Category Archives: Gedolim

Sunday’s Slabodka selection

R Avraham-Elya Kaplan, a beloved student of the Alter, wrote the following poem, “As I Listen” in 1912. The poem describes the how the Alter “captured the hearts of his talmidim:
The spark of the heart of the sage of Israel,
fanned by his past,
Guided by the force of his presence,
solaced by his morrow,
Angered by the rebellion of his challengers,
constrained by the cry of his pain,
Is carried atop his storm
in a desert of exile and wandering.

(from page 573 of MAKING OF A GODOL by R Nosson Kamenetsky)

My 40 minutes as a 6th grade substitute

Graphic from here

Every year, as part of our day school’s “give/get” program, I volunteer as the “room mother” for my son’s class.  The last time I blogged about this was when he was in 2nd grade.  My duty was really just to watch the class eat lunch and hang out in the room while their Rebbe enjoyed the faculty Chanukah party at school.  Last year, I said something that totally embarassed my son.  This year I had the intention of keeping myself under the radar.

As it turned out, that morning I drove “minyan carpool”, so I was in the school for shacharis.  I observed something for 2 minutes that made me very sad.  During davening one of the boys thought it would be cute to take a siddur from another boy who was davening.  What surprised me was that these boys are actually really good friends.  I kept waiting for the siddur to be returned, but it didn’t happen, so I went and retrieved it myself.  I am not that friendly with the family of the boy to took the siddur, so I wasn’t too hip to saying something to him about what he did.  I did mention to the boy who was left without a siddur that behavior like that isn’t the way that Hashem wants us to treat our fellow Jews and if someone does something like that again to him then he really should say something.  I am very close with him, so he totally understood what I was saying.  Knowing that I would have time in the classroom that afternoon with both boys (and the rest of my son’s class), I started thinking about how I could get the message across that taking a siddur from someone is totally uncool.

As I walked into the class, I realized that I had to tell over Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s story of “The Holy Hunchback”.  If you are not familiar with it, go here and then continue reading.  I had played it for my son the week before and I knew that this was the vehicle to, hopefully, get my message delivered.  I let the kids have their lunch and schmooze among themselves and then offered them a story.

Even though my son hoped I would sing it, Carlebach style, I simply said it over, slowly repeating the catchprase, “Children, precious children, just remember the greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor“.  Then I said that by doing a favor to someone, we’re doing what Hashem does.  He did us the biggest favor by creating the Torah, creating the world, and creating us.  I mentioned that we don’t have to be street cleaner to do people favors.  By simply smiling at someone, saying hi, or asking how someone is doing, you following Hashem’s example.

Then I said to them that by making fun of someone or being mean you are doing the opposite of  “the greatest thing in the world”.  I told them, locking eyes for half a second with one boy, that even something that they think is harmless, like taking a siddur from a friend who is davening, is, like, far from the greatest thing they could do in the world… it’s not a favor to you, your friend, or Hashem.

I ended my 40 minutes, as their next teacher came in, thanking them for their time and reminding them that “the greastest thing in the world is to do someone else a favor”.

A thoughtful gift

In the sefer Da Es Atzmecha, the mechaber writes that the essence of giving is that you are aware of what a person really needs or is lacking.  To properly give someone a gift, you have to understand them.  You shouldn’t, for example, give someone a sweater because you think it looks good.  Since it was my birthday recently, my wife and son came up with an awesome gift for me.

Last year for my anniversary, my wife got me a digital photo frame and it’s been sitting in the box, unused.  Over the summer, while at someone’s home, I saw such a frame displaying family pictures and commented, “Wouldn’t it be cool to just load a frame with with photos of gedolim?”

Well, thanks to my wife and son, my living room is currently rockin’ a digital frame with photographs (culled from the web) of:

The Chofetz Chaim, Rav Dessler, Reb Moshe and Rav Hutner (talking together), Rav Gifter, Rav Hirsh (illustration), Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (the Piaseczno Rebbe), Rav Freifeld, Rav Moshe Weinberger, Reb Yaakov and Rav Ruderman (walking), the Rav, Reb Aryeh Levin, Rav Kook, and the Alter of Slabodka

8th grade graduation picture of Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt’l

Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt’l (middle)

When HaRav Gedalia Finkel, the brother of  R Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l, visited Arie Crown Hebrew Day School earlier this month, my son followed him, as he showed the current principal the 8th grade graduation picture of the Mir Rosh Yeshiva zt”l from 1956.  Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt’l graduated from what was then called the Central Hebrew Day School and is now Arie Crown Hebrew Day School. 

Straight from the Laugh Factory in Vilna…

One day in Vilna he [Rabbi Israel Salanter] was seen discussing trivialities with a Vilna resident, even trying to amuse him by telling jokes.  Passers by were astonished.  They knew very well that R. Israel weighed his words very carefully and would not utted a superfluous syllable.  Yet here he was engaging in idle chatter and apparently joking without any restraint.  At an opportune moment one of his disciples asked him the reason for his unusual behavior on that occasion.  R. Israel answered that the person with whom he had been seen was in a depressed state of mind, and that there was no greater act of chessed [kindess] than to cheer up a downcast human being and revive his spirits.

