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Inbox: Issue 880

"If a bochur’s actions are a contradiction to his learning, then... you can draw your own conclusions"


Forged by His Forebears [Built with Love and Loyalty / Issue 879]

Thank you for fittingly paying tribute to the builder among builders of Klal Yisrael of this generation — Rav Heshie Hirth, a”h. He was indeed larger than life, a relentless idealist and visionary, and yet so utterly grounded in the wisdom of practical detail that could bring that vision to life. I’d like to share three stories that I heard from him personally during my days as a balabus and small participant in the building of Rabbi Hirth’s beloved yeshivah ketanah, that I believe laid the root structure for who and what he became.

First: When Reb Heshie’s father and uncle as teenagers arrived on US shores to settle on the Lower East Side with their widowed mother, it was nearly impossible for Shabbos-observant Jews to make a living. As the months wore on, the two increasingly frustrated and desperate brothers devised a plan by which they could minimize all chillul Shabbos, walk to work, not carry anything, and thus keep their newly won menial jobs that would put bread on the table for themselves and their mother. They came to their mother on Friday morning, explained that life had become impossible, that they had a duty to support their little family, and that their plan would not involve any breaking of halachah.

There was a pause. “Very nice,” she told them calmly; “I see you have thought it all through. But,” she added, “if you don’t return by the time I bentsh licht tonight, don’t ever cross my threshold again.”

The two brothers heeded the powerful, emunah-filled words of their mother. Emunah and bitachon intact, they would go on over time to found a real estate business, and instill in their family — whose next generation was filled with builders of mosdos — that no sacrifice is too great when it comes to preserving Torah.

Second: Reb Heshie said that one of most vivid memories of his youth was one summer day when, as a little boy, he was riding in the back of his father’s car. In the front seat were his father and his uncle. As they were passing by the Bais Yaakov building on the Lower East Side, one of them noticed that the door didn’t look like it was on quite straight.

Rather than put it off for another day, or try to find others to fix the problem, they immediately parked the car, took off their jackets and ties, grabbed some tools, and proceeded in the summer heat to remove the door, pound the frame and fittings back into position, and then, soaked in sweat, replace the door to perfect straightness. Another vision instilled: Whatever needs to be done, do it; do it yourself; do it without fanfare; and do it without delay.

Third: When Heshie was a teenager, he was diagnosed for the first time with the machalah. Before he got married, he went to Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz”l for guidance. Rav Moshe told him not to worry, that he and his future wife tblch”t would go on to build a large family. Later, when Reb Heshie became sick again, Rav Moshe repeated his brachah to him. At that point Reb Heshie committed to devote his life and energies to the klal if he recovered — which indeed he did.

Reb Heshie’s devotion to the klal, care for the yachid, his ability to carry out ideals to reality, and his tireless leadership in the building of the Passaic-Clifton community are already the stuff of legend. His character was clearly forged in the mesirus nefesh of his forebears. His example should inspire all of us to do more, whatever the challenge.

His memory should be a blessing.

Avraham Yitzchok Jacobs

Cofounder, menahel, and ram, Machon Yaakov


A Teacher of All Subjects [Built with Love and Loyalty / Issue 879]

I am a talmid of Yeshiva K’tana of Passaic. When I saw the article about Rabbi Hirth, it reminded me of my own story.

My math teacher was out one day, and there were no substitutes available to teach the class. Rabbi Hirth walked in and sat down at the teacher’s desk. He then asked which class we were supposed to be having. When we answered math, he responded, “We are not learning math today,” and proceeded to hand out Gemara sheets.

That was Rabbi Hirth. If one little math class needed something, he would drop everything just to make sure that even the smallest details were running smoothly.

A talmid, age 12, Passaic, NJ


A Fire Within [Leader of the Lions / Issue 878]

Thank you for the beautiful article on Rav Leib Malin. Here is some additional information about this unique cadre of talmidei chachamim.

Each incoming bochur was assigned an “elterer bochur” by Rav Yerucham. Rav Sheps’s elterer bochur was Rav Yonah Minsker, and he brought every kushya he had to Rav Yonah. That’s why he considered him “Mori v’Rabi.”

Years later, Rav Sheps was assigned a “yunger bochur” of his own — Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, later rosh yeshivah of Be’er Yaakov. When Rav Sheps was niftar, Rav Moshe Shmuel happened to be in America. The family asked him to be maspid.

I was there, but outside since I am a Kohein. I heard them calling Rav Moshe Shmuel to be maspid, and was surprised he did not go up. His family (who I am still very close to) later told me what had happened: As Rav Moshe Shmuel was getting ready to go up, Rav Binyomin Zeilberger said, “but he was his yunger bochur, es past nisht for him to be maspid.” So he was not maspid.

(He was in his eighties at the time — but still a yunger bachur. Typical Mirrer thought process.)

I heard from Rabbi Ashe Sabo, the son-in-law of Rav Moshe Zupnick, that the reason Rav Yonah Minsker did not join the escape is because he was a Russian citizen and felt he was safer staying where he was. He refused to accept the visa and tore it up.

Why did Reb Moshe Swerdloff give his son over to Rav Leib? Here is the story, as confirmed by Rav Elya Chaim: Late one night, Reb Moshe had to deliver something to Rav Leib. It was so freezing cold that he could barely steel himself to leave the car. Then, when he made his way to Rav Leib’s apartment, he found Rav Leib sitting over a Gemara, dripping with sweat, with the windows wide open! He decided then that this was the person under whom he wanted his son to learn.

Rabbi Binyomin Karman


The Real Fear [Leader of the Lions / Issue 878]

Thank you for the amazing article about Rav Leib Malin. In general, the attention to details on the part of Yehuda Geberer and Dovi Safier in all their articles is eye-opening.

I particularly appreciated their emphasis on the fact that the Mirrer Yeshiva was running away from the Russians, not the Nazis. I heard the same from my wife’s grandmother, Rav Henoch Fishman’s rebbetzin, who was there in Vilna, and escaped to Shanghai as well. She related that the heter to be mechallel Shabbos at the time, to escape, was “better to desecrate one Shabbos and thereby avoid desecrating multiple Shabbosim” rather than the heter of pikuach nefesh, because they were under no physical danger from the Nazis at that point. The escape was motivated solely by the fear of not being able to observe Shabbos and Torah under a Communist regime.

She also told me, that Rav Yonah Karpilov (Minsker) was in a difficult situation because he was a Russian citizen from Minsk, and could not get a Polish passport. It was considered very dangerous, even impossible, for a Russian citizen to request permission to leave Russia. He was torn until the end about using a forged passport, and he was tragically martyred.

During their years in Shanghai, Rav Leib and the other older bochurim in his group did not learn in the same beis medrash as the rest of the yeshivah, as there were not enough seats for everyone. This is why they do not appear in the famous picture of the yeshivah in Shanghai.

I once spoke to Reb Moshe Zupnik toward the end of his life, and he repeatedly told me that Rav Leib and the Amshinover Rebbe were the only ones who agreed to his escape plan. Everyone else was against it.

Y. S., Lakewood, NJ


They Held His Hand [Leader of the Lions / Issue 878]

Yasher koach on your tribute to Rav Leib Malin ztz”l. His role in ensuring that the Torah of Europe in general and the Mir in particular would be replanted in America is a story that was long overdue.

You stressed Rav Leib’s sense of achrayus and you mentioned how he took responsibility for a young boy from faraway Krakow; our father Rav Avrohom Yitzchok (Abba) Karmel a”h. The picture of Rav Leib with our father and grandfather included Rav Chaskel Fleishaker, who was the bochur assigned to our uncle Zvi Hy”d (not seen since it was he who took the photo). I wanted to share with you a poignant postscript that underscores just how far that achrayus went.

We were able to locate the paperwork retrieved from the historic office of the famed Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara. As there were no computers at that time and the information was simply hand-typed, the lists compiled were not alphabetical but rather in order of the visas being issued. We noted the grouping of three names: Leib Malin, Chaskel Fleishaker, and Abram Karmel.

One can only imagine the desperation and chaos that prevailed as thousands vied to get the coveted visas. The thought of our father, as a teenaged orphaned refugee in the foreign land of Lithuania far from his Krakow home, left us wondering where he found the fortitude to press forward. But with the discovery of this list, the picture becomes clearer: It was long after they ceased to be the paid tutors of the Karmel brothers, yet Rav Leib Malin and Rav Chaskel Fleishaker continued to take achrayus and it was they who, figuratively and perhaps literally, held our father’s hand as he received his lifesaving visa.

Yehi zichram baruch.

Yosef and Leibel Karmel, Lakewood


Where There’s Smoke [Front Row Seat / Issue 878]

I immensely enjoyed the “Front Row Seat” feature in your Succos issue.

It reminded me of an incident that happened to me back in the late ’60s in Sh’or Yoshuv. I occasionally had the zechus to drive my rosh yeshivah, Rav Shlomo Freifeld ztz”l, to Williamsburg to buy seforim at Biegeleisen’s. I was driving my old beat-up 1959 Chevy at the time and with over 100,000 miles on the odometer, it wasn’t in tip-top mechanical shape, to say the least. One problem was it needed valves, which I couldn’t afford, so I left a thick trail of white exhaust whenever I hit the gas.

Just my luck, on that particular day I was pulled over by a cop on Rockaway Turnpike.

“What did I do wrong, officer?” I politely inquired. “I’m sure I wasn’t speeding. This car can’t go more than 40.”

“No, you weren’t speeding, he answered. “You’re being cited for a smoking vehicle!”

I exchanged glances with Reb Shlomo.

