The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Thursday, July 01, 2004

More on Rav Dovid Lifshitz, ZT'L

On Monday I posted that it was the yahrtzeit of two tzadikim, the Klausenberger Rebbe, zt'l, and my Rebbe's Rebbe, Rav Dovid Lifshitz, zt'l. Simcha picked up on it and noted (with attribution, as always) that it was Rav Dovid's yahrtzeit.

I was reminded of a sweet story from 25 years ago that my Rebbe told about Rav Dovid and posted it to Simcha's comments. In brief, the story told of how Rav Dovid spontaneously burst into a niggun after hearing my Rebbe (his talmid at YU) give over a piece of Chassidus.

"An", a commentator, asked if Rav Lifshitz was a Litvak or a chassid. I answered that he was not a chassid but had an appreciation for a g'shmak piece of Torah wherever it came from.

This is where the fun began. Essentially, "An" accussed me of purposely misrepresenting who Rav Lifshitz was and overstating his connection and relationship to chassidus. He only calmed down when I quoted from an azkara delivered by Rav Lifshitz's grandson, Rav Ari Waxman, the mashgiach at Yeshivat Shaalvim.

In the middle of all this I emailed Rav Waxman to bring this kerfuffle to his attention.

This is the email I received last night:

For the record- I definitely agree with your assessment that my grandfather was a litvak who was able to appreciate chassidus due to his ayin tov.

Some interesting points:

At the end of my second year at Sha'alvim I became very interested in Sfas Emes (a sefer from the grand Rebbe of Gur-MoC) and I would try to learn some pieces before each parsha. When I returned to the United States I lived with my grandparents in Washington Heights while attending Y.U. During that time I kept a Sfas Emes in my room and when my grandfather saw me learning it he would give me hardy words of encouragement. Again, this does not mean that he was a closet Chassid. He wasn't. And, it didn't mean he would tell everyone to learn Chassidus. He didn't. (Indeed, late at night, after my grandfather finished preparing shiur, I would often pass by his study, which was opposite my bedroom, and see him leaning over a "Daas Chochmah U'Mussar" (A Mussar sefer-MoC), written by the Mirrer Mashgiach, Rav Yerucham Levovitz, who was my grandfather's shadchan. On one occasion my grandfather looked up from the "Daas Chochmah U'Mussar", clenched the sefer in his hand and said, "Zeh mamash mechayeh oti" (Loosely, "This really gives me life"-MoC)). Nevertheless, he definitely appreciated certain parts of Chassidus.

Another point (which may show that he wasn't mainstream litvish). I don't know if this is politically correct these days, however the fact is that after the Lubavitcher Rebba's wife passed away my grandfather went to the Rebba to be menachem avel, despite a call (according to what I heard) by Rav Shach for people not to go be menachem avel. Another interesting point in that incident was that my grandfather made the nichum aveilim visit together with Rav Aaron Soleveitchik. (I'm sure that Lubavitch has pictures.)

Actually, my grandfather would often refer to a very special and extremely uplifting shaloshudos (Seudah Shlisheet) that he experienced, hosted by Lubavitcher Chassidim in Russia at the time of his escape from Europe.

In any case, to anyone who knew my grandfather all of this is obvious. Besides being the tremendous Talmid Chocham that he was, he simply possessed the greatness of being a level headed Jew who knew that there are shivim panim leTorah and if anyone tells you that their way of avodas Hashem is the only way, zeh omer darshainee.

Kol Tuv,
Ari Waxman
My Rebbe revered Rav Lifshitz and talks about him frequently. My only point in telling the initial story was to give over a small taste of the greatness and sweetness of the man about whom I have heard so much.

As Simcha wrote, Yechi zichro baruch.

UPDATE: Rav Waxman revised his email (which now appears above) because he was concerned that the original version might have given the impression to those unfamiliar with the sefer that "Da'as Chochmah U'Mussar" is a sefer of Chassidus. It is, of course, a mussar sefer. Rav Waxman's point was that while Rav Lifshitz himself was more attracted to the mussar seforim he was open to hearing parts of Chassidus as well.

UPDATE II: In a comment on Simcha's blog, R. Joshua Hoffman relates how he drove Rav Aron and Rav Dovid to be menachem aveil to the Rebbe.


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