Torah Thinkers Forum

Seeing a Great Rabbi


On my way to yeshiva today, I listened (on my Ipod) to a lecture that Rabbi Feiner gave earlier this week dealing with this week's Torah portion of Va'aira. He noted that three Angels came to visit Avraham, one to help heal him from his circumcision, one to foretell to him that he would have a son, and one who was on his way to destroy Sdom.

Rabbi Feiner asked why was it necessary for the Angel who was on his way to destroy Sdom to stop and visit with Avraham? Why couldn't he go there directly?

Rabbi Feiner retold an answer that Rabbi Chatzkel Abramsky had given. The Angels upon hearing from Hashem that Sdom was to be destroyed, had questions about it. Why was it so significant to Hashem what humans did or didn't do? Weren't they a lowly creation? And they quoted the verse "מה אנוש כי תזכרנו " - What are humans, that they should be remembered" ? So in answer to that query, Hashem sent the Angel to first visit Avraham, to see what a man could accomplish, and to what heights of holiness he could ascend. Then the Angel could understand the significance of man.

Rabbi Feiner also told a story of an old invalid rabbi who lived near him in Shaarei Chesed, Jerusalem, years ago when the Feiners were living in Israel. He said that he and his wife would occasionally visit that old rabbi. And once the old rabbi mentioned that when he was 7 years old he went with an uncle to see the Chofetz Chaim, who was passing through his town upon returning from attending a conference in a major city. The young child was lifted on his uncle's shoulders and brought to the window of the train (which was stopped at the station) to view the Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (commonly known by his most famous book - Chofetz Chaim)  up close. The Chofetz Chaim reached out of the window and shook the young boy's hand. The old rabbi related that his whole life was influenced by that one encounter, and he often felt bad that he ever washed that hand afterwards.

That story reminded me of the trip I took with my yeshiva about a month ago to the Galilee. We stayed in Tiberias for Shabbat, and Rabbi Lowenstein, who was leading the tour, met me Shabbat morning when I was approaching the room where the hotel customers were to pray. He told me that he just come back from visiting a synagogue nearby where noted Mekubal (master of Kabbalah),  Rav Dov Kook, (the grandson of Rav Avraham Yitzchok Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine, and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, noted Posek (decider of Jewish law) and Gadol Hador - leader of our generation) was praying. Rabbi Lowenstein told me that people travel to Tiberias just to see Rav Kook pray. He related that he saw Rav Dov Kook say each word of Shmoneh Esrei (the central prayer of our liturgy) out loud slowly as if he was a defense attorney giving his closing argument to the ultimate Judge and Jury, Hashem.  

I still had about a half hour before my minyan was to start, so I hurriedly made my way to the synagogue to see Rav Kook. At that point, the Torah was being read, and Rav Kook was sitting right behind the Torah reader. The portion being read dealt with Cain killing his brother Hevel. At the point in the story when the murder occurred, Rav Kook lifted his hands, and grasped his head as if in astonishment. I felt that his was thinking, "Did that just occur? Did someone just kill someone else? Did a main character just get cut out of the story?" It seemed to me that he was living the story as if he was just hearing it for the first time, or perhaps watching it unfold before his eyes.

Having the opportunity to see a great Torah scholar is not something that one should pass up. Just by being in his presence, one is like someone who walks through a perfume store - some of the fragrance attaches to him and he leaves differently than he was a few moments before.

One should always try to visit or see such a person. You can never tell how your life will be changed for the better, if you just grasp that opportunity..




COM_EASYBLOG_GUEST Monday, 27 January 2020
Last updated on: 01/27/2020
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