If Not for my Rebbi, I Wouldn’t Be Here Today
By Yisroel Besser, Mishpacha Magazine
He was the rebbi. He was the talmid.
Few figures lived both titles to their fullest as did the Kamenitzer Rosh Yeshivah, Reb Boruch Ber. His shiurim, masterpieces of depth and profundity, are still the surest path to lomdus, the introduction for many a hard-working bochur to the thrills of becoming a yeshivahman. Yet he maintained the reverence and awe of an eager young talmid for his own rebbi, Rav Chaim Brisker, even after he took his rightful place on the Eastern Wall of the Lithuanian Torah world.
He was a man of lekach (scholarship) and of libuv (heart), the very soul of the Torah. A man of tears and of song, of poetry and prayer.
And today, seven decades after his passing ushered in an era of unprecedented suffering for our people, a new world has risen in which those three words — “Reb Boruch Ber” — have again come to symbolize the totality that can be attained through toil and tearful supplication.
There are not many left who remember the great man, who heard him deliver the legendary shiur or sing heartfelt zmiros at his Shabbos table. Not many who saw the luminous face, crowned with the immense yarmulke, framed with the wild white peyos.
Rav Moshe Chaim Sapochkinsky doesn’t just remember: he carries those memories before him, in his heart and soul. For, as he puts it, ever so simply, “If not for my rebbi, I wouldn’t be here today. I owe him everything.”
Rabbi Sapochkinsky is a sprightly, vibrant man, bright blue eyes twinkling with vitality and gentle humor.
He is the rav of one of Montreal’s most historic shuls, the Nusach Ari shul (in Bais Rivka Girls Academy) founded by his late father-in-law with a group of Russian Yidden, and a respected shochet. And, perhaps unlikely for a Kamenitzer talmid, he is a distinguished Lubavitcher chassid. “That is where my rebbe sent me,” he says.
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