The Nine Days are upon us and though we know the specifics of the halachot of this time of year, a time of national mourning, we are still aware that it is only a set amount of time. The countof how many shirts one has left or how long until one can shave permeates our thoughts. Often that is what the nine days have been reduced to. However, sadly, we are tragically forced into remembrance. This week we lost our Gadol Hador (Torah leader in our generation) as well as a very young neshama (soul) who was just playing in the sand on a beautiful summer day.
As the stories of HaRav HaGaon Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv are being shared, one would be shocked to learn that a man who spent most of his life with multiple illnesses from the time he was a young man, who spent the majority of his life in one to two rooms with very little deviation from that routine, would be the be-all and end-all for every major halachic decision worldwide. There is a widely known story of an American man who returned to Jerusalem in the 1980’s and visited the Ohel Sara shul. He inquired about what happened to the young man who used to sit in that specific seat; the one who learned with such fire, passion and enjoyment that it seemed nothing could distract him. The answer he received was that he is still sitting in the same seat decades and decades later—and that was Rav Elyashiv.
Rav Elyashiv lived till 102 years of age. One may mistakenly think that he lived a long life and his place in the world is no longer needed. On the contrary, Rav Elyashiv’s passing is comparable to a specially installed vintage steering wheel of a modern automobile that broke off the car while one is travelling sixty miles an hour on the freeway—your life-line has just been severed. Rav Elyashiv was our lifeline.
The Talmud teaches us that at the time of the Destruction, G-d was displeased with the Jewish people and we deserved to be destroyed. However, G-d, in His infinite kindess, decided to spare us. Instead, He took out his wrath on lumber and stones, i.e. the Beit Hamikdash (The holy Temple of Jerusalem). The Jewish people can exist and grow without a Beis Hamikdash only as long as the Torah and the future of the people would remain. Tisha B’Av is this week. On the week that we lost two Batei Mikdash, we lost the Gadol Hador Rav Elyashiv, the greatest receptacle of Torah in the world. We also lost a member of our future generation, a twelve-year-old boy named Ezra Cornman. Ezra, who was approaching his bar mitzvah this year, was doing what all young kids should be doing during the summer months; playing in a safe place, doing seemingly safe activities. Ezra dug a sand tunnel twenty feet in front of a manned life-guard station. When he crawled in, tragedy struck and the tunnel collapsed. Though the lifeguards reached him in seconds, unfortunately it was too late.
Our thoughts and prayers go out for the Elyashiv and Cornman families and for all of the Jewish people. One was an accomplished sage, who has left a dynasty of a family, and the other, a young boy who was about to take on the beautiful mitzvot of the Torah. What can we do? We feel so alone. We can pick up where they left off. Let us take this opportunity to start learning in the ways of Rav Elyashiv. Over ninety-thousand people are coming together next week to celebrate the completion, as well as the beginning ,of a new cycle of learning the Talmud. (There is a brand new Artscroll app being introduced this week. It is incredible; watch this: http://www.artscroll.com/artscrollapp.html. It does everything but learn for you; that’s where you come in.) But Talmud is only one approach. There is plenty to learn. That is where we need to pick up from where Ezra left off; he had his whole life in front of him to learn and grow. Let us start something new and grow in Torah learning. Through our efforts we can help build the third and final Beit Hamikdash, may it come today!
Let me know if you are interested in learning with a chavrusa (study partner) email@example.com
Have a great month,
Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck