Vayakhel/Pekudei 5783: Living a Life of Emes

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Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei: Living a Life of Emes: HaRav Meir Halevi Soloveitchik, zt”l

Closing Down the Yeshivos During COVID

Before I start the shiur, I want to pose a question. Maybe someone out there will have a good answer. I have noticed that they closed down all the yeshivos, talmud Torahs, the yeshivah ketanos, the batei midrashim and the kollelim.[i] Baruch Hashem, an “amazing” accomplishment. Whose hachra’ah was that? Did it come from the rabbanim sitting together and thinking and planning? No. Most rabbanim understand that you don’t do this. But today, the Satan is very strong, so they brought police and medical people to R’ Chaim who know absolutely zero about this illness. Any expert will tell you that. They convinced him to close the yeshivos. I have one question. Today, Thursday, in the middle of the month of March, 70% of people went to work. How come the police and the doctors don’t stand at the doors of the businesses? Why don’t they go to the heads of the businesses and explain to them that they can’t keep their businesses open for a couple of dollars! The reason is that they understand that parnassah is chaim. It is chiyuni (essential). And if parnassah is chiyuni, then chinyuni is docheh (pushes over) health. Going to the grocery store is also chiyuni, you need to have food. Going to the pharmacy is also chiyuni. They could very well insist that no one should go to the grocery and you have to order everything over the phone. But they didn’t think of that There was even a chasunah in a grocery store recently because in a grocery store, people are allowed to congregate. They showed the chassan and kallah standing there in the middle of the fruit and vegetables section! Now, 50 people could gather outside, so they allowed up to 50 people. But they should allow a minyan in somebody’s backyard with just 10 people?! What if they would have insisted that every minyan has to be 10 people and the asarah rishonim, the first ten, are part of the minyan. You know, Hashem loves the asarah rishonim. For anybody who thinks it’s not important to come in the first 10, then goodbye. You could still daven [but you’ve got to stand outside the room].

The gemara (Berachos 10a and Shabbos 10a) says tefillah is rachami, it is chayei sha’ah, which is what we need right now. But no! The doctors convinced rabbanim and these askanim that Torah כי הם חיינו ואורך ימינו – that’s bedieved. But a grocery store? Ay ay ay ay ay ay. Business? Ay ay ay ay ay ay. Now, of course, they make “suggestions,” that it would be better if you could work remotely from home. But I want to know: did they tell anybody in Lakewood, “You know, it would be better if you learned remotely from home”? Those who want, should go home. Then there would be room in all the batei midrashim in Lakewood for everybody to sit six ft. apart because one thing is for certain, if they would have offered people the opportunity to go home, there would have been a lot of takers. But they closed them down lock, stock and barrel for who knows how long! I just don’t understand it. Tzorich iyun. It won’t be the first kasha I have. If they said: “Nobody is allowed to go out of his house,” then I would have had no qualms with any of these rules! But if I see goyim driving in the street, I see them going to work. I see yidden going to work. So why are they cloing the yeshivos? I agree, maybe they are driving to work. Okay, so let’s make rules: to yeshivos, everybody could drive in his own car. We could come up with ideas. But there were no ideas. The idea was to be mevatel the batei midrashos. That I don’t understand. I am sure that the roshei yeshivos tried to stick up but the doctors said, “But Rosh Yeshivah, you don’t understand the matzav! You are not a medical man. Pikuach nefashos is docheh everything.” All I know is that there are plenty of gemaros about gezeiros that were made against learning Torah and it was pikuach nefashos They wanted to make a rule that anybody who was caught learning Torah is going to get killed. And the greatest of the great gathered bemakheilos in public (Brochos 61b).[ii] And of course the medical people asked, “What are you doing? What kind of hanhagah is this? It is pikuach nefesh to learn with all these people.” What did those gedolim say? “Can a fish live out of the water? This is chiyuni. We should stop learning?!” [Regarding COVID they] could have said, “Let’s find an eitzah. Learn in your house, each one privately, maybe get Skype and why don’t you learn remotely.” I was always wondering why Rabbi Akiva had to be makhil keheilos berabim?! Why did it have to be “in their face,” in the public parks? Go find a forest somewhere, travel in the woods, go find some midbaros, go into some caves, and give shiurim in the caves! No, that the tena’im and the amora’im didn’t understand so much like the heintiger (today’s) people. Today, people understand better. Nebach!

