What Rav Chaim Wisoker zt”l Would Have Said on the Meron Tragedy

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by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

Rav Chaim Wisoker zt”l was one of Rav Yeruchem Levovitz’s greatest students, and was the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Bais HaTalmud in Bensonhurst, having had established it with Rav Leib Malin zt”l after their arrival on the shores of the United States from Shanghai, China.

Sadly, there is very little information available about this incredible giant of Torah and Mussar. 

One of his students, Rav Yisroel Dovid Ehrlich shlita, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Mishkan HaTalmud in Lakewood, NJ wrote a sefer of Rav Wisoker’s mussar Shmuessim entitled, “Imros Chaim” in Tishrei of 5750 (1989).  This is an adaptation of siman 23 in that sefer.

THE STARS

When we glance at the stars above, they appear to be very small.  This, of course, is on account of the vast distance that exists between us and those stars.  The distance causes them to appear tinier than they really are.

This is a concept that is true in all matters – the greater the distance from the observer – the lesser is the appearance of its vastness.  To the beholder who stands at a distance, the item appears to be quite tiny.

THE WORDS OF CHAZAL

This idea can be instructive in regard to matters of ruchniyus – matters of the spirit.  The words of Chazal are quite bright and illuminating.  They serve as a lamp to the legs of man and a light to his pathways (Tehillim 119:105).  They reveal to man all the secrets of the world.

Practically, however, notwithstanding that we know this to be true – we do not accord them their true value and respect.  They do not capture our emotion, and remain as mere words of wisdom, so to speak, that disappear or dissipate into the air.

Why is this so?

The answer is because we are quite distant from them.  The distance between us and the words of Chazal lessen their value in our eyes r”l.

However, the true essence of Klal Yisroel, it’s yesod, is Hiskarvus – closeness.

THE ZOHAR

The Zohar in parshas Acharei Mos states the following:

“Yisroel, the Torah, and the Holy One Blessed be He – are one.  Yisroel, veOraisah v’Kudsha Brich Hu – Chad Hu.”

The more distant we are, the more distant we become, the more this oneness becomes fractured.  The distance causes us to be removed from Torah and from Hashem, r”l.  It will not penetrate into the innermost sections of our hearts.  Distance will cause us to become cold and no longer have our feelings and emotions interwoven with Torah and with haKadosh Boruch Hu.

This is the number one and fundamental principle in our Avodas Hashem:  Hiskarvus – closeness.

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THE TWO CONCEPTS IN “VEHAYU HADVARIM HA’AILEH”

In one of the psukim in the Shma (Dvarim 6:6) it states: vehayu hadvarim ha’aileh asher anochi metzavcha hayom al levavecha.  There are two inyanim that we find here. They are:

  • asher anochi metzavcha hayom
  • al levavecha

The second one, al levavecha, is what we have been discussing – the fundamental of being close – hiskarvus.  They must penetrate into his heart – mamash.

For the word, “HaYom – today” Rashi writes:

They should not be in your eyes as an old diutgemah an ancient edict that people ignore – but rather as a new Mitzvah, a new command freshly enacted today.

The two concepts are inextricably bound with one another.  It cannot penetrate into the heart without constant renewal – without a freshness of having been enacted today. (See Rabbeinu Yonah, Shaarei Teshuvah 3:15)

KLAL YISROEL IS “AM KROVO”

Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 148:14) calls Klal Yisroel “Am Krovo.”  This is because it is the essence and fundamental principle of it all.  “Karov Hashem lekol korvav – lechol asher yikra’uhu b’emes – Hashem is close to all who are close to Him – to all those who cry out to Him in emes.”

What do those who cry out to Him in Emes receive?  They receive Hashem’s closeness – upon which everything is dependant. Without it, without this closeness – man has no merit for existence.  As the pasuk in states in Tehillim 73:27,  “For look, those who are far from You – perish..”

This is not a punishment – that distance causes ruin and obliteration.  Rather it is a reality – it is the inevitable reality and consequence  of being far from the path or trail.  This is why Dovid HaMelech states (Tehillim 73:28), “And as for me – closeness to Hashem is tov – is what is good.”

SHARING THE BURDEN

One of the 48 ways in which the Torah is acquired is through the concept of “Noseh b’ol Chaveiro – sharing in the burden or yoke of his friend.” Compassion for them. Empathy.  Feeling their loss.

One can perhaps ask – what do empathy and compassion have to do with acquiring Torah?

Similarly we can ask on the words of Chazal in the Yerushalmi (Nedarim:4):

“V’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha – zeh klal gadol baTorah – Love thy neighbor as yourself – this is a great principle in the Torah.”  Why is this Mitzvah elevated to such a degree that only this one has earned this appellation?

And the answer is that this Mitzvah encompasses everything – because theessential and  fundamental principle is Kiruv – is closeness.  We must relate and interact to others in the manner of Kamocha – just like you.  We must share their burden.

MERON TODAY

It is clear that had Rav Wisoker been around for this current tragedy, he would have encouraged us all to share the burden with the family members, friends, and roommates of the 45 korbanos.  He would have encouraged us all to share their pain, to show our compassion and empathy, and to feel it – not moving on in a carefree manner.  To feel their shiva, their shloshim, and their aveilus.  This was also the reaction of Rav Aharon Kotler when six Arab nations attacked the Yidden of Eretz Yisroel in 1948.  It is also how we should be reacting to the current state of affairs in Yerushalayim now.

Noseh b’ol chaveiro is one of the 48 ways in which to acquire Torah for a reason.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. But of course R. Chaim Wisoker zichrono livracha would not have been at the Meron event, he did not make a bonfire or go to Meron, he stayed in yeshiva and learned our holy Torah.