Gedolei Torah. You’ve heard so many stories about them. Perhaps you’ve even had some personal encounters with them. You know about their incredible diligence, devotion to learning and unfailing concern for the Klal. But have you ever wondered what it’s like to have constant contact with gedolim? To interact on a daily basis with Torah leaders? To see how daas Torah deals with the most important issues of our time?
In his long career in Agudath Israel of America, which culminated in his position as Executive Vice President, Rabbi Shmuel Bloom had the zechus of interacting with some of Jewry’s greatest gedolim. Now, in On the Shoulders of Giants, he shares the stories and memories, the lessons learned and the insights discovered in more than half a century of encountering greatness.
We asked Rabbi Bloom to describe some of the traits that gedolim tend to have in common. His answer was both insightful and surprising:
“In my encounters with gedolei Yisrael I found that they had a unique blend of humility and confidence. The first time I saw R’ Moshe Feinstein at the Agudah convention, he was waiting for Minchah to begin. A man came over to him and asked the gadol hador if he could ask him a shayla. Reb Moshe answered: “Far vos nit – why not?” It was as if he was saying, in his profoundly humble way – of course you can ask me, this is why I am here in this world, to help other Jews. Yet when there was an accident in front of his house and Rav Moshe was told a boy wearing a yarmulke had been run over by a car, he said that it couldn’t be true. He felt that his Torah learning would prevent such a tragedy from happening. As it turned out, a gentile boy had grabbed a yarmulke from a Jewish boy, and the non-Jew was run over as he was running away. This combination of knowing that he is in this world to serve the Klal, at the same time knowing that he was given a special role to play, is something that I found to varying degrees in almost every gadol.”
Personal stories of gedolim, askanim and politicians, and many rare photos — you’ll find them all here, in On the Shoulders of Giants.