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Sparks of Slabodka: An Exclusive Interview with Rav Baruch Mordche Ezrachi

Yisroel Besser

He’s graced with the ability to energize people around him, to electrify audiences with powerful Torah and mussar thoughts. But Rav Boruch Mordche Ezrachi considers employing the methods of Slabodka to fuel a passion for learning in budding talmidei chachamim to be his primary objective in life.

Monday, September 06, 2010


Is there an English word that can do justice to the term “chiyus”? Chiyus is not energy, nor vigor; not vibrancy, nor spirit. Chiyus is all of the above and then some — the ability to energize people around you, to light up a room with a good kushya (question) in learning, to electrify an audience with a poignant mussar thought.

Chiyus isn’t physical, but spiritual. It is something I experienced some years ago, when the celebrated rosh yeshivah of Ateres Yisrael in Bayit Vegan, Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, came to visit my hometown of Montreal.

He delivered a shiur at the yeshivah gedolah in town, and even if one had never learned a mishnah, it was an experience. His commanding presence, his poise and delivery, his natural touch in delivering a shiur — asking questions that create an inexplicable pressure in the room, urging his listeners to disagree, challenging them to ask, welcoming them to interrupt — and then finally providing answers that fill the crowd with joy.

K’nesinasah,” as they say in yeshivos — an echo of the thunder and lightning at the Mountain, back then.

After that shiur, I urged the Rosh Yeshivah to come speak in a smaller yeshivah, one with a clientele further from traditional learning, where I served as a rebbi at the time. His assistant insisted that there was no slot on his crowded schedule, but I pleaded, certain of the effect he would have on the talmidim.

“I will come,” said the Rosh Yeshivah.

Come he did, into a beis medrash far smaller than the one in the central yeshivah, finding himself face-to-face with a crew of teenagers whose faces spoke of emotions ranging from open disinterest to respectful tolerance. But he was unfazed, and spoke with the very same passion, the same burning intensity, the same unbridled enthusiasm that he had earlier.

After that shiur, he had a meeting with a wealthy man from whom he hoped to solicit funds for his yeshivah. Later that day, I asked the Rosh Yeshivah’s assistant how the meeting had gone. He shrugged. “Not so well.”

When I looked at him in surprise, he explained: “The Rosh Yeshivah sat down in the man’s study and promptly dozed off.”

The gentleman they were visiting was none too pleased when the Rosh Yeshivah’s exhaustion overwhelmed him. When I shared this story with the Rosh Yeshivah’s host, he told me that the Rosh Yeshivah had spent most of the previous night learning. He had then delivered three shiurim in one day, each one with the energy of someone who delivers one shiur a week.

Finally seated in the comfortable study of this wealthy man, away from seforim and talmidim, unable to “talk in learning,” his tiredness took hold.

There, he fell asleep.

That’s chiyus.


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