Tuesday, November 18, 2008

“Talmud Torah Outweighs Them All”

Once, some yeshiva bochurim asked the Chazon Ish, zt”l, if they should attend a bris if invited by the baal simchah. The Gadol responded, “A yeshiva bochur has only two mitzvos to focus on. The first is learning Torah. The second is taking care never to speak lashon hara!”
When Rav Bergman, shlit”a, was a young man, he was very close to the Chazon Ish, zt”l. He even often slept in the gadol’s home. The young Rav Bergman was also very close to Rav Yerucham Karlenstein, zt”l. The latter took care of his laundry and nursed him when he was sick.
After a time, Rav Bergman moved to the yeshiva in Petach Tikvah. Not surprisingly, when the Karlenstein’s had a boy, he received a special message informing him of the time and place of the bris. Rav Bergman felt a great deal of gratitude to the Karlensteins. To demonstrate his feelings, he got up early the day of the bris, davened, and got on a bus to Pardes Katz. From there he walked to the place of the bris and arrived on time.
The Chazon Ish was also wont to be on time for semachos. When the young bochur noticed the gadol, he went to greet him. The Chazon Ish returned his greeting and said pointedly, “What are you doing here?”
The bochur didn’t understand. He replied, “I came for the bris.”
The gadol again asked, “What are you doing here?”
The bochur explained that he was very close to the family and since they sent someone to notify him of the bris, he felt an obligation to be there.
The Chazon Ish once again repeated his question and the young man felt flummoxed.
They brought the baby in and said “Boruch Habah.” The Chazon Ish repeated, “What are you doing here?” Only then did the bochur understand.
He stammered, “Should I go back to yeshiva?”
The Chazon Ish affirmed this and shook hands with him to send him on his way. He didn’t even stay for the bris!

5 comments:

dan said...

I guess we should assume the baal simcha would not be offended by a guest leaving in the middle like that?
Alternatively, couldn't the Talmid have brought a sefer?
Is it safe to say halachically that there is no obligation to attend a bris? If that is the case, why is there all the commotion in most circles now-a-days? It turns out my wife was right all along- having a private bris is the way to go!

Micha Golshevsky said...

I am not sure the ba'al habris noticed him. Either way I am sure that an explanation that the Chazon Ish himself had indicated that he should go back to the Yeshivah would have been enough to mollify them.
A sefer is not the same as intensive learning in Yeshivah.
Besides, I think the Chazon Ish was giving him guidance for the future. He did it in a dramatic manner so that the lesson would penetrate.
As for the halachic obligation, there is definitely a very clear obligation to attend a bris if there won't be a minyan without him. If there will be more than a minyan, it's not so simple. One who is learning diligently is certainly not obligated to attend.
If people one is close to will be offended (and will not be mollified by an explanations that it was scheduled during his time to learn) presumably one should go (but bring a sefer.)
As far as making a small bris: remember, the Chazon Ish was talking to a diligent yeshivah bochur who never wasted time. This is no proof to anyone else.
Your wife may be correct but you can't draw any insight into the issue from this story.
But while we are on the topic, I wish you both much joy and many simchos!

Anonymous said...

i find this very disturbing. simcha and mitzvos is the source of our lives. the guy was invited for gosh sakes!!! i think it's a healthy balance from yeshiva study to attend a simcha, particularly if one is invited. what am i not getting here????

Micha Golshevsky said...

As I wrote in my comment to "Spiritual Dan," the story only applies to a yeshiva bochur who never wasted a moment of his time.(I have a feeling we would be hard pressed to find his like today.) After all, it does say that talmud Torah is k'neged kulam.
In addition, although this was the general policy of the Litvishe yeshivos, many Chasidim would likely argue that the young man was doing a mitzvah and should go, as you wrote.
But the purpose of the piece was not to make a statement that people should not go to simchos. My point was to guard our time for spiritual pursuits vigilantly. We should at least think before we waste this most precious commodity.
As Rebbe Nachman writes: With a little bit of effort anyone can earn incredible spiritual dividends in this world. If we only knew the greatness of a few words of learning or prayer we would do our utmost to use our time to the hilt. But don't forget that Hashem primarily wants from us what we can easily give. When we don't do what is easy for us we betray a lack of emunah that what we do really counts.
Hashem! Please help use our time wisely!

Anonymous said...

I THINK IT IS NOT ALWAYS A HEALTHY BALANCE TO LOOK FOR A HEALTHY BALANCE. I AGREE THAT THIS STORY SERVES AN IMPORTANT LESSON ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF HASMADAH. MANY VIEW SUCH STORIES AS ``UNBALANCED``BECAUSE WE MAY NOT BE LIVING ON THE SAME WAVELENGTH AS THOSE IN THE STORY. IT WOULD BE HELPFULL IF PEOPLE MOVED AWAY FROM ``BATTLE MODE`` AND CONTEMPLATED THE DEPTH OF THE STORY AND HOW WE CAN LEARN FROM IT ON OUR WAVELENGTH. ITS UNDERSTANDABLE THAT ONE CAN FEEL FRUSTRATION WITH SUCH STORIES, BUT THE FIRST WAY TO UNDERSTAND THEM IS TO REALIZE THAT NO ONES AVODAH IS THREATENED BY THEM. WE MAY VIEW CERTAIN THINGS DIFFERENTLY BUT THE ``LIMUD`` FROM THE STORIES LIKE THIS ONE ARE VERY MUCH APPLICABLE.