Rabbi Z. Yosef Burstyn
Asking a Kasha
I came to Lakewood as a talmid in the summer of Tof-Shin-Yud-Tes. They were learning Gittin. I had previous experiences in Lakewood. I used to come with my father, olav hashalom, for Shabbasos, a Shabbos each winter for a few years, spend Shabbos in Lakewood. We’d daven in yeshiva. The reason for being here was basically around the yeshiva.
The winter prior to my coming here, they were learning Kesubos, and I listened to the shiur and had a kasha on the shiur. Although I was very young, I happened to remember a Rambam that was a steera to a yesod that the Rosh Yeshiva brought out in the shiur. I went to the chazaras hashiur of Reb Yankel Schiff. After hearing the shiur again, I still felt it was a kasha and asked him. He asked around, but he didn’t have a teretz to the kasha. He insisted that I ask the kasha to the Rosh Yeshiva.
And having the yiras hakavod, for basically the attitude was that there was a tremendous gap between our generation and a gadol from prior to the war, one of the Gedolim, one of the active Gedolim of Klal Yisroel prior to the milchama, I couldn’t see myself coming and asking a kasha. So I asked him (Yankel Schiff) if he could go instead, and b’shum ofen, he just took me by the hand and almost led me to the door to the Rosh Yeshiva and made me go in.
I knew that I wouldn’t have the presence of mind to speak too many words, so I took in the Rambam, and I pointed to the Rambam, while walking into the door.
The Rosh Yeshiva immediately said, “Ich veis dem Rambam. Zeit gezunt. Ich veis dem Rambam.”
He immediately said a whole ma’aracha to be meyashev the machlokes in the Yerushalmi, the Rambam is one way, and our sugya is different. And m’meila, he said that it’s not a steera to Rambam.
After that, I had the ha’aza at a young age - I was learning at that time in Yeshivas Chasan Sofer by Rav Paller, zecher tzaddik l’vrocha, who just passed away – and being that I had this experience, I felt more encouraged that I could attempt to approach the Rosh Yeshiva to come to Lakewood, which I did, and came at that point.
Coming to Lakewood
When I came, there were between 90 and 100 bochurim learning at yeshiva. There were about 30 yungeleit, including the older yungeleit that learnt in Kletzk yet and those that were Americans. The bochurim were mostly in the older 20’s. It was very rare that somebody would get married in their lower 20’s. There were yechidim I don’t remember their names, but there definitely were very few. I probably wasn’t the youngest at that time, but there were very few even around my age.
The subject here our relationship to the Rosh Yeshiva. The Rosh Yeshiva inspired us in many ways, mostly in his devotion to the Torah, his hiskashrus to Torah, in his hashkafa and emuna that Torah is Elokus. Our yachas to the Ribbono Shel Olam is only through Torah. He impressed this hashkafa by his being, his speech, his maasim, by everything. It wasn’t just the schmoozen.
Maasim Make the Strongest Impression
At that time, the schmoozen didn’t play much role in yeshiva. The ikur was the shiur that Rosh Yeshiva stressed. And I started typing the schmoozen myself and later, the shiurim, too. But I had a specific interest in the hashkafa.
But more than what he said, it’s the way he said it. And I think that there were people who didn’t understand the shiur, but just watching him, how he said the shiur with such passion, and how it meant so much to him, that strengthened again the commitment to Torah. And the intensity of this commitment was impressed upon us, sei by the hashkafa and the schmoozen, and sei by the ofen of learning and giving the shiur, and everything that went along with it. If it was nogeah to middos, that middos are a heiche timtza for Torah, kedushah and taharah, yiras Shamayim, kiyum hamitzvos. It’s all part of Torah, and Torah cannot exist without these.
Yeshiva used to say k’seder that if it would be
shayach to change a kutzo shel Yud
from the Torah, the whole world would fall apart
and m’maila the intensity of dealing with these
issues was all directed to this one burning goal of Torah,
Torah b’taharah, Torah b’kedushah, Torah b’yiras Shamayim,
Torah b’middos tovos.
