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Clouds of Protection

Shimon Breitkopf

Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman is a soul from a different time, a world not of black and white, but of layers and colors and nuances

Monday, May 29, 2017

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SECRET SPIRIT For close to six decades, without any VIP entourage or fanfare, Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman has taken suitcase in hand and gone off to find funding for the yeshivah and kollel whose burden he carries. But for the Rosh Yeshivah — son-in-law of Rav Shach ztz”l — that task, fused with dedication to teaching Torah all these years, is all part of the “secret spirit of the yeshivah” that the Chazon Ish charged him with so long ago (Photos: Mattis Goldberg, Shuki Lehrer, Family Archives)

C hasna d’vei nesia, the son-in-law of the leader.

It’s a term used by Chazal, and it’s the curtain behind which Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman has hidden for decades.

He’s a prolific mechaber seforim, rosh yeshivah at an elite yeshivah, a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, and was a talmid muvhak and ben bayis of the Chazon Ish — but the identity of chasna d’vei nesia — son-in-law of Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach ztz”l — suits him just fine.

He’s more than content out of the limelight — it’s by design. If challenged to “share the entirety of Torah while standing on one foot,” Rav Meir Tzvi would likely refer to a single phrase he heard from the Chazon Ish, one he’s repeated often to his children and talmidim: “The most important job in life is to get through this world without hurting another Yid.”

And so you don’t hear his name mentioned when it comes to public activism, he doesn’t take sides in disputes, and when he sees a situation approaching in which someone else may get hurt, he runs.

To Rav Meir Tzvi, the Chazon Ish’s derech was a personal charge ¬— to see the individual, never to lose sight of each person with their pekel, their personal burden, even in a public endeavor

And he has where to run to. For the better part of sixty years, the Rosh Yeshivah has taken suitcase in hand and gone off to find sources of funding for the yeshivah, for the kollel, for the families of avreichim whose burden he carries. Those who know him will say the Rosh Yeshivah prefers the anonymity and privacy — he’s unique, traveling alone despite his age and prestige. There is no entourage there to welcome him, no large car sent to collect him from the airport. The yeshivah has no American or European office arranging appointments — the Rosh Yeshivah comes alone, sets his own schedule, picking up the phone and calling numbers out of his trusty, dog-eared phone book.

His regular Brooklyn accommodations — he won’t stay at a hotel, in order to save the yeshivah money — features a phone, a fax, a Shas, and a Rambam. That’s all he needs. That’s all he ever needed.

Double Devastation

Rav Meir Tzvi is a soul from a different time, a world not of black and white, but of layers and colors and nuances, chassidic warmth and litvishe learning and Yerushalmi charm.

He was born 87 years ago to Rav Moshe Bergman, a scion of the prominent Yerushalmi Bergman family. Reb Moshe was what his son calls a “Meroner Yid,” bound heart and soul with the burial place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Reb Moshe had established a yeshivah at the sacred site, teaching Torah to young new arrivals from North Africa, giving those immigrant communities their first generation of talmidei chachamim and mechanchim.

Like most of the sweet children of the Holy City, young Meir Tzvi learned in Eitz Chaim and had a routine childhood — until tragedy struck. His mother contracted typhus, passing away after just a few days of illness. Orphaned at seven years old, his troubles were just beginning. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 662 – Special Shavuos Edition 2017)

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