By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

The subject under discussion is a very sensitive one, with extremely strong feelings in both directions.   It must also be pointed out that this article is not meant to be a criticism (even though a differing halachic opinion may be presented), but rather an appreciation of the individuals, nay, heroes – involved.  And so we will proceed with nine points to consider:


  • Firstly, Bais Midrash Gavoah’s Kollel is now some 8000 avreichim strong. That is an extraordinary figure.  Who would have ever imagined that, in America, such a thing would be possible. And these Avreichim are extraordinary Talmidei Chachomim – just look at the seforim and the Torah they produce.
  • The builders of this citadel of Torah, Rav Aharon zatzal, Rav Shneur zatzal, and l”bc”l the four Roshei Yeshiva have built the largest Makom Torah in the history of the world.
  • And im ain kemach – ain Torah – if there is no flour – there is no Torah. One of the hardest jobs that can be envisioned is to raise the necessary funds for this magnificent institution.  We, Klal Yisroel, owe a huge debt of gratitude to the fundraisers and executive directors of BMG – past and present.  No corner of this country has not been left untouched by the products of the Lakewood Yeshivah.
  • And now, the new administration, has taken upon themselves to raise the Kollel salary from $300 a month to $1000 a month. That’s an extra 5.6 million dollars every month.  That heroism, borders on insanity.  The courage, resolution, and sheer commitment is staggering in scope.  Who in their right mind would take up such an ambitious project? Adding on 67 million dollars per year to the annual budget.
  • In order to accomplish this, they took upon themselves this Adirei Torah program.
  • And so that it would not be a failure Chalilah, they needed a Gadol of great stature to be on board. Rav Shach’s son-in-law, HaGaon Rav Meir Tzvi Bergmann shlita was approached. And he agreed.  Thirty thousand people were to attend.  This was a gathering of epic proportion.
  • But then, r”l, tragedy struck. Rav Bergmann’s son was niftar rachmana litzlan.  The event had already been scheduled, and it would have taken place in the middle of Rav Bergmann’s shiva.  If he would not attend, it could possibly turn into a disastrous fiasco.  What to do?
  • The organizers turned to a Rav, with a remarkable and unimpeccable reputation. Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen shlita, whose English language seforim and Hebrew footnotes have brought in-depth Torah learning and Psak to hundreds of thousands of Jews across the country.  But to those who really know him, his sheer tzidkus, they say either outweighs his vast Torah knowledge or at least rivals it in terms of his gadlus.
  • Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen’s ground-breaking psak was that Rav Bergmann shlita should attend [while adhering to certain caveats and protocols]. This was probably based upon the verbiage of the Gemorah in Moed Kotton 22a, “v’im hayu rabbim tzrichin lo – and if the masses of people need him, aino nimna – he does not refrain from leaving his mourning and teaching them.”  Rav Eliezer ben Yoel HaLevi of Bonn , Germany (1140–1225), better known as the Raavya (Aveilus 841) extends this to include not only the teaching of Torah, but if the masses also need him for some public service that cannot be performed by others.  This was also a like ly factor in Rav Cohen’s heter.


The nine points mentioned above are reminiscent of an incident that occurred in Yerushalayim over a century ago.  The regular and beloved Baal Tefillah for yamim noraim had suddenly passed away.  Rav Yoseph Chaim Sonnenfeld asked his son to take over his father’s position as the Baal Tefillah.  The Chashuvim in Yerushalayim pointed to Rav Sonnenfeld that the son was an avel – a mourner and should not lead the services.  Rav Sonnefeld responded that the halacha is that if there is no one else that can lead, then the mourner would be permitted to do so.  The chashuvim were incredulous, “Rebbe!  This is Yerushalayim!  There are plenty of worthy people that can daven!”  Rav Sonnenfeld pointed to the ezras nashim and singled out one woman.  He said, “Do you see that elderly woman over there?  That is the almanah of the shliach tzibbur who just passed away.  To her, there is no one else, but her son.”


Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen shlita apparently applied the concept in the Gemorah to the needs of the 8000 Kollel Yungerleit.  In Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen’s thinking, perhaps, the 67 million dollar extra on the budget, needed a Gadol to stand behind the project and that was “the masses needing him.”


Rav Yitzchok Abba Lichtenstein shlita, a grandson of Rav Yosha Ber Soloveitchik zt”l and a co-Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah V’Daas wrote a letter to Rav Cohen which questioned the basis of his leniency.  In his letter he pointed out the limitations found in Shulchan Aruch (Siman 384)of a Rav teaching students – he may rule in matters as to whether they are forbidden or permitted but he may not answer questions.  Rav Lichtenstein shlita pointed out that there were many other inspirational speakers present and would one more really make a difference?

Rav Lichtenstein further pointed out that there would be many people present that are not well vesed in halacha who might now forever onward take Aveilus quite lightly.  The ruling was printed on one of the competitor’s of both 5TJT and VINNEWS but was removed some two hours before Shabbos.


Rav Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik shlita is the Rosh Yeshiva of the famed Brisk Yeshiva in Yerushalayim – which is perhaps the most prestigious Yeshiva in the world.  Yesterday, at a family simcha on Shabbos [near Rav Avrohom Yehoshua’s home], the Rav spoke negatively about the ruling.  He felt that the fact that 30,000 were menachem avel Rav Shach’s son-in-law may have been the largest nichum aveilim ever held, but he stated that it was wrapped in a chillul Hashem which he felt was a violation of halacha.  He expressed the thought that the idea of the necessity of Rav Bergmann’s presence there was oversold to him, and that it caused a grave Chillul Hashem.


The gathering was also graced with the presence of Rav Dov Landau shlita, who it seems is destined to take over the leadership vacuum that left in Moreinu HaRav Gershon Edelstein zatzal’s passing.  It could be that when it was clear that Rav Landau shlita was going to be present, then the need for Rav Bergmann to attend  may have been obviated.

On the other hand, it may be argued that none of those who are critiquing have ever added some 68 million dollars to their annual budget!.


We must, of course, keep in mind that everything that happens is mishamayim from heaven.  It could very well be that the entire course of events was Divinely ordained to occur in order to bring to light the plight of our single daughters in shidduchim – The Shidduch .  In Lakewood alone, some 32% of the young ladies that are near age 24 are still single.  At the Assifa, Rav Bergmann shlita brought up the matter of the Shidduch crisis and gave a segulah to help it.

The following Wednesday, however, he spoke again at the home of askan and remarked – the Segula alone will not help – we need to work out some systemic change because the numbers are extremely high.

This was perhaps the real reason why Hashem had orchestrated the events in such a manner.  Rav Bergmann is scheduled to address the single women in Shidduchim on Tuesday evening.  May Hashem bring all of Klal Yisroel yeshuos and nechamos!

As reported by VINnews