Rav Eliezer Geldzahler, On His Fifth Yahrtzeit, Today


geldzahlerBy Rabbi Yisroel Besser

Reb Eliezer Geldzahler was an exceptional person; a gifted personality who used his too short lifetime to change the landscape of the chassidishe Yeshiva world forever. He created a new type of institution, one that combined intense learning with intense avoda. He was not the first to combine these two fundamentals, but he was an innovator in the method that he used to fuse them; with pure, unadulterated joy. He was a man of joy that inspired joy around him, and thus built an institution of joy.

 Alas, the vacuum left by his tragic passing is one of searing pain. Injuries sustained in a road accident some five years ago took him from us prematurely, and there are many, many souls that will never again feel whole. In addition to his chashuve family, Reb Leizer left over a new type of talmid- a generation of chassidishe b’nei Torah, themselves dynamic, vibrant individuals that live with his memory and carry on his legacy.

He was niftar in the month of Kislev, shortly before the Yom Tov of fire and light- two words that are interwoven with him and his message. Here, Mishpacha’s Yisroel Besser sits with his closest family members- his Rebbetzin, father and father-in-law-  and close talmidim in an effort to present a fitting picture of Reb Leizer; the person, the builder, the Rosh Yeshiva…

Once upon a time, in a world long gone, there lived a Rosh Yeshiva. He didn’t live long, but he did live big and his name has become synonymous with vision, with the ability to imagine grandiose dreams and realize them.

Reb Meir Shapiro invested Yeshiva bochurim- chassidishe ones in particular- with a new sense of significance, taught them that they were the very crown of creation. He fed them well and housed them well, but most importantly, he opened up vistas of Torah before them and led them through its length and breadth, inoculating them with dreams. He taught them to sing and dance, but most of all, he taught them to learn with fervor and intensity.

He imbued them with shei’fos, ambitions.

rav-eliezer-geldzahlerHe was literally mosser nefesh for his Yeshiva, the renowned Chachmei Lublin- according to the legend, signing over his life insurance policy to the institution- and then suddenly, all too suddenly, they felt they were about to lose him.

They sang with him, they drank l’chayim and danced, but it would be for naught; he slipped away.

He looked at them, too weak to speak; he wrote them a note. ‘Nor mit simcha, only with joy.’

Then he died.

He was only forty-six years old.


Our generation had its own Rosh Yeshiva. He too was a man of incredible personal magnetism and force. He too opened a new world to chassidishe bochurim, offering them the penetrating lomdus of the Yeshiva world even while fiercely safeguarding their mesorah. He too glorified the ideal of a bochur, injecting his talmidim with an appreciation for who they were. He too built a world class Yeshiva while still a young man, very young.

He would sit on Friday night and sing and they experienced Gan Eden. He would dance and their spirits would soar, but most of all, what made him special was this;

He gave them dreams. He had a vision, blatt, whole mesechtos, complete sedarim…and he succeeded in realizing it. His talmidim covered, reviewed, remembered.

And he too was mosser nefesh for his talmidim. It was while visiting talmidim in Eretz Yisroel – on a bus filled with them- that he noticed the bus driver losing control. He jumped from his seat and grabbed the slipping wheel, steering the bus back on track and undoubtedly saving the lives of many of his talmidim. The damage was tremendous, but they all emerged.

All except him.

The others recovered. He never did.

For a few months, he hovered between heaven and earth, but at the end, he was taken from us.

He was only forty-six.

Reb Leizer Geldzahler, the man of dreams.



Who was he? A blessed child, a scion of nobility. His father, Reb Shea, is a prominent talmid chacham and prolific mechaber sefarim, the founding Rosh Yeshiva of the original Yeshiva Ohr Yisroel in Queens. His mother was the daughter of the great Mashgiach, Reb Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, for whom Reb Leizer was named.

During the early years of his life, it wasn’t always obvious that he would be a Rosh Yeshiva, but it was clear that he would be a leader. Wherever he was, people gravitated to him, wanting to be around him. He was a walking burst of passion, energy, laughter. Nothing was boring, nothing was mundane or insignificant. He didn’t merely live; he experienced life. It was an originality and vitality that he brought to his learning as well.

 His father recalls an incident from those years. Reb Leizer was a talmid at the Yeshiva that his father had established, Ohr Yisroel, and a group of bochurim were making a siyum on Mesechta Keilim, a complex and intricate compendium of the halachos of tumah and tahara. The siyum was attended by Reb Shea’s own Rebbi, Rav Gedalya Shorr, and the teenage Leizer sponsored a bottle of wine in honor of the occasion. At the seudah, he listed off every one of the many particulars of halacha pertaining to the bottle.

That was Reb Leizer. Others saw the mundane, a simple glass bottle; he saw Mesechta Keilim.

He had a persistent need to know. At the age of sixteen, he knew the entire Mesechta Z’vachim by heart, word for word. His uncle took him to the Ribnitzer Rebbe and mentioned this fact. The Rebbe nodded, pleased, and remarked that he had also known Mesechta Z’vachim by heart at that age.

Some time later, the Rebbe noticed Leizer had a hachnassas Sefer Torah and rested his holy eyes upon him in a look of pure affection. ‘Kodashim!’ he said simply.

In time, he developed as one of the leading talmidim in the Yeshiva of South Fallsburg. It was there, late one night, that he shared his dream with his friend. ‘After I make a siyum on Sha’s b’iyun- in depth- I will open a Yeshiva for chassidishe bochurim.’

Unlike thousands of other American teenagers, who confide their own dreams to friends, expressing aspirations of material wealth or fame- dreams that remain unrealized- Leizer did exactly what he said he would.

He completed Sha’s in depth and opened a Yeshiva for chassidishe bochurim.



His marriage to the daughter of the Hornesteipler Rebbe of Milwaukee, Reb Michel Twerski, added new dimensions to his personality. In addition to immersing himself in his new legacy- the Torah of Rebbes of Chernobyl, Cherkass and Hornesteipel- he merited the helpmate that would prove to be more than a partner. It was she that allowed him the freedom and independence that would prove so crucial to his avoda. It is almost inconceivable to imagine how this father of thirteen- bli ayin hara- was able to run a massive institution in Brooklyn, while living in Lakewood. He would commute; often still in Brooklyn when night gave way to the next day, knowing that his children and home were in good hands. It was she that believed in him, encouraging him to follow his vision- even when others were doubtful.

When the Yeshiva had no home, and the bochurim were running from shtiebel to shtiebel, he envisioned the large building that would one day be theirs. When the camp was nothing but brush and sand, he saw children playing, bochurim learning, lively Shabbosos…..and she believed.

It was between the walls of the citadel of Torah, Beis Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, that he continued his rise to prominence. The picture of Reb Leizer, ensconced among myriad sefarim, his booming voice bouncing off the Beis Medrash walls in song, was a familiar one. Blatt after blatt became Mesechta after Mesechta as he continued his joyous journey through Sha’s. Every idea he encountered became his; each new concept mastered another precious acquisition- the kinyanim of a real talmid chacham.

When he would finish a Mesechta, he would write in the back cover the exact date of its completion; some mesechtos had several dates. He was climbing higher and higher.

He embodied not only chochmas haTorah, but simchas haTorah as well. In the ‘litvishe’ Yeshiva town of Lakewood, Reb Leizer would be the one dancing on the sidewalk on leil Shabbos or singing with his children as they watched the chametz burn. Inside the Yeshiva, where yedias haTorah is prized above all else, he was admired for that…outside; he was a lone figure, lighting the fires of Mezhibuzh in this modern-day Vilna.

And so it was, armed with the ability to transmit both the words and spirit of Torah, did he establish his own humble outpost.



The Yeshiva was a reflection of the man at its helm. It was a place of relentless, insatiable energy, a drive to know and grow, an unquenchable craving to conquer new territory, to expand, to be better, greater, more.

His legacy.

There were no limits, no walls or barriers that could obstruct the progress of a young bochur in flight. He made sure they knew it too, that they believed it about themselves the way he did.

Where else does one find a Rosh Yeshiva of a first-rate Yeshiva, the leader of a large staff and hundreds of talmidim, that opts to say shiur to the ninth grade, to the youngest bochurim of all? Reb Leizer was a dynamo; a force eminently capable of delivering complex and incisive shiurim to accomplished talmidei chachamim. So why teach the youngest bochurim, thirteen year-olds taking their first halting, hesitant steps on the path that would eventually lead them to becoming talmidei chachamim? Because the older ones already knew!!! They already believed that they could do it, that the Torah is a sea, vast, deep and endless and that man is equipped with the resources that enable him to swim and succeed in that sea, but the younger ones would never have believed it.

They needed to see him, to hear him, to be exposed to someone who personified it all, the depth of Torah, the breadth of Torah, and most of all, the contagious joy of he who merits living within it. Reb Leizer was living proof.

If he had an enemy, it was unrealized potential. There was nothing more deplorable to him than gifts unopened, opportunities squandered. So he planted himself firmly on the front lines of that war and ensured that there would be no victims, not a single talmid that would fall prey to uncertainty about their roles and destiny.

He loved big things. Big ideas, big goals, big celebrations.

That’s the way he was. He had this exuberance about him, this perspective on life through which he saw everything magnified and in color. His lifelong friend, Rav Ephraim Wachsman would, as a bochur in Yerushalayim, eat Shabbos seudos at the home of a prominent Karliner chassid, Reb Aron Yosef Brizel. Reb Ephraim noticed that Reb Aron Yosef used a massive kiddush cup, with dimensions more suited to a kos shel Eliyahu. He was intrigued by the large becher and learned the reason.

When Reb Leizer Geldzahler had eaten there, he had heard Reb Aron Yosef’s kiddush. What a kiddush it was! A resounding, piercing cry of testimony to the Creator of the World, in the style of the Karlin-Stoliner chassidim. The next erev Shabbos, Reb Leizer came with a gift; the colossal cup, for, as he put it ‘far aza a groisse kiddush darf’t men a groisse becher- for such a big kiddush one needs a large becher.’

He loved dimensions.

And perhaps that’s the secret of the talmidim that he built.



It was clear that the structures he envisioned for his talmidim were of the spiritual nature; whole mesechtos, complete sugyos. The Yeshiva had no home, not a single shtender to call its own.

But early talmidim recall that period, ‘the tekufas hagolus’ with longing. ‘It was such a happy time. We would learn in one place before lunch and another in the afternoon, and there were long periods when we would be switching Batei Medrash every few weeks. There was no sense of permanence, no stability, often no lunch, but we had everything we needed. We had the Rosh Yeshiva with us and it was so pleasant. Sure, he worried that we should be well fed and well rested, but more than that, he made sure we were happy. And he taught us that happiness comes from producing. So we produced, learning, chazzering, knowing.’

The Yeshiva was called Ohr Yisroel to honor the institution that Reb Shea had founded in Queens decades earlier. As the son-in-law of Rav Dessler, Reb Shea had titled his Yeshiva as such in memory of his wife’s ancestor- the founder of the Mussar movement, Rav Yisroel Salanter. Reb Leizer’s choice of that very name was not mere nostalgia; it was most telling, for the legacy of Reb Yisroel, extreme zealousness and punctiliousness in behavior between man and his fellow- bein adam l’chaveiro, would become a hallmark of this Yeshiva as well.

Reb Leizer recognized that in the world of chassidic affiliations there can sometimes be undertones of politics and discord, and nothing can me more destructive to a young bochur then issuing opinions and views on disputes between leaders. There was zero tolerance for politics. When he learned that a bochur had initiated a fight with a chassid of a different Rebbe, his response was swift. He asked the instigator to leave Yeshiva and then personally went to each class and shiur and cautioned them that there was absolutely no room in his Yeshiva for words of strife and dissension.  

