The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 11 November 2006 / 20 Heshvan 5767

A Special Pair of Shoes

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

In the home of the Rosh Hayeshiva of the world-renowned Beit Midrash Gavoha of Lakewood, Rav Malkiel Kotler, there is a precious heirloom – a pair of worn-out shoes.

He inherited them from his father, who inherited them from his father, the founder of the Lakewood Yeshiva, Rav Aaron Kotler. The original owner was Rav Aaron Kotler’s father-in-law, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Kletzk in Europe and later head of Yeshivat Eitz Chaim in Jerusalem.

How did Rav Meltzer come to own such tattered footwear?

During World War One many yeshiva students were forced to leave their places of study which suffered from the shelling of opposing armies and to return to their homes. One such youngster, who was to later become the great Rosh Hayeshiva of Ponevez, Rav Eliezer Shach, could not afford carfare and walked for a week to his home, often seeking refuge from flying shells. When he knocked on the door of his home he was met by his mother who insisted that he immediately return to the yeshiva where he would be safer than at home. Without hesitation he turned around and started walking back. Still exhausted from the first journey, it took him longer to get back and he was on the road for nearly two weeks.

Before he took his seat in the Beit Midrash, the Rosh Hayeshiva, Rav Meltzer, offered to exchange the badly torn shoes he was wearing for a new pair of shoes. The “deal” was made and the torn shoes which told a touching story of love of Torah and respect for a mother became the precious heirloom of a royal family of Torah.

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