HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook
HaRav Shlomo Aviner
Translated from the Hebrew edition by Rabbi Mordechai Tzion
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Table of Contents
- Father and Son
- His Younger Years
- Public Affairs
- Eretz Yisrael
- Around the Year
- Personal Traits
- Students and Torah Scholars
- Ascending on High
Rabbenu, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, wrote a booklet “Le-Shelosha Be-Elul” about the ways and practices of his father, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory. Just as we are obligated to learn from the teachings of our great Rabbis, so too are we obligated to learn from their actions and character traits. The entire Torah and Gemara are full of such teachings. The Gemara instructs us regarding the honor, love, and awe of Torah Scholars. The essence of their teachings is certainly the Torah learning and the ethical guidance we receive from them, but there is also the wonderful opportunity to learn rules of proper conduct derived by their exalted example. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was a special emissary of Hashem, sent to us to teach the Nation of Israel the meaning of our national rebirth – the meaning of the ingathered Nation living independently in its Land, according to its Torah. He came to remind us of things we had forgotten.
Now, with the Nation’s rebirth in the Land of Israel, these portions of the Torah are likewise experiencing a rebirth. At first, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook was alone in his generation. Little by little, like the Redemption itself (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot, 1:1), disciples and fellow Torah Scholars were attracted to him. So it was with his son, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. Slowly, students gathered, and more and more people came and listened, until there were dozens, then hundreds, then thousands and hundreds of thousands. Now the Nation is filled with the students of Rabbi Kook, the father, and HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, the son.
We pray that this volume will allow a small glimpse into the teachings and the Torah personality of this towering figure, whom students call “Rabbenu,” our Rabbi, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook. For the purpose of this translation, to distinguish between father and son, we will use the appellation Rabbi Kook for HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, and HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, or Rabbenu, for his son. Whenever HaRav Tzvi Yehuda mentioned his father, he would add, “May the memory of the Tzaddik be for a blessing,” or some similar phrase of honor. HaRav Aviner, who compiled this book and whose firsthand recollections form much of its content, also uses expressions of honor when speaking about both Rabbi Kook and about HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, his Rosh Yeshiva for many years. For example, the title “Maran” meaning “our teacher” is always used in reference to Rabbi Kook. To facilitate a more flowing reading, most of these expressions of honored memory have been omitted from this translation. In the Footnotes, the effort was made to record sources whenever possible. The entries, “Iturei Cohanim” and “Iturei Yerushalayim” are monthly bulletins published by Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim, which later became Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim, edited by the Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Shlomo Aviner. Statements without footnotes are generally taken from the firsthand knowledge of HaRav Aviner.
It must be noted that for the first sixty years of his life, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda remained humbly in the background of his father who was Israel’s Chief Rabbi. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda studied Torah diligently and served his father in any way he could. Even after his father’s passing, he kept out of the public spotlight, unobtrusively preparing his father’s copious writings for publication. He only emerged as the spiritual leader of the generation of national rebirth in Israel when he became the head of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, after the passing of Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Harlop. He continued to head the Yeshiva until his death at the age of ninety. Therefore, many of the recollections recorded in this book are by students who learned at the Yeshiva during the last thirty years of his life, and during his final decade when he was beset by painful illnesses. With great willpower, he remained strong, not ceasing to give classes to his students in his small house on Ovadiah Street in Jerusalem in the neighborhood of Geula.
Rabbi Mordechai Tzion, Book Translator
Father and Son
It was clear to everyone that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was enlightened with his father’s teachings. The thoughts and Torah insights of his father suffused his being. Often when teaching a class, he would read from his father’s writings without adding any commentary of his own. Once he shared with his students a bright illumination regarding Havdalah. “Before the Havdalah blessings we say, ‘You shall draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation,’ (Yeshayahu, 12:3). Concerning this, there is a well-known commentary of Targum Yonaton, which often contains, in addition to the translation, explanations and new insights. He writes, ‘You will receive a new Torah learning from the elite Tzaddikim.’ There is to be a renewal of Torah understanding – a new light that will shine on Zion. There is a teaching of our Sages that the joy of Torah learning has the power to revitalize the Torah. We are instructed to view the Torah each day as if it were new, (Devarim, 26:37, see Rashi). New and joyful. ‘Out of the wells of salvation,’ is explained in the Targum as, ‘From the elite Tzaddikim.’ These are the scholars who occupy themselves with the study of Torah for the sake of Heaven. They are like constantly overflowing fountains, (Avot, 6:2). These sages come to possess a unique character. The wells of salvation are the wells of the Tzaddikim. These unique individuals are the foundations of the world. The influence of their Torah knowledge and their inner wisdom, on its special level, facilitates the Nation’s Salvation and Redemption. We are to joyously receive a new and unique learning from the elite Tzaddikim. There are many Tzaddikim. And there are levels distinguishing them. Among them are elite Tzaddikim whose super-high level of Torah comes down from Heaven to illuminate and accompany, with its special light, the Salvation of the Nation. Just as the soul of the Gaon of Vilna was sent by the Holy One Blessed Be He into the world to illuminate the very first stage of the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael and the Footsteps of Mashiach, it can also be said that the soul of the elite Tzaddik of our time, our teacher and master, my father, HaRav, z’tzal, was sent by Hashem to illuminate the new light on Zion as the Salvation advances and grows. How blessed we are to have merited to be present to share in his light.” 1
Rabbenu said: “In our generation, we have no one to look to for guidance except for the crown of our heads, my father, the Admore of Clal Yisrael. He alone is the great beacon of Redemption who can illuminate new paths of Torah for all of the varying camps in our Nation, from one extreme to the other, and guide them during the Revival in our Land.” 2
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said about his father: “There are revealed Tzaddikim and hidden Tzaddikim. And there are revealed Tzaddikim whose true greatness is kept hidden.”
When people wrote articles about Rabbi Kook in an effort to define him, Rabbenu would respond: “He is who he is.” As if to say that Rabbi Kook was beyond all definition.
When asked who was the Gadol HaDor of the previous generation, Rabbenu would reply decisively, “Abba!” When he was asked if a certain great Rabbi had been the Gadol HaDor, he banged his hand on his desk and declared in a loud voice, “The Gadol HaDor was Abba!”
When Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav was established in the year 5683 (1924), Maran HaRav Kook appointed his son as an instructor, responsible for the spiritual guidance of the students. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda also gave classes in Tanach and Emunah (faith). Israel Chief Rabbi Kook was sometimes present at his son’s shiurim and received great joy from them.
To make it clear that the administration of the yeshiva was to fall into the hands of his son, Rabbi Kook wrote: “Behold, by the power of this letter, I grant authority to my beloved son, who is great in Torah and in the fear of Hashem, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, may he live a long and healthy life, to be in charge of all of the affairs of the yeshiva, and that his words and actions will have all the force as mine, in everything connected to the holy management of the Central Universal Yeshiva in Jerusalem, may the Holy City be completely rebuilt in our time. And may Hashem, may His Name be blessed, be an aid to him in establishing this holy institution on a mighty foundation of Torah that it be a beacon of light to the Jewish Nation and to the world, from the eternal place of Hashem’s Temple, from the everlasting place of our life.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related that when they moved to Jerusalem, his father said to him regarding his writing desk: “Until now, this desk was mine, now it will be yours,” – implying that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was Rabbi Kook’s spiritual continuation.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda also related: “Abba HaRav, may his memory be a blessing, wrote his great response to the Ridvaz on this desk, regarding the Heter Mechirah (lit. “permission to sell” – a halachic method of temporarily selling land in Israel to a non-Jew to enable Jewish farmers to work during the Sabbatical Year). 3 He received the letter of the Ridvaz close to evening. After Ma’ariv, he began to write and continued throughout the night in one flow until his hand hurt.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related that Rabbi Kook once dreamt about King David and King Shlomo. In the morning, he told HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: “This dream is for you,” – meaning that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was the continuation of Rabbi Kook, just as King Shlomo was the continuation of King David.
Referring to his father, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda described himself as one who sits amidst the dust of the feet of the wise (Avot, 1:4). He also said that his voice was his father’s voice. 4
At the dedication of the new Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva building in Kiryat Moshe, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda defined himself, saying: “I am the servant of Avraham,” (Bereshit, 24:34) – meaning that his entire life was committed to his father, whose first name was Avraham.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not simply edit his father’s writings, such as correcting spelling mistakes, punctuation, and the like, but engaged in creative editing, in line with the literary independence which his father granted to him.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that he gave the name “Orot” meaning “Lights,” to his father’s books. 5
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s shemush (serving a Torah scholar) of his father was not only with the ordinary watchfulness and concern, but something great and wondrous. He absorbed his father’s Torah teachings and saintly conduct to the point of the unification of their souls. 6
Rabbi Kook would clarify together with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda the halachic questions which were brought before him. In one of his Responsa from the period of St. Gallen in Switzerland, he writes: “My son, may he live a long life, pointed out…” (“Mishpat Kohen,” pg. 308).
When people would ask Rabbenu to speak about his father, he would say: “It is impossible to talk about Abba HaRav z’tzal. Perhaps it is possible to learn something he wrote.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had total respect for his father, and he completely nullified himself before him. He had many things of his own to say, but he hid his greatness and never disagreed with his father.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said on 3 Elul, the Yahrtzeit of his father: “There are Torah scholars who are the Gadol HaDor (the great Rabbi of the generation), but Abba z”l was Gadol HaDorot (the great Rabbi of all generations).
One of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s students suggested to him to publish his writings together with the writings of his father. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “I am embarrassed to do so.”
When anti-Zionist Zealots from the Old Yishuv came out against Maran HaRav Kook and shamed him, his supporters turned to the Torah Gadol, HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer, and asked why he did not protest publicly. He answered that if one protests publicly, this will draw more attention to the matter, and it is better not to relate to Lashon Hara at all. Thereby, it will be forgotten. This answer did not find favor in HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s eyes. He insisted that one must respond with strength and decisiveness against the scoffers.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related that when Rabbi Kook appeared before the British court in the matter of Abraham Stavsky (who was accused of murdering Chaim Arlozorov, the leader of the Mapai Party in 1933), the English judge said that he saw in the Chief Rabbi’s eyes, the eyes of a man of war. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda corroborated this statement and said: “Abba z”l was full of kindness and mercy, like the students of Aharon, a lover of peace. But when it was required, he was a man of war.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was opposed to being recorded on tape. A student approached him one day and said: “How wonderful it would be if we had recordings of Maran HaRav Kook z’tzal?! After hearing that argument, he agreed to be taped. 7
A philanthropist asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda what to donate to the Yeshiva. He did not say dorms, rooms, etc., but rather: “We are lacking chairs.” The man donated folding chairs, and on each one was written: “Yeshivat HaRav Kook.” Rabbenu refused to sit on them: “One does not sit on his father’s name,” he explained.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “All of Abba HaRav’s words in ‘Orot,’ ‘Orot Ha-Kodesh,’ ‘Orot Ha-Torah,’ ‘Orot HaRiyah,’ etc., were written with Ruach HaKodesh, like the works of the Maharal. Even though they appear as literary writings, they were all penned with the Divine Spirit.”
A student asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: “Why doesn’t HaRav, shlita, write a book with all of his teachings on the Redemption which is unfolding today?” He responded: “I accepted upon myself to publish the books of Abba HaRav z’tzal.” He engaged in the holy endeavor with great self-sacrifice and amazing precision.
After Rabbi Kook ascended on high in the year 5695 (1935), HaRav Tzvi Yehuda secluded himself in his father’s small study several hours a day for seventeen years, organizing the thousands of pages containing his father’s writings. He dedicated most of his time to publishing the halachic writings, in order that the image of Israel’s Chief Rabbi be remembered not only as a philosophical thinker and a communal leader, but to be sure he would be seen in his full Torah standing as an outstanding genius in all spheres of Torah, both the inner Torah and the revealed.
Some students have the ability to draw knowledge from the Torah of their teacher and to transfer it to others to imbibe from its treasures, (see Yoma 28b and Rashi to Bereshit 15:2), but they can only give what they themselves understand. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda attained much more than this. He absorbed the Torah of his father, and it became an inseparable part of his soul and essence. He was thus able to lead a generation which had new problems which did not exist at the time of his father. He was able to tell us what Maran HaRav Kook would have said in a given situation. Anyone who looked at HaRav Tzvi Yehuda actually saw Rabbi Kook in his face.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “There are people who do not know what are Gan Eden and Gehinom: I can feel Gehinom in this world on account of the distance from Abba (now that he is no longer among us).”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda confided: “I do not understand how the world exists without my Father.”
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda rose to speak on 3 Elul, the Yahrtzeit of his father, he would enwrap himself completely with his tallit. He leaned on the podium and cried. It was clear from his words the intimate connection he had even now with his father, as if Rabbi Kook had ascended on high at that very moment.
Regarding difficult matters of the Yeshiva, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would say: “I am taking counsel with Abba HaRav z’tzal.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was once walking in the old Yeshiva building. When he entered the little room where Rabbi Kook had learned, he stopped and not only kissed the mezuzah, but also kissed the door.
“I heard from HaRav Natan Ra’anan, of blessed memory, that there was once a memorial exhibition about Rabbi Kook at a university. He approached HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and told him about the exhibition, but Rabbenu refused to go, saying, “Although they are presenting his wisdom there, his fear of Hashem will not be seen there, and his towering Emunah will not be represented. Why then should we go there?!” 8
Who is the Host?
Rabbi Kook would occasionally travel from the city of Zoimel, where he was the Rabbi of the community, to visit his parents in his hometown of Geriva. On the way to Geriva, he would pass through Dvinsk, where the Torah giant of the generation, Rabbi Meir Simcha, the author of the “Ohr Sameach,” was the city’s Chief Rabbi. Maran HaRav Kook would say that the “Ohr Sameach” was the central Torah giant of the generation since he not only knew Torah, but that he created Torah, meaning his abundant new Torah insights and Chiddushim. Accordingly, when Rabbi Kook passed through Dvinsk, he would visit the house of Rabbi Meir Simcha in order to discuss Torah. He once visited the renowned scholar and found him standing by a table, learning a sefer of the Rambam, with many other books open before him. They greeted one another and immediately began discussing matters of Torah. Their scholarly exchanges continued for an extended period – the entire time standing up! When the flood of Torah ceased, Rabbi Meir Simcha realized that he did not invite his guest to sit down. Seeking to rectify the situation, he immediately invited Rabbi Kook to sit. Then Rabbi Meir Simcha began to tell a story:
Franz Joseph II, the Kaiser of Austria-Hungary, was known as a benevolent king who would periodically travel around like one of the commoners, without any royal trappings, so that no one would know who he was. On one of his excursions, the king once entered the National Library in Vienna. Despite all of his efforts to hide himself, everyone recognized him and stood in his honor, except for one person who remained seated in his place, deeply immersed in the book he was studying. He was the brilliant author of “Yad HaMelech,” the Rabbi of Brody in Galicia. The king took notice of the man who continued to study, not taking his eyes off of the book. He was so engrossed in his learning that he didn’t notice anything around him. Realizing that the fellow meant no disrespect, the king approached him and began a conversation. All of the people in the library were startled.
The king asked him: “Who are you?”
“I am the Rabbi of Brody,” the man responded.
“If I come to Brody, may I visit your home?” the king asked.
The “Yad HaMelech” replied: “Certainly, it would be my great honor!”
Time passed and the incident was nearly forgotten. Many years later, the king, dressed in his royal attire, suddenly entered the house of the Rabbi of Brody. At that moment, the Rabbi was standing next to his bookshelf, engrossed in a book. Just like the first time, the king approached him. The Rabbi was so surprised, he forgot to ask the guest to sit. Standing, they began to talk.
The king asked: “Rabbi of Brody, is the custom of receiving guests while standing based on the Talmud and the customs of the Jewish People?” Though the clever Rabbi had been caught off guard, he answered immediately: “G-d forbid! We follow the path of our forefathers who taught us that ‘Welcoming guests is greater than receiving the Divine Presence,’ but our proper etiquette is that the host asks the guest to sit, and the king, wherever he is – he is the host!”
By telling this story, the great “Ohr Sameach” hoped to appease his guest, the young Rabbi of Zoimel, whom he did not ask to sit, by referring to him as the king! HaRav Tzvi Yehuda added that, in his later years, Rabbi Kook would tell this story on Purim, but on account of his great humility, he did not relate all of the details of the tale. He did not say to whom the “Ohr Sameach” told the story, and he did not relate who had been the guest. Only after Rabbi Kook passed away did this detail become known – it was Rabbi Kook himself who Rabbi Meir Simcha had appeased by comparing him to a king. 9
HaRav Yosef Buxbaum, the editor of the journal “Moriah,” had a very close relationship with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, following the lead of HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would give him letters which great Rabbis wrote to Rabbi Kook, in order to publish them in “Moriah.” HaRav Buxbaum would often visit HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. And when a baby boy was born to him, he asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to serve as the Kohen at the Pidyon HaBen.
It once happened that one of the editors of the “Otzar Mefarshei HaTalmud” (Treasury of Talmudic Commentators) included a ruling of Rabbi Kook, but another editor removed it. HaRav Buxbaum asked him why – was it because he found a difficulty with it requiring further clarification? He answered: “I didn’t even look into the issue. I just think that a ruling of Rabbi Kook is not appropriate for ‘Otzar Mefarshei HaTalmud.'” HaRav Buxbaum said to him: “From this moment, you are fired!” The editor did not accept his decision, so they went to HaGaon HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv for arbitration. HaRav Elyashiv was shocked and said to the editor: “Did you know HaRav Kook?! You should know – he was holy. He did not belong to our generation, and in his generation, they did not properly understand him. Reb Yosef was certainly permitted to fire you. I would have done the same thing.” 10
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related that his father would go to relax on Mount Carmel in Haifa because of a physical ailment. HaGaon HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer, Rosh Yeshiva of Etz Chaim, once happened to meet him there. When he returned, he said: “I merited to spend time with a Jew who does not spend a moment devoid of holiness.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda remarked that HaRav Meltzer said: “If only our Neilah prayer on Yom Kippur was like Rabbi Kook’s Mincha on a Friday afternoon.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not pass through the Zichron Moshe neighborhood in Jerusalem since, in the past, they had burned an effigy of his father there. 11
When HaRav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld ascended on high, Rabbi Kook wanted to attend the funeral, but HaRav Tzvi Yehuda forcefully prevented him, saying that he would lay down in front of the wheels of their car and stop him from going, out of a fear that the Zealots would attack him. 12 There were actual cases when Zealots physically attacked Rabbi Kook.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would go to hear Divrei Torah from the Brisker Rav (HaGriz), HaRav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik – and when he was there, the Zealots (extreme anti-Zionists) would insult him. If HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had heard insults about Maran HaRav Kook he would not have remained silent, but he was prepared to ignore their rebuke of him for the sake of hearing the Brisker Rav. When HaRav Shabatai Shmueli, the Yeshiva’s secretary, heard about this, he was shaken and pleaded with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to stop attending the Torah lectures. HaRav Avraham Shapira also attempted to convince HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to stop, but he wanted to hear Divrei Torah from HaGriz. HaRav Shmueli and HaRav Shapira requested that Reb Aryeh Levin – who also frequented there – speak with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. He agreed and said to him: “Reb Tzvi Yehuda, you must cease going there. The insults you suffer do not bring honor to the Torah. It is also insulting to the memory of your father, z’tzal.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda tried to justify continuing his visits by saying that their denigration did not affect him, and that HaGriz is one of the great Rabbis of the generation, etc., but Reb Aryeh interrupted him and, uncharacteristically, said harsh things about the Zealots. When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda heard this from the holy mouth of the Tzaddik Reb Aryeh, he did not return, even though there was a great lost in not hearing the Torah lectures of HaGriz. 13
Once, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had a question on the Rambam. He went to clarify it with the Brisker Rav and HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer, since they both authored works on the Rambam. 14
HaRav Eliezer Melamed wrote in the newspaper Besheva: “After the anti-Zionist Brisker Rav – HaRav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik – harshly opposed the building of Heichal Shlomo (the building of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel), HaRav Yehuda Leib Maimon wrote a scathing criticism about him. My father and teacher, HaRav Zalman Melamed, told me that he went to speak with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda about this and asked him: ‘When a lesser Rabbi disagrees with a greater Rabbi, isn’t this an impingement on the honor of the Torah and shaming a Torah scholar?’ HaRav Tzvi Yehuda answered: ‘Certainly.’ HaRav Zalman Melamed then asked about HaRav Maimon: ‘How can he so harshly disagree with the Brisker Rav?’ HaRav Tzvi Yehuda answered: ‘But he is right’ (meaning in regards to the dispute about Heichal Shlomo and similar issues regarding the Israel Chief Rabbinate).
A Torah Scholar was delivering a eulogy for a great Rabbi and he spoke about Rabbi Kook without explicitly citing his name. After mentioning his greatness, he added “But his love of Israel is contrary to normal behavior,” (see Bereshit Rabbah 55:11; and Rashi to Bereshit 22:3). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda explained that his father’s love of Israel was not love in the usual sense, but came from a deep understanding of Hashem’s love of Israel, from which his own love flowed. And regarding the Torah scholar’s words, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda cited the teaching: “One who prays: ‘May Your mercy reach the bird’s nest,’ we silence him,” meaning the value of the commandment “shiluach haken” is far beyond the concept of mercy,” (Berachot 33B). 15
Time and time again, the Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, repeated to his students the vital importance of studying the books of Rabbi Kook, and he insisted that a person had to learn the book, “Orot,” day and night. Even if he didn’t understand it, one needed to relearn it a thousand times – maybe after such an effort the student would merit to comprehend something. 16
HaRav Shlomo Goren, Chief Rabbi of Israel, said that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda carried out the vision of his father. Rabbi Kook envisioned the resettlement of the Nation in Israel, and HaRav Tzvi Yehuda brought the vision down to earth. Rabbi Kook taught and HaRav Tzvi Yehuda implemented his words. He raised up a generation of Torah scholars and rebuilders of the Nation and the Land.
Sometimes, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would awaken in the middle of the night and say, “My father spoke to me just now and told me this and that.”
Rabbenu stated, “I am the absolute continuation of my father.” 17 He called his book, “L’Netivot Yisrael,” (To Pathways of Israel), implying that the pathways he enumerated were the ways to reach the “Lights” of his father’s teachings, since they were the goal and destination – the treasure at the end of the road. He called his father, “The Living Lion,” saying that in the Upper World of Souls, he still guided us and kept a watch upon our doings.
Many things which appear in the writings of Rabbi Kook in an abstract manner, such as the inner workings of Segulat Yisrael and Geulat Yisrael, find concrete expression in the teachings and deeds of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, often during times of great challenges to the Nation.
A new student arrived to the yeshiva in the month of Elul and began to study. After a week, he told HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that he felt nothing special about the place, and that he had decided to leave and study in Kfar Hasidim. Rabbenu told him not to leave. The student said that wanted to feel somthing special since it was the month of Elul and therefore he was leaving. Again, Rabbenu told him not to go. Nonetheless, the stubborn student didn’t listen and left the yeshiva. As soon as he reached Kfar Hasidim he developed stomach pains which forced him to go home. When he felt better after a week, he returned to Kfar Hasidim, but fell ill with some other ailment. The entire month until Yom Kippur, he couldn’t learn. After Sukkot, he returned to Mercaz HaRav and told the Rosh Yeshiva everything that had happened. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda confided to him: “When my father was alive, everything he would say would come to pass. With me, I don’t have the same power, but I certainly possess a spark of my Father’s holiness.” Ever since then, the student made HaRav Tzvi Yehuda his Rabbi. For years he learned in the yeshiva and became an outstanding Talmid Chacham.
It once happened that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda went to daven in a shul in Meah Shearim with one of his students. After the davening, the student said to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: “Did HaRav notice that they did not count us in the minyan?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded, “I noticed.” Then, he explained to the student one of the reasons why the Zealot faction of the Ultra-Haredi community in Jerusalem was fiercely opposed to the “Zionist” Chief Rabbi. “Some people once requested that I suggest to Abba HaRav z”l that he omit the section discussing exercise from his book ‘Orot.’ Abba HaRav z”l explained to me that to do so would not be in the category of fear of Hashem, but rather fear of flesh and blood. From that moment on, I stopped fearing flesh and blood. You see, in chapter 34 of ”Orot HaTechiyah,” my father wrote that the merits of physical exercise by the young pioneers in the Land of Israel are similar to the merits of reciting Tehillim and the mystical unifications of the Kabbalists. The Ultra-religious Jews of the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem waged war with Maran HaRav Kook over this idea. That is why, when they recognized me, they didn’t count us as part of the minyan.” 18
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related: “My father, of blessed memory, needed glasses, but he did not wear them. He explained: ‘For a Jew, the essence is to learn Torah, and I am able to do so without glasses. It is not so terrible that I cannot see so well at a distance.’ When my father was chosen as Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel, he was forced to wear glasses, since, he said, the British Consulate was across the street from the building of the Chief Rabbinate, and one must properly relate to these dignitaries by seeing them well, even at a distance. 19
Rabbi Kook’s Room
Once after davening in the original building which housed the yeshiva, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda went the room where his father most often learned. Before entering, he removed his Tefillin in the hallway. He expained: “It is an explicit Halachah in the Shulchan Aruch that it is forbidden to remove one’s Tefillin in the presence of his Rabbi.”
Once when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda entered that room, he not only kissed the mezuzah as is customary, but he also kissed the doorposts. He said that Beit HaRav, which was Rabbi Kook’s house and, for a time, the site of Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, still retains its holiness.
On one of the summer days in 5708, during the War of Independence, only two students – HaRav Yosef Kapach and HaRav Glazer – were learning in the old building of the Yeshiva, together with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, who did not refrain from coming to the Yeshiva even during times of danger. There was a huge explosive near the Yeshiva which killed two women. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda brought the two students with him into Rabbi Kook’s room, pointed to his chair and announced: “In merit of the one who sat in this chair nothing will happen here!” 20
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related that his father, of blessed memory, once received a long letter which included reasons to be lenient in certain forms of electricity used on Shabbat and Yom Tov. He briefly responded that it is forbidden since electricity is fire. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked his father about this, since his usual way was to respond based on the length of the letter (i.e. if the letter was lengthy, he would respond at length), but here he did not respond in kind. Rabbi Kook responded: “When issues are clear, there is no reason to be lengthy.” 21
Rabbi Binyamin Levin, grandson of Rav Aryeh Levin, related: “My father, HaRav Raphael Levine, and HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach studied together as children at Yeshivat Etz Chaim on Jaffe Road. Sometimes on Shabbat they would learn in the beit midrash. My father and Rav Auerbach both told me that sometimes they would close the Gemara and walk across Jaffe Road to the home of Rabbi Kook. They would go upstairs to his home, taking turns for a moment to peek through the keyhole to watch Rabbi Kook intensely absorbed in his studies. They said that those few minutes watch the great Rabbi’s face radiating with holiness gave them the desire to return immediately to their learning to become great Torah scholars. 22
The Words Engraved on Rabbi Kook’s Tombstone
HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook
Born on 16 Elul 5625
Ascended to the Land of Israel on 28 Iyar 5664
Ascended to Jerusalem on 3 Elul 5679
Ascended to Heaven on 3 Elul 5695
Maran HaRav Kook’s Grave
Rabbi Yaakov Filber relates that Rabbi Kook’s grave on the Mount of Olives remained completely intact during the period between of the War of Independence and the Six-Day War when the area was under Jordanian control. While most of the graves were vandalized, and the tombstones were uprooted by the Arabs and used for paving roads, Rabbi Kook’s grave remained untouched. Rabbi Filber heard from reliable sources that every time a Jordanian tractor came to reach the grave, the tractor would flip over. The Jordanians were struck by the holiness of the grave and left it alone. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda filled in the details. While everything around his father’s gravesite was bombed out or destroyed, his gravestone remained whole. An Arab worker related that they received special instructions from their superiors not to damage the grave in any way. 23
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was born in Zoimel, in the area of Kovno in Lithuania, on the night of Pesach in the year 5651 (1891) to Maran HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook and HaRabbanit Raiza Rivka. With all of his great humility, he understood his worth and would say: “My soul appeared on the night of the Seder.”
HaRabbanit Raiza Rivka was the second wife of Rabbi Kook, whose first wife, Rabbanit Batsheva Alta, daughter of the Aderet, died in a plague when Rabbi Kook was serving as the Rabbi of Zoimel. At the time, their daughter, Frieda Chana, was one and a half. The Aderet, HaRav Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Te’omim, the Rabbi of Ponovezh, wanted his son-in-law to remarry, and he suggested that he wed Raiza Rivka, the daughter of his late twin brother, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Rabinowitz-Te’omim, who has been the Rabbi of Ragoli. The Aderet said to Rabbi Kook: “It is a pity for me if, with the loss of my daughter, I also lose you from being a member of my family. Marry my brother’s daughter and you will be my son like before.” 1
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was named after his mother’s late father. Two sisters were born from his father’s second marriage as well – Batya Miriam and Esther Yael.
The Kook family moved to Boisk, next to Riga, where Rabbi Kook was appointed to lead the community. Tzvi Yehuda learned Gemara from HaRav Reuven Gutfried (Yedidya), the son-in-law of Rabbi Yoel Moshe Solomon, and from HaRav Binyamin Menasheh Levin, author of “Otzar HaGeonim,” who became HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s personal teacher. 2
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda learned Tanach from HaRav Moshe Dr. Zeidel, who, like HaRav Levin, came to Boisk to absorb the aura of abundant holiness which surrounded Rabbi Kook. The essence of his learning, however, was from his father.
Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook was appointed Chief Rabbi of Jaffa and the surrounding settlements (Petach Tikva, Rishon Le’Tzion, Gedera, Rechovot, etc.) in the year 5664 (1904). After lengthy negotiations with the community, the final letter with the travel expenses arrived. Rabbi Kook left a note for his daughter to pick up the letter. But HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, out of his love for Eretz Yisrael, rushed to get the epistle himself, in order to receive a letter from the Holy Land. He made Aliyah with his family shortly after his bar mitzvah. Every year, like his father, he would celebrate the date of his arrival in the Promised Land, the 28th of Iyar, which later became the day that Jerusalem was liberated during the Six Day War.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was fifteen, he ascended to Yerushalayim to learn in Yeshivat Torat Chaim in the Old City. Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rabbi of Yerushalayim; Rav Yitzchak Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Israel; and Rav Aryeh Levin, the Tzaddik of Yerushalayim, also learned in the famous Torat Chaim Yeshiva.
Yeshivat Torat Chaim
During the War of Independence, Jerusalem fell into enemy hands. But a miracle occurred. Unlike all of the other synagogues and yeshivot in the Old City, which were destroyed and plundered by the Arabs, the Torat Chaim Yeshiva was spared. The Arab who lived below, one of the righteous non-Jews among the nations, locked the beit midrash and claimed that the building was his, thereby preventing rioters and plunderers from entering. Out of all the yeshivot in the Old City, this building alone (and its holy content!) was saved from the Arabs, similar to the jug of oil found in Temple with the seal of the Kohan HaGadol still intact. The building is located in what is called the Moslem Quarter today, but in the years that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had studied there, it had been a thriving Jewish neighborhood known as the Western Wall Quarter until the Arab pogroms in the 1930’s forced the Jews to flee. When the Old City was liberated during the Six Day War, no one rushed to resettle the once famous Jewish neighborhood, nor endeavored to discover the fate of the large synagogues and yeshivot which had been the pearls of the community.
