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"And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them" (Mishpatim 21:1).

With the giving of the Torah to the Israelites, Moshe became our teacher. He was extremely devoted to every one of his students. As the Midrash relates, Hashem tested Moshe as a shepherd to see if was concerned for every single sheep. When he passed that test, Hashem said that he was worthy of becoming the shepherd of the Children of Israel.

The Gemara (Bava Basra 8b) declares that Rabbi Shemuel ben Shilas is the model teacher who was extraordinarily devoted to his students and always had them in mind. After he retired, Rav met him working in his garden and asked him if he had abandoned his dedication to his students. Rabbi Shemuel replied, "It has been thirteen years that I have not taught them, and, nevertheless, I still have every one of them on my mind."

When I was a teenager, I attended the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva High School (RJJ) in Manhattans. After graduation, it was the norm that all of the graduates attended universities. Many of them attended night college and learned Torah during the morning and afternoon. One student, Eliezer Weinstein, did not go to college, and neither did I. After 5 pm, the big beis midrash (auditorium) was practically empty, and I learned alone until late at night. Weinstein lived near the yeshiva and could eat and sleep at home. But I lived in Queens, an hour's ride away. The yeshiva had no dormitory nor did it serve supper, and I had to make my own arrangements. It was very difficult; to say the least. The natural thing for me to do was to go to learn in Lakewood, in the Yeshiva Govoha founded by Reb Aharon Kotler zt"l, and then run by his son, Reb Shneur z"l. That place was custom made for students who only studied Torah, and had all the facilities necessary for them to learn comfortably. However, for personal reasons, I did not want to go there.

One day, the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Mendel Krawiec z"l, called me over and suggested that I go to Lakewood. I explained to him that I didn't want to. He proposed that I go there for a Shabbos, with his recommendation; be interviewed and accepted by Reb Shneur, and then decide whether or not I wanted to go. I reluctantly agreed.

I visited the yeshiva on Shabbos Hagadol, several days before Pesach, during the vacation break. Reb Shneur worked very hard all year, delivering intense discourses and raising money to support the yeshiva. When this short rest period came around, he was totally exhausted. When I knocked on his door and told him that my Rosh Yeshiva (who was a prize student of his father) had sent me to him to be tested, he was in a quandary. He didn't want to insult my Rosh Yeshiva, but he just did not have the strength to learn with me. He apologized profusely, explaining his situation, and suggested that he would ask one of the best students of the yeshiva to meet with me instead. It made absolutely no difference to me, and I readily agreed. I was interviewed and tested, and Reb Shneur received a favorable report.

On Sunday, when I returned to RJJ (we didn't have vacation then), my Rosh Yeshiva asked me for a report and I told him what had happened. He was apparently insulted that Reb Shneur did not deal with me personally; having been sent to him by my Rosh Yeshiva. I asked Rabbi Krawiec what could I have done and he replied that I should have asked Reb Shneur when would be a more convenient time to return. I insisted that I, personally, was not at all insulted. But, apparently, my Rosh Yeshiva suspected that I was. He told me that he would "give it to Reb Shneur over the head."

The next day, my Rosh Yeshiva told me that he had spoken with Reb Shneur who had greatly apologized and had assured the Rosh Yeshiva that I was accepted and that I should come to learn there after the Pesach break. However, I had never intended to go to learn there, and I still didn't want to.

After Pesach, when I showed up in RJJ, my Rosh Yeshiva asked why I hadn't gone to Lakewood. I reminded him that I had told him from the start that I did not want to change yeshivas. Now he was sure that I had been slighted in Lakewood. The next day, he told me that Reb Shneur had called him and had asked why I hadn't come. He had apologized once again and had requested that I come right away. But I told him that the incident had nothing to do with my decision to remain in RJJ.

Time went by; I married and joined the kolel in RJJ for a year and then moved to Monsey and became Mashgiach of a yeshiva at a very young age (that's a long story - not for now). I left that position and returned to kolel in the Beis Midrash Elyon yeshiva in Monsey. My family was growing, baruch Hashem, and I hadn't enough sustenance to support them. My wife and I discussed the option of joining the kolel in Lakewood, where her brother was studying. At the beginning, I would drive to and from Lakewood every day, and, if it worked out, perhaps we would move there.

I went to meet with Reb Shneur - about five years after the above incident. I told him that I lacked parnassah (sustenance) and he replied, "Oy, oy oy." One could recognize that it was a sincere concern from the depths of his heart. I asked him if I could join his kolel (although he was well over his head in supporting it) and he replied positively. However, before he did, he said, "I beg of you not to be upset with me. I didn't mean to slight you. I was just totally exhausted and could not receive you properly at the time!"

I was flabbergasted that he still remembered the incident involving someone who was not yet his student; five years later. These are the devoted teachers of Israel who are totally dedicated to their students.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel