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  Chapter 14 from
The Rosh Yeshivah Remembers

By Rabbi Asher Bergman 


Other Available Chapters
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Rav Reuven Levin of Denenburg, Author of Rosh LaReuveni

  • For the Sake of the Torah

Rav Shach related that when the Malbim began work on his monumental commentary on Torah and Tanach, Rav Reuven Denenburger and Rav Lipa Mirrer (the Malbushei Yom Tov)1 went to speak to him, to try to prevail upon him to relinquish (or postpone) the project, on the grounds that because of his extraordinary intellect and genius his time would be better spent finishing his Artzos HaChaim, a commentary on Shulchan Aruch.

The Malbim rejected this idea, however. He told his visitors that he saw a great need for this kind of commentary on Tanach, for it would help to counteract the widespread and ever growing allure that the Haskalah was exerting upon large sectors of the community. “If you yourselves will undertake to write this commentary instead of me,” the Malbim offered sarcastically, “then I would be freed to continue work on my Artzos HaChaim!”

My father recounts that he once heard from Rav Zelig Reuven Bengis, the chief rabbi of the Eidah Charedis in Jerusalem and author of Liflagos Reuven, that when he studied in the Volozhin yeshivah he heard a remark from Rav Chaim Soloveitchik to the effect that one particular interpretation of a verse in Tehillim by Malbim was so extraordinary that it could not have been said without Divine inspiration (ruach hakodesh).

The verse which drew this comment from Rav Chaim was in Tehillim 75:3-4: “Ki ekach mo'ed Ani meisharim eshpot. Nimogim eretz vechol yoshveha Anochi tikanti amude'ha selah.” This verse is usually translated along these lines: When I shall seize the appointed time (Ki ekach mo'eid), I shall judge with fairness. The earth and all its inhabitants are melted, I have firmly established its pillars. It is unclear who the speaker in these verses is supposed to be, and the commentators offer different ideas. Malbim explains that Fairness itself is portrayed as uttering these words. He also explains the word sgun to mean “to slip” or “fall” (as in Tehillim 26:1), instead of “appointed time.” Based on these assumptions, he translates the verse as follows: “When I take a fall, I, Fairness, will judge (decide) that the earth and all its inhabitants should melt away, for I (Fairness) have firmly established [the earth’s] pillars.” In other words, the earth and civilization are built upon the foundation of fairness, without which they can no longer continue to exist. When Fairness falters, the very existence of the world is threatened.

This is the interpretation that prompted Rav Chaim to marvel at the exceptional insight with which Malbim was blessed.


1. The Rosh Yeshivah speaks very highly of Rav Lipa Mirrer, who was the rebbi of Rav Isser Zalman (Rav Shach’s uncle). He quotes his chiddushim often in Avi Ezri
 
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