Volume 7 Number 51

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Hesped for the Rav - Rabbi Yisroel Grumer
         [Howard S. Oster]
R. Blau's hesped
         [Anthony Fiorino]


From: <hso@...> (Howard S. Oster)
Date: Thu, 20 May 93 17:35:25 -0400
Subject: Hesped for the Rav - Rabbi Yisroel Grumer

  Last night at the Warrensville Center Synagogue in Cleveland, Ohio,
there was a community-wide hesped for the Rav.  The speakers were Rabbi
Menachem Genack of the OU, and Rabbi Yisroel Grumer, the Rosh Bet Din in
Cleveland.  I did not take notes, so I will not summarize their
hespedim. I do, however, wish to relate one section of Rabbi Grumer's
hesped. (A word of background: Rabbi Grumer would be called by some, a
"right winger" -- I hate labels too.)
  He mentioned that when the hesped for the Rav was being planned, he
asked to included as a speaker.  Many people had subsequently asked him
if he ever learned from the Rav, or had any connection to him.  He said
that he could have told them about all the Torah he has learned from the
Rav, even though he heard him directly on only a few occasions, and that
that should be sufficient. But, he has a different answer.
  In the book of Shmuel, when Avner the general of Saul's army died,
David Hamelech [king] said to his general, Yoav, "Know that a general
and a great man (Ish sar vegadol), has fallen from among Israel today."
It was certainly clear to Yoav, and all the rest of Am Yisrael who Avner
was, why was it necessary for David to say this?
  Rabbi Grumer quoted a Medrash about Moshe Rabeinu who was worried that
the nation of Israel, being encamped each by their own degel (flag),
could become a divided nation, especially since each tribe represents
such vastly different personalities (From the "lion" of Yehuda to the
"deer" of Naphtali). God told Moshe that they will be encamped exactly
as the brothers had encircled their father Yaacov on his death bed.
Yaacov had been worried that his religious beliefs were not shared by
his children, but all the brothers assured him "Shema Yisrael, Hashem
Elokeinu, Hashem Echad" -- that God is one with us as He is with you.
Says Rabbi Grumer, that not only is this their affirmation to Yaacov
that God is one, but also that the children, all of them, are one. If
the Jews had merely been encamped by their own individual flags, they
would have been divided, but because they were encamped around the
Mishkan, and unified in their belief in God, as were their fathers, the
12 sons of Yaakov, they were truly one.
  The key to David Hamelech's hesped for Avner is that a great man fell
among _Israel_.  Although everyone knew who and what Avner was, It was
important for them to realize that the loss of a great man within the
people of Israel is a loss for all of Israel.  Rabbi Grumer went on to
say that although he did not learn in Yeshivas Reb Yizchack Elchanan,
the loss of the Rav is a great loss to all of Klal Yisrael.

In light of some of the postings on the Rav, I thought this might be of 

Howie Oster


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Tue, 18 May 93 16:47:16 -0400
Subject: R. Blau's hesped

The following is a summary of my notes from R. Yosef Blau's hesped from
5-2-93 (I listened to this shiur on tape).  Of course, the usual
disclaimers apply.

The Rav on aveilus and yontif -- htere is a conflict between simchas
haregel and aveilus.  It isn't necessarily a conflict in terms of the
manifestations of simcha and n'hugei aveilus -- only an anein is forbidden
to have basar v'yayin.  The conflict is more fundamental -- between kium
she b'leiv of simchas haregel, the internal manifestation of joy on yontif
which is defined by the Rav as standing lifnei hashem, and kium she b'leiv
of aveilus, the internal manifestations of mourning which goes beyond the
n'hugei and issurei aveilus.  This is in fact a distancing from hakadosh
baruch hu.

Loosing our Rebbe -- the one who brought us closer to Hashem -- his loss
is a distancing of our contact with sh'china.

R. Blau made a deal once with R. Fishman zt"l -- R. Blau would tell him
over the Rav's torah on aveilus, and R. Fishman would tell over torah on
aveilus he had learned from the Brisker Rav.  R. Blau found remarkable the
similarities in similarity, and the differences in conclusions.

