Imrei Emes of Ger and the Chofetz Chaim were traveling on the
same train. At one of the stops, a resourceful Gerrer chossid found his
way on to the train and pushed his young son towards the rebbe, hoping
he would give the child a brocha.
rebbe told the chossid that the Chofetz Chaim was on the
same train and it would be advisable to seek his brocha. The chossid
followed the advice of his rebbe and approached the Chofetz Chaim
for a brocha. He, in turn, suggested that they try to get a brocha
from the Gerrer Rebbe.
rebbe told us to come here,” the chossid said, so the Choftez
me yingele, what are you learning?” the Chofetz Chaim asked the
are learning the Gemara in Bava Basra 31a, which discusses the
topic of ‘zeh omer shel avoisai v’zeh omer shel avoisai,’” the boy
replied. The Gemara discusses how to adjudicate a case where each
litigant claims that he inherited a particular field from his father.
Chofetz Chaim smiled and said, “Young man, if you will stick with that sugya
(topic) your whole life, you will be blessed.”
fact, that is the sugya of every Jew at all times. “Zeh omer shel
avoisai.” We seek to follow the ways of our forefathers. Last week, we
chanted the words found in Oz Yoshir, “We declare our loyalty to Hashem,
the G-d of our fathers, Elokei ovi va’aromemenhu.” Rashi
explains, “Lo ani techilas hakedusha - This belief didn’t begin with
us.” We are links in a chain; holding on to what was transferred to us and
endeavoring to transmit it to those who follow us.
person is blessed and fortunate when a father or grandfather shapes him
and connects him to the golden chain that stretches back through the ages.
Friday was the 25th yahrtzeit of my zaide, Rav Eliezer
Levin. A quarter century has passed since I spoke with that great man.
was known as the beloved rov of Detroit, an elder statesman of the
rabbinic world and a revered talmid chochom. He was appreciated for his
dignity and perfect conduct, as a mechunach of the great Talmud Torah of
Kelm and a ben bayis in the home of the Chofetz Chaim.
to me, he was zaidy. My warm, loving, gentle, wise grandfather. Our
encounters, going back to when I was a small child, shaped me. All the moments
and conversations throughout the many blessed years reverberate in my head and
are on constant replay in my heart.
watching him, I could see the paragon of the many lessons we were taught, such
as those concerning emunah, tefillah, simcha, dikduk
b’halacha and princely middos. I had many great rabbeim over
the years, and for me he seemed to be the role model for every message they
years later, the exactness and precision of his actions and words live on
because they were perfect and true.
Elchonon Wasserman would leave his yeshiva and talmidim in Baranovitch
each year for the duration of the month of Elul to spend that time with
his own rebbi, the Chofetz Chaim, in Radin.
the Chofetz Chaim’s passing, Rav Elchonon began to travel to the yeshiva
in Kelm for the Yomim Noraim. The Sefer Zikaron Bais Kelm
recounts that when asked why he left the yeshiva and headed to Kelm, he
would respond that he had a kabbolah from the Chofetz Chaim that
the gates of tefillah were in Kelm.
year in Kelm on Rosh Hashanah, the baal tefilla was chanting the
words of “Vetaheir libeinu l’ovdecha be’emes - Purify our hearts to
serve you with truth.” The chazzan began to cry as he said “l’ovdecha
be’emes,” unable to complete the word “l’ovdecha.” There was great
emotion as the chazzan sobbed, hoping that the kehillah might
merit serving Hashem.
davening, the Alter, in a succinct reminder about the value system in
Kelm, told the chazzan, “You would do better to cry by ‘b’emes.’”
lived on in my zaide. He lived b’emes. His Torah, avodah,
bitachon and middos were all layered with, and guided by truth.
the great baal mussar Rav Leib Chasman was a still bochur
in Kelm, the local esrog merchant showed him a magnificent esrog.
The next day, the seller tracked him down to tell him that he had found a nicer
esrog than the one he showed him the day before.
merchant was shocked when the bochur said that he would buy the one he
had seen first.
explained that the day before, he had decided to purchase the first esrog, “so
while there is a hiddur mitzvah to buy the nicer esrog, I decided
to fulfill the hiddur mitzvah of ‘vedover emes bilvavo.’”
treasured not only spoken words, but those unspoken as well.
grandfather’s history is unique. There were those who came to America and
embodied the glory of what was. Others had never seen the authenticity of the
European yeshiva world, but were effective as American rabbonim.
