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Judgment Day

Aryeh Ehrlich

When successful entrepreneur Rav Sholom Landau was advised to leave the business world and become a dayan instead, he accepted the challenge

Thursday, October 06, 2016

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“People are willing to accept someone who’s been in Torah from the beginning, but don’t always fargin someone who’s made a change midlife.” Businessmen-turned yungeleit learned alongside men who’ve never left yeshivah (Photos: Amir Levy)

It was a spring night in New York City.

Rav Sholom Landau, real estate developer and owner of a successful computer company, was young, ambitious, and deeply involved in the business community of chassidishe Brooklyn. Now there was a new business opportunity on the horizon and he wanted some advice.

Rav Shmuel Binyamin Kraus, the Rav of the Satmar community in London, England, was in Williamsburg for a family simchah. Many people come to him for berachos and advice. Rav Sholom decided to join them.

“I received an offer to take part in purchasing a building on the outskirts of the neighborhood, with the promise of incredible returns in a few short years,” Rav Landau recalls. “It could have made me a good few millions.”

The meeting took place in the spring of 2006, just a few months after the petirah of the previous Satmar Rebbe, Rav Moshe Teitelbaum ztz”l, the Beirach Moshe. Rav Landau had been a devoted chassid of the Rebbe and always followed his advice, but after his passing, the chassidus split into two very large factions. Rav Landau would become a devoted follower of Rebbe Aharon Teitelbaum, based in Kiryas Yoel. On this particular night, he decided to discuss his business question with Rav Kraus. His concern wasn’t solely personal, he explained to the rav. The young man was also deeply involved in philanthropy — donating huge sums to Torah mosdos, particularly those of the chassidus — and he felt responsible for their continued success.

Rav Kraus listened, and then he asked a question: “Tell me, Reb Sholom, what are your aspirations?” “Rebbi, what’s the question? I want to do big deals, be successful, give a lot of tzedakah, and most of all, continue and help our mosdos grow. Our community feels persecuted and demeaned. They deserve that the institutions develop.”

The night 60 men received semichah made the entire endeavor worthwhile “I had to do something to help others struggling to get back to Torah”

Rav Kraus looked at the young go-getter and said, “My dear Reb Sholom, business is not your purpose in life. Your purpose is also not being responsible for the growth of Satmar. You need to be in the world of horaah. When you go up to the Next World, they won’t ask you why you weren’t an askan, why you didn’t build buildings, or why you didn’t sell computer programs. They will ask why you weren’t a dayan and why you didn’t light up the world of halachah. That’s what the questions will be. You have a good head. You should be a dayan!”

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