On Ta’anit Esther 5728, after the Six-Day War, the students of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva went to daven at the Kotel. A student of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda who had a car took him home as usual. It was in the middle of the day and HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked: “Don’t you have a class now?” He answered: “Yes, but our Sages say that serving Torah Scholars is greater than learning.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda agreed by his silence. When they were near Sha’ar Shechem (the Damascus Gate), HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked to stop. Without saying a word, Rabbenu got out of the car and he began to quickly march toward the entrance to the Moslem Quarter. Two students escorted the 78-year-old Rabbi, one on each side, running to keep pace with him. He momentarily stopped where the street splits, then continued along HaGai Street. Meeting someone he knew, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda stopped and exchanged a few words until HaRav Tzvi Yehuda pointed toward a particular building not far away. The man said: “I am certain that it is there,” pointing to the entrance of Yeshivat Torat Chaim (which is now the location of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim – formerly Ateret Cohanim, where I have served as Rosh Yeshiva for the past thirty years). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda ran in the direction of the Yeshiva building and ascended the long flight of stone stairs to the second floor. The students asked him what he was doing, but he didn’t answer. He stopped in the narrow second-floor hallway in front of a window, held the bars, pulled himself up as much as he could, and looked into the beit midrash for a long minute. When he let himself down, the students again inquired about the mystery. “I learned Torah here when I was young,” he responded. “This was the Yeshiva of Rabbi Epstein and Rabbi Winograd. My father sent me to learn Torah here.” Inside the old study hall, it was possible to make out some shtenders and tables with books piled on them, covered with centimeters of gray dust which had accumulated over the years since the Yeshiva had been abandoned. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was deeply moved. He uttered some Psalms of praise and then headed back to the car. On the way, he related stories about his time in the Yeshiva. Once, he recalled, the Rabbis complained to the Turkish authorities that the nearby muezzin, which loudly called Arabs to prayer, was bothering the learning of the students. As a result, the Turkish silenced the muezzin during the classes in the Yeshiva.
Finding a Place to Learn
Returning to Jaffa, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda aided his father with the many public and private matters which he dealt with as Chief Rabbi of Jaffa and the surrounding settlements. When it became clear that this involvement turned detrimental to his Torah learning, he moved back to the Old City of Jerusalem and sheltered himself in Yeshivat Porat Yosef. Also there, because he was the son of the well-known Rabbi Kook, he found it difficult to concentrate on his studies. Consequently, he considered traveling to one of the major yeshivot outside of Israel. Consulting with his father and HaRav Binyamin Menasheh Levin, he decided to travel to Halberstadt in Germany in order to learn and teach Torah to a group of young men. His good friend, HaRav Dr. Moshe Auerbach, the principle of the “Netzach Yisrael” School in Petach Tivkah, also advised him to go and learn with his brother HaRav Dr. Yitzchak Auerbach, the Rav of Halberstadt. While he was in there, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda taught Gemara, Kuzari, and Tanach to the students.
When World War One broke out, Rabbi Kook, who had been invited to the influential Agudat Yisrael conference in Germany, was not able to return to Israel. He was forced to stay in Switzerland for an extended period since all routes of transportation were closed. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related:
“During that period of isolation in Switzerland, I learned the entire Torah with Abba: the Babylonian Talmud, the Jerusalem Talmud, Rambam, Tur – a few times – which we would not have been able to learn together in one hundred years (while his father was exceedingly busy with Rabbinical duties in Jaffa).”
After the World War, at the end of 5680 (1921), HaRav Tzvi Yehuda traveled once again to Europe as an emissary of his father, in order to participate in the annual Agudat Yisrael conference. His goal was to explain to the leading Rabbis and Chasidic Rebbes the goal of the “Degel Yerushalayim” Movement which Rabbi Kook established to inject a spirit of Torah within the general Zionist Movement. He hoped to enlist Torah-observant Jews in the movement in order to strengthen the spiritual foundation which was, Rabbi Kook declared, inherent in the ingathering of the exiles and the rebuilding of the Israelite Nation in the Holy Land.
During one of his trips, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda met the daughter of HaRav Yehuda Leib Hutner of Warsaw, HaRav Yehoshua Hutner’s sister, for the sake of getting married. When he saw her, he immediately felt that this was his soul-mate. They learned the entire book “Orot” together, while it was still in booklet form, before their marriage and married in Warsaw on the 26th day of Shevat, 5682.
HaRabbanit Chavah Leah possessed both Torah wisdom and general knowledge, and was involved with education and social work. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that she had a precise sense of people, and many times after he spoke with his students, she would say: “You should not expend so much energy on student B, but it is worthwhile to give student A more attention.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related that on one extremely cold winter day, HaRabbanit went out to bring firewood to the poor in the Old City of Jerusalem. He begged her not to go out of the house. She nonetheless went and returned with a chill that developed into pneumonia, from which she died in 5704. Rav Hutner, her brother-in-law, revealed that the doctor gave her a shot, not knowing that she had a heart problem. Tragically, her reaction to the injection proved fatal. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, however, would not put the blame on the doctor.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s sister, HaRabbanit Batya Miriam, encouraged him to remarry, as did his former mother-in-law, but he refused. The wife of the Nazir also suggested a match. He responded: “You are right, but I am unable to.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda never remarried. We do not know the reason.
Until his last day, a picture of his wife, taken before their wedding, hung over HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s bed, which was a clear sign to his students that this was an expression of their eternal connection. 3
Even forty years after she ascended on high, Rabbenu would speak about her with emotion and tears, as if she had died that day. 4
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not recite “Eishet Chayil” before Kiddush on Shabbat night. When a student asked him about this, he somberly responded: “I do not have an ‘Eishet Chayil’ (Woman of Valor)” – since HaRabbanit Chavah Leah had died.
After his wife’s death, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would regularly eat Shabbat meals at his sister and brother-in-law’s house – Batya Miriam and HaRav Shalom Natan Ra’anan. Then, suddenly, he stopped coming on Shabbat night. When they asked him the reason, he responded that his wife appeared to him in a dream and asked why he was leaving her alone in the house on Shabbat. 5
The Struggle against Missionaries
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda waged war against the missionaries who tried to gain a stronghold in Israel. He was a leader of the struggle, and the headquarters of the campaign was centered in his house. Everyone in the country knew that the most attentive ear was to be found with our Rosh Yeshiva. He urged active opposition, and sought to enlist others to join the cause.
A Christian missionary from Tiberia would come to Jerusalem regularly, and HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would welcome him as a guest in his small apartment in the Geula neighborhood of Meah Shaarim. Students told the Rosh Yeshiva that they could not tolerate the fellow, but HaRav Tzvi Yehuda sacrificed himself for this cause (by inviting him), because this missionary, out of endearment, would relate to him all of the ins-and-outs of the missionary activity in the country. Rabbenu would pass this information on to “Chever HaPe’ilim” – an organization which worked to protect the public against missionaries. As a result, many people were saved.
A protest against the missionaries was organized by one of the leading students of the Yeshiva. The protest was illegal, and the protesters were arrested. The next morning, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s voice thundered against the organizer: “In my darkest nightmare, I never dreamed about violating the law.” After the court verdict of guilty, the protesting students decided not to pay the fine and to be incarcerated. They were imprisoned in the Damon Jail on Mount Carmel. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda went to visit them. Upon entering the mess hall where they were eating, all of the students jumped up from their chairs in surprise. After everyone calmed down, he said, “One who sees houses of Israel in their inhabited state says: ‘Blessed is the One who establishes the widow’s boundary,’” (Berachot 58B). He generally recited this blessing immediately upon arrival at a new community, but when there was the possibility of “publicizing the miracle” when a large group of people would gather to greet him, he would delay the blessing. This time, he said: “My visit to this place is not because of joyous circumstances, but we must remember that even a Jewish jail is an expression of the sovereignty of the Nation of Israel over its Land.” And he continued to recite the blessing with Hashem’s Name and Kingship: “Blessed are You…who establishes the widow’s boundary.” 1
A student related: “During one of the years when the production of Handel’s “Messiah” (a Christian symphony) was playing in concert in Jerusalem’s National Hall (‘Binyanei HaUmah’), HaRav Tzvi Yehuda tried to have the concert canceled, insisting that it certainly had no justification to be held in an official public building. Rabbenu requested that I go with him to the house of HaRav David Kohen – “HaNazir” – since there was a telephone there, and arrange for him to speak with Chaim Moshe Shapira and Yosef Burg, who were members of the Knesset from the National Religious Party. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked them to work to cancel the concert. They answered that canceling the event was not possible. Not satisfied with their response, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda sent students to disrupt the concert. He praised the students who staged a protest inside the hall at the time of the concert of “Messiah” and particularly the student who jumped onto the stage yelling how terrible an affront the event was to the Jewish People. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related that the police commander told him afterwards: “Your young men are gold, and the one who got up on the stage deserves a medal.” After the concert-goers dispersed, the protesters from the Yeshiva and a squadron of police officers remained in the hall. The officers asked the protesters to leave the building, announcing that the show was over. One of the students arose and lectured them about the grave act which had transpired, declaring they would not leave the hall. When the officers’ patience ran out, they took three of the Yeshiva students to jail. Gradually, the rest of them left the building. The next day, students turned to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and asked him to work to free those who were imprisoned. Rabbenu replied: ‘I do not understand why they did not disperse according to the police’s request after the concert ended. We were not there to protest against the police, but against the concert!'”
Rabbenu was particular that one should not write the Christian date. If he was invited to a wedding and the Christian date appeared on the invitation, he would not attend. 2
In a letter, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda highlighted his opposition to the use of Christian dates by referring to one of his father’s correspondences. Rabbi Kook wrote, quoting the Rambam: “I received your letter with a date which I do not know or understand, since I am unfamiliar with the counting of time from the year of the birth of ‘that sinner of Israel whom the non-Jews made into idol worship, who practiced sorcery, enticed and led Israel astray (Sanhedrin 107A), who caused Israel to be destroyed by the sword and its remnants scattered in humiliation, who exchanged the Torah (for a doctrine of falsehood), and deceived the majority of the world to serve a G-d other than Hashem,’” (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim, Ch. 11). 3
A Rabbi of a community outside of Israel visited HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, who asked him about the date of a particular event. The guest answered with the date according to the Christian count. Rabbenu said: “Excuse me, I did not hear.” The visitor raised his voice and repeated his words. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda again said to him: “I did not hear.” This exchange was repeated a third time. By the fourth time, the guest understood the problem, and he mentioned the Hebrew date. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda smiled, and the guest promptly apologized.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda agreed to participate in an important ceremony on behalf of the Municipality of Jerusalem, but when he saw that only the Christian date, and not the Hebrew date was on the announcement, he refused to attend, and all of the attempts to persuade him otherwise did not help.
When the ruling of Rav Ovadiah Yosef was publicized that there is no prohibition in using the Christian date, and that those who use it have on whom to rely, (“Shut Yabia Omer,” Vol. 3, Yoreh Deah, #9), HaRav Tzvi Yehuda expressed deep sorrow. 4
Protest Over Autopsies
There was no need for HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to explain his opposition to autopsies, yet he related that Maran HaRav Kook once heard that in opposition to the Halachah an autopsy was to be conducted on a woman who was alone when she died. He called the hospital and said: “This is the Chief Rabbi of Israel. I am a Kohen. It is forbidden for a Kohen to become impure by coming in contact with a corpse, but if need be, I will come and become impure in order to bury this person since there is no one else to attend to it, something known as a ‘met mitzvah’ which even a Kohen is obligated to do.” He was suggesting that, if necessary, he himself would come to bury the body, rather than allow it to be desecrated.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was well known for his declaration that the majority of the world’s Torah Giants did not oppose Zionism. Once, one of the students at the Yeshiva said that he himself would not dare make such a statement in the vicinity of the Holy Ark. The student’s words made their way to the ears of the Rosh Yeshiva. Immediately, he ran to the Yeshiva, opened up the Holy Ark containing the Torah Scrolls and declared, “Whoever says that the majority of Torah Giants opposed Zionism is a liar. The truth is that Zionism was a new movement, and most of the leading Rabbis were uncertain how to relate to it. Most of those who did take a stand were actually in favor of Zionism. Only two Rabbis opposed it: Rabbi Chaim of Brisk and Rabbi David Friedman.” I asked the Rosh Yeshiva why they stood in opposition. He replied, “Were there not sufficient reasons for opposing?”
In his youth, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda learned in Yeshivat Torat Chaim in the Old City (in the building where Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim is now located). Many great Rabbinic leaders learned there, such as Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi, HaRav Tzvi Pesach Frank, HaRav Aryeh Levin, and HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. Rabbenu related that HaRav Yitzchak Nissenbaum, who was the secretary and right-hand man of HaRav Smuel Mohilever, one of the founders of the Religious-Zionist movement called “Hibat Tzion,” was invited to give the main Derashah one Shabbat. This fact testifies that the Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Yitzchak Winograd, did not fear the zealots of Jerusalem, who fiercely opposed the Zionist Movement. Hundreds of people, include many wearing shtreimels, filled the beit midrash and listened to the gifted speaker. When he began discussing the foundations of Religious-Zionism, a loud voice interrupted his words, yelling out: “Is that what Herzl also says?” This caused a commotion among the listeners. Rav Winograd ascended the bima, silenced the crowd, expressed his dismay, and demanded that the brazen person leave the Yeshiva. Rav Nissenbaum adds in his book, “Alai Chaldi,” that he saw arms lifting the man above the crowd and taking him out through the window. At Seudah Shelishit, Rav Winograd told him that one of the zealots had come to him on Friday, demanding that he not allow a talk about impure Zionism in the holy Yeshiva. Rav Winograd responded that the Yeshiva was under his authority, and anyone who disturbed the talk would be paid back in kind. He then hired two guards who stood near the window, ready to deal with troublemakers. When the brazen man began to yell, the young people next to him grabbed his arms and legs and lifted him up to the guards. The zealot’s comrades were shocked and did not dare to create any further disturbance.
It is well known that along with pictures of the Netziv, the Aderet, Rabbi Kook, and others, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had a picture of Herzl hanging in his home.
Rav Avraham Romer related: “The picture of Herzl once disappeared from HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s house, and there was a suspicion that some visitor to the house wanted ‘to teach him a lesson.’ When I suggested that perhaps the picture fell behind the desk, he permitted me to look there. When I found the picture, he was extremely happy and told me wondrous stories about Herzl and some of the remarkable things he did to advance the acceptance of Zionism. He repeated the opinion of Reb Aharon Marcus, z”l, who said that Herzl was a descendant of Mahari Titzak (a famous Rabbi) and that he descended from a Sefardic family. 5
Rav Tzvi Yehuda lived in a small, modest apartment in the neighborhood of Geula, not far from Meah Sha’arim. When a certain neighbor would come to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s house, he would flip over the picture of Herzl. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda once caught him in the act and wryly asked him: “Why are you doing this? Doesn’t he have all five corners of his beard, according to the Torah?” 6
A student of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda saw Herzl’s picture hanging in the room where the Rosh Yeshiva taught classes in his house, amongst pictures of our great Rabbis. He asked for an explanation, and HaRav Tzvi Yehuda gave an entire class on the fact that Herzl was the shaliach of the Master of the Universe in the holy tasks of returning the outcast exiles to Zion in our time, and in returning Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael, whether we liked the fact or not.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda encouraged one of his students who was a baal t’shuva (a Jew who returned to being observant) to read Herzl’s diaries. 7
With the Leaders of the State
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda wrote: “…Just as one who vilifies the Army of Israel is like one who vilifies the Armies of the Living G-d (Shmuel, 1, 17:26), so too, one who vilifies the Kingship (the legal ruling authority) of Israel is like one who vilifies the Kingdom of Hashem. This honor may not be waived (Kiddushin 32B). According to the words of our Sages (Jerusalem Talmud, Yevamot, chap. 16), even Aviyah, King of Yehuda, was punished by Hashem on account of his vilifying the Kingship in public – in the military campaign against Yerovam ben Navat, King of Israel. And Eliyahu the Prophet acted in a respectful manner – albeit his words of harsh rebuke – to Achav, King of Israel. Based on this, our Sages established (Menachot 98A) the obligation for all people throughout the generations to act in this manner of respect (toward the government of Israel).” 8
In a shiur, he taught: “From the first verse of the Haftorah (of Parashat Pinchas – Melachim 1, 18:46), we learn the value of the Kingship of Israel and our relationship to it. ‘And the hand of Hashem was upon Eliyahu, so he girded his loins and ran before Achav until the approach of Yizre’el.’ Our Sages learned from this: ‘The fear of the Kingship should always be upon you,’ (Zevachim 102A, and Menachot 98A). It is known to us how strained was the relationship between Eliyahu the Prophet and Achav, the king, to the extent that Achav referred to Eliyahu with the term, ‘the troublemaker of Israel,’ (Melachim 1, 18:17), and Eliyahu responded: ‘I have not troubled Israel; but you, and your father’s house,’ (ibid. 18). Nonetheless, the hand of Hashem was on Eliyahu to take him to the king, and Eliyahu arranged his clothes and pants in a manner to enable him to run quickly before Achav, who was worse than Yerovam ben Navat. Ostensibly, Eliyahu should have purposefully disregarded a horrible and dreadful king like Achav and not come to him. From this, we learn a lesson for all generations regarding the respect due to the Kingship of Israel.” 9
Rabbi Yochanan learned about the proper relationship toward Kingship from Eliyahu’s relationship with Achav, about whom it was said: “But there was none like Achav, who gave himself over to perform wickedness in the sight of Hashem, because Izevel, his wife, incited him,” (Melachim 1, 21:25). On the one hand, it is proper to express criticism, even extremely harsh criticism when appropriate, and on the other hand, one must grant honor. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda acted this way toward the political leaders of Medinat Yisrael. He spoke at great length about the issue of giving honor to the Kingship, but he did not refrain from sharply criticizing the Government at the required time, regardless of the political party to which a political leader belonged.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would object if someone defined him as a “right-winger.” He did not see himself as affiliated with the right or with the left. Political alignment did not have any meaning to him. His world view did not flow from the political situation in the slightest way; rather, they were the Torah’s world view. As a result, he had specific viewpoints relating to the Land of Israel, the Kingship of Israel, and the Government of Israel. According to the Torah’s point of view, he supported certain socialist aims which characterized the leftist perspective. He was not affiliated with any specific party, but saw himself as being above the parties. He nevertheless voted in elections, not out of a party affiliation, but out of the conviction that in the given situation, the act of voting could help the Nation of Israel.
It once happened that a Rabbi said: “We achieved this [particular] religious law with the help of dirty politics.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda commented: “These politics are the politics of the Master of the Universe.”
David Ben Gurion
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda spoke sharply against David Ben Gurion for boasting that he lived with a woman without having performed the customary Jewish matrimonial procedures of Chuppah and Kiddushin. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda explained that as long as Ben Gurion was the Prime Minister, he did not speak out against him, since he was bound by the Torah obligation to honor the kingship. Only after Ben Gurion left his position did the Rabbi permit himself to say such harsh things.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked if one should stand for the siren at the time of the death of Ben Gurion, he responded: “This is connected to the State, and the State is the fulfillment of a positive Torah commandment, therefore one should stand. Even though Ben Gurion was a heretic, he nonetheless has the merit of developing the Negev.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would speak out with great force against deficiencies in the State of Israel, but this did not limit his love towards it. When people claimed that Prime Minister Ben Gurion permitted raising pigs in Israel, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “I don’t want Ben Gurion’s pigs, but I love the State of Israel of which Ben Gurion is the head. 10
When Ben Gurion celebrated his eightieth birthday, every political party sent delegations to Sedei Boker, where he lived in the Negev, to bless him. When Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Shragai visited HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in his Sukkah, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda harshly criticized the Mafdal religious-Zionist political party for also sending a delegation: “As long as he was the Prime Minister, we were obligated to honor him. Now – Baruch Hashem – we are free from him, and we have better Prime Ministers than him.” Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Shragai replied: “HaRav, one should not speak badly about the Nation of Israel in the Sukkah.” But HaRav Tzvi Yehuda repeated his words.
An important Rabbi spoke with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda about the Prime Minister, Mrs. Golda Meir in a derogatory manner. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was silent and did not answer. But when he departed, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said emotionally: “I cannot speak about the Prime Minister this way; the Prime Minister of Israel is an angel of Hashem to me.”
Dr. Zerach Warhaftig
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had strong criticism for the Minister of Religious Affairs, Dr. Zerach Warhaftig, z”l, because he did not suspend the heretical lectures of a certain philosopher at Bar Ilan University, and he did not relate to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s objections during their discussion. When they needed to meet again over a particular matter, Dr. Warhaftig informed HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that he would come to his house. Rabbenu wore his holiday clothing and stood outside out of building with excitement, so that the guest would not have to knock on the door; rather HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would greet him and escort him inside. He said: “All of this is on account of the fact that he is a Minister in the Government of Israel, and it is an obligation to treat him with the honor of the State. Furthermore, my criticism of his actions does not nullify the honor due to him as a Minister of the State.”
Chaim Moshe Shapira
In a similar fashion, he related to the Government Minister Chaim Moshe Shapira, z”l, even though he criticized him strongly over a particular issue. He treated him with honor in all places and at all times, and referred to him as, “Our Interior Minister.”
When the Government Minister Michael Chazani came to visit the home of the Rabbi, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda turned on all of the lights, as he did to honor Shabbat. When a student asked why, he responded: “He is a Minister of Israel.”
On the first Yom Yerushalayim after the Six-Day War, the Yeshiva planned a festive gathering and they sent invitations to various Governmental Ministers and important figures. A positive response was received from the popular war hero, Moshe Dayan. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was extremely excited, despite the sharp public criticism he had for Moshe Dayan, and he blessed and praised him. At that gathering, Moshe Dayan delivered a Dvar Torah in the Yeshiva and said that our forefather Yaakov was wounded by the angel, but in the morning the sun shone for him, and he added: “Even when there are those badly wounded in the war, and even when there are casualties in battle – the vision and the hope remain.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda kissed him and said: “We hope that our Moshele will enter the Government soon.” And it happened. Of course, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not agree with all of what Moshe Dayan did, but he greatly valued his military genius, strait-forwardness, and self-sacrifice.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was once in the hospital. He lay on the bed without responding. Students tried to engage him in conversation, but the Rabbi did not answer. An announcement arrived that the Prime Minister, Mr. Menachem Begin, needed to see him. The students felt the time was not appropriate – perhaps HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would be embarrassed because of his condition. When a nurse came to perform a treatment for him, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda awoke and said, “Perhaps later,” because he did not want the Prime Minister to arrive in the middle. He strengthened himself, sat on the bed, and requested a towel. When the Prime Minister arrived, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda became completely alert. Everyone was amazed. Then he requested that he and the Prime Minister be left alone together. At the end of the conversation, Mr. Begin said: “Jerusalem, mountains surround her, and Hashem surrounds His Nation,” (Tehillim, 125:2).
Tzahal – Israel Defense Force
In the eyes of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces was holy. Once at a wedding of a student of the Yeshiva, HaRav Shear Yashuv Kohen, when the groom came dressed in an army uniform there were some learned guests who remarked that it was inappropriate for a groom to stand under the chuppah wearing an army uniform. In Yerushalayim, the Holy City, it was customary that a groom wore Shabbat clothing, holy clothing, like a shtreimel. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda commented: “I will tell you the truth. The holiness of the shtreimel – I do not know if it is one-hundred percent certain. It was made holy after the fact. Many righteous and holy Torah Scholars wore it. They were filled with the awe and reverence of Heaven, and we are like dirt under the soles of their feet. On this account, the shtreimel was made holy. Also Yiddish, the language of the Exile, was made holy because of its prevalent use in Torah study. But from the outset – it is not so certain. In comparison, the holiness of the uniform of an Israeli soldier is a fundamental, essential holiness. It has the unquestionable holiness of being an accessory to a mitzvah (the Torah commandment to conquer the Land of Israel and to keep it under Jewish sovereignty, as clearly defined by the Ramban.) From this perspective, all of the tanks in Tzahal are holy as well.” 11
It once happened that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda sat next to a taxi driver who was wearing a Tzahal uniform, and the Rabbi tapped happily on his leg during the entire trip. The driver turned in surprise to the student who was escorting the Rosh Yeshiva and asked why the Rabbi was so happy. The student responded that this was on account of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s great love of the holy Tzahal uniform.
Once while HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was teaching a class, a student on leave from the army stood next to him. During the entire time, Rabbenu rested his hand on the student’s arm. At the end of the class, another student asked about this. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda explained: “It is simple. He was wearing a Tzahal uniform and I was touching holiness the entire time.” 12
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s love of the Israel Defense Force and the holy soldiers of the Army was unique. Not surprisingly, his students who were in the Army endeavored to visit their Rabbi while attired in their army uniform in order to give him contentment. His blessing of students, before their departure to the Army, was pleasand and sweet. It once happened that a student came early in the morning to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda on the day he was drafted into the Army. Hearing a knocking on the door, the student who was helping Rabbenu that day woke up and looked to see who was knocking. He informed the half-sleeping Rabbi that there was a student of the Yeshiva who had come to receive his blessing before his induction into the army. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda got up with incredible zeal. Joyfully, he recited the morning blessings. He quickly drank the cup of tea he allowed himself each morning in order to fulfill the mitzvah of honoring his father who had instructed him to do so. When the young man entered the room, Rabbenu kissed him and blessed him fervently. He encouraged him to be strong in his holy service to the Nation. The elderly Rosh Yeshiva even left his home to escort the student on his way. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that he must always place before his eyes the verse: “Whoever is among you of all His people, Hashem his G-d be with him, and let him rise up!” (Divrei HaYamim, 2, 36:23) 13
Generally, when blessing a student going off to the army, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would quote the verse: “Serve Hashem, your G-d, and Israel, His Nation,” (Divrei HaYamim 2, 35:3).
A reporter asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: “If the honorable Rabbi teaches that the Israel Defense Force is holy, he should close the Yeshiva and not postpone the army service of the students.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “The Army is holy; the Torah is holy of holies.”
After the Six-Day War, there was a meeting between government officials and the head of Yeshivot. Representing the government and army was Moshe Dayan, and representing the yeshivot were HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky, and HaRav Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht. When Moshe Dayan asked why Yeshiva students are exempted from the army while other youths fight and die to protect the country, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded that he rejects the term “exempt.” His students, he clarified, are not exempt from the army, but rather delay their entry for a few years to solidify their Torah education before going out to defend their country. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda advocated juggling these two imperatives – Torah study and army service – by first strengthening one’s growth in Torah and only then serving in the army. 14
Once, Jews went to pray at the Cave of Machpelah in Hevron and waved the Israeli flag there in defiance of the orders of the Army and the Border Police. An argument broke out between them. One side pulled the flag in one direction, and the other side pulled in the other direction, until it ripped. When the matter was brought to the attention of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, he said that placing the Army and the Police, who are our friends, in such an incredibly unpleasant situation of having to take the flag away from Jews is more treif than pig.
When Tzahal blew up the nuclear reactor in Iraq in the year 5741, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said in a voice trembling from excitement: “Did you hear! All of the Gentiles are shaking and scared from what the Jews did. Did you hear! Did you hear!” He could not calm down. At that moment, a pregnant woman came in and requested a blessing for an easy pregnancy. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda warmly blessed her, then returned to saying: “Did you hear! Did you hear!” On seeing the Rosh Yeshiva’s concern for the Nation, then for the pregnant women, then back to the Nation, a student remarked, “clal, u-perat, u-clal” – the community, the individual, the community, one of the 13 Talmudic expositions of the Scriptures. 15
Rabbi Shear Yashuv Kohen, son of the Nazir, and the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, related that during the War of Independence there was a major dispute between Rabbis – including within Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav – whether Yeshiva students should be drafted into the military or continue on with their study. The students followed the advice of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and the Nazir who encouraged them to learn while active in the Haganah, Etzel and Lechi. During the interim period when there was little fighting, after the UN vote and before the end of the British Mandate, Rabbi Shear Yashuv would learn in the Yeshiva. One day, he saw a street poster with a bold heading which proclaimed that HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook opposed drafting Yeshiva students into the army, along with harsh quotes from one of his letters regarding this issue. Rabbi Yashuv was unsure what to do, and continued on his way, deep in thought, when he bumped into HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. Noticing his distraught state, the Rosh Yeshiva asked, “Shear Yashuv, what happened? Why are you so upset and pale?” He told him what happened and pointed to the street poster. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda roared: “This is a distortion! This is a total distortion!” over and over. After he calmed down, he explained that these quotes were taken from a letter of Maran HaRav Kook to Rabbi Dr. Hertz, Chief Rabbi of England, regarding Jews being drafted into the British army. Yeshiva students who arrived in London from Russia and Poland as refugees of World War I were excluded from the list of those exempt from military service. In the letter, Maran HaRav Kook made clear that such an exemption had nothing to do with the war for Jerusalem, (“Letters of Rabbi Kook, Vol. 3, Letter #810). Later, Rabbi Shear Yashuv encouraged and aided HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to publish a booklet clarifying this issue. 16
During the difficult battle for the Old City in Jerusalem, the Jewish community was forced to surrender and flee. Rabbi Shear Yashuv was badly wounded in the leg and he was taken into Jordanian captivity with other Jewish prisoners. He thus did not merit seeing the publication of the booklet he initiated. After approximately eight months of imprisonment and the establishment of the State, he was released and taken to Zichron Yaakov for rehabilitation. Within a day, at a time when buses were rare, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda appeared outside his window. He entered the room, hugged and kissed him and burst out crying. He removed a small booklet from his pocket and gave it to him. It was the first booklet printed, dedicated to Rabbi Shear Yashuv. 17
Reading the Newspaper
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda returned from morning prayers, he would spread out the newspaper HaTzofeh in front of him and say, “Let’s see what the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is doing with us today.”
When a student asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda if he should read the newspaper, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded that he should not. The student said: “But isn’t this the Yeshiva of Clal Yisrael, and don’t we need to know what is happening in the Nation?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “When you are a Torah giant of Clal Yisrael ,then you can read the newspaper.”
During a class, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was furious because of a particular incident in the country, and he saw that a Torah Scholar, who was one of his students, did not understand why. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked him: “You do not know what is being discussed?” The student responded: “I do not read newspapers and do not listen to the media.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said with discontent and surprise: “Am I the only one who needs to be idle from Torah?”
In the year 5723, the Pope was about to arrive in Israel and requested that the Sefardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchak Nissim, come to greet him in Megiddo. He refused and said that the Pope should come to him in Jerusalem. Rav Nissim stood firm against all of the pressure against him. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda strongly supported his position. 18
When the school “Talmud Torah Morasha” was established, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda instructed the teachers to begin the young students with Parashat Lech Lecha and Avraham Avinu, the father of our Nation, and with his connection with the Land of Israel. 1
Once a new student introduced himself as an “American”. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda pointed out that he was not an American, since America is a foreign land, alien to the soul of Jew. “You should rather say: ‘I am a Jew from the Exile of America.’” 2
During Birchat HaMazon, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would emphasize: “And build Yerushalayim, the holy city, speedily in our days.” 3
After a seudah on weekdays, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not recite “Al Naharot Bavel” but rather “Shir HaMa’alot” at each meal, as a result of our having returned to our Land. 4
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda used to say that the unique quality of the Land of Israel is that it has the power to transform reality, turn bad to good, impure to pure, forbidden to permissible. The Torah (Shemot, 3:8) describes our Land as a, “Land Flowing with Milk and Honey.” Milk, note the Sages, should have been forbidden by the Torah, given the fact that it is extracted from a creature – a cow – while the animal is still alive. Nevertheless, the matter was discussed in Tractate Bechorot (6B), and the Sages eventually permitted the drinking of milk based on the verse that states that the Land of Israel “flows with milk and honey.” If the Torah praised the Land as being a place flowing with milk and honey, they reasoned, it is hard to imagine that these very products would be forbidden to consume! Although the honey cited by the Torah is a specific reference to date honey, it certainly also refers to honey produced by bees. At first blush, bee honey, too, should have been forbidden by the Torah – since it originates in the body of a live insect. Here, too, our Sages conclude, that the special verse sanctions the consumption of this product as well. Milk and honey—two products that Eretz Yisrael is famous for—are symbolic of the unique power of our Land to overturn or transform previously existing realities.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would eat the fruits of the Land of Israel with great pleasure and would mention the words of the Bach (Orach Chaim 208) – that the fruit of the Land of Israel is imbued with the Divine Presence. 5
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not accept the abbreviated formula of the Chazon Ish for separating Terumot and Ma’asrot, since HaRav Tzvi Pesach Frank and his Beit Din disagreed (because it does not specify the location of the tithes). The shortened formula was printed in HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s siddur, and he wrote on the side that it should not be used. He also wrote this in communal siddurim. He once did this in a small shul in Meah Shearim, and someone asked him: “Whose permission do you have to write in the shul’s siddurim?” He responded: “I am an agent of the Beit Din.” 6
When a student asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda which is the preferred profession, he said “agriculture” without hesitation. He saw agriculture and the mitzvot dependent on the Land as the central elements in the mitzvah of settling the Land. He often participated in planting trees on Tu B’Shvat. 7
A group of religious Kibbutzim in the Beit Shean Valley (northern Israel) wanted to fulfill the mitzvot dependent on the Land, because without them it marred their feeling of settling the Land of Israel. They asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, and he responded: “HaRav Tzvi Pesach Frank already ruled that the Beit Shean Valley is exempt from the mitzvot dependent on the Land (since it is not within the territory to which Jews returned after the Babylonian Exile). If you want to obligate yourself, it must be with the understanding that you are exempt. In the future, however, there will be an obligation in the entire Land of Israel.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was once asked: Is it permissible to travel to Eilat for a trip (since some authorities state that it was not settled and sanctified by the Jews who returned from the Babylonian Exile)? He responded that there are different levels of holiness in the Land, and even if Eilat was not sanctified by the Jews who returned from the Babylonian Exile, it still contains holiness. He also added that such a trip would encourage and strengthen the place and its residents. It is therefore permissible, although there is reason for Kohanim to be strict (since places outside of Israel are considered impure). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked about the Torah scholars who only escorted their colleagues until Acco (and not beyond, since north of Acco was also not settled by the Jews returning from Babylonia – Gittin 76B). He responded that this was a stringency which they took upon themselves. 8
Kohanim and Kivrei Tzaddikim
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that during Maran HaRav Kook’s travels to oversee Jewish matters in the Galil, he did not visit Kivrei Tzaddikim (gravesites of the holy Tzaddikim) when he was in Tzfat, because he was a Kohen. 9
Israel Chief Rabbi, HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu wrote: “I told HaRav HaGaon Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, peace be upon him, that it is written in the book ‘Kuntres Yechi’eli’ that it is permissible for Kohanim to enter Kever Rachel. He asked me: ‘What do they say there?’ I said that they read the verses about our mother Rachel. He traveled there, but only went as far as the door. When he returned, I asked him why he didn’t enter? He answered: ‘My father did not enter, therefore I did not enter.’” 10
After the Six-Day War, the students of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda organized a trip to the liberated areas in the Shomron. One of the places they visited was Kever Yosef. The students entered, but Rabbenu remained outside, because he was a Kohen. 11
On Rabbi Kook’s yahrtzeit, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would visit his father’s grave on the Mount of Olives, but would stand at a distance, in a permitted area, since he was a Kohen. 12
Rav Aviner was asked if it were permissible for a Kohen to enter Ma’arat HaMachpelah? He answered that there is a dispute, but Maran HaRav Kook did not enter. In “Shut She’eilat Shlomo,” (Vol. 3 #329), HaRav Aviner also writes that although there are authorities who permit Kohamim to enter Kivrei Tzaddikim (since the righteous are called, “living even in their death”), the accepted halachah is that it is forbidden. There are also authorities who allow Kohanim to visit Ma’arat HaMachpelah and Kever Rachel, because they were built in a way that the Kohanim would not become impure; but the acceptable halachah for this is also that it is forbidden. “Therefore, we say that Kohanim should not enter Kivrei Tzaddikim, but we can defend the practice of those who act in this way, especially regarding Ma’arat HaMachpelah and Kever Rachel.” 13
Learning from the Secular
There was once a meeting on one of the secular Kibbutzim between the Kibbutzniks and some Yeshiva students. One of the Kibbutzniks asked what the “Religious” can learn from the “Secular.” The students did not respond. When this was related to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, he said: “Certainly, there is much to learn from the ‘Secular’ such as courage, self-sacrifice, settling the Land of Israel, etc. 14
The Struggle over the Land of Israel
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related that he heard from HaGaon HaRav Menachem Mendel Kashar, z’tzal (author of “Torah Sheleimah” and “Shut Divrei Menachem”), that during the period that the British Government was deliberating over the Balfour Declaration, whether or not to give the Jewish Nation a National Homeland, segments of the Jewish world were up in arms. Besides the wealthy Jewish British aristocracy who were opposed to it, there were some other influential groups. Some of the public figures of Agudat Yisrael organized a gathering of Rabbis in Vienna whose purpose was to prepare a document to send to the British Government which said: “We decline your favors.” At the head of the gathering were great Torah authorities, including Rav Yosef Engel, z’tzal, and Rav Meir Arik, z’tzal. The presiding Rabbis began whispering between themselves regarding the contents of the suggested document they were formulating in opposition to Balfour’s proposal. HaRav Engel suddenly stood up and announced: “The hand which signs this document should be cut off!” With this, the gathering ended. 15
Even after the end of Israel’s War of Independence, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda continued to recite the Psalms which were fixed by the Chief Rabbinate in light of the war, (Tehillim 2, 35, 46, 83). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda held that we were in an overall period of war, and that the cessation of fighting was only a temporary lull. 16
After the Six-Day War, a document turned up that was attributed to the great Halachic Authority and Kabbalist Rabbi Eliezer Rokeach of Worms, wherein it was written that if three-hundred Kohanim were to circle the Mount of Olives, peace would be ensured. A Jerusalemite family publicized this document and began to organize a mass “priestly blessing” ceremony by the Wailing Wall. We asked Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda what he thought of this. He told us to ask the Chief Rabbinate. Later he told us that while Rabbi Eliezer Rokeach of Worms was an important authority, he himself understood that the formulas for protection mentioned in the Talmud carry greater weight than that mentioned in the document. For example, the Talmud teaches us that the soldiers of Achav were victorious in battle because they refrained from verbally slandering one another.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked his opinion regarding the involvement of Rabbis in politics, he answered as follows: “Rabbis are obligated by the Torah to involve themselves in politics. If they refrain from doing so they are guilty of betrayal. It is written in the Torah: ‘Do not fear any man!’” Once when, as a result of the words of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, a public commotion arose and many claimed that Rabbis should not deal in politics, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “I am not asking anybody’s permission. I am obligated by the Torah to proclaim and publicize that which is just and true. The political issues of the Community of Israel are themselves Torah. They are sacred.”
After the Yom Kippur War, during the time of “The War of Generals,” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda warned Arik Sharon about guarding his tongue. 17
After the terrorist attack at the Hotel Savoy in Tel Aviv in 5735 (1975) in which 8 hostages and 3 soldiers were killed, one of the terrorists was sentenced to death (although the verdict was never carried out). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked by one of the executioners: What is the opinion of the Torah of this verdict? He responded: “The Torah states, ‘If one comes to kill you, kill him first.’ Regarding a person who pursues another to kill him, the Torah states, ‘Save the blood of this one with the blood of that one,’ (Sanhedrin 72b). ‘And cursed be he who keeps back his sword from blood,’ (Yirmiyahu 48:10). Rabbenu continued: “When an individual comes to kill another individual this is so – how much more so when a community comes to kill a community, and to terrorize the security of our lives in the Land of our revival. ‘Because they did not come to help Hashem against the mighty men… rather let them that love Him be as the sun when it comes out in its might,’” (Shoftim, 5:23, 31). 18
During the Sinai War and before it, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel directed people to recite specific Tehillim. After the victory, the students in the Yeshiva ceased reciting them. After the army’s retreat from the Sinai, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda yelled: “Stopping the recitation of Tehillim in the Central Universal Yeshiva was part of the weakness which caused the retreat!” 19
Rav Yitzhak Hutner – former head of the Rabbi Chaim Berlin Yeshiva in Brooklyn – once visited HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in Israel. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked him which airline he was flying. Rav Hutner mentioned the name of a foreign airline. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda pressed him: “You need to fly El Al.” Rav Hutner responded that terrorists were beginning to hijack planes and he was therefore concerned about flying an Israeli airline. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda stood firm. In the end, the plane on which Rav Hutner flew was hijacked to Jordan, and was released only after negotiations with the terrorists. 20
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked whether the victory of the Israel soccer team over the Russian soccer team was a “Kiddush Hashem” – sanctification of Hashem’s Name.” He replied: “To a very limited extent.” 21
The Famous Speech
Each year on Yom HaAtzmaut, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda delivered a speech in the yeshiva discussing the number of years since the establishment of the State of Israel and the corresponding Psalm. On the Yom HaAtzmaut before the Six-Day War which broke out three weeks later, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda delivered his nearly prophetic speech, “Mizmor Yud Tet” (Tehillim 19). Who could have imagined that such a short time afterward, Israel would return to the Sinai, the Golan, Judea, Samaria, and the entire city of Yerushalayim?! To the crowd of guests and students in the hall, he recalled:
“Nineteen years ago, on that first night, when news of the decision of the non-Jews reached us (the United Nations’ vote in favor of the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in part of the Land of Israel on 17 Kislev 5708 – Nov. 29, 1947), I was unable to go out to the rejoicing on Jaffa Street and throughout the surrounding neighborhoods of Yerushalayim. There is no need to explain how all of us are connected (to our Homeland). I am bound with a holy connection, with a union of life and of soul to the State of Israel, but I could not participate in the rejoicing during those first hours. (Rabbenu cried when he said this sentence.) I sat alone and silent, feeling as if a heavy burden lay upon me. During those first hours, I could not resign myself to what had happened – exactly as in the words of Hashem in the prophecy, ‘They divided My Land,’ (Yoel, 4:2). It was not possible for me with all of my 248 limbs and 365 sinews, with all of my soul, my spirit and my being, to go out (and rejoice).‘They divided My Land!’ Where is our Hevron – have we forgotten her?! Where is our Shechem – have we forgotten her?! Where is our Yericho – have we forgotten her?! Where is all that lies beyond the Jordan River?! Where is each and every clod of earth, each and every part, each four cubits of the Land of Hashem?! Is it in our hands to relinquish even one millimeter of it? G-d forbid! I was therefore unable to rejoice in those moments when I was completely wounded and torn to pieces. They divided My Land! They divided the Land of Hashem! For political considerations. I could not go out to dance and rejoice. That was my feeling on this night and during these hours, nineteen years ago. After a day or two, the holy Tzaddik, HaGaon Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap, z”l, came to visit me. He felt a need to come. How could he not come? Where would he go if not to this place? He came to us, to that small and holy room (the room that had been the study of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook in the old building of the Yeshiva – “Beit HaRav“). We sat in silence. We both sat in shock, in an awestruck state. Then we regained our strength and both of us said together those words of holiness: “This is Hashem’s doing, it is a wonder in our eyes,” (Tehillim, 118:23). 22
On the holiday of Shavuot after the Six-Day War, on the way to the Kotel, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda walked with great effort because his legs were hurting. A student asked him: “How did HaRav know that we would regain Judea and Samaria?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “I did not prepare a speech, I just spoke.” 23
After the famous talk “Mizmor Yud Tet” (Psalm 19) which was followed by the Six-Day War, we asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda how he knew to mention the wholeness of the Land and the United Nation’s decision to divide it, particularly this year, nineteen years after the announcement of partition (since he gave a talk every Yom HaAtzmaut)? He answered: “It is truly wondrous that for nineteen years I did not tell this story, and I only recalled it this year.” 24
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked much later why he mentioned Hevron, Shechem, and Yericho on that Yom HaAtzmaut. He responded that Hevron was the beginning of the Kingship of David (Shmuel, 2:2), Shechem was the beginning of the Kingship of Israel (Melachim, 1:12), and Yericho was the beginning of the conquest of Eretz Yisrael on the western side of the Jordan. He was asked why he didn’t mention Jerusalem. He responded: “We do not ever forget Jerusalem, and therefore, we need to mention more often things that we forget.” 25
A woman said to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that she bemoans the fact that she was not there on the Yom HaAtzmaut before the Six-Day War during the talk when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda announced: “Where is our Hevron? Where is our Shechem?” Rabbenu responded to her in a fatherly voice: “You were!” 26
Sometime after the prophetic talk, a man who had fought with the Etzel visited HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and told him how distressed he was about the truncated and divided State. Rabbenu said to him: “Why are you sad? This is the beginning of the Redemption. One needs to rejoice.” This greatly encouraged the visitor. It only became known to him later that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda himself was also sad over the division of the Land, but he nonetheless encouraged others to view it in a positive light as a step along the way to complete Redemption. 27
Along with his sorrow, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda saw in the UN decision a great miracle of the intermingling of Hashem with human destiny. 28
After the Six-Day War
After the Six-Day War, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda placed the issue of the wholeness of the Land of Israel at the forefront of his public activities. He repeated over and over that it is a clear Torah prohibition to surrender any territory of the Land of Israel to non-Jews. He wrote and publicized hundreds of letters and proclamations, appealing to the public and to the heads of the Government – since he was in close contact with them – to stand firm for the wholeness of the Land and for its settlement in all parts of its Biblical borders.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda distributed many public posters and proclamations on the subject of our holding on to the Land of Israel. He never based his argument on issues of security with the Arabs; the declarations were always built on Torah foundations:
- “Do not show them favor,” (Devarim 7:2) – “Do not give them a holding in the Land,” (Avodah Zarah 20A).
- “The Land shall not be sold in perpetuity,” (Vayikra, 25:23).
- Not to annul the mitzvot dependent on the Land.
- A legal argument that the Land not only belongs to those who live there now, but to all of the Jews in the past, present and future.
Therefore no one has the authority to forfeit parts of the Land of Israel to the non-Jews, and there can be no referendum on Yehuda and Shomron, just as there can be no referendum on any mitzvah in the Torah. He also emphasized the need for self-sacrifice for the Land of Israel which should ideally find expression via self-sacrifice in one’s life.
The first proclamation was “Do Not Fear!” after the Six-Day War. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda told the students: “You are to close your Gemarot now and go out for a few weeks to distribute this poster throughout the entire breadth of the Land.” The poster was distributed in thousands of copies throughout the world, translated into English and even Arabic. It was written after the Six-Day War in light of the discussion of the Government about relinquishing parts of the Land which were conquered. Those who supported the idea of the Greater Land of Israel signed a different document, with the statement that now all of the Land of Israel had returned to our sovereignty. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda refused to sign it because the East Bank of the Jordan was still not under our control. He therefore wrote his own document. 29
To the claims that he placed exaggerated importance on the issue of the Land of Israel, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded, “The words of our Sages are holy that the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel is equivalent to all of the mitzvot of the Torah.”
When the Jewish settlement was renewed in Hevron in Nisan 5728, one of the settlers asked a visitor why he did not recite the blessing of, “Blessed is the One who establishes the widow’s boundary” on the new settlement. The visitor responded: “Doubtful settlement, doubtful blessing.” When these words were related to Rabbenu, he responded: “Doubtful in faith – doubtful in blessing.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda initiated the settlement movement “Gush Emunim” and he threw all of his spiritual weight behind all of its activities. He encouraged many of his students to establish settlements in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights, and he himself participated in the ground-breaking of various new communities, despite his advanced age, quoting the verse, “And those who place their hope in Hashem shall renew their strength,” (Yeshayahu, 40:31).
After Menachem Begin signed the Camp David agreement, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said, “Perhaps he forgot that we are not here today by virtue of Herzl and Zionism, but by virtue of the word of Hashem as it finds expression in the sacred writings of the Ramban,” (Supplement to Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment #4).
Yitzchak Tabenkin was an ideologue of the Labor Zionist Movement before the establishment of the State. When he was asked in 1947 about his position on the proposed UN Partition Plan, he said: “The Land of Israel belongs to the grandfather who is no longer and to the grandson who is yet to be born; it is therefore impossible to relinquish parts of it.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda received great pleasure from this statement.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda explained that our positive attitude toward the State of Israel allows us to be in opposition to a government which considers relinquishing pieces of Eretz Yisrael to foreign rule. 30
HaRav Tzvi Kook proclaimed before the Jewish People, and before the entire world: “Over Judea and Samaria, there will be war,” and, “(We will halt its relinquishment) with our bodies.” 31 When he was asked whether he meant civil war, he refused to answer. Afterwards, he clarified to the IDF Commander-in-Chief that he did not mean civil war, nor a war of the settlers against the army. This is what he wrote:
“Our devoted Sages instructed the Jewish People in how to wage war against the nations. Let us hope that matters will never come to the Jewish People waging war against their own failed government.”
Thus, what he was referring to was a situation in which the entire Jewish People are at war with their government. He wrote to the Defense Minister, “Over Judea and Samaria there will be an internal war, and when the entire Jewish People rises up against this government, we will obviously side with the entire Jewish People as the word of Hashem holds priority over Hashem’s People and Inheritance. We will not take the side of the failed government. The government must serve the people, and not vice versa.” He further explained to his students that he was not advancing a practical directive, but a proclamation of educational value. “I said and I wrote that over Judea and Samaria, Jericho, and the Golan, there would be a war. No concessions are imaginable. Such threats, such utterances, such educational messages, must be repeated with regularity, thousands of times, to uproot this corruption, this disease, this weakness, at its source. These lands do not belong to the nations. We did not steal them from the nations. Rather, thank G-d, we have grown, matured, and returned to them. Over Judea and Samaria and the Golan and Jericho there will be a war. We must repeat these threats, these utterances, tomorrow and the day after, relentlessly, in order to express our position with strength and fortitude. We must remind the government and the Jewish People that we must not entertain the least possibility of conceding any part of our Land. This Israeli government or any the are not the owners of Hashem’s Land. It belongs to the entire Jewish People. We, the Jews living on it, are the representatives of the entire Jewish People. We must not betray our Land. We must increase our strength and fortitude to sanctify Hashem’s Name.” Rabbenu’s style of speech was thus meant to emphasize in the sharpest terms that there is a terrible and tragic issue at stake, but he never gave practical instructions to anyone to wage war over Judea and Samaria.
A student related: One Simchat Torah, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and the entire Yeshiva danced around the Chief Rabbis, as was our custom. HaRav Nissim, Shilta – Chief Sefardic Rabbi – said that he was extremely distressed by the words publicized in the name of an important Rabbi that the question of returning conquered territories is not a matter for Rabbis, but for politicians and military experts, and he forcefully spoke against the idea that Rabbis involve themselves with the issue. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda agreed with the Chief Rabbi and suggested that maybe the newspapers distorted the well-known Rabbi’s declaration.
HaRav Nissim added that he spoke with an American fundraiser for Israeli causes and told him that all of the Jews of America needed to make Aliyah. The fundraiser responded: “If everyone makes Aliyah, who will donate the money to support the State of Israel?” HaRav Nissim answered: “It is written that Eretz Yisrael is ‘a Land flowing with milk and honey.’ She is similar to a nursing mother – just as a mother produces milk when her children nurse from her, so too Eretz Yisrael flows with milk and honey when all of her children return to her – And when this happens, we can send this material blessing to America!”
After the Six-Day War, when people began talking about returning the territory we had captured, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related to HaRav Nissim that in the period of the Arab riots before the establishment of the State, there was a call for Jews to sign a document stating that we do not have any rights to the Kotel. The National Zionist Committee was inclined to agree that this would stop the killing of Jews. But Maran HaRav Kook forcefully opposed it, explaining that capitulation in matters relating to Eretz Yisrael does not bring peace and security, but rather the exact opposite. Rabbenu stated that the same principle applied now. 32
Establishment of Elon Moreh
In the period after the Six-Day War, the entire area north of Yerushalayim still remained empty of Jewish settlement. The idea therefore arose to establish a Jewish settlement in the area of Shechem, the center of this entire area. All of the many attempts to receive permission from the government failed. Meanwhile the Yom Kippur War broke out. The activists of Gush Emunim Movement wanted to break ground even without permission, but it was clear that it was impossible to take a major step like this without consulting with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. When the leadership of the settlement group, most of whom were former and current students of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, turned to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, he responded that this was a difficult question because of the possibility of confrontation with our brothers, all the more so because the soldiers of Tzahal were holy shlichim of the Nation. The Rosh Yeshiva informed them that he wanted to confer with different people before replying. In truth, the people he spoke with confirmed his reservations, and he refused to agree to act against the government time after time. In the end, the settlement group decided that it would turn to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, not in order to receive permission, but to receive a blessing. This too was not easy. The leaders of the proposed garin sat with him for a long time, respectfully presenting their case. They were already standing by the door in order to leave when one of them said, “We came to receive a blessing.” Smiling, Rabbenu hugged them and said: “May you succeed!” A short time later, twenty families and others who escorted them, approximately one hundred people, gathered in Mecholah in order to organize and depart from there to the proposed site of the new settlement. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda phoned and requested that they postpone their “aliyah” to the site by a day. This was difficult both operationally and emotionally, but everyone accepted the Rabbi’s request. Wanting to avoid a frontal confrontation with soldiers, he decided to make an additional attempt to attain permission. He summoned the Defense Minister to his tiny home in Geula and requested his backing, but he refused. Rabbenu pressed him without success. In the end, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to him: “If you do not give permission, I will be with them.” In fact, the next day, on 15th of Sivan 5734 (November 17, 1973), after the group of settlers set up tents on the site, the Rosh Yeshiva arrived, planted a tree, and recited the full blessings (mentioning the Name of Hashem) “Shehechiyanu” and “Baruch Meitziv Gevul Almanah” – “Blessed is the One who establishes the widow’s boundary,” recited on seeing a new yishuv in Eretz Yisrael.
As expected, in the course of the day, the army arrived and the would-be settlers were commanded to disperse. By night there was nothing left of the tree which the Rosh Yeshiva had planted. The fence, the tents and the makeshift shul had all been dismantled. A teaching says: “But for the righteous, the Holy One, Blessed Be He, does not bring failure through them,” (Chullin 7A), and yet it seemed that here was a blessing in vain?! Not so. Today in this area, the settlements of Itamar, Elon Moreh, Har Bracha, and Yitzhar are located. The blessing was not in vain. During the day, the Prime Minister suggested that the group of settlers move to spend the night in the military camp, Kadum. T00he next day he would receive them for a meeting. The leaders of the settlement group reasoned that this idea was the best they could hope for. In any event, they would be completely removed within an hour or two, so what was there to lose? It was preferable to spend the night nearby and see what would happen the next day. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, however, refused and declared: “This is the Land of Israel! We do not make calculations! If they claim that this is not an appropriate place for a settlement, we can discuss the matter, but to agree to the principle that we cannot settle in all places in the Land, absolutely not – no!” Even though in the weeks leading up to the action, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda hesitated and feared a confrontation with our soldiers, now he did not back down. He held onto the barbed-wire fence and stood like a solid stone, more determined than everyone. The leadership thought that their Rabbi was mistaken, believing that the willingness to compromise and reach an agreement with the Prime Minister was the only choice. But the spirited and resolute stance of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda made it clear that the settlement movement was an unstoppable force which couldn’t be contained, and indeed, empowered by the Rabbi’s granite conviction, his students went on to establish dozens of new settlements in Yesha. Rabbenu’s complete Emunah in the justness of the cause, did not waver, G-d forbid, because of logistic difficulties, or because the leaders of the Government had to be convinced of the righteousness of re-establishing a Jewish presence in the heartland of Biblical Israel in opposition to world opinion, or because the undertaking might lead to conflict with brothers. Rather, when he saw the weakening Emunah of the young idealistic settlers that day on the windswept Samarian hillside, he took a firm stance and did not depart from it until the end of his life.
When the first evacuation of Elon Moreh took place, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda wept because Jews were being uprooted from Eretz Yisrael and because the conflict caused Jews to quarrel with one another. He was deeply saddened by the lack of unity and surrounding tension. After Elon Moreh became a reality on the ground, the Government of Israel agreed with the demand of Gush Emunim to approve the other new Jewish communities which began to pop up throughout the country, the majority of which were pioneered by the students of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda.
One day, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was invited by a former student of Mercaz HaRav to a simchah in the fledging yishuv in Ofra. One of the guests, a resident of Elon Moreh, asked him when would he visit them? Rabbenu decided to visit that very day. When he arrived, he entered the shul and gave a spirited talk about how the word yishuv (settlement) and the word yeshiva are from the same source. He explained that leaving the yeshiva to settle the Land of Israel was not an interruption, but a natural continuation of the learning. Resettling and rebuilding Eretz Yisrael were living the Torah in the fullest way possible. The Rosh Yeshiva paused to address the women who sat behind the mechitzah. Requesting that they come close to the curtain to make sure they could hear, he spoke about the special value of women in the processes of furthering the Redemption and building the Land. He explained that, as the mothers of the Nation, they derived an abundance of strength from their special connection to the Clal, to the entirety of the Jewish People, past, present, and future. Afterwards, his hosts set up a meal. Interestingly, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda ate as if he were attending a seudah mitzvah. Customarily, he ate an incredibly limited amount. It was a wonder how he lived on such meager sustanance. But at a seudah mitzvah he would eat all of the dishes, even if he participated in two mitzvah meals in the same day. He ate a full meal at Elon Moreh because his visit to the new yishuv was fitting to be celebrated with a seudah mitzvah. Anything which was offered to him, he accepted, saying: “Everything that the host says to do, you must do.” After Birchat HaMazon, he suddenly said: “Everything that the host says to you, you must do, except leave, since one should leave before the host says so!”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said on Ta’anit Esther: “I wanted to go to the Kotel, but since I have the practice of putting on Tefillin at Mincha on a Fast Day, I am concerned about appearing arrogant.” When a student told him: “Many people put on Tefillin there and therefore you would not be viewed as arrogant,” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda agreed to go. After they arrived, it was extremely hot and the student wanted to go back. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to him: “It is difficult for me to detach myself from here.” When the student heard this, he overcame his personal discomfort, strengthened by the electricity of the Rabbi’s Emunah.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had reservations about placing notes in the Kotel, and he pointed out that there is a halachic problem of partially entering into the area of the Temple Mount by doing so.
When a Torah scholar mentioned to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda the custom of placing notes in the Western Wall, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that one should not do this, and one should even refrain from putting one’s fingers into the indentations of the Kotel (since it is forbidden for an impure person to enter the air of the Temple Mount in even the slightest way). The Torah scholar said to him: “But this is an age-old custom of Israel (Minhag Yisrael).” Rabbenu responded that the word “minhag” (custom) contains the same letters as “Gehinom” (purgatory).
He similarly said that Maran HaRav Kook refrained from kissing stones of the Kotel which didn’t protrude. He wrote: “And he (Rabbi Kook) was cautious about placing fingers of his hand between the stones of the Kotel.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda also refrained from putting his fingers into the Kotel. He related that because of his love of holiness, he looked for a smooth stone and kissed it, but he did not touch the Kotel beyond this. 33
When a groom asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda what to pray for at the Kotel before his wedding, he responded to him that the Kotel is not a place to make personal requests, but rather a place of meeting with the Master of the Universe (on behalf of Clal Yisrael). He said that at the Kotel one should think about two things – that we are standing before the Divine Presence, and that our personal lives are derived from and nurtured by the unity of CIal Yisrael’s constant bond with the Divine Presence.
On the second Yom Yerushalayim after the Six-Day War, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda stood before the Kotel and prayed with an intense cleaving to the Shechinah. Students were startled as the watched him tremble in holiness. They felt as if he was not standing with them in this world.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda only went to the Kotel on foot, even from the Yeshiva (which is quite a far walk). Only in his later years, when he was already unable to walk, did he agree to travel by car.
Students who lived outside of Yerushalayim came to visit him and told him that they wanted to travel to the Kotel. He said to them that he would have spent more time with them, but he cannot, “compete with the Kotel.”
At a time of distress, a student requested that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda pray for him. Rabbenu hurried to go to the Kotel, because prayers are readily heard there.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not go to the Kotel as a common outing.
He said: “I do not go to the Kotel every day, but only when there is a need and a feeling. The Kotel is a special place, a place from which the Divine Presence does not depart.”
After the Six-Day War, when the discussion arose about erecting a mechitzah to separate men and women at the Kotel, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that in the place where a person comes to seclude himself with his Creator in Heaven and to turn his eyes upward in prayer, it is simple logic that we must remove any seduction that might induce a person to turn his eyes downward and disturb his intended focus. 34
Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and the Temple
A student related: When I asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda the well-known question whether reciting the content of the prayer “Nachem” (recited on Tisha B’Av in the Shemoneh Esrei prayer for the rebuilding Jerusalem) is not relevant in our time because of the passages describing the “bitterness of our situation,” he responded: “Jerusalem is still scorned and desolate, since the essence of Jerusalem is the Temple. Furthermore, the Old City of Jerusalem is in a state of desolation without inhabitants. It is impossible to approach the Old City and see piles of stones of synagogues and not burst into weeping!” 35
When I came to request permission and to receive a blessing from HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in order to establish a Yeshiva in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem (in an Arab neighborhood), he rejoiced with great joy and encouraged me. 36
In the twilight of his years, when I asked him – in the name of my colleagues – if we should request that Tzahal should guard the gates of the Temple Mount and not non-Jews, he did not see this as a pressing matter. He responded: “Slowly, slowly (the Redemption arrives, as noted in the Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 3:2). When I continued and asked if should we request the presence of our army on the Temple Mount, he again cooled me down with his glance and said sternly: “Slowly, slowly.”
At the same meeting, when I mustered the courage, I asked – in the name of my colleagues who greatly pressed me to do so – “Should we request that the flag of the State of Israel be flown on the Temple Mount?” He looked at me with a dreadful glance of pain and amazement that I had sunk so low to the point of asking such questions, and he said forcefully: “We will raise a banner in the Name of our G-d!” (Tehillim, 20:6). Despite this, I asked again, following the guideline, “It is Torah and I need to learn,” (Berachot 62A). “Certainly, we will raise a banner in the Name of our G-d,” I said, “but won’t it be by way of the flag of the State of Israel?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda patiently repeated: “I told you: we will raise a banner in the Name of our G-d,” with his absolute insistence on the supernal holiness of the Temple Mount, in its being above and beyond all down-to-earth considerations of the hour.
At the end of this meeting, I told HaRav Tzvi Yehuda how we are continuing with the acts of redeeming the heart of Jerusalem, house after house. Hearing this, his stern and dreadful facial expression disappeared and a full smile of eternal kindness enlightened his face. When I detailed the names of the streets and their locations, he said that I need not bother, because all of these places were etched in his memory from his youth. 37
A student was once scheduled to give HaRav Tzvi Yehuda a ride but was late because of traffic. When he expressed his apologies, Rabbenu replied: “On the contrary, I am happy that Jerusalem is filled with people.”
A Torah scholar brought researchers of the Temple Mount to meet with the Rosh Yeshiva. They were trying to identify the boundaries of the Temple, since, in their view, it was permissible to walk there without harming the sanctity of the Beit HaMikdash. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda told the scholar that such investigations were irrelevant. He said that in the time of the “Aderet,” HaRav Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Te’omim, former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and father-in-law of Maran HaRav Kook, there was a Rabbi who wrote a book filled with proofs about the existence of G-d. The “Aderet” commented, “Why do we need proofs?” He quoted the words of our Sages: “Any matter which is not clear, bring sources for it from the Talmud. We believe in Hashem above all proofs,” (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 2:3; Eruvin 10:1). The same was true regarding the Temple Mount, Rabbenu remarked. Its boundary is surrounded by a wall. We do not traverse it, and we have no need for researchers. 38
After the liberation of the Old City during the Six-Day War, there were extensive excavations of the Kotel Tunnels, which extend under the Temple Mount. HaRav Meir Yehuda Getz, Rabbi of the Kotel, asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, if it is permissible to excavate under the Temple Mount to find the vessels of the Temple? HaRav Tzvi Yehuda answered, “No, do not dig.” He explained that our generation was not ready to merit discovering the treasures of the Temple. 39
When it became known to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that archeological excavations were being performed under the Temple Mount, he responded with great distress: “What is all this for?! For what purpose should one cause a fuss there?”
When students asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda if there was a need to organize tours which encircled the Temple Mount, in order to strengthen the fact that it belongs to us, he responded: “The Temple Mount is in our hands – there is no need for tours.” They told him that not everyone knows that the Temple Mount is ours. In that case, he responded, there was positive value in the tours in order to strengthen the proof of our ownership.
After the Six-Day War, when a Torah scholar and professor came to the Rosh Yeshiva and asked him why he did not begin to build the Temple, he responded, “The mitzvah of building the Kingdom of Israel takes precedence, according to the ruling of the Rambam, which he states at the beginning of the Laws of Kings.” This point was later extensively explained by HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in the article “From Behind the Wall,” where he insisted that only after great improvement in the building of the Nation, both physically and spiritually, can we enter into the holiness of rebuilding the Temple. 40
When a delegation of public figures came to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda with the request to work as forcefully as possible against the agreement which the Government of Israel was prepared to sign with Jordan, which included surrendering the Temple Mount to their control, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda reacted: “What about fighting against the surrender of any patch of earth in the entire Land of Israel?” They repeated their words many times, and he repeated his.
After the Six-Day War, students approached HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and quoted the words of Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalisher in the introduction to his book, “Derishat Tzion,” which repeats a belief recorded in the name of the Vilna Gaon, that if we would only leap forward and sacrifice one Pascal Lamb, then everything would be ready for Redemption. They asked if the time had come to organize a Pesach sacrifice? When Rabbenu heard this he became enraged: “We need to strengthen the Kingdom of Israel and return the Torah to the hearts of the Nation,” he roared emphatically. “We need to inspire a great repentance, and only then will we ascend to the Temple Mount to fulfill the words of this prophecy.” 41
After the Six-Day War, the Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, evacuated the non-Jews from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. A few young men who fought in the Jerusalem Brigade felt that it was not enough, and they prepared explosives to blow up the buildings on the Temple Mount. Before proceeding, they told their plan to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda who rejected the idea. He told them that such an undertaking must come from the entire Nation, and not a part of it. Then they went to Reb Aryeh Levine, thinking that since he had supported the Etzel and Lechi underground movements before the establishment of the State, he would response positively, but he also rejected their idea for the same reason – that a national agreement was needed on such a matter. Reb Aryeh related a story, which HaRav Tzvi Yehuda also told, about a certain influential preacher who would travel to different cities and encourage belief in a false messiah. When Rav Chaim of Volozhin was informed that the man was scheduled to speak on Shabbat in a particular community, he sent two messengers, who were to violate Shabbat to stop him, since it was a matter of life and death. They were successful in preventing the speech. Consequently, a rich Gentile asked Rav Chaim if he had heard about the preacher, and if, in his opinion, he was the Messiah. Rav Chaim responded: “And what do you say?” The fellow answered, “This has nothing to do with me.” Rav Chaim said: “You are wrong. When the Mashiach comes, even you will feel it.” The story was meant to convey the understanding that the Mashiach’s coming was not a private affair, concerning the Jews alone, but a world-encompassing event. The young men then asked Reb Aryeh, half in jest, “If so, the building of the Temple depends of the decision of the Knesset?” He answered: “It may be.” 42
Atchalta D’Geula – The Beginning of Redemption
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would be asked, why isn’t the Redemption explicitly mentioned in the Torah, he would quote from the book “Leshem Shevo Ve’achlama” by Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv which explains that the Torah was given for us and not for Hashem. It includes things that we need to perform, not things that Hashem will perform. Hashem will perform the Redemption; therefore, the matter is only hinted at, not explicitly stated.
There is a dispute in the Gemara in Sanhedrin (97b) between Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Eliezer. Rabbi Yehoshua says that there can be Redemption without repentance, and Rabbi Eliezer says that repentance will precede the final Redemption. Rav Elyashiv writes in the book “Leshem Shevo Ve’achlama” that it is almost explicit that Rabbi Yehoshua is correct (since Rabbi Eliezer was silent – Sanhedrin 98A). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: What is “almost explicit”?! It is explicit!
When asked what should be said to the unconvinced sector of the Charedi (Ultra-Orthodox) public regarding the Redemption, he replied, “We are not Karaites! We are Talmud-faithful Jews. The Talmud itself teaches us about the revealed Final Redemption. It says that there is no clearer sign of the Final Redemption than when the Land of Israel yields its fruit abundantly to the Jews returning to the Land. This idea is explicitly expressed in the Talmud (see Sanhedrin 98A). One only has to open one’s eyes to see that this is occurring today!”
The Talmud tells us that one of the questions a person is asked on his day of judgment is, “Did you carry out your business matters faithfully (i.e. honestly)?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would interpret this figuratively to mean: did you busy yourself with faith – did you study Emunah, the foundations of Jewish Faith? Another question asked at the gates of Heaven is: “Did you anxiously await the Redemption?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would explain by quoting the words of the Ran (Rabbenu Nissim), “Did you anxiously await the fulfillment of the words of the Prophets in your days?”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would say: Atchalta De-Geulah is not now; it was a hundred years ago! Now we are in a more advanced stage of the Redemption. 43
In response to the question of whether or not we stand today at the threshold of the long-awaited Final Redemption, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda answered that Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz was already talking about the beginning of Redemption in his day (500 years ago). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda also recounted how when he met with Rabbi Leib, son of the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Leib recalled that when his father received word concerning the establishment of the city of Petach Tikva, he called for his son, and exclaimed, “Reb Leib, the event (the Redemption) has begun.”
A student asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda how we know that this is the Redemption. He responded: “Is there an ingathering of the exiles or not?!”
A student who was assisting the aging Rosh Yeshiva at home sat next to him while he slept. The student accidentally moved his chair and it made a loud noise. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda woke up in alarm and said: “Did you hear?” “Hear what?” the student asked. “You did not hear? You did not hear the powerful voice of Hashem which gathers the downtrodden of His Nation to the Land of Israel?!” 44
When Chabad advertised that they were writing a Torah which would help advance the coming of the Mashiach, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked how to relate to such a pronouncement. He responded: “One needs to be careful about such claims.” 45
A student skeptically inquired: “This is the State which the prophets promised?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda stopped him and said: “This is exactly the State which they promised!” 46
It happened that a farmer told HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that a red heifer was born on his farm, and he asked whether this had any significance. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded without excitement, “Sometimes brown cows are also born.” However, when another student told him that his cousin had just arrived on Aliyah and would be coming straight to the Yeshiva from the airport, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda became very excited, even though he did not know the student’s cousin. He turned his chair to face the door in anticipation, and then continued to teach. Every quarter of an hour he inquired if the person making Aliyah had reached the Yeshiva. Finally he received the good news that he had arrived. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda stood up, and of course all of the students stood up with him. He approached the oleh chadash, hugged him, kissed him, sobbed in happiness and recited the “Shehechiyanu” blessing with Hashem’s Name and Kingship. 47
Around the Year
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was stricken in his leg, he suffered terrible pain. But when Shabbat arrived, it was as if his suffering disappeared.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda sang, “May you depart toward peace” in the song, “Shalom Aleichem” before Kiddush on Shabbat night, he would pick up the cup of wine and say, as one who is justifying his actions, “Now that we are able to eat, what do the Angels have to do with us?” He said this to justify saying the final stanza, since the custom in some places, such as Volozhin, where his father had learned as a youth, was not to recite it at all. 1
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that there is great importance in saying, “Ve-shamru” before the Shemoneh Esrei during Ma’ariv of Shabbat, and there is also great importance in not saying it, in order to connect Geula (mentioned in the blessing “Ga’al Yisrael”) to the Shemoneh Esrei. What should we do, he asked? It was impossible to fulfill both of them. Therefore, some minyanim have the custom to say it and others don’t. Between the two customs, both important acts were fulfilled.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was careful not to allow the congregation to sing along with the Hazan the phrase, “Who spreads the Sukkah of peace over us, over all of His Nation Israel, and over Jerusalem,” since this is an interruption between Geula and the Shemoneh Esrei, and the prayer “Hashkiveinu” was only added between them since it is an extension of the blessing of Geula (Berachot 4B). Rabbenu was so strict about this that once, when congregants sang along, he refused to give a class.
It once happened that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was wearing his weekday jacket on Shabbat night, despite the fact that he was careful to wear special Shabbat clothing. A student asked him the reason. The Rosh Yeshiva did not respond. HaRav Chaim Steiner related that on Motz’ei Shabbat, the student asked again. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to him: “On Friday, they brought my Shabbat jacket from the cleaners, but I did not have cash to pay them, and I would not take it without paying for it.”
HaRav Yerachmiel Weiss recalled that during Ma’ariv of Shabbat, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not say “amen” to “Veyatzmach Purkanei Vekarev Meshichei” in the Kaddish if the shaliach tzibur was davening “Nusach Sefard.” Since he davened “Nusach Ashkenaz” in which that phrase is not included, he considered it an interruption between Geula and the Shemoneh Esrei. But he would ask forgiveness from the person leading the davening for not saying “amen.”
Near the end of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s life, his foot was amputated and he was confined to a wheelchair. When the time arrived to recite Kiddush, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not want to recite it while seated. He tried to stand, but was unsuccessful. He requested a student to help him stand. He stood on one foot and proceeded in honor of the Kiddush. 2
When his sister died, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda cried three days and sat seven days in serious mourning. In the middle of the days of crying, when Shabbat arrived, he appeared joyful as usual, and even on Motzei Shabbat he decided, after conferring with HaRav Natan, to sing zemirot. Afterwards, he removed his shoes, resumed his shiva, and burst out in terrible crying.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked why he drank the wine of Havdalah slowly, he responded, “This is how I like to drink it.” A different time he responded, “This is the cup of Salvation, and the Sages teach us that the Salvation of Israel comes slowly, slowly. 3
The author of the “Torah Temimah” comments that in the blessing after eating, the fact that we say “magdil” on weekdays and “migdol” on Shabbat and holidays stems from a printer’s error. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was shocked and angry, saying, “With all of his importance, what does this Jew think?! That the Vilna Gaon and Rabbi Akiva Eiger said ‘magdil’ on weekdays and ‘migdol’ on Shabbat because some young printer made a mistake with a verse!” 4
If HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not have bread for Shabbat lunch, he would use two pieces of cake (for the two loaves). 5
Second Day of Yom Tov
In his youth, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had difficulty learning without distractions in Eretz Yisrael, since he was the son of the famous (and controversial) Chief Rabbi, Maran HaRav Kook. After consulting with his father and HaRav Binyamin Menasheh Levin, he decided “to be exiled to a place of Torah,” (Pirkei Avot, 4:14, and see “Igrot Re’eiyah” Vol. 2, Letter 567, #2). He traveled to learn and teach in Halberstadt, Germany. On the Second Day of Yom Tov, he would act like those who live in Eretz Yisrael regarding Tefillin and Havdalah, but he would do so in private. 6 Despite all of his efforts to conceal his ways, the matter became known to the students of the Yeshiva, because of their great interest in him. They were not experts in the laws and many did not know that there is only one day of Yom Tov in Eretz Yisrael. Thus they were shocked: HaRav Tzvi Yehuda is putting on Tefillin on Yom Tov! He was concerned that the matter could impinge on the holiness of the Second Day of Yom Tov, so he explained to them that there is only one day in Eretz Yisrael. Afterwards he heard them saying: If there is a difference between the Jews of Eretz Yisrael and the Jews outside of the Land, the Jews of Eretz Yisrael are obviously correct because of the abundant holiness of Eretz Yisrael, and we should therefore act like them. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda explained that, on the contrary, out of the faith in the holiness of the Land of Israel, one must understand that it is not possible to have the same level of worship in Eretz Yisrael and outside of Eretz Yisrael, and thus two days of Yom Tov must be observed outside of the Land. The youths were not convinced. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda then said that we must know that there can only be definite and clear Judaism in the Land of Israel, since there can only be an ordained Beit Din in Israel, while there is doubtful Judaism outside of Israel. The observance of two days of Yom Tov outside of the Land expresses the belief in the holiness of the Land of Israel. One who is satisfied with one day of a holiday outside of Israel and disgraces the Second Day of Yom Tov is a heretic regarding the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. Rav Tzvi Yehuda ended with the strong words which appear at the end of Tractate Berachot that it is impossible to sanctify months outside of Israel and to thus create an independent Judaism which stands on its own outside the Land.
One student clarified the words of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, explaining that in Eretz Yisrael one day contains the holiness of both days of Yom Tov outside of the Land. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda pointed out that the holiness of the Land is not based upon human, emotional, societal values but upon essential, Divine values, derived from the exalted spiritual reality that Eretz Yisrael is the Land of Hashem. 7 Years later when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was with Maran HaRav Kook in Switzerland, he related that on the Second Day of Yom Tov, when they prayed with the community, his father told him to skip over some of the verses in Hallel in adherence to the statement of our Sages (Shabbat 118B): “Anyone who recites Hallel every day blasphemes,” 8
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not eat anything before the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. 9
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would pray at the old Yeshiva building on Rosh Hashanah. The prayers lasted many hours until late into the afternoon. Rabbenu stood the entire time without sitting for even a moment – until the age of 87. He did not even take a break for Kiddush, but only went to the restroom before Musaf. He acted similarly on the second day as well.
Before the meal, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda performed Tashlich in a well which was in the Yeshiva’s courtyard. He would then relate how during the War of Independence a great miracle occurred in that the Yeshiva was saved from the bombs that fell nearby, and from a bomb that fell in the courtyard but did not explode. 10
During the High Holidays, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would address the congregation during the prayer service – on Rosh Hashanah before the Shofar, and on Yom Kippur before Kol Nidrei. He stood next to the Ark with his tallit covering half of his face, as when davening the Shemoneh Esrei. He would begin his words with a great roar. Slowly, his speech would return to normal, and he would lift his tallit to reveal his face.
A student approached HaRav Tzvi Yehuda on Erev Yom Kippur and asked forgiveness, inquiring if he had injured the Rosh Yeshiva in any way?” When Rabbenu said that he did not recall any particular offense, the student said that it was nonetheless customary to ask for forgiveness. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded, “If you did something, why have you waited until now? And if you did not, has asking for forgiveness turned into some kind of mechanical gesture like this?”
On Yom Kippur, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that one day of the year is exclusively for the Holy One Blessed Be He: Yom Kippur, since Satan and the evil inclination have no power to negatively influence people on this day as our Sages have taught. He would recite the Vidui of Erev Yom Kippur slowly, and he would strike his heart forcefully, the sound of which could be heard from a distance. (I wondered for which sins was HaRav Tzvi Yehuda striking himself so hard? Perhaps the sins of the community, or over sins which Hashem is so exacting with the righteous “within a hair’s breadth”). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that it is not appropriate to sing “Ashamnu, Bagadnu…,” rather it should be said with sadness and pain.
A student once wore a vest that was partially red on Yom Kippur. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda pointed out to him that this was not appropriate for such a holy day of spiritual cleansing. After all, we have the custom to wear white, and certainly not red, as the verse says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool,” (Yeshayahu, 1:18).
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would remind his students of the importance of sleeping in the Sukkah. When he was in Switzerland in the cold and snow, he did not forgo even one night of sleeping in the Sukkah.
A student related: “On Sukkot, great Rabbis from around the country sat in HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s small modest Sukkah. Once, I brought my younger girls to visit so that they could see his radiantly joyous face. Suddenly, my youngest daughter said out loud: ‘What an ugly Sukkah; it is not Kosher at all!’ Everyone stared at me. Needless to say, I was aghast. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked, ‘Who said that?’ I wanted to hide my daughter, but she answered, ‘I did!’ The Rabbi’s holiday smile didn’t leave his face. ‘Come here,’ he said. ‘What do you have to say about the Sukkah?’ he asked. ‘This is a Sukkah? It is just boards!’ the girl exclaimed. ‘What would you prefer?’ he asked. ‘Schach, greenery, trees, leaves. This is not Kosher at all!’ she insisted. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said with a smile, ‘What perfect innocence.’”
Some people brought HaRav Tzvi Yehuda a Schach mat when they first became available. After examining it to see if it was Kosher, he was satisfied. Another time, when some people brought him regular Schach, he spent a long time investigating, to be certain that it was taken from a permissible area and that there was no fear of it being stolen. To make sure, he requested that they check with the municipality, to receive their insurance that it was permissible.
When he needed to leave the Sukkah (in the year 5740), when a heavy rain began to fall, he said: “It seems that there is a greater need for rain than our mitzvot.” This occurred after a few years of drought. Afterwards this year was a year of blessing. 11
One year, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda pointed out with joy that his Etrog came from Kfar HaRo’eh, which was named after his father. When he would take the Etrog he would kiss it. 12
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would carry a Sefer Torah that was handed to him during the Hakafot until the end of the Hakafah, even if the dancing went on for a long time. When students wanted to release him from the weight and take the scroll from him, he explained that a Sefer Torah is in the category of, “a living being which carries itself.” 13
The davening became longer each year. Students would take the Sifrei Torah outside and go to visit the Chief Rabbis. During the dancing, the students would stop traffic. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda justified their actions, since one must honor the Torah when it is in the street. There was a certain street famous for the desecration of Shabbat. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda circumvented it on Simchat Torah. He also avoided walking on it on Shabbat.
On Simchat Torah, even when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was elderly and suffered great pain in his foot, he went with all of the dancing students to the Kotel. One student suggested, “HaRav is tired. Perhaps he should rest a little and afterwards say some Divrei Torah.” These words startled HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: “Fatigue is not in our lexicon,” he replied. 14
On Simchat Torah, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would begin the Hakafot at eight in the morning and finish at five in the afternoon. In order to strengthen the Chief Rabbinate, he would dance to the houses of the Chief Rabbis. The students tried to convince him to shorten the Hakafot but he would not agree. During the entire time, he would dance without a break and he would encourage others to dance with him even though they wanted to end sooner and sit to learn Torah. He danced with vigor the entire time, even at the age of 80-90, and even though he had throbbing pain in his feet. One time at the end of the day, when he removed his shoes, his socks were soaked with blood, but there was no sign of it on his face; rather he was happy the entire time. 15
On Simchat Torah morning of the year 5738, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda came to the old Yeshiva building on HaRav Kook Street without any strength, dragging his feet. Students were sure that he would not join them in dancing with the Torah scrolls out on the street. Even though standing in prayer was painful for him, he accompanied the parade with the Torah scrolls to King George Street and the building of the Chief Rabbinate, where he danced fervently four straight hours.
He would not make Kiddush before the Hakafot of the morning. He delayed Kiddush because he did not want to drink wine before Birchat Cohanim of Musaf.
One year on Simchat Torah, students were singing, “Next year in Yerushalayim.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda stopped everyone and said emphatically: “This year!” 16
He explained the meaning of the “Second Hakafot” which is held on the night that Simchat Torah concludes in Israel. Firstly, the custom helps us to identify with the Jews in Exile who celebrate two days of Yom Tov. Secondly, because the elevated spiritual level which we reach during the string of holidays from Rosh Hashanah to Shemini Atzeret brings us to an exalted state of joy and this level does not end with nightfall. 17
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda once said to the Yeshiva students on Chanukah that one must remember that the holiday of Chanukah is a Jerusalem holiday. 18
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would sing “Maoz Tzur,” he would cry during the sad stanzas and would be full of excitement during the joyous ones. 19
Once on Purim, the students brought all types of alcoholic drinks to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and he drank them all, but it did not affect him and he did not say a word. At the end of the meal, they davened Ma’ariv and it was as if he had not imbibed any alcohol at all. 20
On another Purim, the students gave HaRav Tzvi Yehuda two bottles of Vodka to drink. The strong Vodka did not affect him at all, and he continued his class on prayer from his father’s book on the Siddur, “Olat Ha-Re’eiyah.”
One Purim, a drunken student asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: “Where is the shtreimel of Maran HaRav? We also want a Rebbe with a shtreimel!” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda smiled and responded: “One for whom it is proper to wear a shtreimel has a shtreimel.”
Another drunken student asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to give him a blessing that he should merit the trait of truth. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda smiled, but did not bless him.
On Purim, a tall Jew entered dressed in the uniform of a general of Tzahal: “Shalom, my master, HaRav, I am Rav Goren,” and he began imitating Rav Goren, and stating all kinds of halachic rulings. Suddenly, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda burst out in awful screaming regarding shaming Torah Scholars, and harshly scolded him.
It once happened that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda left in the middle of the Yeshiva’s Purim party. The students ran after him and asked him why he left. He said: “You also need to have awe of Hashem on Purim.” 21
During a Purim shpeil, a student began a “Purim Torah” and said, “Rashi is a woman and Tosafot is a man because it says, ‘The entire glory of the princess is on the inside,’ (Tehillim, 45:14) and Rashi’s commentary always appears on the inside of a page!” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda scolded him.
A certain Rabbi explained the line in the Haggadah, “If we received the Torah, but did not enter the Land of Israel – it would have been enough.” According to him it implied that it would have been better for the non-religious pioneers to have remained outside of Israel rather than to commit sins in the Land of Israel. These words caused students much consternation and they told HaRav Tzvi Yehuda what they had heard. They thought he would discuss this issue at length, but he responded briefly, “See ‘Yalkut Shimoni’ #1038,” and taught the class as usual. Of course, after the class, everyone rushed to look up the source which the Rosh Yeshiva had cited. The “Yalkut Shimoni” says: “If only my children, my Nation, would be in the Land of Israel, even though they make it impure.” 22
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was particular to use machine-made matzah, since it was decided by the halachic authorities that machine-made matzah is kosher, and there is, in fact, greater care regarding the concerns surrounding chametz than with handmade matzah. 23
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was unable to mention the word “Holocaust” or to talk about the subject without shedding tears. He felt the great loss every time anew, even years after the inexpressible horror.
Students asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: The Chief Rabbinate of Israel established the 10th of Tevet as a remembrance of the Holocaust to recite Kaddish for the Kedoshim (holy ones) who perished in the Holocaust, but whose date of death is unknown. If so, why did the Government of Israel establish the 27th of Nisan as Yom HaShoah? HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “One should mourn for the Holocaust every day.”
A student who was caring for the ailing Rosh Yeshiva once sat next to his bed while he slept. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda woke up in the middle of the night, sat on his bed and began to sob. The student asked him: “Why is HaRav crying?” He answered: “I dreamt about the Telz Yeshiva which was destroyed in the Holocaust.” The student asked: “But HaRav always speaks about the Torah of the Land of Israel…?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda sobbed even harder and said: “What do you know? Were you in Telz? Did you see the greatness and power of Torah?!” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda cried until he finally asked for a pen and paper, and he wrote a eulogy for the Telz Yeshiva. He then calmed down and went back to sleep. 24
At times he said tearfully, “You don’t know Lithuania and the other cities, the yeshivot and the Torah Giants who were destroyed.
In preparation for Yom HaShoah, a Rabbi in a Yeshiva for younger students brought a film to show them. The film included pictures which were taken by the evil Nazis during the Holocaust. There were those who sharply criticized the use of this medium to influence the students. When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked about this matter, he responded that one must deepen awareness of the Holocaust in every possible way. 25
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that it would have been appropriate to lay Eichmann down on the ground and to have all of the Jewish People step on him and trample him.
He once told his students that he recites “Av Ha-Rachamim” on every Shabbat and even Shabbat Yom Tov, Shabbat Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat Mevarchim (when we bless the new month). This prayer was written during the Crusades, and the Rabbis established reciting it over the decrees of “Tach v’Tat” (Chelminski Massacres – 5408-5409). Although these decrees were horrible, they were like nothing compared to those of the Holocaust. And although the custom was to refrain from saying it on special Shabbatot, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that after the Holocaust, it is surely appropriate to recite it every Shabbat. As was his way, he did not force the students to do as he did, but rather said, “I recite it, and if this is your desire, act this way.” This was the practice in Rabbenu’s minyan. He would recite “Av Ha-Rachamim” with great emotion, and many times tears could be seen in his eyes. 26
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related a parable in relation to the Holocaust: There is a house next to a forest and a young child plays at the edge of the forest. It begins to get dark in the late afternoon, and the mother goes out and calls to the child: “Come inside the house, it is beginning to get dark and cold.” The child does not listen. The mother goes out and calls again: “It is already cold. There is hot water for a shower, a hot meal and a clean bed. Come into the house,” but the child does not hear. She yells next time: “It is already night, lions and bears roar in the forest, and they will soon go out to search for prey. It is dangerous to be outside.” But the child continues to hide from her. Hearing the snarling and roars of wild creatures, the mother finally decides that she needs to bring him inside by force. She approaches the child and grabs him. He yells and protests. “The time has arrived to come home!” she screams as wild animals leap forward and grab ahold of the child. Finally, she manages to save him and drag him to the house, at the cost of several limbs. So too, with the Holocaust, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said. The time had come for the Jewish People to return home to Eretz Yisrael, but they refused, and only a cruel amputation could save them. 27
Rabbi David Goldenberg related that someone once came to pick up HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in a Volkswagen. He refused to enter the car.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda disagreed with what HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik said in the name of his father, HaRav Moshe, that anyone who arises against the Nation of Israel to wage war is in the category of Amalek in all respects, (“Kol Dodi Dofek.” pg. 101. “Five Drashot and Nefesh HaRav,” pg. 87). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that it was only a drasha (a homiletic teaching), and that one should refrain from saying such things. While HaRav Moshe held that Amalek is defined by a philosophy and can apply to any nation, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda held that it only refers to the biological offspring of Amalek. 28
Rav Tzvi Yehuda recited Tachanun at Minchah of Erev Yom HaAtzmaut, since the Chief Rabbinate of Israel decreed this day, “Remembrance Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Tzahal,” which is a day of mourning and pain over the loss and death of holy individuals. 29
For many years, the members of Bnei Akiva in Jerusalem had a custom on Simchat Torah after the Hakafot to go outside with the Torah scrolls for a final great Hakafah in the streets of the city with singing and dancing. From the Bnei Akiva branch on Chaznovitz Street they arrived at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav on HaRav Kook Street. There they joined the Yeshiva students who also paraded along the street with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda leading the way. One time the hour grew quite late and they returned to continue the davening for the day in the old yeshiva building, where Rabbi Kook once lived. During Yizkor, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda stood next to the person leading the davening and supplied him with the communal memorial prayers. When he recited the memorial prayer for the souls of the soldiers of Tzahal, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda whispered to him a detailed list of the names of the Yeshiva students who fell in the battles of Israel, the student’s name and his father’s name, and all from memory – not from a written list – slowly, with a wrinkled brow and a choking voice. At that moment, everyone clearly sensed the deep, loving connection of the Rosh Yeshiva for every one of his students who sacrificed his life for the sanctification of Hashem’s Name, for the sake of the Nation of Israel, and for the sake of the Land of Israel.
There are those who ask why Yom HaAtzmaut was established on the 5th of Iyar in particular, since on that day no miracle occurred. The Jewish State was declared, and with it a life-threatening situation began since the surrounding Arab countries declared war on the reborn Jewish State. In contrast, Chanukah and Purim were established on the day of salvation, after the battles ended. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda explained that the courage to declare the State is the miracle of miracles, the soul and root of all of the miracles and wonders which followed. (“L’Netivot Yisrael,” Vol. 1, pg. 179). The Talmud discusses a shepherd who abandoned his flock, leaving it prey to a beast of prey which came and tore it to pieces. The Rabbis established that his responsibility for the slaughter depends on whether or not he would have been able to save the animals. If he would not have been able to overcome the attacking predator, he is exempt from all payment. The Talmud asks: Why is this so? Perhaps he would have overcome the beast, as happened with David, as he says, “Your servant slew both the lion and the bear,” (Shmuel 1, 17:36)? Perhaps a minor miracle would have occurred (Baba Metzia 106A)? The Tosafot describe the miracle: “A spirit of courage and the knowledge to wage war,” (Tosafot ibid.). So too in the matter of the declaration of the State. Indeed, a miracle occurred. The Israelite Nation, which just two years before had been turned into ashes, now arose and declared national independence and statehood, along with the willingness to wage war. “This national awakening, the willpower to transform the yearning into effort and deed, the mental readiness and the strength to actualize the need to rescue and revive with a supreme, inner emergence of power… this is a miracle from the Heavens. The fact that the Nation of Israel was filled with the spirit to fight and the knowledge to wage war is the foundation of all miracles. 30
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was overtaken by excitement and exaltation on Yom HaAtzmaut. It seemed as though he was located in the upper worlds, so completely focused was he on the day’s holy meaning. He was insistent about holding a festive meal held in the Yeshiva in order to demonstrate that Yom HaAtzmaut is a national holiday and that its meal is a Seudat Mitzvah. Afterwards, when guests and students would speak, he would listen attentively to all of them. During his own speech, he would respond to anything that had been said which he did not think to be correct.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda greatly valued going out into the streets of the city and participating in the dancing with “Amcha” (literally: “your people” an affectionate term for the public). On the night of Yom HaAtzmaut, at the end of the celebration at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, he would go to dance in front of the President’s House in order to express his full identification with the Jewish State. Even though the President was not awake at this late hour, the Rosh Yeshiva would take this same route each and every year. When a student pointed out to him upon their arrival at Beit HaNasi that the President would not come out to greet them because he was sleeping, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “What does it matter to me if he is awake or asleep? We are honoring the Kingship, since we have a President!” Furthermore, he always asked the guards to deliver his blessing and the Yeshiva’s blessing to the President. He did not pay heed to the fatigue of those around him, rather he emulated the exuberance of Eliyahu the Prophet, who would gird his loins and run before the chariot of Achav until they reached Yizre’el, in order to honor the Kingship, (see Melachim 1, 18:46, and Menachot 98A).
In the first years after the establishment of the State, when no celebration for Yom HaAtzmaut was held in the Yeshiva, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “I am going out to the street to ask people why they are dancing, to initiate conversation, to create a connection with our people. A year does not go by without people returning to faith. This is an evening to be spent with the Clal Yisrael, the entirety of Israel.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda agreed to have a party in the Yeshiva only on the condition that afterwards they would go out and dance together with everyone, in order to show that the party was no private celebration, but a celebration of all of the Nation.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda insisted that his students also dance in the Yeshiva on the afternoon of Yom HaAtzmaut after another festive meal, even if they were night from the previous night’s celebration. He danced with great enthusiasm, as if demonstrating the fervor of King David and t actualize the verse, “All of my limbs shall speak,” (Tehillim, 35:10).
