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Bridging Hearts and Minds

Yisroel Besser

His friends from yeshivah days remember two outstanding features: his mastery of Shas, and his patience with weaker bochurim. Titles like Raavad of the Eidah Hachareidis, rosh yeshivah, torchbearer of the Chazon Ish and the Brisker Rav, the generation’s elder posek and prolific author all define Rav Moshe Sternbuch, but that never stopped him from taking up residence in distant corners to teach Torah to faraway Jews.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

There is the low hum of a fluorescent bulb and the sound of tapping feet. People glance at their watches, say Tehillim, or converse quietly. In the high-ceilinged waiting room outside the chamber of the Eidah Hacharedis Beis Din, they wait for their turn — for the chance to unburden themselves of the questions and confusion that have been weighing on them, for the gift of clarity that will come along with the psak. Behind the heavy wooden door, the Rosh Beis Din — or Raavad — is presiding over dinei Torah, as he does every Tuesday afternoon. Thorny monetary disagreements pile up on the table along with complex marriage issues, some garden-variety milchig-spoon-in-fleishig-pot questions added to the mix. In more than seven decades of answering sh’eilos, the Raavad has heard them all. The large beis medrash at the yeshivah is filled with the sound of voices rising and falling, chavrusas arguing, talmidim swaying at their shtenders in lomdishe singsong. The afternoon seder is reaching its end, but there is anticipation in the air. The Rosh Yeshivah is coming to deliver shiur. Outside, some bochurim already wait for the familiar black car to appear on the road leading into Ramot. A couple sits in the lobby of the Har Nof apartment building. They aren’t sure what to name the new baby, and they’ve agreed that they need a gadol to help them work through the options. They know that the Rav will open the door if he’s home, but he isn’t, so they sit down to wait. Outside the historic beis din chambers at Zupnik Square, seat of authentic old-yishuv ideology, in the beis medrash of an elite litvish yeshivah in Ramot, in front of a building in a Jerusalem neighborhood heavy in Anglo immigrants, they all wait for the same man.

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