Jerusalem – Ponevitch Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi ‘Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz Passes Away At 97

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    Jerusalem – The Ohaiv Yisroel of the generation has passed on, and we are bereft not only of leadership, but of a leadership that personified an Ahavas Yisroel that knew no bounds. Truly.

    Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz zatzal passed away at 97 and was beloved by all.

    A personal story. Approximately thirty years ago, three young men travelled to Bnei Brak from Yerushalayim to see the Steipler zt”l. Before they left, the Mashgiach of their yeshiva, Rav Avrohom Kanarek said, “Please do me a favor – there is another remarkable gadol in Bnei Brak who has written seforim. They are filled with depth. We need them for the Yeshiva’s Otzer HaSeforim. Please buy them for the Yeshiva. It would also be kedai to meet him.”

    The three of us went to his home. It was sparsely furnished. There were not enough chairs for him and the three of us and the elderly Rav went to the neighbor to bring two extra chairs. We protested, but he would not hear of anything else.

    His hachnasas orchim was so extraordinary that each of us thought we were in the presence of Avrohom Avinu. Avrohom Avinu and Aharon haKohain – all wrapped in one. He took the time to speak with each of us, finding out all about us, our learning, our families. And he did so in a remarkably loving way. Never before, or since, had they encountered such a deep, sincere and genuine Ahavas Yisroel. After an hour, he asked them what their purpose was in coming. We told him, but our purpose had now changed. Each of us wanted copies of the Seforim of this remarkable Ohaiv Yisroel. They were titled, “Minchas Yehudah.”

    We devoured them. And Rav Kanarek’s assessment, as in everything was unequivocally accurate. The profound depth of each piece in the Minchas Yehudah shone brightly.

    His ehrlichkeit, impeccable honesty, and profound love and concern for others earned him a huge following among the yungerleit of Eretz Yisroel. A bracha from Rav Michel was the sure sign of success – precisely because of his love for all others and his huge gadlus in Torah.

    Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz zatzal, was a Talmid Muvhak of Rav Shlomo Heiman zt”l, of the greatest of the Roshei yeshiva of the last century. Afterward, Rav Michel came to Eretz Yisroel, and became a Talmid of the Chazon Ish.

    Rav Michel was a mechanech par excellence, specializing in the equivalent of our second year high school, teaching in Ponevech’s Yeshiva. He had American Talmidim too. Rav Michel yehudah understood, lived, and breathed chinuch. Mechanchim from across the country and from abroad would flock to him to present a question about a particular Talmid, or for a general derech in how to teach. His most important lesson to those of us who sought out his advice was to teach and do things by example.

    “To teach your Talmidim to be a Baal chessed, show that chessed yourself in all that you do. Make whatever you are teaching a part of you,” he would say.

    Once I quoted Rav Michel’s mehalech in a blatt shiur in Bava Kamma given by a certain Rosh Yeshiva. The Rosh yeshiva dismissed that mehalech because of what he perceived as problems. I took it as a personal blow and resolved to stay up the whole night if need be thinking how to defend the Pshat. At about three AM I had the answer. In the morning I told that Rosh Yeshiva and he agreed. Later. I told it over to Rav Lefkowitz zatzal. He smiled lovingly and said that was indeed the Pshat he had in mind but did not write it down in the Minchas Yehudah so as not to confuse the reader.

    One accomplishment of the sefer was that it was simultaneously very very deep and yet very simple too. This is something that every author would love to accomplish. Yet few do.

    Years before modern day mechanchim knew about the importance of building the self-esteem of a Talmid, he would do it and teach others to do it too. And he believed it. Former Talmidim would remark how Rav Michel was the first Rebbe who encouraged and believed in them. These were Talmidim who had him when he was already past seventy. In hearing them describe Rav Michel, one would think that they were referring to a Rebbe in his young twenties.

    Rav Michel Yehudah was a Rebbe for well over five decades, and he had Talmidim who were the grandchildren of his earlier Talmidim. Three generations of Talmidim all enjoyed his presence and would speak lovingly and glowingly about him.

    Two years ago a sefer came out delineating his thoughts on Chinuch, on marriage and on all other aspects of life. The lessons in that Sefer are both timely and timeless. Centuries from now it will still be used as a sourcebook for Daas Torah guidance in the pathways of life.

    It was not just yungeleit and mechanchim that recognized him. Rav Lefkowitz zatzal was a member of Degel HaTorah’s Moetzes Gedolei Torah and he was revered by every Gadol since the Chazon Ish. Rav Shach zatzal and the Steipler held him in the highest regard and esteem.

    He signed upon a number of Kol Korehs and always gave each of them the most profound refelction and thought.

    Rav Michel Yehudah leaves us with two legacies. He was a personal example of a modern day Aharon haKohain and an Avrohom Avinu. Yet he also showed us all how one can combine this with outstanding erudition.

    This appears to be one of the last videos Rabbi Lefkovitz

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    42 COMMENTS

      • A please do tell us why “we are in trouble”. Most of us believe that Rav Lefkowitz,Z’tl, will be a great malitz yosher with the ebeshter on behalf of klal yisroel but obviously you disagree.

        • See Rashi in Parashat Vayetze – Azivat Tzadik min Hamakom osseh Roshem.

          We just lost a tremendous tzadik – surely it will have an effect, don’t you think?

