Thanks to his singular expertise in both the intricate rulings of halachah and the complex teachings of Kabbalah, one of the more fascinating of the contemporary gedolim is undoubtedly Rav Mordechai Gross, who I have the great privilege in visiting today in his modest but sefarim-filled home in Bnei Brak.
A highly respected dayan and posek, and an author of many sefarim, particularly on halachic subjects, Rav Gross , serves as the av beis din of Chanichei Hayeshivos and is also known for his Kabbalistic practices. Most recently he visited the kever of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron with a group of ten talmidim to perform a rare ritual for ending epidemics.
During the ritual, whose origins are traced to the Maggid Meisharim, he and his talmidim held lulavim and circled the kever seven times while saying Tehillim and tefillos, including “Mizmor L’Dovid, “Ana B’koach” and “Yosheiv B’seiser.” After spending a full hour carrying out the hakafos and reciting the tefillos, they blew the shofar.
Born in Yerushlayim, Rav Gross is a talmid of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, as well as of Rav Shach and Rav Wosner. Today many rabbanim proudly consider themselves his talmidim, and when I arrive at his home there is a gathering of these rabbanim about the topic of kashrus—one of Rav Gross’ many fields of expertise. One talmid, Rabbi Avrohom Schlesinger, who accompanies me during my visit with Rav Gross, warns me beforehand that Rav Gross is not one who engages in sichas chulin and small talk. While I discover that very soon on my own, his divrei Torah—which are steeped in Kabbalistic concepts—are equally, if not more, fascinating.
Rabbi Schlesinger also shares with me the following: “In the year 5764, Rav Wosner told us that Rav Gross is a tzaddik gamur, and that it’s established that Hashem doesn’t allow a mishap to come about through tzaddikim. There were a number of witnesses who heard him say that.” That’s where Rav Gross’ proficiency in both halachah and Kabbalah intersects and comes to the fore.
I’ve been to Bnei Brak many times, baruch Hashem, and I’ve had the merit to meet many of the gedolei Yisrael. The last time I was here I met with Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman of Kollel Rashbi, with whom I understand you have a relationship.
I was actually one of the kollel’s founders, although I first helped start the Strikover Kollel in Tel Aviv. The Strikover Rebbe had asked his son-in-law, Rav Frankel, to start a kollel, and Rav Frankel asked me to join him since we were friends from yeshivah. After being in that kollel for two years, Rav Meir Tzvi and Rav Shach asked me to start another kollel, which is when we started Kollel Rashbi.
The Strikover Rebbe was a talmid of the Brisker Rav and was known as a great lamdan.
He was very modest and didn’t like to show his lamdanus. He lived on the second floor, and the kollel was on the first floor.
Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman shared some unbelievable stories with me about the Chazon Ish. It’s one thing to hear stories about the Chazon Ish, and another thing entirely to speak to someone who slept in the same room with him. Rav Bergman told me that the Chazon Ish once saved him from being hit by a car by pulling him over to the side of the road.
Rav Bergman was a yasom from Yerushalayim, but he came to Bnei Brak to learn in Yeshivas Tiferes Tzion. They told him that they need someone to stay with the Chazon Ish, so he started sleeping in his house. I don’t know if Ravi Bergman shared this story with you, but the first night he just couldn’t fall asleep. The mosquitoes wouldn’t stop biting him, so he waited until the Chazon Ish fell asleep and then he got up. Afterwards he told the Chazon Ish what happened, and the Chazon Ish said, “If they bother you, get rid of them.” In other words, to the Chazon Ish, they didn’t make a different. Rav Bergman lit a small stove and the smoke chased the mosquitoes away. He stayed with the Chazon Ish for about a year and then went to learn in Petach Tikvah. One day they told him that the Chazon Ish had hinted that Rav Bergman should visit him. So he went to the Chazon Ish, and the Chazon Ish asked him to set up whatever it was that had gotten rid of the mosquitoes. Apparently, once the Chazon Ish had gotten used to not having mosquitoes around, he also found them to be a nuisance.
Where did you learn?
I learned in Kol Torah for six years and then in Ponovezh for three. Then I got married and learned in Ponovezh for another few months until the Strikover Rebbe’s son-in-law asked me to join him. I received semichah while I was in the Strikover Kollel.