A friend of mine, a true (perhaps the hugest) gadol in Madison was kind
enough to impart his life philosophy to me. It was a weekday morning, about
8:45 AM in Rabbi Tuvya Rottenberg's shule. "Love many, trust few and row your
own boat," he told me as he downed a generous portion of cheese cake.
Pre-Atkins diet, of course.
A little over a year ago, I attended a Staten Island Yeshiva High School
dinner which recognized his greatness and duly honored him. Upon receiving
his award, his true gadlus emerged. He was great - he spoke for only two and
a half minutes!! He could have been compared to Shimshon Hagibor that
evening. A gibor doesn't make his fellow Jews suffer through long speeches
at Yeshiva dinners; a gibor is able to control the strong yetzer hara to
plobble away at the expense of others. Besides the drasha's considerate
length, the remarkable chemistry he had with the invited guests and his own
sophisticated and unique articulation, I was delighted to hear this literal
and figurative giant expound Torah in the name of the Ben Ish Chai.
The fourth Mishnah in the second chapter of Pirkei Avos teaches us "al
tifrosh min hatzibur." Chazal teach that an individual should be as pliant
as a reed, meaning that he should view himself as a reed which lacks strength
while standing alone. One reed does not have the strength to support a
structural beam, however when bundled with other reeds its combined strength
is enormous. Similarly, a person must understand that alone he lacks force
yet when buttressed by a group, his (its) power can be awesome.
The value of the tzibur should remind us, dear readers, of what the smartest
chevrusah taught us about the vital importance of a chevrah in last week's
column. Parenthetically, when I said he has a big head, it wasn't meant to
be pejorative, not in the least. The big head is essential to house all
those brains of his. It's simple. The bigger the cranium, the bigger the
cranial unit. When the smartest chevrusah truly strives in Torah, birds
which fly over his head fry like so many pieces of Southern Fried Chicken
(Cf; Rav Yonasan ben Uziel).