It’s called פני הדור כפני הכלב – “the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog” (Mishnah Sotah 9:15). Chazal say פני הדור כפני הכלב means the following. If you ever walk a dog in the street, the dog always runs in front of you. Why does a dog do that? I worked on a farm for a couple of summers. I never once saw a cow go in front of the guy leading the cows. Even if there are no strings. The farmer walks in front, and all the cows follow him. But dogs are always running in front of their owners. You know why? Because the dog wants to feel that he is pulling the man! Not that the man is guiding him. So it says פני הדור כפני הכלב – that’s today’s matzav. The people are pulling the leaders. Instead of the ketanim taking guidance from the gedolim, laying the facts on the table and saying, “Now you make a decision,” they say, “No, you don’t understand. R’ Chaim Kanievsky, how could you understand? You sit in your room all day long! What do you know about the world?! You understand medicine?! You understand infectious diseases?! You know Wuhan, you know China?! And everything else?” Nebach, that is the world we live in today and everybody means well, I know.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu should help us. It turned into a gezeirah of gashmiyos and then the Satan figured: “If the horse is galloping, so let me jump on the horse and then I will become a shutuf with Hashem and give some eitzos to undermine this whole thing.” It’s simply mind-boggling! [To be] misbatel from Torah and think that it’s going to bring the yeshuah?! That’s the kookiest thing to say! Somebody asked me if this is Mashiach tzayten. I said, “Definitely. To me, this is the proof that it’s Mashiach tzayten.” It says about ikvasa demeshicha that the ne’arim will tell the zekeinim what to do, נערים פני זקנים ילבינו זקנים יעמדו מפני קטנים (Sotah, ibid). That’s what it says in the Mishnah. The youth will look down upon them: “You don’t know anything, you understand nothing.” This rav, that rav. I didn’t say there can’t be two dei’os, but everybody changed their mind. Hakadosh Baruch Hu should save all of us, He is the only One that is going to be matzil us. Every person who is supposed to get it, will get it and he should have a refuah shleimah bimeheirah, and whoever is not supposed to get it, will not get it. Of course you have to make some kind of hishtadlus. I don’t say this is a time to hug anybody or to shake anybody’s hands. I would keep a distance from most people. If you are able, that is the way you should do it. If you lock yourself in your house, you could catch it from your family. All the boys coming home from outside now, do you know what they’re bringing home? Mishloach manos? So they go home and they are “mezakeh” all of their families with “mishloach manos.” They should make one house for all the people that have it and put them together.  Some big gym.

What Shabbos Meant For My Rebbi

Tonight (24 Adar) is the yahrtzeit of my great Rebbi, HaRav Meir HaLevi ben Reb Yitzchok Zev HaLevi Soloveitchik (1929-2016). First I am going to share with you something he said on this parshah.

In the beginning of parshas Vayakhel, it says: ששת ימים – “you should do work for six days,” וביום השביעי יהיה לכם קודש – “and on the seventh day, it should be a holy day for you” (Shemos 35:2).

When my Rebbi spoke about this parshah, he said that there is nothing like Shabbos. The mitzvah of Shabbos is amazing. Shabbos was a day my Rebbi yearned for. He looked forward to it. He prepared for it. Erev Shabbos, when his time came to prepare for Shabbos, the world did not exist. It was like a seder of avodah in the Beis Hamikdash. Every week was the same, it wasn’t this week this way, next week that way. He prepared for Shabbos with great awe and with great respect. He loved Shabbos.

The Briskers have an interesting minhag. Most people are interested in finishing Shabbos, 35 minutes mehadrin min hamehadrin. Some are groyse tzaddikim, they wait 40 minutes. The real chassidei umos ha’olam do 45 minutes. Some yeshivos do 50 minutes. And a few nebachs keep 72. That is how it is in the world generally. In Brisk they have an interesting minhag, they wait an eighth of a day, it makes the 72 minutes sometimes look like 40 minutes. It sometimes could be very long. And the last thing they are doing is to be in a rush to go make Havdalah, go daven Maariv. When the time came, they said, “Okay, now, we are going to go daven Maariv.” I said, “We have to sit here a whole motzei Shabbos in your house? There are things to do.” He said, “What do you have to do?” When my rebbi would make Havdalah he would say, “Oy vey. I have to wait another whole week for Shabbos to come!” As soon as Shabbos is over most people want to run into the shower, they can’t wait to put their jeans on, or their weekday pants. Some people put their vochendiker (weekday’dik) slippers on. Some people put different shirts on. They pashut can’t wait to get into their weekday. They want to be mavdil bein kodesh lechol, and put the music on or check their phones. 

By my rebbi, Shabbos was heilig. By Hashem Shabbos is heilig. Rashi (Shemos 35:2) says before Hashem gave us the mitzvah to build the mishkan, the Torah proceeded to teach us the mitzva of Shabbos. Why? To teach that the building of the mishkan is not docheh Shabbos.[iii]

Even Geulah Doesn’t “Push Off” Shabbos

The rebbi further explained that the mishkan was the tachlis of the world – it was the fulfillment of Hashem’s greatest desire. There was nothing like having the mishkan where Hashem was able to reside together with Klal Yisrael. So you would think that for such a holy purpose, nu, a little Shabbos could be pushed aside. But the Torah says you cannot be oiver any single aveirah even for the biggest purpose. My rebbi would say over from his father, the Brisker Rov, the gemara in Eiruvin (43a-b), which has a shaileh about the issur techumin (the issur limiting a person how far he could go on Shabbos). The gemara asks whether the issur techumim applies above the height of ten tefachim off the ground, such as to one who travels by leaping (or flying) above this height. The gemara says that if it does apply, then Mashiach ben Dovid cannot come to redeem the Jewish people on Shabbos because even if he would travel above ten tefachim, he would not be allowed to travel more than two thousand amos.[iv][1] 

Now, the issur techumim is a relatively minor issur, it is not one of the 39 melachos, it is not one of the major things.  The Brisker Rov said that we have to understand this gemara. Klal Yisrael has been suffering for thousands of years in their galus and they are waiting bekilyon einayim for the geulah and every second that the geulah could come earlier is chashuv le’ein shiur, it is extremely chashuv! If Mashiach comes even one minute before the keitz, you have to know it is a tremendous zechus! If Mashiach comes one minute early, you avoid all the suffering that comes along with Mashiach. If Mashiach comes in its time, then you have to undergo lots of suffering. One minute before the time, you are free. It says in the gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) that Mashiach ben David is waiting every second to come to redeem Yisrael.[v] Even though, today [during COVID], they [probably] won’t let him in. I’m not sure how it’s going to be. Uva letziyon go’el, I’m not sure if Eretz Yisrael would let him in either, there would be a problem getting him in! It wouldn’t be so pashut. But it still says he is metzapeh (waits) every second. The gemara in Sanhedrin (ibid.) says that Mashiach pashut sits in the gates of Rome with all kinds of broken down, poor people, and he also suffers. He never changes his bandages in one shot. He does one bandage at a time just in case Hashem gives him the go ahead in the middle. If he took all his bandages off, he wouldn’t be able to go. That is something else we learn from this gemara. In case you were expecting some royal rebbe with a streimel 20 tefachim high, a satin bekitshe gold rimmed and silver dangling and shoes that were hand-made with Italian alligator leather, you should know that Mashiach is going to be a broken choileh coming out of the hospital! And I’m sure if he came now, everybody would say he has coronavirus, for sure. “Forget about it, stay away from him, 6 ft. at least!” There is desperation because the geulah is so chashuv that you can’t push it off even for one moment! But then when the time comes andHashem gives the go ahead because of the zechuyos of Klal Yisrael  the gemara says that if there is an issur of techunim above ten tefachim, it’s peshita that Mashiach cannot come! You wouldn’t even make a cheshbon to permit this little issur, a relatively small issur!

The Brisker Rov said this lesson to askanim that were involved in voting in the city of Brisk. The Brisker Rov was very behind his candidates. It was mamish a matter of black or white. There was a question about putting up the signs right before shekiyah,late on Friday. The Brisker Rov said not to do it. They said, “But the friar are going to get their signs up and it’s going to mess up the whole election!” So the Brisker Rov said this shtikel. “If for Mashiach we are not docheh an issur techumin, so certainly for voting, we are not going to disregard this minor issur!”

Matan Torah Changed Everything

My rebbi said that this is a very fundamental principle that started with Matan Torah. Before Matan Torah, you were able to make cheshbonos and figure out what is the best way to make certain gains. You were able to get around the “rules.” Like Yaakov who married two sisters because it would be a greater tikkun and kiyum of ratzon Hashem. Before Matan Torah, explains R’ Chaim Volozhin in his sefer Nefesh HaChaim (1:21), some of the most stringent prohibitions, that would appear later on in the Torah, were not enforced.[vi] But once the Torah was given, there is nothing you are able to change, no matter what! The Brisker Rov said that even the middos and hanhagos that we have  is all learned from the Torah. He said over the gemara in Eiruvin (100b) which says: אלמלא נתנה תורה, “if the Torah would not have been given,” we would learn tznius from a cat, and we would learn about theft from an ant, and we would learn about arayos from a dove.[vii] The Brisker Rov said: “The gemara deliberately says אלמלא נתנה תורה – ‘if not for the fact that the Torah was given.’ But now, after the Torah was given, you can’t learn anything from these creatures and animals. Not good middos, not good hanhagos, you don’t learn from anything, only the Torah.”

My rebbi once said over a moiradige maaseh from the Chazon Ish. There was a person whose father died. During the shivah, the guy began to blame himself for contributing to his father’s death. I don’t know what the details were, but the guy blamed himself and he became very sad. After the shivah was over he became depressed. Then he became more depressed. It came to the point where it was sakanos nefashos. The guy was about to lose his family, his job, his life, maybe he would have died even. People were working with him and trying to get him out of it. Finally, they came up with a plan. “If the Chazon Ish would tell you that your father didn’t die because of you and you didn’t contribute to your father’s death, would you accept it?” He said, “Yes, I would accept it.” The askanim went running to the Chazon Ish and they told him the story. They asked him, “Could you tell the guy that he didn’t do it, to save his life.” The Chazon Ish thought for a very long time and he said, “I don’t know if he contributed to his father’s death [or not]. How could I say, maybe it’s a sheker?” They said, “Rebbi, we’re talking about the guy’s life! The guy is going crazy!” He thought again for a long time and then he said, “How could I say out of my mouth something that is not emes?! You have to come up with some other eitzah.” That was the zehirus of the Chazon Ish.

Not Budging an Inch from his Minhagim

The Brisker Rov once went to do nichum aveilim. After he did the nichum aveilim to the family, the person he was with told him that in the next room, the rebbetzin of the niftar was sitting shivah. The person who was niftar was major talmid chacham. The Brisker Rov didn’t respond. In halachah it says you could be menachem women aveilim. The Brisker Rov walked out of the house and he said, “Lo nehigi gaban… this is not our minhag,” so he didn’t go.

My rebbi once had a similar story and the guy with him had a ta’aneh [that my rebbi wasn’t menachem aveilim a woman]. So he told this story about his father, and said, “It’s not our minhag.” He said that they related this story to the Tshebiner Rov (R’ Dov Berish Weidenfeld, 1881–1965) and he said, “Yes, but by us, it is our minhag.” So everybody has to go after his minhag. They wouldn’t bend even though it looked funny.

Pursuing Truth, No Matter What

Now, one thing my rebbi learned from his father was the middah of emes, I can’t imagine there was somebody like him! I will give you a simple maaseh. My rebbi was once in the middle of shiur and one of the guys in the shiur made a joke. The joke was mashpi’ah on other people and it became a matzav of simchah a shtikel. R’ Meir smiled also. After the shiur, he said, “I want to clarify something. There was once a talmid chacham named R’ Yudel Holtzman from Yerushalayim and there were bachurim that were close to him. One time, in the middle of havdalah, the bachurim began to laugh but R’ Yudel himself did not laugh. Afterwards, R’ Yudel said, ‘When everybody is laughing, be’emes you have to laugh with them. That is the proper conduct, you laugh together. But what can I do when I am mentioning the name of the Eibishter? I couldn’t laugh. So excuse me for not joining your laughter, I couldn’t.’” My rebbi said this story. Then he added, “I want you to know that I was aware of that story when everybody started laughing. But the reason why I laughed was not because I was doing darkei nimus, to laugh together with everybody. That was not the reason why I laughed. The reason why I laughed is because I thought it was funny!” So one could have asked, “Why did he laugh? Maybe just to be polite, maybe alzt feinkeit.” No. He was so makpid [about the emes], he didn’t want anyone to think that he did it because of that. “Don’t think I’m this feiner mentch and I’m laughing because everybody else is laughing.” He had no problem at all to be modeh al ha’emes in the shiur and say, “I made a mistake.” And he would say it berabim!

I remember one time he said a shtikel Torah during the shiur. I was excited when he said a shtikel Torah; we were yearning to hear a shtikel from him and this was a geshmake shtikel. We chazered it over that night, pumping chazoroh. He comes the next day to the yeshivah and says to me, “Yisroel, did you write that shtikel from yesterday? I want you to erase it. Did others write it?” I said, “I think so.” He came into the beis hamidrash and he said, “What I said yesterday was a mistake and whoever wrote it down in his notebook should erase it.” I said, “Why? I like it.” He said, “It is not emes.” I said, “Maybe you think it is not emes, but I think it is emes. I like the way it sounds. A geshmake shtikel.” “Nein, not like that.” That was the kind of person that he was. It was amazing that he had a special ahavah [for emes]. By him, the emes [was something that] you cannot imagine!

A Life Built on the Foundation of Emes

My rebbi once went to Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz (1918-2009) when his wife died. He went to be menachem avel Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz. When he came in, Shlomo Lorincz looked up geshokeled (shook his head) and said to R’ Meir, “I thought the Brisker Rov came to my house. [Your face] reminded me exactly of your father.” So R’ Meir said, “You are not the first person to say that. The emes is, you have to know, the tzurah is not the ikkar, it’s the pnimiyus that’s the ikkar. If the pnimiyus fits with the tzurah then it’s good, and that, I can’t tell you.”

He was once given sandeka’us at a bris and they brought him a nice chair with some cloth on it. They said put your feet on this chair. He said he won’t do it. They asked him what’s the problem? He said, I don’t want to put my feet on this chair. “You know why? How do I know that the one who is in charge of this chair is maskim that a person should put his feet on this chair that has upholstery on it? If it was plastic, that’s one thing, but on an upholstered cloth chair, maybe it could get dirty.” He was not maskim to put his feet on that chair no matter what! They pashut had to go to one of the neighbors of the shul to get another cloth to cover the chair and then he put his feet on it. His life was so meyusad (was founded) on emes. His father baked it into him.

I remember I once said something to him that I heard from him in the beginning, when I came to learn by him. He said, “I never said that.” I said, “Rebbi, I don’t have ruach hakodesh, I wrote it down in my notebook, it’s there.” He repeated, “I never said it. Bring me your notebook.” I went to my room, got the notebook, went back to his house, showed him the notebook. He said, “I never said it.” I said, “Rebbi are you trying to tell me that it was a dream? I wrote it over in the shiur.” He told me, “You weren’t dreaming, you were fantasizing. I never said that.” I asked, “Rebbi, what is the pshat?” He said, “You didn’t repeat the words in the sequence that I said them, so what you said was your zog (statement), you didn’t say my zog. Maybe it was similar, maybe it was related, maybe it was on the same subject, but that’s not what I said.” After that, if I ever reminded him of something, I made sure I had it down pat!

He told me the following story from his father. There was a yid that once came to the Brisker Rov and said to the Brisker Rov, “I want to tell you something, I heard from your father, R’ Chaim in Brisk when I visited him. It was relevant to appointing a rov in Yerushalayim. R’ Chaim told me a description of Yerushalmi people, and why it is hard for them to have a rov.” The yid told the Brisker Rov what he had heard from R’ Chaim. The Brisker Rov listened to him and said, “Thank you.” He chazered it over. “Thank you.” Ten years later, the yid came to the Brisker Rov again. “Did I ever tell you what your father said?” And he tells him the whole story. The Brisker Rov said, “Sheker.” The guy said, I heard it from your father! “Sheker.” “What do you mean it is sheker?!” The Brisker Rov said, “Ten years ago you told me the descriptions my father gave of the Yerushalmi yidden, and he said that description first. Right now, you told me that he said that description second. So one of them is definitely a sheker.”

Could you imagine how exact these people are?! The zehirus! He was medakdek in halachah like you cannot imagine! I used to tell him, “Rebbi, is it not worth it?” He would say, “It is never worth it if you have to be oiver an issur kal, it is not worth it.” His memory should be a zechus for us to be able to be machzik a little bit in his derachim. His life should be a guide for me and a light to Klal Yisrael. It was a loss. This man was a walking Brisker Rov!

Rebbi’s Amazing “Dikduk”

R’ Moshe Shmuel Shapiro (1917-2006), a very big talmid of the Brisker Rov said, “Let me tell you the chiluk (difference) between R’ Meir and all the other brothers. All the brothers are ma’atikei shmuah – they are saying over what they heard. R’ Meir is the Rov alein (the Brisker Rav himself), not saying over what he heard. He was an embodiment [of the Brisker Rov].” You cannot imagine the nuances.

One time he was giving a shiur, when one of his son’s babies was in the house and the wife was there too. In the middle of the shiur, the baby started crying. R’ Meir turned to the father and said, “Chaim, go take care of your child.” And R’ Meir explained himself, “Nu, mecheichi teisa (how do I know this to be true), maybe it’s the mother’s job? The father is in the middle of learning, the father can’t take care of the baby now!” So he said, “I heard from my father, mein tatte hot gezugt, that Moshe Rabbeinu said, ‘האנכי הריתי את כל העם הזה אם אנכי ילדתיהו כי תאמר אלי שאהו בחיקך כאשר ישא האמן את הינק, וגו – “Did I produce all these people, did I engender them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a caregiver carries an infant?’ Did I give birth to this nation that I should be worried about them?’ It is mevuar (clear) in this passuk that if you give birth to somebody, even if you are the father (i.e. even if you are busy), you have to take care of them. So now your job is to go take care of your child.”

Do you know what kind of dikduk that is?! There’s a cheshbon al pi Torah! He embodied the Torah, he embodied the Brisker Rov. I used to look at him and look at him. Just being in his presence, you felt the awe, you felt the yirah. Every move I made in front of him, I was petrified. If it wasn’t ois gehalten al pi halachah. If I poured him a drink, I had to think to myself, “What mistake could I possibly make when I make this drink?” Then he would take the drink and a second later he would make a borei nefashos. He was so machmir you can’t be masig. How hot his tea was, was ois gecheshbont. On Shabbos he wouldn’t drink tea. He would just take water and honey. He was choishesh that maybe it’s going to be cooking. I said, “Rebbi, it’s tea essence.” His father was choishesh, so he was choishesh. It was unbelievable what he was choishesh for! It was never a matter of his will. His will was completely bateil to the will of the Shulchan Aruch and the Ribbono Shel Olam. There was never a zich, there was never a self.

Everything Was Gecheshbont

A guy once came to him when he was in a car. He rolled down the windowand asked, “What do you want?” The guy said, “I want a brachah.” He said, “Oh no.” But he gave him a brachah. The driver asked him, “What was that all about?” He said, “Le’olam, I would never give a brachah, because my father didn’t believe in that. The only time my father gave brachos was by my chasunah in Bnei Brak. He came to Bnei Brak, and since there everybody was used to getting brachos from the Chazon Ish, so my father held that the minhag hamakom there was to give brachos, so he gave people brachos.” Suddenly R’ Meir notices that one of his relatives is there with his two kids. He turns to him and says, “You also fell to these shtussim?! What did you come for?” This relative was thinking, “I have to chap arein now that I have a chance!” So R’ Meir said to the driver, “I’ll tell you why I gave him the brachah. Because if I would tell him, ‘Sorry, I’m not ra’uy to give you a brachah, the guy would think that I’m a big anav. And I’m not! It would be a sheker! So therefore I decided it would be better to give him a brachah.” That was the cheshbon he made. He said over then, “For everything I had a kabbalah. Where did I get that from? From the Chozeh of Lublin. The Chozeh of Lublin moved into Lublin and he became a rebbe. So the rov of Lublin called him in and said, ‘What are you doing? You are making yourself into an adam gadol me’od?’ He said, ‘What do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘I want you to get up in shul and say: ‘Ich bin nisht ken adam gadol, ich bin a ish katan and no one should make a fuss about me.’’ So he did it. What happened? He got up in shul and said that, but it had the reverse effect because everybody said, “Wow, what an anav, what a tzaddik. He gets up in shul and he publicly announces that he is a gornisht!” Bang, more people came to him! So finally, the Lubliner Rov went to him and said, “I have an eitzah. Get up and say you are a gadol hador, you are mamish unbelievable. You are a tzaddik vekadosh.” He said, “Dos, ken ich nisht zogen. That I can’t say, it would be a lie.”