He didn’t only preach respect for all different groups; in his shmuessen, he displayed expertise in virtually every chassidic work, so that his talmidim learned to appreciate and revere every school of thought, Satmar and Stolin, Chabad and Chernobyl, Breslov, Ishbitz and Lublin and everything in between. He would quote Rav Yeruchem Levovits and Rav Aron Kotler, and of course, his grandfather, Rav Dessler, with the same ease and comfort as the chassidic masters.

In Ohr Yisroel he gave his talmidim dimensions.

He fostered a sense of responsibility between them, teaching by example what it meant to be concerned for another talmid, another Yid.

New blinds were installed in the Yeshiva’s dining room, and a mischievous young talmid climbed up on the windowsill to check them out. The Rosh Yeshiva suddenly strode towards the dining room, and there was an awful silence as he entered

The Rosh Yeshiva took in the scene; the hapless boy suspended on the windowsill with no time to jump down and two hundred other boys looking on in horrible fascination, wondering how he would react.

He was furious, but not at the boy. ‘How can it be,’ he thundered, ‘that two hundred boys saw me coming and not one of you thought to tell him to jump down before I entered???’

Another time, he was forced to ask a bochur to leave the Yeshiva. Later that night, he called a shmuess. ‘Can it be that your friend was asked to leave and not one of you thought to come and share some words in his defense with me? Did no one care enough to plead his case?’

The message penetrated. Ohr Yisroel was a family.



There is a picture of Reb Leizer that hangs prominently on the walls of many talmidim. Resplendent in his bekishe, crowned with his shtreimel, he looks like royalty. ‘It’s a beautiful picture,’ says a talmid, ‘but for me, that wasn’t the Rosh Yeshiva.’ He gestures toward another picture; Reb Leizer in his shirt and tallis kotton, his massive yarmulke at a jaunty angle, his peyos loose, his arms outstretched. ‘This is the Rosh Yeshiva. I look at it and I can hear his roar, ‘come Rabboisai, let’s go learn, there is so much to do…’

He was, as many said, a koch in lernen, overflowing with a restless exuberance. When he had a kushya, the whole Beis Medrash was lit up. When he laughed, they all laughed and when he cried, so did they.

He made life itself into the most enjoyable experience. The older talmidim look back at the first years in camp with an almost tangible sense of yearning. It wasn’t that the amenities were poor; there were no amenities. There was a Beis Medrash and sefarim, and that was about it. There was a large room where they all slept, Reb Leizer and his boys, on mattresses strewn out across the floor. Food was scarce, and the parent body was growing tense. The pressures on Reb Leizer were tremendous, but the talmidim remember it as the most thrilling of times. ‘It was all about him and us and learning. There was nothing else.’

The difficult conditions were viewed through the eyes of the eternal optimist. ‘You boys won’t have any issues with sholom bayis,’ he commented to his talmidim, ‘you will be comfortable anywhere, in any surroundings.’

The obvious lack of funding in those early years worried one of the close talmidim. ‘Rosh Yeshiva,’ he once said, ‘I am so worried that we are going to have to close down because of money- and then what will become of us?’

Reb Leizer assuaged his fears. ‘Sometimes, an elderly person will contract a non-threatening illness and die from it. Did he die from a fever or pneumonia? Not really, because he was ill before- the sickness just complicated his already precarious situation.’

‘A Yeshiva doesn’t close because of a lack of money. If you see a Yeshiva that closes, it means that there was already something broken on the inside and finances are merely an excuse. Boruch Hashem, this Yeshiva is healthy. You have nothing to worry about!’

Even without compromising on tradition, the Yeshiva represented something new for the chassidic world. When the camp was being built, there was literally nothing ready in time for the summer season. The bunks and washrooms were unfinished and the dining room was a work in progress. The Rosh Yeshiva had one priority. ‘The swimming pool must be finished on time for the season.’ he insisted. ‘They learn hard, they daven hard, they have to be able to unwind.’

It was not uncommon for him to call over a bochur that he felt was learning too rigorously or under too much pressure and send him to the pool. ‘You need to go swimming now.’

