Rabbi Zevulun Schwartzman
And I was young. I was four or five or six years old. My grandfather used to come for mini-vacations sometimes. I remember seeing him sitting by a table with a Gemara, gezetzed leben der Gemara un gelerent.
But in Tof-shin-yud-zayin, 1957, we lived together in the same house in Boro Park. What hit you about the house was what you might call aniyus. The attitude was that you do only in Olam Hazeh that which you need and that which is necessary. Anything else is totally irrelevant. The furnishings and everything else in the house were really simple, but that didn’t bother him. Anything that wasn’t that way was considered in poor taste.
There was a tremendous tzimtzum. He never took an extra penny from the yeshiva, and aside from that, he would usually not take his own salary until he made sure the yungerleit had theirs. He’d never take anything. And ois gecheshbent to the pruta. My grandmother kept cheshbonos up to a penny of money she borrowed. We still have those little booklets she kept.
There was such a tzimtzum. It wouldn’t be understood today. We didn’t even have a set of Rambam in the house until the bar mitzvah of my older brother, Yankev Eliezer in Tof-shin-chaf-alef, 1961. I remember we had a next door neighbor in an apartment house – R’ Samson Refoel Weiss, zichrono l’vracha and we always used to bring his Rambams to the house. His Rambams were very used up, from sitting in our house!
Food for the children was always b’shefa. Meh darf hoben koach to lernen. But otherwise, there was nothing fancy. Avos darf men dos? What good purpose does it serve? What would it do besides distract a person from what he’s supposed to be? So even in those years, the house stood out in its tremendous difference to the way people were living, even ehrlicher Toradigge Yidden. It was not a house where gashmius played any role. This was the dmus.
Yet there was no depression in the house. The only thing that a child could be depressed about was if he didn’t learn well. There was no feeling of lack, no idea that “We don’t have.” The idea was that we don’t need it. We need only the basics.
Lessons from the Alter Heim
My grandmother oleha hashalom used to always tell us over about her grandfather, the famous Rav Shraga Feivel Frank. He was the father-in-law of Reb Isser Zalman Melzer, Reb Moshe Mordechai Epstein, and Reb Sheftel Kramer. The fourth son-in-law was Rosh Yeshiva in Slobodka – Reb Boruch Horowitz. R’ Shraga Feivel was niftar a very young man. He was niftar before any of his daughters got married. He had a great big business in Kovno.. He was considered from the prominent gevirim of Kovno. He was a baal achsanya of Rav Yisroel Salanter in Kovno. The bais hamussar was in his house.
But it was in his tzavoah that his sons should use the money, should use the wealth that they had, to marry off the daughters to talmidei chachamim muflogim. This is mefursim, the whole world knows.
But my grandmother always used to say that there was another part to it - that in the tzavoah, they were supposed to marry the daughters off to talmidei chachamim, and he was mispallel that besides that, no wealth should remain. He was worried about what wealth can do. Corruption of wealth. Wealth can corrupt doros. So the Aibishter should give them the zchus that they’ll be able to use that wealth to marry off their sisters to talmidei chachamim muflogim and besides from that, the Aibishter should help that nothing else should remain.
My grandmother oleha hashalom used to say, “Baruch Hashem, the bracha worked.” It was a simcha! It was a tremendous simcha! And it was really.
Going back to Rabbi Shraga Faivel Frank and the person he was. As a very young bochur, I had the zchus to meet a great aunt of mine, Rebbetzin Kramer, who was Rav Ruderman’s mother-in-law. She was the youngest of the four sisters, and she was still alive when I came to Baltimore as a young bochur, eleven years old. She recollected and told me, as an eid riyah, that when she was at her father’s levaya in Kovno (she was a young girl, maybe six years old, the youngest of the sisters) she remembers Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon at the levaya.
What happened was this: He [R’ Shraga Feivel] left a tzavoah that there shouldn’t be any hespedim. R’ Yitzchak Elchonon got up and said, “Ich volt em nisht gefolkt” - “I would disobey his request” “Ober Ich hab moreh far em.” - but I’m afraid of him. And he sat down. And with that, he was mekayem the tzavoah and said what he wanted to say.
That’s a person who was a baal madrega that you were scared of not being mekayem where he wants.
Getting back to the house, just to concentrate on my memories of my grandfather -- rather than the house in general and my grandmother, though the tone of the house involved my grandmother also -- the most focused image I can remember is of him coming into the house every day, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday sometime during the day, after a whole day in the city. He used to spend most of the day in New York for the tzorchei yeshiva, and more than that, for tzorchei Chinuch Atzmai. Besides the achrayus of carrying the yeshiva, basically, those years, from the beginning of Chinuch Atzmai through his petirah, the whole financial burden of the Chinuch Atzmai my grandfather carried by himself.
It’s the fact. I mean, Rav Henoch Cohen who still runs Mosdos Chinuch Atzmai in New York, was in those years not yet an executive director. What he did was he would come to the office in the morning, and the first thing he would do was sit down by his desk, call up my grandfather and ask him, “What do I do today?” And he would give him instructions what to do. And then he reported what he accomplished, and he’d get instructions on what to do vaiter.
But the day started with a conversation, with a phone call to my grandfather, reporting in and getting instructions. That’s the way Chinuch Atzmai worked in America. It’s what’s called today “hands on.” He carried it with an achrayus to the point that he felt that the Chinuch Atzmai would take money before he would take for the yeshiva.
That’s the achrayus. He felt the next dor in Eretz Yisroel was contingent on what happened to the first. The whole dor lies on this – when it was a question of getting a dollar for somebody, between Chinuch Atzmai or the yeshiva, Chinuch Atzmai was first.
But basically, that’s what he used to do most of the day, those three and a half days that he was in New York. It was a very difficult schedule. In earlier years, though I don’t remember them clearly, he would go by subway. He went around all day by subways and buses wherever he went.
Towards the last few years that I remember more, the yeshiva finally bought an old car, and the bochurim used to take turns driving him around. It happened often that when the bochur would come back from a whole day in the city, he would come in exhausted. It was a very exhausting day. It was a very difficult, exhausting day.
But my grandfather, I just remember, how he would come into the house. He would open the door like racing almost, like he was running, like dashing straight to the table and chair and to the Gemara. That was the first thing, when he got into the house, he ran into a room and sat down and opened the Gemara. It was as if someone was missing oxygen, pashut. It’s not a question of how pious you are; you need oxygen. It’s by us, a living example of the Gemara with the mashal that Rabbi Akiva used with the dagim bayam of “Why don’t you go on to dry land?” A dag outside the yam can’t exist.
As a matter of fact, there’s a little schmooze in a sefer about “dagim b’yam”. As much water as a fish has, he goes out of his way for every extra drop of water. That’s the mashal of Chazal. He was a living example of that mashal of Chazal every time he walked into the house.
Then he would sit down, open his Gemara, and his pinkas, he always learned with a notebook and a pen.
Nights at Home
After he would start on his learning, then my grandmother, oleha hashalom, would walk in and say, “Gutten avent. Gutten avent.”
And she would bring a cup of coffee or tea to the table, and then he would give her lists of I don’t know how many people – quite a long list of people that he had to make contact with that evening.
Naturally, all the phone calls my grandmother, oleha hashalom, made on her own. He wouldn’t make the phone calls. As a matter of fact, whenever she would make the phone calls, she would give him the receiver to talk, and when he would be finished talking, he wouldn’t even put the receiver back on. It would just drop out of his hand, and his head was back in the Gemara.
Then my grandmother would back walk in and put the receiver back on the telephone. That’s what she expected. If he would do it any differently, it would bother her. The yachzor letalmudo the not hefsek in learning was a machzor even with that level of tirchos and tirdos that he had.
I mean, this was just the beginning, the list of calls. And then the house usually would start soon enough to fill up with people coming to be sho’el eitza or to discuss whatever. The house would usually fill up with people. And he would always be learning. People would come in, and he would be listening while he was learning. To the point that I remember my grandmother oleha hasholom once mentioned to me that once there was an important meeting with many people there, and he was just sitting and learning while they were talking. And she asked me afterwards, “Could it be they didn’t feel they got his attention?
He said, “I can tell you exactly what each one of them said, the whole dialogue”.
His level of being able to multi-task was tremendous. But he would really never stop or take his eyes out of the Gemara. He would never stop learning, never stop writing. He would listen to complicated conversations while he was writing Torah at the same time.
R’ Chaim Ozer – we heard – used to write with two hands simultaneously, which is something that’s a scientific phenomenon. But this was from extreme concentration pashut, of not stopping one minute from learning. This is when he would talk to everyone.
Besides Lakewood and Chinuch Atzmai, which were the main things, Torah U’Mesorah was also completely under his acharayus. As a matter of fact, after R’ Shraga Faivel Mendelowitz was niftar, the one who had the full acharayus for Torah U’Mesorah was my grandfather. Carried the whole Torah U’Mesorah. I mean, Torah U’Mesorah had a staff already with an office and people, but all decision making and everything – kol davar koshe, and not koshe – would come to my grandfather.
Even local issues. The local yeshiva katanoh in Boro Park. If any shailah came up, they were right there by my grandfather, asking what to do. Actually, the world of Torah and ehrlicher Yidden in general was much more a metzumtzimdege olam, but everything came to his doorstep and he would never shrink from the acharayus. With all that being makpid on every second of his time, there was never any shrink of acharayus for the tzorech of Klal Yisroel. Never. Klal Yisrael and tzoras yachid. Although for yechidim, it was more expressed in the yeshiva; he had more daiga for each yachid. His personal concern was for each talmid’s welfare, physical as well as ruchnius.
A Sick Bochur
Once when he got sick, he said he felt there was a bochur who got sick a few weeks before in yeshiva and he wasn’t enough noseh b’ol with him. And that’s why he got sick himself. He wasn’t enough noseh b’ol, although he took care of whatever was necessary to take care of, but he felt there was a chisurin in the darga of noseh b’ol.
The Spirit of the Times
But getting back to the day-to-day experience, basically, the tzoorah was that there was never a minute of let up. But personally, you felt that when the Zaide lerent, he’s learning. And everything else is a disruption in the middle of learning.
First is the Gemara. First is the learning. He lived in his Gemara. That was like a special tevunah which penetrated to us as children. We grew up in Boro Park in the 50’s when it wasn’t exactly a makom Torah. The only school there was for my older brother and me was Toras Emes, which as much as it was run by very ehrlicher Yidden whose kavanah was all l’shem Shamayim, and they have in their zchus many great bnei Torah and talmidei chachamim, but the general population of people who sent their children there were people who had no inkling or no interest whatsoever that their children get more than a little of a Jewish education before going on to college and careers.
Rabbi Beane: They should
be able to say kaddish
Rabbi Schwartzman: Yes. There were ehrlicher, frum people. They wanted them to be frum and Shomer Shabbos, but life was careers. Unfortunately, the best and the finest were that way. That was the ruach; there was no other place to go. Toras Emes was the only place. Anything else besides Toras Emes was 100 times worse.
When my younger brother Isser Zalman was growing up Stolin opened a cheder, then Novardok opened a cheder, but this was years later. When he started going to Stolin my grandfather was still alive – the last year of his life probably. But when we grew up, the stark contrast between our demus dyokno as opposed to everything around us was very stark, was very sharp. Ki heim Chayenu wasn’t a mashal; it wasn’t like a lashon we say in maariv.
It was the reality. Anything else means you’re not living to your full potential.
Abraham Lincoln and Secular Studies
My brother Yaakov Eliezer told me years ago that he when we used to go to school and we had to have secular subjects he was once sitting and writing something and my grandfather passed by and said “Vos schraibst du?”
He answered that he was writing a composition about Abraham Lincoln. I don’t know how my grandfather knew who Abraham Lincoln was, but he told him, “Zolst vissen a goy vi’ale goyim”.
To say that statement meant that he understood what the image of Abraham Lincoln in America was. Lehavdil eleff alfei havdolos, “Honest Abe, the Tzaddik of aleh goyim.” But an ehrlicher Yid and a ben Torah has to know “Ein lanu shiur rak haTorah hazos” and “Chachma bagoyim taamin” but anything else by goyim is “al taamin”
Today we see it b’chush. The story is told about all the deceit that Lincoln was involved in. There’s a lot of people who knew history, but this puts him in a totally different image. Ober a yid darf vissin, “A goy vi’ale goyim.”
Rabbi Beane: That’s another thing that comes out through all the interviews. I saw this inyan. That even though he was arainguton in Torah and everything, he was aware of what everybody was and where they were and where they were coming from.
Rabbi Schwartzman: It was shelo kiderech hateva kimat.
Rabbi Beane: He was not battul in der velt.
Rabbi Schwartzman: It was a bezunderiger Siyata Dishmaya to know everything that you have to know without having to spend time with it. We can’t figure out where he spent one minute doing anything. We can’t pashut figure it out. It’s not the pshat. And this started from the moment he got off the boat here in San Francisco and he took over direction. A lot of this is chronicled by Amos Bunim in his book, but more than that, my mother oleha hashalom used to say about it - his total involvement in Vaad Hatzolah and in directing all political activity, and all of his actions with the State Department, the White House, with Commander Eisenhower. He would tell people who were seasoned in the American way of life, who to talk to and who not to talk to, what to say to them, what not to say. It was “lo yeuman ki yesupar”. It was like Ruach HaKodesh. It sounds like nevuah kimat.
