יום חמישי ז' בכסלו תשפ"ג 01/12/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

Raising the Torch of Torah: Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt’l

Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer was one of the giants of the previous generation; a beloved Rosh Yeshiva to thousands of Talmidim and author of the Sefer ‘Even ha’Ezel’ on the Rambam

29/11/2009 09:59
A glowing star was born in the year 5630 (1870) in Mir, an unassuming town in the region of Minsk. The child’s father Reb Baruch Peretz was renowned for his greatness in Torah and profound fear of Heaven. In 5640 (1880), when young Isser Zalman was merely ten years old, he began to learn under the Rav of Mir – Rav Yom Tov Lipman, author of the Sefer ‘Malbushei Yom Tov’. From there he continued to learn in the great Yeshiva of Mir, which was considered then the corridor to the prestigious Volozhin Yeshiva.

Yeshivas Volozhin 

In the year 5644 (1884), at the age of fourteen, Rav Isser Zalman began his studies at Yeshivas Volozhin which was then in its prime. At the helm of the Yeshiva stood Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (the Netziv of Volozhin), and Rav Chaim HaLevi Soloveitchik – pioneers of the system of Talmudic study in Lithuania, which subsequently forged its imprint on most Yeshivos thereafter and on the method of study used by leading Rabbanim and Torah disseminators from then on. There in Yeshivas Volozhin the young boy became close with the Gaon Rav Zelig Reuven Bengis, who would later serve as head of the Beis Din of the Eida Chareidis in Yerushalayim. For seven tranquil years Rav Isser Zalman learnt in Yeshivas Volozhin, and for a year he merited to study in Yeshivas Radin under Reb Yisrael Meir haKohen, the holy Chafetz Chaim.

the Netziv, one of Rabbi Isser Zalman's Rabbis
The Chafetz Chaim[צלם]

At the age of twenty-two (in the year 5652/1892), the budding Torah scholar married the daughter of Reb Shraga Feivel Frank, a wealthy scholar from Kovno. He was a relative of Rav Yisrael Lipkin of Salant, father of the Mussar movement. Rav Shraga Feivel merited another great son-in-law, Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka. Why he merited such prestigious sons-in-law can be traced back to an incident which took place on a rainy winter day, when a fund-raiser for Yeshivas Volozhin arrived at his home. Since the fund-raiser’s shoes were muddy from the rain he decided to enter the house via the back entrance, which led through the kitchen. The righteous Reb Shraga Feivel noticed this and ordered him to enter the house through the main entrance and the opulent foyer, and that as he walked through he should sully the expensive rugs - so that Reb Shraga Feivel could show his daughters what true ‘Kavod haTorah’ is, and what is truly important in this world.

Another story is told about these two remarkable matches: The widow of Reb Shraga Feivel travelled to Yeshivas Volozhin to find a Shidduch for her daughter, a true Ben Torah as per her husband’s command before his passing. The Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda, was undecided between Reb Moshe Mordechai Epstein and Rav Isser Zalman. The widow called upon her brother-in-law (her sister’s husband), to come and test the two students, but he too found it difficult to decide. When even Rav Yitzchak Elchanan of Kovno came and tested them and he too could not decide which of the young men she should choose, he asked if there is perhaps another daughter in the house of marriageable age. When she answered in the affirmative, it was decided that the two outstanding students would marry the two daughters of the Frank family.

In the year 5654 (1894), when Rav Isser Zalman was merely twenty-four, he was appointed as ‘Ram’ (Rosh Mesivta) of Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael – Slabodka. His role was by no means simple, yet he performed his task with outstanding success. In 5657 (1897) the Mashgiach of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel (the ‘Alter of Slabodka’) sent a group of fourteen exemplary students (known as ‘the fourteen strong ones’) to the Yeshiva of Slutzk, to strengthen it. This step was taken with the blessing of Rav Yaakov David Vilevski (the Ridvaz), Rav of Slutzk. At that point Rav Isser Zalman was appointed to serve as Ram in Yeshivas Slutzk.

For the duration of twenty six years, until 5683 (1923), Rav Isser Zalman guided the Yeshiva in Slutzk with a firm and loving hand. After the Soviet Revolution he continued in this capacity, and became a prime target for the Soviet authorities who decided to liquidate all Torah institutions. Rav Isser Zalman expended great effort to protect his Yeshiva, and was even arrested a number of times. After his release he would hide for a while in a small village near Slutzk, but in the end he was forced to flee for his life. In 1923 he secretly escaped over the border of Poland to Kletzk, a town that lay on the Russian border, where the famous ‘Etz Chaim’ Yeshiva resided since the year 5681 (1921) headed by his son-in-law, Rav Aharon Kotler. For two years Rav Isser Zalman delivered Shiurim in Kletzk, until his departure to Eretz Yisrael in the year 5685 (1925).

In Yerushalayim Rav Isser Zalman was asked to lead Yeshivas Etz Chaim, and he served in this capacity until his last day. In total, Rav Isser Zalman served for sixty years in the role of Rosh Yeshiva, from the year 5654 (1894) in Slabodka until 5714 (1954) in Etz Chaim, in Yerushalayim. The Mashgiach in Etz Chaim at the time was the renowned Tzaddik of Yerushalayim, Reb Aryeh Levine, who had been a student of Rav Isser Zalman in Slutzk.

Every Shabbos eve after the meal Reb Aryeh Levine would come to the home of Rav Isser Zalman and the two would discuss Torah and reminisce about events that had happened tens of years before. Once, Rav Isser Zalman asked him: Where did you eat when you learnt in Slutzk? Reb Aryeh answered that on Shabbos he would eat by family so-and-so. Rav Isser Zalman probed: And on weekdays? Reb Aryeh mentioned a number of families by whom he would eat. Rav Isser Zalman sensed that there were some days of the week unaccounted for in Reb Aryeh’s answer, and asked – where did you eat the other days of the week? Reb Aryeh was silent and didn’t answer. After he pressed him some more, Reb Aryeh admitted that there were days when he didn’t eat anything. Late that night, after Reb Aryeh returned home, knocks were heard at his door. His family were shocked to see Rav Isser Zalman’s wife standing at the entrance. She told them that the Rosh Yeshiva could not rest since he had been told that there were entire days in which he did not realise that a student of his had nothing to eat… Reb Aryeh hurried to Rav Isser Zalman’s house and with great difficulty succeeded in calming him, and pinning the blame on himself for not having told anyone about it.

On another occasion a man approached Rav Isser Zalman to request forgiveness for being unable to honor him with ‘Siddur Kiddushin’ under the Chuppah. Rav Isser Zalman in his great humility succeeded in convincing the man that the Rav who had indeed received the honor was far more worthy of it than he. The man listened to these words in amazement, and exclaimed – ‘Such a sublime level of humility has to have been inborn, since such a great degree of this Middah could not have been humanly attained. Does one receive eternal reward on a Middah that is inborn?’ To which Rav Isser Zalman responded in simplicity – ‘If one is born with it, then no he does not deserve reward…’

Rav Isser Zalman once said that he was able to discern if a cup had been ritually immersed or not. He would try to write the name of Hashem on the side of the cup, and if the letters became unclear it was a sign that the cup had not been immersed. And so it was..

Rav Isser Zalman joined the ‘Agudas Yisrael’ when it was founded in Katowice in 5672 (1912). He participated in all three assemblies of the ‘World Congress of the Agudas Yisrael’, and in his later years was appointed as the head of the Moetzes Gedolei haTorah – a worldwide organisation dealing with issues related to the Torah community. The last statement issued by him, a number of weeks before his passing, was in relation to the fourth assembly of the Agudas Yisrael in Yerushalayim in the year 5714 (1954).

Rav Isser Zalman was one of the founders of the ‘Vaad haYeshivos’ in Vilna, along with the Chafetz Chaim and Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski (author of the ‘Achiezer’). These great personalities shared a close kinship, and joined forces in their work on behalf of the public. The intense feeling of responsibility for Klal Yisrael and his inherent good traits which he refined and perfected over the years, drove Rav Isser Zalman towards public activism. In all his endeavours on behalf of the public he displayed tremendous integrity, sincerity and dignity. He distanced himself from strife, whilst at the same time standing firmly by his principles and not deviating one iota from the strict letter of Halacha. However the centre of all his activities – the essence of his thoughts and wishes, was the dissemination of Torah in all its depth and breadth. He would delve into the study of Torah and his influence would be felt far and wide – whether directly or indirectly, until hundreds of outstanding students would leave the portals of his Beis haMedrash: Rabbanim and Torah scholars, who in turn held positions of importance in the world of Torah years later.

Rav Isser Zalman authored seven monumental works on the Rambam, which he called ‘Even haEzel’. His wife not only urged him to publish them, but took upon herself to write out all the manuscripts in her own handwriting so that they would be ready for publishing. Rav Isser Zalman passed away on the 10th of Kislev 5714 (1954), at the age of eighty-four. Rare is the mortal who leaves such a significant imprint on the world after his passing. Rav Isser Zalman was one of these unique individuals. He raised thousands of students, and his Sefarim are studied in Batei Midrashim the world over. The impression of his leadership over religious Jewry, and of his struggle to keep the Jewish identity alive in the State of Israel, remains until this day.