Torah with complete commitment in kamus and eichus,
devoting every minute to Torah. And we saw that he
lived with this.
Synonymous with Torah
Although he was osek b’klal and it was all nogea to kiyum haTorah and the kiyum of Klal Yisroel, and to ahavas yisrael which is a chelek of Torah, but the minute that he got off a very involved eisek in Klal Yisroel - speaking to Europe or to Eretz Yisroel with the Gedolei Yisroel, askanus, and expressing his daas Torah, how seriously he took it, and how he got involved with all the pratim - but the minute he got off the phone, he was right away engrossed in iyun, in learning. His life was Torah. He k’seder had these various tirdos in raising money for the yeshiva and Chinuch Atzmai, and his being asked daas Torah, and his involvement in osek b’tzorchei tzibur, but he felt that all this was only arai l’gabbai the Torah and the purpose of it was also only because of Torah.
So I think basically, the Rosh Yeshiva was synonymous with Torah in all facets of life. And this came across to anyone that crossed his path.
The shiur was definitely a siman of a his gevaldigge kishron and a gevaldigge intensity of his iyun and his amkus. I heard from R’ Chazkel Sarna, zecher tzaddik l’vrocha, who said that in Slobodka yet, they saw him in bein hazmanim, in the forest, speaking in learning. He had one foot on the stump of a tree, and he was being me’ayin in R’Alfas in Yevamos. They left - I think they went to eat - and hours later, they came back, and he was still in the same spot with the same R’Alfas of Yevamos with a gevaldigge koach of concentration and amikus, which can only come as an outcome of a gevaldigge dechilus (unclear) to understand Torah and every prat of Torah.
We used to watch him a little bit and even listen under the door sometimes, when he was osek with inyanei tzibur, he was very intense. I remember at one point he dictated a letter that had to be in English. And R’ Shamshon Rafoel Weiss was at that time the vice president of Young Israel and the OU. He himself learned in the Mir. And they discussed how to dictate that letter, and he wanted to use the term “chochma” and Rabbi Weiss used one word, and he said, “Nein. Ich vil chochma mit erfohrung tzuzamen”, “With Experience together” and then he said “Wisdom?” “Yes, wisdom!”
He was me’ayin to use the correct word because it was nogea to the inyan of the klal and he didn’t take anything superficially. He was intent in using every koach, every talent, and taking the time for it, and the machshava with the full intensity. He lived that way. His dikduk in halacha, in middos, gevaldigge amkus and hisbonenus in the mussar, and.today, the kedushas Reb Aharon, it’s so inevitable.
Stories of the Tzaddikim
Even in maasei sippurei tzaddikim, which he used to spend time for, on one hand, he was a gevaldigger masmid, but Shabbos at the meal, he took his time. Sei speaking in learning, sei in zemiros which he had hekpeda which was misdama altz kovod Shabbos, and to ask the bochurim to sing. And also at times, especially Yom Tov, and even sometimes on Shabbos, he used to be medayek very much in sippurei tzaddikim, why it happened this way, and what the cheshbon was and how, if this tzaddik was this way and if somebody else was a different way. And you saw his approach to the life of a tzaddik and to the hashgacha, and how the Ribbono shel Olam firs how they lived. It was also with that iyun and amikus. He used to taitch up hashgacha in the maasim.
When something happened, he had a reason why it happened, and why it happened to somebody in the family and not to himself. He was the one who took the blame for it - because of his koach haTorah it wasn’t was him, but someone in his mishpacha had a pogea. Things like this, both in his own life and in the lives of so-called tzaddikim, he had a Torah shleima. He didn’t take it superficially. It’s all a chelek of Torah and emunah.
Dikduk in Halacha
Personally, what I heard mostly were things that were nogea to halacha. We used to take turns driving him. He used to be here for an extended weekend, coming on a Thursday and leaving Monday after the shiur. He said a shiur on Shabbos or in the winter time, Motzai Shabbos. Also on Monday. After that, Monday afternoon, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning, he was in New York.
So we used to take turns driving him. When it was my turn, what I remember is he took an interest to bnei Torah. His approach to baaeli batim - it was important that they understand the chashivus of Torah and they be tomech more than the etzem getting the funds to the Yeshiva which the yeshiva so needed. That was part of his Avodah.
And I remember that as far as halacha was concerned, I was sent by the office to buy danishes both for myself and the Rosh Yeshiva. I gave the Rosh Yeshiva the danish. He made a bracha and he ate two-thirds up to the three quarters of danish. He didn’t finish it. And I encouraged him to finish it because I thought he left over in order that I’d have. I showed him that I bought for myself also.
He said, “No.”
He was choshesh for daled be’im, he was machmir in shiurim, although you can be maikel. And according to the smaller shiur, a full danish could have daled beim and you’d need “al netilas yadaim.” So he was machmir in that.
Something else he told me was that he held that saying Kedusha is the kiyum D’Oraisa of the Rashi “Besoch Bnei Yisrael” (unclear). And I thought many times that I’m sorry that I didn’t ask him specifically, but he kept the minhag of a short Shemoneh Esrei because those people who are maarich Shemoneh Esrei more than the shaliach tzibur should have a chance at least by Mincha to say Kedusha. But I saw the chashivus, the importance that he said of saying Kedusha with the tzibur.
16:48 – 18:00 – Sound is warped.
More Small Halachos
I do remember him washing considerably after the shkiya for shalosh seudos and it didn’t seem that he was that much in a rush. I also remember coming from Tashlich that he was getting a little late, so he was looking in a machzor in the yotzros in case now is bein hashmashos and he’s not maichen for the second day.
Another Rosh Yeshiva
What is mentioned now here about his attitude goes back to what I said before how I asked on the shiur, it’s yadua that he was very harsh in order to protect his Torah. It was like a ben yachid. I remember that a chashuver Rosh Yeshiva from Chevron Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel came, he was also related to him, and he was machshiv him, and was mechabed him. But he came and he asked on the shiur, so he immediately stopped him.
“Zeit gezunt,” he answered to him, he thought he was out of his mind.
The second time he interrupts again, he answered him immediately “Lernt up de Gemara, Rashi, Tosfos, aider ir fregt”.
The third time, this Rosh Yeshiva sort of chapped ois onto what he was about to say, so he set epes one-syllable, and he said, “Gut! Gut!” And then he gave a smile and said, “Dem ershten mol.”
And it was completely different than the way he treated people, but when it came to learning and to the chiddushei Torah that he was huruved on he was very protective and very passionate about it.
Honoring B’nei Torah
He was very mechabed b’nei Torah, even bochurim. It impressed me - even bochurim that were not completely in learning, they were partially meshamshim and weren’t into learning. There were those that were already osek in meshamshin, but he insisted on calling them “Reb.”
I remember there was one that had a nickname, the olam knew him only by his nickname, but the Rosh Yeshiva insisted on calling him, “Reb So-and-So.” When he asked a bochur to call him, and this bochur didn’t know who he was referring to, he repeated it a few times until the bochur would know who this person was, with a smile, and then he called him by his nickname. But he was very medakdek in the kavod of the Torah.-ajr
 In no way
 I know this Rambam, be well, I know this Rambam
 Expounding to settle the argument of the Yerushalmi
 Holiness and purity, fear of G-d, observing commandments
 Tiny bit (lit. edge of the small letter “yud”)
 Torah with purity, Torah with holiness, Torah with fear of G-d, Torah with good character traits
 Quantity and quality
 Occupied with public affairs
 Involvement with public affairs
 Temporary as opposed to Torah
 Busy with public affairs
 I wanted wisdom with experience together
 Tales and stories of the righteous
 Probably out of respect for Shabbos
 Analyze the stories of the righteous
 Specific amount of food the size of four eggs
 Percentage of a portion
 Washing hands for bread
 Fulfilling the Mitzvah of the Torah, as expounded by Rashi on the pasuk of “Besoch Bnei Yisrael”
 go into a lengthy
 In case now is sundown and he is not preparing for the second day
 An only child
 Be well
 Learn the Gemara, Rashi and Tosfos before you ask
 Caught onto
 Good! Good!
 This is the first time!