Friday, March 24, 2023

Cheshvan 27 is the yahrzeit of my Zaide, Rav Yaakov Meir Kohn, zt”l. Every year during the weeks before his yahrzeit, I take out the few binders I have of his writings containing his Torah thoughts. Many of those thoughts were written in his distinctive, difficult to read, shorthand writing, hastily recorded on the back of any paper that was in his vicinity. There are divrei Torah written on the back of invitations, bills, letters and receipts stuck into the pages of his seforim.

Every year I try to decipher some of his writings. It is painstaking, because it’s word by word. But each thought that I successfully am able to decipher is so precious to me.

My Zaide also had a tremendous collection of seforim which lined most of the walls of his Lower East Side apartment. My Bubby would often complain to him that there was no more room for more seforim. Her efforts were futile however, as he would sneak bags into their apartment and leave them under the dining room table. He would then clandestinely move the bags into his study.

The week after he passed away, two bags full of seforim were found under the dining room table.

I inherited my Zaide’s love of seforim and also his challenge of not having sufficient room for all of them. My wife is nervous that I am going to start taking beds out of our house so I have more room for seforim.

In my collection, I have a few seforim from my Zaide. Although most of those seforim have been reprinted, those old seforim are precious to me.

One of the most personally beloved of that collection is my Zaide’s Kovetz Shiurim.

Kovetz Shiurim is a familiar sefer in the hallowed halls of yeshivos the world over. It is a collection of the shiurim of Rav Elchanan Wasserman, zt”l hy’d, the great rosh yeshiva of Baranovitch who was murdered during the Holocaust. During his youth, my Zaide was a student in the Baranovich yeshiva and heard shiurim from Rav Elchanon.

Kovetz Shiurim was first printed in 1964 by the author’s son, Rav Simcha Wasserman, zt”l.

The sefer I have is from that original printing and has a purple cover. I imagine my Zaide entering a seforim store in 1964 and seeing that the shiurim of his late rebbe had been collected and printed. I imagine how it brought back memories of his days as a student in the yeshiva and the images of his saintly rebbe delivering those same shiurim. I imagine the bittersweet emotions that seeing the sefer for the first time must have evoked, perhaps even a few tears.

When I hold that sefer and I learn from it I feel connected, not only to my beloved Zaide, but also to what he felt connected to—the Torah of the previous generation. The sefer connects me to my Zaide, which undoubtedly connected him to his rebbe and a world lost.

Isn’t that the story of the Jewish people’s connection to Torah?

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author. He is a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, NJ, and an experienced therapist, recently returning to seeing clients in private practice, as part of the Rockland CBT group. For appointments Rabbi Staum can be reached at 914-295-0115. Looking for an inspirational and motivating speaker or scholar-in-residence? Contact Rabbi Staum for a unique speaking experience. Rabbi Staum can be reached at [email protected] Archives of his writings can be found at www.stamtorah.info.

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