Rav Yankev Katz and the Dewey-Truman Election
My uncle, Rav Yankev Katz zichrono l’vracha, told me himself that in 1948, my grandfather was living on the West Side. Rav Yankev was staying in the house, maybe living there. It was a certain tekufa right after he got married, I think. And he was sitting and listening to the radio. It was election night, the Dewey-Truman election. As the whole world knows it was thought that Dewey was going to win. Even on election night, there was already an announcement that Dewey had won. The Chicago papers the next morning said that Dewey won. So close to the middle of the night, R’ Yankev was sitting and listening to the radio for the election results. And my grandfather passed by and R’ Yankev said “Ich her sich tzu far der elections”. “So my grandfather told him “Gei schluffen es is gornisht nogaiah, Truman hut gevunen”. B’chush he knew it. I don’t know how he knew b’chlal. He didn’t spend time on it, even. Not a moment. He had a hakpada on seconds of time not even for the erech of our hasaga bchlal. And yet, he knew whatever was nogeah, if it was nogeah knowing.
Rabbi Beane: I mean, he was davuk in Torah. Davuk in the Ribbono Shel Olam.
It was “kol haposeach poschin lo” whatever you need to have, you get. We don’t know the hesber. I mean, good, the kup was one shelo lefi erkeinu b’chlal, the koach hakishron, but it still doesn’t explain how he knew.
Rabbi Beane: It’s beyond kishronos.
The Agudah Convention
On this phenomenon of not wasting a second, let me give you a dugma which I heard from Avrohom Stefansky, who lives in Yerushalayim. He was a big meshamesh of my grandfather and the things that he knows! He told me he took him once to an Agudah convention. It used to take place in the Pioneer hotel in those days. They arrived on Friday afternoon.
The minhag is that he would come in downstairs through the lobby because most Rashei Yeshiva used to come to the conventions and everybody used to stand in the lobby schmoozing, maybe learning, maybe stam, Whenever he would walk in, he would shake his head at each one, but he would just run straight to his room. Run straight to wherever he had to go. No time for any small talk. No time for any inyanim ketanim.
You had to run after him practically, he would ask where he has to go “Vu gait men, vu gait men? When he came into the room he saw there was no table and chairs. “Vi ken es zein az a kisei is nisht du?” R’ Avraham ran out to get him a table and chair. He came back ten minutes later and saw my grandfather sitting on the floor with a Gemara and a pinkas, a notebook open on the bed, and he was learning and writing.
He couldn’t wait! It wasn’t shayach to waste a second. Sitting on the floor, writing and learning. Writing Chiddushei Torah on the floor! There was not one extra minute. But this was the general true tzoorah.
In the mishpacha itself, the one he would spend the most time with was my older brother. He was 14 when my grandfather was niftar. He would learn a lot with him. He would learn in the house, and whenever my grandfather went away bein haz’manim to Fleischman’s, an old residence hotel, my brother used to always go, and he used to spend a lot of time learning with him.
In fact, I once heard a story from Rav Gustman’s son-in-law. Rav Gustman was there with him once, and a few baalei batim were there too and they told him, “We heard that the Rosh Yeshiva is sitting on the other side of the wall.” And they saw his little einekel and he was screaming at him. “Tzores! Tzores! Tzores!”. So they said “A little kind darf men zugen vegen ‘tzures’? We can’t talk to the Rosh Yeshiva. Maybe you go to the Rosh Yeshiva and tell him something.” So R’ Gustman answered “I can’t talk to the Rosh Yeshiva at all when he’s talking to his einekel.” He knew what my grandfather was doing. He was learning Yevomos with him!
Reb Moshe Eiseman
I heard this over at Reb Nosson’s levaya. A bochur came to the yeshiva, a very big baal kishron, a real talmid, probably the biggest lamdenin yeshiva, a yekkeshe bochur, from a yekkeshe background. Reb Moshe Eiseman, zichrono l’vracha
When he first came to the yeshiva, he went to Reb Nosson one day, and he said, “I have to leave the yeshiva.” Reb Moshe Eiseman, when he spoke, was very gelassen. A very strong-willed person, but very soft-spoken. And my grandfather, when he used to get into a sugya in learning or a Shiur, it was with the Ritcha D’Oraisa.
So, he said, “I can’t talk to the Rosh Yeshiva. I can’t talk at length with the Rosh Yeshiva. I’m leaving the yeshiva. I can’t be here. The Rosh Yeshiva screams. It’s not for me.”
