Another of the great scholars to come from the remarkable beis medrash in Brodi was Rav Elazar Rokeach, whose genius shines forth from his work Arba’a Turei Even and Ma’ase Rokeach. But over and above his learning were his qualities of character. He was simple and modest, direct and humble.
In his youth, tradition tells us, he lived the life of a pauper. Many a week he would fast two days, and even during his fast he would sit in the beis medrash and continue his studies. No one took notice of his afflictions and few realized how he suffered.
Later, however, when he became renowned as one of the great scholars in Israel, he was offered the position of rav in a different city. Then he was suddenly recognized in his own city of Brodi and, before leaving, he prepared a feast for all his newfound friends. During the celebration, Rav Elazar rose to speak.
“I have always been puzzled by a certain commentary of Rashi. In Parshas Vayetzei, on the pasuk, ‘And Yaakov said to his brothers: gather stones,’ Rashi comments that the word ‘brothers’ refers to his sons, who were as brothers to him in times of trouble and war. Nevertheless, a few pesukim later it says, ‘And he called his brothers to eat bread.’ Here Rashi explains the word ‘brothers’ to mean his comrades who were with Lavan.
“I have never understood this comment of Rashi. Why in the same context does Rashi explain ‘brothers’ to mean ‘sons’ and then ‘comrades’?
“The answer, I think, lies in the background of the two pesukim,” Rav Elazar said with a chuckle. “In the second pasuk it is talking about a feast, is it not? For it says that he ‘called his brothers to eat bread.’ When people hear of a feast, they all suddenly become friendly and close, and all acquaintances become as faithful as brothers. In the case of the first pasuk, however, what was Jacob asking? He asked them to help him out, to help him work and gather stones in a time of need. At such a time he was forced to rely on his sons. All other ‘friends’ are only friends at a time of a banquet.”