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Chanukah - Self-Sacrifice

The Bach explains that because the Jews, at the time of the Second Temple, were lax in performing the service, therefore Hashem punished them by inspiring the Syrian Greeks to abolish the service completely. When the Maccabees showed self-sacrifice in order to continue the service, Hashem abolished the decree.

The Torah true leaders of Israel, in all generations, exhibit tremendous self-sacrifice for the benefit of the Nation. Therefore, they received siyata diShemaya (Heavenly assistance) and they were successful in their endeavors.

In our generation, we were privileged to see the unbelievable self-sacrifice of the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, the Tzaddik HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel ztvk"l. Although suffering for many years from severe Parkinson's Disease R"l, nevertheless, he never let it prevent him from teaching in yeshiva daily and traveling abroad to raise the tremendous funds necessary to uphold the yeshiva which he had built into the largest in the world; serving over 6,000 students.

But the self-sacrifice in his family did not begin with him.

It is well known that many, if not most, of the greatest Roshei Yeshiva of this generation have their roots in Slabodka. The Alter of Slabodka, HaRav HaTzaddik Reb Nosson Tzvi Finkel ztvk"l was an expert pedagogue who molded each of his students according to his own strengths and weaknesses. By doing so, he fulfilled the dictate of Shlomo HaMelech, "Chanoch lana'ar al pi darko - Train the child according to his way." The Alter is justly credited with the honor of being the one who provided most of the Torah being taught and learned in the Torah World today, after the Holocaust.

But recently, I achieved a remarkable realization; which most people are not aware of.

Many years ago, I asked my mentor, HaGaon HaRav Ya'akov Kaminetsky zt"l whether an askan (one who is dedicated to helping the Jewish People in the way that he is able) should care for Klal Yisroel even at the expense of his own children. I was sure that he would answer me that the Rambam rules (Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:2) that teaching one's son precedes teaching his grandson, and that teaching his grandson precedes teaching someone else's son. How surprised was I when he told me the following story.

The Alter of Slabodka had several sons (Reb Ya'akov was a student and a ben bayis [a member of the family] of the Alter for 15 years). One of them, Reb Lezer Yudel zt"l, established the yeshiva in Mir. Another one became a railroad engineer! One of the Alter's closest students once asked him, "Rebby, what's the story with that son of yours?" The Alter responded, "Do you see the Yeshiva of Slabodka? Do you see its many talmidim? If I were to think about that son, all this would not exist!"

But the student persisted and asked again, "But what about him?" The Alter answered once more, "Do you see the yeshiva? Do you realize all that will come out of it for the benefit of Klal Yisroel? I tell you again that if I were to concern myself with him, then none of this would ever be."

(I assume that the Alter understood the Rambam to apply only when it is a choice between one's son vs. the individual son of another. But when the choice is either one's son or Klal Yisroel, then Klal Yisroel takes precedence.)

Years later, HaRav Elya Svei z"l was sitting shiv'ah in Eretz Yisroel and was visited by a faculty member of the Jerusalem Mirrer Yeshiva. I repeated the story to them and they both commented, "Oh, yes. That was the son of the Alter who was problematic. Eventually, his father sent him away to America!"

Now that, very unfortunately, we lost the great Rosh Yeshiva of Jerusalem Mir, HaTzaddik Reb Nosson Tzvi Finkel ztvk"l, we are learning about his fascinating life. We always knew that he was the son-in-law of HaRav Beinish Finkel zt"l, and that when his father-in-law passed away, he became the head of the yeshiva; as often is the case. But his name was Finkel too; and he bore the name of the Alter of Slabodka! How did this happen?

We were amazed as we read that "Natie" Finkel came from Chicago where he studied in a modern Orthodox co-ed yeshiva, currently known as the Ida Crown Jewish Academy, where he was president of the student council and starting centerfielder for the school's baseball team. He came to visit Israel when he was eighteen, after graduation, and planned on being here for a short time only. However, his great uncle, Reb Lezer Yudel Finkel, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir at the time, took him under his wings and steered him towards a life totally dedicated to learning and teaching Torah. Following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, The Alter of Slabodka, after whom he had been named, he became one of the greatest Roshei Yeshiva in our generation.

I spoke with the family and learned that Reb Nosson Tvi's grandfather's name was Avraham Shemuel; son of the Alter of Slabodka, who eventually moved to the USA. So, apparently, Hashem saw to it that because the Alter sacrificed his beloved child for the sake of Klal Yisroel, and sent him to the USA; davka (specifically) from there came a child who enlightened the entire Torah World.

Hashgacha Peratis at its best!

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel