| Magazine Feature |

The Voice Grows Stronger

Forty years later, Rav Yitzchok Hutner still speaks to our souls

Photos: Trainer Photography, Rabbi Shimon Yosef Meller, author of HaRav MiBrisk, Kiddush Hashem Archive

America was here first, it’s true.

But like an astute general, he assessed it, studied it, observed its customs and characteristics, and waited patiently for the right moment.

A master of mashal, finding tangible means to express sublime concepts — which he compared to using a simple candle to locate a fallen diamond — he described the spiritual situation in America of the 1930s, not long after his arrival. “The rabbis are like shadowboxers, waiting to see their congregants move before they respond.”

But Rav Yitzchok Hutner didn’t wait. He moved first and the world would never be the same.

Warsaw was not just the capital of Poland, it was the capital of Jewish Poland, and when Rav Yitzchok Hutner was born in 1906, it was the crossroads of the Jewish world.

The child soaked in the richness of its spirit, yet unlike those who shed skins and wrap themselves in new ones as they mature, he managed to somehow maintain its flavor. He would go on to shine in the halls of the litvishe yeshivah world, but the probing depth of Kotzk would remain part of him.

In Slabodka, he came under the influence of the man who would shape him, the Alter of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel. The Alter would use both arms, drawing close and distancing, in bringing forth the potential of the young man in whom he identified as having “princely traits.”

In 1925, Yitzchok Hutner was sent to Eretz Yisrael to join the Slabodka yeshivah’s recently established branch in Chevron, and there, he would broaden his horizons still wider, uncovering the sweetness in the wells of Jerusalem, adding color and vibrancy to the vision he would one day convey.

Narrowly escaping the 1929 Chevron massacre, he returned to Europe, and in 1933, he married Rebbetzin Masha; together, they moved to the country that Rav Chaim Volozhiner had called “the last stanzia,” the final station of Torah before Mashiach comes.

Within a few years, he had been hired as a menahel in Yeshivah and Mesivta Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin, the institution which he would stamp with his essence. It would be there, in the much-later-established Yeshiva Pachad Yitzchok in Jerusalem, and in the pages of his sefer, Pachad Yitzchok, that he would teach until the 20th of Kislev, 1980.

It’s been 40 years since his petirah, and a generation that never knew him has arisen.

Today, even if those who saw the actual light are few, those drawn to the reflected light are many.

It’s true that they never heard his distinctive hum during the shtille Shemoneh Esreh of Rosh Hashanah Mussaf, never heard the richness of the Warsaw-hued Slabodka Yiddish as he delivered a ma’amar, and never sat across from him in the dark-paneled office, feeling his gaze penetrate the depths of their being.

And yet.

His Torah, somehow sophisticated and transcendent, has not just endured, it’s been found to give life to children of a different America, a world even more debased and sullied than the one he encountered.

His teachings continue to form his chinuch approach: The depth and splendor that flows out of the pages of his sefer, Pachad Yitzchok, thrill sophisticated bnei Torah even as his vision of the essential holiness of a Jewish neshamah continues to prove a life-raft for struggling souls.

Because struggle, he taught, isn’t the opposite of growth, but part of growth.

Forty years, the period given by Chazal to fully internalize and discern the teachings of a rebbi, have passed. And it’s specifically after 40 years that we can appreciate the strength of the Yiddishkeit he sent forth, a Yiddishkeit that would capture America and uplift American youth, suffusing them so totally that they would become teachers themselves.

Of course, not all of his talmidim are formal classroom teachers. One of the early talmidim told the Rosh Yeshivah of his career ambitions: He planned to become a synagogue rabbi. Rav Hutner listened, then remarked, “I would rather produce a hundred balabatim than a hundred rabbanim — because rabbanim without balabatim to follow them, to implement their vision, will be lost, but good balabatim will always make sure to have a good rav.”

 

The Plan

Rav Hutner wasn’t the prophet of old, thundering from the bimah in the emptying shul, warning parents about the fates of their children. He didn’t have to thunder, because he engaged, listened, probed, challenged, and waited.

The parents already knew. Everyone knew. This was America, right?

Together with Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, he labored to identify the key capable of opening the heart of the American teenager. After a year of intense discussion, they concluded that American culture revolved around hero worship, and they would channel that tendency in a positive direction: the talmid chacham.

He would be the hero, and Torah the currency worthy of admiration.

