Rabbi Moshe Lefkovitz z”l


candle-small6It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Rabbi Moshe Lefkovitz z”l, one of the original four talmidim of Rav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman zt”l when he founded Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore 76 years ago.

As one of Yeshiva Ner Yisroel’s original talmidim, R’ Moshe and the other bochurim would learn in one shul, sleep in different houses throughout the city and ate somewhere else.

R’ Moshe, originally from Cleveland, followed Rav Ruderman to Baltimore and recalled his trepidation from that first September in 1933 and his subsequent conversation with the Rosh Yeshiva.

They entered the yeshiva, which was actually the Tiferes Yisroel shul where the Rosh Yeshiva was rov, and they learned there. Afterwards, R’ Moshe expressed my disappointment to the Rosh Yeshiva. “Rebbi, for myself, I am not disappointed. I am only disappointed because I am afraid. I was always concerned about the future of Yiddishkeit, and now that I am here, I am even more concerned. I see only four boys forming a yeshiva in a building that is not their own and I wonder what is going to be the future of Yiddishkeit? Where are the boys?”

Rav Ruderman turned to R’ Moshe and said something that he would repeat to R’ Moshe many times: “Netzach Yisroel lo yishaker – the Eternal of Klal Yisroel does not say falsehood. Zurg zich nisht – don’t worry. That is the Ribbono Shel Olam‘s concern, not yours.”

R’ Moshe recalls the clear sense of mission with which his rebbi was endowed.

“It was only after we arrived in Baltimore that I realized that not only did rebbi have a tremendous mind, a tremendous knowledge, but he had an even stronger conviction. He was convinced that ultimately yeshivos will flourish in America like they flourished in Europe. This was at a time when there was minimal Yiddishkeit in America. All Yiddishkeit was in Europe. If one needed a rebbi, a melamed, a baal koreh, one went to Europe. Nevertheless, Rav Ruderman would say that yeshivos would eventually flourish in this country, even more than in Europe. Another thing he would say to me was, ‘Do you think that Hashem created you, an American, any different than He created a European boy?! No! If a boy in Europe was created so that he could become a gadol in America, you can become the same gadol as you could have become in Europe. Don’t worry!’ He reiterated this countless times until it became stuck in our minds. I was so encouraged by his words that even though there were only four of us with no dormitory and no facility, we sat down and learned with great hasmada. We learned to such an extent that the baalei batim of the shul began to complain that the electric lights were burning too late. We learned so well that our reputation spread. Soon boys came from Baltimore, Toronto, Cleveland and New York. Soon we counted ten, maybe even more than ten…”

Shortly after Ner Yisroel was established, R’ Moshe approached Rav Ruderman and said, “Rebbi, we are in different homes, we have to be mafsik so many times to go to the shul, back to the home, back to the shul… When are we going to have a dormitory and dining hall?”

The Rosh Yeshiva was dressed as usual, wearing a frock coat, a vest, and his wedding watch on a chain entangled in the loops of his vest. Slowly, he started to take out his watch.

“I did not know exactly what he was doing,” R’ Moshe later related, “until he finally got it untied. Taking the watch out of his pocket he handed it to me saying, ‘Ich geb eich a mashkin, I am giving you a security, that in two weeks you will have a dormitory and dining room.’

R’ Moshe replied, “Rebbi, I don’t need a mashkin from you. Your word to me is holy.”

Indeed, the words were said and done. Two weeks later, largely thanks to R’ Moshe, they moved into the yeshiva.
R’ Moshe was one of the first talmidim to receive semicha from Rav Ruderman. R’ Moshe recounted the Rosh Yeshiva‘s reaction to his refusal to be called “rabbi” after having received the semicha.

“One Shabbos,” said R’ Moshe, “about a year or two after I received my semicha, the Rosh Yeshiva happened to be davening in the same shul as I was, the Shomer Shabbos Shul. They called me up for an aliyah using the title “Reb.” They did not call me up as rov as per my expressed wish. The Rosh Yeshiva got so agitated that he jumped out of his chair exclaiming, ‘Kavod haTorah, bizayon haTorah!’ The congregants did not really know what he was talking about. He was aggravated because they did not call me Rav Moshe. When I explained that it was not their fault, that they acted in accordance with my wishes, he begged me and made me give him my word that I would henceforth call myself Rav, which I did from then on. The Rosh Yeshiva was shrewd. He recognized that if I would call myself Rav, I would want to live up to the title. Even though I was gainfully employed all day long, I managed to get a group together, the same group from Young Israel which my father had started, and every morning before davening I taught Mishnayos, every night after Maariv I taught more, and every Shabbos I became the maggid shiur in a shul which I continued for fifty years – all because of that Shabbos when the Rosh Yeshiva insisted I call myself ‘rabbi’.”

This story sums up the life of R’ Moshe, a life of humility, devotion to Torah, mitzvos and caring for others. He exuded warmth and demonstrated tremendous ahavas Hashem and ahavas habrios. It is no wonder that he merited to raise a wonderful family, and was zoche to grandchildren and great-grandchildren following in the path that he forged together with his devoted wife, Mrs. Gertrude Lefkovitz.

R’ Moshe is survived by his son, Rav Yehuda Lefkovitz, esteemed dean of the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore, and his daughter, Mrs. Nancy Skaist, of Staten Island, NY.

The levaya will be held at 5p.m. this afternoon at the Berkowitz Kumin Bookatz Memorial Chapel, located at 1985 South Taylor Road in Cleveland. The family will be sitting shivah at 1115 Scotts Hill Drive in Pikesville. The phone number is 410-486-8659.

Yehi zichro boruch.

{Dovid Bernstein-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Rabbi Yechiel Spero, author of Touched by a Story and noted Yated Ne’eman columnist is a grandson of the niftar. He is a son-in-law of Rabbi Yehudah Lefkovitz.

  2. “Rabbi Yechiel Spero, author of Touched by a Story and noted Yated NeĀ’eman columnist is a grandson of the niftar. He is a son-in-law of Rabbi Yehudah Lefkovitz”
    and therefor????what are you trying to say?? do you want a list of all the einiklach and ur einiklech?