Not too many could do both, serving as relics of one world and then managing to
become relevant and impactful rabbonim in a new one.
was my zaide. He saw the world he knew b’churbano and then
presided over the binyan in a new world.
faced personal tragedy and loss, yet found strength to persevere. He lost so
many people, yet found new ones, connecting to all sorts of Jews, influencing
those who came from backgrounds so different than his own.
did he do it?
answer can be summed up in a single word.
Alter of Kelm taught his talmidim that for a person to succeed in life
without getting hurt, it is necessary to possess the attributes of menuchas
hanefesh, a sense of serenity and calm, as well as gevurah, inner
strength and fortitude.
Levin embodied that lesson. He possessed incredible calm and incredible might.
in a tiny shtetel named Hanisheeshuk, in Lita, where his father served
as rov, as a young boy he left home to learn in yeshiva. He
learned for seven years in the Chofetz Chaim’s yeshiva in Radin
and for seven years in the yeshiva of Kelm. He received semicha
from the heads of the Kelmer Talmud Torah, Rav Doniel Movoshovitz and Rav
Gershon Miadnik, as well as from the rov of Kelm, Rav Kalman
Beinishevitz. He was a rebbi in the high-school-level yeshiva
that Rav Elya Lopian founded in Kelm, and upon the passing of his
father-in-law, Rav Avrohom Hoffenberg, he left to assume a rabbinic position as
rov of Vashki.
Levin very rarely spoke about himself. He would never discuss the “alter
heim,” like many other people did. Either it was in keeping with the posuk
in Koheles that it is not wise to say that the days that passed were
better ones or because remembering the past was simply too painful.
once asked him why he never spoke about Lita. At the time, I thought that perhaps
it was too painful to recall all his friends and family members who perished,
or that perhaps he found it difficult to think of the life that might have
been. He simply explained that he didn’t think it was wise to speak about it,
since I would never be able to relate to what he had to say.
was strange. He never put people down. I never heard him speak ill of anyone. I
realized that he didn’t mean it as an insult, but a statement. One who exists
on a diet of chips and soda cannot appreciate a fine cut of meat, and one who
is color-blind won’t be moved by sophisticated art. “You, an American young
man,” he was telling me, “can never really understand, so what is the point of
speaking?” Speech, to him, was serious. It was a tool used to make an impact,
not merely to pass time or get attention. He didn’t see the point.
I was brazen that day, so I asked him two questions about his primary rabbeim.
I said, “Zaidy, tell me, what was Rav Doniel like?”
was referring to Rav Doniel Movoshovitz, his rosh yeshiva while in Kelm.
answered me in six words: “Reb Doniel iz geven ah malach.” He
didn’t relate any stories. No tales, no Torahs, no shmuessen. He didn’t
look me in the eye as was generally his habit when addressing someone. We were
sitting in his study. He looked down at his well-worn desk. I still remember it
like today. “Ehr iz geven ah malach,” he repeated.
words. Perhaps he wasn’t sure I could handle them.
later, I understood why he looked down while divulging this, why a look of awe
crossed his face.
years later, I read a story about Rav Doniel and understood what my grandfather
meant and why he considered his rebbi a malach. The book, which
recounts heroic tales of the Holocaust, described the scene when the Nazis came
to Kelm and the Yidden knew their end was near. They were being rounded
up and marched out to their certain deaths. Rav Doniel asked for permission to
return home one last time to take care of something. Permission was granted. He
went home, brushed his teeth, and then returned to the lineup.
and softly, Rav Doniel explained that the community was now going to be offered
as korbanos tzibbur. A korban tzibbur is described as bearing a rei’ach
nicho’ach, a pleasant smell. “I want to be sure that as a korban, I
will have that rei’ach nicho’ach, so I went home to brush my teeth,”
said Rav Doniel.
tears. No extraneous emotion. Just what was required of him to be the perfect korban
tzibbur. Is that man not a malach? Is there a way to explain this to
an American twenty-something who never knew real deprivation? How can one even
fathom the gevurah and kedushah, the perfect self-control and
focus that this act required?