Zechuso yagen aleinu.

The Bottom Line

From adamantly refusing to violate even a minor issur of Shabbos, in putting up election signs in the city of Brisk – a lesson he learned from the his illustrious father, to not making any cheshbonos outside of the prism of Torah, Halacha and Hashkafa, to pursuing the emes at every step of the way (even in making sure that his laughter was properly understood) – every word and action of HaGaon HaRav Meir HaLevi Soloveichik, zt”l, was calculated and guided by his deep desire to serve Hashem and follow the dictates of Shulchan Aruch. Although it’s an impossible task to emulate even a few of these areas of R’ Meir’s Avodas Hashem, we can nevertheless take a small but tangible area in his dikduk hamitzvos and an uncompromising drive for emes, and try to incorporate it into our daily living. Perhaps, one area where we could start – and where people often stumble – is when relating something in the name of another person, whether it’s a Dvar Torah or otherwise. This coming week – whether I am learning in a yeshiva, kollel, or work in the office – unless the information that I will relate (in the name of someone else) is correct and verified, I won’t say it. This will not only teach me the importance of pursuing emes, but it will also be a zechus for the neshama of HaRav Meir HaLevi ben HaRav Yitzchok Zev, zechuso yagen aleinu.

[i] Ed. note: this shiur took place on March 19, 2020, soon after the new COVID restrictions went into effect.

[ii] תנו רבנן: פעם אחת גזרה מלכות הרשעה שלא יעסקו ישראל בתורה. בא פפוס בן יהודה ומצאו לרבי עקיבא שהיה מקהיל קהלות ברבים ועוסק בתורה. אמר לו: עקיבא אי אתה מתירא מפני מלכות? אמר לו: אמשול לך משל, למה הדבר דומה – לשועל שהיה מהלך על גב הנהר, וראה דגים שהיו מתקבצים ממקום למקום. אמר להם: מפני מה אתם בורחים? אמרו לו: מפני רשתות שמביאין עלינו בני אדם. אמר להם: רצונכם שתעלו ליבשה, ונדור אני ואתם, כשם שדרו אבותי עם אבותיכם? אמרו לו: אתה הוא שאומרים עליך פקח שבחיות?! לא פקח אתה, אלא טפש אתה! ומה במקום חיותנו, אנו מתיראין, במקום מיתתנו – על אחת כמה וכמה. אף אנחנו עכשיו שאנו יושבים ועוסקים בתורה, שכתוב בה: ״כי הוא חייך וארך ימיך״, כך, אם אנו הולכים ומבטלים ממנה – על אחת כמה וכמה!

[iii] ששת ימים. הִקְדִּים לָהֶם אַזְהָרַת שַׁבָּת לְצִוּוּי מְלֶאכֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן, לוֹמַר שֶׁאֵינוֹ דוֹחֶה אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת (מכילתא)

[iv] תָּא שְׁמַע: הֲרֵינִי נָזִיר בַּיּוֹם שֶׁבֶּן דָּוִד בָּא – מוּתָּר לִשְׁתּוֹת יַיִן בְּשַׁבָּתוֹת וּבְיָמִים טוֹבִים [רש”י: בשבתות וי”ט – דודאי לא אתי משיח האידנא]  וְאָסוּר לִשְׁתּוֹת יַיִן כׇּל יְמוֹת הַחוֹל [רש”י: ואסור כל ימות החול – דילמא אתי]. אִי אָמְרַתְּ בִּשְׁלָמָא יֵשׁ תְּחוּמִין – הַיְינוּ דִּבְשַׁבָּתוֹת וּבְיָמִים טוֹבִים מוּתָּר. אֶלָּא אִי אָמְרַתְּ אֵין תְּחוּמִין, בְּשַׁבָּתוֹת וּבְיָמִים טוֹבִים אַמַּאי מוּתָּר? שָׁאנֵי הָתָם, דְּאָמַר קְרָא: ״הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ לָכֶם אֵת אֵלִיָּה הַנָּבִיא וְגוֹ׳״ [רש”י: לפני בא יום ה’ – לפני ביאת בן דוד יבא אליהו לבשר], וְהָא לָא אֲתָא אֵלִיָּהוּ מֵאֶתְמוֹל, וכו’.