He would also adopt this same attituted to his own family.  Whenever anyone became downhearted, he would recall amusing episodes of his life to allay their anxieties and make them happy. (Told by his aged granddaughter, Chana Leah Rogovin) – From Tenuas Hamussar (The Mussar Movement) by R Dov Katz

Image created here.

Sheloshim Memorial for Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt"l to be held Dec 8th at HTC

Thursday, December 8, 2011   7:00 pm
A Shloshim Memorial will be held as we mourn,
together with Klal Yisrael,
the loss of the Gaon and Tzaddik
HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l
Rosh HaYeshiva
Mir Yeshiva, Yerushalayim
One of the greatest builders of Torah
in our generation
who loved and treated
every talmid like his own child
and every Jew like his brother
Thursday, December 8, 2011     7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Beis HaMidrash LaTorah
Hebrew Theological College
7135 North Carpenter Road, Skokie
HaRav Avraham Chaim Levin, shlita, Rosh HaYeshiva, Telshe Yeshiva, Chicago
HaRav Avraham Friedman, Rosh HaYeshiva, Beis HaMidrash LaTorah, Skokie
HaRav Aaron Lopiansky, Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshiva of Greater Washington (brother-in-law of Rav Nosson Tzvi)
HaRav Gedalia Finkel, RaM, Mir Yeshiva, Yerushalayim (brother of Rav Nosson Tzvi)
Men and women invited

Just leave me alone

Eye catching post title, huh?

(In my best Rod Serling voice) Submitted for your approval, are two links having to do with the topic of being “alone”.  One is a post with a thought provoking comment thread, from R Gil Student and the other is a link I found was a shiur listed on 613 Commuter (my new favorite blog) from R Eric Goldman LMSW from YU.  For my only other three posts on being “lonely” click here.
Being Lonely (
A Torah Hashgafa on Facebook, Texting, and Blogging (The 613 Commuter)

Reb Moshe and the broken tape recorder

Royalty free graphic from here

I recently listened to a shiur by Rav Weinberger that was given to a group of women in Waterbury, CT.  I think the content, messages, and stories (the “jukim” story, the “Lost Horse”, and the “I know the Shephard” story) are similar to a shiur from 2008 posted by Dixie Yid.  The shiur, titled “Chinuch & Chanukah: Chinuch with a Heart” actually starts about 50 seconds into the recording and is available here.  The shiur revolves around the difference between “teaching” and “giving over” Torah. 

Rav Weinberger tells mentions an important article on chinuch that was published in Hakirah, The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought by Dr. Aharon Hersh Fried.  The article, titled, Is There a Disconnect between Torah Learning and Torah Living?  And If So, How Can We Connect Them? A Focus on Middos is available for reading or downloading here.

What follows in my transcription of Rav Weinberger telling over a story that was included in the above mentioned article.  Any mistakes in writing down Rav Weinberger’s words are mine.

Some years ago, in Rav Reuven Feinstein’s yeshiva, there were two boys who had an argument.  What happened?  Let’s call them Reuven and Shimon.  Revuen lent his tape recorder to Shimon and Shimon dropped the tape record and it broke.  And they were arguing.  Revuen said, “I lent you the tape recorder and you broke it.  You have to get me a new one.”

Shimon says, “It wasn’t my fault, it was an accident.”

And they were arguing and decided that they would go to the Rosh Yeshiva, which is a good thing.  They went to Reb Reuven Feinstein, they went to the Rosh Yeshiva to ask him what’s the halacha then.  This is what happened.  Rav Reuven Feinstein was absolutly astonished by the question.  Not with nachas, he was astonished.  He said, “You’re learning all year since September, your learning the gemara.  Everyday you have charts on the blackboard.   You’re learning the gemara “Bava Metzia” that teaches that when someone borrows something he’s responsible when it breaks.  If you borrow something you’re responsible.”  Rav Reuven was so distrubed by this.  He couldn’t understand how’s it possible that the boy, how could he not know that? That’s all they’re learning and they’re getting 100s on their tests. שואל חייב באונסין , it’s a gemara.  It’s all over the gemara.  If you borrow, you’re chai’ev (responsible).

So, he was so upset, Rav Reuven went to his father.  He went to Reb Moshe, Zecher Tzaddik V’Kodesh L’Vracha.  He went to Reb Moshe and he asked, “How can it be that the boys did not know that?”

So, Reb Moshe said, “Because what they’ve seen in their lives has no relationship to what they’re learning in yeshiva.  It’s completely irrelevant.  They do not see their parents living the lives that they learn in the seforim, nor do they see it so clearly in the yeshiva.”  That’s what Reb Moshe said.

They would never dream of making a connection between what they learned all year and how to practically live.  It might have been taught, but it wasn’t given over.