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The Rosh Yeshivah Is Calling

Although it took more than four decades, those words spoken from his heart finally entered my heart


I can still hear his voice loud and strong as he led the yeshivah in singing Maoz Tzur on Chanukah.

Friday, 7 Adar Alef, marks the 29th yahrtzeit of Rav Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht ztz”l, the rosh yeshivah of Kerem B’Yavneh.

Rav Goldvicht, a talmid of Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, the Brisker Rav, and the Chazon Ish, was chosen to lead Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh from its inception in 1954. Under his leadership, the yeshivah grew from a handful of talmidim into an institution housing hundreds of bochurim and a large kollel.

I had the privilege of learning Torah from him in the late 1970s. When I think back 45 years, one incident in particular remains etched in my mind.

Like many roshei yeshivah, Rav Goldvicht would make an annual trip to the States to raise much-needed funds.

However, unlike others, Rav Goldvicht would gather all the talmidim in the beis medrash and request a brachah from each one that his fundraising mission on behalf of the yeshivah be successful.

In a rare instance of personal disclosure, he mentioned that when he was appointed to head the new yeshivah in 1954, he was told he would be absolved of any fundraising responsibilities.

But as time passed, the yeshivah grew. And along with the additional students came additional expenses. So Rav Goldvicht found himself among the ranks of the many roshei yeshivah who traveled for fundraising.

His voice carried a hint of sadness and perhaps even dismay. He was clearly apprehensive about the upcoming trip.

I recall being bewildered at all this. “Why does Rav Goldvicht feel so uneasy about his trip? Why does he need our brachos to raise funds? For a well-respected rosh yeshivah, what could be so difficult about raising funds? Don’t people want to help the yeshivah?”

My youthful innocence was due to my complete ignorance of the realities of fundraising.

With the approach of his yahrtzeit, I lovingly recalled my rosh yeshivah. Although it took more than four decades, those words spoken from his heart finally entered my heart.

As our shul embarked on a major Causematch fundraising drive, I understood, suddenly most profoundly, the hesitancy and the discomfort Rav Goldvicht felt as he prepared to travel and attempt to appeal to people’s hearts to support his yeshivah.

As I sat in my office, calling people and explaining the difficult financial situation the shul was in, I thought back to Rav Goldvicht and his words almost half a century before. His desperate tone of his voice resonated with me.

The naivete of my youth was replaced with real-time challenges of adulthood.

I understood the difficulties this Yerushalmi-born Gaon faced as he was forced to go to a land whose language he did not speak and whose customs were so different from those of the Chatzer Strauss of his birth.

Yet more than anything, I understood the discomfort involved with the sometimes overwhelming task of petitioning people to part with their hard-earned income.

Each time I called someone and tried to convey the needs of the shul, I could envision Rav Goldvicht sitting before us and requesting our brachah. I could feel his uneasiness as he prepared to engage in the most unpleasant aspect of his role as rosh yeshivah.

Facing the challenging undertaking of fundraising as I gained new empathy for the feelings and words of Rav Goldvich brought home the true meaning of Chazal’s words: “A person does not fully understand his rebbi until after 40 years.”

Think about that the next time your rav or rosh yeshivah gives you a call.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 999)

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