Even today, while speaking with his talmidim, one senses a rare confidence and eloquence; they are dynamic people. He gets credit for that as well. He cultivated and developed their strengths, teaching them to speak in public and looking for opportunities for them to do so. He searched out any latent strengths that could be brought to the fore.


He was a master pedagogue. He had a way of speaking with them that conveyed trust and confidence, even while gently making a point.

There was a bochur in Yeshiva who violated a cardinal rule; he was caught smoking. The Rosh Yeshiva called him in. ‘I want you to know that it’s very hard to stop smoking. I also used to smoke and had difficulty giving up the habit. I finally made a neder to stop, and a neder is a barrier. I urge you to stop immediately.’

As the talmid recalls, ‘I was expecting to be judged, lectured to, or even expelled; instead, he drew me into his personal struggle, and equated my battle- at fourteen- with his when he was already an adult!’

 Another time he learned that a talmid had been driving a car without a license. Late that night, Reb Leizer called his home and asked him to come down to the street. Reb Leizer was waiting there in his own car and invited the bochur to join him. For a few minutes, they drove in companiable silence. Then the Rosh Yeshiva said, ‘you know, driving is very enjoyable. But to drive without a license is dangerous and silly- it’s not worth it.’

 That was it. Conversation closed.

A talmid came into the Rosh Yeshiva’s office and burst into tears. ‘Rosh Yeshiva,’ he wept, ‘the other bochurim call me a ‘letz’. They say that I am not a serious person.’

Reb Leizer looked right at him. ‘Do you think that I could have become a Rosh Yeshiva without that attitude, that perspective, that sense of humor that others might refer to as leitzonus? Don’t you realize that Hashem bentched you with a ‘geshmak’, a lighter outlook on things. They are just jealous of you!’

His originality and innovation was manifest everywhere. A bochur, Moishy, asked a good question, one posed by the P’nei Yehoshua. On the bechina, the written test, the question read; what is the kushya of the P’nei Yehoshua and Moishy.

The bechinos…far from tense, stress-filled exams, they were the single highest point of the z’man, a celebration of accomplishment and triumph. Reb Leizer was big on tests, and the talmidim loved them; they knew that it wasn’t about right and wrong; it was about success being measured.

On the last night of camp there was a test conducted on hundreds of blatt. Late into the night, they sat there, reaching deep into the recesses of their minds; total quiet, with only the scratching of pencils and the occasional cough to interrupt it. But when it was over; total jubilation.

They danced and they sang, expressing the joy of shared achievement, and then…they went swimming. At two o’clock in the morning. How did they have light at that hour? The Rosh Yeshiva, brimming with enthusiasm and pride, drove his van down the steep hill and parked it facing the pool, shining his lights brightly upon them.

 Shining his light brightly upon them….

For this is what he did best; give chizuk, inspiration and encouragement.

He was a verbal artist, using speech the way others use musical notes or drops of paint, capable of reviving a sagging spirit and bolstering a stumbling soul with just a few words. There was a talmid that entered Yeshiva at Bar Mitzvah and did very well. As he grew older, he progressed steadily, eventually developing into a diligent and assiduous masmid. When he turned eighteen, it was time for him to move on and he went to learn in a prominent European Yeshiva.

 It just wasn’t the same.

 This bochur, who had never missed a seder or shiur, suddenly found himself struggling to learn with the same hasmada. He was far away from the comforting embrace of Ohr Yisroel, and his soul felt cold and uninspired.

One day, he simply didn’t go to seder- a first for him- and at day’s end, he felt empty and unfulfilled. The next day, it was a little easier to miss Yeshiva, and he began to sink slowly. By the third day, he knew that there was no choice; he would have to make the trans-Atlantic call.

To get the Rosh Yeshiva on the phone was no simple matter, but it was his only hope. No sooner did he hear the familiar voice saying hello did the words come tumbling out of his mouth in a torrent of emotion.

