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10 Thoughts and Sayings of Rav Shmuel Rozovsky zt”l – Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovech

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

Rav Shmuel Rozovsky zt”l (1913–1979) was a talmid of Rav Shimon Shkop in Grodno and a chevrusah of Rav Gustman as a child.  Rav Gustman said that his home was the Yeshiva since childhood.  Rav Rozosky eventually became the first Rosh Yeshiva of the Ponevech Yeshiva having been asked to take the position by Rav Yoseph Shlomo Kahaneman.

Prior to this, he gave shiurim at the famed Lomza Yeshiva in Petach Tikvah, along with Rav Shach and Rav Moshe Shapiro.  Rav Rozovsky was the son of the chief Rav of Grodno, Rav Michel Dovid Rozovsky.  He was the son-in-law of Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank. A biography of him was recently published by Israel Bookshop.

Rav Rozovsky zt”l was known as one of the leading Gedolei HaDor.  His shiurim are now classics and his seforim, Chiddushei Reb Shmuel and Shiurei Reb Shmuel are brilliant, creative and clear expositions of profound Chiddushei Torah.  His seforim Chiddushei Reb Shmuel and Shiurei Reb Shmuel are found in every Yeshiva.  He was the Rebbe of both Rav Gershon Edelstein and Rav Asher Arielli.  [See Sefer Zichron Shmuel pp. 589-603]

  1. Kedusha is a prerequisite to Kabalas haTorah. Without holiness, the entire tzurah of a human being is missing and there is no one to give over Torah to.  There is no place for Torah to be observed.  This is why the pasuk (Shmos 19:6) in Yisro that precedes Matan Torah says, “And you shall be for Me a mamleches kohanim and a nation that is Kadosh.”
  2. The Midrash in Dvarim Rabbah states on the pasuk in Mishlei 8:34 Ashrei Adam shomeya li – ashrei l’adam b’sha’ah sheshmuoasav li. One can understand this to mean:  Blessed is the person who correlates all his matters and thoughts with a dveikus bashem – that everything he sees and hears he connects to matters of shamayim – “shmu’osav li.”
  3. When Rav Kahaneman tried raising money to establish the idea of the Ponivech Yeshiva to a Rav in America – a Yeshiva for 2000 Talmidim – the Rav responded, “This is a dream.”  Rav Kahaneman responded, “But I am not sleeping.”  Rav Rozovsky connected this to a famous statement of Rav Yisroel Salanter. [YH:  The French linguist Abraham Duperron translated Indian Upanishad writings into Latin which became popular in Europe in the mid 1800’s, during the times of Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l.  One of the Upanishad ideas that became famous is, “the whole world is a dream.”]  Rav Yisroel Salanter remarked, “The world is only a dream for someone who is sleeping.  Bur for one who is not sleeping – it is not a dream at all.  He similarly said, “People say it is a narishe velt.  It is only a naarishe velt for a naar – a fool.  But for chachomim it is a klugeh velt – a smart velt.”  This was what Rav Kahaneman meant in his conversation with the Rav in America.
  4. “One thing I ask of Hashem, that I may dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life..that He will place me in His Sukkah..” A person must save and hide the light that he received and merited over Rosh haShana in the Mitzvah of Sukkah and not waste it on the vanities of this world.
  5. Chayav Adam libsumei bepurayah ad delo yada bain arur haman l’boruch Mordechai – means that the notion of living good and despising evil must be so intrinsic a part of what defines a person – that even when he is drunk – his sense of joy at the miracle of the victory of good over evil, and of Kiddush Hashem will create a sense of hakaras hatov and love of Hashem.
  6. There is a special Pasuk that tells us that the wife of a Kohain is like a Kohain herself and one fulfills a Mitzvah when one gives her the Trumah.
  7. If a person performs his actions with full presence and attention and depth of feeling then everything is present. If he performs his actions perfunctorily and without meaning – there is nothing to his actions.  This is a possible understanding of Hillel’s statement in Sukkah 53a – im ani kan hakol kan – if there is ani – personal presence.
  8. The only method in which we can save ourselves from the yetzer hara is to immerse ourselves in Torah. The word is aisek – it should be looked at as if it is our business – a company.  This is the meaning of shelo lishma.
  9. It is a very important matter to be engaged in Kiruv Rechokim to bring people back to Torah and Judaism. This is especially true in far off areas that are distant from centers of Torah.  One must, however, take special care, not to become a chimney sweeper – that is doing important and critical work – but become sullied themselves.
  10. The Chofetz Chaim once said that factory workers cannot become rich. A factory worker can become wealthy – because even though he only makes a little profit on each worker who produces – the sheer volume of employees allows him to grow substantial wealth.  The same is true with one who supports a Yeshiva – he has a portion in each of the students’ learning.  He is also like one who lends money at interest – that even when he is sleeping at night in bed – his money is earning a profit for him.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

One Response

  1. This article understates Rav Rozovsky’s Lumdishe authority. For decades now, Rav Shmuel’s approach in lumdes is considered the most “correct” and authoritative derech in Ponevizh and other major yeshivas.

    MODERATOR: Rabbi Hoffman responds – The purpose of these articles is two-fold:
    1] to familiarize readers with some of the thoughts of the Gadol under discussion in order to spur more interest in discovering him. Therefore, none of the “Thoughts and Sayings” will “do justice” to them – so to speak.
    2] to provide an option to read and learn Torah, while people are perusing the news. It is NOT so that people can speak negatively about the gadol, other gedolim, or Klal Yisroel.

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