By Rabbi Raphael Fuchs
“V’ha’ish Moshe anav meod mekol adam – The man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any other person” – Bamidbar 12:3).
It is difficult to write about such a holy person, for I fear I will not accurately portray his greatness. Rav Moshe Twersky, zt”l Hy”d, one of the four rabbis murdered by Arab terrorists in Yerushalayim on Tuesday, was a rebbe in Yeshivas Toras Moshe, where I learned for three years. While I was not zocheh to learn in his shiur, many of my close friends did. The dynamics of the yeshiva had it that all of the bachurim were familiar with all of the rebbeim. As such, I was very familiar with Rav Moshe Twersky.
There was one unique middah Rav Moshe possessed that everyone could attest to: he was a kadosh v’tahor. Simply put, he was a holy man. He was a great talmid chacham, a gaon, he had every part of the Torah clearly in his mind. He knew all of shas, halacha, and nistar, which he had learned from Rav Elya Weintraub, zt”l.
In his hespid for Rav Moshe, Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, shlita, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Toras Moshe, said that the middah of taharas hanefesh was mashpia on every other aspect of Rav Moshe’s life. His death is a loss for all of Klal Yisrael, because this middah of taharas hanefesh is so rare today.
Everyone who knew Rav Moshe could attest to his humility. Rabbi Meiselman quoted the Gemara in Sanhedrin (88b): “Who is a ben olam habah? One who is modest and humble, enters bowing and leaves bowing, learns constantly, and doesn’t take credit for himself.” That was Rav Moshe Twersky.
As great a gaon and tzaddik as he was, he looked for no kavod, no publicity, whatsoever. Even though he was a great talmid chacham and tzaddik, he never looked for credit. He would sit in the back of the shul. And in the back of the shul is where the subhuman butchers found him.
Mori v’rabi Rav Michel Shurkin shlita said at the levayah that while he is not worthy to be maspid Rav Moshe, he can testify as to who Rav Moshe was. He related that Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l, Rav Moshe’s grandfather, felt he had fulfilled his mitzvah of giving over the mesorah of the Torah with Rav Moshe. Rabbi Meiselman recounted that Rav Soloveitchik said, “I taught many people in my life time, but I had four talmidim.” Regarding Rav Moshe he said, “That is not a talmid, that is me.”
Rav Soloveitchik instilled in Rav Moshe the mesorah he’d received from his grandfather, Rav Chaim, and the Beis Halevi. Rav Shurkin added that Rav Soloveitchik told him that since the Shagas Aryeh there hasn’t been a masmid like his grandson Rav Moshe.
To the bachurim in yeshiva – even to bachurim who were not in his shiur – Rav Moshe was known as “The Rebbeh.”This title was bestowed out of reverence for the holy rebbe in our midst. His yiras Shamayim was tangible to those around him. Yeteven on his great level, he would set up chavrusah sessionswith any bachur who would request it.
Rav Moshe never came to eat lunch; he always had a chavrusah with different bachurim during lunch. I recall one of my friends who learned with Rav Moshe at lunch telling me that at one of his sessions Rav Moshe asked him if they could work together on making berachos with more kavanah. Rav Moshe told him that each day they would both try to have kavanah in reciting a berachah. My friend told me that Rav Moshe’s humility had truly amazed him. Rav Moshe made all of his berachos with intense kavanah, yet he told a nineteen-year-old American bachur that they would work on this “together.”
Every one of his talmidim felt their rebbe was a malach Hashem tzivakos, an angel of Hashem. They all felt he cared deeply about each one of them. Many of his talmidim to this day still say he made the biggest impression on their lives.
The following story perfectly illustrates the care Rav Moshe had for his talmidim: A friend of mine, who was not in Rav Moshe’s shiur, told me that while he was studying with Rav Moshe, they went over the importance of learning the night before one’s twentieth birthday. This bachur left the yeshiva before his twentieth birthday and was learning in a yeshiva in America. On the night before he turned twenty he called Rav Moshe and asked him if there was something he should say or learn. Rav Moshe faxed him some papers and told him what to say.
Rav Shurkin cited the pasuk “Zos chukas hatorah, adam ki yamus ba’ohel – this is the chok of the Torah, a man dies in the tent” (Bamidbar 19:14). The Gemara extrapolates from this pasuk that in order for one to acquire Torah he must “kill” himself over Torah. The Gemara in Yevamos explains that this refers to mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice. Rav Shurkin testified that Rav Moshe fulfilled that explanation in every area of his life. He added that Rav Moshe was yamus in the ohel, and that this is the chok of the Torah we do not understand.
May he be a meilitz yosher for his family, his talmidim, and all of Klal Yisrael, amen.