Various students asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda before Yom HaAtzmaut if it was permissible to shave for this holiday (since there is a custom not to shave during the period of Sefirat HaOmer). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not answer. Later he responded: “Tomorrow there will be an exam on your faces.” On Yom HaAtzmaut he saw that some students had been strict with themselves and had not shaved. He said of them: “Their faces show their character,” (Yeshayahu, 3:9). He added: “When there is faith, there is joy, and when there is joy there are no halachic doubts. How long will we speak out of both sides of our mouths? Do we believe in the Revealed Redemption or not!?” (see, Melachim 1, 18:21).
In the year 5718, Ben Gurion gave an unequivocal and powerful directive to establish a military parade in Jerusalem despite the United Nations instruction not to bring heavy weaponry into the city. Jordan also complained to the Security Council. America voiced their protest as well. Ben Gurion commanded our Ambassador, Abba Eban, to inform the Americans that we overruled their objections. Eban proclaimed that Jerusalem was ours and that we would do what we pleased there. Nobody, he declared, would dictate to us regarding Jerusalem. During the party on the night of Yom Ha-Atzmaut, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda mentioned this incident with great excitement: “The non-Jews want us to do what they want, and our Abba Eban, Shlita, informed them that we do not take their opinion into consideration. We will do what we want in Jerusalem.” Everyone noted his use of the expression “Shlita” – meaning, “May he live long and happily, amen!” – an honorary blessing usually reserved for a great Rabbi.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would eagerly go to the military parade and stand with his students in solidarity across from the Knesset. He saw in the military display a revelation of the Israeli Statehood. With enormous joy he would say: “The tanks, the weapons, the planes, and the Tzahal uniforms are all ritual objects used for the mitzvah of settling the Land, for the mitzvah of maintaining our authority over the Land, and for the mitzvah of establishing Jewish independence in the Land. Since it is a mitzvah – behold, then the tanks and airplanes are holy! When performing a mitzvah, don’t we say, ‘Who made us holy with His commandments?’”
Even when Rabbenu was more than seventy years old, he still stood for many hours in the sun during the parade. When students brought him a chair, he refused to sit because he wanted to be with the people who stood along the route of the military parade. He even entered a nearby Beit Midrash and urged the students who were learning there to go to the parade and to see what he called, “this great sanctification of Hashem’s Name.” He would take interest in every vehicle and weapon that passed, and remark, “Praiseworthy is the Nation for who this is so, praiseworthy is the Nation whose G-d is Hashem,” (Tehillim, 144:15).
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda rejoiced over the State of Israel even though it was not perfect, and on Yom HaAtzmaut he danced with great joy. He once said, “When I saw the Nation of Israel dancing, I saw the Holy One Blessed Be He dancing with them.” 31
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda recalled: “We are reminded of that very Wednesday. How is it possible not to remember? It is impossible to forget. An emissary of the Chief Rabbi of Tzahal, HaRav Goren, came to me. To hear the news, we were of course incredibly excited. Afterwards, a telephone message arrived from Rav Goren. We did not have a telephone in our house, but messages sometimes came to us through our neighbors. Rav Goren wanted us to know that they were drawing near the Old City, and that he and our paratroopers were currently located in the area of Rockefeller Museum. He stated that they were going to the Kotel and that I should be ready to travel there. When the driver arrived, I asked him: ‘How did you enter?’ He said to me: ‘All of the gates of the Old City were open before us.’ He brought me there in an army jeep. We drove and drove. I asked him: ‘Where are you bringing me?’ Suddenly he said to me, ‘We are on the Temple Mount.’ I was dismayed. We were across from their building (the Dome of the Rock). The passage was through the Lion’s Gate. It was then impossible to approach any other way. They therefore brought me in through this route. There were groups of young men there. Large groups of soldiers from our army were passing on all sides, and I heard a voice yell to me: ‘HaRav Tzvi Yehuda!’ This was Chanan Porat, one of our students. There were other Torah scholars, a large camp of soldiers of Tzahal who were Torah Scholars! We arrived at the Kotel. We danced with the soldiers, we rejoiced with excitement, we embraced and kissed each other in ecstasy. There is no need to relate the genius, the righteousness and the holiness of HaRav Goren, the Chief Rabbi of Tzahal who led the way with courage at the front of the army, at the front of the conquerors, armed with two weapons. Do you know what his two weapons were? A small Torah scroll and a small shofar! Afterwards, he said to me: ‘We have completed this rendezvous at the Kotel, now I am going to Hevron.’ I looked at him in alarm. I could not understand. Master of the Universe! What is the meaning of this? He was going to Hevron with the two weapons, with the small Torah scroll and with the small shofar! The next day they informed me in the afternoon (after the conquest of the Cave of the Patriarchs) that Rav Goren was at the house of his father-in-law, Rav David Kohen in Jerusalem. ‘Were our mouths as full of song as the sea…we still could not thank you sufficiently,’ (from the prayer ‘Nishmat’ recited on Shabbat and holidays). How is it possible, Master of the Universe, not to see Your Hand in all this? How is it possible not to fill ourselves with faith, how is it possible not to fill ourselves with the most glorious holiness for what the Master of the Universe has done, does, and will do for us, before the entire world, before all of the Gentiles, before all of the believers and all of the non-believers?” 32
Right after the liberation of the Temple Mount, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and HaRav David Kohen, “HaNazir,” Rabbi Goren’s father-in-law, were brought to the Kotel in an army jeep. They were not told about the route the driver had to take through the Old City. Suddenly, to their surprise and chagrin, they realized they were on the Temple Mount, but they decided it was acceptable for the moment to be on the Temple Mount, based on the concept of “kiboosh” (acquiring the Land of Israel through conquering). In general, it is forbidden to be on the Temple Mount today (because we are impure). On the way back from the Kotel, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda wanted to return by a different route, but they were told that it was dangerous, so they went through the Temple Mount once again. 33
It was so very natural that the first citizens who arrived at the Kotel on the first day of its liberation were HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and HaRav David Kohen, “The Nazir.”
Regarding the Mincha prayer which he prayed with the paratroopers, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said, “This was like the prayer of Neilah in the Yeshiva (the concluding prayer of Yom Kippur).”
When the book, “B’Shesh Acharei HaMilchamah” of Yosi Gamzu was published, it included the song “HaKotel.” One of the stanzas began: “He stood facing the Kotel, with us, the elderly Rabbi,” accompanied by the picture of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. Rabbenu commented, “I am not elderly.” 34
On one Shabbat during the time of the British Mandate, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had an intense yearning to cleave to the Divine Presence which rests on the stones of the Kotel. But what could he do? The British placed a closure on the movement of the Jews, and the Kotel was off-limits. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda decided to go anyway. He went to Jaffa Street and began to march in the direction of the Old City. From one of the alleyways, an elderly Sefardic Jew who looked like a Rabbi came out to greet him. He asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda where he was going. “To the Kotel HaMa’aravi,” he replied. The elderly man suggested they go together. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked him, “Does his honor know that there is a closure and that there will certainly be many British soldiers at the Jaffa Gate of the Old City who will not allow us to pass?” The saintly-looking man replied with a voice of assurance, “When we reach the Jaffa Gate, recite with me the verses that I tell you from Tehillim and everything will be fine.” They continued on together until they approached eight soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, with rifles in their hands, ready to shoot. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked his mysterious acquaintance how they were going to get past the guards. He said: “I told you, recite the verses with me and do not look at the soldiers at all.” They recited the verses together and passed by the soldiers as if the soldiers did not see them. The Arab market was very crowded at that time and when they approached all of the Arabs moved to clear the way, saying: “This is a great master.” They thus reached the Kotel.
Students asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda how he returned, and if the mysterious man had waited for him. He said that his escort disappeared, but that returning was no problem. They also asked if he ever saw the stranger again. Rabbenu replied that he saw him a few times when he attended circumcisions in Sha’are Zedek Hospital (which was originally housed in a building on Jaffa Street). They further asked which verses they had recited, and he said that it does not matter since one cannot rely on such things, even in a similar situation.
This story was once told to HaRav Rafael Levin, son of Reb Aryeh Levin – the “Tzaddik of Jerusalem.” “What?” he exclaimed. “You don’t know who the elderly man was? It is not clear to you that it was Eliahu HaNavi?”
Interestingly, during Motza’ei Shabbat classes, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda often spoke about Eliahu HaNavi, who, he said, reveals himself throughout the generations, from ancient times until now – and he would emphasize – to the most recent of times. 35
It once happened that two writers from the United States, a Jew and a non-Jew, were preparing a book and a film about Zionism. They met with one of the students of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda for many hours and were deeply impressed by him. The student brought them to meet the Rosh Yeshiva. Right away, they became excited, realizing that there was something unique about him, like meeting a prophet from ancient times. One of the writers said, “We are flying back to America, and we will return soon with all of the necessary equipment to film a movie about the settlements and Zionism today.” After three months, they returned to Israel and came straight to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. Searching for a way to open the movie, they asked him: “We want to begin the movie by asking you a question. If you were given ten minutes to explain your position about the Jewish State to the President of the United States, what would you say, honored Rabbi?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda gave them a wide smile, and said, “That’s nine minutes too long. I would say only two words: Chazarnu HaBaita – We have returned home!”
On the night of Shavuot, he would teach the “Sefer HaMitzvot.” The following year he would continue from the place at which he stopped the previous year.
After the Six-Day War, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda stated that while the fasts were established by the Prophets, leaving room to be lenient, we are still obligated to fast since we are not at peace with our neighbors, (See Rosh Hashanah 18B). 36
After the Six-Day War, the question arose – is it still proper to tear one’s garment upon seeing the Temple Mount which had fallen under Israeli control. The Halachah rules that one must tear his garment when seeing the site of the Temple in ruins (Moed Katan 26a and Shulchan Aruch Orach, Chaim #561). Rav Yosef Karo, in the Beit Yosef, when discussing the obligation to rip one’s garment upon seeing the cities of Yehuda and Jerusalem in ruins, explained that “in ruins” means “under non-Jewish control.” The Magen Avraham (#1) and Mishnah Berurah (#2) accepted this view. This means that even if there is a Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel, but it is under non-Jewish control, it is still considered in ruins and one must tear his garment upon seeing it. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda explained that the same applies for seeing the site of the Temple in ruins, and just as “in ruins” means “under non-Jewish control” for the cities of Yehuda and Jerusalem, so too does “in ruins” mean “under non-Jewish control” for the Temple Mount. Therefore after the famous call of “Har HaBayit B’Yadenu!” – “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” – during the Six-Day War, he ruled that there is no longer an obligation to tear one’s garment when seeing the Temple Mount, even though the Temple is still destroyed. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda explained that it is possible to claim that since there is no Temple, one must tear their garment. One must understand, however, why we are prevented from fulfilling the Divine Commandment of “Make for Me a Temple,” (Shemot, 25:8). The Temple Mount is in our hands, yet our inability to build the Temple is not due to the “exile.” We are in control, but are prevented from building the Temple due to halachic and political reasons. 37
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda also wrote that we should also be concerned about ripping our garments in mourning when not obligated, thus violating “Bal Tashchit” (the wanton destruction of items).
In the book “Mekor Chaim” (2:95 #1), HaRav Chaim David Halevy (former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa for 25 years) wrote that he agrees with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s opinion. He explained that when a close relative dies, we tear our garments when the “dead is before us.” After the mourning, we observe an annual Yahrtzeit. Similarly, when our “dead was before us” – when the Temple Mount was under non-Jewish control – we had the obligation to tear our garments. Now that we have control, the dead is no longer before us, and we observe an annual Yahrtzeit – Tisha B’Av. Despite HaRav Halevy’s agreement, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda concluded that in order to exempt us from this obligation, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel must make this decision.
On the day of the liberation of Jerusalem, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and “HaNazir,” HaRav David Kohen, were together at the Kotel. The next day, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda went to visit him, in order to bring him his book, “L’Netivot Yisrael” which was published on that very 28th of Iyar 5727. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda mentioned that while standing before the Kotel he did not tear his garment upon his seeing the place of the Temple, since it is only considered in a destroyed state when the non-Jews rule over it,” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 561, and Mishnah Berurah #2), as we have mentioned above. “HaNazir” responded in agreement and added, “Of course his honor saw that our Master, Maran HaRav Kook ,was there in his Shabbat clothing. He too did not tear.” (Meaning that he had seen a vision of Rabbi Kook.) Everyone present was astounded, and all eyes turned to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda who nodded his head in confirmation. “Yes, certainly,” he concurred. 38
One of the Yeshiva students, who was present with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda at the liberation of the Temple Mount, asked: “What about Temple sacrifices now?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded in a sharp and powerful manner: “Reb David Karlin said that we should not hasten to build the Temple!” (“Shut She’eilat David” #1).
When asked about rebuilding the Temple, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “Israel was commanded regarding three mitzvot upon entering the Land: to appoint a king…to destroy the seed of Amalek…to build the Temple.” They are to be performed in this particular order (Rambam, Laws of Kings, 1:1-2). We must first build the State of Israel – the Kingdom of Israel – then defeat our enemies, and only then build the Temple. If the desire to build the Temple burns within you, be careful not to burn up!”
Directly after the liberation of Jerusalem, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda informed the entire world on the radio: “All of the Jewish People in the world, and all of the nations of the world, must know that we have returned home. And since we have returned home, know that no power in the world will move us from here. Every house has an entrance way and a main room. We first entered the entrance way (with the establishment of Medinat Yisrael), and now we have reached the main room (with the conquest of Yerushalayim).” 39
Personal Traits – Humility
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda emphasized that humility is the most important of all traits (Avodah Zarah 20B). He often mentioned the humility of Moshe Rabbenu (BaMidbar, 12:3). He emphasized that the trait of humility was a vital element in cleaving to the Land of Israel, as it says: “And the humble will inherit the Land,” (Tehillim, 37:11).
Out of humility, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda hid his greatness from most people, even from the Yeshiva students who did not participate in his classes. He didn’t seek out publicity, and his talks lacked the polish of an orator. Only someone who was close to him was able to recognize the greatness of his character traits and Torah learning.
The Municipality of Jerusalem decided to honor Rabbi Aryeh Levin with the title, “Cherished Citizen of Jerusalem,” but he refused on account of his great humility. He said that he was not worthy. They next turned to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to honor him with this title, but he also refused on account of his great humility. They next turned to Rabbi Shalom Natan Ra’anan Kook, son-in-law of Rav Kook and HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s brother-in-law, and to everyone’s great surprise he accepted. His close relatives were also surprised, because he also was known for his outstanding humility. When asked why he decided to accept the honor when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and Reb Aryeh declined, he humbly responded: “If I would have refused, they would have placed me on the same level as HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and Reb Aryeh, and people would think that I am as humble as they are. I know that I have not reached that level. I therefore acted this way, so people would not be misled. 1
Once, a student asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda a halachic question relating to a custom of Jerusalem. The Rosh Yeshiva turned to Reb Shimon, the Yeshiva’s secretary and said to him: “It seems to me that Jerusalem’s custom is such-and-such. Is that not so?” 2
Similarly, a student once saw a tiny piece of dust on HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s hat. He pointed it out to the Rabbi, since it is not proper for a Torah scholar to have a stain on his clothing (Shabbat 114A). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “A doubtful Torah Scholar, a doubtful speck, a doubtful (obligation to wear a) hat.…”
A student related: “HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was once invited to a Brit Milah, and I came to pick him up in a taxi. When he entered the taxi someone accidentally closed the door on his fingers. His face flinched for a moment but no sound came out of his mouth. When the young man noticed, he quickly opened the door, apologizing and asking forgiveness. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to him: “No problem, nothing happened.” But blood dripped from his fingers.
When he received his check from work, he did not send a messenger to cash it, but went to the bank himself and stood in line, not wanting to trouble anyone on his behalf. When people suggested that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda travel in a taxi, he would refuse and would ride on the bus or walk, even if it took considerable time.
In his younger years, at first, when he was called to the Torah with the title “Rav,” he would begin to cry.
A student asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda for the source of a Gemara he had mentioned in class. He opened the Gemara but did not find it. Closing the tome, he said that sometimes when a person feels arrogant because he knows something which someone else does not, Heaven hints to him that he should repent for this. After he finished explaining, he reopened the Gemara and found the source. 3
During a class, a young student fainted. When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda saw that youth was being helped, he continued with his class as usual in order that the student not be embarrassed by having distracted the attention of those around him.
Young students were once sitting around HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s table, discussing ideas that he had presented. When one student mentioned a particular idea, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda started beaming and said: “Did you hear what he said?” and he repeated the chiddush as if he was not the one who came up with it, rather the student. 4
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not have personal demands. He was modest in every realm of life. He did not leave his four amot (cubits) and hardly ever left Jerusalem. He made do with very little. He greeted important and famous people at his humble home. They sat at his old table, on old benches and chairs.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related: “I was once walking in the street nearby to go to daven. On the way, I met the Gerrer Rebbe. He was walking for exercise, as per his doctor’s orders, accompanied by attendants and gaba’im. We greeted one another like old friends. Then he asked those around him to step away, and he asked me why I was walking alone on the street. I responded: ‘There are those who require attendants and gaba’im, but I do not.’ He said to me: ‘But you had a father who was so great!'” 5
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not agree to travel by taxi or bus from his house to the Yeshiva when it was housed in the old building on Rav Kook Street, even though it was a lengthy walk of fifty minutes. He quoted a Gemara, “The Torah spares the money of Israel,” (Chullin 49B), then added, “And Israel must spare the money of the Torah,” (i.e. the money of the Yeshiva).
When the doctor informed HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that he could return home from “Neveh Simchah,” where for many months he was recuperating from an illness, he sat on the chair in his “Neveh Simchah,” room for a long time, and then moved away from the bed. When he left the room, he burst out crying and explained the difficulty in his leaving: “The Divine Presence is above the head of the ill,” he said, (see Shabbat 12B). And when he was in Hadassah Hospital, he was once sitting on a chair and hinted that he wanted to return to bed by saying: “The One who returns His Divine Presence,” (from the Shemoneh Esrei prayer).
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda visited his brother-in-law, HaRav Shalom Natan Ra’anan, in the hospital, he took care not to sit, but to stand in awe and caution as when praying, due to the statement of our Sages: “The Divine Presence is above the head of the ill.” Even when he left the room, he did not turn his back, but walked out backwards.
Fear of Heaven
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda prayed with great concentration. He was very strict that students not talk in the middle of davening. He would repeat the words of our Sages: “These are things which are the most important in the world, yet people disgrace them,” (Berachot 6B). New students occasionally chatted during the davening. On one occasion, when they were speaking during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda pointed it out once, then twice, and the third time. When they persisted, he threw them an admonishing look. Right after the davening, the Rosh Yeshiva strayed from his custom and did not remain to hear the Halachah lesson given at the conclusion of prayer service. Instead, he went straight to the library, where he usually removed his Tefillin. The talkative students felt responsible and went up to the library to apologize. When they opened the door, they found HaRav Tzvi Yehuda crying. They approached in fright, asked forgiveness and promised not to continue in their foolish ways. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda then said to them: “You think I am crying on your account. I am crying on my account, since our Sages said: ‘Anyone who has fear of Heaven, his words are heard,’ (Berachot 6B). Since I told you once, twice and three times, and you did not listen, it is a sign that there is a blemish in my fear of Heaven.” 6
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda once joined a wedding for a short time, arriving while the bride and groom were in the “heder yichud.” He refrained from partaking of the meal, quoting the Gemara: “Whosoever partakes of the wedding meal of a bridegroom, and does not bring him joy, violates ‘the five voices’ mentioned in the verse: ‘The voice of joy,’” (Berachot, 6B. Yirmiyahu, 33:2).
Whenever HaRav Tzvi Yehuda reached home, he would knock before entering, even though he knew that nobody was inside. This practice was in keeping with the words of our Sages: “A person must not enter his home suddenly,” (“Derech Eretz Rabbah”).
When they called him up to the Torah, he reacted with alacrity, without delay, in keeping with the “Pri Megadim” regarding the reason for taking the shortest route possible when going up to the Torah: “To demonstrate one’s love for [the Torah] and one’s desire to read from it.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda acted like Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and never put his hands in his pants’ pockets (Shabbat 118B). Rather, he always held his hands up above his waist.
Anyone who paid close attention saw that during all of his classes, all of the meals, and all of his discussions with people, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda always had his hands on the table, and he did not take them off and put them on his knees or in his pockets.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would pray by heart or from a siddur which he took from an inner pocket in the upper part of his jacket, and only from the upper part, since he was extremely careful not to put holy words in lower pockets.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was once looking for notes he had written on his father’s treatise, “Orot HaTorah.” A student said to him: “Maybe it is in your pants pocket.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “I am not suspected of this,” i.e. putting objects under his beltline.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was once getting off on the bus and an elderly, modestly-dressed woman was getting on. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda pressed himself to the door and stayed that way until she passed.
In response to a Rabbi who said that Maran HaRav Kook abstained from eating excessively, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “He did not abstain. There are people who do not need a lot.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was not interested in eating, and he only ate for health reasons. He ate foods which were praised in the Gemara, such as olives, eggs, or honey. Foods besides these did not enter his mouth. Nonetheless, when doctors instructed him to eat particular foods, he strictly fulfilled their instructions. In connection with this, he related the words of a doctor in Europe who said that among hundreds of ill people whom he treated only one precisely followed his instructions, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. It appeared that he was the only one who truly wanted to be cured.
Once a student came to take counsel with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda who was sitting in the library after morning prayers. The Rosh Yeshiva said to him, “You already ate pat lechem – a slice of bread?” The student responded: “I’ll eat afterwards.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “No, morning bread comes first, as is written in the Gemara,” (Baba Metzia 107B). The student then inquired: “And what about the honorable Rav himself?!” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “Baruch Hashem, I am not yet enslaved to the routine of eating.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “There are those who call ‘morning bread’ (pat shacharit, ‘Aruchat HaBoker’ (breakfast), and it is possible that the word ‘Aruchah’ (meal), derived from the word, “Orchim” (guests), to teach you that in relation to food we should be guests and not permanent residents. 7
When he was informed that one student was eating extremely minimal amounts, he said to him: “Every person must eat in a normal manner in the amount which he requires.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would sometimes eat breakfast in the afternoon. Sometimes after Yom Kippur he would only drink a little and wait a long time until eating. If it were not for the students who worried about his meals, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would hardly eat anything. They would bring him breakfast but he would not always eat it even though he was particular about safeguarding health. Until she passed away, his mother, HaRabbanit, would sometimes point out to him during the late hours of the night that he should eat something.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had the custom to fast on his father’s yahrtzeit. After one yahrtzeit, the students arrived for a class a few hours after dark and HaRav Tzvi Yehuda still had not davened Ma’ariv since he was waiting for a minyan and he had not eaten. They prayed and a student suggested to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that he eat before the class, since he had not tasted anything all day. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda rejected the idea saying that he was not enslaved to food. They offered to bring him a cup of tea. He again rejected the idea. None of their pleas helped and the class went on as usual well into the night.
Not Being Dependent on Others
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not burden others. At the end of a class when his students wanted to daven Ma’ariv, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would always get up himself to fetch his hat. This trait follows the Gemara (Sotah 10A) regarding Shimshon, who asked Hashem to remember for him the merit that for all of the years that he judged Israel, he did not burden another person. Rabbi Kook, his father, was also known to act this way. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related that his father told him that someone who desires to attain lofty levels of spiritual growth is obligated to act this way. Nonetheless, when students saw that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda needed his hat, they brought it on their own initiative.
After HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s release from the hospital in 5733, the students took turns bringing him lunch from the Yeshiva each day during the course of a month. According to doctor’s orders, he was required to cease from eating his usual minimal amount. When a student arrived with the meal, Rabbenu apologized for creating a burden, and always invited the student to eat with him.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was healthy, he was extremely particular not to ask for help from anyone. Even when he did not eat during the course of a day, he would not ask anyone to bring him food.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s sister, HaRabbanit Batya Miriam Ra’anan, used to regularly send HaRav Tzvi Yehuda a jar of jam with one of the students. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not touch these gifts. Stacks of jars piled up. When his sister asked for an explanation, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “Send it with your son, not with the students.”
It once happened that a bottle cap fell on the floor and a student bent down to pick it up. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “Oh sorry, sorry, I will pick it up.” The student said: “It is nothing.” But HaRav Tzvi Yehuda remained steadfast. It bothered Rabbenu to be on the receiving end; he wanted to be the one to give, even with little things.
Once a student was escorting HaRav Tzvi Yehuda along the street. Rabbenu was carrying a bag while the student’s hands were free. He asked to carry the bag for the Rosh Yeshiva but HaRav Tzvi Yehuda declined. The student said to him: “If someone sees us walking and notices that I, the younger one, am allowing an elder to carry a bag, I will appear cruel in his eyes. Therefore, if I take the bag, HaRav is doing me a favor and not the other way around.” Rabbenu then agreed.
After Birchat Cohanim, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would move his chair in order to tie his shoes. He would prevent his students from putting it back in place. Rather, he would return it himself. One time a student succeeded in returning the chair before the Rosh Yeshiva. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda sat for a moment and said: “Thank you very much.” Immediately he stood in order not to benefit from others.
Even when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda suffered from incredible pain in his leg, he was insistent that people should not hold him when he walked. Once after a class, when the last of the students left his house, he sighed from the pain in his foot and exerted himself to get up from his chair to walk to his bed. The student who lived with him at that stage of his illness, in order to help him, knew that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would be unhappy if he tried to assist him. An idea suddenly came to him to arrange two rows of chairs so HaRav Tzvi Yehuda could lean on them when he walked. That way, he would not have to rely on anyone’s assistance. When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda saw this, he was very happy and a wide smile graced his face.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had to send a letter, he wrote it himself, put the stamp on it, and he brought it to the post office.
During Birchat Cohanim, when the Kohanim saw that they had taken up all of the space on the rug and that there was no room for HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, they moved to the side to make room. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda hesitated and stood with one foot on the floor – in order to refrain from receiving help from others – and with one foot on the rug – in order not to insult someone who had done something for him.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not have a washing machine. He would hoist the laundry on his shoulder and deliver it to the laundromat in the neighborhood of Geula. Sometimes a student would escort him and would want to carry the bag, but HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would never agree.
At the funeral of the father of one of the students, the crowd stood waiting for the funeral to depart. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was suffering greatly from an infection in his legs. A student brought him a chair but he would not sit despite his pain.
In his later years, when he needed medical treatment, he always said “thank you” whether to the nurses in the hospital, or to any person who did something for him.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was insistent on bringing his dishes to the downstairs kitchen after breakfast at the Yeshiva. Only after real arguments would he agree to let someone carry them for him.
Once, when he was walking in the street to bring a cup of coffee to someone who was sick, a student asked to take it from him, but he would not agree.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda participated in a funeral and the eulogies went on for a long time. One of the family members of the deceased brought HaRav Tzvi Yehuda a chair to sit on. He refused, saying, “Everyone is standing. I will therefore also stand.” But he leaned one leg on the chair and explained: “I am standing like everyone else, but if someone exerted effort and brought a chair for me, I will use it.”
Eating on Shabbat
A student related: On Shabbat, the table was loaded with food. Rabbi Yosef Bedichi, who was Rabbenu’s faithful shamash for several years, ensured that the Shabbat meal would be like “Shlomo’s feast.” I was stunned every time how HaRav, without any effort, would finish every dish which Rabbi Yosef Bedichi prepared, while I needed great exertion to do so. Many times HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would mention during the meal the words of the Midrash Tanchuma (Bereshit, 3) that one who delights in Shabbat is equivalent to one who fasts one hundred times. 8 It appeared as if he was a different person on Shabbat, as if the nature of his body changed within him on account of the extra soul of Shabbat. The Rabbi, who virtually fasted all week, would delight in the delicacies of Seudat Shabbat.
Once, at a Shabbat evening meal, a guest ate at HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s table. After eating the first course of fish he was no longer hungry. When Rabbi Yosef Bedichi brought the soup, he did not eat it and pushed it a little to the side. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda noticed this and asked the guest what was the matter. The guest responded that he was not hungry. Rabbenu said to him in surprise: “Do we eat on Shabbat because we are hungry? We eat on Shabbat in order to delight on Shabbat.”
At Seudah Shelishit (the third meal of Shabbat), HaRav Tzvi Yehuda saw that one student was not eating and asked the reason. The student answered: “I do not like this food.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to him: “One needs to like all food.”
On weekdays, Rabbenu would limit talking at meal time and would finish quickly in order to be free from having to eat. On Shabbat however, he would lengthen the meal with Divrei Torah and stories of great Rabbis of Israel. He also delighted in hearing Shabbat zemirot.
A student related: “HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was invited to a seudat mitzvah with my family. After they finished serving the main course, the hostess stood up and asked, ‘Would anyone like more?’ When no one responded, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda spoke up and said, ‘Please, I would like more.’ After the hostess joyously served the Rabbi and Divrei Torah were spoken, the hostess again asked if anyone would like more. Again, no one responded to her proposal, and again HaRav Tzvi Yehuda spoke up and said, ‘If it is possible, please, I am interested.’ We were somewhat confused, not understanding how the Rosh Yeshiva could eat so much food. HaGaon, Rabbi Shalom Natan Ra’anan (Rabbenu’s brother-in-law) stood up, came over to me and whispered, ‘Please tell the hostess not to offer to serve an additional portion since if she asks ten times HaRav Tzvi Yehuda will not refuse. For a seudat mitzvah, he will never refuse.’” 9
It once happened that students found the Rabbi’s sister crying. When asked why she replied, “Yesterday, Reb Tzvi Yehuda participated in three seudot mitzvah in which he ate meat; now he will fast for a week!”
A student asked after a seudat mitzvah: “From where do you get the strength to eat so much?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda replied, “We receive the strength from the mitzvah.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related the following Dvar Torah many times: The Gemara in Sanhedrin (71A) says that a Ben Sorer U’Moreh (Rebellious Son) is killed because his current transgressions will lead him to commit evil deeds in the future (see Devarim, 21:18-21). Among others things, he now eats meat and drinks wine like a glutton. However, a Ben Sorer U’Moreh who eats as part of a group fulfilling a mitzvah is exempt from punishment. Rashi (Sanhedrin 71B) brings two examples of such a group: eating a sacrifice in the confines of the Temple and eating the Korban Pesach. But a difficulty can be raised on Rashi’s comment. The Korban Pesach is eaten roasted, and a Ben Sorer U’Moreh – whether he eats as part of a group fulfilling a mitzvah or not – only receives capital punishment if he eats raw meat. How then could Rashi bring an example of the Korban Pesach which is never eaten raw? HaRav Tzvi Yehuda explained that the Ben Sorer U’Moreh in this case was not eating from the roasted Korban Pesach, but from his own raw meat, while sitting with a group who was eating the roasted Korban Pesach. This slight participation with a group fulfilling a mitzvah exempts him from capital punishment, even though he was eating raw meat. How important to join in with a group who is fulfilling a mitzvah!
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would mention this Dvar Torah when he arrived late to a Brit Milah or when he had to leave a simcha early, but was at least present for part of the meal. He would use this idea to emphasize the great value in participating in a seudat mitzvah, even if only for a short time. 10
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not bend over when he ate soup as most people do. He would bring the spoon up to his mouth while sitting in an upright position. He said a person does not need to bend to the food, but conversely, to raise the food up.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was very particular not to begin eating as long as all of those present had not received their food.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda sat down to eat and another person sat with him, he was concerned that the other person would eat a proper portion.
