Rabbi Zalman P. Quinn
This is Zalman Pinchas Quinn. My early experiences with the Rosh Yeshiva was in my first year in Mesivta Torah V’Daas, 1954-1955. The Rosh Yeshiva came together with the Kapishnitzer Rebbe, zichrono l’vracha, to speak on behalf of Tashbar and . I don’t remember at all what they said then, but of course, it was a big yiras hakavod for the bochurim.
At the end of 1954 was the levaya of Harry Hershkowitz, the famous supporter of Torah. The Rosh Yeshiva spoke. I remember there was a whole long block of limousines that came to Williamsburg to the levaya because Harry Herskowitz was so well-known amongst the high class people from Manhattan. And the Rosh Yeshiva gave a moiradegga hesped which is printed in the Mishnas Aron. You can see there he refers to him as an adam gadol.
Taf-Shin-Yud-Ches, Reb Reuven zichrono l’vracha was niftar. It was Chaf Bais Adar. The Rosh Yeshiva could not come to the levaya. I’m not sure why. It might be because he wasn’t well. He’d had an accident that winter. Or perhaps it was because the levaya was on erev Shabbos and he couldn’t make it. But he did come the week afterwards for the hesped, and it left a great impression on me. When Reb Aharon came in, the whole olam – it was not a Lakewood olam, but the whole olam – got up and was standing on top of the backs of the chairs to be able to take a glimpse of the Rosh Yeshiva.
L’maaseh, he did not say the hesped because he had just had the accident and he probably was too shvach. But Reb Yaakov spoke in Reb Aharon’s name and in his own because they were both chaverim of Reb Reuven’s. Each of them was three years younger.
Other Public Addresses
In Taf-Shin-Yud-Tes, we were sent to hear the Rosh Yeshiva speak on the East Side for the famous drasha when he was mocheh on the kavod of the Brisker Rov. That drasha is also printed.
There were a few other occasions where we went to hear the Rosh Yeshiva. At other asifas in Williamsburgh at Pier 16, at Agudah asifas. Wherever he spoke, he was rosh hamidabrim bechol makom.
Not the greatest orator, it was kimat not shayach to understand him usually, but every word that came out of his mouth, people listened to very, very carefully. There was fire in his eyes. Tachlis, that was it, although I wasn’t old enough to understand very well.
I remember the Pikester Rebbe’s shul. I remember, I was up in the bleachers. I remember where I was. To understand? We never understood. We used to come back to yeshiva and on the way back we used to say, “How many times did he say Torah?” “Did he say college?”
In Taf-Shin Chaf-Alef or Chaf-Bais, the Rosh Yeshiva came again with the Kapishnitzer Rebbe to speak on behalf of Tashbar and Chinuch Atzmai. He spoke for about 20 minutes and related the story about mesirus nefesh – the talmidim and mesirus nefesh for Tashbar. Because he said that the founder of the yeshiva, Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz had mesirus nefesh b’chlal and b’frat for Tashbar, because he called the first meeting on behalf of establishing the Tashbar in Eretz Yisroel. He was very sick at the time if you remember. And he went from his sickbed to the meeting in Manhattan. So he said bochurim especially have to have mesirus nefesh for Tashbar. And the second half of the drasha, he spoke about devoting themselves completely to learning of Torah and not chalilah going into other studies. I taped it at the time.
Always on the e
I learned in Mesivta Torah V’Daas. I came to Lakewood Yeshiva in Cheshvan Taf-Shin-Chaf-Bais, the end of 1961. I was only one year with the Rosh Yeshiva, but I noticed during that year that I never, never saw him learning anything but what was nogeah to the shiur. He just didn’t have the time. He didn’t have the time to learn. He gave away the last 20 years of his life for the klal. And he said to ??, “?? to live in America”. It’s true.
At one point in the winter, I see mit amol he’s learning things not pertaining to our mesechta, Bava Basra. He was learning Sanhedrin. But I found out he was going to Eretz Yisroel and he was preparing shiurim to say in Eretz Yisroel in Sanhedrin. But other than what he had to say for the shiurim and the shmuzen, the times that I saw him learning in bais medrash was always on the mesechta. But mai’idach gisa, I never saw such a masmid like the Rosh Yeshiva.
