Rav Leizer Yudel Finkel zt”l, On His Yahrtzeit, Today, 19 Tammuz


rav-leizer-yudel-finkelRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel zt”l, known as Rav Leizer Yudel Finkel, lived from 1879 to 1965 and served the rosh yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva in both Poland and later Yerushalayim.

Rav Finkel was the son of the legendary mussar leader, the Alter of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel. Rav Leizer Yudel learned under Rav Chaim Soloveitchik in Brisk. He also learned in Radin, were he was reputed to have mastered the entire Shas at the tender age of 17.

In 1903, Rav Leizer Yudel married his wife, Rebbetzin Malka, a daughter of Rav Eliyahu Boruch Kamai, rosh yeshiva of the yeshiva in Mir, Belarus. Three years later, Rav Leizer Yudel joined the hanhalah of the Mir Yeshiva, and in 1917 he became its rosh yeshiva upon the petirah of his father-in-law.

During Interbellum period, the Mir Yeshiva flourished under Rav Leizer Yudel’s leadership to the point that its enrollment grew close to 500 talmidim from all over the world. It was during this time that Rav Leizer Yudel called on the famed Rav Yeruchom Levovitz to serve as the mashgiach of the yeshiva. Also during this time, Rav Leizer Yudel chose one of his prime talmidim, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, as a son-in-law and eventually his successor as rosh yeshiva of the Mir.

With the outbreak of World War II, the Mir Yeshiva was forced into exile and eventually found refuge in Kobe, Japan and Shanghai, China. While the student body, led by Rav Chaim Shmulevitz eventually relocated to America, Rav Leizer Yudel established a new branch of the Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim with a handful of advanced talmidim from Yeshiva Eitz Chaim.

Eventually, Rav Chaim Shmuelvitz arrived in Yerushalayim to serve as rosh yeshiva under his father-in-law.

Rav Leizer Yudel’s children included his son Reb Moshe, who helped the newly established yeshiva financially support its great numbers; Rav Chaim Zev Finkel, who became the mashgiach of the yeshiva; and Rav Binyomin Beinish Finkel, who succeeded his brother-in-law, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, as rosh yeshiva upon Rav Chaim’s petirah in the 1970s.

It is related that Rav Leizer Yudel’s love of Torah was so great that he is reputed to have offered money for a chiddush. Rav Leizer Yudel learned under the Chofetz Chaim in Radin, where the winters were very fierce. There was a tremendous amount of rain at the beginning and end of the winter, bracketing a mid-winter abundance of snow that made traveling almost impossible. Throughout the winter in Radin, Rav Leizer Yudel’s shoes were horribly torn and he had no money to replace or repair them. He also had six talmidim in whom he hoped to cultivate the ability to be mechadeish. To this end, he paid them a ruble each month to present him with a powerful and true chiddush every month. Although he certainly could have relegated the rubles for whatever he wished, he chose to give up on the shoes (which cost half a ruble for the best pair), to encourage these six students to use every instant of their time toiling in learning. His father, the Alter of Slabodka, did not wish to take money from the yeshiva to pay for his son’s shoes even though he had ample opportunity. The Alter even went so far as to ignore the powerful entreaties of his wife and the treasurer of the yeshiva when shoes were purchased for all the bochurim in Slabodka. For the bochurim, yes. For his own son? No. Years later, after Rav Leizer Yudel settled in Yerushalayim, it was known that even in the hardest times one could always secure money for one’s Shabbos needs. One merely needed to go to the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva and tell him a true chiddush. A chiddush was so precious to him that he would gladly pay all of the person’s Shabbos expenses for the pleasure!

Many of Rav Leizer Yudel’s own novel interpretations have been printed under the title Yad Eliezer.

Yehi zichro boruch.

{Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}