Understanding a Gadol

A good friend of mine is a very close talmid of Rav Goldstein, the Rosh Yeshiva of Sha’arei Yosher. Sha’arei Yosher is a special school in Jerusalem that generally caters to Charedi Israeli students who have found themselves distanced from the path of their ancestors. The yeshiva does a wonderful job of helping these young men to rebuild themselves. One of the main rules that Rav Goldstein has for his boys is that each boy must develop at his own pace when it comes to his learning. Great demands are not made for boys to be on time to davening, nor to seder. Nevertheless, the ground rule is that in order to remain in the yeshiva, one must behave like a mensch. If one does not develop good middos, he can not stay.

My friend shared with me that Rav Goldstein is a paragon of Bein adam l’chavero. He has endured many an embarrassment and even a great loss of money, rather than cause another person embarrassment or spiritual harm. Rav Goldstein has the ability to demand menschlichkeit of his students because he himself constantly exudes it.

My friend told me a story that happened one Purim. As is the case with many bochurim in Israel, the Sha’arei Yosher boys went around to collect for their yeshiva on Purim. They came to a certain home and as they were about to receive a donation, another group of boys from another yeshiva came storming in. The group was somewhat drunk, and they saw that the Sha’arei Yosher boys were about to receive some money. One of the new group called out and said, “Don’t give to them, they don’t even know how to learn! Give to our Yeshiva, as your money will be put to good use!”

One of the Sha’rei Yosher boys turned to the man and said to him, “It might be true that we are not known for our learning, but our Rosh Yeshiva has taught us to be a mensch, and you would never hear one of us speak like that.”

They got their donation.

My friend also shared one more thing that he heard from Rav Goldstein, and that was that he is wont to tell his students from time to time to ask their question to a gadol like Rav Kanievsky. But he cautions them to return to him with the gadol’s answer.

When the student returns, Rav Goldstein explains what the gadol meant. When he turns to ask the student if that was how he had understood the answer, the student inevitably responds that he understood the exact opposite.

Rav Goldstein’s constant refrain is that we hear what we want to hear, and not per se what is objectively being said. Most often, the bochur will hear what he wants from the words of a Rav Kanievsky, and it takes a great person like Rav Goldstein, who is both objective and a da’as Torah (not to mention a tremendous ba’al middos tovos) to help him see what was actually being said.

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