By the regaim , the menuten, the sekundes. People waiting in line and as soon as someone stepped away, he was back in the Gemara as if he had been there a few hours.
Awe of the Rosh Yeshiva
There was no such thing as one becoming comfortable with the Rosh Yeshiva, “getting heimish.” Not that I saw. Everybody had a tremendous yiras hakavod, even talmidim that were there a number of years. After five years was like the first day. And in my eyes, it came because the Rosh Yeshiva was a moiradegga yirei Shomayim. In my life I never saw anyone say a Kriyas Shema like Reb Aharon’s Kriyas Shema. If you look in the shmuzen, he writes about what it means missing one time kabbolas ol malchus shomayim, one time Kriyas Shema. Every time, every Kriyas Shema was a new kabbolas ol malchus shomayim.
I understand that at the beginning of Baba Basra, zman Taf Shin Chaf Bais, he said a shmuz because he was very, very disappointed about the pace at which the olam was learning. The thing that he wanted, l’chatchilah, was that we should learn three blatt a week for first seder and three blatt a week for second seder. B’dieved, two blatt. But less than two blatt, he felt he could close the yeshiva. That’s what I was told. Bittul Torah.
That’s what I heard, but what I saw myself was that k’seder throughout the zman, he was trying to push the shiurim always two blatt ahead, assuming that the bochurim would learn another two blatt. And they were begging him that they couldn’t do it.
Once before he went to Eretz Yisroel, he wanted to say the chardel shiurim. The bochurim and yungerleit went in, begging him to put it off, and he was very upset that they were going too slowly. The end was that they got him to put it off, and he said six shiurim in seven days. When he came back from Eretz Yisroel, and was going to go to rest in Florida, in between he said six shiurim in seven days.
It was the same thing the next zman. The summer zman was Baba Metzia, and the Rosh Yeshiva insisted and wouldn’t give in that they learn Perek Hazahav. The bochurim wanted to learn Perek Hamafkid, the olam, I should say. And they went in begging, but he wouldn’t give in at all. He said, “After you finish Hazahav, then you go back to Hamafkid.”
And everybody came to the new zman. Everbody had to start Hazahav. What happened at the end of the day, was they went back to Hamafkid but he wouldn’t give in at all.
What I mean to say is that the Rosh Yeshiva felt that the yeshiva has to go on the system of two blatt a week each seder. He told my chavrusa, and he used to say that “You should learn Gemara, Rashi, Tosfos, Rif mitten Rambam, kukt un in Shulchan Aruch mit de Gra, and everything else leave for bein hasdarim or other times.” R’ Akiva Eiger is very good, so is Nachalas Dovid, and other seforim, but these leave for bein hasdarim.
He did tell my chavrusa that every mesechta has one Rishon and in Baba Basra, the Rishon is the Rambam.
I was always scared of being caught by the Rosh Yeshiva. If anyone had to leave the bais medrash, he looked out the door to check if the Rosh Yeshiva was around in the hall because he was scared the Rosh Yeshiva would ask where he’s holding.
A Sharfer Shmuz
In the beginning of Baba Basra, he said a shmuz - a very sharfer shmuz. I didn’t see it printed. About learning faster. He said over the story of Reb Yehoshua Leib Diskin who said shiurim in the sugya of Hezek Reiyah three hours a day for three months. The Rosh Yeshiva said “Uber de zelber zeit hut er ge’endekt Shas.” Azo tzu zugen the shiurim were cold from gantz shas. He was learning Shas at that same time.
As the Rosh Yeshiva Weakened
Everybody knows the Rosh Yeshiva was officially declared sick after Succos, but I noticed way, way, way before then that the Rosh Yeshiva was deteriorating, getting weaker and weaker. Nobody knew why.
I don’t know if the doctors ever figured out when the Rosh Yeshiva got sick, but my earliest recollection is Rosh Chodesh Nissan at the chasunah of Yochonon Follman[MH4] . It was a Thursday night, and the Rosh Yeshiva was supposed to be at the chasunah as mesader kiddushin. He never showed up. So afterward, it was erev Shabbos, so everybody left. Everyone was supposed to stay for Shabbos, and the Rosh Yeshiva was supposed to say a shiur, but he didn’t come back to yeshiva for Shabbos. He was sick that weekend. What he was sick with, I don’t know.
Shavuos with His Illness
Then, as I said, after Pesach, he was always asking for rides. On Erev Shavuos, he was sick again. He was supposed to say a shiur for the Kodshin[MH5] chaburah. I believe he didn’t say the shiur that day. Shavuos in the morning, I davened vasikin, and the Rosh Yeshiva was not there. They waited, waited, and waited. We turned to Reb Schneur by “Kel V’saatzumos” before “Boruch Hu,” and we waited about 25 minutes until the Rosh Yeshiva finally came. We didn’t daven vasikin. So we knew that he was not well.
However, after the davening, by kiddush, the Rosh Yeshiva was very maarich and very b’simcha. He sang many, many niggunim by the seudah and by the night seudah. The whole Yom Tov was very freilech. He danced in the bais medrash between the first day Yom Tov and the second day Yom Tov. The second day Yom Tov was on Shabbos, and the Rosh Yeshiva made a big Neilas HaChag for about four hours. He spoke very long. The olam danced. We didn’t see anything different. The only thing I do remember is that I think Dr. ?? came to him erev Shavuos and I think they said something about the heart, but I don’t think anyone took it seriously enough.
Physically Weak but Spiritually Strong
In the summer months, after Shalosh Seudos, he didn’t go back to the bais medrash to daven. They made a minyan for him in the dining room building. I used to go back. I used to go to bais medrash and then come back for maariv motzai Shabbos. I remember hearing it then or later that after he ate, he couldn’t walk. So this must have gone on a good half a year before he was niftar that he already had that machla.
In the summer, he left the zman a little bit earlier to rest up. I was by him with my father up at Fleischman’s Hotel during bein hazmanim and I saw the Rosh Yeshiva walking. Before we met him, we saw him coming. I saw someone all white. I didn’t recognize him, not from afar at least. He was so changed.
Also, on the street when he walked, I saw when he came from the driveway, which goes up from Seventh Street to the yeshiva, that the incline was very, very hard on him. He couldn’t walk. So he definitely really was physically very, very, very weak, but in ruchnius? He was just stronger, stronger, and stronger.
The Yomim Noraim
In the last Chodesh Elul, he said the shiurim on Shvach and Baba Metzia. He said shiurim twice a week, plus chazaras hashiur twice a week. That’s four times a week that he said shiur. From Rosh Chodesh Elul to Yom Kippur, he said ten shmuzen, every week, motzai Shabbos Selichos, the night before Erev Rosh Hashana, the first day Rosh Hashana, the second day Rosh Hashana (not on Tzom Gedalia because Rav Zaitchek spoke then,) Shabbos Shuva, and twice on Yom Kippur. His Shabbos Shuva shiur was close to two hours because it was the last shiur of the zman.
Yom Kippur was on Monday that year, so the Shabbos Shuva before, he said a shiur for close to two hours. Then, after Shalosh Seudos, he said a Shabbos Shuva drasha for close to an hour. At the end of the Shabbos Shuva drasha, he said, “Mit der yungereh kochos kenen mir asach mer oiftan” and he started crying, and he walked down. I say he walked down because I think that drasha he said from the top of the bimah and not from his seat, like a drasha. And he walked off.
I was stunned. Why was he saying that? I saw yungere kochos. The whole Elul, besides everything else. The whole year he would go into New York and come back Thursday, but in Elul, anytime he had to go to New York, he came back the same day. For a chasunah, for an asifa, a groundbreaking for a yeshiva, all different Klal zachen, he always made a point of coming back. So why is he complaining about yungere kochos? To me, it was a big chiddush.
Years later, when I spoke to the son of the Rosh Yeshiva, Reb Schneur, he said, “Yuh, in de tekufa hut mein tatteh zich dermunt a bitter atzvus. Geshpirt an atzvus.”
In Elul came a very big group of bochurim. For the size of the yeshiva at that time – I think about 20 bochurim came. It was a big chiddush. I have no doubt that for those 20 bochurim that one chodesh Elul at the yeshiva, was remembered for years and years. Shimush, I would call it. The roshem that he made. No shailah that he made a tremendous, tremendous impact on them. For those short weeks that they were with him.
