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One Sacred Hour

Adapted by Rabbi Yehuda and Malky Heimowitz

Six months have elapsed since the passing of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ztz”l. ArtScroll’s upcoming biography of Rav Elyashiv, adapted by Rabbi Yehuda and Malky Heimowitz, is a window into this gift that spanned several generations — a walking Sefer Torah whose legendary power of concentration turned learning around the clock into a literal term. A sneak preview.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

One hour a day — no more! That was the amount of time Rav Elyashiv set aside in his schedule for receiving questioners during the last decades of his life, from the period when people started to knock on his door at all hours of the day and he returned to Ohel Sarah to learn so that he would not be interrupted. He realized that if he would not limit his availability to questioners, he would never be able to learn at all. And answering questions could not take the place of Torah learning.

Not long after Rav Elyashiv decided to set aside an hour specifically to answer questioners, an orderly system of appointments was established. This ensured that no more than 10 or 20 questioners would arrive on any given evening, and that each one would have a few minutes — on average, 3 to 6 minutes — to explain the question and hear the answer.

He received people graciously, even though his every word was measured and his every second was precious. During the short time a questioner had in the room, Rav Elyashiv would lean his head toward the questioner and turn his ear to listen to the shailah. It was as though time was standing still — he was not in any rush, and he would devote his full attention to the listener. Only upon leaving the room would the questioner realize that the calm, unhurried audience with Rav Elyashiv had taken a mere few minutes.

 

VIPs

Even great rabbanim and roshei yeshivah were allowed into Rav Elyashiv’s room only during kabbalat kahal.

One rav whose access was not limited to kabbalat kahal — as per the instructions of Rav Elyashiv — was Rav Baruch Shimon Solomon, the chief rabbi of Petach Tikvah, who fearlessly defended halachah against those who sought to “compromise.” About Rav Solomon, Rav Elyashiv said to the people in his house, “Him, I love!” When Rav Solomon would come to Rav Elyashiv’s house, he would be allowed entry at any time.

Upon arriving at Rav Elyashiv’s house, Rav Solomon would be welcomed by Rav Elyashiv’s assistants as befitted an honored guest, and would be served a hot cup of tea. The gatekeepers would use the few minutes while he drank the tea to squeeze in a few more people who were waiting for their appointments to speak to Rav Elyashiv. Asking Rav Solomon to wait on line would have been disrespectful, but ushering him into Rav Elyashiv immediately would have meant that all those who were waiting would lose their opportunity to ask their questions.

 

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