By: Rabbi Zevulun Charlop  | 

“Prodigious of Mind… Nobility of Spirit” (Vol. 58, Issue 12)

The following was taken from Rabbi Charlop's opening remarks at the azkara for the Rav

In a celebrated letter, Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik zt”l wrote about his son Rav Yoshe Ber, the Rav zt”l, when the Rav was all of thirty-two: “In former times, they couldn’t even apprehend the possibility of finding Torah and general knowledge combined in the same person. Now, it's no longer uncommon to happen upon individuals in whom Torah and Chachma are joined together. But in his instance, (and he was speaking of his son), we have at once the Gadol HaDor -- the greatest Torah scholar of this generation -- in astonishing measure, comparable to the vaunted Gedolai HaTorah of earlier periods and, at the same time, no less spectacularly singular in the other realms of knowledge as well. And years ago already,” Reb Moshe continued. “The Gaon of Kovno (Rabbi Avroham Shapiro, author of the Halachic masterwork, D’var Avraham), in a sweeping and unparalleled encomium (a copy of which Reb Moshe dutifully enclosed) proclaimed “The halacha is like him -- like the young Reb Yoshe Ber, everywhere. He reigns surely, and without peer, over the vast and voluminous and intimidating terrain of the entire corpus of Jewish law and lore.”

Of course, we have a Halachic principle that the testimony of a father on behalf of his son is admissible. Therefore, I want to recount publicly, for the first time, something my grandfather, Rav Ya’akov Moshe Charlop zt”l, told me on my initial visit to Israel in the summer of 1949, one year after the establishment of the State of Israel. He questioned me about my education -- where I was learning. When I told him the Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, his face lit up, and he exclaimed, “You're a talmid of Rav Yoshe Ber!?” I was only a young teenager then, and I had to explain to him that it would be several years before I could even hope to be allowed into his shiur. With profound disappointment, he said in Yiddish, “What a loss!” And he continued, “I heard Rav Soloveitchik when he gave his shiur at Yeshivas Mercaz HaRav. Indeed, I introduced him then. I had never heard a shiur like his before.”

“I would go on foot, I would walk for hours to hear his shiur.” And he wasn’t referring merely to the Rav’s awesome ability to communicate for which he probably had no equal, but to his thrusting originality and the solid clarity of his creative insight into the most complicated and abstruse problem of Halacha.

And when, some years later, finally entered the Rav’s shiur, I began to sense at least, although not in the fullness of his understanding, what my grandfather meant. 

However, it was not until I returned to Yeshiva years later, and it became my ineffable privilege to relate directly with the Rav, dealing intimately with him almost on a day to day basis, that began to know that his incredible prodigiousness of mind was very much matched by a nobility of spirit and an authentic piety that were no less remarkable in their way than his incomparable intellect.

Very probably the greatest legacy the Rav zt”l leaves behind are his talmidim who are now themselves Ramim and Roshei HaYeshiva in our yeshiva and elsewhere and who are numbered in the front ranks of Talmidei Chachamim and Marbitzei Torah, disseminators of Torah, in our time. I don’t believe that any rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva has bequeathed to the next generations after him such a brilliant and richly diverse galaxy of talmidim (disciples).

Largely because of the Rav zt”l, Yeshiva has managed to reproduce itself. In generations past, we had to scour the earth looking for great Roshei Yeshiva. Today, B’H, they grow in our own backyard. And that is owing almost entirely to him.

There can be no more meaningful tribute that having these “Talmidim become Rebbeim” share with their talmidim the Torah they learned at his feet.

Rabbi Charlop is the Dean of the Mazer Yeshiva Program and the Rabbi Yitchok Elchonon Theological Seminary