So Reb Nosson told him like this, “I want to tell you, if someone will ever take a knife and rip my heart open” – now Reb Nosson was born in Europe but brought up in North America – he could have been brought here at a very young age and I don’t think he had any recollections of Europe from before he came to America - “oib aimetze vet nemmen a messer un ufreisen mein hartz, darf oiskumen a kleine Americaner. Un zu ufreisen dein hartz iz a kleine yekke. Uber ufreisen der Rosh Yeshiva’s hartz vet aroisgissen nur Torah”!
Rabbi Beane: He said it a little bit differently. “Oib aimetze vet nemmen a messer un ufreisen mein hartz, darf oiskumen a shtikel TA, a kleine Americaner. Un oib mvet oifreisen dein hartz iz a kleine yekke. Ober oifreisen der Rosh Yeshiva’s hartz er is engantzen a Yid.”
I heard it over from Reb Nosson himself. It was at a melaveh malka in New York. From Moshe Eiseman. So Reb Schneur and Reb Nosson were in the car, and I was in the car. And Shmuel Heilbrun was driving the car. So in there, when he was by the melaveh malka, he was joking around, Reb Nosson, “Ir vet mir rufen a goy”. So on the way back, Reb Nosson said, “What was the story? Why did he say, ’Ir hot mir gerufen a goy?” So he told the story over that way. He said, “Mir reisen der hartz iz a shtickel Americaner. Going to school. Like a goy. Bai dir is der Deutschland. Uber der yid effened zein hartz is er engantzen a Yid ”.
So I give this example over. There are certain people around and I said to my friend, “You see, this person over here, he’s also that way.” I don’t want to mention the name because you know who they are, “So you see that Yid? He’s the same. If you open him up, you’ll find nothing but a Yid there. There are two people in Lakewood who fit that category. So it’s a very important piece; it’s a derher.
Rabbi Schwartzman: Maybe it’s even sharfer the way you’re saying it over. I said it over the way I heard it at Reb Nosson’s levaya.
He had another hand with all the speed and quickness, but there was a tremendous amount of yachas and kavod habriyos.
He was always very careful about, doresh b’shlomo shel kol adam and that’s how he’d speak to a person. I mean fakert, as much as there’s talk about in the shul, you know, the ritcha and all that, where the whole world didn’t exist, just the pshat in the sugya, a milchama, es voheiv bsufa. But when it came to the softness, the inyanim that were nogeah to softness and refinement and eidelkeit, he was very special to each person .
I’ll tell you just something, a kleinekeit that I heard from Marvin Schick  once. And this is about my mishpacha. He was driven once for Shabbos to either the Agudah Convention or Torah U’Mesorah convention, one of those conventions that he had to go to. He [Marvin Schick] was the driver driving him to the convention. And actually, before he left the house, a lot of things happened. He had to take care of this and that. My grandmother was preparing this thing, that. He was out of the house maybe twenty minutes, maybe half an hour, and he said, “I must go back to the house.”
It was a question of setting himself back for over an hour. He came back. He came back to the house, and he said, “Gut Shabbos.” In the whole tumult of rushing out, he forgot to say, “Gut Shabbos.”
He wouldn’t have wanted to arrive at the convention and call on the phone to say “Gut Shabbos.” He wanted to say “a gutte Shabbos” before he left. And there were no cell phones, then, you realize. “Men geit nisht avek fun shtub far ven mir zugt a gutten Shabbos”.
He always showed a saiver panim yafos to the children, a smile. He was always sweetness. Very soft. He had a tremendous vaichkait b’chlal with people. Even with the fiery image.
Rabbi Beane: Was he that way because it was his nature or did he work on himself to be that way?
Rabbi Schwartzman: My generation can’t know that. I’ll tell over you what I heard from Rav Chatzkel Sarna zichrono l’vracha. I heard it from him besof yamav. He said this by the levaya. What he said was, “ Az er zol zein der Godol Hador der Gaon HaTorah fun dos huben mir alemal gevust” I knew it when he was 15 years old. We knew when he would say a shtickel Torah, we knew this was going to be the Gaon Hador, no question about it! But I never realized az er velt zein der tzaddik hador.
But he knew him as a young bochur. We didn’t realize that this was going to be the tzaddik hador, that level of tzidkus. He had certain zachkeit that he was very makpid on. Midas HaEmes by him was very important, sei in momenus and ehrlichkeit in momenus. The story that you probably heard most of him was that he was careful with mammon hayeshiva.