There were clues of what Rav Hutner was planning, and they are evident in the way he signed his letters:

“Hametzapeh” — one who anticipates, “leharamas karnam shel amalei Torah” — a heightened appreciation for those who toil in Torah.

Metzapeh. He knew it was coming. Amalei Torah. Respect for those who toil in Torah, not just the scholars and communal leaders and Jewish elite, but for the bochur sitting with a Shaagas Aryeh and laboring over each sweet line.

But creating talmidei chachamim isn’t just about teaching Torah, for how can a person transmit the delicate grandeur of the throne to a peasant?

He would create vessels too, and only then fill them with light.

After one of those shiurim, a bochur approached with a question. He didn’t understand the Tosafos, the way the Rosh Yeshivah was teaching it. “If you did or didn’t understand it isn’t that important at this moment,” the Rosh Yeshivah said. “What is much more important to me is that you have a desire to learn more Tosafos.”

That first generation of talmidim didn’t arrive knowing very much, but this young rosh yeshivah, already an accomplished author of seforim, was up to the task. Years later, he would reflect that, “To be a rebbi of capable talmidim takes a gaon. But to be a rebbi of weak talmidim? That takes a gaon hagaonim.”

Two Turns

Early students of Rav Hutner say the words “Stone Avenue” like others articulate the words “Volozhin” or “Lublin.”

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit East New York, guided by my wife’s grandfather, Rabbi Gershon Morgenstern, a child of the neighborhood. He’d grown up on those cracked sidewalks, learning in Chaim Berlin and settling there after marriage, joining the kollel.

As we walked through the streets, he was chatty, sharing memories of the landmarks — Moyshe Oysher sang in this shul, the pickles here, oh boy were they good, the Amboy Dukes owned this park, they would beat you up if you looked at them the wrong way — but when we stood in front of 350 Stone Avenue, he fell silent.

The building was gone. The street name had been changed. Wiesner’s Café, where the guys would go for a coffee and Danish, was gone.

The street was eerily quiet at midday, just the low rumble of a homeless man speaking to himself, the sound of a shovel on the asphalt, sirens coming closer, then disappearing, then coming closer again, as if playing a bizarre game, and Zaidy Morgenstern didn’t talk.

“Here,” he finally said, “in this space, the Rosh Yeshivah showed us life.”

In his voice, in his face, I understand that if I can’t relate to the emptiness and pain outside the building, I can never appreciate the fulfillment and joy that was inside.

It was there, amid the din of pushcart peddlers hawking rye bread and salted herring, where culture belonged to Yiddish newspapers and Yiddish theater, that Rav Yitzchok Hutner took a former bank building and opened the vaults.

The sound of bochurim learning wafted up from the beis medrash to his office one day, and a talmid asked if he was enjoying the sweet song.

“The Chiddushei Harim taught,” he responded, “that when Klal Yisrael stood at Har Sinai, two things happened at once — their faces were to the mountain, and also, their backs were turned on the world. I know that the bochurim are standing mit’n ponim tzum barg, with their faces to the mountain… but I’m not yet certain that their backs are turned to the world….”

In 1960, just before the yeshivah would leave the neighborhood, it released a record album, called The Torah Lives and Sings. Three of the compositions are the Rosh Yeshivah’s, and the words of one niggun, along with the tune, convey the essence of his approach.

“Ki avodai heim — they are My servants, v’lo avadim l’avadim — and not servants to servants.”

He lifted them to a place where both things would happen at once. They turned to the light, and also turned away from darkness.

The Right Spirit

People say that sensitivity can’t be taught, but in Rav Hutner’s yeshivah, even concepts that are difficult to convey were articulated with fluency.

He taught sensitivity to authentic Yiddishkeit, but he didn’t need a blackboard or lectern.

One day, the Rosh Yeshivah, who had been clean-shaven when he joined the faculty of the yeshivah in 1936, started to grow a beard. The boys, attuned to the fact that he didn’t just do things indiscriminately, asked about it.

A picture had emerged from Hitler’s Europe and it had shown a smirking Nazi cutting off the beard of a Jew. To the disdainful officer, the Yiddishkeit lay in that beard, and if so, Rav Hutner wanted one.

This same sensitivity had marked him as a bochur, when he authored his first sefer, Toras Hanazir. In an enthusiastic haskamah, Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzenski used the term “ashrei yoladeto — praised is the one who gave birth” to the author. The 19-year-old mechaber underlined those words when he sent a copy to his mother. Rav Chaim Ozer laughed with pleasure when he heard of the young man’s creativity.

