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Master of All Holy Trades

Rabbi Yehuda Heimowitz

The once complimentary phrase, “He’s a jack-of-all-trades,” is now often turned into a paraprosdokian gibe with the addition of: “but a master of none.” There are people who become good at many different things, but don’t excel in any of them. And then there was Rav Chaim Yisroel HaLevi Belsky ztz”l, who learned every field of klei kodesh — and beyond — and mastered them all.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The pre-Succos scene at the Belsky home painted so vividly by talmid Baruch Travitsky would be amazing even if it captured Rav Belsky using every one of his talents, but in reality, the skills he was using that evening represented a mere smattering of his prodigious gifts. Yes, he was able to answer sh’eilos in every basic area of halachah; he could serve as a mohel and supervise milah, he understood the science behind food, technology, medicine, and many other areas, enabling him to rule with little hesitation on complex issues such as kashrus and gittin. But Rav Belsky was also rosh yeshivah of Torah Vodaath; the beloved rav of the Kensington community; an av beis din who restored dignity and trust to the beis din process; the premier authority on kashrus issues in the OU; the rav of Camp Agudah; a sofer, shochet, baal korei, and baal tefillah on Yamim Noraim; and perhaps the world expert on the astronomical calculations necessary to understand sugyos in Eiruvin and related to Kiddush Hachodesh. And that is only a partial list of his facets. Yet despite his obvious genius, Rav Belsky’s thousands of talmidim and campers will remember him most for his patience, for his love of every talmid, and for his willingness to sacrifice his own dignity and wellbeing for the sake of anyone in need.

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