Sunday, October 20, 2013

Things I Never Knew About Rav Avraham Tzukerman, zt"l

Rav Avraham Tzukerman, zt"l
This Religious Zionist press reported today on the passing of Rabbi Avraham Tzukerman, a major figure who played a prominent role in the establishment of the Yeshivat Bnei Akiva system, the driving foundation of the entire Religious Zionist establishment in Israel today.

In my relatively young age, I never really knew Rav Tzukerman, although it's clear just from reading about him that he was a major figure who affected many, many people who never even heard of him - like myself.
I'd like to share some nuggets from one of the more meaningful pieces I came across called, "Things You Didn't Know About Rav Avraham Tzukerman".

1. He decided to study in yeshiva at age twelve, after hearing a powerful talk from a young yeshiva student lamenting the fact that too many parents exert all of their energies in the goal of providing financially (but not spiritually) for their children. (It's amazing how a single talk can affect a person - and thus affect countless others. Too often we minimize the power of oratory to affect change.)
2. He studied in Pinsk. He and his friends at the yeshiva would daven shacharit at the local train station among the gentiles in order to teach themselves to overcome the attribute of shame and develop their attribute of courage.
3. His pillow at the yeshiva was wet from tears shed from homesickness.
4. The students at the yeshiva once turned to the Rosh Yeshiva in Pinsk, the famed Steipler Gaon, to expel a student who they considered insufficiently serious. The Steipler told them: "Just as when you sit for many hours learning one's pants wear thin, so too, for someone who spends an extended amount of time in yeshiva, something happens in his heart, even if it's not externally evident." The Steipler's answer made a deep impact on Rav Tzukerman's educational philosophy.
5. After he made aliyah with his father, he studied at the Navardok yeshiva in Bnei Brak. Even though they recognized his Zionist views, they allowed him to remain in the yeshiva as long as he agreed not to share his reading material with other students.
6. He used to say, "A person must worry about his own spiritual needs, and his friend's physical needs."
7. When people would seek advice from him about contentious issues, he would never tell them what to do, but instead would say, "This is what I would do."
8. He would follow the psak of the Aruch Hashulchan, as was the Lithuanian practice, noting that the Mishnah Berurah was hardly known in Lithuania.
9. He would say, "In all of  the yeshivot, in general they invested heavily in the individual, the illuy (genius). It was he who they drew close, and he who they tried to develop and nurture into a Torah giant. What does a yeshiva [such as this] by its nature wish to achieve? [It wants] to raise Torah giants (Gedolim). We, in our yeshiva, did not want to foster the individual, but instead we wished to foster the community. For this reason, there were times when a young man studied in the yeshiva whose abilities were not great, and did not make great strides in his study. But he [was] a young man imbued with fear of Heaven; a good young man; a young man who worried about the community and wished to witness the glory of the community and contribute in community frameworks. It was this student who we fostered, it was he who we raised, because in him we saw blessing. In this way, the yeshiva fostered and raised a communal structure, for it wished to foster communal life."

Yehi Zichro Baruch - May his memory be blessed, and may his soul be bound up in a bond of eternal life.