Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik attends an event in Jerusalem on August 10, 2020.

Thousands were thrown into mourning earlier this week with news of the passing of Rav Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik, the last remaining son of the Brisker Rav, R’ Velvel Soloveitchik, at the age of 99.

Rav Dovid – who is my great uncle – is survived by his wife, Rebbitzen Judy, sister of Rav Moshe Sternbuch; two sons; and a daughter. His levaya on Sunday morning, attended by tens of thousands, began from his home; passed by Yeshivas Brisk, which he led; and then continued on to his final resting place on Har Hamenuchos, where he was buried next to his late father.


As per Rav Dovid’s wishes, his oldest son, Rabbi Yitzchak Ze’ev Soloveitchik, will assume the position of rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Brisk.

R’ Dovid was born on Sukkos in 1921 and immigrated with his father to Palestine during World War II. In 1955, he married his wife, the daughter of R’ Osher Sternbuch of London, at the Hotel Atzmaut in Netanya, which belonged to the parents-in-law of Rav Moshe Sternbuch who kindly gave them the hotel for the occasion and allowed them to take free reign of the kitchen so they could adhere to their strict Brisker kashrus requirements.

Until a year and a half ago, R’ Dovid resided in a simple home on Rechov Amos in the Geulah neighborhood of Yerushalayim. He had zero interest in worldly possessions and didn’t want to change anything in the residence, which remained the same for all 65-plus years he lived there (the same small kitchen and broken conveniences). His devoted wife just went along with it.

Before they settled on Rechov Amos, R’ Dovid was looking seriously at a certain apartment, but there was a question where to put the mezuzah. He turned to his father and asked him what to do. His holy father replied: “A good dira is one that has no shayla where to put a mezuzah, a menorah, or a sukkah with the proper measurements.” That was the definition of a good apartment, and that was the end of that apartment.

As mentioned above, R’ Dovid had absolutely no interest in worldly possessions. He truly was from another world. He actually never spoke on a phone in his entire life. His conduct, derech, and emes were truly unique and awe-inspiring.

He also refused to sit on upholstered chairs and wouldn’t lean back on a chair so as not to enjoy the comforts of this world. He only looked for, and aspired to, ruchniyus pursuits.

After their daughter Hendel was born, R’ Dovid and his wife were blessed some time later with a son. They were unsure which grandfather to name him after: R’ Velvel (Yitzchak Zev) or R’ Osher (Rebbitzen Judy’s father). The question was taken to Rav Yechezkel Abramsky who said not to worry; there will be another son. So they named the boy Yitzchak Zev, and, as per Rav Abramsky’s prophetic words, they later had another son whom they named Osher Shlomo Zalman.

Before Rebbitzen Judy’s marriage to R’ Dovid, she was very active as a teacher and camp leader, but when she married, true to her husband’s wishes, she stayed home and remained devoted to the needs of her husband and the yeshivah throughout their life together.

Yeshivas Brisk was founded in 1960 shortly after the passing of R’ Dovid’s father. It started with four talmidim, including R’ Zev Shapiro and R’ Zev Berlin, and grew tremendously over time with thousands of talmidim being influenced by R’ Dovid. His impact on the Brisk yeshiva and kollel came with real yashrus, a straight derech halimud, and a keen sharpness and directedness.

A nephew relates that R’ Dovid was very zealous and wouldn’t take any money from the state of Israel. If something bothered him, he would speak out about it publicly and truthfully. He had many chumros which the Briskers are known for, including salting their own chickens.

R’ Dovid didn’t eat much during the week – just the bare minimum – but on Shabbos he ate a little more in honor of Shabbos. A nephew remembers eating at his table on Shabbos where he sang zemiros with tremendous warmth and dveikus. This nephew still sings one of the tunes he learned at R’ Dovid’s home.

I remember once asking for a blessing from this saintly rav. After giving me a berachah, he lifted his hand straight up in a wave. It was very impressionable as he was so sharp and I felt intimidated by him, but I was very touched by this human act, and it made me feel very honored and special. The experience will remain with me forever.