The Rav added to the the torah of R. Chaim -- he represents the Brisker
halachic intellectual analysis, but also the sensitive religious
personality who moved beyond analysis of the final halachic behavior and
delved into the inner nature of religious life -- he applied Brisker
methodology to inner life.

In the year that the Rav lost his mother, his brother, and his wife, R.
Blau was at Maimonides and he was in and out of the house during shiva. 
Once, R. Hutner and R. Teitz were there.  The Rav said to them that he
found it difficult to comprehend: he had just finished the shloshim for
his mother, who was in her late 80's, and the halacha requires aveilus for
12 months.  Now, he was an avel for his wife, who he had picked to share
his life, and it would be only shiva and shloshim.  Why when a child
looses a parent is there the halacha of yud beis chodesh, while if a
parent looses a child, there is only shiva ushloshim?  R. Hutner said,
because the loss of a parent represents another loss in the chain
extending back to har sinai.  R. Teitz said the difference is due to the
din of kibud av v'eim -- it is not concluded even when they pass on.  He
also said that the only relationshipo which cannot be dupicated is the one
to a parent.

The Rav felt that the source of the requirement is in the fact that
parents should die before their children.  One might say, it is natural
for a parent to die, for that is an older generation.  So the halacha
requires this extra mourning, so that one will go back and analyze one's
life and understand the debt to one's parents.  When a child is lost, the
halacha doesn't need to tell us to mourn.  In this case, we need to be
told when to stop mourning, to move on and tend to the other family
members.  This story illustrates the Rav struggling so deeply with
emotions, yet seeing it in halachic terms.  An addendum to the story -- 15
years later, R. Blau was driving the Rav to R. Shneur Kotler, who had lost
a son.  Though questionable halachically, R. Kotler stood up when the Rav
entered.  They spoke innyunei aveilus for 2 hours, although the Rav never
mentioned what he had said 15 years earlier.  During the drive back to NY,
R. Blau reminded the Rav of the story and the answer he had given.  In
typical fashion, the Rav dismissed the answer, calling it "drush."  This
time, he had said that halachically, the parents are not only the physical
parents but also teachers -- thus, there is a double aveilus, for parent
and rebbe.

One time in shiur, the Rav explained a difficult Rambam.  One of the
old-timers pointed out that this had been the source of a dispute in
letters between the Rav and the Chazon Ish.  This time in shiur, the Rav
had explained the Rambam like the Chazon Ish had decades earlier.  The Rav
said "but now, this is how the Rambam looks to me."

The Rav did not restrict his shiurim to those masechtos traditionally
studied in litvisha yeshivos; he said shiur all over shas.  This wasn't
merely an exercise in erudition -- the Rav was making a point.  The Rav
was concerned that American Jewry, the first generation given the
opportunity to gain an intensive secular education and use it to enter the
professions, saw the world of secular knowledge as profound and the world
of Torah as customs and ceremonies.  Especially in areas not associated
with lumdos in the past.  Noone who heard a shiur on Rosh Hashana or Yom
Kippur davening could ever view those days as custom, and noone could view
a graduate seminar as is more intelectually serious than shiur.  And,
after leaving the Rav's shiur, one was not afraid of the intellectual
criticism of scholars.

The Rav was intolerant of unprepared talmidim -- it was laziness, they
were coming in to watch the show.  The Rav saw his talmidim as partners in
the profound chiddushim being developed -- in reality, very junior
partners, but partners nevertheless.

Womens learning:  R. Blau and his wife went to see the Rav when she was
becoming a principle of a school, and she asked about teaching torah
sheb'al peh to women.  The Rav said that the same reasoning that justified
for the Chofetz Chaim the teaching of torah shebichtav to women exposed to
a primary Polish education applied to women exposed to a university
education.  In the same meeting, they discussed the pursuit of higher
education and career preparation in terms of its effect on traditional
family life.  The Rav said that one must prepare for both.  In general,
the Rav gave us the tools, set us on our way, and trusted us to maturely
make the decisions of life.  Thus, a talmid who had also graduated from
law school went to the Rav to ask him for guidance.  He emerged
dissapointed because the Rav would not tell him what to do.

