• Transcriptions

    Rabbi Eliyahu Roman


    A Change of Plans

    The first experience I had with the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l was in Taf-Shin-Yud-Zayin, 1957. I was 17 years old then and though I didn’t have much of a yeshiva background, I had the advantage of coming to Lakewood for Simchas Torah on the recommendation of my friends. I was impressed by the whole Simchas Torah, and I was interested in meeting the Rosh Yeshiva.

    I went into the Rosh Yeshiva’s office and introduced myself. The Rosh Yeshiva asked my name, what I’m learning, who my rebbe is. My Rebbe was Rabbi Leib Taub and he respected him very much.  

    The Rosh Yeshiva said of R’ Leib Taub that it was k’dai to build the Lakewood yeshiva in order to have R’ Leib Taub.

    I told him Reb Taub was my rebbe, and he asked me about my plans of learning in the future. I’m ashamed today to admit it, but I was a real Yankee, and I answered that I didn’t have plans for learning, that I wanted to become a lawyer.

    The Rosh Yeshiva took me by both lapels. His face turned a fiery red, and he said to me these words: “Nein. Nein! Du darfst lernen bei deiner Rebbeim, lernen bei deiner Rebbeim, un vest duh kumen. (meaning in Lakewood). Vest veren a lamden un vest bleiben bei Torah der gantz leben ![1]

    With a red, shiny face and the words went into me like bolts of lightning. I left the room and I left my plans. I decided I would devote myself to learning. B’oso rega[2]. In that one moment. I went back to my yeshiva and I started to learn b’hasmoda[3].


    Lightning in Shiur

    I was in yeshiva in Philadelphia then. Of course, all my rebbeim were talmidim of the Rosh Yeshiva. Reb Shmuel Kamentzky and Reb Elya Svei. Finally I came to Lakewood and I was zoche to learn by the Rosh Yeshiva.

    During my last year of high school in Philadelphia, every sixth week was an “out” Shabbos, and every sixth week, I went to Lakewood to hear the Rosh Yeshiva’s shiur. I remember the first time I went. A good friend of mine, Yosef Kaufman, helped me prepare all the mareh mekomos for the shiur. He got me small Gemaras with Rambam, with all the mareh mekomos. He prepared all the mareh mekomos with me so I’d be ready for the shiur.

    The Rosh Yeshiva, b’shaas the shiur, talked so fast that I wasn’t able to follow a word that he said. But I did not take my eyes off him for the whole hour and a half that he said the shiur. I had never seen such a thing in my life. His eyes in the shiur, his hands in the shiur, his whole body was vibrant and alive. It was like a Maimad Har Sinai[4] was in front of me - a volcanic eruption, bolts of lighting, kolos u’brakim, v’kol chazak ad meod[5]. It was something else.

    I never saw a shiur like that. The only doime I ever saw in my life was Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz. I used to go to Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz’s shiur pashut to remind myself of the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l, and this took place many years later.

    It was a tremendous pachad. I was seventeen years old when I came to the hear the shiur, and pashut, I couldn’t take my eyes off him the whole time. It was something else. It was something which I never came across.

    My chaver Yosef came over to me after the shiur and he said, “Did you understand the shiur? Did you understand what the Rosh Yeshiva was saying?”

    “No, not a word,” I said. “I couldn’t follow him. It was too fast for me.”

    “But you didn’t take your eyes off him the whole hour!” said Yosef.

    “How could I take my eyes off him?” I said. “Where do you see such a thing?”

    It wasn’t shayach.


    Everything Shtimmed

    Later, when I learned how to listen to the shiur and how to understand the Rosh Yeshiva, his tone and such, I understood ?? in the shiur. The Rosh Yeshiva gave over five shiurim that he gave from another ?? Yeshiva. ?? Everything had to shtim in the shiur. Every sugya in Shas had to be farenfered. Every Rishon that talks about that Gemara, that inyan, he’d apply somehow. The shiurim were mamesh gevaldig. Ad ha yom hazeh[6], whenever I open the Mishnas Rebbe Aharon it brings back, the teshuvos, the zmanim, the ta’am of the Gra[7]. You could mamesh see. Things that you’d work, that you hureved on, you worked on, they were like k’la’achar yad[8] by him. What you’d spend sha’os, hours pashut to understand and to get arain into zachen, he didn’t have to spend time on.

