HaGaon Rav Hershel Schachter and Chabad

I learned a little story this week. Mori V’Rabbi R’ Schachter is known to be prolific. His shiurim are an endless daily stream of wisdom and he is clear and wonderful to listen to (in my biased opinion of course). He was the youngest ever Rosh Kollel appointed at YU, and was and is known as a genius. Greater than his genius, are his Middos, as I’ve personally experienced. HaGaon Rav  Hershel Schachter שליט’’אHe is a humble, straight, man who has no tickets on himself. I’d say that the art of politics cum diplomacy are not his strengths, but that’s often a result of not having a level of English oratory, even though he speaks English fluently, having graduated from University.

When Rav Schachter was five years old, his parents, including his well-known father Rav Melech Schachter ז’’ל, were upset and most disturbed. Any parent would be. Their little son Hershel, did not speak a single word. He was silent. He wasn’t stupid, but he would not talk. He knew exactly what was going on, but wouldn’t say a thing.

The Schachters are not Chassidim. Rav Schachter is far closer to the Brisker Derech, having learned assiduously a Mesorah from the giant Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soltoveitchik ז’’ל, the genius Yoresh of Rav Chaim Brisker.

For reasons I do not know, the parents decided to take the young Rav Schachter to see the Rayatz נ’’ע, the second last Rebbe of Chabad, who had escaped Russia via Poland, as has been well documented, and was now residing in New York. The Rayatz wasn’t blessed with great health. His visage, with the spodik, always gave me the feeling of Midas HaYiroh (fear). He spookily looked like his father the Rashab נ’’ע (in my opinion).

The senior Schachters walked into a Yechidus (private audience) with the Rayatz and asked for a blessing for their son, who still couldn’t speak at the age of five. Immediately, the Rayyatz dismissed them with a wave of his hand. exclaiming that they had no idea how many words, and words of Torah would come out of this child’s mouth, when he was ready. They should not worry, and could leave with confidence.

And so it was. Rav Schachter is the most prolific shiur giver at YU and the highly revered Posek of the OU (with Rav Belsky).

Our Mechutan, Rabbi Yossi Goldman, Senior Rabbi of Sydenham Shule in JoBerg, related a story.

Rav Schachter was invited by the Rabonim in South Africa to discuss and help with a myriad of current and difficult halachic matters and to speak on various topics. One day, they hired a bus, full of the cream of South Africa’s Rabonim, and wanted to show Rav Schachter the wonderous Ma’aseh Breishis in the famed wild life parks. Alas, the bus broke down and was stranded for an hour or two. Apparently, one by one, the Rabbonim stood in line, and each asked questions of Torah from one edge to the the other edge of Torah. For two hours it was a Kolo D’Lo Posik (a voice that didn’t stop). With each Rav, he quoted the entire tracts, with Rishonim and relevant acharonim, and explained how he would deal with the question at hand. There seemed to be no topic that wasn’t in his hip pocket. At the end, the Rabonim discussed what they had personally discussed among each other, and were simply blown away, that someone could sit at the end of the bus, with no Seforim, and had the entire Torah at his finger tips and was able to articulate his sensible views, in a Kolo D’Lo Posik Mideorayso. This wasn’t a photographic memory. It was the memory of someone simply across all the Torah.

Even though Rav Schachter states clearly that using Igros of the last Rebbe is not halachic, and meshichisten are rather Narish, he has a soft spot for Chabad, which largely emanated from that meeting with the Rayatz (and no doubt stories he heard from his Rebbe Muvhak, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soltoveitchik ז’’ל, which are well documented) 

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia although my views have naught​ to do with my employer. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

2 thoughts on “HaGaon Rav Hershel Schachter and Chabad”

  1. Isaac,
    Since I am quite a fan of R;Hershel and listen to his tapes regularly and have had the pleasure of meeting him in person and conversing, I must agree that he has no airs, and very approachable.However, I think you are mistaken about him having a “soft spot” for Lubavitch.I don’t think its true at all.While he does quote the Baal Hatanya quite often,(something he got from Rav Soloveichik) that would not generally be taken for having a “soft spot” for Lubavitch.I have never heard him quoting any of the other Lubavitcher rebbeim, (although lo shomati eino raaya), i feel that he does not have a soft spot for lubavitch at all.
    You probably know that R’Schachters father was born in Romania and studied in the Viznitzer yeshiva as a young bochur.So R’ Hershel is not unfamiliar with chasidim.Additionally his father in law Rabbi Shapiro, studied in the Mir but was a Stoliner chosid

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    1. Howard,
      He always calls a spade a spade. If he thinks Lubavitch is doing something questionable he will say so, and even make a joke out of it. That being said, I think he knows Tanya for the reasons that you state, but it would be a brave person to say he didn’t have a soft spot, when Lubavitchers themselves FEEL it. In Tannersville for example, he has been learning with Lubavitchers for years! Did you know that? Rav Hershel is across a myriad of Seforim if he finds them “oisgehalten”. Recently, he told me of a Sefer that is very popular amongst Rabonim, and he forbade it to be learned because he considered the author made basic mistakes. The author went on to become Reform, but his Sefer is considered incredible, yet Rav Hershel won’t open it. He also makes fun of Yekkes and Breuers. That’s just his easy going nature.

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