Rabbi Zalman Corlin
His future was foretold in a Bar Mitzva bracha.
Rabbi Corlin’s uncle was the Torah Reader in Portland, Maine. At the time of Zalman’s Bar Mitzvah his uncle gave him a special sefer for Torah readers. On the inside cover he inscribed a bracha, quite remarkable in light of future developments in Zalman’s life.
At age nineteen, during a Pesach trip to Tsefat while on a Wesleyan University program in Jerusalem(1978), Zalman bumped into his cousin, Rabbi Yaakov Lubow, a Kollel student. With Rabbi Lubow’s encouragement, Zalman visited Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem after graduation in 1980. Moved by several world-class rabbis, including Rabbi Nachman Bulman, Rabbi Uziel Milevsky and Rav David Gottlieb, Zalman left for a top New York yeshiva where he learned for nearly eight years. Married in 1984, Rabbi Corlin joined the Kollel Gur Aryeh until 1989.
Hired by Ohr Somayach International in the fall of 1989, he established an evening Beit Midrash in Brooklyn to cater to students returning from Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem. By 2010 the concept of an alumni Beit Midrash had blossomed into real-time audio-video classes (using Skype) spanning much of Torah. Among his students: a soon-to-become Cardoza law student teaching English in a small rural village, 12 hours by bus north of Bangkok, Thailand; a student of veterinary medicine in New Zealand; and an engineering student in Vancouver, British Columbia on the Pacific west coast of Canada. Most of Rabbi Corlin’s students are located in major collegiate hubs in the US & Canada. He had become - his closest colleagues quip - the “Skypler Rebbe”.
Which brings us back to the Bar Mitzva bracha inscribed in the sefer young Zalman received from his uncle.
G-d had a plan for Zalman’s life, and inspired his uncle, Reb Moshe the Torah Reader, to put that plan into words, long before all the pieces began to fall into place. In his short, ten word bracha (see photograph) you can hear an unmistakable whisper of ruach hakodesh:
ספר הזה יהיה אור ושמחה כל ימי חייך כל טוב
[Translation: My dear one, this sefer should be a source of ohr v’simcha all the days of your life, (signed) your Uncle Moshe]
The words אור שמח which appear in this bracha provide a breathtaking preview of the rabbi’s life journey. His uncle’s Bar Mitzvah bracha that this sefer (Torah) should become the source and resource from which he would derive and impart אור ושמחה- light and delight - (represented by Ohr Somayach) all the days of his life, was destined to play out to the letter!