‘Rosh Yeshiva, I am so down. I haven’t learned in three days and I feel rotten.’ 

‘Oy, darft du trinken a l’chayim, you should go out and celebrate! You are fortunate indeed.’

The bochur was confused. ‘Rosh Yeshiva, I said that I haven’t learned.’

‘Yes, I heard what you said, but I want to tell you something. The Ribbono shel Olam has such a vast world, so many billions of people. Yet how many people do you think He has that feel depressed when they haven’t learned? How many hearts feel cold and empty when they haven’t been nourished with words of Torah?’

‘Your neshamah is sensitive and refined enough to feel the pain and misery of withdrawal. Ashrecha!’

Suddenly, it was alright to feel the way he felt and he knew that it would be okay.

The Ohr Yisroel chasunos…There were many responsibilities, a flourishing Yeshiva in Brooklyn, a thriving family in Lakewood, fundraising duties all over, yet he would turn over heaven and earth not to miss the wedding of a talmid. He would come in- wearing a shtreimel, each talmid a beloved child.

There was a special niggun they played, the ‘Ohr Yisroel’ niggun. When he would dance with a chassan, the world seemed to stop- it was just a Rebbi and his talmid, expressing their joy and gratitude, the joy of accomplishment and growth.

And the other talmidim? They would develop new kochos as the Rosh Yeshiva danced, inspired by his very presence. As Reb Michel Twerski remarked in a powerful hesped, ‘when he would come into a chasunah, there would immediately be a crowd around him. Those that could not dance were suddenly jumping and those that could jump, jumped twice as high.’

He was there for them. A mother of a talmid once called him to discuss a shidduch for her son. He spoke with his customary graciousness and patience, sounding neither pressured nor distracted. The woman kept hearing noises in the background and finally asked where she was catching him. He told her that he was at a vort. ‘Oh, mazel tov. Who got engaged? Is it one of the boys?’ she asked curiously, thinking it might be one of her son’s friends.

‘My son’, he answered.

He would travel to Eretz Yisroel once a year in order to stay connected with his talmidim there; upon his return, he would call each and every parent- father and mother separately- to bring them regards from their sons. It was clear from what he said, ‘this one looks more settled,’ ‘that one lost weight,’ ‘the other one looks like he is sleeping well,’ that he was intimately familiar with each of them and their issues.

It wasn’t just that he understood the deepest need of a person- it was also that he noticed.

One morning in camp, on his way into the Beis Medrash for first seder, he saw a little boy- the child of one of the staff members- crying. He stopped and inquired why. The child explained that he had missed his ride to the Vienner day camp, and that it was the day of a grand trip. Reb Leizer didn’t hesitate; the Rosh Yeshiva of two hundred boys headed towards the parking lot, his little charge in tow.

They drove to the Vienner camp and learned that the boys had already boarded busses and departed. Again, Reb Leizer kept moving. He headed out on the highway and off to some distant amusement park.

In his Beis Medrash, they waited.

The Rosh Yeshiva drove on, chatting with his passenger as if there were nowhere else in the world he would rather be. It took hours, but they reached their destination, and the child smiled again. Then, the Rosh Yeshiva returned to his day job.

He explained it to a questioning bochur. ‘To a child, a grand trip isn’t just a few hours worth of fun; it’s a culmination of weeks of waiting and the conversation for the next few weeks. To miss it would mean that the dreams of two months would remain unrealized.’

And that was something that Reb Leizer wouldn’t tolerate…dreams unrealized.


At the end of the shiva period a talmid got up and said a few words. He quoted a thought his Rosh Yeshiva, Reb Leizer, had committed to paper on that very last flight to Eretz Yisroel, mere days before the accident.

He had written about the din of egla arufah, which serves as an atonement for the elders of the city from which the victim has left.  The idea is that since they didn’t escort the traveler out of their city, he fell prey to a murderer, and thus, they are culpable for his death.

This is puzzling, because the mitzvah of ‘levayah’, escorting a wayfarer, is only for four amos; how then would their having accompanied this traveler have prevented the murder, which took place between two cities?

The Maharal explains that the very act of accompanying him, of walking him those four amos and wishing him well, of displaying care and concern for his welfare, would have invigorated him, given him strength and determination. Perhaps, had he been so energized, he might have felt better about himself and when the murderer attacked, he would have fought back with a little more spirit, a little more courage. Thus, the elders of the town must seek atonement for the blood that was spilled; had they been ‘m’laveh’ him, perhaps he would still be alive.

In a broken voice, this talmid spoke. ‘Rosh Yeshiva, you travelled to Eretz Yisroel to be mechazek us, your alumni, the talmidim on their way out the door of your Yeshiva; you were accompanying us out in to the world. You were performing your chiyuv of l’vayah. You were strengthening us and fortifying us for the travails ahead.’

‘Rosh Yeshiva; now we are being m’laveh you; we are accompanying you on your way.’


It was one his last derashos to them; a group of married talmidim had established their own Beis Medrash in Boro Park, and for Shabbos Chanukah, he came from Lakewood in order to be mechazek them.

There was a spirited ‘botte’ on Friday night, with the talmidim and Rosh Yeshiva singing until the early hours of the morning. Then, on Shabbos, before krias haTorah, he stood up and spoke.

Why, he asked, did Hashem have to perform a miracle through one flask of oil? Why could the neiss Chanukah not have occurred with Hashem sending eight separate flasks, one for each night? ‘Last night, while sitting with you at the botte, I thought of the answer. We started to sing, just a few of us sitting around the table- and it really went. The singing was strong and magnificent. Then, the room filled up and there was a large crowd, but the singing was somehow lacking that initial zest, that fervor. Why?’

The Rosh Yeshiva looked around. ‘Because when there were just a few people, each and every one of you knew that you had to sing. You knew that if you wouldn’t sing, then there would be no song. You felt the responsibility, the charge, the mandate to push yourselves. Once there was a crowd, however, you relaxed, because you knew that there were others, that the burden was no longer on your shoulders.’

‘And that’ said the Rosh Yeshiva ‘is why Hakadosh Boruch Hu chose to perform the neiss with one flask, as opposed to eight; great things, massive accomplishments, supernatural feats come from the yachid, the lone, inspired individual who feels the achrayus to perform, hears the call to action.’

‘So why,’ finished Reb Leizer with a final question, ‘did the miracle require a flask- wouldn’t a single ounce have sufficed?’

And here Reb Leizer grew passionate. ‘Because that yachid, that individual, has to be b’shleimus, whole, complete, and only then can he hope to achieve.’

‘And that is our hope for you, the talmidim who are establishing this Beis Medrash. You are a small group- yechidim, really- and you will only build if each of you invests his all, if you realize that the entire responsibility of creating a true makom tefilla rests on your efforts.’

That was his speech to them. Two weeks later he travelled to Eretz Yisroel.

So which of his talmidim did he consider that flask or pure oil, which of his talmidim did he consider that yachid capable of superhuman achievements? The answer is every single one. Every single one.


And accomplished they have. He lit the initial flame; what a light is has created! How brightly it still burns. The fires spawned by the flame he ignited are everywhere; there are shuls established by his talmidim, where they may gather together, learn together, remember together. There are many, many little boys running around named Eliezer, testimony to the feelings that the talmidim of those years have for their great Rebbe.

But the greatest legacy- the brightest fire of all- is those talmidim who are sitting late into the night, long after seder has ended, or early in the morning, well before the new day has begun. They are desperate, trying to finish the Mesechta, chazzer yet again, learn more, learn deeper.

They are his talmidim. And in them, his fire is still burning, being pursued and realized.

The dreams of Reb Leizer.

{This article originally appeared in Mishpacha Magazine}

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  1. A mussar haskel to all rebbes,mechanchim and parents!love your talmidim your children ,believe in them,encourage and don’t put them down! We would be saving all of us a lot of agmas nefesch with children at risk and so forth.every person has to feel good about himself be mekarev before mechanech!