Saturday, December 07, 2013

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The Beis HaLevi–Connections Through Torah

via Lma’an Yishme’u

Reb Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik of Brisk, the "Beis HaLevi', was a famous Rov and Torah leader of his time. After serving as Rosh Yeshiva in Volozhin and Rov in Slutzk, he took the position of Rov in Brisk. His wisdom and wit served him well, as he led his people and became known far and wide. He passed away 4 Iyar, n(1892תרנ"ב). His son was the famous Reb Chaim of Brisk.

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The son of the Beis HaLevi, Reb Chaim Brisker, was very close to both the Rebbe Rashab (5th Rebbe) of Chabad and the Frierdiker Rebbe (6th Rebbe of Chabad). They worked together on many community matters. Once, Reb Chaim told the Frierdiker Rebbe the following story:

My father used to deliver a deep pilpul in learning twice a week to the great 'Lomdim' of Brisk. Included in the audience were "Berel the Hunch" and "Kalman the Klotz". (Great Torah scholars, lovingly given nicknames by the townspeople. Reb Berel learned so much that he had a hunched back, and Reb Kalman sat of a bench (a 'klotz') of wood learning so much that he made a dent in it...)

Once, there a Jew being pursued by the government, and his life was in danger. My father was working with a Jewish lawyer to help save this man. They made up a certain day when they would go together to visit certain places in order to save him. The lawyer came to our home, but my father was in the beis medrash giving the shiur. So he went to the shul and sure enough, my father was in the midst of a heated discussion with Berel and Kalman in a sugya of Tumah and Taharah. The lawyer did not want to disturb so he sat at the side and waited. After about an hour, my father noticed him. He excused himself from the discussion, saying that this was a matter of life and death and he had to go.

On the way, the lawyer asked the Rov, "Rabbi, why are you tiring yourself over this shiur? Firstly, do the laws of Tumah and Taharah have that much relevance? Secondly, for whom are you delivering this shiur? For "Berel the Hunch" and "Kalman the Klotz"? They are geonim in their own right!

My father replied, "You must understand. When I give the shiur to them, people in the other shul they learn a blat Gemara and in the second shul, a perek Mishnayos. The people who are not doing that will at least go to daven three times a day. There are some people who will only go to daven in the morning, and those who will only go Shabbos. There are yet others who will attend only on Yom Tov. There is even the son of the pharmacist (the more secular individual in town who attended university) who will only go to shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

"But if I will not give the shiur, the people in the other shul will get slack with the Gemara and then the rest will follow suite, until the son of the pharmacist will never attend shul."

When the Frierdiker Rebbe shared this story with the Rebbe Rashab and how the Beis HaLevi lifted up the town with his own intense learning, the Rebbe Rashab agreed and said "Yes, this is a valid 'Seder in Avodah'.


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