by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
Today, the 3rd of Tammuz is the 41st Yartzeit of Maran Rav Schneur Kotler zt”l.
Rav Shneur Kotler zt”l (1918-1982), was the second Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Medrash Gavoah in Lakewood, New Jersey. He grew the Yeshiva from a few hundred bochurim and yungeleit to well over 1000. Rav Shneur zatzal sent out Kollel yungeleit across the country, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Under the leadership of Rav Schneur for twenty years, BMG has become one of the pre-eminent Torah institutions in the world – indeed, throughout history.
Rav Shneur zt”l would often quote a Yerushalmi (Shkalim 2:5) that states: Whoever says over a shmuah (saying) from his Rebbe should concentrate and envision that his Rebbe is standing right there before him.
He would continue:
“We see from here that it is not sufficient just to say it over in his name. Rather, it is demanded of us that we see him right in front of us as if he is hearing it now from him. The explanation of this is that words are not some separate item or matter. They are part and parcel of his life and his very essence!
The saying and the person who said it are one and the same.
Understanding his saying and truly receiving it can only be accomplished through seeing the person who said it.
Without the sayer – there are no sayings.
And from the sayings, one can learn about the sayer himself, and through them – we can appreciate the personage of the baal hashmuah and the lofty spiritual nature upon which he stood. Studying the sayings lead a person to unprecedented growth – approaching that of his Rebbe from the perspective of, “When will my actions reach those of my father’s.”
In honor of Rav Shneur ztl’s yartzeit and in honor of his remarkable accomplishments in transforming the Torah landscape, we publish some of his thoughts and sayings. They were culled from close talmidim, family members, and from his maamarim. May his holy neshama be a meilitz yosher for klal Yisroel.
- We can learn a lot from the sons of Korach. In the shir shel yom of Monday, we see that the Bnei Korach thought that if they could be in a leadership position – they could then achieve unparalleled closeness to Hashem. The truth is, they learned, that every person, wherever he is – has a potential for unparalleled dveikus.
- The purpose of our life is to take from potential into action – the Divine Image and the light of Torah that are hidden within us.
- Constantly working on improving one’s ruchnius thoughout one’s life – is tantamount to Maaseh Bereishis itself.
- The Shechinah only dwells in Klal Yisroel when we are k’ish echad.
- The true acquisition of our chailek in Torah can only be obtained after the perfection of our character traits.
- Working hard with ameilus in Torah during yissurim – creates a sea-change within the individual.
- A person is obligated to constantly grow and to emulate the malachim themselves.
- The Avodah of the Psil tcheiles, the blue fringe on the tzitzis, is that it reminds a person of the ocean, then it reminds the person of the firmaments, the rakiah. Then it reminds the person of the kisei hakavod. The question is, why this entire process? Why shouldn’t the person just carry a sign reminding him to think of the Kisei HaKavod? The answer is that it is not so simple. He would become used to the sign right away, and eventually, it will have zero impact. If, however, it was an Avodah, a step by step thought process – then it will have a lasting impact. This is the nature of a person – of which the Torah was well aware.
- The value and importance of an action is dependent upon the nature of the intent that one had when the action was first performed.
- The influence of any action is three-fold – it is immediate; it is upon the future; and it is upon countless generations of one’s own descendants.
- Acts of chessed (lovingkindness) have within them the ability to change the very laws that Hashem set forth in Creation itself.
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