Monday, February 1, 2010

Yisro 18:6. Kabbalas Panim- Greeting a Great Man. אֲנִי חֹתֶנְךָ יִתְרוֹ בָּא אֵלֶיךָ

    Rashi on this passuk says that Moshe and Aharon went out to meet Yisro, and so Aharon’s children came along.  Seeing the family of the leaders of Klal Yisrael going, the Seventy Zkainim came along.  And “who could see such a group going out and not join them?” So Yisro ended up getting a kabbalas panim from all the chashuvim of Klal Yisroel.  This reminds me of what the Chafetz Chaim said about R’ Meir Shapiro.

        In 2005, a dayan from Brussels was visiting the city and he spoke at a siyum on Maseches Brachos.  He said when he lived in London, he had an elderly neighbor named Ziggy Stern (an Oberlander, whose son, I think, manufactures zippers and also put out the Kushios Atzumos from Reb Akiva Eiger.)  Mr. Stern told him a story.

When he was a boy of fifteen, his father sent him a message in the yeshiva that he should come home for a week, because the Chafetz Chaim was coming to Vienna, and would be staying at their house, and he had a chance to be meshameish the Chofetz Chaim for a week.  So he came home and became the Chafetz Chaim’s shamash.

Every rav and gadol and rebbe asked for appointments, and the Chafetz Chaim would share his time very parsimoniously, allowing appointments only at specific times and for very limited amounts of time.  Even the Imrei Emes got the in-and-out treatment (Shalom aleichem, Bo'achem l'shalom, Barchuni l'shalom, Tzeischem l'shalom).   When R’ Meir Shapiro asked for an appointment, Stern conveyed the request to the Chafetz Chaim, saying that a young Rov named R’ Meir Shapiro (Reb Meir was born in 1887, the Chafetz Chaim in 1838, an age difference of 49 years ) would like to come and talk to him, the Chafetz Chaim said he can come.  Stern asked, when should he come?  He answered, “whenever he wants.”  How long can he stay?  “As long as he wants.”  So they arranged that they would meet on a certain day at eleven in the morning.  That morning, the Chafetz Chaim told Stern to bring him his Shabbos clothing.  At ten thirty, the Chafetz Chaim was looking out the window, and when Harav Shapiro came, the Chafetz Chaim walked downstairs to be mekabeil panim, and after the meeting, he walked him out.  Stern gathered his courage, and asked the Chafetz Chaim, why is it that you asked for your bigdei Shabbos, let him come when he wanted, and walked him in and out?  The Chafetz Chaim answered, “do you know who that is?  That is R’ Meir Shapiro, who created the idea of the Daf Yomi.  When he comes to the olam ha’emes, Rabbeinu Hakodosh and Ravina and Rav Ashi and all the tana’im and amora’im are going to go to be mekabeil panim, because “ehr hoht zeir Torah fahrshpreit in der gantzeh velt” (he spread their Torah thoughout the entire world.)  If he is going to have azah kabbalas panim in der olom ho’emes, ich vill ehm eich mekabeil ponim zain” (If he's going to have such a greeting in the world of truth, I also want to be among those who greet him.)

There are a lot of things to think about in that story; the value of harbatzas Torah, the importance of showing respect to a person that has spread Torah to the common man, and the incisive wisdom of the Chafetz Chaim in assessing what truly deserves respect.  But hanogei'a le'inyaneinu, it is a good example of what Rashi mentions.

In January of 2011, I was reminded of this story.  I was sitting and relaxing Motzei Shabbos at 10:50 at night, and the phone rings.  The Caller ID says it's from my bank, MB Financial.  Why on earth would my bank call in middle of the night on Saturday?  Did someone steal my identity?  Am I overdrawn?  I answered the phone, and it was a bank officer who was preparing to say a daf yomi shiur the next morning, and he was stuck on several things in the Gemara, for example, how do we know that the hagasha of a Korban Mincha is to the lower half of the Mizbei'ach.  Why he was preparing the shiur in his office in the bank I don't know.  But I do know that if not for Reb Meir Shapiro's inspiration, I wouldn't have gotten the call, and even if I had, I probably wouldn't know the answer to his questions.