Volume 20 Number 36
                       Produced: Tue Jul  4 11:11:45 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Summary of Hesped for Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ZT"L (fwd)
         [Michael J Broyde]


From: Michael J Broyde <relmb@...>
Date: Mon, 22 May 1995 21:50:11 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Summary of Hesped for Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ZT"L (fwd)

Date: Sun, 21 May 1995 14:13:04 +0100
>From: Virtual Bet Midrash_Project <vbm@...>

The following is a student summary of a hesped Rav Lichtenstein gave at
the Yeshiva for Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l on Erev Rosh Chodesh
Adar II, 5755 (Wed., March 1, 1995).

This summary was prepared by Josh Joseph.

The full transcript appears in Hebrew in the latest edition of the
yeshiva journal, Alon Shvut (#143). 

     "Va-yetse Ya-akov mi-Be'er Shava..." ["And Jacob left Be'er
      Sheva..." Genesis 28:10].

     The Midrash asks, "Was he then the only one who departed from that
place? How many donkey-drivers and camel-drivers went out with him! So
why does the Torah say, "And Jacob went out"? Said R. Judah in the name
of R. Simon: While the righteous man is in the city, he is its lustre
and its glory; when he leaves it, its lustre and its glory depart (panah
zivah, panah hadarah)."  On my last trip overseas, I recited Tehillim
throughout the flight [for the recovery of R. Shlomo Zalman]. On my way
back [after his passing], I was filled with the sense that I was
returning to a different country; a state that had lost something,
"panah zivah, panah hadarah" - a place without lustre, without glory. I
stress the terms 'lustre' and 'glory'. Rav Amital once quoted someone
who said about Rav Isser Zalman Melzer zt"l that, "Even if he hadn't
known how to learn Torah at all, not even a drop... he still would have
been the most glorious man in Jerusalem!" This was my feeling throughout
the years during which I merited to know Rav Shlomo Zalman zt"l. He
personified lustre, glory and radiance.

     I was not brought up as a pupil of Rav Shlomo, nor did I have a
close personal relationship with him. In the words of Chazal: "Rabbi
Akiva said, the injunction 'You shall fear Hashem your G-d' includes
fear of Torah scholars." On the other hand, the Gemara in Ketubot
states, [with regard to the verse] "To love Hashem your G-d and to
cleave to Him" - "It is impossible to cleave to the Divine
Presence. Rather, [what is meant is that] a person should cleave to
Torah scholars." On a simple level we understand that this refers to the
sense of attachment. But the Maharal (in Netivot Olam, Netiv
Ha-Ahavah)interprets these words as also referring to love, i.e.  part
of the commandment to love Hashem involves love for Torah scholars.  My
first encounter with Reb Shlomo was not from the perspective of fear; I
was simply entranced by love, a love which of course arouses awe,
'yir'ah'. Not merely reverence for the exalted greatness of his Torah
knowledge; but rather awe which was mixed with admiration and
recognition of the sheer magnitude of this wonderful personality.

     I heard that one of his sons began his hesped with the words,
"Galah kavod mi-Yisrael" [Honor is departed from Israel]. Indeed, the
aspect of honor was deeply embedded in his character, but the true honor
worked in two directions: On one hand, the man simply radiated
majesty. His combination of grandeur and simplicity is hard to
describe. It's difficult to explain to anyone who was never in his
presence. One sensed the majesty in every moment, every hour, and left
there with a sense of exaltation, with spiritual upliftment for days and
weeks. [One had the urge to tell him,] "Nesi Elokim ata be-tochenu!"
["You are a prince of Hashem amongst us!"] Simply majestic. He
personified radiance and grandeur. On the other hand, honor did not
merely dwell within him. He radiated honor in the sense that he
transmitted it to those whom he encountered. In his presence one felt
that he held a true, genuine, deep respect for whoever it was that was
conversing with him, no matter how wide the difference in level of
learning - even when speaking with an ignorant person who had no
connection with Torah learning at all.  In addition to all of this he
held high standards and followed a solid, clear path, cast from his
origins and his philosophy and values, together with an openness to
other subjects.

     Some years ago I approached him to ask whether I should join a
certain organization. He tried to evade the question. When I pressed him
for a reply, again he resisted. I mentioned that I had heard that
someone else had asked the same question, and he had expressed an
opinion - why then was he refusing to answer me? He answered, "That
person was a student, and therefore I felt it necessary to answer him."
I pressed him again for an answer, and he replied: "Look, this isn't
halakhah, it's politics. When it comes to an issue of the public good,
everyone should do as he sees fit."  I left it at that, realizing that
he wasn't at ease with it. About a year ago I went to him. I reminded
him of that conversation, and asked him whether his answer - that
outside of halakhah a person should do whatever he believes is right -
was given solely in order to avoid answering at the time, or whether
that truly represented his opinion. He told me that he truly believed
it, and explained thus: Why does it say "l'chu vanim" (Tehillim 34:12)
[GO children], when it should say "bo'u vanim" [COME children]? This
teaches us that everyone should have his own path, his own way, his own
philosophy, and then "Yir'at Hashem alamed'khem" - the awe of Hashem I
will teach you. In the midst of saying this he realized that the
possibility existed of someone drawing the wrong conclusion from his
words, so he added: "All within the parameters of 'fear of Hashem'." But
he never imagined that only one stance was possible, only one model -
his model. "Go children..."

