by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
Rav Nosson Wachtfogel zt”l, the first mashgiach Ruchni of BMG in Lakewood and an alumnus of both the Kelm and Mirrer yeshivos in Europe, was once on the telephone attempting to get a young high school bochur into a yeshiva during the middle of a zman. The Menahel had a policy that he did not accept bochurim in the middle of the zman.
Rav Wachtfogel explained to the menahel that the need was, in fact, most acute because at this point, the Talmid had expressed a genuine desire to learn Torah and he was involved in a chevrah that was not ideal for him. He further told him, “If we do not grab this young man now, he is liable to chas v’shalom experience a great decline.”
The Menahel continued to refuse to accept him based on principle and policy.
The Mashgiach responded, “ What will you lose if you forgo this policy in this case? Listen to me, I am much older than you and in my eighties. I had once made a mistake similar to this one, I distanced someone. And even though he wished to come back – I persisted, on account of midos ra’os. This person, to this day, has taanos on me – and he is correct! On the other hand, with others to whom I showed tolerance toward – I was successful with them, and they too succeeded.”
The Mashgiach would explain, and at times very sharply, “There are some people who have what they perceive as “principles” but are actually inflexible and stubborn. They can destroy the entire briya and it is forbidden to say more than two words to them in conversation.”
The Vilna Gaon in his posthumous work entitled, “Even Shleimah” (1:2) explains that the essential aspect of a person’s life is shviras hamidos – improving one’s character. “And if not,” the Vilna Gaon continues, “of what purpose is life?”
The Mashgiach asked on this: “What does this mean? What about Torah? What about Avodas Hashem?” He answered, “If one does not see the needs of other people – then herein lies the entire Churban.”
(Leket Reshimos Volume on Elul pp. 17, 16)