Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tazria/Hachodesh
Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan
29 Adar II 5776/ April 8, 2016

As readers of this column are aware, a few weeks ago my son Shalom and I had the great fortune to spend a week and a half in Eretz Yisroel in honor of his bar mitzvah. During that time we had the great zechus to meet some of the foremost Torah leaders of our time.
My cousin, R’ Izak Cohn, is a talmid of Rav Meir Soloveitchik zt’l, the great Rosh Yeshiva and son of the Brsiker Rav, who was niftar this week at the age of 86. [I purposely wrote that he “is a talmid” and not “was a talmid”, because the impression and influence of a rebbe continues to inspire his students long after he is gone.]
On Shabbos mornings, a small group would come to Rav Meir’s apartment in Yerushalayim for Kerias HaTorah and Mussaf. Anyone who desired could join but there was very limited space. Izak informed me about where I needed to be and when, and on Shabbos morning, together with my brother Yaakov and Shalom we joined the exclusive assemblage at Rav Meir’s minyan.
It was tight, stuffy, and somewhat uncomfortable, with some twenty people squished around the dining room table. It was a small room lined from floor to ceiling with a combination of new and old sefarim. It was humbling to stand in the presence of a man who is not only the son of the venerable Brisker Rav, but a giant in Torah in his own right.
Throughout Kerias HaTorah, the aged Rosh Yeshiva stood with absolute focus in the chumash before him (he sat briefly between aliyos). He read along with the every word that was read. The ba’al korei was seasoned and meticulous, and in any other shul his reading would have been deemed perfect. But on a few occasions Rav Meir corrected him for slight mistakes of trop and dikduk (grammar).
The Soloveitchik family is renowned for their incredible and impeccable precision and attention to detail in regards to halacha. I was given the honor of performing hagbahah (raising the Torah for all to see). I must admit that I was sweating profusely. I was concerned that I might not perform it according to every nuance of halacha, in the presence of a man whose life was dedicated to the optimal and ultimate fulfillment of it.
I tried to analyze every move Rav Meir made, knowing that it was all based on halacha and mesora (tradition), even in regards to a ‘run-of-the-mill Shabbos morning’.
We all have things that ‘make us tick’ and ‘get us going’. Rav Meir Soloveitchik zt’l was motivated by the complete and perfect fulfillment of Torah obligations and halachic expectations. That’s what excited him and mattered most in his life, with all else a very distant second.
Such people are few and far between and his passing this week creates a tremendous void. I am ever grateful to have had the zechus to spend a few minutes with him, and to glimpse a man who lived in complete immersion in Torah and Avodas Hashem. It was a tremendous opportunity and experience and a memory that I hope Shalom will continue to appreciate in years to come.     

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum