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Weekly Chizuk



(Adapted from Birkas Mordechai by Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Rosh Yeshivas Ateres Yisroel, Yerushalayim.)

The Lord said to Moshe, "Take for yourself Yehoshua bin Nun… And you shall bestow of your honor upon him so that all the congregation of the children of Israel will listen to him (with reverence and awe - Rashi)" (Bemidbar 27:18,20).

The elders of that generation said: The countenance of Moshe was like that of the sun; the countenance of Yehoshua was like that of the moon. Oy for such shame! Oy for such reproach! (Bava Basra 75a)

This is remarkable. True, the face of Yehoshua was only like the moon and not like the sun. He wasn't as great as Moshe Rabbeinu. But why should that cause such shame? And not merely shame, but "Oy for such shame!" An unequaled shame!

What was there to be ashamed of? Was there anyone else who had such a countenance? Did anyone else's face look as bright as the moon? Was there anyone else in history before Yehoshua or afterwards whose face shone like the moon? He was unequaled!

We should be overjoyed at the fact that someone had attained the unparalleled achievement that his countenance shone like the moon. We would be ecstatic if our faces shone like mere stars, or even less. And yet Yehoshua's face shining like the moon was a cause of such anguish, shame, and disgrace that everyone was bemoaning, "Oy for such shame!"

This teaches us how distant we are from the pure truth; how far we are from seeing things from an absolutely clear perspective! When you gaze at the potential lying within the person, this should be the minimum of one's aspiration. A truly ambitious person will not rest until he realizes 100% of his full potential.

The elders of that generation closely followed their Rebbe and the heights he had attained. They studied him meticulously. This is our example of a leader. And they were convinced that he was the real measuring stick. This is the way a leader should look. If his successor does not match their expectations, this is shameful. He doesn't measure up.

And when someone doesn't feel the embarrassment, it isn't because they're satisfied with whom they are. Rather it stems from a lack of appreciation of what a Man really is and the lack of determination to fully tap their hidden potential.

Yes, it is admiral to be satisfied with whatever you have - that is only concerning the material. But in regard to ruchnius it is terrible. When one's actuality is put face to face with one's potential, that should be humiliating.

When we demand more from someone, he usually answers, "I'm no better than anyone else. What are you complaining about? I'm doing everything I'm supposed to. Why do you make more demands on me than on others?"

The reason is because we lived through better times than now. We were once in the presence of the most illustrious individuals. We saw towering personalities and realized what a person can really accomplish.

You're right. We have no complaints vis-?-vis the present in and of itself. But once we have seen the attainment of true potential, we must start making demands. You are so far from any inkling of your potential. Your present being is so distant from what we once saw in the past. You can do better. Therefore we come to you with demands. Because if you don't reach your potential, then "Oy for such shame!"

* * *

Our generation was privileged to have witnessed one of the gedolei hador of our times, a true Torah personality. My dear beloved rebbe, Maran HaGaon Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt"l passed away a little over a year ago. A new biography has just been published by ArtScroll. This sefer shares with us some highlights of Rav's Scheinberg's levaya:

Rav Yitzchak Scheiner, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Kamenitz in Yeruchalayim, who was a friend of Rav Scheinberg for many decades, spoke at the funeral and put his many achievements in perspective. "It was unusual for children growing up in America in those days to remain religious, let alone to become a gadol in torah and yirah."

The question that gnaws at us is how an American bochur could transform himself into such an Ish Kadosh? A little insight is offered us in the beginning of the sefer:

Prior to his marriage Chaim Pinchas learned under Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, the Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. Rav Moshe was the son of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, who was known as Rav Chaim Brisker, and the brother of Rav Yitzchak Zev, the Brisker Rav. His brilliant shiurim were world-renowned, and he introduced American Jews to the revolution of lomdus that his illustrious father had revealed - the acclaimed "Brisker method" - which stresses incisive analysis and precise classification. Chaim Pinchas gained much from these shiurim. Years later, he would fondly reminisce about the time he spent learning from Rav Moshe.