    It was there. It was right there. It was known. It was understood. It had to be. And that was how he had it, it was not shayach. When you heard from him, it was like an eye-opener. You were iberall[9] in the sugya. Chardel[10].  So many shittos in Rishonim, Bava Basra, so many shittas, about 11 shittas in the Rishonim. The Rosh Yeshiva made it like it was right there in front of you and farenfered all the kashas. Everything shtimmed. Everything came together.

    He used to say on the “Pekudei Hashem Yesharim Mesamchei Lev… Mishpotei Hashem emes Tzadku Yachdav”[11]. “Mishpotei Hashem. When is there emes? When there’s tzadku yachdav[12][MH1] . When you have gantz Shas l’shito[13][MH2] .”

    He was able to fit it all together yachdav. That’s when you say Mishpotei Hashem emes[14]. He lived that way. That was his Torah. His Torah was ois gehalten[15]. He was the magen – the shield – of Torah. Any ben Torah was chashuv to him.


    Love for the Talmidim

    Any ben Torah that came to him was a ben yachid.  An eigener ben yachid. He treated him with ahava and care and wanted to protect him and shield him and show him hiskarvus.

    I remember I used to go work during bein hazmanim. I used to earn money for the zman, but the Rosh Yeshiva wanted me to be able to come and learn bein hazmainim. But the situation was that during bein hazmanim I had to earn some money. The Rosh Yeshiva asked me about it; he was concerned with what I was doing.

    How will you learn as you did in the zman?” he said. “If you must work?”

    But I needed money for seforim or whatever. So the Rosh Yeshiva said that he would give me money so I’d be able to sit and learn bein hazmanim and shouldn’t have to go to work. Only after I promised him I wouldn’t go to work, and I arranged that for the summer, I would go to Camp Agudah as a counselor, was he maskim. Then I’d get some teaching and a seder with a yungerman.

    But he was willing to take out money, how much I would need, and he was ready to give me from his own pocket so that I should be able to learn rather than to take a job bein hazmanim.


    One Bochur’s Crisis

    It was a tremendous, tremendous problem whether to sit and learn or to go to college. There was a bochur from Philadelphia whose father was strongly opposed. The Rosh Yeshiva told him to continue to learn and his father would come around. He should continue to learn even if he had to go to some extremes just then. The Rosh Yeshiva helped this bochur with this problem, this crisis.  It was easier because his father was in a very, very difficult situation.

    [MH3] Whenever a bochur came from Philadelphia to Lakewood for Shabbos, the Rosh Yeshiva would send a message with him, “Tell this bochur [whose father opposed his learning] that I asked about him. Tell him I want to know his matzev. I want him to call me and keep shaichos to me.”

    He was behind every ben Torah, mamesh like a tatteh, like a person we could depend upon. That was the tremendous koach that he had.

    I heard from ??[MH4] , he said the Rosh Yeshiva said of his einiklach, he love them almost as much as he loves his talmidim. Almost as much.


    The Rebbetzin’s Story

    I never told anybody, but when I went to be menachem ovel after the Rosh Yeshiva had passed, the Rebbetzin asked me to tell her a maaseh. So I told her a maaseh about the Rosh Yeshiva, and then she told me a maaseh.

    She told me that one day the Rosh Yeshiva came home late, very, very late with a bochur. He wanted to go back to Lakewood the same day. The Rosh Yeshiva came so late, and she said, “Why doesn’t he [MH5]  lie down a while and take a nap?” She felt bad for this bochur

    A few hours later, this bochur was sound asleep. ?? The Rosh Yeshiva ?? tired. He went into his room. The Rosh Yeshiva told the bochur ?? She saw the Rosh Yeshiva sitting on the bed, and she asked him, “What’s the matter with the Rosh Yeshiva?”[MH6] 

    If there’s any middah, ?? the Rosh Yeshiva had ?? lernen, middas rachamim[16]. ?? His mind was working, and he wasn’t involved with ?? things. His whole life was for Klal Yisrael was, and he was ?? Klal Yisroel. ?? He went to work the next day. He had no shaichos ??. The Rosh Yeshiva’s koach.


    A Group Farher

    When we came from Philadelphia for a farher, there was an agreement between Reb Elya Svei, Rosh Yeshiva in Philly, and the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l, that any bochur from Philadelphia would be accepted into Lakewood. So we knew we were accepted, but the truth was, it was a formality that you had to take the farher with the Rosh Yeshiva. Pashut, you couldn’t come to the yeshiva without a farher.

