Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Special Interaction with Rav Moshe Tzuriel

Since the beginning of last school year, we've been sending Moriyah to a babysitter named Tehillah in the neighboring (Chareidi) community of Beit Chilkiyah. A few weeks ago, Tehillah was asking Rena about our aliyah, and she mentioned that her father made aliyah as well. I was shocked (pleasantly) to learn that her father was none other than Rav Moshe Tzuriel, who was one of the Mashgichim at Yeshivat Sha'alvim when I studied there back in the day.
Rav Tzuriel is difficult to forget. First and foremost, he is literally a genius, a walking encyclopedia of Judaic knowledge and information. He knows not only Shas by heart, but also the entire works of Maharal, Rav Kook, and many others. (This is not the place for an extensive biography, but it's really worthwhile to read about his life, which you can do here in English - highly recommended, or here in Hebrew.) Just the mention of his name brought back warm memories.
Recently, I've started giving a weekly shiur on Aggadah in the Gemara, and I wanted an easy way to find the various commentaries of Maharal on the different pieces as they appear in the order of the Gemara. I immediately thought of Rav Tzuriel, who I knew had written an index of the entire works of Maharal. (Apparently, he's also written idexes for Rambam, Ramchal, Netziv, Rav Kook, Rav Hirsch, and others as well. I did say genius, right?)
Yesterday, when I dropped Moriyah off at the babysitter, I mentioned that I wanted her to call her father, to see if I could buy the book on Maharal from him, as I was having trouble locating the book in stores. She pulled out the phone, dialed the number, handed me the phone and said, "Ask him yourself."
When he answered the phone, he began asking me questions about myself. I told him that I used to be a shul rabbi in America, made aliyah - the usual details. Then he asked me what my profession is here in Israel, and I explained that I recruit students for Orot. He said, "Well, then you not only have a profession, but your work is also a mitzvah, because when a person studies academics and earns a degree, he becomes a better, more refined, more capable person. So kol hakavod to you!"
I then told him why I was calling, and before I could ask for the Maharal book he said, "What you need is my four-volume work, in which I compiled an index of over one hundred and twenty books and the Agadot that they reference according to the order of the Gemara. It's 150 shekel, and I'm coming to Yad Binyamin this afternoon (he also teaches in the Torat Hachayim in YB), so I'll bring it to you this afternoon. And I also just wrote a commentary on Agadah Brachot, which is 10 shekel." Sold. But here's the kicker. He then said, "And, I just saw recently in a store here in Bnei Brak that someone put out a work of the Maharal according to the order of the Gemara on brachot. I'm not going there between now and this afternoon, but if you give me forty shekel, then when we get back to Bnei Brak, I'll stop in the store with my driver, and he'll bring you back the book." And that's exactly what he did.
When I came to the yeshiva yesterday to pick up the books, we spoke for a minute and then he said to me, "I know that when you were a rabbi in America, you were a big deal and here you're 'nothing.' But it's not true. Here you're ten thousand times more valuable than you were there. You should never regret the decision that you made."