When a married couple ate at his table, he would give the man “a double portion” and point out with a smile: “You are obligated to provide her food!” Sometimes he did the same with an engaged couple. He would say to the young man: “You will soon be obligated to provide her with food…”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was once drinking tea when a student asked him a question. Only after finishing the tea did he answer. He explained that when drinking hot tea the main point is drinking it when it is hot. If it cools off, it is “Ba’al Tashchit” (wanton waste), and it was therefore preferable to finish drinking the tea before responding. 11
Regarding stringencies, a story is told about a meeting between HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and the “Divrei Avraham” – HaRav HaGaon Rabbi Avraham Dov Ber Shapira of Kovno – during their participation in a gathering of “Agudat Yisrael” in Germany. Since HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had a great desire to meet him, he came to the hotel where the Torah Gadol was staying. They had a lengthy conversation, but when it came time for lunch, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda excused himself and moved to the side to eat bread and honey. This is how he acted during his travels in order to avoid kashrut problems. The “Divrei Avraham” invited him a few times to join the others, but he declined, which led the great Torah Scholar to say, “His honor simply has special stringencies regarding eating.” This made HaRav Tzvi Yehuda realize that it was not proper to cling to a stringency in the presence of a great man. Subsequently, he established three general rules for himself: 1. All of his special practices regarding eating would be nullified in the presence of a great man who asked him to eat. 2. When he was a guest of other people, he would set stringencies aside. 3. Even when people were his guests, he would not act in a stringent manner.
Physical and Spiritual Strength Combined
During the weekdays, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would eat minimal amounts: an olive-size piece of bread or baked goods, and a cup of tea. It was difficult to understand from where the strength flowed for all of the classes which he gave, and for all of the lengthy discussions with students and other people who would arrive at his door.
Despite the minimal amounts he ate, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda possessed exceptional physical strengthen. On Simchat Torah, he would carry a heavy Sefer Torah for hours.
Even HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s pat on the back was sometimes very strong. He once related that Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz – the Divrei Chaim – would deliver his blessings to his Chasidim with a pat on the back, and the stronger the pat, the greater the blessing that would come to pass. A few days later, he blessed a student along with a light pat on the back. The student gently reminded him about his words about Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda listened and gave him a powerful pat that made him fly two meters.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda returned to his house from Hadassah Hospital in the year 5733 (1973), he emphasized that he was returning to all of his stringencies and pious customs.
Guarding One’s Tongue
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was not a quiet person. When he spoke, it was like a flood let loose from an inner storehouse, yet he never had a spiritual decline with even one word. This is similar to what is said about the “Chofetz Chaim,” that he would speak and speak and speak at great length, but he would not say one word of “lashon hara” (evil speech).
Every word HaRav Tzvi Yehuda pronounced was carefully considered, and would not burst forth out of excitement. Someone once quoted a certain word in his name, and he responded harshly: “I did not say this word. Every word which leaves my mouth is precise and I am responsible for it.”
A student related: It once happened that I was talking with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda on the way from the Yeshiva to his house, and it seems that I stumbled when I said something that should not have been said. He understood immediately that I stumbled, and he asked me to repeat what I said in order to clarify the matter. I was, of course, confused and, in order to free myself, I said that this was not a serious statement and I simply said something. To my surprise, he was even angrier and said that we do not simply say things, and that we must consider before every word if it is appropriate to say it.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda established a set time in a Yeshiva to learn the laws of guarding one’s tongue. He radiated to others, in a powerful fashion, through learning, through teaching, and through the essence of his personal character – the need to guard one’s tongue. He spoke respectfully to other people even when they disagreed. He distinguished between a person’s character and his beliefs. Even when people whose beliefs were extremely distant from his own came to his house, he received them with great love, yet he did not hesitate to point out to them what the Torah had to say.
On one occasion, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked to “descend” a stairway. He immediately replied: “I do not descend!” (implying that descent has a negative connotation and that such expressions should be avoided.)
On another occasion, when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda returned home in a taxi, the driver accidentally drove past his house. “Oops,” said the driver, “I’ll have to back up.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda immediately corrected him, saying: “You have to proceed backwards.”
A student would bring HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to Selichot at the Yeshiva in a taxi. He arrived to pick him at 6:30 a.m., but HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s clock said 7:30. Surprised, the Rosh Yeshiva began to adjust the time by moving the hands of the clock forward. The student suggested that he move it back an hour. But HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “Only forward,” and he kept spinning the dial. Passing the correct time, he went around again, explaining: “One should always move forwards and not backwards.
The administrator of the Yeshiva once entered in a rage and said to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: “It is written in the newspaper that our students do not learn in the Yeshiva, but waste all of their time with Soviet Jewry and politics. We cannot be silent. We must respond!” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not reply. He took counsel with a few people and decided not to respond. A journalist once interviewed HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and published an article filled with distortions. A student said to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: “You must respond. It is impossible to let this pass in silence.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not get excited. He explained that there is no need to respond to every little thing. 12
One evening, at the end of his class on his father’s commentary on the siddur, “Olat Re’eiyah,” some students entered his home to talk to him about an important matter. He motioned to them not to say anything. He instructed them to sit next to him on the couch. The students were surprised by the need for silence since nobody was in house. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda also sat silently and left his book open on the table. After a while, he said with a wonderful smile: “He has desired it for His dwelling,” and he repeated, “He has desired it for His dwelling,” (Tehillim, 132:13). The students assumed that this was what HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was teaching from “Olat Re’eiyah.” He smiled again and said: “He has desired it for His dwelling” and pointed at the book. The students looked closely and saw a moth perched on a page. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not want the students to frighten it; therefore he told them to enter and sit down quietly. After a few minutes, the moth flew away on its own. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda closed the book and then began to talk.
Even though a student lived with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to aid him, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not allow him to throw out the garbage, insisting he do it himself. Wanting to learn why the elderly Rabbi acted this way, the student watched him leave the building and walk toward the public trash bin on the sidewalk. Rabbenu opened the lid of the bin very gently and made all sorts of soft sounds. He did this in order not to suddenly frighten any cats that might be inside the bin. He waited for them to leave before he tossed the garbage inside.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was once walking along the street, talking to a group of people when he suddenly stopped and put his finger to his lips to tell them to be quiet. He stood quietly for a few minutes and then continued on his way. When asked why he did this, he explained that a cat was eating from a pile of garbage. If they passed by in the middle of its meal, it would get scared, run away, lose the food and suffer.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda once suddenly stared at a placemat on the table and intently gazed down at the ant walking on it. He said in excitement: “Look, how wonderful! This is a little ant who hardly has place for its brain to decide whether to turn right or left, frontwards or backwards, and see how it walks!” His amazement was filled with innocence, as if it was the first time he was seeing an ant. He did not want to clear the table in order not to disturb it. Instead, as if to give the tiny creature ample time to reach its destination, he spoke about the wisdom of Shlomo who taught about the ways of the ants, (Mishle, 6:6, explained in Chullin 57B).
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda saw ants on the stairs to the entrance to his house, he warned the person escorting him to be careful not to step on them.
Once, at the beginning of a class, a small bug jumped onto the Rosh Yeshiva’s book. On account of his righteousness, he did not want to hurt it. He did not begin the class, but stared at the bug. He pointed out that it is interesting to note that something so small has a will and can decide whether to move forwards or backwards. We not only have the concept of, “How great are Your works, Hashem,” (Tehillim, 104:24), but also, “How minute are Your works, Hashem.” He mentioned how Rabbi Yochanan was amazed by an ant, (Chullin 63A; and see “Kol Yehuda” on “Sefer HaKuzari, 1, 68b). The class was therefore delayed. One of the students, a Rabbi and Torah Scholar sitting next to him, finally lifted the book and removed the bug by gently blowing on it. Without saying anything, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda began the class.
The Honor of Women
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda gave classes for the Yeshiva students in his cramped and book-filled home. Students set up an amplification system so that women could hear in the apartment next door. There was sometimes a problem with the system and HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would wait until they fixed it. He would explain that for the honor of women, he was obligated to delay his class so that they too could hear.
With all of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s stringency regarding issues relating to modesty, he was, at the same time, strict about the honor which must be extended to women. Before Kiddush on Shabbat day, he would ask over and over: “Are all the women here? Women are obligated to hear Kiddush during the day, (Berachot 20B).”
A student asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: how should one choose a spouse? He responded with one word: intellect. The student said: What about emotion? HaRav Tzvi Yehuda answered: Animals also have emotion; the essence is intellect. 13
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would remind his married students that there is an obligation to provide their wives with spiritual food. In contrast to the general thought that women are exempt from learning Torah, he would emphasize with a smile that this does not apply to learning about Emunah (faith), noting that Emunah was a constant mitzvah, and not something limited to a certain time.
A newly-married young man came to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and told him that it was difficult for him, since only half of a month is, “a time to hug” while half of a month is “a time to distance from hugging,” (referring to the time when a woman is a niddah – menstruating and counting the clean days before she is able to immerse in a mikveh, a period during which a husband and wife are not allowed to have any physical contact). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda told him to look at one of the blessings recited during the Sheva Berachot of a wedding: “Who created joy and happiness, a groom and a bride, etc.” – You see, he said, marriage is not just hugging and kissing, but before everything else, it is a soulful connection of love, brotherhood, peace and friendship which apply equally at all times. The essence is friendship, to be good friends – and not constantly hugging.
When the beit midrash of the Yeshiva was in the dormitory building, the women’s section was close to the entrance to the beit midrash. A sign was put on the wall: “Women are requested not to linger in the hallway after the prayer service ends (in order to prevent women and men from intermingling). When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda saw it, he asked that the note be taken down and rewritten in a more general manner, in order not to offend the honor of the women. Thus, the sign was changed to: “The community is requested not to linger in the hallway after the prayer service.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was extremely particular not to gaze at women. Even when a woman came to him for a long conversation on an important matter, he listened to her carefully and responded warmly – but his eyes were always averted to the side. He acted in a similar manner when he gave a class to women. He would stand for a woman who was a Torah Scholar, but he would not look at her directly. 14
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not force his opinion on his students; rather he would suggest, explain, and attempt to convince. During the period of major settlement activity, he never instructed anyone to participate. Instead, he sent a note which emphasized the importance of settlement for the Nation. He said that if a person felt an inner need to participate, then it was proper for him to work for the sake of Eretz Yisrael. Even for those who requested his personal advice, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not force his opinion on them. Rather, he explained the essential principles according to the Torah so that they could decide on their own. 15
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not respond to those who turned to him for advice with specifics, but would discuss the general issues to help them decide. He did not want to create Chasidim who hung on his every word. He believed that each person should create his own individuality. 16
A student asked him if he should accept a Rabbinic position in a certain location. Rabbenu did not answer positively or negatively, but counseled him to travel there to see the reality. The student returned and reported to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that people told him that there is nothing to do there. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “If that is so, you must go there.” 17
When a student asked which political party he should vote for, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not answer him directly, but rather explained at length the different perspectives. When the student repeated his question, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda explained the different advantages of each party. The student did not receive a direct answer. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked the student to decide on his own. 18
Following the Words of Sages
With all of the importance which HaRav Tzvi Yehuda placed on learning books of “Emunah,” he would emphasize that we are Gemara Jews. Every one of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s actions was based on the Gemara. For example, a student who was aiding HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in his house needed to travel to a wedding. He requested permission from HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in the morning, but he did not receive an answer. In the afternoon, he received a cold response and he did not understand the reason, since HaRav Tzvi Yehuda usually happily gave him a blessing in similar situations. When it came time to leave, he again turned to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and he received a scold and a clear response: “We are not Karaites, we are Jews of the Gemara, which says that someone who is sick needs to be guarded,” (Berachot 54B). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had a slight cold, but the student did not think it was a problem. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, however, emphasized that if the Gemara said that one who is sick requires to be guarded, that is the way we must act. These simple, fundamental practices take precedence over other items such as traveling to a wedding. 19
When HaRav Natan Ra’anan sick, one of the students was appointed to take care of him. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda saw the student in the hallway and scolded him: “Why did you leave him alone? A sick person needs to be guarded! (Berachot 54B). When the student was putting Tefillin on Rav Ra’anan, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda again scolded him: “A sick person is exempt from mitzvot.” The student responded: “When HaRav (i.e. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda) was sick, he put on Tefillin.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda answered forcefully: “A sick person is exempt from mitzvot.” 20
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that according to an explicit Mishna, one should say, “Shalom,” and not use other greetings, (Berachot 54A). When he was asked: But Jews customarily say good morning or good evening in Yiddish? He responded in surprise: “Is Yiddish our language?!”
A student carrying a chair was walking in a narrow hall in the old Yeshiva building. He met HaRav Tzvi Yehuda along the way and immediately moved to the side to make room. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “One who has a load and one who does not have a load – the one with the load goes first,” (Sanhedrin 32B), and he insisted the student pass on before him.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had a small notebook in which he wrote personal things: innovative Torah ideas, thoughts, and dreams. He was particular that students not read it. At a later period, when he was sick, and various students aided him in his house, he placed the notebook under his pillow. 21
Many times HaRav Tzvi Yehuda woke up in the morning, ritually washed his hands and took books from the bookshelves to clarify things he had dreamt. 22
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would often say that we need to increase the two alefs (i.e. two words which begin with the letter alef): Ahavah – love, and Emunah – faith. Ahavah refers to the love of the Nation of Israel. Emunah is not only believing that Hashem created the world, took us out of Egypt, gave us the Torah, and brought us to the Land of Israel, but faith that Hashem reveals Himself in our time and redeems us today. This is the reason that a Jew will be asked by the Heavenly Court: “Did you await the salvation?” (Shabbat 30A). The “Ron” (Rabbenu Nissim) adds one word in his commentary: “b’yamecha” – in your days, i.e. the recognition that every occurrence that occurs in your times is an act of Hashem (ie. World Wars, international declarations such as the Balfour Proclamation, the establishment of the State of Israel). 23
A letter for a neighbor once arrived at HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s house by mistake. He said to the student who was aiding him: “This is not for me, but for the person who lives upstairs. Please bring it to them.” The student forgot. The next night, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked again, and the student forgot again. When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked a third time, the student said: “HaRav, it is not so terrible, the letter came here by accident.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda scolded him: “There is no such thing in the world! Everything is from Hashem! How can something come about by happenstance? How can you be so brazen to say that this happened by chance?” 24
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was in the hospital and people said to him: “It will be okay,” he rejected this pronouncement since it was based on the assumption that the past was bad. He would respond: “It is good now! It is always good!” 25
The Kabbalist Rabbi Mordechai Atiyah once came to visit HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in his apartment. They spoke for a long time. When the students arrived for the regular class, they waited outside. The door suddenly opened and both Rabbis left the house together, continuing their discussion on the way. Despite the severity of the pain in his leg, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda escorted Rav Atiyah down the stairs and the entire way to the car in order to honor his holy guest. During the walk, when he was surrounded by all of the students, Rav Atiyah stated with an exalted spirit: “I am certain that we will soon merit seeing the Resurrection of the Dead.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded on the spot: The Maharshadam says in his Responsa that there are two meanings of the concept of Resurrection of the Dead. The clear and obvious meaning is that the righteous will aid the wicked to repent, those whom our Sages define as, “they are dead in their lives,” and by repenting they will merit to live anew (Orach Chaim #17). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda made this statement in a loud voice so that all of the gathered students would hear. He did this in order to prevent the possibility of disappointment of those students who were waiting impatiently for the Resurrection of the Dead in its usual meaning that the dead will return to life. 26
Love of Israel
At the end of morning davening, a Jew knocked on the bima of the beit midrash and announced that he received permission from the Rosh Yeshiva to speak. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda nodded his head in agreement. The fellow then explained at length that he was the Mashiach, but he did not demand any action. He just wanted them to know. After he finished and left, the students turned to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in surprise for having given him permission to speak. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “Is it forbidden to perform a kindness for a fellow Jew?” 27
One night, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda could not fall asleep. He roamed around his house like a caged lion and screamed: “Something terrible has happened in Israel!” In the morning, one of the Ministers of the Israeli Government was found dead. He had committed suicide following suspicions which were raised against him.
On a Friday at the beginning of Adar 5742, two weeks before he ascended on high, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s fever rose without an understandable reason and his body was racked by intense pain. The doctors could not explain it. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was then informed that the Minister of Defense had established roadblocks so that no one could get to Yamit in the Sinai Desert in order to protest the planned withdrawal. Despite his weakness, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda wanted to detach the IV so that he could go to Yamit. He yelled: “Is the Minister of Defense the owner of the Land of Israel?” And he forcefully declared that we must display self-sacrifice for every four amot of the Land of Israel. 28
After HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s surgery, his situation was stable, and he was resting comfortably in the hospital. Suddenly, he began sighing terribly. When they asked what was hurting, he responded: “The Nation of Israel hurts me.” Later on, it became known that Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists at the Munich Olympics at that exact moment. Later, when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was informed about the horrible murder, he groaned and yelled in great pain. The doctors were startled. They claimed there was no reason for this amount of pain from the wound in his foot. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “I do not know where my suffering ends and the sufferings of Klal Yisrael begin.”
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda met with Ben Gurion, he explained the difference between heretics, who are still part of the Nation of Israel, and apostates who are no longer a part, as he would do when he began teaching the book “HaKuzari.” Ben Gurion said to him: “Give me an example of a heretic so that I can understand who you are referring to.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “There are many.” Ben Gurion stubbornly and forcefully repeated: “Nonetheless, give me an example.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda later explained to the students: “What did he want me to do? To say to him: You!?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda continued to explain that apostates and missionaries have left the Nation of Israel. Ben Gurion again asked for an example. This time HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “Rufeisen,” who was born a Jew, but converted to Christianity during the Holocaust and became a Carmelite Monk and missionary. Later, he applied to become a citizen of Israel as a Jew under the Law of Return. Calling himself, “Brother Daniel,” he wanted to increase his influence and show that it is possible to be a Jew and a Christian. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda noted that Ben Gurion’s spontaneous reaction was a Jewish one: “What is there to talk about?!,” Ben Gurion exclaimed. “He is not a Jew!” And the Supreme Court of Israel in fact refused to accept his application.
It once happened that the door between HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s bedroom and the salon where he gave classes was open. A student pointed it out and said that perhaps they should close the door to ensure HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s privacy. He responded: “A Rabbi needs to know that he is not a private individual.” 30
Once, a respected man who occasionally davened at the Yeshiva said harsh things about HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. On Shabbat night, one of the students approached him and told him to leave the Yeshiva. The man refused. An argument erupted until one of the Rabbis told the student to leave the man alone. The man later made a claim against the student to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. In defending his behavior, the student stated that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had said: “Someone who shames a Torah Scholar, we should throw him out of the window.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda protested: “I never said that!” Then he said to the man: “If you shame the Rosh Yeshiva within the walls of the Yeshiva, what response do you expect from the students?!” A half a year later, on Erev Rosh Hashanah, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to the student: “Go and ask forgiveness from him.” The student went to the man, and received the answer: “I will only forgive you if you ask forgiveness in the same forum in which you embarrassed me.” On Shabbat night after davening, the student banged on the table and asked his forgiveness. 31
A horrible tragedy befell the family. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s nephew, Avraham Yitzchak, the son of HaRav Natan Ra’anan Kook, fell from a seaside cliff and drowned in the sea, at the age of 18. He was loved by everyone. In the midst of comforting the mourners, In the middle of all the people comforting the mourners, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to Rav Natan: “We need a fence”, and he repeated the word “fence” a few times. Rav Natan also repeated the word “fence.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda explained: “We need to make a fence where the youth fell from the cliff so that another tragedy does not occur.” 32
One year when Tisha B’Av fell after Shabbat, a student escorted HaRav Tzvi Yehuda from the old building of the Yeshiva to his house. Afterward the student planned to go to the new building of the Yeshiva in the Kiriat Moshe neighborhood. For some reason, the student stopped in Geula and sat at a bus stop. Suddenly, he saw HaRav Tzvi Yehuda coming towards him. The elderly Rabbi said: “It is after Shabbat now and you do not have any money to ride the bus. I brought you money for the ride.” At the time, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda suffered from terrible pain in his feet, yet he still walked the considerable way to bring money to the student. 33
A student was traveling in a taxi with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to Selichot at the Yeshiva. They passed a student walking on the sidewalk, but the student in the car thought that he should not stop to pick him up, so he would not waste HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s time. But when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda saw him, he insisted they stop and give him a ride. 34
Originally, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would distribute the mail to the students. How would the students know to come to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda? He would compose a list, alphabetically ordered, with the students who received mail. Why did he order it alphabetically? So no one would be insulted by their place on the list. He did not, however, put the letters alphabetically in order to make the list. He went through the letters and ordered them in his head with the help of his exceptional memory. 35
If HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had not seen a beloved person in thirty days, when he saw him, he would recite the full Shehechiyanu blessing with Hashem’s Name and Kingship. For example, when a student returned from the army, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would cry and emotionally recite the blessing. 36
HaRabbanit Chavah Leah, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s wife, met a couple in the street who had just made Aliyah. When she learned that they only had the clothing on their backs, she asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda if they could stay at their house. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda replied: “Of course.” Thus, they divided their small apartment into two rooms for two and a half years. This couple was not religious and during this entire time HaRav Tzvi Yehuda never tried to convince them to become dati, but only acted toward them with friendship and respect. 37
A student in twelfth grade came to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and said that he felt a need to travel throughout the country and influence others, and not just stay closed up in the Yeshiva. In response, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked him to pour him a glass of water. The student did not understand what he meant, but he began to pour. When he almost reached the top of the cup, he looked at HaRav Tzvi Yehuda who said with full confidence: “Continue, continue.” The water obviously overflowed onto the floor. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to him: “Do you understand? When you yourself are full and overflowing, only then will you truly influence others.” 38
When people would ask HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to pray for a sick person, he would first ask: “Has he been to the doctor?” 39
For a time, a student would learn with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Torah articles which he cut out of the religious-Zionist newspaper, “HaTzofeh.” The Rosh Yeshiva once told him that he feels like his colleague. One night Rabbenu arrived home well after Ma’ariv. The student asked him where he had been. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded that he had been at a wedding in Tel Aviv and left early to make sure that they could learn together.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would always stand before his mother, and when he would separate from her he would walk backwards.
During his childhood in Talmud Torah, he studied so fervently that his mother regularly requested someone to remind him that he needed to eat. When he reached the age of bar mitzvah, he informed his mother that from now on he did not want her to determine what he ate, but he would decide on his own. Nevertheless, when she would bring him a plate of cookies, he immediately took one or two and ate them in order to make her happy.
Once day, before netilat yadayim, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “Blessed is Hashem upon this meeting with King Shlomo.” His statement emanated from a recognition and feeling that King Shlomo, who established netilat yadayim, was present during the mitzvah, (see Shabbat 14B, and Rambam, Hilchot Avot Ha-Tumah, 8:8).
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that there is no need for netilat yadayim for a baby. The obligation is only for a child who reaches the age when we begin to educate him. (This is also the ruling in Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Orach Chaim 4:2.)
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda emphasized that because the foundation of everything is to show gratitude to Hashem, a person therefore begins his morning by saying “Modeh Ani” (I give thanks) even before washing netilat yadayim.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked what one could do to strengthen one’s spiritual level, especially in the area of prayer, he said that one must first learn the foundations of the laws of prayer according to the “Mishnah Berurah,” and put into practice what was learned. One must understand that prayer is a channel of connection between a person and Hashem, as his father explained in his writings on prayer. When people do not understand and do not pay attention to the content of the prayers, then they “say prayers,” but they do not pray. One must learn the laws of prayer, which include proper intention during prayer, proper conduct while praying, the places where it is permissible and forbidden to pray, what direction to face and with what type of fear of Hashem we approach prayer. It is proper to learn the introduction to the siddur of Rabbi Kook, “Olat Re’eiyah” which explains the importance of prayer, and that one should pray with joy and with the awe of the One before whom he stands.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda emphasized that prayer is one of the things that stands at the pinnacle of the world (Berachot 6B). Therefore he taught an ongoing class in “Olat Re’eiyah.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda prayed with incredible seriousness and concentration. He put his entire self into his prayer. He never looked in a book (which was not a siddur) during the time of prayer, since learning Torah has its own time and prayer has its own time (Shabbat 10A).
He either prayed by heart or from a siddur which he removed from the inner pocket in the upper part of his jacket, since he was extremely careful not to put holy books in his lower pockets.
Rabbenu would often emphasize the awe of holiness which is required during the time of prayer. He would say: “How is it possible to pray quickly before the King?”
All of his prayers were similar in their awe of the Almighty. He would always be joyous at the same spots and sad at the same spots.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda prayed as if this was the first and only time in his life that he ever prayed – by emphasizing every word, and by enunciating every letter. Each syllable served as a source for holy meditations, as if he had not been saying this prayer, in this same version, for eighty years, three times a day, every day. The words left his mouth as if they were new, like a prayer which was not, “commandments of people performing them by rote,” (Yeshayahu, 29:13) 2
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would exert great effort in prayer until sometimes sweat would run down from under his hat. When this happened, he would say: “Fortunate is a man who will not forget You, and a person who will exert great effort for You.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda once told a student to be the shaliach tzibur and lead the day’s prayer. The student replied that he did not have a good voice. The Rosh Yeshiva responded, “The essential thing is one’s heartfelt intention.”
It was extremely upsetting to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda when a shaliach tzibur would pray quickly in a dry manner. He therefore preferred a fixed hazan who would pray with fire, not too fast and not too slow. The essence was fervor and reverence.
A student once served as shaliach tzibur and prayed quickly. He related that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda called him to a side room and said to him, “If you spoke with such rapidity to a friend, he would certainly say to you that you are crazy. And yet you turn to the Master of the Universe in this manner?!”
On a different occasion, the Rosh Yeshiva did not admonish another student who prayed in a hasty fashion. He explained, “He is a Torah scholar; I am obligated to show him respect.”
It once happened that a shaliach tzibur rushed through the prayers. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to him: “In my family, it is an accepted tradition to lengthen one’s prayer. My paternal great-grandfather (Rabbi Dov Ber Yafeh from Tuaratz) would sometimes lengthen Ma’ariv the entire night during the month of Tevet (when there are long winter nights) on account of his great cleaving to Hashem, and it is related about my maternal grandfather that he would lengthen Shacharit so much that he would begin with the first minyan and finish with the last one.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would greatly lengthen his silent Shemoneh Esrei. On the High Holidays, when the prayers last several hours, he instructed the shaliach tzibur in the Yeshiva not to wait for him to finish his Amidah prayer, so that his intense and lengthy supplications wouldn’t become a burden on the congregation.
In his final years, when he was sick, he said that sometimes in pressing situations, one needed to know how to pray quickly.
One Shabbat, an elderly Jew who lived in HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s neighborhood came to daven Mincha. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked him to lead the davening since he was the senior member of the group, being that the students were young and single. He refused but HaRav Tzvi Yehuda insisted. In the end, he agreed and said that he would borrow a suit jacket from one of the students. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to him: “The clothing is not important – the man is the essence.” 3
On the night of Yom Kippur 5726, there was an unusual rainstorm. Flashes of lightning lit up the beit midrash. It was a major storm. Everyone recited the blessing on the lightning and on the thunder. When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda prepared to leave the Yeshiva at the end of the prayers, students suggested to him that he wait a little until the rain stopped. Rabbenu was surprised: “It’s raining?” he queried in surprise. A student said to him that everyone had recited the blessings on the lightning and thunder! Our Rosh Yeshiva responded: “I didn’t hear or see anything.” He had been so engrossed in his prayer that he hadn’t noticed a thing.
On Yom Kippur 5734, the day on which the Yom Kippur War broke out, at 2:00 p.m., when the center of the city shook from sirens and megaphones, some students who were called to the Army ran to receive a blessing from HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. At that moment he was engrossed in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei of Musaf. They called and yelled to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, but he was engrossed in prayer and did not respond. Finally a noted Torah Scholar was brazen enough to shake his shoulder. He informed him that the war had broken out. Rabbenu blessed the waiting students with teary eyes. He said, “You are going forth to a Milchemet Mitzvah to sanctify Hashem’s Great Name. There is no doubt that you will be victorious, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps, and His word will not return empty. The Redemption continues on and on.”
In his later years, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would enter the Study Hall quickly despite his difficulty in walking. In contrast, he would leave very slowly. He would remain among the last worshippers. Often, he would adjust the Tefillin of students who did not put them in the proper place, and he would aright the Tefillin straps which had turned over. He would also listen to the words of Halachah which were said at the end of Shacharit by one of the students.
Even in the hospital, when the doctors or nurses wanted to examine HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, or administer some treatment before Shacharit, he was adamant to pray first, and only afterwards would he agree to receive them, even though his refusal upset their schedules.
It is told that Rav Kook once said to Rav Harlap while they were visiting Rehovot, “If I daven Minchah now, I will die from Divine pleasure.” So they went for a walk and looked at the nearby fields and cows. Another time, Rav Bromberg said that our master, Rav Kook, had a desire burning within him to pronounce the four-letter Name of Hashem. When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda read this he said: “Other Torah scholars have different concerns.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would jokingly say that the gates of prayer are never locked in Meah Shearim, since, because of the Shetibelach, it is always possible to find a minyan there. 4
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was extremely particular that people not speak during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei. This was the rule in Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav. One time, when some students were talking because of some pressing matter, the Rosh Yeshiva knocked on a table until they were quiet. Afterwards, he explained that it is written in the Shulchan Aruch that one who speaks during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, “his sin is too great to bear,” (Orach Chaim, 124:7). He added that the Shulchan Aruch states that we are to rebuke one who speaks (ibid). Despite the fact that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not like to cause people chagrin, he rebuked them in this case because it was written in the Shulchan Aruch. 5
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda saw a student learning during davening. Afterwards, he approached him and showed him the Gemara: “There is a time for Torah, and there is a time for prayer,” (Shabbat, 10B). 6
A student asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: which is preferable – davening with a minyan or learning Torah? He responded: One must first be a normal Jew who davens with a minyan.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not attend “vatikin” (the first morning prayer so that one arrives at the Amidah precisely at sunrise), but he did daven early in the morning. When he did not pray in the Yeshiva, he davened in Meah Shearim and explained: “They are Torah Scholars, idealistic people, the first settlers who went outside the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.” 7
In the evening, after HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s class in his house, they would daven Ma’ariv. Before beginning, he would say, “One who does NOT want, he should come forward (to lead the davening),” inferring that a person should not ask to be the shaliach tzibur. 8
During the Torah reading, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would sit, as was the custom of Maran HaRav Kook. 9
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda only sang the zemirot which are printed in “Olat Re’eiyah” (Rav Kook’s commentary to the siddur). He said that the rest of the zemirot mentioned food too often, such as swans, quail, and fish.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would relate that when the Netziv’s wife was extremely ill, students of the Yeshiva wanted to recite Tehillim for her, but the Netziv was opposed because it was “bitul Torah” (taking time away from learning Torah). At the end of a major disagreement, he agreed that they could recite Tehillim for five minutes and not any longer. 10
When people would ask HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to pray for a sick person, he would ask the name of the doctor. 11
When people would ask HaRav Tzvi Yehuda for a blessing, he would simply say: “A blessing!” or “All of the blessings mentioned in the Torah.” 12
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that even though the “blessing against apostates” (Birchat HaMinim) was added to the Shemoneh Esrei, creating nineteen blessings, the name of the prayer was not changed – it is still called “Shemoneh Esrei” – eighteen – because these eighteen prayers are the essential ones and the “Birchat HaMinim” is secondary and temporary. When apostasy is uprooted, may it be speedily in our days, the “Birchat HaMinim” will be unnecessary and will be discontinued as well. 13
A woman once asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda if it is okay that her husband wears a knitted kippah. He answered:
– “What is the problem? Doesn’t it cover his head?”