Doniel Movoshovitz, Rav Gershon Miadnik and Rav Kalman Beinishevitz led the talmidei
hayeshiva and residents of Kelm in the singing of Adon Olam and ashreinu
mah tov chelkeinu as they returned their holy souls to their Maker.
was my grandfather’s rebbi. That was the world in which he lived. He was
on a different plane than the rest of us, though he made sure that wasn’t
brings us to the second half of that conversation, which lasted about five
minutes but remains seared in my memory.
asked him what the Chofetz Chaim looked like. I meant to ask if he
looked like the famous picture of him or not. Rav Levin didn’t understand what
I was asking. Again, he looked down at his desk and said, in Yiddish, that the Chofetz
Chaim looked like a poshuter Yid. “If you didn’t know who he was,
you thought he was a simple person. Az men hut nit gevust, hut men gornit
gezen. If you didn’t know, you didn’t see anything. Uber az men hut
gevust, hut men altz gezen. But if you knew who he was, then you saw
everything,” my zaide reflected.
you knew you were looking at the Chofetz Chaim, and you watched him
carefully, you could see in his every move that he was a very holy person.
sacredness and splendor of perfect pashtus.
never did get the answer to my question about the picture that day, but I got a
much clearer appreciation for the Chofetz Chaim and for his talmid, my
zaide. Like his rebbi, my zaide never made a big deal out
of himself, but when you watched him, you saw that every move, every action and
every word was calculated and al pi Shulchan Aruch and the teachings of mussar.
He followed the paths paved by his rabbeim, never deviating. He lived a
life of Radin and Kelm, without talking about it, without making an issue of
it. When you watched him, you got a glimpse of the greatness that was.
never saw him grow angry. I never heard him raise his voice at people who acted
improperly or at us children, running around his house and study. He radiated
an unnatural tranquility and calm, never flustered, never rushed, always on
time, and always in perfect control of himself.
was incredible to observe. How could a person be so in control of himself? How
could a person never be nervous, never be angry, never be pressured? Things
happen. People upset you. How could one possess such perfection of character?
Levin didn’t drive. He depended on people to pick him up and take him to where
he had to go. He never knew if people would be on time, and if they were late,
he never got fidgety as he waited for them to show up. His patience and calmness
I asked him, “Zaidy, please tell me the secret of how you always stay so
calm. How do you do it?”
looked at me and smiled.
he said, “vos ken ich eich zogen. Every boy who came to Kelm was
examined by the Alter and the people who came after him and given a middah,
a trait, that he was to work on during his period in the Kelm Yeshiva. Mein
middah iz geven savlonus. To me, they gave the trait of savlonus,
remaining calm. Ziben yohr hob ich ge’arbet oif der middah. Du meinst ich
ken dos ibergeben tzu eich azoi? I worked on this middah for
seven years, during my entire time in Kelm.”
seven years on a middah. Imagine how improved our lives would be if we
had that type of discipline.
you looked at Rav Levin, he appeared like a sweet old man who wasn’t in a rush,
but if you knew that for seven years in Kelm he worked on the middah of savlonus,
then every time you watched him, every time you went somewhere with him, and
every time you observed him interact with other people, you saw his greatness,
as well as the greatness of Kelm and the middah of savlonus.
chassidus teaches that while the word “savlonus” means patience, Chazal
also use that word when referring to gifts, such as when they discuss “sivlonos”
given by a chosson to his kallah. A person who is a savlan
can accept people, situations and ideas that are different from his own. He
thus has the greatest gift of all and can fully enjoy life.
a bochur in Radin, Rav Levin learned with the Chofetz Chaim’s
son, Aharon. As payment, he was provided room and board in the home of the Chofetz
Chaim. That must have been something. But what I find even greater is that
he never spoke about it. He never said, “Do you know who I am? Do you know
how great I am? Who are you to tell me anything? When I was a bochur, I stayed
in the Chofetz Chaim’s house for a year and a half.”
men hut nit gevust, hut men gornit gezen. Uber
az men hut gevust, hut men altz gezen.
was him. That was how he lived his life. And that was why he was so successful
and respected and able to accomplish so much.
was also what saved his life. His history is the greatest testimony to the fact
that savlonus, middos and calmness are gifts, the greatest segulah
American relatives literally forced him to leave Lithuania and come to America.
He told them that he would come for one year on a trial basis. His kind
relatives, who feared for his life and the lives of his family, arranged a
rabbinic position for him in Erie, PA. Needless to say, Erie was no match for
his hometown of Vashki. Despite the winds of war that were blowing, he let the
relatives know that he was going back home. Erie wasn’t for him and he surely
wasn’t about to bring his family there and watch them die a spiritual death.
