Rav Boruch Ber was maspid the Meitsheter Illui before an estimated 15,000 people
Title: Rav Boruch Ber’s Hesped on East Broadway
Location: New York
Document: Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
Time: July 10, 1928
In 1889, a 12-year-old neophyte named Shlomo Polachek arrived in the prestigious Volozhin yeshivah. Myths aside, it was extremely unusual for a boy that age to study there. The yeshivah alumnus who had brought him, Rav Aharon Rabinowitz, was asked why he had brought a mere child. The Netziv even asked where his crib was.
Rav Aharon replied, “Why don’t you test the child to see how large a crib he needs?”
Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, one of the roshei yeshivah, walked in during the farher and was astounded by his genius. Reb Chaim aptly dubbed him the Meitsheter Illui after his town of origin.
Following a stint as a rosh yeshivah in Lida, the Illui was brought to America in 1922 by Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel to be the first rosh yeshivah of RIETS. In this capacity he delivered brilliant shiurim, sharing Rav Chaim’s Torah with his talmidim. Sadly, his life was cut short by a tooth infection at age 51. His close friend Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz was then in New York fundraising, and was maspid him before an estimated 15,000 people at the funeral, held in front of the original RIETS building on East Broadway.
Did You Know
Rav Elchonon Wasserman attested that he personally heard from Reb Chaim, regarding the Illui in 1896, “Aza meshunediger illui vi der Meitsheter hob ich in leben nit gezen — I’ve never met a genius like the Meitsheter my entire life.”
Did You Know
Rav Boruch Ber’s role in the development of RIETS didn’t stop there. During that same US visit, Rav Revel invited Rav Boruch Ber to deliver a shiur at RIETS. Following the Meitsheter’s untimely passing, Rav Boruch Ber recommended that his rebbi Reb Chaim’s son, Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, take his place. His recommendation was accepted and after some bureaucratic immigration delays, Rav Moshe duly became rosh yeshivah in 1929.
The 21st of Tammuz was the 92nd yahrtzeit of the Meitsheter Illui.
Thank you to Heshy Borenstein for his research assistance
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 819)
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