SimchasTorah

Rabbi Yitzchok Sternhell of Baltimore, the Rav of Shearis Hapleita in Baltimore (author Kokhvei Yitzchok), was a talmid muvhak of the Rebbe of Munkatch, Rabbi Chaim El‘azar Spira (author responsa Minhat El‘azar). The Munkatcher was famous for his anti-Zionism in general and especially his extreme opposition to Rav Kook. Recently, there appeared a biography of Rabbi Sternhell, A Star from Sanz. There, we read this remarkable passage:

The Rav had tremendous kavod and love for his parents. Though they lived in Eretz Yisrael from before World War II, he felt strongly connected to both of them…

The Rav held his mother in the highest regard; if she said something, he would bend his opinion to see her point of view. She once mentioned that she had observed Rav Avraham Yitzchok HaKohen Kook, the first chief rabbi in Eretz Yisrael, as he danced the hakafos on Simchas Torah, and his dancing reminded her of Rav Baruch’l [Halberstam], the Gorlitzer Rav.[1] Knowing that her son followed the Minchas Elazar, she added, “I know that Munkatch and Rav Kook don’t see eye to eye on certain issues. But be very careful how you speak about Rav Kook. He is an ehrliche Yid.” As he always did, the Rav valued and accepted what she said.

The Rav felt a kinship with his mother and even asked to be buried near her on Har HaZeisim.

(Rabbi Yechiel Spero, A Star from Sanz: Rebuilding from the Ashes—The Story of Rav Yitzchok Sternhell [Brooklyn: Artscroll, 2016], pp. 194-195)

*

Recently, there appeared on Youtube a video clip of a meeting between Hakham Ovadiah Yosef and his grandson. In the clip, the grandson relates that there was published a book which vilifies Rav Kook. The grandson publicized that it is forbidden to read this work as it constitutes “apikorsut,” i.e. humiliation of a talmid hakham.[2] The grandson wrote that Rav Kook was an “adam gadol” (great man). The question that he posed to his grandfather was whether he was correct when he wrote that Rav Kook was an “adam gadol.” (He requested clarification of his grandfather’s opinion as some claimed that Hakham Ovadiah himself opposed Rav Kook.)

This was Hakham Ovadiah’s unflinching response:

Certainly he was an “adam gadol.”

It is forbidden to speak against him.

He was a “tsaddik yesod ‘olam” (“righteous man, foundation of the world”).

Rabbi Yehudah Tsadka[3] told me that he once went to Merkaz HaRav. It was Simhat Torah and he [i.e. Rav Kook] was dancing. Mal’akh Hashem Tseva’ot! (An Angel of the Lord of Hosts!)

I tell you, Harav Kook was Mal’akh Hashem Tseva’ot min Hashamayim [An Angel of the Lord of Hosts from Heaven]!


 

[1] Rabbi Boruch Halberstam of Gorlitz (1829–1906) was a son of Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz (author responsa Divrei Hayyim).

[2] See Sanhedrin 99b; Maimonides, Hil. Teshuvah 3:14.

[3] Rabbi Yehuda Tzadka (1910-1991) was Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef.

 

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