May the memory of R’ Dovid be a blessing, and may his surviving family and thousands of talmidim be comforted.


* * * * *

Recollections of a Talmid

* Anybody who met him saw on his face his father’s yiras shamayim and midas ha’emes. You could feel it. On the other hand, he had a sense of humor; he was personable.

* One thing I remember that hit me very strongly: He used to say a Chumash shiur in his house either on Friday night or Motzei Shabbos, and one particular time I remember he was crying and crying. What was he crying about? Over the fact that there’s a million children in the Israeli public school system that never heard of Shema Yisrael.

I remember thinking to myself: Did I ever shed a tear over this? I was very misragesh [stirred] by that. It mattered to him. It wasn’t good enough that he was who he was. It bothered him that there are so many Yidden who are lost.

* [Sometimes lacking] among the younger generation is the kavod haTorah a talmid is supposed to have in dealing with a rosh yeshiva. So Rav Dovid used to be machanech on this. I remember one particular story when I was in yeshiva: There were some bachurim who went to speak to Rav Dovid about something and knocked on his door. He opened it and said, “Someone else is here speaking to me. Please wait.”

After waiting outside for 10-15 minutes, they decided, “We’ll come back a different time” and left. Rav Dovid was very perturbed by this. If you go to speak with a rosh yeshiva, you don’t just leave because it’s taking too long. If he tells you to wait, you wait.

* On the same topic: Many times when bachurim from yeshiva got married in America, they would send an invitation with a bachur going back to Eretz Yisrael to bring to the rosh yeshiva. So – more than once, I think – when Rav Dovid was walking back to his house after saying shiur, a bachur came over to him on the street and handed him an invitation. Rav Dovid said, “Do I look like a mailbox?” He was mechanesch on this inyan of kavod haTorah.

* His simchas haTorah was amazing to see. He said shiurim for many, many decades, and there were things he had said many times before. Yet, he had such a simcha. He had such a chiyus and would come so alive even when he said over a shtickel Torah.

* He cried regularly during Shemoneh Esreh. [He had such] kavanah, such immersion and regesh in tefillah. When I was in yeshiva, he didn’t daven that long, but the story is told that when he was younger he davened a long Shemoneh Esreh, and his father wasn’t happy about it. So he called him over and said, “Show me your siddur. Does it [have more words in it] than mine?”

* His simplicity [was something to behold]. His apartment [was extraordinarily simple]. He never had air conditioning in his apartment until the last few years of his life when talmidim insisted on installing it because they couldn’t handle it anymore when they had shiur there.

But he would never turn it on. He didn’t see the need for it. When the yeshiva got a high electricity bill, he didn’t understand: Why do we have to have so much air conditioning? The bachurim can’t learn if it’s hot? What’s the problem? So you’ll be a little bit hot. He couldn’t understand what the big deal was.

* He embodied yegiah, ameilus batorahyiras shamayim, and dikdud hamitzvos. His dikduk hamitzvos was legendary, and his yiras shamayim was palpable. A vort that relates to this point: Megillas Esther says that “many of the people of the land converted to Judaism since the fear of the Jews had fallen on them.” But non-Jews had nothing to fear; the Jews were only going to attack their enemies. If a non-Jew wanted protection all he had to do was not be an enemy of the Jews. There was no need to convert.

The Rema in Mechir Yayin suggests that the Mgllah doesn’t mean that non-Jews were afraid of the Jews. Rather, the fear the Jews had of Hashem spread to the non-Jews. After the great miracle, the Jews were in such a heightened level of awareness of yiras shamayim that it spilled over to all their surroundings, prompting the non-Jews to convert.

In the rosh yeshiva‘s presence, his yiras shamayim was palpable. I went once together with my wife to visit the rosh yeshiva and the rebbetzin. My wife always says about that visit that every time R’ Dovid lifted his eyes and looked around the room, she felt like she was going to melt.

(The talmid who shared these stories with The Jewish Press studied in Brisk for several years and prefers to remain anonymous.)


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Shoshana Sternbuch is originally from England but now lives in Yerushalayim. An artist, she specializes in oil painting.