Levin allowed a colleague to hold his position in Vashki while he was away so
that he could gain experience and have something to show on his résumé that
would help him obtain a rabbinic position in a different town. However, when
Rav Levin wrote to his friend that he was returning to Vashki and would be
reassuming the position, the man was devastated. He said that he would never get
another job and pleaded with Rav Levin to let him remain in the position of rov
of Vashki. “You are more experienced and better qualified, and you will be able
to obtain a position in a different town. I won’t. Please permit me to stay
here,” the man wrote.
it had been his father-in-law’s position and he had occupied it for a number of
years, Rav Levin didn’t have the heart to unseat the man from the job. He tried
to obtain a position by writing friends and contacts, but as can be imagined,
that proved unfruitful. Meanwhile, his American relatives secured for him a
rabbinic position in Detroit, which was a definite step up from Erie. With his
choices drying up, he moved to Detroit and sent for his family.
their meager possessions and several of Rav Levin’s seforim along with kisvei
yad of his father-in-law, the family set sail on one of the last boats
leaving Europe before the war broke out. They arrived in the United States just
ahead of the destruction of Lithuania. That rov and the entire Jewish
population of Vashki were wiped out. No one survived. Hashem yikom domom.
wasn’t easy in Detroit. There were 32 rabbonim in the city at that time
and they weren’t happy with Rav Levin. He was what they called “ah greener.”
They said, “Vos darf men huben noch a rov? Nisht nor dem, ehr iz a
greener, noch tzu der tzu.” They were unwelcoming of the recent
he never bragged, he would say, “Fun zei alleh iz gornit gebliben. Es iz nit
gebliben kein zeicher. All those rabbis who fought against me were not able
to hold on to their children. I was the only one, because I sent my son away to
learn in Telz.”
lost everything and everyone he held dear in the war. He had three daughters
and one son. His pride and joy. Yet, he sent his son away to learn in
Cleveland. Can you imagine how much strength that required? A lot more than
most people had at that time. Yet, he knew that the only way he could hold on
to that son was by sending him away, seeing him just a couple of times a year.
later, when that one son, my uncle, Rav Avrohom Chaim Levin, was a respected rosh
yeshiva, my zaide was vacationing at Camp Agudah Midwest. My
uncle was asked to deliver a Daf Yomi shiur to Chicagoans who
were vacationing there. Before the shiur, the camp director noticed the
elderly rov approaching. “Where is the Daf Yomi shiur to take
place?” Rav Leizer asked the director.
that the rov, with his refined nature and noble spirit, felt obligated
to attend so as to not embarrass his co-vacationers, the director assured Rav
Levin that he should not feel obligated to join and that it was a simple, basic
Levin looked at him. “Do you think I would miss an opportunity to hear my son
teach a blatt Gemara?” he asked in surprise.
son was and is a prominent rosh yeshiva, mechaneich and leader,
but to Rav Levin there was nothing simple, basic or taken for granted. He would
not forgo the simple Jewish joy of a father hearing his son teach a blatt
was quiet and determined, and he possessed an iron will and super-human
spiritual strength, typical of Litvaks. But he wasn’t the stereotypical Litvak,
thought to be cold, unemotional and most comfortable with his own kind.
Whenever someone repeats that stereotype to me, I tell them that they didn’t
know my zaide. He was warm and tolerant, and he wasn’t a Litvak
because he learned in a yeshiva named after a Lithuanian town. He was a
real Litvak. He was born there. He was raised there. He went to yeshiva
there. He was a rov there. And he embodied the greatness of Lithuanian
was full of love for all types of Jews. He was warm and caring.
wear an atorah on my tallis. It was inherited from my
grandfather. His second wife was the daughter of a chassidishe rebbe,
and when they married, she gave him a tallis with an atorah as a
gift. She probably didn’t know that Litvkas don’t wear a silver atorah.
So as to not hurt her feelings, for the rest of his life he wore the atorah.
Shabbos, when I put on my tallis, I am reminded of that lesson.
Generosity. Refinement. Savlonus.
not just for ideas and situations, but the
hardest type of all: he was able to be sovel other people. He wasn’t
negative. He wasn’t cynical. He didn’t ostracize people who had different beliefs
than he did. He didn’t look down with disdain upon people who weren’t brought
up the way he was. He could sit with simple Jews and talk to them and make them
feel that he had all the time in the world and the only thing he wanted to do
was sit and farbreng with them. He could maintain friendly relations
with people who had entirely different theologies than he did. He treated
everyone with respect.
local kosher butcher was found to be engaging in actions that required the Vaad
Harabbonim to remove their hechsher from his establishment. The butcher
was summoned to a meeting of the rabbonim. While there, he began to
scream at the rabbis, cursing and threatening them. The rabbis looked to the yoshev
rosh, Rav Levin, waiting for him to respond. Yet, he just sat there,
quietly absorbing the man’s abuse.
