| In Sights |

In Sights: Issue 986

Mortified, I realized I had recorded this entire, very personal conversation

No Regrets


the last years of his life, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky ztz”l lived in Monsey, New York. Several people had the great zechus of driving the gadol hador wherever he had to go. One day, Rav Yaakov came to Brooklyn to spend Shabbos at the home of his son Rav Avrohom ztz”l, and I paid him a visit. Then I learned that his regular driver could not drive him back to Monsey. I jumped at the opportunity to do so and was able to work my way in to become one of the regular drivers.

During these rides, I had the zechus to speak to the Rosh Yeshivah about many different subjects, and I always brought along a cassette recorder to tape the conversations. This would give me the opportunity to review later all the incredible things I’d heard, and I would also share the tapes with other talmidim of the Rosh Yeshivah, who longed to hear his sichas chullin. Of course, I always asked permission before taping him, and Rav Yaakov always acquiesced.

One day I received a call that Rav Yaakov needed a ride from Monsey to Washington Heights to attend the levayah of the late rav of the Breuer’s kehillah, Rav Yosef Breuer ztz”l, and I eagerly agreed to drive him.

The Rosh Yeshivah entered the car, and out of habit, I placed the recorder under the armrest, not realizing I’d forgotten to ask permission to record the conversation. The Rosh Yeshivah began to talk in great detail about his personal life. He talked about his first marriage, then the years that he was widowed, and then about his marriage to his second rebbetzin a”h. It was, beyond a doubt, the most incredible conversation I had ever had with him, and I have shared the lifelong lessons he imparted then literally hundreds of times at so many different venues.

As we pulled up to the yeshivah where the levayah was to take place, there was a loud click. The Rosh Yeshivah asked me what that was. Mortified, I realized I had recorded this entire, very personal conversation. I felt absolutely terrible. I apologized and assured Rav Yaakov that I would erase the tape immediately.

The Rosh Yeshivah was quiet for a few moments, and then he turned to me and said, “From the time that I had control of my thoughts and emotions, at a very young age, I never once had to take back something that I said, nor do I have any regrets, so you need not erase the tape.”

Of all the life lessons that I learned from the great Rosh Yeshivah and gadol hador, this was probably the greatest of all. It’s no wonder that his own older friend of his youth, no less than the gadol hador Rav Aharon Kotler ztz”l, referred to his childhood friend as “the wise one of the generation.”  A lifetime of only emes yields such a person.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 986)

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