Yeshiva Gedolah Beis Nosson Meir
Address of the Rosh Hayeshiva HaGaon HaRav Ahron Walkin ZT"L
CONFERENCE FOR FUTURE RABBONIM—Part 1
I would mainly like to Address and discuss more of the HALACHA then the HASHKAFA issues revolving around רבנות
But I do want to preface my remarks by stressing that it would be wise and well informed to understand how diﬃcult it is to be A RAV. Needless to say, it's very very hard, usually unappreciated and unrewarding, and at times outright painful and humbling. One needs to think long and hard if רבנות is what you want, and is it for you. I don't want to discourage anyone from becoming a RAV but you need to be prepared and willing to deal with the life of רבנות
MOSHE RABAINU was the quintessential leader and even he was not immune and protected from the hardships of leadership. As we ﬁnd in the Torah that Moshe Rabbeinu painfully exclaims “OD M’IAT USKELUNI”
The KOTZKER REBBE zy”a is quoted saying that one needs to be prepared for “OD M’IAT USKELUNI”-to be stoned if he wants to be a leader and if not he should not enter the רבנות or take any position of leadership in KLAL YISRAEL.
Needless to say, רבנות is not for the faint of heart……
The community more often than not are composed of many diﬀerent types of unique people and personalities who are burdensome and diﬃcult. Jewish people as the Torah tells us, are burdensome and often brazen. We are a people that our strong point and our weak point is that we are “AM KSHAI OREF” for better or worse.
The Community Rav must be prepared for all the attacks and Complaints leveled at him. CHAZAL tell us of some of the accusations that were leveled against the Hailig’a MOSHE RABAINU. Part of it was how he stole their money and was promiscuous with all their wives. Accusations that not only have no basis or reasoning but were just technically and literally impossible to be true, nevertheless accusations were concocted.
The great CHASAM SOFER wrote that the hardest mitzvah for him to fulﬁll is the mitzvah of “VHEYISIM NEKIYIM….” For as a RAV his Community members are always misjudging and misinterpreting everything he says and does. For what he thinks and does is always for the good with good intentions nevertheless it is misinterpreted as wrong and bad.
HAGAOEN HARAV ELYA SHVEI ZT”L once related to me the following story. MARAN RAV YITZCHAK ELCHONON SPECTOR THE FAMED KOVNA RAV was once presiding over a DIN TORAH. As he was ready to ﬁnd guilty one of the parties involved, that person turns to Rav Yitzchak Elchonon and says, if the Rav paskens against me I will go from city to city spreading rumors about you that your daughter was promiscuous! Rav Yitzchak Elchanan torts back but I have no daughter… The person quickly answers back, no problem I will walk around saying that your daughter is a prutza and you can follow behind me and scream at top of your lungs that you don't have a daughter, let's see who everyone will listen to and believe…
So is the nature of “Shull politics” and the friction and tension between Rav and Community members.
A Rav will be confronted with having to deal with a lot of LOSHON HARA and private issues about people and their actions. And though the CHOFETZ CHAIM warns against the slightest inkling of LOSHON HARA. Maran RAV CHAIM OIZER clearly States that a Rav must
know, hear and even speak–all the Loshon Hara pertaining to the members of his community and what's necessary to lead the community.
