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Section:  Avodah   Category: Innocent Observations
Observing Rav Shmuel Berenbaum ZT"L
We heard the tragic news yesterday. The news that you always hoped would never come. Not about Reb Shmuel and not about any other of our precious few authentic tzaddikim and leaders. "The Rosh Yeshiva iz avek", The Rosh Yeshiva is no longer with us. The feelings we have for the Rosh Yeshiva are bursting from our hearts. But how dare we write about him? Even the Gedolim trembled before saying a hesped. Only a true Gadol can understand what impact his petira has on the world and only a true Gadol can begin to fathom what The Rosh Yeshiva was. 

Therefore we can't write about what Rav Shmuel "was", we can only write about what he "is". What he "was" is no longer. He took his lifetime achievements with him to Shamayim where he will reap the fruits of his labor. He is rejoicing in the Yeshiva Shel Maala with the great tzadikim who have come to celebrate his arrival. What we are left with down here on earth is whatever impression he made on us. These deep impressions that shape who we are, are the spirit of Rav Shmuel living on. Since we are his living legacy, Rav Shmuel "is" whatever it is that we understand him to be. Each person who carries Rav Shmuel in his heart is entitled to share that which he carries.

Although I am not a talmid of the Mir Yeshiva I had the zechus to have sedarim in the Mir Bais Medrash. From this vantage point I observed Rav Shmuel, or better yet marveled at the sight of Rav Shmuel, every day for a number of years. No, nothing exciting ever happened. It was pretty much the same day in day out. One of the great Roshei Yeshiva in the world spending his days sitting in the Bais Medrash in the back row among the bachurim learning away over his Shtender. No important business to take care of, just learning, learning, and more learning. You wouldn't even know he was the Rosh Yeshiva. He just had himself and his Bava Basra. There was nothing extraordinary about the sight. He simply sat there poring over his gemara at the same slow rate as the Yeshiva.

The mundane routine of arguably the biggest Rosh Yeshiva on the planet is indeed a marvel. In an age of action and excitement, mofsim and maiselech, the consistency of a man in his position took you back to a bygone era. Even then the Roshei Yeshiva had more on their agenda. Rav Shmuel never even left seder early.

I would attend his weekly Chumash Shiur on Friday. Guess what the topic was every Friday? If you guessed Torah you are right. Hasmadah , ameilus, chashivus, hashpa'as HaTorah, whatever. It was all Torah all the time.

Rav Shmuel's message was so straight forward and singularly focused, my guess is that whoever you ask will probably say the same thing. Rav Shmuel was the quintessential Yeshiva Bachur. He mastered and perfected the role. He spent his days the same way when he was a leading Rosh Yeshiva in his 80's as he did Baranovich as a teenager, in the Mir when he got older, in Shanghai in the sweltering heat and humidity with the bombs falling during World War II, and alone in freezing cold Mir Bais Medrash in Flatbush abandoned of talmidim because the heating system broke down in the dead of winter. He simply locked himself in the Bais Medrash oblivious to a world around him and toiling in his hearts delight.

The Torah is compared to fire and Rav Shmuel being the carrier of Torah was himself fire. With the Torah behind him he was fearless. He fought like a lion for what he believed and defended the Torah with all his might. He was scared of nothing and no one. He seemed to hover somewhere between heaven and earth. On this sad day The Rosh Yeshiva has finally completed his ascent to Heaven but fortunately for us has left a small piece of himself in the hearts of his many talmidim and admirers down here on earth. Yehi Zicro Boruch.


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Visitor Comments: 3

Anonymous, 2008-01-08 11:12:49
excellant! y'hay zichro baruch.
yasher koach.
Anonymous, 2008-01-09 06:25:38
Rav Moshe Zatza once explained the mitzva of kibbud av v'eim as the chiyuv of extolling your parentsa s the gadol hador in one particular midda. What was the middah of the Rosh Yeshiva zatzal that he excelled in as the Gadol Hador?

To me its simple. Rebbi was the Rebbi. Every Ben Torah who came in contact with him yearned for him and wanted to emulate him. Richtig?!

That was his gadlus. He was our Rebbi. He was a Rebbi just like we can only imahgine Reb Elchanon of yesteryear.

Everything else flows from this nekudah.

Yehi zichro Baruch or as Rav Raful, shlita said repeatedly: Chaval al d'avdin v'lo mishtachin!70xo
RM, 2008-01-09 23:58:04
As a new balei t'shuva and new to Brooklyn, I was fortunate to be led to the Rosh Yeshiva's study and I received a bracha. Two days later our son was scheduled for his upshirin from a rav who failed to show up. Our friends said get in the car and follow us. On a rainy October day in rush hour Flatbush we ended up at the Mir again. The Rosh Kollel went upstairs, came down again, and quickly ushered us upstairs. This time my son got a bracha from Rav Shmuel and had a snip of hair taken. My son's name is also Shmuel and I consider that week's events to be a true highlight of our lives that I will never forget. May his neshama have an aliyah!

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