Shabbat Parashat Lech Lecha| 5765
from the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l)
Eulogy for Rav Ya’akov Moshe Charlop
(from Dabar L’dor, pp. 88-89)
The Rabbis of Bavel, who continued the chain of the Oral Law tradition on foreign land and composed Talmud Bavli, stressed that location influences the development of one’s personality. They distinguished between the talmidei chachamim of Bavel and those of Eretz Yisrael. Referring to the pasuk in Zecharia, they called the talmidei chachamim of Eretz Yisrael, “noam (pleasantness)” and those of Bavel, “chovlim (damagers).” The former are pleasant with one another in the study of halacha and the latter “damage” each other in that study (Sanhedrin 24a).
“Hashem shall give you there [the exile] an agitated heart” (Devarim 28:65). Anger is the lot of the Jew in exile. For the lowly in society this can cause unrestrained fits of anger. Rabbi Yochanan was not surprised that a Jew such as Ben Chozai might kill another Jew. Only if he had done so after entering Eretz Yisrael would he be surprised (see Nedarim 22a). Judaism was able to cure such ugly tendencies, as when a Jew is brought into the beit midrash, destructive tendencies can be switched to even positive ones. Aggressiveness can be used for accomplishments, as Chazal relate the pasuk, “In the dark places He settled me” (Eicha 3:6) to the composition of Talmud Bavli. However, despite this community of scholars’ great achievements, Chazal still criticized the fact that they did not sufficiently build each other up in Torah study, which weakened their scholarship (see Rashi, Sanhedrin 24a).
Among the examples of personalities of talmidei chachamim of Eretz Yisrael, the image of Hagaon Hatzaddik Rav Ya’akov Moshe Charlop stands out. Whoever met him felt immediately that before him was a man of stature, head and shoulders above the rest. Simple and heartfelt was the first acquaintance with him, as he made you feel as if you had visited in his household for many years. He would listen patiently to a guest’s novel Torah idea, making a short comment or taking a sefer from the bookshelf to show where a related idea was addressed. He did all of this with a bright face and with tremendous modesty. He did not respond with rigorous, critical analysis or reject the idea presented. However, it was sufficient to take part in even one of his lectures to see how sharp his mind was and how rigorous and lively his critical analysis was. Only the power of the air of Eretz Yisrael helped him restrain the natural tendency to argue back and follow the path of restrained greatness of the talmidei chachamim of Eretz Yisrael of old.
Rav Charlop was also a giant in the field of Jewish Philosophy and was influenced in that area by his great teacher, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z.t.l. For him, the fields of Jewish Philosophy and halacha fed on each other, and he measured the whole world from the perspective of a broad, Torah outlook. He saw Eretz Yisrael as the center of the world and the Nation of Israel as the focal point of mankind. Around these points he built a philosophical weave for his many beautiful lectures at the yeshiva and to the public.
Rav Charlop epitomized the pasuk, “He did not see iniquity in [the sons of] Ya’akov.” He did not rebuke in anger nor look for fault in others. He used to say that if those who put on tefillin would do so with the proper concentration, then no one would refuse to put them on. If we would keep Shabbat with the intensity that its sanctity deserves, then no one in
Rav Charlop personally served Hashem with the intensity of a storm. Whoever saw him on the bima, speaking with great passion, or heard him recite Shema, stressing the word “echad (one)” in sanctity and purity, could not but be overtaken by the sacred heavenly fire in his soul. May his memory be a blessing.
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