• Transcriptions

    Rabbi Nochim Zeldes


    Kletzk, 1929

    The first time that I met the Rosh Yeshiva zichrono l’vracha was in Taf-Resh-Pay-Tes, 1929. I was very young, not even nine years old. My cousin zichrono l’vracha was a talmid of Slutzk and knew the Rosh Yeshiva zichrono l’vracha through Slutzk. They made a chanukas habayis. We lived at that time in Baranovich, and they made a chanukas habayis for the yeshiva in Kletzk in Taf-Resh-Pay-Tes, or maybe the beginning of Taf-Resh-Tzaddik[1].

    My father went to be by the chanukas habayis and he took me with him. I remember the Rosh Yeshiva zichrono l’vracha was a middle-aged man then, most probably in his middle or upper thirties. He was the ruach hachaim of the yeshiva.

    It was a tremendous gathering of hundreds of rosh yeshivas, and Rabbonim from the whole shtetlach around Kletzk. It was a tremendous chanukas habayis. I would say it took almost a week’s time because it was the first building that was built for a yeshiva after the First World War. And this was my first meeting with the Rosh Yeshiva.


    Learning in Kletk

    Afterwards, I lived alone in Baranovitch and learned by Reb Elchonon Wasserman, zecher tzaddik l’vracha. Then it was time for me to choose another yeshiva to go to after Baranovitch. I preferred to go to Kletzk because first of all, I was born in Kletz, and because my father was very close to the Rosh Yeshiva, zecher tzaddik l’vracha. This was in 1937. I went to Kletzk and I learned there until the milchama, until 1939 until the whole yeshiva and also myself fled to Vilna.

    The Rosh Yeshiva was kulo Rosh Yeshiva. He was a rosh yeshiva that lived with talmidim. He was interested in talmidim. He used to say shiurim twice a week, and the olam used to talk to him in learning. He lived on top of the yeshiva. It was kind of like the ezras nashim. It was his dirah there. The bochurim in the yeshiva used to go up to him and he’d stam reid in learning or they discussed with him whatever he said in the shiurim.

    The uniqueness was that he was the Rosh Yeshiva. When the Rosh Yeshiva used to say a shiur it was like a fire gebrent.


    Kletzk in War Time

    When the war broke out, right after Sukkos, we found out that Vilna was going to be turned over to Lithuania. The Rosh Yeshiva was already there in Vilna, he went[MH1]  there first, and we got from him daily yedias “yes” or “no.” Then when he decided that the yeshiva should go to Vilna, all the bochurim appreciated it, whoever it was at that time in Kletzk.

    You have to remember that at this time, it was a time of milchama and a lot of the bochurim from yeshiva had been on the German side and couldn’t come to Vilna. A lot of the bochurim were on the Russian side and could go to Vilna, but some of them didn’t want to leave their mishpachas or their parents didn’t want to part with them. But the big olam, I would say most probably between eighty and a hundred bochurim, went from the yeshiva to Vilna. And then from Vilna, when they told us we cannot be in Vilna, we went to Yaneveh, and from Yaneveh, the yeshiva was divided into little towns, Shalok ??.

    At that time, the Rosh Yeshiva zichrono l’vracha managed to get a visa to go to America. He tried from America to do anything he could to get us visas and so on. Unfortunately, he could not do anything because it was a time of milchama and it was almost impossible. Whoever could get a visa by himself, got it. I can’t remember if anyone got visas through the Rosh Yeshiva or not.

    But then, unfortunately, milchama broke out and a little over thirty bochurim from the yeshiva were sent to Siberia. When he found out that the bochurim were in Siberia, he started getting the Vaad Hatzola to help us out as much as it could. He tried to get us some packages. We couldn’t get them directly from America. They were sent through Iran. And the Vaad Hatzola was very helpful really to keep us alive at that time.

    After the war, we came back to Poland, and from Poland to Czechoslovakia, from Czechoslovakia to France, and there we got our visas and we came back to Lakewood. When we came back to Lakewood, the Rosh Yeshiva was very helpful and happy to see us and encouraged us to sit down again to learn.


    Lakewood at Peace 

    And so, I learned here in Lakewood for two and a half years. The olam[MH2]  at that time was very small, but it was very close to the Rosh Yeshiva. The Rosh Yeshiva was interested in the matzav of each and every one, trying to help each and every one. He was tremendously busy with Klal Yisroel arbeit, but he would spend every Thursday to Sunday or Monday in yeshiva and he would zug shiurim, schmoozen, and what have you in order to build the basis of Lakewood. And that is what Lakewood is today. It’s all on this strong foundation that the Rosh Yeshiva zichrono l’vracha made at that time.

    It’s well known that the Rosh Yeshiva was the gaon hador, the tzaddik hador. The Rebbetzin always used to say, ”People know the Rosh Yeshiva as a gaon, but I believe he is more tzaddik than gaon.”

    Tzidkus he didn’t show off, but es iz gebrent in em[2] the Ahavas HaTorah, Yiras Shomayim מיט די גאנצער מהות. דער מענטש האט געארבעט מיתדמא צביי און צוואנציג שעה אה טאג כדאי די מלחמות וואס ער האט געהאט צו טאן, מיט די איגוד הרבנים, מיט אנדערע, וואס האבען געגלייבט אס קען קיין מאל זיין א ישיבה אין אמריקה. און ער האט אלץ געהאלאען, מלחמה געהאלטען מיט זיי. ער האט געטיינעט אז תורה, איש תורה, תהא רבנים נאר זי וואס האבען צו טאן מיט תורה, און שטייט תורה דאס איז די נשמה פון כלל ישראל! און תורה קען נישט זיין קיין כלל ישראל! און אדרבה, נעבעך איז געווען אזא חורבן, דארף מיר צוריקבויען תורה און וואס מער בויען תורה, אזוי דארף מיר בויען כלל ישראל! דאר לייגט מיין אלע שמועיס, און דער פייערדיגע רייד כ'סדר נאך אנאנט, נאך א נאנט, נאך א נאנט. ב'פרט האט מיר געדארפט עם ריידען נישט נאר צו אונז, די אמוליגע בני תורה וואס מיר האבען געקענט פון פריער, אבער דער עיקר פאר די יונגערדיגע אמריקנה בחורים וואס געזענען געקומען פון פארשידינע היימער, פארשידינע שטאט, פארשידינע אינבירמענטס, און מיר האט געזען טאקע די פירות וואס ער האט אונגעבויט, ער האט דוך אונגעבויט תורה!!  [3]


    The Rosh Yeshiva’s Bracha

    איך האב געלערענט אין לייקווד פאר צבי און א האלב יאר. נאך דעם האב איך באקומען א שטעלע אלץ א שוחט אין דנבר. און דארטען האבען זיי אונגעלייבט עטליכר בעלי בתים. איינער פון זי איז געווען, ער האט געהאט א שלאכטהויז, זיינער נומען איז ברוך שייבעץ. דער ברוך שייבעץ איז געווען א פיינע איד, א פשוטער איד אבער זיער א פיינער, א גרויסע בעל צדקה. און ער האט געפארען א מול אן אוקיישין צו נוי יורק, און איך האב עם איינגערעט זאל ער קומען אין לייקווד. ער וועט זיין אין נוי יורק פאר ער פארט אין לייקווד, זען דער עיר התרה, טרעפען מיט די ראש ישיבה[4]. 

    Dos is geven, ken zein[5], in the middle fifties. I don’t remember exactly.

    ער האט געקומען דמולץ, האט באקאנט דע ראש ישיבה. ווען ער האט געקומען צוריק, איז ער געווען זיער אנסוזיאסטיק אבאויט איט און ער איז ארויפגיין אלע מול. דע ראש ישיבה האט אלע מול געדארפען האבען געלט און איך האב אלע מול געהעלפט עם שאפען געלט. ער פלייגט מיר אלע מול ארויפגיין שאפען א ביסל געלט פאר דע ישיבה. און ביאינג אז ער האט געהאט אסאך קונקשינס, בישינס קונקשינס, פלייקט ער אלע מול געשאפען, אט ליסט ארויסגעבען זעקס, זיבען הונדרד דולרס.  אין דערען יארען איז געווען א הון רב, זעקס הונדרד דולר[6].

    ער איז געווען א הויכערע איד און ער האט געהאט אן אייגינער שחור. און ער איז געקומען צו עם אין שול אין מיטען זומער. און ער האט געהאט א שווער און ש שוויגער. און ער איז געקומען צו זיי אין ג'ון אודער ג'וליי. און דער שווער איז געווען אינגאנצען פארנומען, מורא שחור'דיג, פארטראגין. פרעגט איך עם "ג'ק וואס איז מיט דיר?" האט ער געזאקט "מיין וייב".[7]


    רב ברוך שייבעץ איז געקומען אין שול פור מערב, זאג איך צו עם, ר' ברוך, אז איך הער אז זיין שוויגער[8]

    is very sick, so let’s call Lakewood and see what we can do.

    He says, “Okay. Go ahead.”

    In shul, there was a telephone. The difference from Denver to New York is צווי שטונדער. אס איז געווען דאכט מיר דארט אכט אזיגער, דאר צען אזייגער. מעריב האט געווען ניין אזייגער אין מיטען זומער.[9]

    I tried to get of the Rosh Yeshiva, but it’s impossible to get a hold of the Rosh Yeshiva.

    האט ער געווען כסדר עסוק מיט צרכי ציבור, מיט טלפונס און נאך א נאנט. איך האב געווארט, און עס איז שוין צען אזייגער, און עס איז שוין צוועלעב אזייגער, דארף איך שוין גיין. מורגין אין דע פרי טראכט מיר ברוך שייבעץ, זאגט ער, "נו,האט איר עם געקאלט?" זאג איר "איך האב שוין געקאלט, אבער איז געווען אויף די טלפון אלע מול ביזי."[10]

    "אפשר גיי רוף עם יעצט." עס איז געווען נאכען דאווענען, אין נוי יורק איז געווען צען אזייגער, ביי אונז איז געווען אכט. און וועם האב איך געטרופט? איך האב געטרופט די ראש ישיבה, זכרונו לברכה! זאג איך עם, תהילים בענגט, ברוך שייבעץ, ער העלפט אויף די ישיבה אזא סאך. "אוואדע, אוואדע, איך געדענקט עם. ער איז געווען ביי אונז, אוואדער מיר דארפט זאגען תהילים. אובער נישט יעצט, עס איז צען אזייגער, עס איז מיטען סדר. וועלען מיר זאגען תהילים נאכט מנחה."[11]

    מנחה דאווענט מיר אין ישיבה א פערטל צו צווי. און אונגעפירט א צווי אזייגער האבען זיי געזאקט תהילים.   דנבר טיים איז געווען צוועלוו א זייגער. איך קום שפעטער צו מנחה, טרעף איך דעם ג'ק. פרעג איך

    “How is this Mrs.?”[12] 

    “I don’t know, zugt er[13], I don’t know what happened. But around noon time, the whole situation changed.” Zugt er, the doctorim[14] don’t know what happened!”

     זיין פרוי איז געלעבט זעקס זיבען יאר זפייטער, זי איז געווארען געזונט, און געלעבט נאך א זעקס זיבען יאר[15].

    Dos is geven I feel, de bracha fun der Rosh Yeshiva[16].

    ער איז געווען אינטרסירט אין אלע בני תורה, אינטרסירט אין ווי מען טוט און וואס מען טוט. איך האב עם אפגערופען עטליכער מאל אין די צייט וואס איך האב געווען אין דנבר. און ער מיר געפרעקט וואס מאכט איר, צו איר לערענט, דע עיקר! דע עיקר איז נאר דוך צו לערנען! אוואדע, אוואדע, מיר האבען געהאט א פיינער גרופ אוף בני תורה, זיי טרעפען זיך אויף שבת, אלגמיינער שיעור, און יעדער איינער האט געהאט חברותא. זיי האבען זיך איינגערודען זייער פיין, און יעדער מול האט ער געגעבען "אוואדע, אוואדע ר' נחום, מיר מוז, מיר מוז!"[17]


    Support of Rabbi Boruch Kaplan

    The last time I saw the Rosh Yeshiva was in the middle fifties. At that time, I came to New York. Of course, I made it my business to come to Lakewood and see the Rosh Yeshiva, zichrono l’vracha. The Rosh Yeshiva was then at a meeting with a couple of yungerleit. Rabbi Garber was[MH3]  there. He wanted to open up a Bais Yaakov High School in Boro Park, and Rav Kaplan was against it. He was afraid it would be competition for him, and not only competition, but he wanted to keep up a certain high standard of Yidden. He was afraid.  So the Rosh Yeshiva had a meeting of yungerleit to see what could be done.

    I remember the Rosh Yeshiva said that if we were seeing  an umblicht from Torah, we have to thank Reb Boruch Kaplan, zichrono l’vracha because he encouraged the girls to marry yeshivaleit and algeimeiner to give the kavod haTorah.

    And that was what the whole meeting about. And then a private meeting between some of the parents and that was about it.

    He was storming about it that you must keep Reb Boruch Kaplan and the derech Bais Yaakov and so on. And there should not be any competition or whatever it is to shter Reb Boruch Kaplan’s plans to uphalt the existing standards of the Bais Yaakov school.

    de gantze mehus, der mentsch hut gearbeit  mustama tzei un tzvunteg shaah ah tog k’dei de Milchamas vos er hur gehat, tzu tun mit der igud Rabbonim, mit andere, vus huben gegleibt es ken amol zein a yeshiva in America un er hut altz gehalten, milchama gehalten mit zei Er hut getainet as Torah, ish torah, ?? un shtait Torah dos iz de neshomo fun Klal Yisrael, un Torah ken nit zein kein Klal Yisrael un  ada rabba, nebach iz geven aza churban darf mir tzurikboyen Torah un vos mer mir boyen Torah azoi darf mir boyen Klal Yisrael. Dur leigt men aleh shmuyes, un der feirdiger reit k’seider nuch a nant, nuch a nant, nuch a nant. B’frat hut mir gedarft er het reiden nisht nur tzu uns de amologer Bnei Torah,vus mir huben gekent fun freier, uber de ikar far de yungerdige Americane bachurim vos gezenen gekumen farshidene heimer, farshidiner shtet, farshdine environments, un mir hut gezen takkeh de peiros vos er hut ungeboit, er hut doch ungeboit Torah.

    Ich hub Gelerent in Lakewood far tzvei un a halb yohr. Nuch dem hub ich backumen a shteller alz a shoichet in Denver un dorten hubben zei ungelebt etlecher balebatim. Aine fun zei iz geven, er hut gehat a a shlact hoiz, zeiner numen is Boruch Shaibitz. Der Boruch Shaibitz is geven a feine Yid a pashuter yid, uber ze’er a feiner, a groise ba’al tzedaka. Un er hut geforen amol an occasion tzu New York un ich hub em eingert zul er kumen in Lakewood. Er vet zein in New York far er fort in Lakewood, zen der ir HaTorah, trefen mit de Rosh Yeshiva.

    Er hut gekumen damoltz, hut er zich bakant mit der Rosh Yeshiva. Un ven er hut gekumen tzurik iz er geven ze’er enthusiastic about it, er iz aroifgain ale a mol, de Rosh Yeshiva hut ale mol gedarfen hubben gelt ich hub em alemal gehelft em shaffen shafen gelt, er fleigt mir aleh mol aroifgein shaffen a bissel gelt far the yeshiva. And being az her hut gehat asach connections, business connections, fleigt er alemal geshaffen, at least aroisgeben zex, ziben hundred dollars. In deren yuren iz geven a hon rav, zex hundred dollar.

    Er hut gehat a eigener shachur. Er iz geven a hoichere yid. Un er iz gekumen ein mol tzu em in mitten zummer. Un er hut gehat a shver un a shvigger. Un er hut zei gekumt bazuchen in June uder July. Un der shver iz geven engantzen farnumen, mora shchoiradig, fartrugen. Fregt ich em, Jack, vos iz mit dir ? Hut er gezukt mein veib.

    Reb Baruch Shaibitz is gekumen in Shul fun Maariv hut er getzelt to Baruch as zein shvigger is very sick, so let’s call Lakewood and see what we can do.

    He says, “Okay. Go ahead.”

    In shul, there was a telephone. The difference from Denver to New York is tzvei shtunder. Es is geven dacht mir durt acht azeiger, dur tzen azeiger, Maariv hut geven nein azeiger, in mitten zummer.

    I tried to get of the Rosh Yeshiva, but it’s impossible to get a hold of the Rosh Yeshiva.

    Hut er geven k’seder asuk mit tzarchei tzibbur, mit telephones un nuch a nant. Ich ub gevart un gevart un es is shoin tzen azeiger un es is shoin tzvelve azeiger darf ich shoin gein. Morgin in de free tracht mir Bourch Shaibetz, zugt er nu hut ir em gecallt? Zug er ich hub shoin gekalt, uber iz geven oif de telephone, busy.

    Efsher gei ruf em yetzt. Es is geven nuchen davenin, in New York iz geven tzen, bei unz is geven acht. Un vem hub ich getroft? Ich hub getroft de Rosh Yeshiva, zichrono levracha. Zug ich em, Tehillim bengt,  Baruch Shaibitz er helft oif de Yeshiva aza sach.  Avade, avade, Ich dengt em, er iz geven by unz, avader mir darft zugen Tehillim uber nisht yetz es is shoin tzen azeiger es iz mitten seder, vellen mir zugen Tehllim nucht Mincha.

    Mincha davened mer in Yeshiva a fartel tzu tzvi. Un ungefirt a tzvei azeiger huben mir gezukt Tehillim. Denver time is geven tzelve a zeiger. Ich kum shpeter tzu Mincha tref ich dem Jack, freg ich “How is this Mrs.?”

    Zein freu is geleben zex ziben yur shpeter, zi is gevuren gezunt, un gelebt nuch a zex ziben yur shpeiter.

    Er is geven interseirt in aleh bnei torah, intereseirt in vi men tut un vos men tut, ich hub em upgerufun etlicher mol in de tzeit ven ich hub geven in Denver, un er hut mir gefregt vos macht ir, tzu ir lerenent – di ikar? De ikar iz nur duch tzu lernen, avade, avade, mir hubben gehat a feiner group of bnei torah zei trefen zich oif Shabbos, algemeiner Shiur, un yeder einer hut gehat chavrusa, zei huben zich eingeruden zeier fein, un yeder mol hut er gegeben, avada, avade, R’ Nochum mir muz mir muz.

    [1] 1930

    [2] It was burning deep within him,

    [3] with all his essence. This person worked probably twenty-two hours a days, for the struggles he had, with the Igud HaRabbonim, and others, who believed that there never can be a Yeshiva in America. But he kept up a constant struggle, as he disputed them. He argued that Torah “Ish Torah, the Rabbonim can only be those who actually have to do with Torah, and as is brought down, Torah is the very soul of Klal Yisrael! Without Torah Klal Yisrael cannot exist! And all the more so, after such a terrible destruction, we must rebuild Torah! And the more we build Torah, this is how we will be building Klal Yisrael! This, is the essence of all my words, and all my fiery speeches, constantly, again, and again, and again.” We especially needed him to speak, not only for us, the original Bnei Torah, who knew him previously, but the main idea was to speak for the young American boys, who came from various backgrounds, various homes, various cities and various environments. And we have indeed seen the fruits of his labor, which he built up. He built up Torah!!