When Yitzchok Hutner was a young bochur, he was once speaking with the Slabodka mashgiach, Rav Avraham Grodzinsky, and he had used the example of a cripple while making a point. The conversation continued, but later on, the mashgiach, who himself had a limp, took him aside and pointed out that a sensitive person has to be careful even when choosing which examples to use.

He internalized that lesson.

When he once suggested a shidduch to a talmid, the bochur came back with the reply that he had done his research and he was saying no.

“You don’t say ‘no’ to a bas Yisrael,” the Rosh Yeshivah said. “You don’t have to meet her, but you don’t say ‘no.’ That’s not a nusach we use on a Yiddishe tochter.”

He was once speaking in learning with some bochurim in the beis medrash, and he noticed that they were grinning at something behind him. He closed the sefer and ended the conversation, clearly disappointed. Later, they came to apologize and to explain that they weren’t laughing at anything he was saying — they had simply seen something amusing behind him.

He showed them the words of Rashi in Sefer Daniel (1:4): “They would hold themselves back from laughter… because of awe of the king…”

A ben Torah doesn’t laugh in the beis medrash. It isn’t halachah, but sensitivity. Awe of the King fused with joy of service in His beis medrash. If you know what a beis medrash is, if you know what Torah is, then you know what you are.

On the jacket cover of the 1960 album, the text says, “It would be an anomaly to find a scholar of law singing while studying, but a Torah student would find it almost unbearable to refrain from accompanying his studying with song…. In this beis medrash these melodies grew naturally from the ever present Torah spirit and warm environment…..”

The Torah spirit.

A certain great rosh yeshivah suffered a debilitating stroke, and it affected his spirits. He could no longer deliver the brilliant shiurim for which he was famous, the penetrating shmuessen which elevated the talmidim.

Rav Hutner came to visit him.

“You know, each morning we say, ‘Ani ma’amin… b’techiyas hameisim…’ Do you think it only means that after we die, we will be reborn? No,” Rav Hutner roared, “it means az mir vellen kein mohl nisht shtarben, we will never allow ourselves to die!”

Igniting Others

That first generation would provide something unique to the nascent American yeshivah world: Chaim Berlin would never have alumni, only talmidim. There were formal talmidim and talmidim who had left yeshivah, but their souls, their hearts and minds and their essence continued to be bound with the Rosh Yeshivah.

Rav Hutner opened a kollel, Gur Aryeh, a crowning achievement of the man who dreamt of creating high-level talmidei chachamim. In this kollel, there was no formal seder on Erev Shabbos and one of the yungeleit asked the Rosh Yeshivah the reason.

Rav Hutner, who was somehow able to stamp talmidim with his own spirit while letting them soar free as individuals, explained: “Reb Shlomo, you sit and learn, seder after seder… when do you have time to ‘be’?”

Over the years, I have been drawn to the intoxicating light of Rav Hutner, driven to sit with every talmid who would allow me to listen, eager to hear from anyone who knew him, inspired enough to just stand in the corner of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin and of Yeshiva Pachad Yitzchok, trying to soak in remnants of his spirit.

I have heard a lot, different talmidim describing the very same man in a variety of hues, each of them seeing their own life’s journey as an outgrowth of his direction, diverse and alike and always, giving away their connection to him in the way they pronounce certain words (Roish Hashanah, emphasis on the “Roish,” and rolling the R’s).

Slabodka lives. And the way he kept it alive was by imbuing them with kavod, seeing it as central to their growth. Kavod for themselves, the few souls in a world of millions privileged enough to learn Torah, kavod for those who taught Torah, and kavod for the Creator’s glorious canvas, the world itself.

He would quote the Gemara (Sotah 48b) that talks about the katnus, the small-mindedness of tzaddikim who did not believe in Hakadosh Boruch Hu with complete faith.

Why is a lack of faith connected to katnus? Because one who has faith in a Creator also has faith in His creations, perceives the inherent glory and majesty in every person, every experience and every object. To have limited vision is to be small, to see small.

Rav Hutner was once walking in the Bowery, a street lined with taverns and bars, and a drunken man, covered in filth, was blocking the way. The drunk noticed the Rosh Yeshivah approaching and struggled to rise, his trembling fingers searching in the dirt all around him for his hat, which he finally located and placed on his head.

The Rosh Yeshivah observed this and remarked, “A human being needs kavod. This is his kavod.”