Like the money when he would tell my grandmother when she would leave the yeshiva if she was there for Yom Tovim or Shabbos, she could take the tzeida l’derech from the yeshiva. But anything you’d bring into the house, already has to be paid for. I mean, his own personal tzimtzum.
Two Connected Stories
I’ll tell you two stories. He used to go very often to Eretz Yisroel. He didn’t get a letter from the house for like a week maybe, and he was very worried about what was happening. About himself he never cared.
Someone told him “Why dosn’t you call up?”
He said he can’t afford it. The flight was hotzo-os and he had to take care of his older sister, Malka. He’d take care of all her needs and tzrachim. If she was in the hospital, he took care of all the needs and it was a tremendous hoitza’ah.
So he said, “I can’t afford another few dollars to call.”
And yet, in the same tekufa, there was a bochur in the yeshiva, Moshe Carlebach [presently]of Yerushalayim. He told me this story. He lived in Detroit. And he had a ride a day or two before bein hazmanim. It would save him carfare, and he’d get home a day earlier. So he told my grandfather he would leave two days early. My grandfather answered him its not kidai to miss two days learning for a car ride. So that’s what the Rosh Yeshiva says, so he stayed.
Next morning he called him over and he took out from his own pocket the money so that he shouldn’t miss a day of learning. He gave him the money to go back to Detroit.
So the same cheshbon – ich hab nisht genug gelt to make a phone call from Eretz Yisroel – it costs $20.00, but for a bochur to sit and learn for two days . . .
He knew how to value his money. But there was a huge dikduk in momenus.
The New Frock
She told him, “You go to the yeshiva. You meet people in the name of the yeshiva. This is tzorchei hayeshiva.”
Rabbi Beane: There’s a Gemara in Gittin like that.
Rabbi Schwartzman: So he listened to her. He bought a new beged. Right after he bought the beged, he went to Eretz Yisroel, so she packed the new beged into the suitcase. When he came back, she saw it wasn’t taken out.
This begged was only for tzorchei hayeshiva and he can’t wear it in Eretz Yisrael. This is a huge thing. A dikduk in mamonos, in everything.
This is what I heard of – it’s not about money – it’s on middas haemes. Marvin Schick told me over.
My grandfather used to say a shiur at the Agudah of 14th Avenue on Shabbos Hagadol. And as I told you before, we had very few seforim in the house. The Agudah had a nice library there also. So the day before the shiur, he asked if they could get him Minchas Chinuch.
So he went to the library and he took out the Minchas Chinuch. But he never came back to pick it up. And then they were nudging him at the library, “Where’s the Minchas Chinuch?”
Marvin Schick found this out. And he felt bad coming to the house and asking for the sefer. He didn’t feel comfortable. So he went out and bought a set of Minchas Chinuch and he brought it to my grandfather’s house and he made up a whole story that someone gave him matana etc. and then he said, “Oh, by the way that Minchas Chinuch that I brought you then, if you have it...” He took it and he returned it. He felt more comfortable returning it under those circumstances.
Marvin Schick was then learning in RJJ, and the next day, Reb Shneur came into the yeshiva and said, “Ich hab a shlichus fun tatte. I’m on the way to Lakewood, and my father told me . . . the Rosh Yeshiva told me I have to travel and give you a message. The message is as follows: “Afilu far a davar tov far toieles, far a gutter zach, darf men zer hiten der midas haemes”.
He detected it was fabricated, and although he did him a toiva, he did a very good thing, but it was still a shailah. He went out of his way. It’s a very educational way because emes was a davar. Emes. I mean, it’s the same thing. It’s the emes in dibur, the emes in mammon. The ehrlichkeit was very primary. Very primary. Not chalilah sheker. Torah is emes. Sheker had no makom. Everything was emes. He couldn’t stand ziyuf sheker. These were things that weren’t.
Rabbi Beane: Not in his nature.
Rabbi Schwartzman: Yeah. And he had always the ability to see it.
Rabbi Beane: The pikchus – he detected it.
Rabbi Schwartzman: Right. He detected it.
Smoking on Yom Tov
Like the famous story. My grandfather held you were not allowed to smoke on Yom Tov. He didn’t b’chlal hold from smoking. He was probably the first one that ossured it. He once said they should ossur smoking in the bais medrash in Lakewood.
So there was a bochur in yeshiva who wasn’t well, so he ossured it. He was takkeh from the first people who felt strongly against smoking. He didn’t like the idea of smoking at all. He held it wasn’t a good zach.
So he held that it was ossur to smoke on Yom Tov. Maybe because he held that it wasn’t gezunt, that it shouldn’t exist. Whatever his shittah was . . .
Rabbi Schwartzman: There is no heter from the Pnei Yehoshua because its mashpiah on the gezunt. I don’t know why, but a bochur decided he wanted to find out if the issur was because he held it was not shave l’kol nefesh or because he held maybe that there’s a problem with the mechika the writing at the end. When the cigarette burns to the bottom, the letters get burnt up. The bochur wanted to find out what his reasoning was.
But how does he ask the Rosh Yeshiva? Do you ask him stam? It wouldn’t be nochis. He wouldn’t be nochis to the pratim. He would just say “Meh tor nisht reichern”. So the bochur made up a whole story about somebody whose gas went out – and the fire was somewhere else, a stationary fire, and the only way you could transfer it is by lighting the edge of a piece of paper, of a newspaper that at the other end of the paper there was lettering, making it that he could burn the lettering. So could he use that to transfer the fire? That was the shailah. Could he use that?
He looked at him and he said, “zolst nisht reicheren”.
Yomim Tovim in Lakewood
Rabbi Beane: Did you ever learn in Lakewood?
Rabbi Schwartzman: Not during his lifetime. Many years later, I spent a tekufah in Lakewood. Even my older brother came to Lakewood a year after his petirah. The oldest einekel was my brother, who was 14 years old at the time of his petirah. In my grandfather’s time, there were no einiklach in Lakewood.
We used to go for Yomim Tovim. I remember the last Shavous I was in Lakewood. I was with my older brother. We slept in his room. My grandmother stayed in New York, and we slept in his bedroom. So I remember the second day yom tov, how we used to wake ourselves for the first zman Kriyah Shema. He was very makpid on the first zman Kriyah Shema, the Ikar HaDin of the Magen Avraham. And I remember him waking us up for the zman Kriyas Shema when we were there. Otherwise we were in New York. He lived half the year in New York.
In the earlier years, my grandmother oleha hashalom used to come for Shabbosim to Lakewood, and she used to travel with him back and forth. But then, when my mother and the mishpacha settled in New York, it became very difficult for her to make that trip back and forth, so she’d stay in New York.
I remember my grandfather himself used to say “Shabbos darf mir zein in der heim, un der heim iz in yeshiva”.
Home is the yeshiva. That’s home. The bochurim and the bais medrash. The yeshiva was the bais medrash.
When he used to come to the bais medrash, he would stop off at Reb Schneur’s house and give chocolate and candies to the children, and then he would continue to the yeshiva and then go straight into the bais medrash.
Rabbi Beane: It’s tremendous, tremendous. To me, it’s like overwhelming, the pressure that he was under to do that. Running from New York, back and forth, going right into the bais medrash.
Rabbi Schwartzman: Going into bais medrash, there was no pressure. The pressure was going out of bais medrash.
His Real Home
Rabbi Beane: To him, the bais medrash, that was his home.
Rabbi Schwartzman: That was his home.
Rabbi Beane: That’s where he was most comfortable. New York was like he had to do all these things, but that wasn’t living.
Rabbi Schwartzman: Everything else was distraction. Living was Torah. In New York or wherever he was, living was Torah. Everything else was tzrachim that had to be taken care of, the achrayus. I have to carry the achrayus.
Rabbi Beane: So coming to Lakewood was going home.
Rabbi Schwartzman: It was going home. Going to Lakewood was opening the Gemara coming back – going back to the chiyus. Everything was ki heim chayeinu. That was the ruach in the house.
When I Grow Up
Es chatoi any mazkir . When I was in third or fourth grade I had to write a composition, “What You Want to Do When You Grow Up.” So I wrote, “I have no idea what’s going to happen when I grow up. A person could never know what I want to do, but whatever you end up doing, if you’re zocheh to be a talmid chacham or not, you have to know this - Elokim yereim, mer darf zein an ehricher yid.”
It was a very reasonable composition. But my grandmother saw it, and I had to rip it up. Vos haist, you’re growing up not with “sheiifus” of limud Torah yomam v’layla. How do you not have this?!”
That was the ruach we breathed in the house! It’s not shayach. Anything else is poresh min hachayim. That was the ruach.
Even though in our day and age, we talk about being very pressured and pressuring children, but it wasn’t pressuring as much as reality. This is chiyus. Vos iz doh in leben? It’s not pressure– I want you to be frum; I want you to accomplish. This is what’s kayam. Just like Hashem gives us life, this is the way we live. Everything else is tzruches.