– “Then what is the problem?”
– “I don’t know. I have a feeling that it is not good enough.”
– “It is totally fine,” the Rosh Yeshiva assured her.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would encourage his students to wear their tzitzit with the tzitzit strings hanging outside of their clothing. He made no distinction between Sefardic and Ashkenazic Jews. One of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s leading students, HaRav David Chai HaCohen, once asked if this ruling to wear tzitzit outside of one’s garments applied to him as well, for his family’s custom was to wear tzitzit tucked in (HaRav HaCohen’s uncle was an important Torah Scholar and a faithful follower of the Ben Ish Chai). HaRav HaCohen said that he would abide by whatever ruling Rabbenu gave. The Rosh Yeshiva told him to hold by his family custom. 14 Nonetheless, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would often emphasize the words of the Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 8:13) that the essence is that the tzitzit be seen outside of one’s clothing. 15
A newly observant Jew asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda for the source for wearing a kippah. He answered that according to the opinion of the Vilna Gaon (Orach Chaim 8:2), there is no ancient source for a kippah, but wearing tzitzit outside of one’s clothing is from the Torah. The newly observant Jew immediately bought long tzitzit, (and obviously wore a kippah as well). 16
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would wear his tzitzit not only during the day, but when he slept at night as well. 17
HaRav Yosef Bedichi, who faithfully served the aging Rosh Yeshiva for several years, related that a student asked about the Arizal (who said that one should wear the tzitzit inside of one’s clothing – although there is a dispute regarding the meaning of his words). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded with a smile: “I am familiar with the opinion of the Arizal. Tell me, do you perform everything that the Arizal says?” (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 8:11; Magen Avraham, ibid; Mishnah Berurah, ibid.)
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that while tzitzit and tefillin were standard articles of Jewish clothing, a kippah was not. Regarding a kippah, he would quote the words of the Vilna Gaon that wearing a kippah is an act of righteousness, (Biur HaGra, Orach Chaim 8). 18
A student did not have Tefillin. When this was told to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, he gave him a pair of Tefillin and said: “These were from Abba, HaRav, ztz’l,” i.e. the Tefillin of Rav Kook! After the student obtained a pair of his own, he wanted to return Rav Kook’s, but HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to him: “You merited to receive them!” The student said: “If so, I will give them to my grandson when he reaches his bar mitzvah,” and so it was. Since the boxes were already old, he replaced the boxes, but kept the parchment. One day, in the middle of Cheshvan 5763, the grandson was traveling on a bus, towards the back. The explosive-laden car of a terrorist slammed into the back portion of the bus and exploded. The young man was thrown from the bus but was saved. The boxes of his Tefillin were burnt and damaged but the parchment remained without a blemish.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was immersed in learning Torah, he did not see or hear anything. It once happened that he did not come to Minchah at the Yeshiva as was his habit. Students knocked on his door but HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not answer. They knocked again and again, but it did not help. Finally, they broke down the door. When they entered, they found him learning the Rambam. He did not understand what their worry and excitement were all about. 19
Before a shiur, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked students where they had left off learning in a particular book at the end of previous class. When they told him, he began a few pages earlier and went over them again. He did the same thing in a variety of classes. (It seems that he acted this way in order to learn an entire subject in completeness, rather than to begin in the middle of the learning. 20
A new student had a difficult time learning Gemara. He asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda why he should bother to learn Tractate Pesachim!? “After Rashi, Tosafot, the Rif, and the Rambam, what else is there for me, the smallest of the small, to add?” he said. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “You have yet to learn it, that’s why. No two people are the same, and no one in the world can duplicate the way in which you learn. Your soul is not like Rashi’s soul. No one else can connect to Tractate Pesachim in the specific way that you can. The light of the Oral Torah needs to appear through your individual soul. 21
The Rosh Yeshiva fostered in his pupils respect for the leading Jewish Sages of earlier generations, and would repeatedly quote the Talmudic adage, “If the earlier generations were like angels, then we are like ordinary human beings; if the earlier generations were like ordinary human beings, then we are like donkeys.” The Rabbenu explained that when we relate to the Torah authorities of earlier generations as if we are on their level, “then we are like donkeys.”
When Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda cited a particular Talmudic luminary, he would expound not only upon the statement at hand, but also upon the personality in question as he came to light in the entire Talmud. He would explain that one must visualize the author of a statement as if he stood before one’s very eyes. Upon hearing a student express criticism of the great Jewish poet, grammarian, and Torah commentator, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda yelled out, “I fear Ibn Ezra!”
He emphasized the unique Divine Assistance which illuminated the commentaries of the Rif (Rabbi Yitzchak Alfassi) which were graced with clarity of exposition.
The Rabbi advised us to study the work “Shev Shmattah” because it covers each of the issues it deals with in its entirety and according to its order.
He pointed out that the Torah Scholars who possessed greater depth of thought tended to prefer the “Netivot” to the “Ketzot” commentaries on the Choshen Mishpat section of Shulchan Aruch.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that the phrase in the Gemara, “People say” – generally understood as frequently used sayings –are not simply popular sayings, but what Clal Yisrael (the entire Jewish People) believes to be true. 22
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would repeat his teachings many times, hundreds and hundreds of times, at different occasions without tiring. He explained: “The truth does not tire.” And each time he would say them with passion, as if expressing them for the first time. 23
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda emphasized that one should review his learning a hundred and one times (Chagigah 9b), not necessarily out of a need for great understanding, but in order to cleave to the Torah and love it. 24
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked: The Mishnah Berurah rules that the blessing over bread does not cover cooked fruit which is not eaten with the bread (Mishnah Berurah, 167:4; and see Biur Halachah and Shaar HaTziyun), but it is related in the name of HaGaon HaRav Eliyahu Lopian that the Mishnah Berurah changed his mind toward the end of his life. How should we act? HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded that it is impossible to reject the explicitly-written word based on what is heard orally. He was asked much later: It is now brought in writing in the name of Ha-Gaon HaRav Mendel Zaks, the son-in-law of the Chofetz Chaim, that he changed his position (“Sefer Chofetz Chaim,” pg. 213). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda then agreed and said: “If it was taught, it was taught.” 25
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not relate to his students as a Rabbi, but as a father. Once, years before the Six Day War, a Holocaust survivor came to learn with HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, but did not connect with his style. He was used to a different method of learning from the Diaspora. One day, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and his students went to the military border on Mount Zion, as was the custom, to gaze upon the Kotel which was off-limits to Jews. One of the officers recognized HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and gave permission for him to enter. He said: “I will not enter on my own without my students.” The border police allowed them all to enter. When they returned to the Yeshiva, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said to the students: “I want to apologize for calling you ‘students.'” At that moment, the newcomer from the Diaspora connected to him with great love. 26
The founders of a Talmud Torah asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to explain his instruction to begin teaching the children Parashat Lech-Lecha and not Vayikra, as it says in the Midrash. He responded: “Do you follow every statement that is written by our Sages?” 27
A student gave HaRav Tzvi Yehuda a booklet to read while walking and he finished it after ten meters. The student asked if he read it all. The Rabbi responded: “I read eight lines at a time, and Abba ztz’l, would read twenty lines at a time.” 28
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed related: “In HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s view, it was important that the students of the Yeshiva have their “Aufruf” (the Shabbat before the wedding) in the Yeshiva. He said that this joy is for the young man and his friends in the Yeshiva. Therefore, my father’s “Aufruf” was in the Yeshiva, even though the family preferred that it be in Tel Aviv where they lived.” 29
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would make a great effort to attend his students’ weddings. When he was unable to attend, he was careful to send a telegram with a blessing.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was particular that one should not write the Christian date. When he was invited to a wedding and the Christian date appeared on the invitation, he would not attend the wedding. 30
At a wedding, it once happened that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was called “HaRav HaGaon” when invited to recite one of the blessings. Instead of walking to the chuppah, he remained in his place. He did not move. When he was told that he had been called up, he explained that he is not a “Gaon” and that it is only proper to use this description for the Gaon of Vilna. 31
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was very strict that the father of the boy should observe “leil hashemirah,” a night of guarding before the brit milah, learning Torah all night. He insistently requested this from the students who were close to him. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s explained that a brit milah is like a surgery, and there is danger in every surgery. It is therefore incumbent upon the father of the baby to add holiness to the world on this night in order to protect the baby. 32
The Rosh Yeshiva was strict that students take an expert and punctilious Mohel, factors no less important than his fear of Heaven.
He did not agree that two circumcisions occurring on the same day could have a joint meal. He explained to the fathers of the boys: This child is special to his mother, and the other child is special to his mother. Both deserve their own simchah celebrations. Therefore there should be a separate meal for both of them.
It was awesome and wondrous to see HaRav Tzvi Yehuda serving as sandak at a brit milah. Many times when it was coordinated beforehand that he would be the sandak, at the moment of the mohel’s announcement, “Our master, the Rosh Yeshiva Shlita, is honored to be the sandak,” Rabbenu would raise his head in complete surprise, while saying: “Who?! Me?!” It seemed as if the exaltedness of the moment erased from his mind any previous knowledge of it. When he would slowly walk to the sandak’s chair, an awesome reverence would surround him, and he would perform his part in the holy mitzvah as if he were performing the Divine worship of a Kohen in the Beit HaMikdash. He was the embodiment of the verses, “And he remained with his hands in faithful service,” (Shemot, 17:12), and, “And he remained with his legs in faithful service.”
He would try not to deliver a dvar Torah at the meal of the brit milah, insisting that the father of the boy should say words of Torah. Jokingly he would say, “The father of the boy has a Divine Spirit today, which graced him in naming his son – therefore, he should speak.”
He was particular to sing the entire song that they sang at the brit milah during the meal, even though it was very long. Some of his students once wanted to abbreviate it. They skipped the stanzas at the end of the song, thinking that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not notice, but he corrected them and began the song from the beginning.
He would try to taste something before the seudah, so that he would not commence the meal when he was hungry. At every seudah mitzvah he would eat for the sake of the mitzvah and not because of a desire for food.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda made a clear and definitive condition with the mohel (who was usually HaRav Yosele Weisberg z”l) not to call him by any title when he called the Rosh Yeshiva to arise to be sandak – not “Maran” meaning “our master,” and not “HaGaon” meaning “the Torah genius.” Once when the mohel forgot and attached a title of honor to his name, Rabbenu was very upset with him.
When the guests sang songs, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda tapped his fist on the table to regulate the melody. All during the singing, his face emanated joy and enthusiasm. Customarily, he asked the student to say a dvar Torah, remarking: “This day is yours!”
It once happened that a firstborn son was born to a student. He was concerned about arranging the brit milah in HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s home, as was customary, in order not to burden him with having to travel. He was worried that he had approximately one hundred guests, and how could they fit into HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s tiny apartment? When the matter became known to Rabbenu, he said to the student: “Everything is fine, and also the small space will hold the many.” And so it was.
He would not begin to eat the meal until after the father of the boy sat and began to eat.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was known for his abstinence and asceticism from eating and drinking, but at a seudah mitzvah, he was strict to eat everything which was placed before him.
Once, a student saw that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s glass was empty. He approached and offered to pour him wine. Rabbenu did not answer and continued to eat. The student offered again to pour wine for the Rav, who signaled something with his eyes but did not answer. The student did not understand that when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not answer, he wanted to say: “Your words are superfluous. Desist from asking. The student, however, asked once again. The Rav stared at him with an admonishing look and said to him: “At a seudah mitzvah, eating precedes drinking.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda always accepted an invitation to attend a Pidyon Ha-Ben since it is a mitzvah for a Kohen to redeem a firstborn. 33
We heard many times from HaRav Tzvi Yehuda himself that the money he received as a Kohen during the Pidyon Ha-Ben was the most kosher money, because it was derived from a Torah requirement. In two of his letters from the year 5697, he wrote that he used this money in repairing the binding of books. It is noted in the book, “Shivchei Ha-Re’eiyah,” that Maran HaRav Kook would buy books with the money he received for serving as the Kohen at a Pidyon Ha-Ben.
When he was asked to receive the money of the Pidyon Ha-Ben, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “This is finally an opportunity to make a little money.” After people chuckled over his words, he would explain that this money is the most kosher, since the Torah granted it to the Kohen, and one should therefore be happy with it.
At the Pidyon Ha-Ben, he would read the Hebrew formula of the Kohen’s questions, as found in his father’s siddur, “Olat Re’eiyah.”
Once, a student redeemed his son with the famous coins of HaRav Aryeh Levin, the Tzaddik of Jerusalem. After a few weeks, the student approached HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in order to buy them back. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda waited until everyone left. When they discussed their value, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda removed the coins from his coat pocket. He had kept them there the entire time on account of their importance.
Before a Pidyon Ha-Ben, a student once came to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, who informed him that Maran HaRav Kook would use the coins of HaRav Aryeh Levin. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was particular not to return the coins immediately in order to emphasize that the transaction is an actual payment to the Kohen and not a symbolic one which is automatically returned.
A student once came to pay the true value of the redemption to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not agree, and specified a much smaller amount. Even though the student replied that he had clarified what the correct amount should be, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda stood firm, stating that in the past he received the amount he mentioned.
Someone once mentioned a Chasidic saying to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that a “Chasid” fears Hashem while a “Mitnaged” fears the Shulchan Aruch. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “As if fear of the Shulchan Aruch is something other than fear of Hashem.” 34
A student noticed that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not take the shortest route to his house from the Yeshiva, but took an indirect route which required much more time and effort. When the student asked why, Rabbenu responded that our Sages said that a person should always make all turns toward the right. 35
In a discussion about Purim, the Talmud asks, “Why were the haters of Israel (a euphemism for the Jews) of that generation worthy to be destroyed? It was because they benefited from the evil one’s (Achashverosh’s) meal,” (Megillah 12A). It does not say they were worthy to be destroyed because they ate at the meal, but because they benefited from it, since there are times that the benefit from a severe transgression is more damaging than the transgression itself. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had a wonderful teaching regarding this idea from an incident involving the Chofetz Chaim. A group of Jewish soldiers who were forced to serve in the Russian Army once came to the Chofetz Chaim with a serious question. The Russian Army forced them to eat non-kosher meat. Without this meat, they would starve and be in serious danger because army service is difficult and breaks the body and it is impossible to survive without eating the meat. They asked how they should act. The Chofetz Chaim thought and responded: “Dear sons, this is truly life-threatening and you can eat. But please recall, when you eat the non-kosher meat, don’t suck the bones.” 36
When a student tried to convince HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that one should not permit women to cover their hair with a wig (but with a hat or a scarf), HaRav Tzvi Yehuda forcefully rejected his argument and said, “Our holy mothers wore wigs.” 37
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not throw papers with Hebrew letters into public garbage cans, which are extremely dirty. He would put them in a clean garbage can, even though they would end up in the public garbage in the end, since this was indirect. He did what he could in order to preserve the holiness of the Hebrew letters.
Sometimes when a kosher product was brought to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and he was not familiar with it, he would ask: Does it have kosher certification from a Rabbi? When it was answered positively that Rabbi A. from community B. supervised it, he would be somewhat surprised that he had never seen such a hechsher before. As long as those conditions were met, he would eat it. 38
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would not drink wine with the kosher certification of Badatz (of the Ultra-Orthodox) in order to strengthen the stance of the Chief Rabbinate. 39
Students and Torah Scholars
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not try to imprint his personality on his students, but rather sought to develop the unique personality of each and every student. He would therefore talk to each student in a different way based on their strengths and weaknesses. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda refused to create carbon copies of students, although many of the students desired this. Rather, he wanted to bring out the talents and blessing possessed by each.
In order to instill within the students the fundamental ideas of the holiness of the Torah, the Nation of Israel, and the Land of Israel, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would repeat the same thoughts hundreds of times until the students knew them by heart. He would use the same words, the same metaphors, even the same facial expression. He did not repeat these ideas because he thought the students did not know them, but he decided that there was an educational need to do so (see Rashi on Shemot, 6:30). These ideas thus became an inseparable part of the students. He said that in times of crisis, especially in communal and international matters, these ideas find their greatest expression.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda once told one student one thing and another student the exact opposite. When asked why he did this, he answered that in the past there were both Hillel and Shammai. He explained that Shammai was able to judge cases with strictness because there was Hillel, and Hillel was able to teach the entire Torah while standing on one foot because there was Shammai. “But what can I do,” he said, “since I have to be both Hillel and Shammai.” 1
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related to every one of his students as if he were his only child. Even though thousands of students passed through the Yeshiva over the years, many were certain that he was HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s most beloved. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would invest everything he had in anyone who came to him. Even if many people, or important personages, waited for him outside – whether for a class or a scheduled meeting – he would finish his discussion with a student only after providing him with what he needed.
Many times students sat in HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s house, hour after hour, until late at night. He was once asked, doesn’t a certain student waste the Rosh Yeshiva’s time, engaging him in long discussions when there were many students and sometimes large groups who waited on line to see him. He responded: “My wife also once said to me: ‘Why do you sit so long with this young man – it is for naught.’ I said to her: ‘When there is a need, there is a need. Someone who comes and needs me to speak to him, I devote myself, and devote myself, and devote myself, without any calculation.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda knew the names of all of the students, and always referred to them by their first name. Each student who was close to the Rabbi felt that he was Rabbenu’s prize student. When a student would inform HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that he was leaving the Yeshiva, the Rosh Yeshiva would burst out in tears.
When there were weak students in the Yeshiva who had difficulty in learning, he would pair them together with stronger students and tell the more able learners: “Even if this holds you back, you need self-sacrifice for others.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda told to his students: If you see a “hanhagah” (practice) which I perform, do not perform it. I am not a Rebbe. Eat a meal with me because it is “seudah shelishit” (the third meal of Shabbat), not because I am a Rebbe who passes out “Shirayim” (leftovers – a custom followed by the students of Chasidic Rebbes). 2
Serving Torah Scholars
A student who was serving as a “shamash” in HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s home when the elderly Rabbi was ill was in doubt whether Elisha’s pouring water on Eliyahu’s hands could be considered “shimush Talmedei Chachamim” – serving Torah Scholars,” (Berachot 7B. See Rabbi Kook’s commentary, “Ein Aya” – Berachot, Ch. 1:87). Once, when he brought Rabbenu a cup of tea, he asked: “HaRav, is this serving a Torah Scholar?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was quiet for a long time, then said: “It is unclear if I am worthy of being called a Torah Scholar.” He was quiet again and then added: “The essence of serving a Torah Scholar is in learning halachic reasoning, as Rashi explains,” (Berachot 47B). 3
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda gave permission for students to attend a protest (since there are times when stopping learning Torah leads to greater observance of Torah), this ruling was for older students exclusively. 4
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that the guidance of our Sages in Mishna Avot, “Get yourself a teacher,” requires more toil than, “Acquire a friend for yourself.” 5
When Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav was in its original building on Rav Kook Street, to our embarrassment and disgrace, there was a specific place right outside where people would wait for prostitutes. Every time students left the building for any reason, they encountered this distressing situation which was the complete opposite of the sanctity and holiness of the Yeshiva. The students complained to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and asked him to move the Yeshiva to a different place, but he told them that at the present time it was not possible. He said the students needed to be strong. Even though he agreed to move the Yeshiva when it became possible, this was not because they were running away or avoiding the problem. Rather, it was because of self-respect and holy valor. In general, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda taught students not to become hermits secluded from the world. He advised them to continue to behave in a normal fashion, training themselves not to look at unholy behavior wherever it occurred. The Tur writes about this in his introduction to Orach Chaim: “‘Be as light as an eagle,’ (Pirkei Avot, 5:20), refers to avoiding immodest behavior and actions that your eyes can see – just as an eagle swiftly glides through the air, you must be swift to close your eyes to prevent yourself from seeing immodest behavior, because the sight of negative behavior constitutes the beginning of sin. The eyes see and the heart desires and the organs capable of action culminate the sin.” 6
On one occasion, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda arrived at the Yeshiva for a class in Tanach, but no students arrived. The Rabbi immediately stepped forward and began to lead the Ma’ariv service. He informed the students that he would no longer be coming to the Yeshiva. When they responded: “But Rabbi, you are the dean of the Yeshiva – let the students leave and the Rabbi stay!” The Rabbi said: “I do not believe in religious coercion!”
Once, a group of students from the Religious Kibbutz Movement was scheduled to come and study at Mercaz HaRav for a month. Some of the Yeshiva students complained that the Yeshiva was unable to absorb so many students, and that in order to strengthen the atmosphere of intensive Torah study, the Yeshiva had to first become crystallized from within. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda though was uncompromising in his desire to receive the group, exclaiming, “Any thought of divorcing our Yeshiva from people engaged in the concrete settlement of the Land of Israel will not come to pass.”
A student once asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda what he should do with his life. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked him: “What do you want to do?” The dedicated student responded: “I want to do what the Rav wants me to do.” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda repeated: “But what do you want to do?” Once again, the student answered that he wanted to do whatever the Rosh Yeshiva advised. Patiently, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked him a third time, with a tone that demanded a more introspective response. Finally, the student revealed his heart’s true desire. “Then do it!” Rav Tzvi Yehuda said. This was HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s way: to educate each student according to his natural direction, according to his individual talent and leaning, to encourage creativity and the free healthy development of each person’s potential, (see Mishlei ,22:6). 7
A student told HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that he was going home because he ran out of clean clothing. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda took money out of his pocket, gave it to him and told him where he could do laundry. 8
A number of students tried to refuse financial support from the Yeshiva (perhaps due to the opinion of Rambam that one should not receive money for learning Torah), yet HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was adamant that they receive a stipend.
In response to the claim that some married students received higher stipends than others, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda requested Rav Noson (Rabbi Ra’anan Kook, Rabbi Kook’s son-in-law) to make all Yeshiva stipends equal so that there be no jealousy among students. In response to Rav Noson’s, “Where will I come up with the money?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded, “From the place where there is money for one, you will find money for all.”
When there came a request to increase stipends for students with larger families, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said, “Mercaz HaRav is not a Kollel. We help students until they find their place in life, with an emphasis on preparing them as educators, Roshei Yeshivot, and community Rabbis.”
Honoring Torah Scholars
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda felt an immense love for all Torah Scholars. He would speak about a Torah Scholar with an awe of holiness and a rejoicing of the heart. When he met many Torah Scholars, whether or not they were his students, he would hug and kiss them – in the manner of Yehoshafat, King of Yehuda, (Ketubot 103B). He rejoiced in their honor and was distressed when they were the subject of derision, or, even worse, when they scorned others. He was exceedingly severe with a person who shamed a Torah Scholar, even with Torah Scholars themselves who stumbled in this matter.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda stood up before students who were Torah Scholars. He said that the honor of Torah Scholars requires one to be fastidious in showing them the honor they deserve.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda honored every Torah Scholar, even he if he disagreed with him, and he instructed his students to act in the same manner. When he heard a student repeat an expression which he himself had used when disagreeing with another Torah Scholar, he chastised him, saying, “That which is permissible to me is not permissible to you.” Occasionally, when he thought that a Torah Scholar erred, he spoke harshly, but only regarding the subject itself, and with respect.
In this context, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda relied on what is related in the book “Keter Shem Tov,” that the Ba’al Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement, had a fierce opponent, Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka who would constantly criticize him. One time, this same Rabbi heard his students speaking against the Ba’al Shem Tov, and he castigated them, saying, “How dare you speak that way against a holy man!” They responded, “But you yourself spoke out against him.” He then replied with exceeding severity, “The way that is permissible for me to speak is not permissible for you.” He then told a story of two craftsmen who worked together for twenty years in order to fashion the king’s crown. In the end, when the time came to set the diamonds in the crown, one said it should be one way and the other countered that it should be done in another manner. The argument grew in intensity until one craftsman called the other an idiot. A passerby who witnessed the argument injected his own words and called the man an idiot as well. The first craftsman, who had called the other an idiot, then said, “Are you aware that we are friends and that we have worked together for twenty years making the king’s crown? Our lives depend on this last detail and that is why we are expressing ourselves so sharply. But you! Have you lifted even a finger for the king’s crown? Have you ever in your life seen the king? YOU are the idiot!”
We learned that even when Torah Scholars argue over Halachah, we – the insignificant – must stand in fear and awe and honor them all.
When telling stories about his experiences with people, he had a completely different style of relating to Torah Scholars. The designation, “Talmid Chacham” (Torah Scholar) was the most important title in his eyes without any distinction regarding with which Orthodox group the Rabbi in question was connected.
During a class, when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda saw a Torah Scholar standing in the outer room, he would call to him to enter and to sit close to him, saying: “There is room,” even though the bench next to him was full.
Even though the Satmar Rebbe had a completely different outlook from HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, he never scorned or denigrated him. Once HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, z’tzal, issued a ruling regarding the height of a mechitzah (partition) between men and women in a synagogue, noting that in pressing situations it is permissible to be lenient in this particular issue. The Satmar Rebbe came out against him. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said: “It is known that our paths are separate and different, but in this issue, he (the Satmar Rebbe) is correct.” Even though they were polar opposites regarding the question how the Redemption of Israel was destined to unfold, and in matters concerning Klal Yisrael (the entirety of the Jewish People), HaRav Tzvi Yehuda never said one negative word about him. For example, Rabbenu taught that the Master of the Universe was explicitedly showing us all of the signs of the Redemption written in the Book of Ezekiel, Chapter 36, regarding the end of Galut and the ingathering of the Exiles to Zion via the establishment of the State of Israel. In contrast, Satmar was vehemently opposed to Medinat Yisrael and Tzahal.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and Neturei Karta
The anti-Zionist group, Neturei Karta, organized a protest against taxes on education which were established by the British in Eretz Yisrael, whereby the money would be divided up by the municipality in a proportional manner. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda also participated in the protest. A student was surprised: Why is HaRav participating in a protest with Neturei Karta which caused so much trouble to his father, the Chief Rabbi? HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “For what they did to Abba, HaRav, z”l, they either have received a punishment or will receive one. Nonetheless, when they are correct in some matter – they are correct!” 9
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that not everyone in Meah Shearim is Neturei Karta. In fact, many people in Meah Shearim would greet him warmly when encountering him on the sidewalks of the neighborhood. 10
It once happened that a student in the Yeshiva did not daven Ma’ariv at the conclusion of Shabbat. He therefore went to Meah Shearim, to find a late minyan. Approaching a shtiebel known for its late minyans, he encountered HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, who also had not davened Ma’ariv. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda spoke with the student for almost two hours about the anti-Zionist philosophy of the Neturei Karta. Afterward, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda brought him to the shul of the Chasidim of Reb Arele Roth (a group known as Toldos Aharon who are also intensely anti-Zionist). When they entered the large hall, all eyes turned toward HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. They Hasidim finished the blessing after eating and the davened Ma’ariv as if they were completely on fire. They then stood in line to say “Shalom” to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. When they left the Ultra-Orthodox stronghold, the student remarked in wonder, “Before we arrived here, you spoke for nearly two hours against the Neturei Karta, and here they stood in line to greet the Rav?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded, “One can learn from everyone. How to pray – this is learned here. You should know that when my father, HaRav z’tz”l, desired to hear the fervent prayer of, ‘All my bones will speak,’ (Tehillim, 35:10), he would come here.” Two weeks later, the student was walking in Meah Shearim. One of the Chasidim of Reb Arele ran after him, saying “Send regards to Rav Tzvi Yehuda from so-and-so.” When he related this to Rabbenu, he said, “The man is an expert in the writings of my father, HaRav, but he learns my father’s books in secret because if it was discovered he would be in danger since he was born into the Neturei Karta community.”
In fundamental and principled matters, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not differentiate between this stream and that stream. For example, in protests against autopsies, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would always participate with whatever Orthodox group organized the demonstration. 11
Disparaging Torah Scholars
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda taught us to revere all Torah Scholars. One of his students once disparaged Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Rabbis and blamed them for Jews dying in the Holocaust. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda castigated him: “Before all else, you must learn the meaning of treating Torah Scholars with respect!” He spent the next several hours explaining to him this foundation of Torah. 12
When Rabbi Kook, his father, sent him to Europe, he met with many Torah Gedolim, and he would mention them with an attitude of holy awe, whether they were connected to the Charedi or “Mizrachi” communities. Also, while he was Rosh Yeshiva, he had connections with Torah Scholars from all of the groups. He was particularly close with the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hevron, HaGaon HaRav Yechezkel Sarna. And there was also great mutual respect between HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and the Gerrer Rebbe.
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was informed of the passing of HaGaon from Tshavil from the Council of Torah Sages who was one of the Torah Giants of the generation, he did not respond since it was Shabbat, but during Havdalah his hand shook and wine spilled from the cup. Immediately after Havdalah, he burst into tears and continued to cry bitterly for several hours.
Every time that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda mentioned the Vilna Gaon, he shuddered as if he stood before a divine angel, and he would refer to him with only one word: “HaGaon” (the Genius).
It once happened that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was called up to recite one of the blessings at a wedding and they referred to him as “HaRav Ha-Gaon.” He did not move. When he was told that he had been called up, he explained that he is not a “Gaon” and that it is only proper to use this description for the Vilna Gaon.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda spoke about the book “Likutei Halachot” of the Chofetz Chaim, which resembles the “Mishnah Berurah” for sacrifices in the Temple. The Chofetz Chaim asked his close friend HaGaon HaRav Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Te’omim, HaAderet – the Rav of Ponovezh and Maran HaRav Kook’s father-in-law – to write an approbation for the book. HaAderet said to his son-in-law, Rabbi Kook, “I received a letter from Reb Yisrael Meir, the Chofetz Chaim. He informed me that he is preparing to publish a sort of ‘Mishnah Berurah’ on sacrifices, and he asked me to write a letter of support and an approbation. I want to honor his request immediately, without delay. But that is impossible because of the great Rabbinic demands of a big city which leave me absolutely no time to rest. I am therefore asking you do me this favor – you write it. What you write will be in my spirit, and it will be as if I wrote it.” Maran HaRav Kook prepared the letter for him and gave it to him to sign. Within the lengthy letter, full of feelings of holiness for the expectation of Salvation, yearnings for the Temple and the sacrifices, he brought a teaching of our Sages: “Rabbi Yochanan said: The Torah Scholars who engaged in the Laws of the Temple Service are considered as if they build the Temple in their days.” To clarify this, Rabbi Kook explained that being “engaged in” the Laws of the Temple Service means not simply reciting the order of the service as printed in the siddurim. Rather the word “engaged in” means to learn the subject in depth and to toil in its elucidation in the manner of a Torah Scholar who labors to formulate the Halachah. The Aderet said to Rabbi Kook: “How can I sign my name to this when you added your own original teaching? How can I attribute to myself a novel idea of yours?” HaAderet therefore added a sentence before the innovative explanation: “And his honor, the well-known Gaon, the Av Beit Din of Boisk, who is praised, our teacher, HaRav Avraham HaKohen, may his light illuminate us, pointed out to me…” The Aderet then signed the letter.
