September 6, 2017
Beis Moshiach in #1084, Tomchei T'mimim, Tribute

RDovid Glazer, writer and lecturer, Nachlas Har Chabad: My mechanech: RShneur Zalman Gafni, Rosh Yeshiva

I arrived in Eretz Yisroel from the United States in 5734/1974. I was on a spiritual journey and sought a Judaism that would connect me to my neshama. I wandered around Yerushalayim and, one by one, checked out all the yeshivos for English-speaking baalei teshuva that existed at the time, but did not find what I was looking for. In each place, something bothered me. It wasn’t always clear to me what that was, but I knew that it wasn’t what I was looking for. When I spoke with roshei yeshivos and staff members, I felt that they only wanted me in their yeshiva, in their group, if I would adopt their way of Judaism. I felt that each one looked at things from his own perspective.

One day, I told a friend, a Litvishe bachur, what was on my mind. He said, “In Kfar Chabad there is a rabbi by the name of Gafni. Go to him.” I went to Kfar Chabad and met the man who would become the person who changed my life.

My first encounter with R’ Gafni was in yeshiva. I told him my story and he sat and listened. Really listened. I finished my story and then he said: Listen, I am not sure that this place is good for you, but we’ll make an experiment. Do a trial period in yeshiva and then we’ll decide together what to do next.

R’ Gafni’s answer immediately grabbed me. I had gone to many yeshivos and this was the first time that I was talking to a rabbi who wasn’t trying to convince me to join his yeshiva or belong to his following of talmidim. I stayed and began learning, and felt that this was precisely what I was looking for.

There was tremendous depth and it captivated me. I started learning Chassidus and discovered the depth of Judaism. The line that R’ Gafni used most was, “Lubavitch munt p’nimius (Lubavitch demands inner awareness). He constantly demanded p’nimius of us and taught us to examine the depth of everything. The combination of Chassidus and R’ Gafni’s unusual depth of thinking fascinated me.

R’ Gafni’s educational approach also captivated me and actually was the cause for the course of life that I chose. He promoted slow and thought-out progress in accordance with the capacity for absorption and retention of the student. He helped us progress and grow in the manner of going up a ladder, rung by rung. He never skipped stages, never looked for shortcuts, detours or easy roads. We progressed step by step, slowly but surely. He never pressured me in any way whatsoever. He always explained things clearly and gave me the possibility of choosing. I remember that I even received an answer and bracha from the Rebbe about a certain thing, but something was blocking me. I was afraid to move forward and refused to move in the direction the Rebbe had instructed. R’ Gafni spoke with me and said it was my choice to listen to the Rebbe or not, but that I should take into consideration that if I did not listen, he would no longer be able to take responsibility and advise me. Only the thought of disconnecting from R’ Gafni got me to take the step for which today, I thank G-d a thousand times a day.

As far as the trial period, it lasted seven years, three years as a bachur and another four in kollel in Kfar Chabad. It wasn’t a simple matter. R’ Gafni interceded with R’ Efraim Wolf and convinced him every year to approve another year in kollel for me. This was upon my request, so I could continue under R’ Gafni’s direct guidance.

Throughout these years, R’ Gafni took care of me just as a father would. This was very strongly manifested in the period of shidduchim. I was a young bachur, alone in Eretz Yisroel, far from my family both physically and emotionally. I had so many doubts and difficulties and he was along for the ride with all the suggestions, until boruch Hashem, he led me to the chuppa.

The special connection between us continues till today. Although he now lives in Tzfas and I live in Kiryat Malachi, I try to visit him now and then, and not miss farbrengens. Without a doubt, he is the educator who had the greatest influence on my life.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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