Volume 7 Number 40

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

R. Walter Wurzburger on the Rav
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Reb Ahron's Hesped in Chicago
         [Yosef Bechhofer]


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Wed, 12 May 93 23:50:22 -0400
Subject: R. Walter Wurzburger on the Rav

There was a yom iyun in memory of the Rav at the Young Israel of Kew
Garden Hills today, sponsored by the Rabbinic Alumni of RIETS and the RCA.
I will try to summarize the speakers as best as possible, with all the
same caveats as the summaries of the sheloshim shiurim at YU.  Today, R.

R. Wurzburger, who was in the Rav's first shiur, noted that the Rav did
not fully reveal himself to anyone.  It is almost that one can only talk
about the Rav in terms of negative attributes.  There were so many
different views of the Rav:

R. Wurzburger once accompanied the Rav to a gathering of professors of
philosophy and other intelligensia, whom the Rav addressed.  Afterwards,
one said to the Rav "You shouldn't be a Rabbi, you should be a professor"

A talmid from Lakewood who was at one of the Rav's shiurim said the Rav
really has no use for philosophy or science, they are only a means of
being m'kariv people -- "he's a magid shiur, a rosh yeshiva."

When the Rav was hospitalized in Boston, R. Wurzburger saw a Catholic
doctor leaving his room saying "thank you Rabbi, thank you."  The Rav told
R. Wurzburger that the man was a Catholic who had lost his faith, but in
discussions, the Rav had convinced him he would be a better doctor if he
returned to his religion.

 From these three tales, one can see that the Rav defies catagorization. 
When Ed Fiske was covering religion for the NY Times (before being
promoted to education), he had interviewed the Rav.  He asked R.
Wurzburger for some background information after the interview.  R.
Wurzburger asked him what he thought of the Rav.  His reply was "I have
never met anyone for whom everything is so complicated."  This reflects
the dialectical tension in the Rav's mind -- cheftza and gavra, kium and
maaseh, etc. etc.

The Rav as ish hahalacha is a misrepresentation -- the halachic man is
typology, and doesn't capture the totality of the Rav's approach.  

The Rav's presence was dazzling -- he could generate profound insights
into any subject matter -- this too is not his totality.

The image of the Rav at the seder, reciting nishmat -- one could see the
religious passion and the yearning for Hashem.  The Rav felt that the love
of G-d should surpass the yearning of erotic love.  But this yearning made
his life difficult.

The theme of chesed v'emes -- these are not always the same.  The Rav went
to Berlin not in search of material wealth.  There was intense agony and
inner conflict in his decision.  The Rav once said his children cannot
appreciate the difficulty of moving from Torah to a world of western
philosophy, because he had paved that road.  In his quest for emes, he
could not ignore the world.

Yiddishkeit was a constant struggle, it was not the easy way.  One cannot
be complacent when walking in the way of Hashem.

The Rav on the adoption of numerous chumrot:  wonderful, except for one
problem -- it is yiddishkeit without taking the ribono shel olam
seriously.  The Rav strove to build a Jewish society in the world, to
build a world where chesed meets emes; not to retreat into the dalet amos of

The Rav pioneered the study of gemara by women -- R. Wurzburger remembers
overhearing the Rav explaining a gemara to his daughter Atara when she was

The Rav did not simply tolerate secular studies as a concession to
parnasa.  He fekt it could enrich the Torah of individuals and be a part
of chesed v'emes.

Given the religious realities of America, the Rav did not feel there was
any reason for the RCA to disassociate from the Synagogue Council (an
interdenominational association, with whom many poskim forbade association).
He felt that at that time, it would have been a disservice.

R. Wurzburger (as the editor of Tradition) had the page proofs for "Lonely
man of Faith."  A sentence read "Another, midrashic interpretation . . ." 
R. Aharon Lichtenstein handled the galleys, and they asked R. Twersky if he
thought they could delete the comma.  R. Twersky told R. Wurzburger that
they had had a half hour discussion about that comma.  The Rav was a
perfectionist, and when he published, he was especially afraid of there
being any flaw.

R. Wurzburger had asked the Rav to publish "Confrontation" in Tradition. 
The Rav agreed.  Weeks passed, then finally the manuscritp arrived.  The
Rav said "That's it."  R. Wurzburger said, no, there's page proofs, and
galley proofs, then I unplug my phone so you can't call me to tell me
you've changed your mind.

The Rav was officiating at a wedding where one of the relatives had flown
in from Savanah, Georgia; he was a Conservative Rabbi.  The Rav asked him to
speak; R. Wurzburger asked him why.  The Rav said "the man flew all this
way, we must give him kavod."

The Rav did not let "scholarship" interfere with the process of limudei
hakodesh.  Talmud Torah, he said, begins with the analysis of ideas and
hopefully leads to an encounter with hakadosh baruch hu. 

Eitan Fiorino


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Sun, 16 May 93 20:04:55 -0400
Subject: Reb Ahron's Hesped in Chicago

                 Hesped for Reb Yoshe Ber zt"l in Chicago

     This morning, Sunday 40 la'Omer, there was a Hesped for Reb Yoshe
   Ber in Chicago. Approximately 200  men  and  some  women  attended.
   There were several speakers, but of course the focal  one  was  Reb
   Ahron shlit"a. I will attempt to summarize his Hesped (which lasted
   about 45 minutes) in short, taking upon myself  responsibility  for
   possible errors, omissions, etc. I should note that representatives
   of  all  the  major  streams  of  Orthodoxy  in  Chicago  were   in
   attendance, including Roshei Yeshiva of Telz and HTC,  and  a  Rosh
   Kollel of the Lakewood Kollel.
     Reb Ahron began by noting that this was the third Hesped he would
   be  giving  for  his  brother:  the  first,  at  the  levaya,   was
   necessarily an emotional one: an  onen  is  forbidden  from  Talmud
   Torah, and is thus limited  to  emotion.  This,  he  noted,  is  in
   keeping with the  nature  of  the  laws  of  shiva,  which  require
   behaviors on the part of the avel which are parallel to  those  the
   Gemara identifies as signs of insanity - expressions  of  emotional
   turmoil. The laws of shloshim are more restrained, allowing  for  a
   more intellectual contemplation - which  would  be  the  spirit  of
   today's Hesped.  There  are,  he  stated,  however,  two  types  of
   intellect, that of the mind and that of the heart. That of the mind
   can be articulated, that of the heart must  be  sensed.  Thus,  the
   Rambam devotes  30  chapters  to  Hilchos  Shabbos,  but  only  two
   halachos  to  Ahavas  Hashem  -  not  because  the  latter  is  not
   significant, but rather because in must be sensed  and  understood.
   This Hesped was an attempt to give some sense of the  intellect  of
   the heart.
     The Gemara states that if we regard  the  Rishonim  as  malachim,
   then we are as humans; if we regard them as humans then we  are  as
   donkeys, but not as the donkeys of Rabbi Pinchas  ben  Yair,  which
   would not eat d'mai. Reb Ahron stated that these are  complementary
   statements - if  we  regard,  in  our  imaginations,  the  previous
   generations as angels, then in striving  to  emulate  them  we  can
   attain the level of human beings. If not, at best  we  will  remain
   lower level donkeys. Reb Ahron  noted,  however,  that  during  the
   lifetime of a Rebbe a talmid is not supposed  to  regard  him  with
   this sort of deference, because then  the  phenomenon  of  a  Rebbe
   learning the most from his talmidim could not be fulfilled  -  they
   will be too afraid to ask the  questions  which  edify  the  Rebbe,
   rather this is what the statement that  tzaddikim  are  greater  in
   their death than in their lifetime  means  -  after  the  Tzaddik's
   death one must use this approach in one's imagination. [I asked Reb
   Ahron after the Hesped as to how he understands the dictum that  if
   the Rebbe is "k'malach elokim tzevakos" only then should one  learn
   from him. Reb Ahron stated that this refers to the Rebbe's approach
   to teaching as an agent of Hashem - a "missionary."]
     Reb Ahron noted that in the Hakdama  to  the  Meromei  Sadeh  Reb
   Chaim Berlin said that his father, the Netziv, held the Teshuvos of
   Reb Akiva Eiger as  those  of  a  Rishon,  yet  he  was  completely
   disinterested in biographical information about him,  holding  such
   pursuits a form of bittul Torah. Similarly, one must focus  on  the
   writings of Reb Yoshe Ber, rather than his biography, in attempting
   to assess him.
     The Rov's two major works, stated Reb Ahron , were "Ish  HaEmuna"
   and "Ish HaHalacha." The prototypical Ish HaHalacha was  Reb  Chaim
   Soloveitchik, the prototypical Ish HaEmuna was Reb  Elya  Pruzhiner
   [their maternal grandfather]. Many talmidim  make  the  mistake  of
   assuming that these two personalities are mutually exclusive.  They
   are in fact similar. The Ish HaHalacha reaches the  madrega  of  an
   Ish HaEmuna from the starting point of  halacha,  and  vice  versa.
   This is similar to the definition that the Tzemach Tzedek  gave  to
   the difference between himself and the Kotzker: the T"T began  from
   the head and worked to the heart, the Kotzker began from the  heart
   and worked to the mind.
     Reb Ahron noted that Reb Chaim Volozhiner had three Rabbeim,  the
   Sha'agas Aryeh who was the Ish HaHalacha (in his works you will not
   find a single  Zohar  quoted);  the  Ve'Shav  HaKohen,  Reb  Refael
   Hamburger, who was an Ish HaEmuna, and the GR"A, who was both.  The
   Beis HaLeiv was also both, but Reb Chaim and Reb Moshe Soloveitchik
   were both Anshei Halacha. Reb Moshe had a Moreh Nevuchim  at  home,
   but never opened it [I asked Reb Ahron after  the  Hesped  about  a
   line written by a certain Modern Orthodox Rabbi  stating  that  the