    We used to go in as a group to make it easier. I think I remember I went with five bachurim.

    The farher was in the Rosh Yeshiva’s apartment in Boro Park. You had to farher in learning by the Rosh Yeshiva. He would ask a shvere kasha and then we would have a discussion.

    I prepared myself, but I was really nervous that I’m going to meet such a great gadol, and talk in learning. So from nervousness my hands were cold. We had made up that first we would meet the other bochurim from Williamsburg. And then we would continue together to the farher.

    The first bochur came from Williamsburg and we shook hands, and I felt better because his hands were just as cold as mine. Then I met the others. We shook hands. We all had cold hands, and everybody was just as nervous.

    We went into the apartment of the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l. Right away, he showed us where the bais hakiseh was in case we had to go relieve ourselves.  He wanted everyone to feel comfortable before they started speaking, so he went around to each one of us and asked his name and where he came from. When he came to me, he said, “Do bist an alte bakante[17].” So I was right away put at ease.

    Rabbi Beane: That’s a tremendous memory. He recalled everything.


    The Composition Book

    I don’t know if anybody told you the maaseh about the composition book the Rosh Yeshiva took with him whenever he went to collect. He wrote down what money was given to him for the yeshiva so that he would have a record. Once, that composition book was lost. What happened was, they drove in somebody’s care and they fooled around with a spare tire. The Rosh Yeshiva couldn’t find the book. So he sat down and wrote what he remembered. When they found the book, there wasn’t anything missing from the book except the last two things which he had put into the book. Everything else was there with the dates and the amounts. He remembered it all, and he wrote it down again. Just that last day he had two things that he didn’t recall. Otherwise, the book was completely rewritten. Talk about a memory.


    A Kasha on Nachlas Dovid

    Back to the farher. The Rosh Yeshiva asked me a shailah, he started with me, because I was the bakante. This was in Taf-Shin-Chaf-Alef.[18] So the Rosh Yeshiva told me fregt a kasha[19]. I told the Rosh Yeshiva a question that I had prepared on the Nachlas Dovid. Before I finished the question, the Rosh Yeshiva chapped me ois[20] that it can’t be. There was a b’fereshe Gemara in Gittin that said the opposite. So we had a kasha.         

    The Rosh Yeshiva said it can’t be. It never says such a thing k’neged a b’fereshe Gemara. So he said he must see it.

    I went to the seforim shrank. The Rosh Yeshiva had all of the “Nachlas Dovid.” This edition of the Nachlas Dovid had the teshuvas of the Nachlas Dovid, and in the back were the chiddushim on Baba Kama and Baba Metzia. I didn’t know this version at all. I had never seen it. So I was looking at the Nachlas Dovid on Baba Kama and Baba Metzia, but I found only the teshuvos. So I didn’t realize this was the right sefer, so I put it back. I was looking for the “Nachlas Dovid” and I didn’t see it so I asked the Rosh Yeshiva if there were any other Sefarim anywhere else in the house. He said “Es darft zein dor”[21]

    He told me, “It must be amongst these seforim.”

    I kept looking, but I couldn’t find it. I went back to the table. So he said “Nein, nein es darft dort zein.”[22] I couldn’t sit down. He had to see this “Nachlas Dovid.” So I went back to the seforim shrank and I took the Nachlas Dovid again. I opened it up and saw that in the back of it were the chiddushim, so I came back with the chiddushim.

    The Rosh Yeshiva said, “Yagati velo matzasi, at ta’amin, yatati umatzasi, ta’amin![23]

    In other words, the Rosh Yeshiva shtelled tzu[24] the fact that I was looking for the sefer that if you put in the yegiyus, you’re going to find. “Yagata umatzasa ta’amin”.[25]

    He looked up the kasha in the Nachlas Dovid. For me, it would have been a lot of work, but the Rosh Yeshiva just moved his finger straight down the daf, just straight down, and when he came to the bottom, he tapped once or twice with his fingers and said, “Vos ir freigt iz gerecht. De Nachalas Dovid fregt a shailah vos iz takkeh k’neged de Gemara in Gittin[26].”

    I had asked this kasha to Reb Elya Svei and he offered a shtickel teretz[27], so I figured maybe I’ll try it. I offered the teretz, and the Rosh Yeshiva shlugged it up from somewhere else. And then he continued through the rest of the Nachlas Dovid till the bottom. Nachlas Dovid bleibt by a tzorech iyun[28], but the Rosh Yeshiva farenfered the Nachlas Dovid’s shailah, and then we went on.

