Sunday, November 05, 2006

Appreciating Rav Shach Zt'l

There is a discussion going on at Hary Maryles' blog, whose thoughtful posts I enjoy, regarding Rav Shach's view on Hesder Yeshivos. I would like to add some thoughts which will hopefully lead to an appreciation for this Torah giant, and increase tolerance amongst us bloggers.

I begin by quoting from an article by Dr. Marc Shapiro, titled "Of Books and Bans" which appeared in the Edah Journal:

As the guardian of haredi Orthodoxy, it was R. Shakh's role to establish the boundary line between his community and other forms of Orthodoxy, and he did so with a stridency many will find disconcerting...

Later in the article:

Because R. Shakh was regarded as a leader only by the haredi community, his pronouncements were not the subject of much concern in the wider Orthodox world. In fact, I think it is a testament to the respect people had for R. Shakh's great Torah learning that he was generally not subjected to abuse by those groups he condemned...

Dr. Shapiro lists the works, ideologies, and institutions which Rav Shach condemned, and also mentions a Religious Zionist Gadol who often talks about respecting even anti-Zionist leaders. Also mentioned is a Religious Zionist Gadol, who while expressing public criticism of Rav Shach's views, nevertheless rebuked a student who showed disrespect for Rav Shach, Zt'l. From the latter case, we see that although a Gadol may express criticism of another Gadol, a layperson may not to do the same, certainly not in the same way.

My view is that ordinary people such as ourselves need to take extreme care regarding respecting Talmedie Chachamim, especially when the issues are painful or when we have strong feelings about them. As Dr. Shapiro notes, Rav Shach's role was to establish boundaries of charedi-Orthodoxy. Whether or not I personally agree with those boundaries does not affect my ability to respect him. I also am aware that these issues are painful for students of Rav Soleveichik or for Lubavitcher chassidim.

Thus, I personally try to show respect towards Rav Shach, Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Kook, the LubavitcherRebbe--all of them Zecher Tzaddikim Livracha. I am also mindful of the sources regarding the crucial need to keep in mind Kavod Hatorah-- see Y'D 243:6 and Rambam Talmud Torah 6: 11--, as well as the need to avoid machalokes(controversy).

The second of the following two stories shows the depth of Rav Shach's feelings for fellow Jews, which all of us can certainly learn from. From an article which appeared in the Yated on Rav Shach:

“When I was a bochur, I was in Rav Schach’s house on a Monday, the day before his shiur klali.“When the doctor came in to see him, he sent everyone out of the room except for his gabbai. Since I was curious to hear the conversation, I hid in the closet.

“I heard the doctor telling the Rosh Yeshiva that he has a growth in his foot that must be operated on immediately. Although the surgery would take a few hours the anesthesia would knock him out for the rest of the day.

“Impossible!” said Rav Schach. “I must give the shiur klali. If I cannot be back by Tuesday I refuse to have the surgery.”

“There is only one way you can be done by tomorrow: if you agree to surgery without anesthesia, right here in your home.”

“Rav Schach readily agreed. I came out of the closet and offered to help. The gabbai and I both helped Rav Schach to remain still as the doctor operated on him, cutting open his leg without any painkiller or anesthesia. Though Rav Schach was in tremendous pain, he didn’t utter a sound. Soon the surgery was over and the doctor left. Rav Schach warned his two helpers not to tell anyone what occurred. The next day he was back in yeshiva with no one being the wiser.“

The second story: Once, while Rav Schach was sitting in the Bais Medrash, a man came over and whispered in his ear. Rav Schach began to cry, heartrending sobs. Later the man told the talmidim that he informed Rav Schach about a helicopter accident involving Israeli soldiers who were all killed. Rav Schach had such depth of feeling for every Jewish soul that he cried bitter tears over these soldiers he never met.

In wake of recent bans, I find myself thinking how Rav Shach Zt'l would have reacted. Recently, I was attempting to make my way through a section in Avi Ezrei, Rav Schach's magnum opus on the Rambam. I found myself distracted, because I kept on thinking how he would have responded to the recent bans. However, I imagined that he would say, "forget your concerns with those issues--just finish the shtikel here" :)

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home