• Transcriptions

    Rabbi Tzvi Pruzansky


    Giving Shalom

    First, let me preface my remarks by saying that when I was a young bochur in Philadelphia, bochurim would frequently go to Lakewood.  And whenever a bochur returned, the question was: "Did you give shalom to Reb Aharon?" 

    It was a whole shailah of how to go about it.  Did you try and bump into him, or did you let him bump into you?  It was poshut a moirah - it was awesome to give him shalom.

    So when the bochur would come back, he'd tell his friends, "Yes, Reb Aharon was waiting by the tea room," or "Reb Aharon was waiting outside, and then I gave him shalom."

    He was such a malach Elokim that you were simply afraid to go and give him shalom.

    I used to come to Lakewood for Simchas Torah.  For the first few years, I would never give shalom.  I would walk by and say "Gut Yom Tov" like everyone else because I followed the crowd, but to give him shalom was frightening.  I can't ever recall feeling that with any other Gadol.



    Summer in Lakewood

    Before I actually became a talmid, I spent the summers of '58 and '59 in Lakewood.  I originally came to learn a little extra, and I ended up in a day camp here run by a Lakewood yungerman, Avraham Shachne Zucker. 

    What struck me then was that when Reb Aharon would come into the dining room Friday night, before he'd make kiddush, he'd stop into the kitchen to say "Gut Shabbos" to the cook.  Her name was Mrs. Shoenig, a widow.  In anticipation of Reb Aharon's coming, she would straighten out her apron and would pull down her tichel to make sure that not a hair stuck out.  It was a hachana for the gadol hador.  You could see that for her, it was worth her whole week's work just to get that personal "Gut Shabbos" from Reb Aharon.  Only after that would he come and say kiddush for everyone.

    At the Shabbos tish, everyone spoke in learning the whole time.  After we grew up, one of the older boys told me, "'Es chatoi ani mazker ha yom[1].' We couldn't understand why Reb Aharon wouldn't let us just eat a little bit and enjoy the seudah."  The reason was, for Reb Aharon, life was learning.  There was no division between time for learning and time for enjoyment.  The oneg Shabbos was learning.  Noch a chiddush.  Noch a chiddush.  Noch a vort.  Noch a vort. [2]



    Simchas Torah 

    Later, when I used to go to Lakewood for Simchas Torah, I would watch Reb Aharon.  He would stand in his place, but by "Moshe Emes v'Toraso Emes[3]," he would jump up a little bit.  That minhag is brought down in seforim, but really, we followed Reb Aharon.  He was an elderly man, and didn't jump high, but the olam exaggerated it and we all jumped up as high as we could.

    There was also a minhag that the Rosh Yeshiva would carry the Sefer Torah from the dining room to the Bais Medrash.  In those years, the Bais Medrash was on 7th Street and Forest Avenue.  The dining room was on 6th Street and Private Way, so when everyone left the dining room on leyl Simchas Torah to daaven Maariv, they would dance and sing "Si'u She'arim Rosheichem[4]."  Reb Aharon, in his humility, didn't feel they should do all this for him, so they brought along the Sefer Torah, and it was as if they were dancing in front of the Sefer Torah, [and not him.]  That's where this minhag started with dancing. 

    Later on, it was no longer relevant because those buildings were closed, but such a minhag once existed.  I know that Rav Schneur[5] wanted to continue that minhag of "Si'u She'arim Rosheichem."  It was actually one of the biggest things in town on Simchas Torah.  The whole town came out to see it - women and children - and it was a big simcha.



    The Dedication of a New Yeshiva Building

    In 1960, when I was a talmid in Philadelphia, they dedicated the new building and Reb Aharon came to give a shiur.  It was on Kesuba, whether it's d'oraisa or not[6].  There were mareh mekomos put up, and we'd try to follow along, but how could we follow such a genius?  He spoke with lightning speed.  I couldn't even mimic the words at the speed at which he would talk, let alone follow along with my mind.  I remember that once there was a senator sitting in the front of the Bais Medrash.  I'm sure he didn't understand a word Reb Aharon was saying, but he was transfixed.  And as Reb Aharon gave the shiur, his face mamesh turned red.  It was red from the fire of the Torah

    At that particular shiur, Reb Elya[7] asked a kashe nobody knew.  He asked it quickly, and Reb Aharon answered it instantly, without pausing for a second.  Later that day, we asked one of the older bochurim asked, "What was Reb Elya's comment?" He explained, "Reb Elya said, 'Rabbi Akiva Eiger zugt fakert.[8]" Reb Aharon immediately understood which comment of Rabbi Akiva Eiger's Reb Elya had meant and answered that this apparent contradiction was not so difficult to understand.



    A Shidduch and a Bris

    My mother was close to Reb Aharon and the Rebbetzin[9] because she was the shadchanta for Rav Yankev Katz and Gruneh[10].  Rav Yankev Katz didn't show up on the first date.  There they were waiting.  The Rosh Yeshiva was waiting and the kallah was waiting, but he never came, and he didn't even call.  But he did call the next day, and my mother said, "Ersht, muz ich dir unshrayen[11], then you'll tell me your excuse."

    His excuse was that there was snow and he couldn't even get to a telephone.  But the shidduch went through, and because my mother was the shadchanta, she became close with the Rosh Yeshiva and the Rebbetzin. As a result, she heard some of the Rosh Yeshiva's stories.

    One story was in the town of Kletzk.  There was going to be a bris, but the father of the baby was on a trip, so they gave the honor of sandek to Reb Aharon.  While sitting there in the sandek's chair, the father walked into shul.  So Reb Aharon got up from the seat and said, "Es belongt tzu dir.[12]"



    A Big Gevir

    Another story I remember about Reb Aharon took place one year when I was in Lakewood for Simchas Torah.  There was a big gevir - I think his name was Morgenstern - who pledged a lot of money. First, he pledged $5,000 to the yeshiva that the olam should learn Shas.  And I remember Yankel Schiff said, "The olam should get the money."

    Then he pledged $5,000 more to the yeshiva if Reb Aharon would learn 25 blatt.[13].  Reb Aharon, who was learning by the shtender, learned the 25 blatt right there on the spot.  Those were the years when Irving Bunim was still alive[14].  The Simchas Torah celebration was big back then. All the baalei batim came.  They would sell "Atah Horaisa[15]" and many different honors, but in the year that this gevir made all those pledges, he passed away.  It was a gevaldigge zchus for him.



    Personal History

    When I first met Reb Aharon, I was only 14 or 15 years old.  As I said, he was the Gadol Hador, and my friends and I had a gevaldigge moirah from him.  We were afraid even to give him shalom.  It was a zchus just to see him.  But someone told me that whenever a bochur came to a farher, he would put his arm around the talmid to make him feel good.

    But I came to learn in Lakewood after Rav Aharon had passed. That was in 1964, when I was 19.  I came because Lakewood was the place to be.  I was in Philly, and then by Rabbi Shmuel Faivelson[16] in St. Louis, and then I came to Lakewood.  Some guys did that.  Some guys came straight to Lakewood.  Some guys stayed in Philly a little longer.  I was six years in Philly, so I was ready for a change.  And I went to R' Shmuel Faivelson's yeshiva for two years.  Then I came to Lakewood. 

    [1] A direct quote from Bereishis 41:9: "I must recall my sins today."

    [2] Another innovative Torah thought, another Torah insight

    [3] A traditional song of Simchas Torah. The title means, "Moses is true and his Torah is true." (Medrash Tanchuma, Bamidbar, Korach,  Siman 11)

    [4] Traditional song for Simchas Torah.  - "Raise up your heads O gates" (Tehillim 24:7)

    [5] R' Aharon's only son

    [6] Whether or not the requirement of a marriage contract is commanded by the Torah directly or a Talmudic edict

    [7] R' Elya Svei Shlita - Rosh Yeshivas Philadelphia

    [8] Rabbi Akiva Eiger was one of the giants of Torah scholarship in Europe of the 18th  century. Reb Elya's comment was, "But Rabbi Akiva Eiger says the opposite."

    [9] His wife  - Rebbetzin Chana Perel a"h

    [10] See appendix, Katz, Yaakov

    [11] "First I'll yell at you and then you'll tell me your excuse."

    [12] "It belongs to you."

    [13] 25 two-sided pages of Gemara, which would take the average man quite some time to learn

    [14] Reb Aharon's main lay supporter and talmid

    [15] A recitation before the dancing of Simchas Torah.

    [16] Rabbi Shmuel Faivelson is a major disciple of Reb Aharon, and is now himself a Rosh Yeshivah in Monsey and a Gadol Hador in his own right.

  • Home
  • Biography
  • 125 Talmidim of Rav Kotler
  • Audio Files
  • Reb Eli Beane
  • Contact
  • Photo Gallery
  • Transcriptions