By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

Imagine an adult playing with children’s toys.  This is us, when we involve ourselves in the pursuit of gashmius – physical luxuires.  Man, a reflection of Hashem’s Divine Image, was meant for much greater things – the pursuit of the ruchnius.  This is just one of many of the profound ideas of Rav Chaim Visoker zatzal, the saintly Rosh Yeshiva of Beis HaTalmud in Bensonhurst.

Rav Chaim Visoker zt”l(1896-1985) was one of the Gedolei HaRoshei Yeshiva in America, yet very few have ever heard of him, much less his Torah thoughts..  He was among the closest students of Rav Yeruchem Levovitz zt”l and helped bring his remarkable mussar thoughts to the world.

Rav Visoker and his close friend, Rav Leib Malin (1906-1962), were those who took it upon themselves to save the Mir Yeshiva students.  Later upon the arrival of the Mir students in the United States, he and Rav Leib Malin opened up the Beis HaTalmud Yeshiva, first in East New York and then in Bensonhurst.

Rav Chaim was born in Pieski, in Tsarist Russia (Poland) a province of Volkovysk in 1896 (Feb.3rd).  Pieski was located 55 miles east of Bialystok. At the time of Reb Chaim’s birth, Piesk was a town of about 2400 residents, one third of them being Jewish. It had grown significantly, since 50 years earlier (1847) when there were 662 Jews.   Piesk was located on the Ros River, a tributary of the Neiman River.

Many of the Mir Talmidim arrived in the United States on July 18th, 1946 in San Francisco, from Shanghai China among them Rav Chaim Vizoker and Rav Leib Malin.

They opened up Beis HaTalmud in 1948.  It was launched just after Reb Leib Malin’s wedding in Canada to the daughter of Rav Dovid Dov Kreiser zt”l, a maggid shiur in Rav Aharon Kotler’s yeshiva in Kletsk.  A meeting was held in Reb Leib’s living room with the leading luminaries of Mir’s finest talmidim with the notion of recreating the atmosphere that existed  in pre-war Mir.

Among those in that first meeting, aside from Rav Chaim Visoker and Rav Leib Malin,  were: (1)Rav Shalom Menashe Gottleib (2) Rav Leizer Horodzhesky, (3) Rav Levi Krupenia, (4) Rav Binyomin Paler, (5) Rav Yisroel Perkowsky, (6) Rav Leib Shachar, (7) Rav Betzalel Tannenbaum, (8) Rav Shmuel (Wilensky) Charkover, (9) Rav Simcha Zissel Levovitz (son of Rav Yeruchem), (10) Rav Avrohom Levovitz and (11) Rav Binyomin Zeilberger.

In January of 1962, his partner Rav Leib Malin passed away.  Rav Chaim made his residence in Bensonhurst after the Yeshiva moved there.  He lived at 2122 82nd Street. Rav Chaim continued leading the Yeshiva for 37 years, until his passing in 1985.  His mussar shmuessim were nothing short of breathtaking in their depth.

Among Rav Visoker’s talmidim was Rav Shimshon Pincus and Rav Chaim Fasman (the Rosh Kollel in Los Angeles, where this author grew up).

His thoughts and sayings were remarkably inspiring and some are listed below:

  • Immersing oneself in the pursuit of luxuries or gashmius is analogous to an adult playing with children’s toys. (IC 26)
  • Tefilah is an all-encompassing capacity for the entire world – it fills deficits and shortfalls. It is sad that people do not appreciate its value and capabilities. It truly stands b’romo shel olam (Brachos 6b) (IC 24)
  • The concept of Tikkun HaLev is key, and each and every organ in a person’s body requires effort and a tikkun. How does one do so?  Listening and accepting Tochacha, and the study of Mussar.  When one adopts this perspective, Tefillah itself becomes a Mussar Sefer in and of itself, accomplishing major growth for the individual (IC39).
  • Kabbalas Ol malchus shamayim doesn’t just mean that one takes on what Hashem requires of us.   It means that we must accept upon ourselves the yoke of Heaven that is a sense of achrayus for all – the sense of responsibility that hashem – the King has.  His desires and goals for us and mankind must become ours.  (IC 1)
  • Fear of Hashem is an obligation incumbent upon everyone. However, this does not and cannot detract at all from one’s faith in Hashem, from one’s bitachon.  They are two separate concepts that work hand in hand together (IC 55)
  • Everyone needs chizuk, and we the essential chizuk in the fundamentals. The main area we should strengthen ourselves is in limud haTorah, which will ultimately strengthen the other fundamentals. (IC68).
  • The source of all sin is that a person refuses to recognize the good that Hashem has done for us. Otherwise, it would be impossible to sin. (IC2).
  • The Avos prepared and set forth a path for our divine service. They laid it out for us so that we could achieve a remarkable level of dveikus, of Divine closeness.  All we have to do is follow it. (IC3)

One of his students, Rav Yisroel Dovid Ehrlich shlita, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Mishkan HaTalmud in Lakewood, NJ wrote a sefer of Rav Wisoker’s mussar Shmuessim entitled, “Imros Chaim” in Tishrei of 5750 (1989).  The 8 thoughts and sayings found above were culled from this work.

As reported by VINnews