How Was This Rosh Yeshiva Different From All Other Roshei Yeshiva?

There is a pasuk in this week’s parsha that talks about how careful we need to be with widows and orphans. “You shall not persecute any widow or orphan. If you will persecute them, for if they will cry out to Me, I shall surely hear their cry.” [Shemos 22:21-22] In the past, We have said a famous vort from the Kotzker Rebbe that the threefold redundant appearance of verb forms in this pasuk (Aneh/Sa’aneh; Tza’ok/Yitzak; Shamoa/Eshma) indicates that any feeling of hurt that a widow or orphan senses is always compounded. They always feel “If my father/husband would still be alive, this would not be happening to me.” Therefore, the pain anyone inflicts on them is doubled. As a result, Hashem will “hear their cries” and impose a double punishment on the perpetrators.

I would just like to share an incident I heard involving Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l. It has been a long time since the passing of a Rabbinic personage had made such a great impression on Klal Yisrael as that of the passing of the late spiritual head of the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem (November 2011). The number of Hespedim that were offered in Yeshivas and Jewish communities all over the world for Rav Nosson Tzvi was unprecedented. That is because he was a person who had an incredible impact on Klal Yisrael. The reaction of the loss that people felt, and still feel, to his death was mind-boggling.

One on his Talmidim gave a eulogy for him in a certain yeshiva. In relating the incredible acts of kindness that Rav Nosson Tzvi engaged in, he told over the following story:

There was a student of the Mir—a man who was already married and had a family—who passed away at a relatively young age, leaving over a widow and orphans. Rav Nosson Tzvi was very close to this man and decided that he would try, in effect, to adopt this man’s sons. He invited them to treat him (Rav Nosson Tzvi) like they would treat a father. This was a family that lived in America, but Rav Nosson Tzvi told the boys that they should write to him—not only their Torah thoughts, but they should correspond with him and keep him abreast of all their personal affairs and activities. When the boys got older, they came to Eretz Yisrael and Rav Nosson Tzvi found each one an appropriate Yeshiva. Over many years, he developed a strong relationship with these orphans and tried to act as a long-distance father to them.

This is what this former student of the Mir told over in his eulogy for the Mir Rosh Yeshiva. After he spoke, a young man from the audience came over to him and told him “The story you related is correct. I can verify the facts. However, that is not the entire story. The rest of the story is that the man who passed away had four sons and he also had a daughter—a little girl at the time of her father’s death. She was the youngest member of the family. She felt left out. She was not going to write a “shtickle Torah” to Rav Nosson Tzvi. What can a young little girl discuss with a great Rosh Yeshiva? She felt neglected.

Rav Nosson Tzvi heard about this and he sent her a letter. But he did not merely send her a generic letter. He had someone draw a heart and, in the heart, he wrote her a note. The person told the Rav who was eulogizing the Mir Rosh Yeshiva: “How do I know this story? It is because that little girl is now my wife.” This heart shaped message from Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel gave that young girl such inspiration and such a positive feeling that it rejuvenated her spirit.

Do you know another Rosh Yeshiva on the face of this earth who would send a message inscribed in a heart to a little girl? It is incredible! One of the biggest Rosh Yeshivas in the world sends a heart to a little girl! I have heard dozens of stories about Rav Nosson Tzvi over the past several months, but to me, that story tops them all. To cheer up a little orphan daughter of a close student of his—there was no question of his own honor, proper protocol, or what might people say. He had the ability to rejuvenate the dispirited, which is the power to be mechayei meisim! It is a beautiful story.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem DavidATwersky@gmail.com

Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD dhoffman@torah.org

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Mishpatim is provided below: