Today, the 20th of Kislev, is the Yarzeit of Rav Yitzchok Hutner, zt’l. In memory of the former Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, there is an excellent article writen in the Yated. Here is an excerpt:
He never forgot the private individual; he gave of his soul to others and not just his time. Once, someone asked him for a decision in a complicated personal matter, and after a long while Rav Hutner told him he still did not have an answer. He explained: “In my Chumash it says, `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ This commandment requires a man to relate to a question from another as if it were his own question, and how he would behave in such a situation. True advice comes only from such empathy. You turned to me in your time of trouble, but it takes time until I can bring myself to live in your situation.”
Once, an avreich came to ask advice for a cure for the despair that bothered him in his avodas Hashem. Rav Hutner explained the difference between pain and despair: “Despair is being tired of living. Become alive and automatically there will be no place for despair! You can either emphasize the recognition of despair, or arouse the vitality that comes from faith in the holiness of a Jew in any situation that might be. If you live with this foundation of faith you will become living person!”
The entire article can be found here.
Over the years as I have met individuals who learned by Rav Hutner I have heard several lesser know stories about him. Here are a few:
On morning Rav Hutner took several of his tamidim from Chaim Berlin in his car (with his driver) for a ride to Prospect Park (Brooklyn) on a crisp October day. They got out of the car and walked to the pond in the middle of the park. Rav Hutner instructed the group of 3 bochrim to look at the lake and pointed out that you could see the bottom of the pond. “This mind of the Chazon Ish is as clear as this lake”, Rav Hutner said. Then they returned to Chaim Berlin.
Before shofar blowing (right before musaf) on Rosh Hashana, Rav Hutner once asked a student in the yeshiva to go check on another student who was in the dorms due to an illness. Of course the student when to check on his ill friend. After davening he returned to let the Rosh Yeshiva know about his sick classmate. As I heard it, the bochur asked Rav Hutner about the halachic problems of missing shofar on Rosh Hashana. Rav Hutner replied, “Do you think that on Rosh Hashana Hashem sees any difference between mitzvos bein adam l’chavero and bein adam l’makom?”
As yeshiva was let out late one afternoon several boys were standing in front of Chaim Berlin as the Rosh Yeshiva and his wife left the building and walked toward their car (which was waiting for them). One boy opened up the front door of the car for Rav Hutner and then opend up the be back door for the Rebbitzen. Rav Hutner looked at the the young man, tapped his cane on the ground (for effect) and said, in perfect Oxford English, “What, pray tell, do you think you are doing?”
The boy replied, “I just wanted to open the car door for the Rosh Yeshiva.”
Rav Hutner then said, “What makes you think that I don’t want to sit with my wife? Remember this: No one or nothing ever comes between a husband and a wife”.