June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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The Colossal Loss of Two Giants, So Seemingly Different Yet So Similar

Reflections on the passing of HaGaon HaRav Dovid Soloveichik, zt”l,
and HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Scheiner, zt”l.

Klal Yisrael was smitten doubly. Recently, we lost nearly 200 years of constant immersion in Torah. We lost integral links in our mesorah and we lost the protection that 200 years of pure yegias haTorah afforded us.

With the passing of HaGaon HaRav Meshulem Dovid Soloveichik, zt”l, and the passing of HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Scheiner, zt”l, klal Yisrael has been impoverished in a way that is impossible to properly encapsulate.

When you look at these gedolei olam who lived just a few blocks from each other, for the last 75 years, they are people who could not possibly have been more different. Everything about them was different—history, background, personality. In truth, however, there is an inner essence, a pniymius, they had in common that was not as apparent on the surface.

In a number of hespedim on these two great gedolim, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, the nasi of Dirshu who enjoyed a close personal relationship with both of these towering gedolei Yisrael and spent much time in personal conversation with them, pointed this out.

Superficial Differences, Inner Similarities

“On the superficial side, they couldn’t have been more different. Rav Dovid embodied the malchus of Brisk. He was a worthy link in that chain stretching back to his father, the Brisker Rav, his grandfather, Rav Chaim, and his great-grandfather, the Beis Halevi and l’maalah bakodesh. On the surface he was direct and uncompromising. He had his mesorah and his shitos that he had received from bais avosav, and he was not afraid to say them.

“And then there was Rav Yitzcohk Scheiner. Born and raised in Pittsburgh to ehrliche parents, but simultaneously Yidden who didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a yeshiva in America in the 1930s…

“He attended public school for elementary and high school. Rav Yitzchok told me that his mother observed all of his friends, even those who came from frum homes, and realized that they were all on the way to a life devoid of shemiras haTorah and mitzvos. She cried bitter tears to Hashem, begging Him to save her son Yitzchok from that fate. He attributed his hatzlacha in learning to his mother’s tears.

“Eventually, by hashgacha pratis, he ended up in Camp Mesivta and then in Mesivta Torah Vodaas, where he became a talmid muvhak of Rav Shlomo Heiman, Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz and later Rav Reuven Grozovsky.

“Rav Yitzchok’s demeanor did not show the sometimes strong tones of Rav Dovid. He was kulo ne’imus, sweetness and pleasantness. When you walked into his daled amos you felt embraced by his gutskeit, his innate love for you and the temimusdige ahavas haTorah that he exuded.

“Yes, there were external factors that made them appear very different, both in their upbringing and in their public persona, but were they really that different?”

A True Manhig Yisrael

“There is a vort that Rav Dovid Soloveichik would relate that offers insight. Moshe Rabbeinu came to the Bnei Yisrael telling them the good news that Hashem said that He would take them out of Mitzrayim and bring them to Eretz Yisrael. The pasuk tells us, however, ‘V’lo shamu el Moshe m’kotzer ruach um’avodah kasha—they didn’t listen to Moshe as a result of the difficulty, stress and the hard work.’ Later Hashem tells Moshe to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the Yidden out of Mitzrayim. Moshe responds to Hashem with a kal v’chomer. ‘The Bnei Yisrael didn’t listen to me so how will Pharaoh listen to me? And I stutter…’

“Rav Dovid Soloveichik, zt”l, asked a fundamental question. There is a simple refutation to the kal v’chomer. The pasuk itself tells us that the reason the Yidden didn’t listen to Moshe was the fact that they had kotzer ruach and avodah kasha. What does that have to do with Pharaoh who was sitting in the lap of luxury? How could Moshe try to extricate himself from the task that Hashem had given him by making a kal v’chomer that is clearly not logical under the circumstances?! Furthermore, why did he say the reason was that he stutters, when the pasuk says it was because of kotzer ruach and avodah kasha?

“Rav Dovid gave a profound answer. He said, ‘A true manhig Yisrael does not see the deficiencies in klal Yisrael. He doesn’t attribute shortcomings to klal Yisrael but rather to himself. Moshe said, “You know why Pharaoh won’t listen? Because I am an aral sefasyaim, I stutter and therefore I am not a worthy emissary to convince Pharaoh.” What was Moshe doing? He was taking the focus off the kotzer ruach and the avodah kasha that was the real reason why the Bnei Yisrael did not listen, and instead placed the entire burden upon himself. In fact, he shouldered the responsibility to such a great extent that to him, the real reason was his stuttering. That is a true manhig Yisrael.’

“We were zoche to meet and interact with both of these gedolim who superficially were perhaps so different, but who in essence shared much in common. They were both true manhigei Yisrael, who were mafkir themselves for klal Yisrael. They always saw the good and positive in klal Yisrael and were willing to go above and beyond their limited strength even in very advanced old age, to be mechazeik klal Yisrael, to benefit klal Yisrael, to encourage and give chizuk to klal Yisrael and limud haTorah among klal Yisrael.”

‘Who Would Have Believed?!’

“With regard to Rav Yitzchok Scheiner, he was kulo bittul. He always attributed his gadlus to klal Yisrael, to others, never to himself. I can never forget an Acheinu kiruv conference that he addressed. He gave no credit to himself for becoming a great rosh yeshiva, for becoming a talmid muvhak of Rav Shlomo Heiman and Rav Reuven Grozovsky. He didn’t attribute any value to himself. He didn’t even acknowledge that it was because of his greatness in Torah, his hasmada and middos tovos that his illustrious rebbe, Rav Reuven, recommended his niece, a granddaughter of Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz, the rosh yeshiva of Kamenitz, for a shidduch. He always expressed this childlike wonder on how he, a public-school boy from Pittsburgh, was zoche to marry Rav Boruch Ber’s granddaughter.

“That is a true manhig Yisrael. He focuses on others, on the greatness of klal Yisrael, of all Yidden, and always pushes the spotlight off himself.”

More in Common Than Not!

“Indeed, that is why even though they seemed so different in background and personality, Rav Dovid Soloveichik and Rav Yitzchok Scheiner had far more in common than not.

“That is why it is not such a chiddush that Rav Yitzchok ended up marrying Rav Boruch Ber’s granddaughter and becoming rosh yeshiva of Kaminetz. Who was Rav Baruch Ber’s primary rebbi? Rav Chaim Brisker. Who did Rav Dovid Soloveichik learn by for a short period when he was a bachur? By Rav Boruch Ber in Kaminetz.

“For Dirshu especially the loss is colossal! Both these towering figures constantly gave chizuk to lomdei Dirshu. They encouraged participation in the various programs, and the words that were constantly on their lips were that they are mekaneh the zechusim of the lomdei Dirshu and those who facilitate their learning.

“Again, it was nothing about them, and everything about klal Yisrael: the foundational essence of true gedolei Yisrael!”

By Chaim Gold


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