Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Healer of a Broken People

Menachem Pines

On Rav Zalman Sorotzkin zt”l’s 50th yahrtzeit, Mishpacha opens a treasure trove of personal writings shedding light on what propelled him beyond most men’s limitations

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

zalman

Rav Zalman's bein hazmanim in Jerusalem's Reich Hotel, together with Rav Tzvi Kagan, Lomza Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yechiel Mordechai Gordon, and his mechutan, Petach Tikvah Cheif Rabbi Reuven Katz

The yeshivah had burned down. 

The fire that tore through the town of Telshe, Lithuania, in 1908 caught onto the yeshivah building and burned down the entire beis medrash. 

Rosh Yeshivah Rav Eliezer Gordon — known as Reb Leizer Telsher — was shattered, as his young son-in-law Rav Zalman Sorotzkin walked among the ruins. The students of the yeshivah knew and respected Rav Zalman — son of Rav Ben Zion Sorotzkin of Zachrina, Lithuania — because until his marriage three years prior, he had been one of them, toiling in learning together with them after coming from the yeshivos of Volozhin and Slabodka. Now, while everyone else was reeling from shock and anguish, he headed toward the brick factory on the outskirts of the city. 

All commerce had been halted in the soot-and-ash covered city, but that didn’t stop Rav Zalman from presenting a tempting offer to the factory owners. He would give them cash — which he had taken against future stipend money — in exchange for a large quantity of bricks at a rock-bottom price.

"Hashem has protected me from the winds of the Haskalah, from the mania of wealth, and from other dangers that lay in wait in the land of my birth"

The owners of the factory jumped at the deal. By the time the residents of the city recovered from the blow and began rebuilding their destroyed homes, the price of bricks had skyrocketed. But one place in town was already deep into rebuilding at a cost they could handle — thanks to the foresight of the Rosh Yeshivah’s son-in-law. 

Taking action while others were immobilized by grief or trauma became Rav Zalman’s trademark for the next 60 years. This was the maiden campaign of the man who would emerge as one of the Torah world’s primary navigators during the period of survival between the two world wars and later in Eretz Yisrael. In Europe his diplomatic prowess and selfless dedication saved hundreds of rabbanim and talmidei chachamim from the Russian and Polish drafts, helped thousands of refugees avoid starvation, prevented anti-Jewish decrees from causing catastrophic damage, and bolstered Torah education in the face of strong secular influences. And after the Holocaust, as the Torah world struggled to rebuild itself, he reestablished the Vaad Hayeshivos which he’d originally organized in Vilna, served as chairman of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, and became head of the Chinuch Atzmai system for chareidi education in Eretz Yisrael. 

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin (also known as the Lutzker Rav, after the town of his last rabbinic position) passed away 50 years ago this week, on 9 Tammuz 1966, and there are still many who remember and were touched by his foresight and tireless dedication. For others, though, a perusal of the family’s archives — including a collection of yellowed documents and a riveting personal memoir — is a veritable treasure trove whose legacy is as relevant as ever.

Related Stories

Fighting Spirit

Binyamin Rose, Vienna

After an extreme right-wing party candidate narrowly missed being elected Austria’s president recent...

Enduring Edifice

Aryeh Ehrlich

In a moving conversation with Mishpacha, the Sadiger Rebbe discusses the heiliger Ruzhiner’s secret ...

New Answers, Old Questions

Binyamin Rose, Vienna, Austria

Vienna’s new chief rabbi, Rav Arie Folger, challenged by anti-Orthodox forces and gender-equality pe...

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


 
Top-Down Theory
Shoshana Friedman Our true currency, the accomplishments we value most
Strive for What Binds Us
Yonoson Rosenblum The chareidi community represents something of an oasis
Embracing Victimhood
Eytan Kobre Combating the allure of victimhood
The Kids Are Going to Camp, the Parents Are Going Broke
Miriam Klein Adelman Mindy has to feel good; it doesn’t matter that I feel ba...
Work/Life Solutions with Carlos Wigle
Moe Mernick “Rejection is Hashem’s protection” 
How to Create a Simple 900-Page Novel
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman All of us can reset the titles of our own lives
Stand There or Do Something
Baruch S. Fertel, MD, MPA, FACEP It’s called collaborative care, and it works miracles
I'm Here — Are You Ready?
Riki Goldstein Upbeat and catchy, but still makes listeners think
Back in Time
Riki Goldstein "I wish I could recapture that excitement"
Mixed Messages
Riki Goldstein The unsung craftsmen who give albums their special touch
Go in Peace
Faigy Peritzman Inner peace makes us vessels for blessing
All Work and No Play
Sarah Chana Radcliffe A life only about doing your duties loses all its color
Dying to Believe
With Rav Moshe Wolfson, written by Baila Vorhand Emunah peshutah is the force behind Jewish continuity