by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon
As we all are somewhat shocked at how everything somehow became upended so suddenly, this Shabbos as I was thinking about it, I remembered the following story as Rabbi Avraham Barnetzky related to me.
Rabbi Barnetzky was one of the original ten students that began learning in Tomchei Tmimim In America. He told me:
The ten of us were, in reality, six and four.
There were six bochurim that traveled to Poland to learn in Otwock. However shortly after they arrived the war broke out and they returned to the USA. Here is not the time to describe their journey, as I want to tell you about one of them. He was what Chassidus calls a pnimi. [Being that he did not do it to bring any attention to himself, I will honor his wish and not publicize his name].
The six bochurim were students in Torah V’daas who were inspired by Rabbi Jabobson’s Chassidus shiurim to go and learn in Tomchei Tmimim. However, when they returned to America, they all went back to Torah V’daas. All but one.
This bochur went to a Nusach Ari shul on the lower east side [perhaps he lived there] and asked the gabbai if he can learn there the entire day.
The gabbai looked at him and inquired, And why do you want to learn by yourself and not in a yeshiva?
The bochur replied, I went to the Rebbes yeshiva and I had to return because of the War. However, that doesn’t change anything, I am the Rebbes student and I will follow the schedule of Tomchei Tmimim until I can once again be in the Rebbe’s yeshiva.
The gabbai was inspired by his tmimus and became very accommodating, allowing him to come and go on his own schedule.
So every morning, he would bring his breakfast and lunch and would learn Chassidus from 7 or 730 until 9 and then davenport Shacharis, eat breakfast and then at 11 begin learning the same gemora he would have been learning if he would have remained in Otwock.
This continued for around 5 months, until the Rebbes came to America and opened up Tomchei Tmimim here.
So yes, dear talmidei hayeshivos, many things have changed in a manner that no one imagined and the schedule is not as it used to be, in fact everything has changed. But we have to remember that we are still in the Rebbe’s yeshiva, (or whatever yeshiva or girls school you may be in) and in a that sense, nothing changed. The morning schedule is the morning schedule, the afternoon schedule is the afternoon schedule and the evening and night schedule remains; everything is the same. I am a Jew who davens, learns and helping any Jew and will continue doing so even in these new circumstances.
P.S. My weekly story will be sent out Thursday afternoon, so you can have it on Beis Nissan.