    Weeks later, when I was going up the steps and the Rosh Yeshiva was coming down, the Rosh Yeshiva stopped me and told me a teretz on the Nachlas Dovid that I asked.

    Rabbi Beane: He held kup with everything.

    Rabbi Roman: With everything. Such things especially The Rosh Yeshiva always held kup.


    Gaonus vs. Tzidkus

    The appreciation for the tremendous gaonus the Rosh Yeshiva had. The more experience you had in learning, the more you learned to appreciate it. You felt what he was. The Rebbetzin used to say the Rosh Yeshiva’s tzidkus was bigger than his gaonus. He was a bigger tzaddik than he was a gaon. He was also a gaon, but he was a bigger tzaddik than he was a gaon.

    He had a tremendous care and ahava for Torah, for bnei Torah, for klal Yisroel. I don’t know if it can be understood, the tirdos in life, how much you have to give up on mishpachah for other things. For Klal Yisroel, Torah. You can’t imagine it. He had a big family. He had problems like everybody had, but there was no time for anything but Klal Yisroel, but the Torah, but the yeshiva.


    Praise of the Rebbetzin                

    Rabbi Beane: The Rebbetzin was a tremendous person, too.

    Rabbi Roman: Oh, and how. I’ll tell you what she told me over. When we were there being menachem ovel, she said over that in the fifty years [MH7] that she was married to the Rosh Yeshiva, she never remembered even once that he didn’t go to the table to eat a meal without a sefer. He was so involved in learning!

    That’s as big a shevach of the Rebbetzin as it was of Reb Aharon. It may even be a bigger one because how many wives can take a man sitting by the table day after day with his head in a sefer, not giving them the attention? But the Rebbetzin didn’t care about these things.

    Reb Yitzchak Kaufman told me once that the Rebbetzin was annoyed at the Rosh Yeshiva because he used to memorize the telephone numbers of the different baalei batim he had to contact.

    She said, “For this you use your head? With a head that you can learn Torah with? Why do you use using your head to memorize numbers?”

    That shows her appreciation of what he had. She appreciated when people helped her. She appreciated, and she helped. She wanted nothing for herself. Everything was for the yeshiva, for Torah, for life of Torah.


    Gam Zu L’Tova[29]

      In the Rosh Yeshiva’s last days in the hospital, he had pipes in him. From alleh zeiten[30] He was turning down.

    So the Rebbetzin said, “Es vet zein gut, mein man, vet zein gut.[31]

    The Rosh Yeshiva answered, “?? der Ribbono shel Olam. Es is shoin gut.[32]

    Not that it was going to be good. It was already good.


    Sweets for the Rosh Yeshiva

    At that time, the Rosh Yeshiva’s mouth was very dry. He wasn’t able to eat. He could have a tremendous stomach problem so he wasn’t able to eat.

    One of the bochurim who was taking care of the Rosh Yeshiva had the idea that sucking candy could probably make the Rosh Yeshiva’s mouth fresh. They asked the doctor in charge.  He said the Rosh Yeshiva could have a lollipop, but he shouldn’t have anything free in his mouth that he could swallow because he had no control with the pipes and everything. But with something he could hold with his hands, he’d be okay.

    The bochurim bought him a packet of lollipops. The Rosh Yeshiva said, “Vet halten far Shabbos.”[33] The comfort of something sweet would be good, but “vet halten far Shabbos.”

    He used to say over that when he and the Rebbitzen left Europe they were mekabel to leave sweets for Shabbos. Not to eat sweets, cake or candy, only on Shabbos.

    The Rosh Yeshiva, when the war was over, held that it’s better not to eat sweets. The Rebbetzin, zt”l, never ate sweets after the war. It was the kind of thing ??[MH8] 


    The Teretz on the Gra

    I came once for a Shabbos. And during that week, the Rosh Yeshiva had farenfered a question that he had on the Beyur HaGra[34] for many years. For seventeen years he had a kasha. I didn’t see the reaction that he had when he thought of the teretz, but those who were in Yeshiva saw not just the reaction but it was just engraved in their minds from the moment they had seen him say it over. The Rosh Yeshiva realized that he had farenfered the kasha that he had all those years on the Gra. 