    1. BDE….he was a regarded by many as one of the most chashuve Litvashe rabbonim remaining from the pre-War generation. While the Ponovitch yeshiva today has much competition it is still one of the better yeshivos in Bnai Brak.

    2. It is very disrespectful to title the passing of one of our great Gedolim as “1914-2011”.
      They are not football payers or politicians that are judges by their longevity or years of service. They are our treasured tzaddikim, who lead and protect each one of us every moment of our lives. A similar disturbing headline was posted last week with the passing of Rav Koppelman zt”l. You need to bemoan the loss that the world has suffered. Ask for them to intercede on our behalf when they reach the kisai hakovod. But please don’t lead with “1914-2011”…..

        • Can you guys lighten up….the secular dates make sense for 99 percent of VIN readership. This is not a scholarly journal, one of the chareidi newpapers or the Yenevelt Daily News. It is the best Jewish online new source that provides timely information in a style respectful of jewish tradition. For most of us, this headline was just fine.

      • Stop whining…the headline is totally appropriate. .the measure of a lifetime of a tzadik is the most newsworthy item of their passing….VIN is first and foremost a source of breaking news and not an editorial page

    3. The zman magazine is looking very funny right now. They had an article on the four oldest gedolim less then a month ago. Two have since died and Reb Eliyashev had surgery. Perhaps in the future articles should not be written about Gedolim near 100. It may be Ayin Harah or something similar!?!

    4. So sad BDH, tears. The true meaning a of a gadol is not how many mofsim (miracles) are associated with him, instead it is the level of perfection he managed to reach. What a truly good amazing human being was lost today. 🙁

    5. “Two years ago a sefer came out delineating his thoughts on Chinuch, on marriage and on all other aspects of life. The lessons in that Sefer are both timely and timeless. Centuries from now it will still be used as a sourcebook for Daas Torah guidance in the pathways of life.”

      Anybody know the name of the sefer the author is referring to and where I can get it?

    6. Everytime great men pass away.,trouble comes to the world. Looks like the gay marriage in ny as well as the upcoming Jerusalem gay parade killed our leaders Rabbi Koppelman and Rabbi Lefkowitz. I recall rav miller,pam and gifter dying before 911.

      • I am glad that you think you are privy to Hashem’s ways of running this world. Who do you think you are to make comments like that? And how does your comment make any sense anyway? You go from saying that the passings of Rav Koppelman and Rav Lefkowitz zt”l were caused by the gay marriage bills and the parade (even though Rav Koppelman passed away before the marriage bill was passed and before the parade happened) to Rav Miller Rav pam and Rav gifter dying before 9/11. So is it the passing of the gedolim that causes bad things or bad things causing the gedolim to die? I would love if you could clarify for me the ways of Hashem some more

      • You are a real jerk blaming the deaths of such great rabbonim as Miller, Pam and Gifter for the 9/11 tragedy. Gadolim are dying every year so by definition, there will be some tragedy or natural disaster coming but there is no correlation between the two.

          • “ is this how you honor r’ lefkowitz?”

            Your point is well taken. It is totally inappropriate to blame the petirah of Rabbi Lefkowitz for the gay marriage bill or other bad things that have happened. This business of blaming gadolim for such tragedies is some kind of new meshugaas and has no basis in daas torah.

        • You missed the point. There is an Inyan that Hashem removes Tzadikim from this world before a tragedy, so that they don’t have to witness their brethren suffering. That was the point #27 was trying to make.

    7. The article about the 6 gedolim was very inappropriate. When did we ever publicize ages of people the way our media outlets do now?? These things were discussed, if anything, in hushed tones..

      • Sounds more like Chukas Goyim to feel that age is some kind of private matter to be ashamed of. Do you refuse to mention that Moshe lived to 120? Most of us are inspired by the ages the gedolim reach.

    8. perhaps hakadosh baruch hu is preparing his yeshiva shel maalah and now we need to prepare the yeshiva shel matah. May Mashiach come bmhiera and may we be zoche to techiyat hamaisim

    9. The comments regarding the article about the gedolim are ridiculous. Anyone who thinks that a magazine writer has the power to end lives is guilty of avodah zarah and stupidity. And I don’t hear about the promise made by Rav Kaniefsky that Rav Lefkowitz will recover, why not? Some of Rav Lefkowitz’s students stayed in chutz la’aretz because they believed this irresponsible promise.

    10. Maybe it works the other way around that the Gdolim/Tzaddikim are taken from us because we allowed such disgusting things to happen and Hashem does not want them to see these things and suffer?

    11. I’m comment number28. I want to clarify that my comments are based on the gemorah sanhedrin. When a tzaadik. Dies bad things are on the horizon. Its a fact rabbi miller passed away six months before 911 and for 30 days there was no rain. Rabbi pam passed away one month before 911. These two torah giants protected ny and once gone ny lost its divine protection and the two towers fell. There is going to be a very scary situation because of the gay marriage law. I am quietly selling off my business and planning to move to nj or florida for Divine protection.

      • I totally agree with you, that after the passing of gedolim, bad things happen to the world. I noticed it when the last intifada started in Israel, and at 9/11, and numerous other times. Yes there are other world shattering events that occur whithout anyone passing away, but it is clearly noticeable that after a Godol passes, more tzoros befall us.
        Although I dont know if NJ or Florida will offer any more protection than NY, I’d think more protection if you were to move to Eretz Yisroel.
        The time to daven is now.

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