Title: The Warmth and Radiance of Gedolei Yisroel: Personal accounts, encounters, and experiences
By: Rabbi Avishai David
The title of this book is The Warmth and Radiance of Gedolei Yisroel: Personal accounts, encounters, and experiences (Mosaica Press), its subtitle could be How I got great rabbis to schlep things for me. While the book is about Rabbi David’s interactions with many great rabbis. He also writes how in his youth, he mistakenly treated some of these rabbis as peers, to his later embarrassment.
For example, when he was just starting Yeshiva University high school as a thirteen-year-old, he needed to find someone to watch his books, seforim and briefcase. He saw someone learning Gemara, so he asked that person. It turned out to be Rav Ahron Soloveichik. He thought Rav Soloveichik was just another guy there, so he had no problem asking him to watch his stuff.
It was only when another gadol, Rav Dovid Lifshitz, told him that it was inappropriate to have a gadol be his shomer. But through that incident, he was able to develop a relationship with one of the generation’s giants. Through the incident, Rav Soloveichik taught him the laws of being a shomer and its responsibilities.
Rabbi David writes how he was completely taken aback by how this giant of a Torah scholar would treat a very young boy with such respect and friendship as if he were talking to one of his peers. For him, it was a remarkable insight into Gedolei Yisroel and their outpouring of chesed towards everyone.
For many people during their lives, they will attach themselves to a small handful, if that many, of Torah great. What is unique about Rabbi David, is that he developed relationships with many great Torah personalities. And he details that in this most enjoyable read.
From Rav Yeruchem Gorelick to Rav Gedalia Felder, Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl, and many more, Rabbi David writes of his close interactions with these greats. As Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Torat Shraga in Jerusalem, it might be a bit easier for him to gain access to these people. But the underlying message is that one should strive to develop these relationships with these Torah greats.
The book has numerous vignettes of his interactions with gedolim. In these stories, he also shares many of his Torah insights.
What is unique about R David is that he was able to attach himself to many greats. One of the most poignant events was his interactions with Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Rav Shlomo Zalman got him tea and rugelach. And while he was one of the greatest sages of the generations, you also see his greatness in kindness and caring about others.
In his eulogy for Rabbi Chaim Heller, Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik analyzed the composition of the blessing of the Amidah: May Your mercies be aroused, L-rd our G-d, upon the righteous, upon the pious, upon the elders of Your people, the House of Israel, upon the remnant of their sages, upon the righteous proselytes and upon us.
The Rav noted that the first three categories are nouns. The fourth sages is proceeded by an adjective. Why was this adjective remnant necessary before the concept of sages? The other nouns are not modified while the last one is.
The Rav explained that in every generation there are young people who aspire to become pious, righteous, and scholarly individuals. However, they will only achieve their goals if they interact with and relate to the remnant of the scholars of the previous generation. The Rav said that this is the essence of the oral tradition, which unfolds through the ongoing interaction between yesteryear and the contemporary era.
Rabbi David is one of those rare individuals who shared significant interactions with those sages. His book is a stimulating portrayal of many of those remnants from the previous generation. The accounts, encounters, and experiences he shares make this a unique read.