A talmid told the Rosh Yeshivah that his roommate was depressed, barely able to get out of bed.

“When you go to the dining room, bring back a heaping plate for him,” Rav Hutner said, “but not a plate filled with food. A plate filled with kavod. He will get up.”

That key, kavod, was used again and again, a thousand keys for a thousand hearts, exposing the kavod in each person — and until today, you can see it.

Where there’s a talmid of Rav Hutner, there’s dignity, nobility, and respect.

On Yom Tov, they feel elevated. As a simchah, you can see the gratitude. And when they speak, you can hear his echo.

Because while his formal shiur was brilliant, his letters — both in Torah and in hashkafah — were poetic in structure and in scope. If there was a time that he managed to ignite the souls of his talmidim, lifting them all at once, it was during the ma’amarim.

He used the Yamim Tovim as his springboard, the cheirus and simchah, teshuvah and hoda’ah, malchus and emunah, as the basis, but even that was laced with kavod.

Kavod for the neshamos inside us, kavod for the experiences in our shared history, kavod for the mission with which we are charged.

And talmidim walked out after those ma’amarim feeling their own destiny, seeing their own place in the chain stretching back through galus, through the House of Glory, a path lined with nevi’im all the way back to Sinai.

Is there any wonder that this awareness bubbles within them, giving them the ability to ignite others?

Everyone a Different Story

Torah is another one of those words that’s pronounced with a certain lilt, the way he taught them, for it is the cause and it is the effect and it is the meaning of everything. Torah doesn’t just refer to the Book, but the world, all of creation. The philosophers and academics, Rav Hutner said, struggle to find a place for G-d in this world, immersed as they are in the reality of the here and now. Torah scholars, however, are so infatuated with G-d, that they struggle to find a place for the universe itself within Him.

He was Torah’s fiercest defender. A young man was very frustrated by a decision made by a particular talmid chacham, and Rav Hutner took the blame, creating a narrative that made it appear as if he was the one who’d erred in judgment.

“Rosh Yeshivah, why not tell him the emes, that the Rosh Yeshivah was not at fault?” asked a surprised talmid, who knew the truth.

“Because this way, he is upset with me,” said Rav Hutner, “but if he knew what really happened, he might hate Torah!”

He didn’t enjoy rabbinic meetings, and once, he returned to the car after a long, drawn-out meeting with various roshei yeshivah, clearly discouraged.

“If these meetings are so unproductive, why does the Rosh Yeshivah attend?” asked the talmid.

“I go,” Rav Hutner replied, “to hear the way that Rav Aharon Kotler says the word ‘Torah.’ ”

The humor — the rich, clever Poilishe wit — was another tool in the vast arsenal, the broad collection of brushes used by this master artist.

He attended a similar rabbinic meeting in Jerusalem, and as he left the room, he whispered to the talmid who had accompanied him, “You must never divulge what happened in this room today.”

“But Rosh Yeshivah, nothing even happened!” the confused talmid exclaimed.

“Exactly,” Rav Hutner replied, “that is precisely what you must never tell anyone.”

A father, inquiring about a prospective match for his daughter, called for information about one of the talmidim. Rav Hutner spoke glowingly about the young man and said, “I’m not like other roshei yeshivah, who say the same lies about every bochur. I say a different lie about each one.”

The father chuckled. But talmidim understood that it was more than just a cute comment. Every bochur, a different story.

As the seudah was being served one Leil Shabbos, the Rosh Yeshivah commented to the talmidim lining his dining room table that proper derech eretz is to wait until everyone is served and seated before starting to eat.

He looked around. “But the real nisayon arises by the soup…. You have to choose between hot soup and kalte derech eretz or varme derech eretz and cold soup….”

And at times, the wit was used not just to teach, but to defend.

He was walking on East Broadway with Rav Moshe Feinstein when the playwright Sholom Asch approached.

“Uht kummen Gott’s hint, here comes God’s dogs,” said the virulently anti-religious writer.

Rav Hutner looked at him sadly. “Besser zein a hunt far’n Gott, better to be a dog for God, vi a gott tzu der hint, then to be a god to the dogs,” he said.

You Feel Like Dancing

What is the most important quality in a rebbi?

To be able to speak, to communicate, to transmit is valuable, but most important, said Rav Hutner, is to be able to listen. “Those rebbeim who had the koach hashmiah, they merited having many talmidim,” he once said.

The father of a particular talmid was unhappy with the choices his son had made, and whenever this man spoke to the Rosh Yeshivah, he would complain about where his son was headed. This man once asked his son to arrange a meeting together with Rav Hutner, but the bochur, loath to waste his rebbi’s time, didn’t pass on the message.

The son tarried long enough that the father finally approached the Rosh Yeshivah directly, and Rav Hutner called the bochur in.

“Why didn’t you tell me your father wanted to meet?”

The bochur explained that the Rosh Yeshivah was busy and the conversation had no purpose anyhow.

“Does he feel better after he speaks with me?”

Yes, the bochur conceded, his father felt calmer after he shared his frustrations.

The Rosh Yeshivah looked at the bochur searchingly. “Do you know of a better use of time then mach’n gring oif a Yiddishe hartz, lightening the burden on another Yid’s heart?”

With talmidim so varied in those early years of the American yeshivah world, how can one assess a legacy, especially those of us who never even saw him? But I recall the words of a talmid who was describing the milieu and setting, how the Rosh Yeshivah came into a noisy, colorful world, cutting through the din of Beatles music and plaid overcoats and long cars, stopping them cold in their tracks.

“We heard him and the rest of it faded away, it lost its allure and color as we understood that there is something called a ben Torah. Once we did, he helped us understand that we were those bnei Torah. We would leave the building feeling so much more elevated than all the noise around us.”

But that wasn’t it.

“He was speaking about Knesses Yisrael one day and suddenly, I had an epiphany. That is me, I thought, I am Knesses Yisrael, these midrashim are about me. That’s us. I felt like dancing.”

Imagine — whatever role they chose and wherever they’ve gone, his talmidim are dancing. Knesses Yisrael! Can there be a greater cause for rejoicing?

And so, even in the world of red zones and lockdowns and general disdain for the old-fashioned, non-progressive way which we, Knesses Yisrael, conducts itself in exile, comes this message from the Rosh Yeshivah.

People endure two kinds of oppression and pain: tzaros and bizyonos. Tzaros is suffering, and the way to deal with it to try to protect yourself. Bizyonos is humiliation, and the general reaction is to try to persuade the humiliator to stop the torment, that you really don’t deserve it, that you’re better than he thinks.

Once, Rav Hutner said, Yidden understood that the hatred of nations was tzaros, so we reacted by trying to protect ourselves. Today, we mistake it for bizyonos and we try to change their minds and persuade them that we’re better than they think.

But that is futile. The greatness and the glory and the splendor — Knesses Yisrael! — is in a different league, and if we believe it, then that’s enough. His talmidim, they know it, and that’s what you can see in the way they carry themselves.

In Your Hands

From Stone Avenue in Brooklyn to a short stint in Far Rockaway in the mid-1960s, the yeshivah ultimately took root in Flatbush, where it would spawn a community. Its impressive home on Coney Island Avenue would draw the masses throughout the years, talmidim and their talmidim, the place that taught the American yeshivah world the splendor of a Yom Tov.

Yamim Noraim, hakafos. And Purim.

Perhaps Purim most of all, for Rav Hutner, maestro of chinuch, figured out how to channel the emotions of the day — joy and confidence and boundless faith — into growth; to fuse the verses of the Megillah and the revelations of Chazal with the blare of cymbals in contemporary America.

They rejoiced with him at the head, because he pulled back the canvas on painting after painting, showing them a million reasons for joy.

But America wasn’t his last stop. Rav Hutner would travel to Eretz Yisrael often, establishing a yeshivah there too, and eventually, settling there as well. After he arrived, an Israeli journalist asked if he intended to build Torah in that country as he had in America.

“Not to build Torah,” said the Rosh Yeshivah, “but to plant Torah.”

Building is done with finished substances, bricks piling up on other bricks, but they cannot grow, because there is no life within them. Plants are alive, each one able to spawn new plants, to create new life.

Rav Shlomo Freifeld ztz”l, one of Rav Hutner’s star talmidim, recalled once approaching his rebbi’s kever on Har Hazeisim, when he saw one of the great Torah personalities of the generation, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, carrying a bouquet of flowers, which he placed upon Rav Hutner’s grave.

Chacham Ovadiah was expressing something, a reverence for the beauty and aroma of the Rosh Yeshivah’s Torah, the petals of each flower telling of devoted care, of sun and rain and toil creating magnificence.

But maybe he was actually saying this as well: planting, not building.