[v] אמר ליה אימת אתי משיח אמר ליה זיל שייליה לדידיה והיכא יתיב אפיתחא דקרתא ומאי סימניה יתיב ביני עניי סובלי חלאים וכולן שרו ואסירי בחד זימנא איהו שרי חד ואסיר חד אמר דילמא מבעינא דלא איעכב

[vi] וכשם שכל גופו של אדם עולה ומזדכך ע”י עסק התורה והמצות, כך העולמות כולם אשר הן המה שיעור קומת אדם כמש”ל פ”ו. הם מזדככים ומתטהרים ומתעלים. והאדם הישר העובד אמיתי לא יפנה דעתו ומחשבתו בעת עבודתו לו ית”ש אפי’ כדי לעלות ולטהר גופו ונפשו. אלא שיעלה טוהר מחשבתו וכוונתו ופנה למעלה לתיקון וטהרת העולמות הקדושים. וזו היתה גם כל ענין עבודתם של האבות וכל הצדיקים הראשונים. שקיימו את התורה קודם נתינתה. כמו שדרז”ל ע”פ מן הבהמה הטהורה גו’ ואמרו מכאן שלמד נח תורה. ואמרו (יומא כ”ח ב’) קיים א”א את כל התורה (וכ”א בב”ר פפ”ב ובבמדבר רבה פי”ד. ובתנחומא בהר ובמדרש תהלים מזמור א’). לא שהיו מצווים ועושים כך מצד הדין. דא”כ לא היו מעמידים ח”ו על דעתם והשגתם אף שהשיגו שלפי ענין שרש נשמתם ההכרח להם לעבור ולשנות אף מקצת מאחת מכל מצות ה’. ולא היה יעקב אע”ה נושא ב’ אחיות ולא היה עמרם נושא דודתו ח”ו. רק מצד השגתם בטהר שכלם התקונים הנוראים הנעשים בכל מצוה בהעולמות וכחות העליונים ותחתונים. והפגמים הגדולים והחורבן והריסה ח”ו שיגרמו בהם אם לא יקיימום. וכן נח הקריב דוקא מן הבהמה הטהורה כי ראה והשיג הכח והשרש העליון של כל בהמה וחיה. איזה מהם כח שרשו מצד הקדושה והקריבה. ואיזה מהם כח נפשה מצד הטומאה והס”א ולא בחר בה להקריבה לפניו ית’ כי לא ירצה, וכו’. לכן כשהשיג יעקב אבינו ע”ה שלפי שורש נשמתו יגרום תקונים גדולים בכחות ועולמות העליונים אם ישא השתי אחיות אלו רחל ולאה. והמה יבנו שתיהן את בית ישראל. יגע כמה יגיעות ועבודות להשיגם שינשאו לו. וכן הענין בעמרם שנשא יוכבד דודתו שיצאו ממנה משה אהרן ומרים. וזה ג”כ א’ מהטעמים שלא ניתנה התורה לנח והאבות הקדושים. שאם היתה ניתנת להם לא היה יעקב רשאי לישא ב’ אחיות. ולא עמרם דודתו. אף אם היו משיגים שכן ראוי להם לפי שרש נשמתם. ובאמת זה היה כל בניית בית ישראל עם סגולה. ותיקון כל העולמות עליונים ותחתונים. כענין מאמרם ז”ל וא”ת קין נשא אחותו. עולם חסד יבנה.

[vii] אמר רבי יוחנן: אילמלא לא ניתנה תורה, היינו למידין צניעות מחתול, וגזל מנמלה, ועריות מיונה. דרך ארץ מתרנגול – שמפייס ואחר כך בועל.

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