The Kol Demamah Dakah
By: Yakov Horowitz
When reflecting upon the life of our great rebbi, Hagaon Horav Pam z’tl, the encounter of Eliyahu Ha’Navi with the Ribbono Shel Olam (Melachim1:19) comes to mind. “Lo b’ruach Hashem, … lo b’ra’ash Hashem, … lo b’aish Hashem”.
The Navi relates how Eliyahu stood by the mountain and waited for the presence of Hashem to appear. A great, powerful wind blew by Eliyahu, followed by an earthquake, and then a fire. The Navi mentions that these cataclysmic forces were merely the precursor of Hashem’s presence. And then Hashem appeared to Eliyahu in a “still, thin sound” – “ves vnns kue atv hrjtu.” Our rebbi’s manner of teaching and guiding us was always one of a ves vnns kue – but the power and passion of his eloquent, soft-spoken words and the indelible impression of observing his refined character still resounds in our ears and hearts.
Perhaps my most everlasting impression of Rav Pam z’tl was the time some 25 years ago, when he walked into the Beis HaMedrosh for shachris. A 10-year-old child had inadvertently taken Rav Pam’s seat, which was in middle of the shul, not at the ‘mizrach wall’. As Rav Pam entered, wearing his talis and tefilin, several older bachurim went over to the child to remove him from their rebbi’s seat. Too late. Rav Pam called the boy back. He moved his talis bag to one side of the shtender (Torah Vodaas has two-seat shtenders) and, for the entire davening, shared his seat with the ten-year-old child. This was the chinuch that we received from our rebbi. No ra’ash, no aish, only the kol demamah dakah of kovod haTorah and kavod habriyos.
Before my first speech on the topic of at-risk teens (at the Torah Umesorah Convention nearly seven years ago), I visited Rav Pam, and asked him for his insights and guidance. He was silent for several moments. Then he told me a story. A sixty-five-year-old man had recently approached him at a simcha and thanked him for treating him with dignity and respect when he was a teenage talmid in Yeshiva Torah Vodaas more than 5 decades ago. Rav Pam, then a young man, was proctoring an examination, and he observed this bachur reading someone else’s paper during the test. Fully expecting to have his paper confiscated for ‘cheating’ and to be sent out of the room, this young man was startled when Rav Pam leaned over to him and whispered, “If you are having trouble reading a question, please ask me for help. I will be more than glad to read it for you”. (This story is all the more remarkable when taking in consideration Rav Pam’s lifelong abhorrence for all things dishonest). Rav Pam informed me that the middle-age man told him that he was struggling in yeshiva, and Rav Pam’s trust in him was a turning point in his life. With tears in his eyes, Rav Pam said, “Reb Yakov, imagine how things might have turned out if I had reacted more severely?”
Rav Pam encouraged us to contribute our time and energy for the benefit of the k’lal. Learning with a weaker talmid, or volunteering for J.E.P. was viewed as an integral part of our growth as b’nei Torah and contributing members of K’lal Yisroel. When many yeshivos switched to an 11-month schedule, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas continued to give a 2-month bein ha’zmanim, and Rav Pam encouraged us to become counselors in summer camp during those 2 months. He would point out that Yaakov Avinu, Moshe Rabbeinu, and Dovid HaMelech served as shepherds. This was their training to be leaders of K’lal Yisroel. They learned to watch over each sheep – and realized that one sheep, if not supervised properly, could lead many others astray. He said that nowadays, the best training for a future mechanech and parent is to be a summer-camp counselor. This philosophy may explain the involvement of so many former Torah Vodaas talmidim, now in their forties and fifties in the forefront of K’lal work – in askonus and chinuch.
Rebbi offered his original explanation as to the reason that Chazal compare mechanchim to stars. He said that the light of the stars does not reach us on Earth until several years after it was emitted. Speaking to educators, he encouraged us to remember that we should not become frustrated when we put our love and devotion into our talmidim and talmidos – and don’t see instant results. With the passage of time, the light we now shine upon them will illuminate their lives.
May the brilliant light created by our great Rebbi continue to shine upon his talmidim, and all of K’lal Yisroel – ad biyas goel.
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