A Connection Through Generations

My brothers and I all learned by Rav Dovid, as did our sons and many of our grandsons. I was there from 5735 until 5743 (1975-1983)—three years as a bachur and five years as a yungerman. My father, Rav Elyakim Schlesinger, zol zein gezunt un shtark, is the same age as Rav Dovid. The relationship goes back to when the Brisker Rav was still alive.

My father learned in (Yeshivas) Petach Tikvah, one of the few yeshivos that accepted bachurim from chutz laaretz at that time; my father was from London. He would visit Bnei Brak very often, which is how he became close with the Chazon Ish. After he got married and moved to Yerushalayim, he complained to the Chazon Ish that he was living too far from him. The Chazon Ish told him to go to the Brisker Rav. My father visited the Brisker Rav a couple of times, but he was completely ignored. When he complained about it to the Chazon Ish, the Chazon Ish told him that he has to akshan zich (to be dogged) and not give up.

My father had an uncle named Rav Michel Schlesinger, who was the rosh yeshivah and founder of Yeshivas Kol Torah. Rav Michel was very ill—he passed away at the age of 50—and my father learned with one of his sons for his bar mitzvah, including teaching him a pshetl. Then my father was asked to take the boy to the Brisker Rav for a brachah. The Brisker Rav thought very highly of Rav Michel, so they were able to get in to him. The boy said his pshetl for the Brisker Rav, the Rav gave him a brachah and then they left. Right after they left, one of the Brisker Rav’s sons came out and told my father, “My father is calling you.” My father said he was terrified; he didn’t know what the Brisker Rav wanted from him. As soon as he walked in, the Brisker Rav asked, “Who wrote this pshetl?” My father admitted it was him. The Brisker Rav told him to take a seat. From then he was very close with the Brisker Rav. A good vort was always the way to get to the Brisker Rav. Separately, he was also very close with Rav Dovid, and that’s why we all learned by him.

I was fortunate to have a shaychus with Rav Dovid even outside of shiur. I would speak to Rav Dovid for hours. I used to walk with him, and we would talk about hashkafah and Yiddishkeit. It wasn’t every night, but his son would call me, and we would go for long walks. His yegiah in learning was tremendous, and he needed this bit of relaxation, so we would talk about easier things, but it was all Yiddishkeit. Even when we would talk about the problems in Eretz Yisrael, it was about Yiddishkeit.

Shortly after I got married, my wife wasn’t feeling well, right before Tishah B’Av, and I asked Rav Dovid whether she had to fast. He immediately said no. About two hours later his son Rav Velvel, who was still a bachur, came knocking on my door: “My father wants to talk to you.” I went outside and found Rav Dovid himself there—he came himself!—“I didn’t say anything. Go ask Rav Meir Brandsdorfer.” He could have called me to come to his house, but instead he came to my house—down a steep hill—to tell me to ask Rav Brandsdorfer. Of course, Rav Brandsdorfer told me the same thing that Rav Dovid had told me, but it shows you Rav Dovid’s powerful yiras cheit, and how he didn’t want to be matriach me.

I once had a box of lulavim in my house—I don’t remember why—so I told Rav Dovid that I had lulavim, and if he would like, I could bring him one. A few hours later, Rav Dovid was in my apartment… He came by himself, and he sat there for two hours. He could have asked me to bring the box to him, but no, he came to me. He went through the whole box until he chose one. His dikduk in mitzvos and his yiras shamayim were outstanding, as were his yegias haTorah and hasmadah. When we would ask him an important shailah, he would sit quietly for ten minutes, and we could see his brain working.

Although there was certainly an eimah with Rav Dovid, when you got close to him, you could discuss anything. We would discuss our shidduchim with him. He was involved in every detail, and he would answer with such clarity. His mesirus for his talmidim was amazing.

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