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No Question as Sweet

Yisroel Besser

Even as rosh yeshivah of Slabodka, it’s still about chavrusas and sedorim — and nothing brings Rav Dov Landau more joy than the challenge of a good kushya

Monday, October 02, 2017

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In Ponevezh he started learning in-depth, and in Chevron he started to rejoice in learning. And in Slabodka, he’s been teaching both for decades. When he dances with the Torah, it all comes together (Photos: Matis Goldberg, Shuki Lehrer)

T he shiur klali is over, and after the first wave of talmidim leaves the beis medrash, a few young men linger. They wait for a man who might be one of them, if not for the gray beard and slow pace. There is no ceremony as they walk him home, no pageantry surrounding this little group.

There is only the Ketzos and the Terumas Hadeshen and ruba v’chazaka.

A lone yungerman accompanies Rav Dov Landau across Rechov Harav Sher: Rav Akiva Eiger’s kushya is still shver.

Reb Dov stands there for a single moment, shadowed by the dark brown Bnei Brak building, looking so exhausted, yet so fresh. The posture is stooped and the face is lined, but the eyes radiate anticipation and eagerness. He heads up the walk and opens the door that will take him directly into his room, back to his seforim, back to the beloved table at which the yeshivah’s founder, Rav Yitzchak Eizek Sher, sat and learned. There’s a good chance he won’t take off his hat and frock, reluctant to expend the energy and waste the time. The Gemara is calling.

Time. There is no time. Not for events, for public appearances, for meetings. If anything is to happen — talmidim in search of advice, visitors from abroad hoping for a brachah, askanim looking for encouragement — it’ll have to be during the narrow slot called “between chavrusas,” for that’s how Reb Dov’s day goes. One chavrusa follows another, many of them young bochurim who learn with a man considered to be, along with Rav Chaim Kanievsky, one of the greatest living talmidei chachamim, or as talmidim refer to him, “a lomdishe boki,”— not just a master of Shas and poskim, but proficient in the profundity of each sugya, the cheshbon of the various Rishonim and analysis of Acharonim.

He’s not just a talmid of the Chazon Ish, he’s a Chazon Ish’nik, intensely scrupulous in halachah — even as he’s heir to the chassidic glory of the house of Strikov

Reb Dov’s chavrusas, his shiurim, his notebooks overflowing with script — they’ve been the only story for so long. The Slabodka rosh yeshivah has spent the better part of the last six decades in this room. He’s a rosh yeshivah, but to him, “the Rosh Yeshivah” refers to his cousin and neighbor, Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, who also carries the administrative burden of the yeshivah along with the responsibilities of saying shiur and shmuessen. 

He’s a grandson of the yeshivah’s founder, Rav Eizek Sher, but in comportment and approach, he conducts himself differently than the Zeide — the epitome of gadlus ha’adam, the splendor of man. 

He’s not just a talmid of the Chazon Ish, he’s a Chazon Ish’nik, intensely scrupulous in halachah — even as he’s heir to the chassidic glory of the house of Strikov.
That’s Reb Dov.

Boy of the Books

Ephraim Dov Landau was seven years old when his parents came from Poland, settling in Rechovot. Reb Tovia Yosef, in the style of Polish chassidim, opened a seforim store and took an active role in municipal politics, eventually becoming deputy mayor. Little Dov loved to hang around the store, seated near his father, reading through the fresh-smelling seforim. (Until today, the Slabodka rosh yeshivah — who has no household responsibilities at all — keeps one job for himself: He wraps seforim to be given as bar mitzvah gifts, a skill picked up as a child helping out in the store.)

Another keepsake from those days is a mastery of Toras Kohanim, which someone brought into the store for genizah. The proprietor’s son took the tattered sefer and went through it several times, ensuring that it would be anything but sheimos. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 680)

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