turned to Rav Shmuel Irons, rosh kollel of the Detroit Kollel, who was
sitting next to him, and said very softly in Yiddish, “Ich hub a klal. I
have a rule: The vulture should be satiated, uber der shepsel zol leben,
but the sheep should live.”
vultur iz gevorin zat. The vulture was finally satiated and ended
his tirade. The Vaad Harabbonim removed their hechsher. A few weeks
later, the store closed down. Der shepsel hut gelebt.
not that he didn’t know how to be tough when necessary. It was that his eyes
always remained focused on the goal, without the involvement of personal ego
and other considerations. A different
time, a butcher was caught lying to his mashgiach and Rav Levin felt
that this was egregious enough for the rabbinic group to remove their hechsher
from his shop.
meeting was called at the Vaad Harabbonim of Detroit to discuss the
misbehavior. Some of the attendees expressed pity for the butcher and wondered
how he would support his family if the hechsher were removed.
Levin banged on the table and said, “We are here to discuss his transgression.
Someone who did what he did cannot have a hechsher. Today, we are here
to talk about kashrus. If he needs help with parnossah, we can
discuss that tomorrow. But first we must ensure that people will not eat
non-kosher meat because of him.”
same strength of purpose found him facing a gun one day. While administering a get,
the husband jumped up and pulled out a gun, aiming to shoot his wife. Everyone
froze, except for Rav Levin, who stood up and got between husband and wife.
“The bullet will have to go through me,” he said to the husband. Calmly, he
talked the man out of it and took the gun and buried it in his backyard.
had such a love for mitzvos. Shabbos was so special to him. He
was never late for Shabbos. He would sit in his study, all ready,
hunched over a sefer, ready to welcome Shabbos. He would spend
Friday afternoon preparing for the “groiseh gast” who was about to
arrive. He would grate the liver, slice the meat, and make sure everything was
just so. Lekavod Shabbos, he would water the plants. Several times, I
saw him pouring tea into the planters. I asked him, “Zaidy, what are
doing?” He looked at me, with all seriousness - with a look on his face like, “What
don’t you understand? - and he said, “Ich geb zei tei lekavod Shabbos.”
poetry! A Litvishe Yid welcoming Shabbos, bringing all of
creation along with him to face the great day.
Yom Tov was even more special. He would love to decorate the sukkah.
He would pick out the decorations to hang. As he handed them to the grandchild
who was there that year, he would say, “Lesheim mitzvas sukkah.” And
when Sukkos arrived, there was nothing that could stop him from running
into the sukkah to make Kiddush and eat the meal lekavod Yom
the meal, he would sing songs about the Ushpizin and dance. There was so
much kedushah in his little blue and gold canvas sukkah. In fact,
one of the grandchildren who spent Sukkos with him one year told me that
he thought he sensed the Ushpizin in the sukkah. The ainikel
said that there was so much kedushah, he couldn’t handle it and he ran
out of the sukkah.
much as he loved being in his sukkah, the next morning, after davening,
at a Kiddush in the shul sukkah, he would sit and talk with the Yiddelach
who didn’t have their own sukkah. He lingered with them to try to give
them a geshmak in the mitzvah, so that they could be mekayeim
be a leader, you have to be loved and respected. He was. You have to love and
respect people. He did. You have to care about people. He did. They have to
care about you. They did. You have to be able to not only speak to people, but
to connect with them. He did. At age 85, as he aged, the shul’s
membership was changing. The older people were moving on and younger people
were moving in, so he stopped speaking in Yiddish and spoke in English. He
wanted to impact people. He wanted to uplift them. He wanted to improve them.
He wanted to be sure that they could follow him. And they did.
Chofetz Chaim gave my grandfather a four-word mandate: gei redd mit
Yidden. Go speak to Jews.
was a mission statement that would encompass his avodah, using his
learning, warmth and aristocratic personality to influence, uplift and inspire
don’t remember what prompted him to repeat the story, but one evening, Rabbi
Shea Fishman and I sat in his Detroit kitchen and he shared the Chofetz
Chaim’s directive to him: “Gei redd mit Yidden.” It was the
first time I’d ever heard it. It was clearly something that he’d kept private.
