Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



At the Rogatchover’s Knee

Aharon Rubin

Rav Yehudah Tzivyon has enjoyed close connections with many great Torah scholars — his son Rav Yehoshua is married to Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s daughter — but there was nothing like growing up in the shadow of the Rogatchover Gaon. Reb Yehudah takes us back to his childhood in Dvinsk and to his memories of the gadol who frightened the world with his wit while affectionately letting “Yudaleh” tag along.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Rogatchover Gaon, who had a photographic memory and was famed for being able to connect seemingly unrelated, cryptic sources in the Talmud, was hailed by the gedolim of his generation as a Torah giant of unparalleled stature, without peer even in many of the generations preceding him. But the larger-than-life stories take on an entirely new dimension when they’re told by someone who knew him personally. Although Rav Tzivyon was then just a little boy, he can still feel the holy atmosphere of Dvinsk of old — the town that was a spiritual nerve center for Jews throughout the world.

Rav Tzivyon was born in Dvinsk and tagged along with his father — a steady in the Rogatchover’s household — and in his young mind considered himself part of the family. He wasn’t shy about going into the Rebbetzin’s kitchen, or even sitting next to the Gaon while he was immersed in his learning.

Rav Tzivyon was just nine years old when the Rogatchover passed away, but he’s never forgotten the special atmosphere of the Gaon’s room — down to its rickety furniture, and even its old-world smell.

“The truth is, his room was severely neglected,” Rav Tzivyon remembers. “There was only a single light hanging from the ceiling that cast flickering shadows on the dark, seforim-lined walls. The furniture was sparse — a single shaky chair and table, alongside a tattered bed and a single armchair that had seen better days. Once when I sat on the armchair, even though I was a child and weighed very little, it collapsed and fell apart. I don’t think the Rogatchover himself had ever sat on it. His room was all about his seforim — he even had stacks of seforim strewn across his bed.

“I was in his room once when the Rebbetzin brought him an egg to eat,” Rav Tzivyon continues. “He looked at the plate with an expression of incomprehension — he was still elevated, in a different world. After a few minutes he noticed the food, and then prepared to eat. I went into the kitchen to bring him a few pieces of bread to eat with the egg, but the Gaon lifted his pure eyes to me, and he gently explained that he did not eat bread. He briefly outlined the laws of chadash and said that he refrained from eating bread, out of concern that the flour may have come from chadash grain.”

Rabbi Tzivyon, although he was then just a cheder yingel, was privileged to learn with the Rogatchover. “My father once came to the Gaon’s house while he was learning Gemara with me. The Gaon, who was known for his razor-sharp, pithy, and sometimes caustic wit, patted my head and told my father, ‘He understands well.’ You can imagine how my heart sang when I heard that.”

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


 
What Are We Supposed to Do?
Rabbi Moshe Grylak A tried-and-true remedy — and it shook the heavens
Badgered into Submission
Yonoson Rosenblum Avatars of political correctness in search of dissenters
Drinking Doubt Away
Eytan Kobre Meaning is indispensable for generating happiness
Checks and Balances III
Mishpacha Readers The conversation continues...
Memorable Melodies of Modzhitz
Rabbi Mordechai Besser The struggling survivors became kings in shul on Shabbos
A Whole Song and Dance
Rabbi Ron Yitzchak Eisenman One of those small acts that are giant leaps of chesed
Diamonds
Jacob L. Freedman MD "Each Jewish woman is a bas Melech, Dr. Freedman!"
Streamlined Service
Riki Goldstein "JewishMusic Stream is still about classic kosher music”
Perfect Harmony
Riki Goldstein "The arrangements literally changed the entire song"
Hang On to the Glow
Riki Goldstein Back to the warm camp Shabbos memories
Marking Miracles
Faigy Peritzman The miracles are there, but our eyes are blind to them
Going Against the Current
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Wise to deny our kids something all their friends have?
Clothed in Splendor
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz When dressing up is spiritual, not superficial
The Spokesman: Part IV
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Every sentence tells a story; make yours well told