Among the rabbis slaughtered at prayer this morning in Jerusalem was Rabbi Mosheh Twersky, the grandson of the Rav, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik. Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher, was a foremost talmid (student) of Rav Soloveitchik, and has spent decades editing his works and is now having them published by OU Press. Rabbi Genack knew Mosheh Twersky well, even before Rabbi Twersky’s Bar Mitzvah. Here are Rabbi Genack’s thoughts on Rabbi Twersky and today’s tragedy:
I remember Mosheh from his childhood. He was always the apple of the Rav’s eye, his oldest grandson. When Rabbi Soloveitchik’s wife died, the Rav went to live with their daughter, Dr. Atarah Twersky, Mosheh’s mother, in Massachusetts. So Mosheh grew up in the Rav’s household.
I remember once in the late sixties when Mosheh was a child and in New York for the weekend staying with his aunt. The Rav asked me to show him around town. I remember we went to the Museum of Natural History together. We had a great time. Mosheh was a tremendous talmid chacham (“wise student” or scholar), and exceptionally humble. He also learned from Rav Dovid Soloveitchik of Brisk and was very close to Rabbi Gershon Zaks, the grandson of the Chofetz Chaim. Rabbi Zaks gave a weekly shiur (seminar), in which Mosheh stood out because of his great intelligence. I was in that shiur as well, and could see his brilliance.
When Mosheh’s first son, Meshullam, was born, the Rav was present at the brit (circumcision ceremony), and the Rav’s remarks made a lasting impression on me. The Rav noted that Rabbi Akiva Eiger discusses whether a grandfather is obligated in the mitzvah (commandment) of brit milah. The conclusion is that the primary obligation is on the father, but the grandfather is obligated as well. The Rav related this discussion to the concept of whether the grandfather is obligated in the mitzvah of talmud Torah (teaching Torah) to his grandchild just as the father is obligated to teach his child. From the verse in Parashat Va’etchanan, “ve’hoda’tam le’vanecha ve’livnei vanecha, …and you shall make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9), we see that the grandfather is obligated to teach Torah to his grandchild. When it comes to transmitting the mesorah (tradition), the further back in time that one can reach, the more distant the generation that is the source of the mesorah, the more meaningful is the mesorah. Mosheh Twersky represented that glorious tradition of Torah learning and mesorah embodied by the Rav, and that brit represented the transmission of the mesorah to the next generation, to the grandchildren of the Rav.
Losing Rabbi Twersky breaks a mesorah that led back to the Rav, compounding the tragedy of Rabbi Twersky’s death, Now Rabbi Twersky’s many students will carry on the glorious transmission of the mesorah.
Rabbi Twersky became a rebbe and rosh kollel (dean) at Yeshiva Torat Moshe in Yerushalayim and was extremely devoted to his students, a very caring teacher. He was reserved, but this did not hide his extraordinary and insightful intellect.
I am devastated by his murder as well as the murder of the other victims. These tragedies happen all too often, but when it comes to someone so close to you, with such extraordinary gifts intellectually and spiritually, the tragedy becomes even more devastating.