Monday, August 24, 2009

Rav Shlomo Zalman's Humility

The humility of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, was legendary and was complimented by his insightful ability to avoid getting involved in conflicts. To this aim, he would often sidestep answering questions regarding thorny public issues. One time, someone pestered him to give an opinion in a certain public dispute. Rav Shlomo Zalman dodged the question brilliantly, as was his wont. He demurred, “Since you live in Bnei Brak, where the altercation is taking place, you can ask a local rav. Why must I rule when there are so many competent authorities in your city?”

When the neutralized askan finally went on his way, Rav Shlomo Zalman said to the person accompanying him, “Am I a rav at all, then? Over which community or neighborhood do I preside? I am just an old man. I don’t understand why people ask me…”

When he saw how astonished his companion was by this statement. He amended it. “Nu... So you can say that I teach young men.”[1]

On another occasion, the elderly posek was accosted by an American tourist who had just come to town. The tourist did not know the times for davening and decided to ask the kindly looking elderly gentleman just leaving the shul. Rav Shlomo Zalman began to enumerate all the many times for prayer in the shul. After he completed the list he repeated himself until the tourist had a clear grasp of when the times were.

The tourist felt a great appreciation to the kind gentleman and asked for his name. “Avuhah d’Shmuel,” replied the Rav with a smile.[2]

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