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Master of Body, Servant of Spirit

Eytan Kobre

He escaped the raging fires of Europe to find solace through Torah in distant Shanghai. And then Baltimore’s yeshivas Ner Israel gave him a new mission — to kindle a passion for Torah and mussar in the hearts of American boys — which he carried out faithfully for a quarter century. Forty years since his passing haven’t dimmed the aura of rock-solid faith and principles that still surrounds the memory of Rav Dovid Kronglas ztz”l.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

old man glasses hat beardThe most powerful eulogies are often the briefest. Consisting at times of just a few words, their power derives from the fact that they are said by the person who knew the deceased the best: the spouse. When Rav Yerucham Levovitz ztz”l left the world, his rebbetzin was heard to say, “This wasn’t a man, this was a malach.”

But as I begin this remembrance of Rav Dovid Kronglas, the unforgettable mashgiach of yeshivas Ner Israel who took leave of his family and multitudes of talmidim 40 years ago this month, an entire 29-page booklet sits before me on my writing table. Titled simply “Sichas Chulin shel Talmidei Chachamim,” it was penned by his wife, Rebbetzin Baila Kronglas tblch”t, in the rich Yiddish that was their household tongue, just four short years after his passing. She wanted to keep alive her memories of the greatness with which she had lived every day for a quarter century.

The Rebbetzin’s kuntrus is a veritable mussar sefer, highlighting both the obvious and the more subtle strands in the tapestry of a life so well lived. When it came up in conversation with Rabbi Gershon Weiss, menahel ruchani of the Yeshiva of Staten Island and a close talmid of Rav Dovid, he remarked: “I used to learn that kuntrus before Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.”

Sitting in her home, “surrounded by my husband’s best chaveirim, his seforim,” she writes:

As I sit here, I see my husband before my eyes, and he asks: “What are you writing there at such length?” “A bit about you,” I respond. A look of utter shock appears on his face, as he says: “About me? Zolst du zein gezunt — what is there to write about me? Even one line is already too much!”

But I know that entire books cannot capture the 25 years in which I had the zchus to know him and understand him. And so, I wonder: How can I even begin to write … when it’s impossible to fully evaluate, with my limited comprehension, this eved Hashem, this gibor ruchani, who stood so tall … I shudder with fright at what I’ve begun, but I can’t break off in the middle, and I hope anyone who reads these inadequate lines, will understand that this is in no way a portrait of Reb Dovid z”l, but just an inspiration to think about how a tzaddik’s life can teach us about our own.

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