The Rav's attitude towards Israel:  The Brisker Rav did not recognize the
state because there was no halachic category to fit a secular Jewish
state.  But the Rav felt that there is nothing which doesn't fit a halachic
category.  He also felt that Hakadosh baruch hu speaks through history,
not only halacha -- he transfered allegience from the agudas yisrael to
mizrachi becasue he felt that through history, G-d had made a psak that
the religious zionists were correct.  He was not, however, a proto-messianist.

After the 6 day war, an Israeli general had spoken of the lives risked to
secure Jerusalem.  The Rav said that protecting the kotel does not justify
the loss of a single additional Jewish soldier.

Kavod hatorah:  Once, R. Goldvicht of KBY came to YU, and the Rav invited
him to give a shiur and to lunch.  They walked to the cafeteria, the Rav
took 2 trays, and they walked to the back of the line.  Then, they sat at
a table with some students, not asking them to move.  The Rav never went
by the formalities of kavod hatorah.  He always held the door for others,
answered the phone himself.  Still, all were in awe of him.  One year, the
Rav asked if there were any complaints.  One person said that he wasn't
around enough.  So the Rav began to go to the beis midrash on Tuesday
night.  One such night, going over a sugya in gittin, the Rav asked about
a certain Rashi.  R. Blau knew, but no one else answered.  Finally, R.
Blau stood up to answer, but nothing came out of his mouth.  All he could
do was bring th gemara over to the Rav and point at the Rashi; the Rav
said "correct" and went on.  All shared that awe of the Rav.

Once the goal of limud hatorah was met, the next step was ethical
development.  The Rav said that the non-observant Jew would not be
impressed with shemiras shabbos or kashrus, but if he saw that the
observant Jew lived on a higher ethical plane, then there was a chance in
reaching out.

R. Chaim defined a rav as one who does chassidus for the community.  R.
Chaim, and the Rav, were great baalei chesed.  When R. Blau was leaving
Brookline, when the Rav was still down about his 3 losses, the Blaus asked
him to be the snadak for their son whose bris was to be on shabbos, and
the Rav agreed.  On Thursday night, the Rav knocked on the door.  He
apologized, and said that he did not think his presence would add anything
to their simcha, and that he was going to be away for shabbos.  He then
wrote out a check for the child.  R. Blau's wife said to save the check,
but R. Blau said that wasn't what the Rav would want, he's not a
chassidish rebbe.  In the midst of his pain, the Rav took out the time to
walk up to their apartment to write them a check.

The Rav's generosity extended to those who criticized him and who were
jealous of him, he even raised money for them.  Someone approached R. Blau
and said that he heard that a certain rosh yeshiva did not attend the
levaya or azkara, and maybe he shouldn't conduct a campaign for them in
his shul.  R. Blau said I assure you, the Rav would want you to conduct
the campaign.

There are those who study the mishneh torah and have no idea that morei
nevuchim exists, and philosophers who study morei nevuchim and have no
idea the mishnen torah exists.  Similarly, there are those who study only
the chiddushei torah of the Rav, and other who only study his philosophy
and don't get the chiddushim.  We all got what we could get from the Rav
and hopefully, never confused that with the whole.

The Rav said the greatness of the minchas chinuch is that he asked
questions that had never been asked before.  The Rav loved the kashas, not
the terutzim.

The Rav was once looking for a maariv minyan (he had a yartzeit).  One of
the boys was a JSS student, new to Yeshiva, who said "I'm sorry, my rabbi
said its too early to daven."  Tha Rav didn't mention who he was, he just
said "ist OK, I think we can daven."  The boy said "No, its too early, we
can't daven maariv yet."  Finally, the boy agreed on the condition that
the Rav promise to repeat kriat sh'ma.

Eitan Fiorino


End of Volume 7 Issue 51