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The petirah of the Gaon HaGadol HaRav Eliezer Menachem Mann Shach ZTVK”L leaves Klall Yisroel with an unfilled hole in its very heart, and the Torah itself in a state of mourning.

Rav Shach was the leader of the Yeshiva world, and hundreds of thousands of Bnei Torah and Talmidei Chachamim considered a privilege to be able to follow the direction of this giant of Torah, Avodas Hashem, and loving kindness to all Jews. As the Steipler ZT”L once commented about him, “Rav Shach’s instinctive thoughts represent the Torah’s opinion.”

But the mind boggling level that this man has reached, and the merits that he has accumulated in his lifetime, have earned for him far more than just to have over one half a million admirers at his funeral and people the world over revering him as the greatest Jew in the world today.

From the time Rav Shach was a little boy, he was recognized not only as a genius and Torah prodigy, but also as a Tzadik whose humility and love for Torah and for all Jews went far beyond mere greatness. As time progressed, these qualities grew even greater to the point where he was considered by most in the Yeshiva world to be the Godol HaDor – the greatest Jew of our generation.

His dedication to Hashem even as a young boy was remarkable. He recalled when he was a venerable Rosh Yeshiva, how when he was a young boy he once missed the Zman Krias Shema of the Magen Avraham. He of course made the Zman of the GRA, but since he didn’t fulfill the Mitzvah even above and beyond the call of duty, he cried that entire day.

Once, when he was a little kid playing and his Yarlmuka accidentally fell off, his mother cried, saying “Elizezer, what will be with your Yiras Shamayim?” (The Gemora states that wearing a Yarlmuka brings Yiras Shamayim). Rav Shach would later say “Since then, whenever my Yarlmuka would accidentally fall off, even in my sleep, I would cry, and think to myself, ‘Eliezer! What will be with your Yiras Shamayim?”

When Eliezer Shach was just 7 years old, his Rebbi advised his parents to send him away to a Yeshiva Gedolah, since he already taught Eliezer all that he possibly could. His parents sent him to Ponovezh, where he became almost an adopted son and student of Rav Yitzchok Blazer ZTL, the talmid muvhak of Rav Yisroel Salanter ZTL. He learned there until his Bar Mitzvah, at which time he went to Slabodka, to learn by the Alter ZTL, and from there, he went to the elite Yeshiva of Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer ZTL.

He was known for his total dedication to learning, to the truth, and for his limitless dedication and mesiras nefesh to serve Hashem. When World War I broke out, the students in the Slutzk Yeshiva all left for home.
All except one, that is. Eliezer Shach remained the only student in the Bais Medrash while the world around him was aflame. Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer ZTL, the Rosh yeshiva asked the young boy to come live in his own home. “If you are living in my home,” he said, “I am confident that the merit of your Torah will protect us and no bombs will fall on our home.”

When he was in Yeshiva, he was poverty stricken, and possessed only one shirt. Every Erev Shabbos, he would wash the shirt in honor of Shabbos, letting it drip-dry in the cold Lithuanian wind. In the meantime, he wore no shirt and suffered the terrible, biting cold. When he finally put on his shirt for Shabbos, it was literally frozen. “It was for Kovod Shabbos,” he said. “The shirt felt wonderful.”

About a half-century later, at the funeral of an old friend, Rav Shach was seen standing in the freezing rain, shivering, without a coat or umbrella. His students immediately approached him offering him proper protection from the freezing cold and rain. “Thanks but no thanks,” he said. “The niftar once gave me a coat when I had none when I was in Yeshiva. Now, at his funeral, I want to feel what I felt then so I can have proper gratitude for what he did for me.”

His greatest pleasure in the world, his only pleasure in the world, was serving Hashem and learning Torah. The passion with which he would approach a Torah discussion or a mitzvah was awesome to behold. Once, soldiers came into the Bais Medrash during WWI, and found him there all alone. They proceeded to beat him almost to the point of unconsciousness. The next day, his friends and Rebbeim were horrified at the bruises that covered his body. “Don’t worry,” he said to them. “When they came into the Bais Medrash, I was in the middle of studying a piece in the Ketzos HaChoshen. I was so involved in the Ketzos that I didn’t even feel the pain.”

The Stoliner Rebbe ZT”L went to seek the advice of Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski ZT”L regarding hiring a Rosh Yeshiva for the Stoliner Yeshiva. Other Rabbonim were present at the discussion as well. In the middle of the meeting the door opens, and standing there is a young married Torah scholar by the name of Rabbi Eliezer Shach, his face lit up. “I figured it out!” he exclaimed excitedly. “I have the answer to the difficulty in the Gemora that we discussed the other day.”

One of the Rabbonim present expressed annoyance at this sudden interruption of their meeting.

“No,” said the Stoliner Rebbe. “Someone with such enthusiasm and fiery devotion to learning is exactly what I want to head my Yeshiva.” And Rav Shach became the Rosh Yeshiva of the Stoliner Yeshiva.

The great Gaon and Tzadik, Brisker Rav ZTL, used say that when he would have a Torah thought, he would think, “What would Rav Lazer Shach say about this thought?” By thinking in those terms, the Brisker Rav used to say, he would be able to correct, improve, and fine-tune his Torah ideas. “Rav Shach has exceptional sharpness and depth and breadth of knowledge, in all areas of Torah.”


Rav Shach was a paragon of Ahavas Yisroel. AT the yearly Yarchei Kallah of Chinuch Atzmai, he would cry with tears streaming down his cheeks for the non-religious Jews who “don’t know a posuk in chumash”. His efforts on behalf of Kiruv was legendary. He was the head of Chinuch Atzmai, and advisor and mentor to countless organizations and individuals in the Kiruv field.

Often, parents would bring their small children to Rav Shach, who would invariably speak to them about whatever it was they were learning in Yeshiva. If Rav Shach saw that the child was not learning up to par, her personally would go to the Cheder and discuss with the Rebbe what can be done to help the child learn better.

He recognized the greatness of all Torah traditions, shitos, and approaches. Even loved Chasidim, Litvaks, and Sefardim alike, and honored the leaders of all denominations of Torah Jews. Even though he worked hard to attain votes for the parties that he endorsed, when a Chosid would come to him asking him who to vote for, he would invariably respond, “Vote for whoever your rebbe tells you.”

Rav Shach used to collect the Sidurim and other Seforim from the tables in the Ponovesh Yeshiva himself. When students insisted that they take over this burden, Rav Shach replied that taking care of a Bais Medrash is a privilege and he would never give it to anyone else.

Rabbi Eliezer Bloch of Monsey relates that when he once went to visit Rav Shach. When Rav Shach found out that Rabbi Bloch knows a certain family in Cleveland, Rav Shach proceeded to take out candies and allocate a few candies for each child in the family. “He had a child this-and this long ago. That would make the child X years old. Pleas give him these candies. He proceeded to calculate the exact amount of candies needed for the children and sent Rabbi Bloch back to the USA with the package.

When he was still a young man in Russia, one of the great threats looking for Yeshiva students was being drafted into the Russian Army. Rav Shach would repeatedly risk his life to help his peers by posing as them in front of the draft board. His short stature and weak disposition exempted “them” from Army duty.

One of the things Rav Shach was known for all his life was his total and uncompromising dedication to the truth. “I don’t care if only 10 people come to my burial: he remarked. “I will not compromise on the truth.” The Slonimer Rebbe ZTL, after hearing how Rav Shach once interrupted and rebuked a speaker in the middle of a sermon for saying anti-Torah things, remarked, “Rav Shach embodies the Mishnaic command, ‘In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man!’”

Never, ever would Rav Shach give even his own family special consideration over other Jews. For positions in the Yeshiva, for political “pull”, and for other privileges, Rav Shach never let personal interests even come close to affecting his policy. Everyone knew when Rav Shach said something, it was free and clean of any personal reasons.

Rav Shach ZTL was sought after for advice, blessings, and Torah decisions by the simplest to the greatest of all facets of Jewry. Every problem that crossed his table, from the smallest to the largest, was considered by him of soul-wrenching importance. He felt the pain of every Jew in pain, the happiness of every Jew who was happy, and never ever did anything but his utmost to go out of his way for each and every Jew in the world, who he loved dearly.

Once a 15 year old girl came banging on his door without an appointment, interrupting an important meeting, but Rav Shach, recognizing that what the girl had to say what obviously important, let her in and asked her what was wrong. “My parents want to take me out of the school I am in and put me in a less religious school, and I don’t want to go,” the girl said. “Can you help me please?”
Instead of telling her to speak to her principal or her local rabbi, or some other referral, or giving her some kind of advice, which is common procedure in such a case, Rav Shach told the girl, “Don’t worry. That will not happen.” He proceeded to call her parents personally, arrange a meeting with them and convinced them not to switch the girl’s school.

Rav Shach’s Rebetzen reports that until he fell ill in recent years, he would sleep only 2 hours at night, fall asleep at a sefer, and continue learning when he woke up, until he fell asleep again from exhaustion.

Because of his monumental greatness in Torah learning, his absolute dedication to the truth, his disregard for public opinion and fearlessness of the enemies of Hashem, his devotion and intense love for every single Jew, religious or otherwise, and his indescribable level of Avodas Hashem, he was considered to be the highest authority in Torah and Hashkafa matters in the Yeshiva world today.

His passing leaves a gaping void in Klall Yisroel and the Torah itself. It is not only us who mourns the passing of this celestial giant. Rav and Abaye mourn, too. The Rambam mourns, Rashi mourns, the Torah itself mourns. For this great interpreter and transmitter of the Will of G-d is gone. We must join the Torah in grieving for this Godol Hador who we are no longer worthy of having among us.

May we all be zocheh to know only simchas, and may we all soon merit seeing the salvation of all Klall Yisroel, and her ultimate happiness, amen.

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