In winter, the Rosh Yeshiva spoke two shmuzen. It was interesting. The first one involved a Yid - I forgot his name - who would clean the bais medrash each evening. Straighten out the chairs, the seforim a little bit. One day, he came to the Rosh Yeshiva with 50 cigarette butts that he said were left on the floor. It distressed him very much that people were leaving cigarettes on the floor. So the Rosh Yeshiva, who was, of course, devoted to the topic of a Mikdoshai tira’yu, the kedushas bais haknesses about not throwing cigarette butts on the floor.
Not too long after, about two months later, the Rosh Yeshiva spoke another shmuz. I heard it was because somebody went to the doctor, and the doctor told him to stop smoking. But he never smoked. The bais medrash used to be one big smokescreen. So the Rosh Yeshiva gave an anti-smoking shmuz, and this was before the Surgeon General came out with the report that smoking is dangerous. The Rosh Yeshiva said on his own that b’svora, smoking is not healthy, and that the yungerleit should try to refrain from it and tzubislich get off it. He suggested they start with one seder – maybe second seder. It didn’t work. The Rosh Yeshiva tried to stop it, but it didn’t work. They stopped at the end of the zman, and came the summer they started smoking. There was mamesh a cloud over there. I’m sure he wasn’t able to take it.
Kavanos for the Shem Hashem
An interesting thing that I myself saw was in the last chodesh Elul of the yeshiva. He said a shmuz. At the end of it, he said over something that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the shmuz. But he said over the mechaber in Shulchan Aruch, who tells us the kavanos of the sheimos. He dinged up that the mechaber said that when you daven, you have to be mechaven the sheimos. “Un mir vet eich monnen oif dem, un mir vet eich monnen oif dem.” Those are the words that I remember.
That was the extent of what he said about this, but when I heard that from his mouth, for the next few weeks, I found it very hard to daven. I was just scared at every sheim. I thought it was just me. Many years later, Yitzchak Morgenvasser, who came to the yeshiva that Elul, told me over the exact same story. He heard the shmuz and he couldn’t daven afterwards.
A few years ago, Reb Chaim Leib Epstein spoke here in the yeshiva and said that he, too, had the same experience. The Rosh Yeshiva said it so matter-of-factly and yet, he got such tzutzitirt from it that for weeks later, he just couldn’t daven. All this from something the Rosh Yeshiva said matter-of-factly.
The Rosh Yeshiva’s Davening
I don’t know if this is something that is supposed to be checked out before being put to print, but it is something that I personally experienced. It was the end of the winter zman, mamesh at the end, right before Rosh Chodesh Nissan. There were not so many people in bais medrash that came during Pesukei D’Zimra, so I was able to hear the Rosh Yeshiva davening. I heard him saying the Y’hi Ratzon after Birchas HaShachar and I heard him saying “V’shetargileinu B’Sorasecha v’dabkeinu b’mitzvosecha” and I thought I heard him repeating it. Then I listened vaiter, and I heard him saying “V’dabkeinu b’yetzer tov uv’maasim tovim v’chof es yitzreinu lehishtabed lach” and I heard him saying it again. “V’dabkeinu b’yetzer tov uv’maasim tovim”. And every time, he said it fast, and I couldn’t hear the “V’chof es yitzreinu lehishtabed lach”. It got quiet, and I heard him saying it again. And I heard him saying it again. And I started counting. On my fingers, I counted 20 times. “V’dabkeinu b’yetzer tov uv’maasim tovim”. Sometimes I heard “V’chof es yitzreinu lehishtabed lach”, and sometimes he got quiet so I couldn’t hear it. 20 times on my fingers besides what he said before I started counting.
Afterwards, I heard – it’s achrayus to say this over – but someone told me that Rav Berlovsky[MH7] had the same experience. I asked him about it, and he didn’t want to share this experience with me too much, so I can’t say it in his name. But I heard that he had the same experience, Koppel Berlovsky, I think his name is. He was a Chaim Berliner.
B’derech klal, by davening, the Rosh Yeshiva davened quite fast. By davening, amol he would pick up his hands in hispailos. I guess in hispailos, I can’t say what it was. Shemonah Esreh he didn’t shake that much, just a little bit to the side. Except at Kriyas Shema, as I said before, which was fire. Fire mamesh. Kriyas Shema was the only part of the davening that he was mamesh fire.
The Hespedim for the Rosh Yeshiva
At the levaya of the Rosh Yeshiva, zichrono l’vracha, there were many, many hespedim. First in Lakewood, the talmidim spoke, besides Reb Yankev and Reb Ruderman zichrono l’vracha. In New York, there were also many hespedim. I remember all of them. Someone spoke in the name of Agudas Rabbonim. Some of them spoke in the name of Agudas Yisroel, the baalei batim of the yeshiva - all different organizations. Each one said and they meant it, “What will we do without Reb Aharon?”
Talmidim were talmidim. They cried for him like a child cries for a father, but during these hespedim in New York with people saying, “What will the Agudah do without Reb Aharon?” “What will this organization do?” I felt they are not saying what Reb Aharon is.
At the end, the Ponevezher Rov zichrono l’vracha spoke, and I remember his opening statement.
“Rabbosai, es iz firanen finev un a halb million Yidden in America. Vos vet yetzt zein mit de finev un a halb million yidden in America?”
When I heard that, I said to myself, “Ah, that’s taitching up the Rosh Yeshiva.”
The yeshiva was for the five and a half million Jews of America, even if only a few hundred thousand knew of him. That’s taitching up what Reb Aharon meant to our country, not Agudah nor this or that organization.
Bittul Torah is a Matter of Life and Death
At the end of the shiva, the Ponevezher Rov came to the yeshiva. I remember a few things he said. He took out a big Gemara where Baba Kama brings the kavod, at the end of the first perek, “V’kavod gadol asu lo b’moso”. This is referring to Chizkiyahu HaMelech. He said “I am coming to talk about establishing, that the yeshiva will continue.” And he said, “Why v’kavod gadol asu lo?” And he said over that the Tosfos brings – the Gemara in Sanhedrin because what did Chizkiyahu HaMelech do when Sancheirev HaRasha surrounded Yerushalayim and Eretz Yisroel? “Na’atz cherev lekoslei Beis Hamedrash, v’amar mi shelo yaasek bzu, yidaker bezu”.
And the roshem I had - I remember he said it b’feresh - was that the Rosh Yeshiva’s oifen was that bittul Torah, not learning Torah or yeslearning Torah, is a matter of life and death. It’s not luxus. It’s not just a mitzvah. It’s either-or. That was what the Rosh Yeshiva taught the Yidden in America. That was his message all the years.
Whenever the Rosh Yeshiva spoke at any asifa, whether it was a macho’ah about a certain inyan in Klal Yisroel, afterward, he made sure to direct back to the audience to tell them their own achrayus.
“You’re coming here to protest an inyan in Klal Yisroel? You have to know also your achrayus for bittul Torah. Become gedolei Torah. Don’t just be mistapek b’muat and being mediocre. You have to go to the fullest extent.” You can hear this in the various drashos that he spoke.
This is what he taught this medina. Bittul Torah is a matter of life and death. That’s what he used to give over. Reb Aharon was an emese Neturei Karta.
The Roshem on One Talmid
I’m not a good kolet, I always had trouble hearing him also. It was a big strain by me listening to him most of the time. Shmuzen upgeret. The shiurim were hard, and the shmuzen even harder. He stood by his shtender, and the shtender was creaking. You’d hear the creak loudly. And he was more like speaking to himself like when you’re saying a shmuz.
The derech of the shmuz was that at eight o’clock he had the shmuz. Everyone made sure to be there on time. The Rosh Yeshiva came on time also. They all crowded in the front of the bais medrash, and he’d take out the mussar sefer he was learning, which usually was Chovos HaLevavos, and he’d start learning mussar. And the whole olam would learn mussar. A shmuz, is a shmuz. Gelerent, mit a gantzeh mussar niggun. For a few minutes time the Rosh Yeshiva would talk. K’derech the baalei mussar mistam, he was more talking to himself. Mir ret nisht oif yenem, mir ret oif zich.  It was hard to hear and understand him.