“But officer,” I said with a halfway grin, “this car is old enough to smoke!”

The cop wasn’t amused but Reb Shlomo roared with laughter! He kept repeating the line and laughing all the way to Willy.

Country Yossi Toiv

P.S. Many years later, when Rebbi was sitting shivah for his rebbetzin, he was sitting and speaking with Reb Aharon Schechter when I walked in. He took one look, smiled, pointed at me and said to Reb Aharon, “You know what this bochur once said to a cop?”


Draw Your Own Conclusions [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 878]

So, to (politely) sum up Yisrael Besser’s column, it would be: Don’t judge a bochur if he doesn’t act like a mentsh during bein hazmanim, because you didn’t see what he was like in the beis medrash during the zeman.

First off, I’m not sure we should be judging anyone, but it is natural to form opinions based on what is in front of you. However, aren’t we trying to impart the message to our talmidim, that whatever Torah they learn is not apart from them, but is actually a part of them? Aren’t we giving over the message that Torah is not just another subject, but is literally “ki heim chayeinu — our way of life?”

What, then, is the justification for behaviors outside the koslei beis hamedrash that are not congruent with deracheha darchei noam? “Because he can handel in a Rashba” hardly seems like a plausible answer.

The story is told that there was a chanukas habayis for the dining room in the Chevron Yeshivah. One of the roshei yeshivah (I wasn’t able to verify who) explained the reason for such an event was because “the dining room is a beis medrash for derech eretz.”

Not all bochurim who are in yeshivah will be able to stay there for the rest of their lives. How will they know how to act when they leave the hallowed halls of the yeshivah? The yeshivah is (or should be) the place where a bochur can develop into a ben Torah who knows how to act no matter where he ends up in life — be it as a mechanech, dedicating his life to the next generation, or whether he is a doctor, dedicating his life to helping others.

If a bochur’s actions are a contradiction to his learning, then... you can draw your own conclusions. My mind has already been made up.

A.D., Toronto, Canada


They’re Growing Too [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 878]

Thank you for a quality publication that consistently provides its readership with an opportunity to relax and recharge, while simultaneously being educated, inspired, and moved in so many different ways.

I specifically want to express my appreciation (and I imagine that I am speaking for many of my fellow bochurim as well) to Reb Yisroel Besser for his Voice in the Crowd piece titled “Take a Road Trip.”

Reb Yisroel’s perspective couldn’t have been more spot-on as he gave respect, support, and a solid line of defense to the future leaders of our next generation.

The truth is that I have never been on a “bochur road trip.” I also don’t drink much, I’ve never smoked or vaped (unless you count second-hand), and for a long time I had very little respect for those who did. But with time I matured, my youthful insecurities giving way to self-acceptance, and I began to notice the rest of the picture.

The guy who doesn’t hesitate to drink and party during bein hazmanim stays in the beis medrash until 12 every night of the zeman. The guy who vapes like an e-chimney comes early to every tefillah. The bochur who facilitates all my second-hand smoking is poshut on fire during first seder. And even the bochurim who don’t stand out in any particular way, but they show up, they’re committed, they’re consistent — they are learning and growing just like everyone else.

I don’t plan to start smoking or drinking or asking about the breakfast special at four o’clock in the afternoon anytime soon, but I do plan to never be dismissive of those who do.

My thanks again to Reb Yisroel for helping me reinforce my commitment to try not to lose the forest for the empty Jack Daniels bottle nestled among the trees.

A grateful bochur


Gift of Joy [Screenshot / Issue 877]

I loved your description of the “Teshuvah Boot Camp” that the Mishpacha office becomes in this hectic season.

Mrs. Friedman writes that although the hectic season denies her and the Mishpacha staff sufficient time to prepare properly for the Yamim Noraim, the “Teshuvah Boot Camp” makes avodas hamiddos both intensive and inevitable.

I would like to describe another zechus that the Mishpacha staff attained: The avodas hakodesh that they are toiling in. It’s been a tough year for many of us, as galus goes. Succos is a chag that obligates us to rejoice: With Hashem, and His Torah and mitzvos, with His beautiful nation. This is a mandate that can be hard to abide to.

Right before Yom Tov, I heard negative tidings about a situation I’m going through. I wondered through my tears: “How am I going to fulfill v’samachta b’chagecha tomorrow night, a time in my life where joy feels elusive?”

I wished that my connection with the chag was strong enough to make me be happy.  Then I saw my Mishpacha, piled high with beautiful, stimulating, and comforting reading material, and I knew that Hashem was giving me a gift. A gift that brought joy and serenity to my heart, because along with all the holy gifts Yom Tov would surely bring, I had my mega Mishpacha.

Thank you, Mishpacha staff! The zikui harabbim you provide should make you all be zocheh to a gutten kvittel!

Ruchie, Lakewood, NJ


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 880)

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