The story is documented that at a gathering of RABBONIM the Chofetz Chaim introduced a written petition that all gathered should sign accepting not to speak Loshon Hara. Rav Chaim Ozer refused to sign and recommended that all the Rabbonim gathered should also not for the signing of the petition might cause the Rabbonim to refrain from hearing or speaking Loshon Hara about the people in their Shull or community. A Rav must know and hear everything… even if there is a little basis or evidence to the authenticity and truth of the Loshon Hara… for if they refrain from all Loshon Hara a bad KILKUL L’RABIM can come from it…. Rav Chaim Ozer advised that instead of accepting and signing they should just all learn Hilchos Shmiras Halashon. [see TSHUVOS VHANHAGOS vol.5 siman 398]
But a word of caution from Personal Experience:
“Beware who you talk to”! You may be speaking with good intentions but the person you are talking to may not have good intentions. And even if he does, he may not be smart enough to understand your good intentions or what you are saying. Thus this person may become part of the problem. He may read into your words … misquote you….take your words out of context…all it takes is one misquote to crumble an entire shul and kehila. This person may present himself as your friend or loyalist, gain your trust, listen, and advise you, but in the end knowingly or not, become your biggest problem. Dovid Hamelech already speaks of this issue that every leader faces when he writes in Tehillim “Gam Ish Shlomi Asher Batachti Bo Higdil Alay Akev.
A RAV must also be MAKPID ON HIS KAVOD for his honor is not his own but that of HASHEM the Torah and his kehila.
CHAZAL stress the obligation of a Rav and Talmid Chacham to demand and enforce his authority and to not be passive, but on the contrary, he must be aggressive and respond to those that Challenge him, his word, and his honor. As the Shulchan Aruch clearly states “If his honor was slighted and he was embarrassed in public he is forbidden to forgive and overlook rather he must take revenge and attack like a vicious snake till the perpetrator asks his forgiveness and then he should forgive him”.
If the disgrace took place in private then the asking of Mechila can be done in private and it suﬃces. But if the disgracing was done in public then the Mechila needs to be asked and granted in public ( MARAN RAV ELYASHIV ZT”L) וצ״ע אצלי למה לא הוזכר זה ברמב״ם
The “NEKAMA” that a Rav should take on one who disgraced his honor according to RASHI ( YOMA 23:a ) should be done through others while he remains silent as a sign of his approval. The RITVA seems to learn that the Rav should remain quite but by not forgiving the perpetrator he is freeing the way for heaven to avenge his honor. While the MAHARSHA holds that the Rav should at ﬁrst remain silent but he must keep the grudge in his heart and avenge his dishonor and disgrace at a later time.
I often suggest that a Rav who believes or feels that he was slighted by someone in the Shull or community that he should reach out to that person “ONCE”—preferably in writing—and to respectfully and lovingly be ‘MEORER” the person that amends should be made or if there is some kind of misunderstanding it should be cleared up. This I learned from the Hanhagos of the GRA zy”a as brought in KESSER ROSH #148 “It was the way of the GRA’ that when someone slighted or wronged him he would reach out to that person and send him a message that he has complaints towards him so that the person could do the proper course of action required according to the Halacha etc. עיין שם היטב ודו״ק
[ I discussed this with both Maran Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg Zt”l and Maran Rav Yosef Rosenbloom Zt”l and both agreed and felt that this was proper and correct protocol ]
A Rav should preach and teach that the Shull and community members must respect and honor him. By not demanding the proper respect you are not doing them or yourself any favors. Forgoing your honor and turning a blind eye to disrespect is not Tzidkus or humility. Balai Batim must be informed that by not respecting the Rav they could be forfeiting their OLAM HABA as quoted in Shulchan Aruch YORE DAIEA SIMAN 243:6 and the Rav must understand and know that if he lets the Balei Batim disrespect him, he to will be punished as stated in the RAMBAM TALMUD TORAH chap.7 HAL.13.
I once discussed with MARAN RABAINU RAV ELYASHEV ZT”L if the above is obligatory in our days also. May a Rav in our times be “Haimish” with his Balai Batim behaving with them as “ONE OF THE GUYS” treating them all as his friends? Many believe that with this approach many more can be reached and a lot more can be accomplished. This is a complicated issue MARAN response: ES VENTZACH MIT VU UN MIT VEMEN UBER B’DERECH KLAL AH RAV DARF ZACH FIREN VE A RAV K'HALACHA. (It depends, with who and when. But as a general rule the Rav has to conduct himself Kehalacha)
There is a time and place where a Rav could and should overlook disrespect, and will probably gain more respect in the long run by doing so, when
A. the disrespect was in private and
B. It was not related to religious matters but rather mundane matters.
Disrespect in private should include:
1] If it was done in the privacy of one's home. Or
2] if it was through speaking disrespectfully about the Rav to another person behind the Rav back. But if it was done in front of the Rav, that he speaks against the Rav,
even if he is only speaking to one person this is not considered in private if the Rav hears or understands that he is maligning the Rav.
To malign the Rav how he runs the Shull is a “SHAILO” I have for years if this is considered disgracing him on mundane matters, for all he is speaking against is the Rav’s management capabilities, and therefore could be subject to overlooking and forgiving. Or maybe since it pertains to the Shull and the Rav’s authority, the Rav should not overlook it for this to should be included in religious matters.
People in the Shull must stand up for the Rav, if they don’t, even though this is wrong and disrespectful, the Rav should not be MAKPID and he should overlook it and let it go. עיין כס״מ סוף הל׳ תלמוד תורה
This is only so if they don’t stand up because they don’t know or they are lazy or preoccupied, but if they fail to stand up because they speciﬁcally and intentionally are trying to undermine and disrespect the Rav they should not be forgiven.[ I am not fully sure and convinced though if to categorize this as disgracing B’FARHESYA which as mentioned above requires Mechila B’farhesya even if it was done in front of others. ]ויש לעיין
After painting you such a dark picture of what is Rabbonus if you still want to go into it now you are ready for such a service of Hashem and his people. For Rabbonuss requires a lot of LSHEM SHAMAYIM, MESIRAS NEFESH, with a strong sense of DEVOTION and COMMITMENT to the Tzibur and their needs both in Ruchniess as well as Gashmius. Rabbonuss is about constant giving…giving all your KOCHOS and time….Giving of yourself unconditionally without receiving in return …
All your devotion and giving will elevate and strengthen you to be a better Yid and a better person an intern this will bring you to love all your B’ALEI BATIM. The more you give of yourself selﬂessly to all in the community the more you will love even those who oppose you, which will lead you to achieve and experience true AHAVAS YISROEL till you reach the ultimate test of LOVING YOUR FELLOW YID….loving even those who are OID MIAT USKLUNI….
The sainted KEDUSHAS LEIVI Zy”a is noted as the epitome and the quintessential Ohev Yisroel, and though he showered much love and warmth on every Yid, he nevertheless was aﬄicted with many aggressive protagonists (who oppressed him, forcing him to ﬂee from town to town). I always wondered how someone who is so loving and kind could have so many enemies. After much thought, I came to the following answer and explanation.
Hashem Yisborach placed him in a situation where he could reach the ultimate levels of Ahavas Yisroel. To love and care for, even for those who oppress and cause him so much anguish. For it is not a CHOCHMA- Trick to love those who love you. The trick is to love even those that hate you…
As you Ahavas Yisrael and your love for your Balei Batim will grow it will bother you less and less all the complaints and criticism, and with the time you will even come to understand and accept that in reality they don’t mean to attack you but rather they’re coming to you with their complaints due to their connection to you, out of love as one who comes to his father.
Rashi (Parshas Matos 31:5) states that the Jews procrastinated on going to ﬁght the war of Midyan. “This teaches us the praise of the leaders of Klal Yisrael, how dear they are to their people for they heard that Moshe’s passing was connected to the war of Midyan.
For at ﬁrst they were ready to stone Moshe but when they were informed that Moshe would pass away after the War of Midyan they refused to go to the war in order to prolong Moshe’s life.”
The Shela comments, but they wanted to stone Moshe, how could this be part of the proof that they had a love for him? He answers because they viewed him as a father. When you are close, you demand…you complain….
Now, you are hereby ordained “FUTURE RABBONIM-READY FOR RABBONUS”!!!!