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


    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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