I remember by the levaya, R’ Meir Malin was speaking about pesukim at the end of Shir HaShirim, “Ma naaseh l’achoseinu, b’yom shedubar bah, im choma hi nivneh aleha tiras kessef”. Klal Yisrael must be a chomah. Don’t let in any foreign influence. The Torah is our tirah. The Rosh Yeshiva was a chomah. He was the chomah. Besides, he was the one that hasaga of gadlus b’Torah. To the greatest extent, he was the one – the only one.
I learned by many rebbeim, and I felt that the year that I learned by the Rosh Yeshiva, I had more from him, directly or indirectly, that I had from all my days in all the years. It’s hard for me to explain it. Did I understand the Rosh Yeshiva? No. I went to the shiurim – definitely yes. I felt he was mechayev to try and become bigger and better and try to understand learning. He was a gevaldiggeh mechayev.
A Magnet Pulling Upwards
I always felt the roshem. The Rosh Yeshiva was not a pedagogue. He didn’t give the cheshbon of pedigogya. You hear about smart people, roshei yeshivas, mashgichim who are big pedagogim. The Rosh Yeshiva, just his metzius was like the sun, like a giant magnet, pulling everybody up. Every bochur, every yungerman, he was just pulling you up if you’d let yourself. You had to let yourself. It wasn’t shayach otherwise. We were so scared of him.
Before every shiur he would pause for about a minute or two. If it was true or not, I don’t know, but it looked like he was taking attendance. Everyone felt that way, definitely. They felt he knew who was there and who was not. I don’t understand it. It was moiradeg. His whole metzius was a tremendous, tremendous magnet that pulled you up. You couldn’t become complacent around him. You never felt comfortable. You always looked at him with a gevaldigge yirah.
Rabbi Beane: Awesome.
Rabbi Quinn: Awesome, right.
When he walked into the bais medrash, the whole olam would rise until he came to his place. It was real. It was a pachad.
An interesting little thing which – again, these things are not to use. At netilas yadayim, he washed his left hand before his right. The Beis Yosef in Siman Daled, I think it is, discusses the shailah in arichus al pi Zohar, al pi Halacha to wash the right before the left, so why the Rosh Yeshiva did it this way, I don’t know. I have seen different people – groise Yidden - that washed their hands, and I saw one other one who washed his left first. But the Rosh Yeshiva, I watched him wash his hands many times, the left hand before the right.
 22 Adar
 Senior lecturer everywhere
 1961 or 62
 On the other hand
 Acceptance of G-d’s eternal ruling
 Chapter in Baba Basra
 Chapter in Baba Metzia
 Chapter in Baba Metzia
 You should learn Gemara, Rashi, Tosfos, Rif with the Rambam, see the Shulchan Aruch with the Gra
 Chapter in the tractate Baba Basra
 But at the same time he completed learning Shas
 So to say,
 Chapter in Baba Basra
 Page 2
 You have not yet learned Baba Basra, and these are non-based theories
 Tractate in the Talmud
 Portions of the morning prayers
 Portion in Baba Metzia
 Torah lecture review
 With the younger spirits, we can accomplish much more
 Young spirits
 Yes, during that time, my father felt a great sadness, he was overcome with a great sadness
 You shall respect my holy place
 Sanctity of a synagogue
 And you will be litigated for this, you will be litigated for this
 Verses of praise to G-d, recited at the commencement of the morning prayers
 Prayer “And may it be your will”
 Morning blessings
 And you shall familiarize us with your Torah, and bond us with your commandments
 Bond us with the good nature, and good deeds, and cleanse our nature to be subservient to you
 Rabbis, there are currently five and a half million Jews living in America. What is now to become of these five and a half million Jews in America?
 And he was bestowed with great honor upon his passing
 King Hiskiyah
 Why was he allotted much honor?
 Tractate in the Talmud
 The wicked Sancherev
 He inserted a sword into the walls of the Beis Medrash and said “Anyone who will not busy himself with this, will be stabbed with this.”
 Settle for the minimum
 Sat and learned in the traditional Mussar tune
 Just as the preachers of Mussar probably used to do,
 We are not speaking on others, we are speaking to ourselves.
 Song of songs
 What shall we do for our sister on her apportioned day, if she is a fortress we shall build for her a silver castle
 Greatness in Torah
 Chapter four
 According to the Zohar
 According to Halachic Law