Tuesday, August 15, 2023

How Rav Aharon picked his son-in-law Rav Dov

"Throughout the olam hayeshivos of the late 1940s and early 1950s, Rav Dov Schwartzman was spoken about with awe. There are numerous stories and legends of his greatness and of how Rav Aharon Kotler sought out a bochur who was a true gadol baTorah as a son-in-law. What is clear is that when Rav Aharon traveled to Eretz Yisroel and delivered shiurim there, Rav Dov’s incisive questions and insights, and the fiery Torah debates between them, made such a profound impression on Rav Aharon and convinced him that here was the gaon and ilui whom he was seeking."

I heard the following from Rabbi Rakefet regarding Rav Aharon's decision to have Rav Dov as his son-in-law.
Rav Aharon gave a shiur at Chevron Yeshiva. All were very attentive to his brilliant Torah analysis - except for one. There was a bachor sitting in the back who seemed bored and inattentive - sitting with his feet propped up. Rav Aharon angrily walked to the back of the room to confront this arrogant young man. [Rav Aharon had a deep impatience with anyone who was not interested in Torah - especially to his own insights which he had worked for hours to understand properly. My brother who learned in Lakewood under Rav Aharon told me that he had a special briefcase to carry his chidusshim. When he was finally given permission to leave communist Russia with minimum belongs - he personally carried that briefcase. At the border he was stopped and the official perused the papers and asked him whether they were state secrets. When Rav Ahron told him it was Torah chiddushim - the guard laughed and told him he could keep the "nonsense" and cross the border to freedom. Rav Ahron was furious and started yelling at the official for his chutzpah and contempt for Torah. Fortunately there were others who quickly got him past the check point - or he problably would have been sent to jail or worse.] Rav Aharon stood over the bachor and demanded to hear what he thought of the shiur. Rav Dov nonchalantly replied, "The Kletzer is a great Torah genius - but his shiur is based on an error. He forgot an explicit mishna." Rav Aharon fainted from the shock and when he recovered said -"that is the one I want as my son-in-law."


  1. Hard for me to believe Rav Aharon actually fainted. Any eyewitnesses?

  2. As a talmid of Reb Dov zt"l, it is hard to believe the story as told. Never would Reb Dov have referred to Rab Aron as the Kletzker. According to the legend in Reb Dov's yeshiva, the shiur took place in Eitz Chaim where Reb Aron came annually to deliver a shiur. Reb Dov reportedly interrupted Re Aron a number of times during the course of the shiur and afterwards, Reb Aron asked Reb Yechezkel Sarne, "who is the mechutzaf!'
    Dovid Landesman

  3. Dino -
    Dont take it literally. It means he was taken aback in shock. In the version of the story I heard from an old timer Rav Dov didnt ignore Rav Ahron or wait until Rav Ahron approached him. In the version I heard, Rav Dov stood up from the back and dismissed the shiur publicly.

    (FYI - It somewhat common at the time for talmidim to question and challenge rabbanim in the middle of the shiur. Rav Schach's talmidim did the same.)

    The point is that what really happened is not relevant. There are various versions to the story. What matters is the common truth in all of them that Rav Ahron went to Chevron Yeshiva, delivered a shiur, and then picked Rav Dov for his Torah genius and fiery independence. His allegiance was to the truth of Torah and if that truth was being undermined, even by the gadol hador!, he was not afraid to say so. In short - Rav Ahron found a younger version of himself.

  4. Why did he get divorced?

    1. Recipients and PublicityNovember 9, 2012 at 10:53 AM

      Not just Rav Dov Scwartzman Z"L, but the problems with divorce has haunted the Kotler family with the incomplete divorce of the Lakewood rosh yeshiva Rav Malkiel Kotler from his first wife that created a controversy when different gedolim backed different sides since his wife refused to move to America and refused to accept the get and he had to remarry using a heter mei'ah rabbonim with the blessings and encouragement of Rav Shach Z"L in Israel and the American gedolim in the face of the opposition of the Brisker gedolim that supported the wife. Rav Malkiel Kotler has since happily remarried and already has grandchildren.

      Rav Malkiel Kotler is the son of Rav Schneur Kotler who was the son of Rav Aron Kotler. Rav Dov Schwartzman's daughters (the children of his marriage to Rav Aron Kotker's daughter) married some of the other present Lakewood roshei yeshiva, so the divorces have not stopped the growth of the powerful Kotler-Schwartzman family in the Torah world, although Rav Dov Schwartzman himself was hindered by his own divorce.

  5. Why did he say when he went down to the chupa: "Ich gay yezt in kever arain" or something to that effect .
    He knew from the outset that this won't work out but went through with it for whatever reason.

  6. R Aron called him "Chasni k'bni" after his divorce.

  7. There are similar stories about the encounter between R. Aaron Kotler and R. Yosef (Jose) Faur who disagreed with R. Aaron after hearing his first shiur as a new teenager fresh up from Argentina. Apparently he retained his status with the family because he was among those
    who carried R. Kotler's coffin in 1962 (iirc the date).

  8. Yiddish nichtsprechenNovember 9, 2012 at 3:08 AM

    Forgive me, but what's a 'Kletzer' ?

    1. Recipients and PublicityNovember 9, 2012 at 10:41 AM

      Rav Aron Kotler Z"L was from the towns of Kletsk and from Slutsk. He was therefore referred to as "Der Kletsker" ("The [one from the town of] Kletsk") as in Yiddish it was and to some extent still is common to refer to persons by the name of the town or place they came from or had lived in. This practice goes back to the days of the Tanach. It was also common in the days when surnames (second names / family names) were still not widely accepted and used everywhere.

    2. It is the name of a city with which he was a identified

      From Wikipeida:

      He studied in the Slabodka yeshiva in Lithuania under the "Alter (elder) of Slabodka", Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, and Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein. After learning there, he joined his father-in-law, Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, to run the yeshiva of Slutsk.[1]

      After World War I, the yeshivah moved from Slutsk to Kletsk in Belarusia.

    3. Yiddish nichtsprechenNovember 12, 2012 at 6:33 PM

      Thank you very much!

  9. Kalonymus HaQatanMay 20, 2022 at 5:49 PM

    He first wanted Rav Shlomo Goren, the ilui and T'H muvhak of Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer ztl. Rav Goren said he had to ask his Rebbe first, as he was a Gurer chassid.


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