    He got so excited, he was ready with a fountain pen. He grabbed the fountain pen in his fist, but if you grab a fountain pen, it leaks. The Rosh Yeshiva ran with the leak, from his room which was above the dining room, downstairs into the dining room.

    He ran downstairs to find somebody to tell over this gevaldiggeh teretz of the shverer Beyur HaGra. He saw Yankel Schiff sitting in the dining room. He ran in and grabbed Yankel Schiff by the lapel with one arm and beat against his chest with the other. He was pounding his hand against his chest, backing him up until his hand was flying around in the air making circles. And he was saying over and over to Yankel Schiff, “Du herst oif de teretz oif der Gra?[35]! De teretz fun Gaon? Ich hub doch a teretz fun Gaon !!”

    Yankel Schiff didn’t know what Gaon he meant, what Gra he meant. What was he talking about? What kasha? What teretz? But the Rosh Yeshiva was so excited about the teretz, he didn’t realize where he was. Only when he had backed Yankel Schiff up against the wall did the Rosh Yeshiva realize the matzav where he was. And he put down his hands, put down the pen, stopped pounding on his chest, and told him over the Beyur HaGra, the kasha and the teretz that he had on the Beyur HaGra.

    The chiddush was that this happened during the week. From that time until at least the next Sunday, everyone the Rosh Yeshiva saw had to hear the teretz from the Beyur HaGra. When I came for Shabbos; I walked into the Rosh Yeshiva’s office. I came Friday; and the Rosh Yeshiva was sitting in the office. The office was in the building of the bais medrash on Forest.

    When I came into the Rosh Yeshiva I said “Shalom,” and the Rosh Yeshiva gave me shalom, and right after that, he said “Ich gei eich zogen the teretz oif de Gra.[36]” And he told me over the teretz of the Beyur HaGra, the kasha and the teretz.

    Then came Friday night at the seudah. Everybody sang Shalom Aleichem. Then after we ate the fish, the Rosh Yeshiva made a big announcement. “Der voch hub ich gefinen a teretz tzu de Beyur HaGra. Ich hub gevart asach yar far de teretz.[37]” He told the teretz over to the whole olam. The teretz of the Beyur HaGra.

     Shabbos in the morning after kiddush, again the Rosh Yeshiva told over the teretz of the Beyur HaGra. Each time he said it, it was fresh and gishmak, with a whole leibedigkeit. The teretz of the Beyur HaGra.

    Everyone he met, he told over the teretz. Walking in the street, he told over anyone he met, the teretz of the Beyur HaGra. If you heard it already, he told it over to you again. With the same gishmak and the same frishkeit as the first time.

    [1] No, no! You must learn by your Rabbis, learn by your Rabbis and you will then come here to learn. You will become a Torah Scholar and you will remain in learning for your entire life!

    [2] In that one moment

    [3] Diligently

    [4] Scene at which the Torah was given over at Mount Sinai

    [5] Thunder and lightning, and a vibrant voice, ringing out strong and clear

    [6] Until this very day

    [7] The reasoning of the Gra

    [8] Come by most easily, offhandedly

    [9] Entirely encompassed

    [10] Chapter in Baba Basra

    [11] G-d’s instructions are straight, and gladden the heart, G-d’s judgment is truth, entwined in righteousness.

    [12] G-d’s judgment – when is there truth? When they are together in righteousness.

    [13] In aligned accordance

    [14] G-d’s judgment is truth

    [15] Worked out

    [16] Mercifulness

    [17] You’re an old aquaintance

    [18] 1961

    [19] Present a question

    [20] Intercepted

    [21] It has to be there

    [22] No, no, it must be there

    [23] I searched but did not find - don’t believe, I searched and found – believe!

    [24] Associated

    [25] If you search and find – believe that!

    [26] What you asked is correct. The Nachlas Dovid really does have a kasha opposing the Gemara in Gittin

    [27] Partial answer

    [28] The Nachlas Dovid remains to be looked further into

    [29] This too is for the good

    [30] From all sides

    [31] It will be good my husband, it will be good

    [32] ?? of Hashem. It is already good.

    [33] I’ll save it for Shabbos

    [34] Explanation of the Gra

    [35] Do you hear the answer to the Gra?! The answer of the Gaon? I have an answer on the Gaon!!

    [36] I’ll tell you over the answer of the Gra

    [37] This week I found an answer to the explanation of the Gra. I waited many years to find this answer.


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