    [4] I learned in Lakewood for two and half years. Afterwards, I got a job as a shochet in Denver. At that time, many Baalei batim lived there. One of them had a slaughterhouse. His name was Boruch Shaibetz. This Boruch Shaibetz was a fine Jew, a simple Jew, but a very fine person, and a big baal tzedaka. On one occasion, he was scheduled to travel to New York, and I convinced him to visit Lakewood. He would be in New York before Lakewood, but I wanted him to see the city of Torah, and to meet with the Rosh Yeshiva.

    [5] This was, could be, in the middle fifties,

    [6] He came then, and was introduced to the Rosh Yeshiva. When he came back, he was very enthusiastic about it, and he started going around with me to collect funds. The Rosh Yeshiva was always in need of money, and I always helped him out by going around to collect. He (R’ Boruch) used to come along with me to collect some money for the Yeshiva. And being as he had a lot of connections, business connections, he used to fundraise at least 600-700 dollars. In those days, that was a small fortune, six hundred dollars.

    [7] R’ Boruch was a high-class Jew and he had his own ??. And this ?? once came to him in Shul in the middle of the summer. This ?? had a mother-in-law and a father-n-law, and they came to visit him in mid-June or July. And this father-in-law was very agitated, very down and upset. I went over to him and asked him “Jack, what is the matter?” So he answered “My wife. It’s my wife. She’s very sick and just came from the hospital. The doctor said that she has nebach cancer and there’s no hope”.

    [8] R’ Baruch Shaibetz came to Shul, for Maariv, and I told R’ Baruch that I heard this mother-in-law is very sick.

    [9] In shul, they had a telephone. The difference from Denver to New York is two hours, and I believe by us

    it was 10 o’clock and by them it was 8 o’clock. Maariv was nine o’clock in the middle of the summer.

    [10] He was constantly busy with public affairs, with telephones and the like. So I waited. It was already 10 o’clock, 12 o’clock. I had to go. The next day, early morning, R’ Baruch Shaibetz meets me, and he asks “Nu, did you call him?” I answered “I tried calling, but the telephone was constantly busy.”

    [11] “Maybe go call him now.” It was already after davening, in New York it was 10 o’clock, and by us it was eight. And whom do I get on the phone? I got the Rosh Yeshiva, zichrono l’vracha! I asked him, if he could please say Tehillim, and I told him I was calling for Baruch Shaibetz, who helps out the Yeshiva alot. “Oh sure, sure, I remember him. He was by us, yes, we will definitely say Tehillim. But not now, now it’s 10 o’clock, it’s the middle of Seder. We will say Tehillim after Mincha.” 

    [12] Mincha in Yeshiva is a quarter to two. And about two o’clock, they said Tehillim. Denver time it was 12 o’clock. Later, I came to Mincha, and I met Jack. I asked him “How is the Mrs.?”

    [13] He said

    [14] Doctors

    [15] His wife lived six, seven years longer. She got well, and live six, seven years longer.

    [16] I feel, this was the Bracha of the Rosh Yeshiva.

    [17] He was interested in all the Bnei Torah, interested in how we’re doing, and what we’re doing. I called him many times while living in Denver. And he always asked me, “How are you, are you learning? That’s the ikor!! The ikor is only to learn!” I always responded “Oh sure, sure, we have a fine group of Bnei Torah, they meet together on Shabbos, and they attend a general Shiur, and each one has a Chavrusa. They adjusted themselves very well.” And each time, he supported us by saying “Definitely, definitely R’ Nachum, you must, you must!”


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