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The Sweet Crown of Halachah

Eliezer Shulman

What chiddush can be said about Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, the gadol of Jerusalem who spent his life fleeing from the honor that pursued him nevertheless? In conversation with Mishpacha, his son-in-law Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg shlita shared one answer: “The world stands on Torah, avodah, and gemilus chasadim. If you want to know if someone is a tzaddik who sustains the world, then see if he has these three traits. If he does, then you know he is.”

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg has many claims to fame: av beis din, rosh yeshivah, posek, chief editor of the Encyclopedia Talmudit, semichah administrator, international halachic authority. Yet tonight, inside his small apartment on Rechov Elkana in Jerusalem, he’s taken a break from the usual tumult outside his room, which has morphed into its own little locus of Torah and halachah. Instead, we’re conversing about his other claim to fame — his venerated father-in-law, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz”l, who passed away 20 years ago this week, on 20 Adar 5755 (1995). Those who know Rav Zalman Nechemiah wouldn’t be surprised by his friendly yet purposeful approach. He speaks softly but gets right to the point, glancing at the clock in the process: “I could spent hours talking about the shver, about his Torah scholarship, about his sweetness and his hasmadah, about his genius in middos, about his humility, about how he fled from honor, about his dedication to truth, about his many acts of tzedakah, about his constant support of brokenhearted widows and orphans. What should we speak about?” Rav Zalman Nechemiah wonders aloud. Then he continues, “The Mishnah says in Maseches Avos that the world stands on three things: Torah, avodah, and gemilus chasadim. If you want to know if someone is a tzaddik who sustains the world, then you must determine whether he possesses these three traits. If he does, then you can be sure that he is.” When Rav Zalman Nechemiah was chosen as a chassan for Rav Shlomo Zalman’s daughter Rochel in 1954, the brilliant 22-year-old scholar already knew that Rav Shlomo Zalman was one of Eretz Yisrael’s most illustrious up-and-coming rabbanim, but it was the first Pesach after his wedding that he saw the innate sensitivity of the gadol.

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