Thursday, September 7, 2023

Parshas Nitzavim Vayeilech 5783




Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Nitzavim-Vayelech

22 Elul 5783/September 8, 2023



I have been blessed to learn from many wonderful rebbeim in my life, each of whom has left an indelible impression upon me.

One of those rebbeim was my eleventh grade rebbe, Rabbi N. Aryeh Feuer. I loved his shiur. Aside from being engaging and challenging, Rabbi Feuer was somewhat unpredictable in shiur, saying funny or unexpected comments at any time. He once explained that he did that to keep our attention by keeping us on edge. I recently told Rabbi Feuer that I try to emulate that component of his teaching style with my own students.

But far more significantly, Rabbi Feuer is a quintessential student of Mesivta Chaim Berlin, a deep thinker who expresses lofty ideas with clarity.

The late Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta Chaim Berlin, Rabbi Yitzchak Hunter, instilled in his students a sense of regality and pride in being one who studies Torah. For that reason, students of Rav Hutner are recognizably distinguished.

Rav Hutner was also known for his unparalleled ability to plumb the depths of any topic in Torah, and to mentally transport the listeners of his lectures into a different world. Particularly during or before Yomim Tovim, Rav Hunter shared deep ma’amarim (as the lectures were called) about the essence and depth of the Yom Tov and its endemic mitzvos.

His successor, who passed away last week, Rav Aharon Schechter, conducted the yeshiva in the same vein. The ma’amarim that Rav Aharon said before each Yom Tov were built upon the foundational concepts Rav Hutner taught.

Rabbi Feuer is a full-fledged student of Rav Aharon Schechter and Mesivta Chaim Berlin. His Gemara shiurim were methodically structured and detailed. But it was his Friday morning Chumash shiurim that really opened me up to the world of machshava. When Rabbi Feuer would frequently quote “the Rosh Yeshiva” he was referring to Rav Hutner, while “my rebbe”referred to Rav Aharon Schechter.

Rabbi Feuer introduced me to the writings of the Maharal, the seminal Torah thinker upon whom Rav Hutner’s approach is based. He also demonstrated how to view the lives of each of the Avos and Imahos, particularly the “worlds” of Rochel and Leah, as different but necessary components containing the building blocks of the Jewish People.


I only met Rav Aharon Schechter on a few occasions. But whenever I did, I was able to see the similarity between Rabbi Feuer’s presentation of Torah thoughts and that of his rebbe.

However, I did have one encounter with Rav Aharon Schechter a few years before I was a student of Rabbi Feuer.

When I was in eighth grade, I and a few classmates decided to publish a yearbook for our graduating class. I looked at some old yearbooks to view their content and get some ideas. I noticed that some yearbooks contained letters from Gedolim to the graduates. So, I wrote letters to a few of the Gedolim requesting written berachos for our class and mailed them to the addresses printed on top of their stationery.

A letter with writing on it

Description automatically generatedA few months later, I received a letter in the mail from Rav Aharon Schechter. It was written in Hebrew, and I had no idea what it said until my father translated it for me. I must admit that at the time I was disappointed with the letter because Rav Schechter addressed it to me personally, and therefore I couldn’t include it in our yearbook.

Over the years, however, it has become a treasured possession. In fact, I can recount the entire letter from memory, not because I tried to memorize it, but because I’ve read it so many times. With the rav Shechter’s passing last week, the letter is now invaluable.

In typical style, the letter contains an innovative idea, befitting a person of depth.

The following is my loose translation:

“26 Shevat 5754

To the precious young man, Doniel Alexander Staum,

From in between the lines of the letter that you wrote to me at the beginning of the winter, has risen the reiach (smell) of love for Torah that is absorbed in the soul of a precious young man.

The law is that on a beautiful smell that has a root one is obligated to recite a beracha. Therefore, it was hidden in my heart from then to send you alone my blessing that you continue in your ways, to proceed from loving Torah to toiling in it, so that it will be fulfilled in you (the words of the Gemara): “you have toiled and you have found (succeeded)”, to bring joy to your parents and the souls of all your friends. And along with you all your classmates will be blessed as well.

Aharon Moshe Schechter”

It is superfluous to write about how busy Rav Schechter was and how valuable his time was. The fact that he took the time to write a beautifully thought-out letter in his impeccable handwriting, to some kid from Monsey that he never met, who wanted a written blessing for his class for his yearbook, says a great deal about his greatness.

Whenever a tzaddik passes away it is a national loss and tragedy. Through Rabbi Feuer, Rav Aharon Schechter was also my “grand-rebbe”, my Rebbe’s Rebbe, and therefore the loss is more personal.

One of the many lifelong messages he personified was that understanding Torah requires depth and thought. We shouldn’t be satisfied with superficial knowledge or cursory understanding.

If only our society would heed that message.

May Hashem comfort all of Rav Schechter’s students and all of Klal Yisroel.


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

        R’ Dani and Chani Staum