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May 19, 2007

story of greatness

This weeks Hebrew Mishpacha magazine had articles describing the lives of three great Torah scholars. Rav Elyashiv, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe and Rav Ovadia Yosef.

The articles are very interesting. I would guess the purpose of these articles is to inspire us before Shavuos, the holiday of Matan Torah, in regards to learning Torah.

I want to relate one story I just read in the article on Rav Ovadia Yosef.

The story is that Rav Ovadia Yosef was the wedding of one of the children of Rav BenTzion Abba Shaul. Also attending the wedding was Rav Chaim Kryzeworth from Belgium. While waiting for the chassan and kalla, there was a long delay.

Rav Kryzeworth suggested to Rav Yosef that they should talk in learning while waiting for the chosson to arrive. Rav Ovadia Yosef agreed.

Rav Kryzeworth then suggested that they should review the whole Talmud Bavli (by memory) together (!) while waiting, and as a token to the host of the waiting, they would point out every time the tanna Abba Shaul is mentioned in the gemara.

Rav Ovadia accepted this challenge and suggested that they take turns, Rav Kryzeworth pointing out the first time Abba Shaul was mentioned, and Rav Ovadia pointint out the second time, etc.

They began, each one taking his turn.

When Rav Ovadia Yosef mentioned the fourth time Abba Shaul was mentioned, Rav Kryzeworth interrupted him and said, "You missed one", and mentioned the reference that had been missed.

As he was quoting the missed reference, Rav Ovadia smiled and said, "If you look at the Maharsha on that gemara you will see that that reference to Abba Shaul is not the same Abba Shaul. We are referring top the tanna Abba Shaul, but that one is a different one named Abba Shaul ben Bitnis."

I just thought this was an interesting story that I wanted to share with you. It shows the great mind of Rav Ovadia Yosef, but I found another point. The whole article is about Rav Ovadia Yosef. In this story, I saw how Rav Kryzeworth had a great mastery of the material as well.

Soetimes we look at Rosh Yeshivas and Rabbonim and we think how smart they are but they really might not have control and mastery of everything they have learned at the tip of their tongue. Rav Ovadia Yosef is considered an exception in the sense that his mind is so great and he has so much knowledge at the tip of his tongue. I never heard this of Rav Kryzeworth, albeit he was always considered a great Rosh Yeshiva. But I never heard he had that level of mastery.

It seems that even if we do not know about it, even if we are not aware of it, the great Rabbonim do have that mastery of the sources. Sometimes it is hidden behind their other activities or covered by other things that are at the forefront of any specific Rav's personality, but we should never underestimate the greatness of the Torah leaders. They really do know it all, even if ArtScroll did not put out a book saying so.


  1. A nice story with a completely illogical conclusion.

    If a person studies a subject, let's say literature as its branches of thought are as far reaching philosophically and intellectually as the talmud, for their whole life and in deapth, they might be able to recite from memory how many times shakespeare references arden forest, you cannot draw any conclusions from that other than their deep memory and perhaps understanding of that subject matter. It does not make them great people or great leaders. It simply makes them knowledgable on an intricate feild of study.

  2. you are right. I was not being accurate. I did not mean a leader in general. I mean a leader of his yeshiva. He had thousands and thousands of students and he was greatly admired. That is aside from his rabbinate position in Europe. As a leader in the yeshiva world he was very successful and his phenomenal mind must have had something to do with it, aside from his other skills he must have had.


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