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Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach

Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Shmuel Auerbach ztz”l, the eldest son of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz”l and Rosh Yeshivat Ma’alot Ha-Torah in Yerushalayim, has ascended on high.

A person should not be judged by his media-promulgated persona, which displays his outer personality devoid of his inner world. One of the Gerrer Rebbes would explain our Sages’ teaching, “Judge all of the person favorably” (Pirkei Avot 1:6), in this way: At a time when you judge the entire person, when you observe a person from all of his sides – he will be “favorable,” and aspects of merit will be revealed before your eyes (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Bereshit, p. 88).


First and foremost, Ha-Rav Shmuel Auerbach was a great Torah scholar. In his youth, he learned in the famous Eitz Chaim Yeshiva and also with his father. He then served as Rosh Yeshiva in Yeshivat Shem Olam of the Amshinov Chasidim, and then as a Ra”m in Yeshivat Kol Torah in Bayit Ve-Gan in Yerushalayim. In the year 5742, he established Yeshivat Ma’alot Ha-Torah in the Sha’arei Chesed neighborhood of Yerushalayim and served as its Rosh Yeshiva until his passing. He wrote the book “Darchei Shmuel” on Masechet Ohalot, which included an approbation from Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Eliezer Man Shach ztz”l. A student recorded many of his talks in the book “Ohel Rachel”. Rav Auerbach became very close to Rav Shach, and, like him, valued learning Torah constantly over all else, as explained in Nefesh Ha-Chaim (Chapter 4).

Maran Ha-Rav Kook often mentioned that it is not only forbidden to speak Lashon Ha-Ra against any Torah scholar, but it is also forbidden to think it. We must judge all Torah scholars favorably. Even if we do not agree with him, we are forbidden to say that he does not bring benefit to Klal-Yisrael. Shaming Torah scholars is worse than any error they may make and leads to the destruction of the Oral Torah (Ma’amrei Ha-Re’eiyah p. 56).

When the Prime Minister of Israel, Mrs. Golda Meir, traveled to America, the anti-zionist Satmar Chasidim protested against her and against the State of Israel. Many were upset by this, and a student asked Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah about it.

He responded: The Satmar Rebbe is a Torah scholar and it is forbidden to speak against him. Everyone knows we have diametrically opposed positions, but since he is a Torah scholar, we are obligated to protect his honor, even if we disagree with his positions (Mashimi’a Yeshu’a p. 191). And once someone said to Reb Aryeh Levin that the Satmar Rebbe speaks harshly against the State of Israel. Reb Aryeh Levin responded: I do not know him personally but I have heard that he has three great qualities: He loves Am Yisrael, he is a great Torah scholar and he does much Chesed (Ish Tzadik Haya pp.61-62).

And the same is true regarding Ha-Rav Shmuel Auerbach: He loved Am Yisrael, he was a great Torah scholar and he did much Chesed, as many people have stated.

Many great Torah scholars, however, have said that Rav Shmuel Auerbach’s harsh opposition to the State of Israel and the drafting of Yeshiva students into the army were too extreme and caused great damage to the Torah world. Who and what are we to place our heads between giant mountains, lest our skulls be crushed?

We are obligated, however, to point out two things.

1. Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook taught us the meaning of the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (6:6): “One who carries the burden with his fellow” – Torah scholars are required to carry the burden together, even if there are differences of opinion between them, since the shared burden of Torah is greater than that which separates us. Torah Scholars all have the shared goal of declaring in this world: Hashem is One and His Name is One (classes on Kinyan Ha-Torah).

2. We must understand that Rav Shmuel Auerbach’s harsh rebuke was out of love, and at times had the value of protecting the Nation and State of Israel. His strong words were in the category of “revealed rebuke is preferable to hidden love” (Mishlei 27:5). And this is what Maran Ha-Rav Kook said to his student Ha-Rav Dr. Moshe Zeidel, who was upset with the Charedi criticism. He responded that the Charedim, who are opposed to Zionism from the depths of the purity of their spirit, aid in removing much of its negative tendency and will thus allow it to reach its royal potential (Igrot Re’eiyah 3:156).

And, indeed, it was Maran Ha-Rav Kook who served as the Cohain at the Pidyon Ha-Ben of Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Shmuel Auerbach.

May his soul be bound up in the bonds of the living with all of the great Tzadikim and Geonim.


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Rav Shlomo Aviner is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim. You can read Rav Aviner's blog at: