Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Question of Priorities

Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, the Alter of Slobodka, immigrated to Eretz Yisrael when he was already at an advanced age. He was healthy for a time, but eventually got very sick and was bedridden for quite some time. Until the last moment of the Alter’s full life he was always striving to draws nearer to Hashem and to continue his life work: to educate others to ever-increasing sensitivity to the needs of their fellow men.
When he was very sick he stayed in a hotel in Yerushalayim. There were always at least two devoted students who were at his sickbed at all times, ready to attend his every need.
One Friday night, one of the students casually mentioned that there was a minyan in the very same hotel. The Alter understood that the young man wished to attend and said, “Feel free to go if you wish.” He then turned to the second attendant and said, “You also have my complete permission to go.”
The second attendant had a feeling that this was the wrong decision. After all, he had come to attend to the famous Alter of Slobodka in his time of great need. How could he just get up and leave him alone? The Alter merely offered because he was a tzaddik. This doesn’t mean that the correct decision is to leave him even to daven with a minyan. The second attendant said with resolve, “I will daven here.” His friend left, and he remained.
When the first attendant returned, the Alter spoke sharply to him, “How could you have left? Don’t you know that the Rambam writes that one who visits the ill removes one sixtieth of the patient’s sickness, while one who fails to do so sheds the patient’s blood? Don’t you think your job was to stay with me like your friend? What makes you think that davening with a minyan was more worthwhile? Surely staying here would have been a much greater zechus!”


Neil Harris said...

I have not heard this story before, thanks. Very interesting, in light of this story about Rav Hutner (a product of Slabodka):

Before shofar blowing (right before musaf) on Rosh Hashana, Rav Hutner once asked a student in the yeshiva to go check on another student who was in the dorms due to an illness. Of course the student when to check on his ill friend. After davening he returned to let the Rosh Yeshiva know about his sick classmate. As I heard it, the bochur asked Rav Hutner about the halachic problems of missing shofar on Rosh Hashana. Rav Hutner replied, "Do you think that on Rosh Hashana Hashem sees any difference between mitzvos bein adam l'chavero and bein adam l'makom?" (as heard from someone there).

The importance of the yachid carried on.

Micha Golshevsky said...

I didn't hear the one you tell either--so thank you!
Just one small point: I am positive that the student didn't totally miss shofar to visit his sick companion.
Presumably he merely missed shofar with the rabim or at the most a few of the blasts (though why wouldn't he make them up later?)
Surely Rav Hutner made sure the sick one heard shofar, so why wouldn't this student hear it with him?
There are clear cut halachos about what is overridden for the needs of another and what is not.
The minimal Torah obligation to hear the shofar blasts--even during the second day which is of Rabinical origin--is definitely not overridden to see a friend.
Besides how long does it take to sound the shofar?

Neil Harris said...

I'm only writing what I was told, point well taken, R Micha.

I'd be interested if there were similar stories about other Slabodka talmidim..

Micha Golshevsky said...

There are definitely similar stories of the great students of the Alter--a mechanech par excellence.
When comparing himself to the Alter, the Chofetz Chaim said that he was jealous of the Alter's accomplishments and explained, "I make seforim but he makes people!"
It is no accident that Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Ya'akov Kaminetzky, Rav Hutner and Rav Shach all attribute their greatness to this giant.
I will try and post similar stories of his great talmidim.