsheviks couldn’t take from me—my sons-in-law.” One son-in-law was R’ Avraham Yitzchak Bloch[2] (1891-1941) while the other was R’ Zalman Bloch[3] (1886-1941), who headed the Telz yeshiva. This is in fulfillment of the Gemara[4] that one who honors Torah sages will have sons-in-law that are Torah sages.

 

R’ Yitzchak Zilberstein[5] relates that the Rabbanim of Remat Elchonon in Bnei Brak said many times to use the names of the Remat Elchonon streets in an honorable way. That is to say, one shouldn’t say “I live on Zonnenfeld street or Ziemba street” rather he should say “I live on Harav Zonnenfeld street or Harav Ziemba street.”[6] This was in order to honor these tzadikim even after they passed away. A resident of Remat Elchonon related that when he was in Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of Interior) and said to the clerk that he lives on Harav Zonnenfeld street, the clerk was amazed that the word “Harav” accompanied the street name. The clerk blurted out “something like that you find only by the religious (chareidim), mentioning the gedolim in an honorable way.”

 

When R’ Shlomo Hoffman first came to the Chevron yeshiva, he wore shorts even on Shabbos (for an entire year). R’ Meir Chodosh (1898-1989), who was the Mashgiach, tried to convince to take money from the charity fund for boys in order to buy a suit. However, he refused saying that when he has money he’ll buy one for himself. One time he was approached by two of the best boys in the yeshiva telling him they were going to take him to a tailor to get him measured for a suit. And that is what happened and he got a new suit. Rosh Hashana night when the entire yeshiva passed by R’ Yechezkel Sarna for a bracha, R’ Sarna stared at him and looked at each part of his suit with such excitement. He then exclaimed, “This is kavod hatorah!”

 



[1] When R’ Shlomo Freifeld would speak to his Rebbe R’ Yitzchak Hutner on the phone, he would put on his hat and jacket out of respect.

[2] At the age of 38, R’ Avraham Yitzchak succeeded his father as Rosh Yeshiva of Telz, which was one of the largest and most prestigious yeshivas in Europe. R’ Bloch was both a prolific writer and speaker yet many of his writings were lost during the Holocaust. Some notes of R’ Bloch’s lectures were rescued by students who escaped the Holocaust, and published by his family: Shiurei HaGrai Bloch on the Gemaras of Chullin and Yevamos and Shiurei Daas which is a collection of essays on a variety of topics viewed from the unique Telz method of analysis.

[3] He served as the Mashgiach of the Telz yeshiva.

[4] Shabbos 23b.

[5] Tuvcha Yabiu, Parshas Bamidbar, s.v. גם במשרד.

[6] R’ Menachem Ziemba’s (1883-1943) father, R’ Elazar, died while Menachem was still a young boy and the orphan was brought up by his grandfather R’ Avraham Ziemba. R’ Avraham had been a chassid of the Kotzker Rebbe and a student of the Chiddushei Harim, and was now a follower of the Sefas Emes of Gur. R’ Ziemba was brought up in the Gerrer Chassidus by his grandfather and remained a loyal chassid his entire life. He was very humble and when he visited Ger, he was called by his first name and refused to sit at the Rebbe’s top table, an honor reserved for visitors of note. At the age of eighteen, he married the daughter of a wealthy local merchant, which enabled him to learn Torah unhindered for the next twenty years. His fame spread further, attracting the attention of R’ Meir Simcha of Dvinsk among others. He once confided that he authored more than 10,000 pages of Torah novellae during this golden period. When his father-in-law died, R’ Ziemba found it necessary to help out in the former’s store in order to continue supporting his family. He was offered the prestigious position of Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim, but turned it down. After the untimely death of R’ Meir Shapiro, R’ Ziemba was offered the position as his successor as both Rabbi of Lublin and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. For unknown reasons, this never came to pass. In the Warsaw ghetto, he set up secret locations for Torah study, and at great personal risk, constantly visited these clandestine places to strengthen those who studied there. His wife died in the ghetto. R’ Ziemba was one of the few rabbinic leaders who called for armed resistance against the Germans. Rabbi Ziemba established a committee to provide Pesach supplies for the Ghetto inhabitants. He was under constant surveillance by the authorities, and as such, could not become personally involved with the Ghetto underground. However, when money was needed to obtain ammunition, he was the first to donate, and added personal blessings to this resistance movement. R’ Ziemba was eventually killed in the Warsaw Ghetto. Tens of thousands of pages of works authored by R’ Ziemba were destroyed in the burning of the Warsaw Ghetto. Among these was a treatise on the entire Rambam called Machaze Hamelech, another on Talmud Yerushalmi called Menachem Yerushalayim, as well as hundreds of responsa and novellae on Bavli, Shulchan Aruch, Midrash and many other parts of the Torah. In 1958, upon learning that the Polish Government was planning to rebuild the area of the ghetto that included Rabbi Ziemba’s grave, his nephews R’ Avraham and R’ Yitzchok Meir Ziemba (who were with him to the very end) and others expended great efforts to exhume his body and bring it to Eretz Yisrael. After weeks of work by surveyors and others, his grave was finally located—all landmarks remembered by the survivors had been destroyed in the interim. His body was flown to Eretz Yisrael and after a funeral attended by all the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah and tens of thousands of people, he was finally laid to rest on Har Hamenuchos.

Author of the books Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights

 
Listen to the short Fascinating Insights Podcast at https://jewishpodcasts.fm/fascinating-insights

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