The moment he shared it, Rabbi Fishman and I looked at each other and said, “It
was worth coming to Detroit just to hear that.” Rabbi Fishman repeated the
story in one of his speeches at a Torah Umesorah convention. The story was
written up and it became a classic. It so defined Rav Levin and his mission in
this week’s parsha, Parshas Yisro, the posuk states, “Vayikach
Yisro…es Tziporah…ve’eis shnei voneha, asher sheim ho’echod Gershom, ki omar
ger hayisi b’eretz nochriyah. Vesheim ho’echod Eliezer, ki Elokei ovi be’ezri
vayatzileini meicherev Paroh.”
Torah tells us that Yisro took his daughter, Moshe Rabbeinu’s wife Tziporah,
and their two children, Gershom and Eliezer, and left Midyan for Mitzrayim. Why
does the Torah repeat the reasons that they were given their names? When the
Torah tells us of their birth, it relates to us why Moshe gave them those
names. What is the significance of repeating that now?
we can answer as follows. We are all familiar with the Medrash in Parshas
Emor (32:5) that states that one of the reasons the Jews were redeemed from
Mitzrayim is because “lo shinu es shemom.” One of the primary
merits in which the Jews were redeemed from Mitzrayim was the fact that they
didn’t change their names.
idea that not changing their names was such a meritorious practice that it
merited their redemption bears explanation. My understanding is that a person’s
name hints to their abilities and shlichus in this world. When the Medrash
teaches that the Jews in Mitzrayim didn’t change their names, it means that
they didn’t betray their shlichus and missions.
could have said that being enslaved in a foreign land precluded them from being
expected to realize their potential. They could have blamed their situation for
failing to accomplish much. We are so different, we don’t speak the language,
we stand out, and we are mocked and vilified by many. Who can expect anything
from us? Thus, the Medrash teaches that they kept to their missions and
did what was expected of them despite the many challenges they had to overcome.
the Torah states that Yisro and Tziporah were going from Midyan to Mitzrayim,
it relates that Moshe Rabbeinu’s sons were also not negligent in their shlichus.
Although they were brought up in Midyan, without the presence of their father,
they remained loyal to the missions he charged them with when he named them.
There the Torah repeats not only their names, but also the reasoning for those
ho’echod Eliezer, ki Elokei ovi be’ezri vayatzileini meicherev Paroh.” We
can say the same of Rav Eliezer Levin. He never forgot where he came from. He
never forgot his mission in life and never betrayed it. He always carried
within his soul the message of “ki Elokei ovi be’ezri vayatzileini meicherev
helped him and saved him from the sword that devastated everyone and everything
he had known. And although he arrived in a strange country with a different
language and different customs, he stayed the same “Eliezer” in
Hanisheeshuk, in Radin, in Kelm, in Vashki and in Detroit until his last day on
Levin’s rebbi, Rav Doniel, once asked, “Is man jealous of the wings of
an eagle?” As the question sunk in, he responded, “No. Man is not jealous of
wings. In fact, if a person would grow wings, he would be a baal mum;
there would be something aberrant about him.” Wings belong on birds, not on
people. “The same,” Reb Doniel explained, “would be the case if a person
receives anything that which he is jealous of. He would also become a baal
mum. If he really needed that which he covets, Hashem would provide it for
him. Since he doesn’t have it, that is a sign that he doesn’t need it.
Everything extra is a mum.”
if we lived like that. Imagine if we had the strength and belief to live that
way. We would be so much happier and calmer. That is the life of a Kelmer, of a
baal mussar, of a ben Torah. We learn Torah. We devote our lives
to Torah. We have to work to see that it makes a stronger impression on
Yecheskel Levenstein would say that the Alter of Kelm was very critical of
people who were stubborn and he would seek to cause talmidim who
possessed that attribute to leave the yeshiva, even if they excelled in
learning. He would say that in order for a person to be helped and guided to
achieve greatness, he must be able to accept what others tell him.
us seek to be accepting and acquire the ability to learn from other people so
that we may grow and excel, in Torah, in mentchlichkeit and in all that
uncle, Rabbi Berel Wein, often reflects on the fact that when my grandfather,
his father-in-law, was niftar, along with the hespeidim in yeshivos
and shuls, there was an obituary in the Detroit Free Press.
There, they mourned the leading light of the rabbinate. Somehow, this product
of Kelm and Radin had come to an inhospitable climate, unwanted by local rabbonim,
and emerged as their leader.
he listened to his rebbi and spent his life speaking to Yidden.
to Yidden requires you to be someone they want to hear from. It means
that you have to live in a way that reflects your message. It means loving Yidden.
It means taking the time to know the language of each heart.
It was the wisest advice of all and my
zaide fulfilled it until his last day. I miss him.