To a talmid who had decided to leave yeshivah, Rav Hutner remarked, “Until now, you were in my hands. Now, I am in your hands.”

They carry him still, and in doing so, they have proudly sent forth the anthem of this wondrous man who worked in relative seclusion, rarely speaking beyond the sacred embrace of his beis medrash, investing his time in individuals rather than organizations, intensely private even as ripples of his influence spread.

Az mir vellen kein mohl nisht shtarben…

His Torah lives and sings.

WITH HIS STAMP

Rav Yitzchok Hutner was born in Warsaw in late winter of 1906, in a home saturated with Torah and chassidus. His father, Reb Chaim Yoel, had been a young orphan, raised in the home of the children of the Lodzer Rav, Rav Elya Chaim Meisel. The chinuch in the Hutner home followed the precise direction of the sainted Lodzer Rav, who fused Torah greatness with an extraordinary sense of responsibility to others.

A frequent visitor was a revered uncle named Reb Benzion Ostrover, a chassid of the Kotzker Rebbe and the Chiddushei Harim, and Reb Benzion imbued young Yitzchok with the fire and intensity of Kotzk as well.

Reb Chaim Yoel was deeply involved in the education of his son, arranging for private melamdim to teach the bright young boy, and one of those rebbeim, a talmid of Slabodka, felt that Yitzchok Hutner was a candidate for the great yeshivah. Though he was only 15 years old, the new arrival immediately drew the attention of the Alter of Slabodka.

He was able to absorb from all sorts of great men, from the old Yishuv, to Sephardic mekubalim, to Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook. But he would never really leave Slabodka, continuing on to the yeshivah’s branch in Eretz Yisrael and eventually transporting Slabodka and its message about the majesty of man to America, planting it in his own yeshivah.

While still a bochur, he authored his first sefer, Toras Hanazir, which earned wide acclaim from the gedolei Torah of the generation. A year later he married Rebbetzin Masha and together, they came to America.

In the mid-1930s, he joined the staff of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin, an existing yeshivah, and within a few years, he created a beis medrash level along with the high school. All sorts of bochurim were drawn to the yeshivah, Rav Hutner somehow able to connect with accomplished talmidei chachamim who’d just arrived from Europe, and American college students, sincere and eager, but will little Torah background.

He stamped them with his stamp, creating a breed virtually unknown in America, called the ben Torah. In time, he would preside over a full yeshivah, from nursery to beis medrash, and a kollel as well, forming a community that would show the rest of American Orthodoxy not just what limud haTorah is, but what kavod haTorah is.

His shiurim, his ma’amarim and his personal conversations elevated them and charged them, investing them with a deep appreciation for Torah and inspiring them to find ways to uphold and honor the Torah and those who learn it.

Though looked to as a leader both by Agudath Israel and Torah Umesorah, Rav Hutner rejected public roles, preferring to work on an individual level, impacting talmidim and admirers one by one.

In the late 1960s, Rav Hutner took to traveling to Eretz Yisrael more frequently, working to establish a yeshivah there as well. On a return flight to New York in September 1970, the Rosh Yeshivah, along with his rebbetzin and his daughter and son-in-law Rav Yonasan and Rebbetzin Bruria David, were among the passengers hijacked by Palestinian terrorists, trapped in a Jordanian airfield, while the world looked on in grave concern, davening for a happy ending.

After several weeks, they were released, arriving home just before Rosh Hashanah. Characteristically, Rav Hutner culled depth and meaning even in the trauma of the experience and incorporated the lessons learned into his understanding of the difference between Eisav and Yishmael, based on observations he’d made as a captive at the hands of children of Yishmael.

The last decade of his life was spent teaching, writing, listening, and guiding a huge network of talmidim of both Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin and Yeshiva Pachad Yitzchok in Jerusalem. Among his talmidim are gedolei Torah, poskim, rabbanim and mechabrei seforim, but also dedicated and inspired balabatim. As Rav Shmuel Berenbaum remarked in a hesped for Rav Hutner, “Other roshei yeshivah worked to create a Yissaschar in America, but Rav Hutner was also creating the Zevulun.”

He was niftar on the 20th of Kislev 1980, and laid to rest on Har Hazeisim, in the city he so loved. His children, Rav Yonasan and Rebbetzin David, his classic sefer, Pachad Yitzchok, the yeshivos he planted and talmidim he built stand tall and bright, the eternal legacy of the master.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 838)

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