 See Appendix
 Hebrew year – 5713 – 5717.
 Sat next to the Gemara and learned
 Worked out down to the penny
 HaRav Yaakov Eliezer Schwartzman, is currently the Rosh HaYeshvah of Yeshivas Lakewood in Yerushalayim a/k/a“Lakewood East.”
 Hebrew year - 5721
 We need strength to learn
 What do we need this for?
 Sincere Torah observant Jews
 exceptional Torah scholars
 Fish in the sea, just like fish cannot live without water so too a Jew cannot live without Torah
 Good evening
 Comeback to his learning
 Repetitive cycle
 Anything difficult and not so difficult
 Smaller crowd
 the plight of each individual
 Grandfather is learning
 Hassidic sect
 Sect whose origins stem from the European city of Novardok
 For this (Torah) is our life
 i.e. expression out of habit, (unfortunately)
 Said upon completion of the evening prayers
 What are you writing?
 You should know, he is a goy like all other goyim
 To differentiate a thousand times over
 Righteous of all gentiles
 We have nothing else besides for this Torah, a term derived from Selichos of the Yomim Noroim (Days of Awe, i.e. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), authored by Rabbenu Gershom: Meor Hagolah, light of the exile)
 If a non-Jew acquires smartness, this can be believed
 But if a non-Jew acquires anything else, this cannot be believed
 But a Jew must know, a goy like all other goyim
 It was against nature, almost
 He was not ignorant in worldly matters
 A special Heavenly providence
 No simple explanation applies
 A Fire in His Soul: Irving M. Bunim and His Impact on American Orthodox Jewry, by Amos Bunim ISBN: 0-87306-473-9
 Unbelievable as told over
 Almost prophecy
 vid. appendix
 I’m listening to the elections
 Go to sleep, it is irrelevant, Truman won
 At all
 beyond our perception
 One who makes the efforts, is guided along
 Not in accordance with our levels at all
 Level of aptitude
 Insignificant matters
 Where does one go?
 How can it be that a chair that there is no chair?
 Is it really necessary to tell a young child about calamities?
 Rabbi (Reb) Nosson Meir Wachtfogel ZT”L ((1910-1998), former Mashgiach Ruchani (moral and spiritual guide and advisor) of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood (1941-1998)
 furor of Torah
 If anyone will take a knife and tear open my heart
 What will come out is a little American
 And to cut open your heart, therein is a little German
 But to cut open the Rosh Yeshiva’s heart, only Torah will pour out!
 TA is a satirical epithet used to describe Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Theological Seminary (RIETS), (TA or Talmudical Academy actually refers to the high school) the forerunner of Yeshiva University.
 If someone will take a knife and cut open my heart, what will come out is a TA, a small American.
 And to cut open your heart, therein is a small German
 But to cut open the Rosh Yeshiva’s heart, one would only find a Jew!
 You are going to call me a non-Jew
 You called me a non-Jew
 Cutting open my heart therein lies a small American
 By you, is the German homeland
 But if you open this Jew’s (the Rosh Yeshiva’s) heart, he is entirely a Jew!
 Inquire the welfare of each individual
 The torah was given in a storm, after the vesre in Bamidbar
 A devoted aide to Rav Aharon
 We cannot leave the house before saying have a good Shabbos
 Pleasant countenance, smile
 At the end of his days
 That he was going to be the leader of the generation, the Torah Giant of the generation, that we always knew
 But I never realized he would be the most righteous of the generation!
 Trait of honesty
 Both in money matters and integrity in money matters
 The Yeshiva’s money
 I don’t have enough money
 a man's knee-length usually double-breasted coat, dignified garb Rabbis of the Lithuanian tradition
 Rabbi Shneur Kotler ZT”L, Reb Aharon’s son and successor
 I have a mission from my father
 Even for a good purpose, for a beneficial purpose, one must take care to heed the truth
 Truth is an important thing
 Corrupting truth, dishonesty
 Elaboration in Tractate Baiyah
 Not acceptable for all
 Simply, directly
 Get involved in every minute detail
 It is forbidden to smoke
 Earliest time slot for reciting the morning Shema prayers
 Basic Jewish Law of the Magen Avraham
 The proper time
 Shabbos one must be home, and home is Yeshiva
 This (the Torah) is our life
 I recall my misdeeds
 G-d fearing, one must be a sincere Jew
 What do you mean?
 Aspirations of learning Torah day and night?
 Withdrawing from life
 What else is there in life?
 Just to fulfill our basic needs