On 21 Adar, 5700/1940, shortly before his death, Rav Moshe spoke at the chag hasemichah (rabbinic ordination celebration) of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. This derashah, published in Hapardes in Iyar of that year, encapsulates Rav Moshe's hopes and dreams for his talmidim:

"Word has already reached us in America regarding the terrible persecution and brutal murder of Polish Jewry. With that horribly tragic reality serving as our backdrop, I plead with you - some of the future great American rabbis - that the responsibility of spreading and broadening the horizon of Torah is incumbent upon you. You now shoulder the burden of saving the She'eiris Hapleitah and ensuring the continuance of the unbroken chain of mesorah!"

His students, and the crowd that had assembled for this momentous occasion, were used to Rav Moshe's brilliant, deep shiurim, based on the style of the Brisker chakirah. But this impassioned plea was different; sensing the grave danger, he cried from the depths of his soul.

Rav Moshe punctuated this point with a crucial message; "It is quite possible that the future of the Jewish people is dependent upon you! The neshamah of Klal Yisrael rests in your hands." Thus, Rav Moshe urged these 18 musmachim not to change "mikutzo shel yud midaas Toraseinu hakadoshah [even the tip of the smallest letter, yud, from our holy Torah]." In order to preserve the uncompromising sanctity of Klal Yisrael, he said; "You must extend the job description of rabbi to include that of being a mochiach [one who reproves] and mechanech [educator] for yiras Hashem veToraso [fear of Heaven and His Torah]." When Rav Chaim Pmchas served as a rabbi, he accepted upon himself this job description, as well.

Although the Meitcheter Iluy, as Rav Shlomo Polachek was known, died at the age of 50, his contribution to the Torah world was immeasurable - both in Europe and later in America, where he taught many talmidim in Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan.

When Shlomo was 5, his level of learning was well above that of his contemporaries. The local melamdim of Sinichinitz, near Meitchet, were hesitant to teach the town prodigy. He first learned in Slonim, where he "graduated" years ahead of his peers. By the time he was 7, he was devouring three blatt a week in Maseches Beitzah with the commentaries of the Maharam and Maharsha! When he was 12, Shlomo entered the famed Yeshivah of Volozhin and his reputation began to spread. After learning in Volozhin, he learned in Brisk.

A pamphlet that was compiled by Rav Shlomo's talmidim shortly after his death contains a letter written bv Rav Elchanan Wasserman in which he states that he met the Meitcheter Iluy only a few times. However, in 1897, when Rav Shlomo was 20 years old, Rav Elchanan heard Rav Chaim Brisker comment, "Aza meshunedika iluy vi dehr Meitcheter hub ich in lebeit nit gezein - In my whole life. I never met such an extraordinary genius as the Meitcheter."

Humble and unassuming, Shlomo shied away from the countless admirers who marveled at his brilliance. His talmidim were in awe of his shiurim, but perhaps even more of his tzidkus and humility. They gathered around him after each shiur, not wanting to take leave of their rebbi.

Tragically, after a two week illness, Rav Shlomo's life was cut short.

At his levayah, one of his talmidim said, "Maybe America does not have what it takes to keep such a gaon and gadol." And then he wept along with hundreds of others.

But the young men had seen greatness and tasted from Rav Shlomo's brilliance and dazzling chiddushim. They had glimpsed the world of Volozhin and gleaned from the nuggets of Rav Chaim Brisker and the Netziv before him. And the American boys, Chaim Pinchas among them, would always treasure those nuggets. Rav Scheinberg studied under and closely observed his rebbes, gedolim from a previous generation. He studied them closely and internalized the lesson we learned from Parshas Pinchas. He strove to emulate them and become one of them. His aspirations led him to squeeze out his full potential until he shone like the sun. That is our job: aspiration! Squeeze out your full potential!

Gut Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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