     This openness, truly the outgrowth of the greatness of his
personality, enabled him to understand and to respect even someone who
came from a different background, even someone whose point of view was
different from his own. My first meeting with him took place when I was
here in the summer of 1962. I was doing a little touring of the country,
and among other goals I wanted to stop in at Rav Shlomo Zalman and to
speak to him. One night I went over and introduced myself. He asked what
I was doing - I answered, "Teaching literature." He spoke to me in a
respectful tone, and the conversation got around to that topic as
well. I asked him what approach was adopted towards secular studies at
"Kol Torah". He answered, "The students usually complete 'bagrut' [high
school matriculation] - they do it externally...". With no apology for
their not doing a regular bagrut, and no apology for the fact that they
did anything about it at all. He saw it as a legitimate choice.

     I have already spoken of his scope with regard to his concern for
the community, in a genuine and profound sense; he truly identified, in
my opinion, with the Zionist enterprise in broad terms. I used to visit
him during Sukkot; sometimes he would go over the same divrei Torah year
after year. One of them which I heard a few times was a quote from one
of the Rivlins in the name of the Vilna Gaon: "There are two mitzvot
which surround a person's entire body, not just one or another part of
the body, but the entire person. One is the mitzvah of sitting in the
Sukkah, and the second is the mitzvah to dwell in the land of Israel."
He quoted the Vilna Gaon, saying that just as there is an idea of
"Ta'aseh ve'lo min he-asuy" [you will make, and not use what is already
made] for Sukkah, so it is in the case of Eretz Yisrael. [i.e. One
should not assume that the country will be built on its own; but rather
one should take an active part in building and settling the land.] This
in essence, from a Torah point of view, is the significance of the
Zionist enterprise - the rest is secondary. He identified deeply with
this philosophy.

     He also identified with certain things which those who classify
themselves as "charedi" were less keen to support. On more than one
occasion I spoke with him and he said, "Well, that's something for the
Chief Rabbinate to deal with." He recognized them. Someone told me that
at one stage he had been, inter alia, honorary president of Machon
Yerushalayim. They wanted to co-opt a certain famous person onto the
committee, and he vetoed it. Why?  Because he had heard that this
person, when he used to speak about Rav Kook zt"l, used to refer to him
as "Kook", and Rav Shlomo Zalman refused for such a person to sit on the
committee. He steadfastly refused to relent until it was confirmed that
the rumor had not been true.

     Earlier I mentioned 'grandeur and simplicity'. But he was
astonishingly approachable. I'm not speaking here of the fact that
anyone could come to him on any day at two in the afternoon and stand in
the queue, no matter who he was and how removed from holiness, and could
go inside and ask his questions. And with immeasurable patience - never,
in all the time I spent in his presence, did I ever hear him raise his
voice, even when he was speaking of the most fundamental issues.  He was
approachable in other ways as well. Some years ago I had an argument
with one of my daughters as to whether it was permissible to pierce her
ears. I was of the opinion that it was problematic, based on the
prohibition of wounding oneself. We agreed that if Rav Shlomo Zalman
would declare it permissible then I would not raise any objection. I
called him and told him that I had a question regarding such and such
subject. He said, "Okay. Come on Motzei Shabbat at nine." I went [with
my daughter], he listened to the whole question, and completely rejected
what I had said. He couldn't understand my problem with the issue, and
said "What do you mean? Our custom used to be that when a baby boy was
born a 'brit milah' was performed, and a baby girl [automatically] had
her ears pierced." That's what he said, but I left there astounded - not
because he had rejected what I said (I was like the dust under his feet
[in comparison with his learning]) but because of the respect he
accorded a girl of 12 or 13.

     I mentioned previously the awe, the love. The Rambam, in his Laws
of the Foundations of the Torah, expounds on these two concepts. There
is of course the love [dealt with] in the Laws of Teshuvah - cleaving to
G-d. But there is also the love [dealt with] in the second chapter of
the Laws of the Foundations of the Torah.  This love Rambam describes as
follows: "And this is the path to the love and fear of G-d: When a
person examines His wonderful and great works and creations, he will be
in awe of the immeasurable and unlimited wisdom. Immediately he loves
and praises and exalts, and yearns greatly to know Hashem, His
greatness." Something similar exists on a smaller scale - there is love
and awe of Torah scholars which derives from admiration for their
actions. Rav Shlomo Zalman's works arouse admiration by virtue of their
diversity, and here I am not speaking of the many different areas of
halakhah which he mastered. I am referring to his method of thought, the
types of abilities which found expression. Take up a "Ma'adanei Eretz"
in one hand and a "Minchat Shlomo" in the other, and you will realize
that R Shlomo Zalman was a man who saw from both ends of the
telescope. On one hand - it's worthwhile sometime to take a "Ma'adanei
Eretz" and read over a couple of simanim. The power to which it
testifies, total mastery... this person simply took on a certain area
[Zera'im] and conquered it completely in all its length and breadth and
depth. The power of it is astounding - power which found expression in
one specific area. "Minchat Shlomo," on the other hand, isn't about a
specific mitzvah. It's all-encompassing, responses to questions asked on
the entire Torah.  There it's the scope which is so impressive.

     One perceives in everything he wrote and everything he said a
certain straight-forward honesty. Rav Soloveitchik once quoted Rav
Chayim as saying that Rav Velvel never uttered a 'crooked' (`akum, krum)
statement. I never read or heard anything by Rav Shlomo Zalman that was
'crooked'. There are things which one could agree or disagree with - he
was open to this. On several occasions it was possible to talk to him
about an halakhic issue, and he was definitely open to debate - his
attitude was one of openness to other opinions.  But there wasn't a
single area in which he lacked this intellectual honesty, which of
course was a result of his integrity. Despite how worldly he was on one
hand, he also had a certain aspect of innocence.  Once he said to me,
"Imagine - someone came and told me that in the USA there are people who
don't pay their income tax as they should!" This was an amazing new
concept, he couldn't understand it. And then he said, "And Jews, no less
- observant people!"

     Along with this purity came a certain boldness. An example of this
was his p'sak regarding the prohibition of placing a stumbling-block
before the blind [Lifnei Iver]. His answer soars through the heavens!
The basic idea behind his answer is that this prohibition is not
measured in specifics - whether right now you remove this or that
non-kosher food etc. - but rather in a larger perspective and a longer
term: what will the ramifications be? This has enormous significance,
both on the interpersonal plane and in the public sphere. He knew and
wrote that the Chazon Ish differed with this view, and despite that he
maintained his opinion.

[ There was another posek in our generation who was comparable to him
and also wrote several works: Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l. He too related
to the point of contact between the world of halakhah and the world of
human concerns, and combined total commitment to halakhah with a
commitment no less complete to the human element and human needs. ]

     Once I visited Rav Shlomo Zalman and I asked him about the issue of
wearing a hearing aid on Shabbat. He permitted it. At the same time he
told me, "You know - I can't believe it. Someone sent me a letter from
the States, saying that Rav Kotler zt"l was careful not to talk to a
person wearing a hearing aid on Shabbat for fear of speaking into the
hearing aid and thereby performing a melakhah." He told me that he
didn't believe this. He said, "Imagine - as if it's not enough that this
person has been punished by Heaven in that he's deaf! The Gemara states
that if someone is wounded in such a way that he becomes deaf, he is
paid full damages, as though he has ceased to function altogether, as if
he has died. This punishment isn't sufficient," he said. "Imagine - you
meet him in the street, and instead of greeting him, you say
m..m..m..". For him this was completely out of place. He couldn't bring
himself to believe that this is what the situation required.

     One of his guiding principles in deciding issues of Shabbat was
that life on Shabbat isn't supposed to involve suffering in comparison
to the rest of the week.  There are some people who almost enjoy
suffering on Shabbat, and he saw this not only as a sort of distortion,
in that they seek unnecessary 'chumrot' (stringencies), but also as
being harmful to Shabbat and harmful to the person. This was, as I
mentioned, a view which was connected with his feeling for people and
his feeling for Shabbat. This point of contact applied, in all its
significance, throughout this outstanding Torah personality.

     His whole personality radiated this combination as a fulfillment of
the prophetic injunction, "You shall love truth and peace". There is
furthermore the idea of pursuing truth and peace.  The Gemara in
Sanhedrin (6b) records an argument as to whether it is permissible to
allow compromises within a legal framework, whethemara quotes the
pesukim, "Truth and justice of peace shall you judge within your gates",
"He who performs charitable justice for all his nation" - how can truth
and peace be combined? Through the "justice of peace." There is a kind
of obligation to pursue "the justice of peace."  He certainly felt this,
but with an additional aspect - that of love. To love truth and peace
not separately but in their combination, as part of a single world view,
as part of a single experience, as part of a concept which is meant to
be realized.

     When I see him in front of my eyes, from the depths of sorrow and
anguish I see an image which absolutely radiated "Torat Hashem Tmimah",
a powerful and enlightening intertwining and combination of joy and awe
- "Truth and peace shall you love".


End of Volume 20 Issue 36