Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Zutchka vs. Rabbi X

I wanted to begin by telling a story of an encounter a friend had with a semi-prominent Rabbi, and then juxtapose it with a story describing how the Zutchka Rebbe reacted in a similar situation.

My friend had been married a few years, but things were not going well. The couple had decided on divorce, and they were on their way to the Rav to finalize the arrangement. But before they went inside they began to talk. They mutually experienced a longing that they had not experienced in months, or even years. Just before they crossed that irrevocable threshold they had decided that it was not too late to reconcile. Their deep attachment, which had been latent for much time, began to manifest itself in feelings ever closer to the surface, and decided that they wanted to make the marriage work.

They walked into the Rav's quarters, and said with beaming faces, "we've changed our minds! We decided not to go through with the divorce!" The Rav opened his eyes wide, a vein about to burst from his forehead, and barked at them, "for this you waste my time? I've been sitting here FIFTEEN MINUTES waiting for the two of you. I could have been doing 100 other things. Don't you know that I'm a busy man?"

The previous Zutchka Rebbe, Harav Yitzchok Eisik Rosenbaum, zt"l, was known to never utter a mundane word. He learned, he taught Torah, and accepted petitioners. Torah was his entire life. He didn't even engage in wordly or mundane speech with his own family. When a granddaughter who lived close by and visited often came into his study one day, he asked "who is this??" So much was he involved in his learning. But when someone had a serious problem or a Torah matter to discuss he availed himself completely to them. Once, after his daily halacha shiur in the morning, a man came up to him, and said that he was having trouble following the Rebbe. The Rebbe established with him a one-on-one shiur on the spot, which lasted for several years. When the man came to the Rebbe, and said, "I feel as though I'm taking up the Rebbe's valuable time," the Rebbe answered, "if you only knew of the great satisfaction I get every day from learning with you."

On one occasion a couple had come to him in the evening. They wound up staying for four hours, past midnight. When his grandson later questioned him about the unusual amount of time spent with this couple he responded, "this couple was going to get a divorce. I was their last stop. I sat with them, and I delved deep into their hearts, and saw that there was much hope and yearning between the two of them. We talked out the matter, and now they are going to stay married. After all, doesn't it say that when a couple gets divorced the mizbeach (the altar) sheds tears? Well, tonight I am full of joy knowing that I spared the mizbeach any unnecessary sorrow. Four hours? Even a whole night would have been worth it for two precious neshamos (souls)."

One man, well, what could we say? And the other, a tzaddik, concerned with the depths of the human soul.