   Rov's understanding of Rambam was deeper than his father's  because
   of his acquaintance with the Moreh. Reb Ahron was  not  pleased.  I
   have a feeling that his brother would not have  been  pleased  with
   such a definition either]. Nonetheless, they reached the madrega of
   Anshei Emuna through their Halacha.
     Reb Ahron then told over several ma'asim in detail to explain his
   point. For fear of being over long, I note briefly that one was the
   famous ma'aseh in which Reb Chaim prevented  the  Rashei  Kahal  in
   Brisk from eating Seuda Mafsekes Erev Yom Kippur in order to  force
   them to ransom a Bundist from a Death Sentence; and another ma'aseh
   in which Reb Elya told a "chapper" that he must return a  boy  that
   he had snatched for the Tsar's army - when the  chapper  threatened
   Reb Elya, he threw the chapper out of his house,  and  the  chapper
   died that night  of  a  heart  attack  (Reb  Ahron  explained  this
   rationally, as a result of the remorse the chapper probably  felt).
   Reb Ahron then told over the famous ma'aseh with Reb Moshe and  the
   Chassideshe Baal Tokea that is related in Ish HaHalacha. This is  a
   classic, and I shall not relate it in detail , but I would like  to
   note that in the version of the story as told by Reb Ahron there is
   a significant difference: At the end of the conversation Reb  Moshe
   explains that the reason that he was opposed to the crying  of  the
   Baal Tokea is because although his  great  grandfather  the  Netziv
   cried so much on Yom Kippur that they had to place rags around  the
   bema so no one would slip, on Rosh HaShana he would not cry at all,
   because of the halacha of "Chedvas Hashem."
     The next story he told is not well known, and therefore I  relate
   it in its entirety: The same Baal Tokea, Reb Avraham Radin,  was  a
   big Baal Yisurin (suffered a great deal, having only one  daughter,
   a widow, and one grandson, and heart disease). In  1937,  this  Reb
   Avraham came to Reb Moshe and told him that the doctor said that at
   most he had two years to live, probably only a few months, and that
   therefore he wanted to write a tzava'a. Reb  Moshe  said  that  the
   Torah only gave reshus to a doctor to heal,  not  to  project  life
   span, that they should find another doctor, and  that  Reb  Avraham
   would live until Moshiach (Reb Ahron stated  that  Reb  Chaim  held
   that the traditional bracha of  120  years  is  a  klala,  and  the
   correct version is until Bi'as HaGo'el). Reb Avraham  asked  for  a
   bracha to this effect  Reb  Moshe  responded  that  he  was  not  a
   Chassideshe Rebbe, but  would  give  a  "Birchas  Hedyot"  to  this
   effect. This Reb Avraham, then 78, lived to 113! (Again, Reb  Ahron
   explained rationally that Reb Avraham received  one  of  the  first
   pacemakers. As to why the bracha of until Moshiach was not mekuyam,
   Reb Ahron said that as a Misnaged he could not explain this.)
     Reb Ahron then read a quote from a Rabbi "X" who had  called  the
   Rov an iconoclast. Reb Ahron noted that one of the faults of modern
   Rabbis is their tendency to use big words, but that being a  modern
   Rabbi himself, he understood them. An  iconoclast  is  someone  who
   breaks religious symbols. Reb Ahron stated forcefully that the  Rov
   did not intend to change, nor did he change, in any  way  from  the
   Mesora of his Reb Moshe and Reb Chaim. That Rabbi "X"  went  on  to
   say that [I do not remember the exact quote]  the  Rov  forged  new
   paths in Halacha, not hesitating to argue on the Shulchan Aruch.  To
   this Reb Ahron thundered "Shomu  Shomayim."  If  the  Rov  did  not
   paskin like the Mechaber it was because he paskened like the  Shach
   or the Taz, or like a Kabbala in the House of Brisk.  The  Rov  was
   not a Maykel, but a Machmir, not forging new paths,  but  following
   and applying the ways of the Sha'agas Aryeh, Reb Refael  Hamburger,
   the GR"A, Reb Chaim and Reb Moshe. Reb  Ahron  was  dan  Rabbi  "X"
   l'kaf zechus that he wanted to  impress  the  media,  but  did  not
   accept such an excuse. He noted that in Hashkafa as well,  although
   the Rov, together with Reb  Leizer  Silver  founded  the  Aguda  in
   America, yet under the influence of Reb Meir Bar Ilan  subsequently
   joined the Mizrachi, he yet agreed with his uncle the Brisker  Rov,
   to oppose  Heichal  Shlomo,  lest  it  lead  to  reinstituting  the
     Reb Ahron noted the Gemara  which  states  that  if  one  of  the
   brother's should die, all the brothers should be considered; if one
   of the members of the chabura should die, all the  members  of  the
   chabura should  be  concerned.  Reb  Ahron  stated  that  he  alone
   fulfills both criteria, as a brother, and as talmid and chevrusa of
   his brother, and that it is therefore he alone who can  state  with
   authority his brother's derech and legacy.


End of Volume 7 Issue 40