In the year 5681 (1920), HaRav Tzvi Yehuda traveled to Poland to meet with Rabbis and Chasidic Rebbes to convince them to join the “Degel Yerushalayim” movement which Maran HaRav Kook established to infuse the Zionist Movement with Torah and holiness. At that time, the Chofetz Chaim came to Warsaw. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda hurried to the place where the famous Rabbi was staying , longing to see the splendor of the most righteous person of the generation. He found him surrounded by people. After over an hour, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda approached to say hello. The Chofetz Chaim asked: “Are you a local?” HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded: “No, I am from Jerusalem,” and he added: “Your honor was close with Rabbi Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Te’omim, father-in-law of my father.” When the Chofetz Chaim understood whose son was standing before him, his face lit up and he joyfully said: “Your honor is the son of the Rav of Zoimel, the Rav of Boisk, the Rav of Jaffa, the Rav of Jerusalem? Then why does he speak about his grandfather? Tell me about your father! How is he? We are old and close friends.”
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related that he heard from the family members of the Chofetz Chaim that during the late hours of the night, not exactly at midnight, the Chofetz Chaim would speak with Hashem regarding the Redemption of Israel, saying: “Master of the Universe, I, Reb Yisrael Meir, also want to merit greeting the Melech Mashiach. Please, bring the Redemption,” and other such prayers. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would add: “It seems that there is great value in Heaven to prayers such as these from great Tzaddikim.”
Teachings Heard from the Chofetz Chaim
. The Chofetz Chaim said: Fulfilling a mitzvah in the Land of Israel is twenty times greater than performing the mitzvah outside of the Land. 13
- HaGaon Reb Leib, the son of the Chofetz Chaim, told HaRav Tzvi Yehuda that when they began to build Rishon L’Tzion his father said to him: “Reb Leib, it has begun,” i.e. the beginning of the Redemption is underway. 14
- HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related: “A few years ago, a Torah Scholar told me that a few young men in Poland wanted to avoid military service in the non-Jewish army because they didn’t want to waste time from learning Torah. They wanted to physically injure themselves and disqualify themselves from Polish military service. But the Chofetz Chaim opposed this. He said to them, ‘A person is not permitted to injure himself. The body is not his. And why avoid service? You can practice in the Army. The Mashiach will arrive soon. There will be a Jewish State. And when there is a Jewish State, there will be a need for an army. Prepare here. Thus, you have the opportunity to prepare for the army of the State of Israel.'” 15
Reb Leib, the son of the Chofetz Chaim, was a great Torah Scholar. He wrote part of the ”Mishnah Berurah” with his father. When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda visited him, he gave him “Orot,” “Eder HaYekar” and other books of Rabbi Kook to read. Reb Leib flipped through them. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda also gave him “Rosh Milin” (a deep mystical explantion of the Herew letters which HaRav Kook wrote in his youth). Reb Leib began to read the first page, but did not continue. He closed the book and said: “The Rav who wrote this is great in understanding. I do not fathom it.” 16
Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, head of the famous Volozhin Yeshiva, was known as the Netziv. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related that the Netziv’s wife traveled to Moscow for surgery. The students approached the Netziv and pleaded that he permit them to stop the learning in the Yeshiva so they could recite Tehillim. He reluctantly agreed on condition that it would be exactly for five minutes and not any longer. He stood over them with his watch so it would not be even half a second more. “Stop learning in the Volozhin Yeshiva?” he exclaimed. “Don’t heaven and earth exist because of the Torah which is learned here!” 17
HaRav Yitzchak Hutner
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said about HaRav Yitzchak Hutner, who was a family relative and educated by Rabbi Kook in his youth: “It seems that he has grown disillusioned with Zionists.” Nonetheless, HaRav Eliezer Waldman said that Rav Hutner remarked that, “Rav Kook was 20 times as great as those who opposed him.” Similarly, Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neria heard HaRav Hutner say, “If I would not have met Rav Kook, I would be lacking 50 percent of myself.” Rav Hutner died during the period of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s illness. Students feared for HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s health, and they therefore did not inform him. The custom was to bring HaRav Tzvi Yehuda newly published books, and when the book “Igrot v’Ketavim” of Rav Hutner was published, it was also placed on the table of new books. When Rabbenu opened the book and read the epitaph indicating that the author had passed away, he was visibly shaken. “What is written here? I do not understand?! How is this possible?” he asked. The students, who were concerned for his health, took the opportunity to hide the book.
Rabbi Aryeh Levin – the Tzaddik of Jerusalem
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda once walked with Reb Aryeh on Shabbat and someone was smoking not far away. Reb Aryeh ran to the person and said: How can you smoke in the street on Shabbat where Rav Kook is walking?
Often, when people were looking for advice, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would send them to Rev Aryeh. 19
Reb Chaim Brisker
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would relate in the name of Reb Chaim Brisker that anyone who is not capable of closing the Gemara in order to perform an act of loving-kindness when there is no one else to do so is also not suited to open the Gemara to learn it! 20
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and HaGaon Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik
Rabbi Norman Lamm wrote that Rav Avraham Shapira told him: “When the Rav (Rav Soloveitchik) came to visit Israel the one and only time during his life, in 1935, it was the last year of the life of Chief Rabbi Kook. The Rav spoke at several places: at Mercaz HaRav, at the Harry Fischel Institute, and at several other yeshivot. At every shiur that he gave, Rabbi Kook’s son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda, attended and listened attentively. When Rabbi Shapira asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda why he went to hear every shiur, he answered as that his father had met with Rabbi Soloveitchik and they “talked while learning.” When their meeting ended and Rabbi Soloveitchik left, Rabbi Kook said the experience of speaking with Reb Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik reminded him of his earliest years when he was a student at the Yeshiva of Volozhin, during the time that Rabbi Soloveitchik’s grandfather, Reb Hayyim Soloveitchik, first started to give shiurim. “I believe,” Rabbi Kook said, “that the power of genius of the grandfather now resides with the grandson – and therefore,” he said to his son, “you should not miss a single shiur by Reb Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik.” 21
Someone visited HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and told him in the name of the Torah illuminary Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik that the Torah Scholars who are outside of Israel need to remain there in order to educate the Jewish communities there. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda responded harshly and painfully: “But assimilation devours them there.” 22
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that she was a Torah Scholar. He praised her greatly for her seriousness and fear of Heaven. When she heard about how HaRav Tzvi Yehuda related to her, she felt immense respect. In contrast, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that her brother (Yeshayahu Leibowitz – a controversial Israeli philosopher) caused damage and was dangerous. 23
HaRav David Cohen, “HaNazir”
In the middle of a class at the Nazir’s house, on Rechov Amos in the Geula neighborhood, he said to his students: “Stand up, stand up. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda is passing by in the street.” When they went out to the porch, they indeed saw HaRav Tzvi Yehuda passing the house. This incident illustrates the deep connection between the two Torah colleagues.
Regarding the book “Kol HaNevuah” (The Voice of Prophecy), HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said that this is the personal book of “HaNazir.” The book was placed in the last row in HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s bookshelf which was covered by a curtain. He said, “It is dangerous to talk about prophecy today.” 24
HaRav Natan Ra’anan
HaRav Natan Ra’anan was the son-in-law of our master teacher, Rav Kook. An outstanding Talmid Chacham, he was involved in the management of the Yeshiva. At a gathering for Yom Yerushalayim, Rav “Nosen” (as he was known) was the opening speaker. Rav Nosen was introduced and referred to as Rav Kook’s son-in-law, along with a few other titles. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda felt that they did not honor him with enough titles and ask the introducer to add more.
HaRav Shlomo Goren
HaRav Sholmo Goren was the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, famous for carrying a small Sefer Torah and blowing the shofar as he charged through the Old City with the paratroopers who liberated Har HaBayit and the Kotel in the Six Day War. Later, he was chosen to be Chief Rabbi of Israel due to the votes he received from the secularists who also voted for the position of the Chief Rabbi, even though all of the great Rabbis of the generation came out against him. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked why he so highly respected Rav Goren. He responded: “It is not true that all of the great Rabbis of the generation came out against him. Many great Rabbis, deciders of Halachah, publicized their opinions that no one should question his rulings.” This included HaGaon HaRav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin who publicized near the end of his life that, G-d forbid, should anyone question the rulings of HaGaon Rav Shlomo Goren. 25
When HaGaon HaRav Goren, the Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, spoke in the Yeshiva on Yom HaAtzmaut, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda stood up for the duration of his speech. 26
Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna
When Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda used to meet with Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna, dean of the Hebron Yeshiva, they would embrace each other most warmly.
Once, when I learned that the Rabbi was planning to travel to the Ponovezh Yeshiva in order to analyze some handwritten manuscripts of the Aderet which were archived there, I decided to join him. As we entered the Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, the Rabbi told me that Rabbi Kahaneman was deserving of great merit for having established such a center for Torah study, but added that the institution’s name was tainted by the fact that its students had insulted two important Torah scholars – Rabbi Herzog zt”l and Rabbi Unterman zt”l – and the response of the Yeshiva’s administration had not been strong enough in condemning the abuse of Torah Scholars. As we were leaving, Rabbi Kahaneman asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda how he planned to return to Yerushalayim. When Rabbenu responded that he intended on taking the bus, Rabbi Kahaneman said that time is Torah, and suggested that the Rabbi take a taxi. While we had traveled by bus to Bnei Brak, Rabbenu agreed to return to Yerushalayim in a taxi, explaining, “It is a mitzvah to obey the words of a Torah Scholar.”
Reb Shlomo Carlebach
Reb Shlomo Carlebach would sometimes come to daven in Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in the old building. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda asked him what he teaches Jews who are far from Judaism in order for them to give up drugs and transgression and to come close to Torah. He responded: the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslav and the Izbitzer Rebbe. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda warned him: “These teaching are themselves drugs.”
When HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was asked about Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s overly close connection to women, he responded that he is a kosher person on a personal level, but we should not learn anything from him in this area.
HaRav Meir Kahane
When Rav Kahane made Aliyah, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda greatly encouraged him, and when he asked for HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s support in his run for the Knesset, he gave him a letter and said it is proper to enable him to have his say in the Knesset. 27
HaGaon Rav Shaul Yisraeli
When HaGaon Rav Shaul Yisraeli, z’tzal, arrived from Kefar HaRo’eh (one of the first religious agricultural settlements, where he was the founding Rabbi from 1938-1966) to Jerusalem, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda appointed him as a maggid shiur in the Yeshiva (one who teaches a regular class). The class, which was held every Thursday, would run overtime each week, and Ma’ariv would be delayed until the completion of the class. On the third week that the class was given, it was the Thursday before Selichot are recited and Rav Yisraeli, as usual, ran overtime. A group of students stood outside and waited for Ma’ariv. When they saw that the time passed and Rav Yisraeli still had not finished the class, they stood in the women’s section and davened Ma’ariv. This obviously disturbed the flow of Rav Yisraeli’s class. The next day this was related to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. He did not respond at that moment, but rather chose to wait for the appropriate time. On Shabbat night, after his regular talk in his home, the students asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda when they should come in order to bring him to Selichot. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda answered: “In Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav there will be no Selichot.” At first they did not understand what the Rosh Yeshiva meant. Again they reminded him that the recitation of Selichot was on hand. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s answer was: “I know, but Torah Scholars are shamed in Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav and there is no reason to say Selichot.” Midnight arrived. All of the Rabbis and students of the Yeshiva gathered in the beit midrash, except for HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. No one was brazen enough to defy the words of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and no one said Selichot. Meanwhile, they sent emissaries to convince HaRav Tzvi Yehuda to come, and after approximately half an hour, the Rosh Yeshiva appeared. He entered the hall in anger, took a shtender, placed it in the middle of the hall, pounded on it, and said: “Here we will not say Selichot! Here Torah Scholars are shamed!” After a short speech on the gravity of shaming Talmidei Chachamim, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda announced, “Anyone who was involved in this shaming and who does not come forward, from this moment steals from the Yeshiva; anything he eats or anything he uses from the Yeshiva’s property will be something which he stole.” Three students, trembling with fear, approached and stood next to HaRav Tzvi Yehuda. He called out, “Three does not make a minyan. I am waiting for at least another seven.” The students explained that the minyan included guests and other students who were not currently in the hall. The Rabbi accepted their explanation. From then on he lowered the tone of his words. He turned to the three students who stood before him and said to them in a quiet tone: “You must know that what you did was a grave offense, and it is incumbent upon you to request, with all of your heart, forgiveness from Rav Yisraeli. Even though he is not obligated to forgive the insult done to him, you must plead before him that he should nevertheless forgive you.” Immediately after these words, the students approached Rav Yisraeli, and before they opened their mouths, he said: “I forgive you.” Then HaRav Tzvi Yehuda declared: “Ashrei yoshvei beitecha…” (the beginning of Selichot) and everyone joined in their recitement. We all learned a great lesson that day, and it was worth delaying the Selichot in order for us to understand how severe is the transgression of shaming Torah Scholars.
Honor Due the Chief Rabbi
It once happened that the political parties decided to arrange new elections for the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and to replace the Sefardic Chief Rabbi, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchak Nissim, because of their unease with his great independence and his inflexibility with regard to governmental demands. For example, on the day of the memorial for President Weisman, he refused to attend because it was established according to the Christian date and because the ceremony was devoid of any Jewish character. Ben Gurion was extremely offended and said that the Chief Rabbi is a functionary “pekid” (a clerk) of the State who is obligated to come. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was outraged by this audacity to designate the Chief Rabbi as a “functionary” and to order him around. On Simchat Torah, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda went out with the students and hundreds of others who joined and danced from the Yeshiva to the house of the HaRav Nissim in the neighborhood of Talbiya in order to demonstrate his support for the Chief Rabbi and to protest against the politicians who think that the Chief Rabbi is a functionary who can be easily replaced. Despite the far distance, he strengthened himself and danced the entire way. The following year a call came from the home of the Chief Rabbi to ask what time the Yeshiva would be arriving. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, however, was not planning to dance this long distance since the entire affair was over, and the Chief Rabbi remained in his position. But in order not to insult the honor of Torah, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda continued the custom. Also when HaGaon Rav Isser Unterman was chosen as Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi, the Yeshiva danced to the Yeshurun Synagogue in order not to favor one Chief Rabbi over the other.
Ascending on High
One of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s students visited HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in the hospital during the last year of his life, the year 5742. The student said that the gematria (the numerical value) of “Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook” is also 5742. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not respond, as was his way regarding gematriot. A few weeks before HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s passing, when this student visited HaRav Tzvi Yehuda once again, Rabbenu pointed at him and said: “You are the one who told me the gematria!” 1
After HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s surgery, the doctor came and saw that he was in pain. He asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda: “What is bothering you?” He responded: “It bothers me that the majority of the Nation of Israel is in Exile.” 2
During his final days, when HaRav Tzvi Yehuda was extremely ill and suffered greatly, many people visited until late at night. After midnight, when the visitors left, he looked down the hall and said: “No one is here anymore.” He then burst out in screams of pain which he had kept inside since he did not want to frighten anyone.
Rabbenu refused to take painkillers because they blur one’s thought, and he wanted to be clear and connected to Hashem all of the time. Once the doctors, who knew his condition quite well, gave him painkillers in his medicine without his knowledge. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, however, felt it. He placed a student in front of him and spoke words of Torah, forcing himself to remain lucid and alert. When he felt the blurring influence of the painkillers waning, he told the student that he could leave. 3
During his last hours (which were on Purim), HaRav Tzvi Yehuda did not have the strength to speak, yet he always smiled and held the hand of HaRav HaGaon Rav Avraham Shapira, ztz”l. He finally managed to say: “Purim samach!” May you have a happy Purim. 4
Slightly before HaRav Tzvi Yehuda left this world, he began to speak about going to the World to Come and meeting his wife and his father, Rabbi Kook. 5
[The gravestones of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and his father, HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook side-by-side on Mount of Olives.]
Father and Son
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda” – Devarim, Netzavim-Vayelech, Second Edition, Section 20.
- The book “Tzemach Tzvi” by HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook. Pg. 11.
- Letter 555, “Igrot HaRe’eiyah,” Vol. 2, pp. 184-198.
- Cited by Raphael K.
- Cited by HaRav Achyah Amitai.
- Maran HaGaon Rav Avraham Elkanah Kahana Shapira, z’tzal.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald in the name of HaRav Avraham Remer.
- HaRav Avraham Elkanah Kahana Shapira z’tzal.
- HaRav Yitzchak Dadon, “Nishkafah Kemo Shachar,” pp. 47-49.
- HaRav Yosef Buxbaum.
- Cited in the bulletin, “Choveret Avanim Levavot,” p. 24.
- HaRav Avraham Shapira, quoted in “Imrei Shefer” of Rav Yitzchak Dadon, p. 261.
- From the book, “Imrei Shefer” of HaRav Yitzchak Dadon, pp. 236-237.
- “Gadol Shimusha” p. 45
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda” – Devarim, pg. 334.
- “HaTorah HaGoelet” by Rabbi Haim Avihu Schwartz, Vol.4, pgs. 305-306.
- Told by HaRav Moshe Tzvi Neriah.
- Related by HaRav Oded Valensky in the pamphlet “Iturei Cohanim” #262.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #57.
- Cited by HaRav Yosef Kapach.
- HaRav Avraham Remer – “Iturei Cohanim” #83.
- From a documentary film made for 70th Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Kook.
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda” #51. See also, “Mareh Kohen” by HaRav Yaakov Filber, p. 139, including photographs of the untouched grave and its destroyed surroundings immediately after the Six-Day War.
His Younger Years
- The book, “Shivchei HaRe’eiyah,” pg. 60.
- Ibid; pp. 223, 233-234.
- “B’Derech HaTorah HaGoelet,” pg. 108.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald.
- Cited by HaRav Dov Lior, who heard it from one of the students, as noted in, “B’Derech HaTorah HaGoelet,” pg. 108.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” pg. 38, #1.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” pg. 91, #31.
- “Igrot Rabbenu” from 24 Adar Rishon, 5727.
- “LeNetivot Yisrael,” Vol. 2, pg. 239. From “Shut Sheilat Shlomo,” by HaRav Shlomo Aviner, 3:14.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” pg. 54.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #212.
- “Iturei Yerushalayim” #6.
- “L’Netivot Yisrael,” vol. 2, pg. 238; in the edition of M’Avnei HaMakom, vol. 2, pg. 562.
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda” – Bemidbar, pg. 390.
- “Iturei Yerushalayim” #65.
- “Sichot Rabbenu,” Yom HaAtzmaut 5727, Mizmor 19 of Medinat Yisrael, pg. 76, #11.
- HaRav Yehoshua Zuckerman – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #6.
- “Kinyan Torah” of HaRav Yosef Elnakveh, 2, pp. 73-74.
- “Sidrei Tzava V’Yeshiva” #4. Sefer “Am V’Artzo,” vol. 2, pp. 523-531.
- Cited by Efrat Bedichi.
- See “L’Hilchot Tzibur” #1.
- The booklet was later printed in the book by HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, “L’Netivot Yisrael,” Vol. 1 #23.
- HaRav Tzvi Kostiner – “Iturei Cohanim” #246.
- From HaRav Chaim Steiner.
- “Iturei Yerushalayim” #64.
- Cited by HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald.
- “Iturei Yerushalayim” #26.
- Cited by HaRav Tzefanyah Derori.
- HaRav Eliyahu Mali.
- HaRav Yosef Bramson.
- HaRav Avraham Yitzchak Neriya in the book “Afik Ba-Negev,” p. 233. Also, “Iturei Cohanim” #83.
- “LeShelosha B’Elul,” Vol.1 #76.
- Parasha Sheet “Kol Tzofa’ich” #279
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda,” Eretz Yisrael, 142, note 1.
- “Be-Derech Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet,” p. 170.
- “Iturei Cohanim” -Sivan 5766 #261.
- Amnon Bardat from HaRav Oded Valensky – “Iturei Cohanim” #57.
- HaRav Yitzchak Dadon in the book “Nishkafah Kemo Shachar,” pp. 29-30. “Iturei Yerushalayim” #6)
- HaRav Tzvi Tau – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #6
- “Iturei Cohanim” Elul 5766 #264, p. 48, in name of Rabbi Yitzchak Shilat.
- Sefer “LeHilchot Tzibur” #98.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #35.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #176.
- Cited by HaRav Eliyahu Mali.
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda” – Eretz Yisrael, pp. 259-266.
- “Tzvi Kodesh,” p. 269.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” p. 89.
- HaRav Yitzchak Shilat in the name of HaRav Yaakov Cohain in the booklet, “Arba’im Le-Binah,” p. 23.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #242, in the name of Geulah Cohen.
- “Tzvi Kodesh,” p. 269.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” p. 30.
- Sefer “Eretz Ha-Tzvi,” p. 19.
- HaRav Chanan Porat – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #6.
- “L’Hilchot Tzibur,” p. 214, p. 226.
- From the booklet “Arba’im L’Binah” by HaRav Yitzchak Shlita, pp. 27-28.
- “L’Shelosha B’Elul,” Vol 1, p. 59, #71.
- The book “Rav HaKotel” by Simchah Raz, p. 239; and see “Sichot Rabbenu” 9, Ish V’Eisha, 15.
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda,”addendum at the end of, “And for the slanderers let there be no hope.”
- See Sanhedrin 5B; Eruvin 63A; and Rambam, Hilchot Talmud Torah, 5:3.
- From the book, “L’Mikdashech Tuv,” pp. 11-14.
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda,” Sidra 2, Tazria, Parashat HaChodesh 3-4; Emunah, Sichah 15:8).
- The book, “Rav HaKotel,” p. 306.
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda,” Chapters of Mashiach, 4; Talmud Torah, 1, Addendum 2; See also, “L’Netivot Yisrael,” Vol. 1, #23.
- “L’Mikdashech Tuv,” p. 180.
- “Siturei Cohanim,” #57, told by HaRav Avraham Remer.
- Cited by HaRav Eliezer Waldman.
- HaRav Eli Horowitz, HY”D, in “M’Emek Chevron” Vol. 2, Elul 5763, pg. 94.
- HaRav Avraham Remer – “Iturei Cohanim” #83.
- Cited by HaRav Yeshayahu Doron; and see “L’Netivot Yisrael,” Vol. 2, pg. 159. Also, “Iturei Yerushalayim” #6.
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda” – Eretz Yisrael, pg. 374.
Around the Year
- From HaRav Avihu Schwartz in “Iturei Cohanim” #81.
- HaRav Yosef Bedichi in “Iturei Yerushalayim” #21.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #112.
- Cited by HaRav Chanan Porat. See “Olat Re’eiyah” Vol. 2, p. 421, #95 for HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s explanation of this change. Also, “Iturei Cohanim” #221.
- HaRav Eliyahu Mali – “Iturei Cohanim” #262.
- One who is temporarily located in a different place than his home acts according to the stringencies of the place from which he left, and according to the stringencies of the place to which he came, (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 468). He must therefore put on Tefillin in private on his weekdays, and similarly perform Havdalah in private without extinguishing the candle, (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 493, and Mishnah Berurah #13, Chayei Adam 103:4; and see Shut Orach Mishpat #157-159 at length).
- See “Tzemach Tzvi,” Letter 27.
- From L’Shelosha b’Elul,” [Mehadurat 5763], pg. 54, #50. Also “Tzvi Kodesh,” pp. 59-60.
- From HaGaon HaRav Avraham Shapira in “Mikra’ei Kodesh” of HaRav Moshe Harari, pg. 284.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” pg. 102.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” p. 94.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” p. 91.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #265, in the name of HaRav Tzvi Kostiner.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #3.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” pg. 119.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” pg. 120.
- HaRav Yehoshua Weitzman.
- HaRav Yosef Kelner.
- HaRav Binyamin Eisner – “Iturei Cohanim” #196.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #181.
- “Haggadah” with commentary of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, pg. 93.
- HaRav Eli Horvitz, HY”D, in “M’Emek Chevron,” 2 Elul 5762, pg. 94.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” pg. 80.
- “Sefer Tzvi Kodesh,” pg. 241.
- Rabbanit Chana Tau, “Am Nolad,” pg. 17. See, “Sichot of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda,” The Holocaust.
- HaRav Yitzchak Shilat, quoted in the book “Melumdei Milchamah” of HaRav Nachum Eliezer Rabinovitz. See “Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam” #187; and “Moreh Nevuchim,” 3:50.
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda” – Eretz Yisrael, pp. 264-265.
- “L’Netivot Yisrael,” by HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, Vol. 1, pg. 179. And see, “Sefer Tal Hermon – Moadim,” by HaRav Shlomo Aviner, pp. 95-96, note 97).
- HaRav Tzefaniyah Derori – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #6.
- “Sichot Rabbenu, Yom Yerushalayim” 5733, #9.
- “Iturei Yerushalayim” #6.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” pg. 17 #20.
- “B’Derech HaTorah Ha-Goelet,” pg. 158-159.
- “Arba’im L’Binah” of HaRav Yitzchak Shilat, pg. 25.
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda – Yom Ha-Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim,” and see “Tal Hermon – Moadim,” pg. 218.
- In the book “Peninei Halachah,” end of Vol. 1, in the second edition, HaRav Eliezer Melamed, Rabbi of Har Bracha, writes that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would agree today that one should tear his garment upon seeing the spot of the Temple, after the horrible desecrations of Hashem’s Name which have occurred there. When HaRav Aviner was asked regarding what HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would say today, he responded: “Baruch Hashem, the Temple Mount is still in our hands, and with Hashem’s help, it will remain so,” i.e. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda’s ruling still stands that we are exempt from tearing our garments upon seeing the site of the Temple. (Cited by Rabbi Mordechai Tzion.)
- “Iturei Yerushalayim” #6.
- HaRav Yitzchak Dadon, “Nishkafah Kemo Shachar,” pg. 135.
- Cited by HaRav Aharon Gelik.
- “Gadol Shimusha” by HaRav Avraham Remer, pg. 97 #35.
- Ibid. pg. 87 #36.
- From “Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet,” of HaRav Avi Chaim Schwartz, Vol. 4, pg. 206.
- Cited by HaRav Chanan Porat. See “Or L’Netivotei,” 3, pg. 308, 326.
- “Kinyan Torah” of Rav Yosef Elnakveh. Vol. 2, p. 74.
- See, “HaTorah HaGoelet” of Rav Chaim Avihu Schwartz, Vol. 4, pg. 211 #30.
- From the book “Berito LeHodi’am” of Rav Yitzchak Dadon, pg. 115.
- “B’Shipulei HaGelimah” of HaRav Yair Oriel, pp. 84-85.
- Cited by HaRav Reuven Hiller.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #3.
- HaRav Eliyahu Mali – “Iturei Cohanim” #176.
- HaRav Elisha Aviner.
- HaRav Tzefaniyah Derori.
- HaRav Tzefaniyah Derori.
- HaRav Mordechai Sadeh.
- HaRav Yosef Bedichi.
- Rav Eitan Eisman – “Iturei Cohanim” #57.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald.
- HaRav Yaakov Levanon.
- HaRav Chaim Druckman – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #18.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #18.
- HaRav David Goldenberg – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #18.
- “Iturei Yerushalayim” #37.
- HaRav Yosi Bedichi – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #22.
- HaRav Yosef Kelner – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #22.
- HaRav Binyamin Eisner – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #22.
- HaRav Eliyahu Mali – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #22.
- From HaRav Mordechai Piron in “Iturei Cohanim” Av 5766, #263, pg. 48.
- “Iturei Yerushalayim” #22.
- HaRav Eliyahu Zohar – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #22.
- HaRav Shmuel Yaniv – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #22.
- HaRav Mordechai Sadeh – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #22.
- HaRav Mordechai Elon – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #22.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #22.
- HaRav Yosef Kelner – “Iturei Cohanim” #236
- Newspaper interview, Zeraim 5720, in Ma’aracha HaTziburit, vol. 2, pg. 78.
- “Iturei Cohain” #57, from Meir Eizman.
- HaRav Avraham Remer – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #21.
- HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #21.
- Rafael K. – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #21.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #21.
- HaRav Achyah Amitai – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #21.
- HaGaon HaRav Avraham Shapira, z’tzal – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #21.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #21.
- HaRav Achyah Amitai – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #21.
- HaRav Yosef Kelner – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #21.
- “Netiv Binah” on the Siddur of Rav Yaakovson, vol. 1, pg. 261 – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #21.
- From the article, “The Appearance of a Meticulously Observant Jew” by HaRav Eliezer Melamed.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” p. 71.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald.
- HaRav Tzvi Kostiner – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #16.
- HaRav Yehuda ben Yishai – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #16.
- “Iturei Yerushalayim” #16.
- See Baba Kamma 92-93A. HaRav Tzvi Kostiner – “Iturei Cohanim” #246.
- HaRav Yosef Zini – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #20.
- HaRav Tzion Tevil – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #20.
- HaRav Yehuda Melamed in the name of HaRav Yehoshua Rozen – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #20; and B’Derech HaTorah HaGoelet, pg. 233.
- HaRav Oded Valensky
- “Iturei Cohanim” #39.
- Rav Eliezer Melamed in newspaper “B’Sheva”.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” pg. 91 #31.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald.
- Most of the recollections recorded about Brit Milah are from the book, “Sefer Berito Lehodi’am” of Rav Yitzchak Dadon, pp. 104-105, 108, 115-116.
- Gadol Shimusha pg. 95 #26.
- Iturei Yerushalayim #37.
- HaRav Aryeh Horowitz.
- HaRav Yitzchak Dadon, “Nishkafah Kemo Shachar,” pg. 26.
- HaRav Binyamin Eisner – “Iturei Cohanim #219.
- Cited by HaRav Oded Valensky.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald.
Students and Torah Scholars
- “Gadol Shimusha,” by Rav Avraham Remer, pg. 51.
- Told by Romem Eldobi.
- Told by HaRav Eliyahu Mali.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #57.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald – “Iturei Cohanim” #266.
- From “Taharat HaBrit,” by HaRav Shlomo Aviner, translated into English as “Pure Again” by Melech Peltz, pp. 125-126.
- See the book, “Torat Eretz Yisrael – The Teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook,” pp. 205-206.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #35.
- “Iturei Yerushalayim” #64, in the name of HaRav Yitzchak Dadon.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #248 – in the name of HaRav Binyamin Eisner.
- “B’Ahavah U-B’Emunah,” Parashat Nitzavim 5765.
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda – Vayikra,” pg. 265, and “L’Netivot Yisrael,” Vol. 1, pg. 160, 202.
- ”Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda – Bereshit,” pp. 457-458, and Devarim, pp. 485-486; “B’Derech HaTorah HaGoelet,” pg. 98.
- “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda – Devarim,” pg. 263.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald.
- “M’Toch HaTorah HaGoelet,” Vol. 4, pp. 207-208.
- Cited by HaRav Achyah Amitai. See also, “Chayei HaReiya,” pg. 258.
- Cited by HaRav David Chai Kohen.
- “M’Toch HaTorah HaGoelet,” Vol. 4, pg. 208. In the book “Gadol Shishuma,” p. 15, it is related that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said this statement in the name of Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin.
- Article in “Tradition,” Journal 28:1 by HaRav Norman Lamm; and “Gadol Shimusha,” pg. 45. See also: HaRav Amnon Sugarman – “Iturei Yerushalayim” #19.
- See “Nefesh HaRav,” pp. 98-99.
- “Iturei Cohanim” #39.
- Cited by HaRav Achyah Amitai.
- “Letters of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda.” See also, “Shut Bnei Banim,” vol. 2, pg. 210.
- Cited by HaRav Achyah Amitai.
- “Gadol Shimusha,” pg. 67. HaGaon Rav Shaul Yisraeli.
Ascending on High
- Yitzchak Viel – “Iturei Cohanim” #140.
- HaRav Tzvi Kostiner – “Iturei Cohanim” #246.
- HaRav Nachum Rechel in the name of HaRav Binyamin Eisner.
- Told by HaRav Yaakov Shapira.
- HaRav Yechezkel Greenwald.