The Kotzker Rebbe led his Chasidim with a fierce struggle for absolute truth, without compromise. After ten years, he receded into his inner chambers, and remained secluded thus for the rest of his life -- nearly twenty years. During this time, he burned all of his writings. All that remains of his work are the notes of his students, many of which were collected in works such as Ohel Torah and Emes V'emunah.
The author of Emes V'emunah writes that even the students recorded on paper very little. The Rebbe's teaching were recorded as oral Torah on the tablets of the heart.
The Rebbe had several students whose Torah brilliance shines throughout the generations, such as the Chidushei Harim (the first Gerrer Rebbe) and the Avnei Neizer (the Rebbe from Sochashov).
The Chidushei Harim once brought to the Rebbe a work he had written on all of Choshen Mishpat (a difficult section of Shulchan Aruch). The Rebbe was impressed, but said: "Such a work should be destroyed... I fear that such a work will minimalize the credit due to the 'Shach' (the immortal commentary to the Shulchan Aruch). The Shach learned with such self-sacrifice, with such pure intention; it would be a shame that people neglect his commentary."
The Chidushei Harim took his son, and burned his commentary. Sometime later, the son was visiting the Rebbe. "What happened to your father's new commentary?" the Rebbe asked. "He burned it in the fire." The Rebbe was astounded. "Such noble, pure intent, such self-sacrifice! I am certain that very soon, your father's reputation will spread throughout the world!"
In our Parsha, the explanation of the Kotzker is famous. Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, was sent on a mission to find a bride for Avraham's son, Yitzchak. Rashi deduces from a nuance of language that Eliezer had had an ulterior motivation. When he suggested to Avraham that the woman might not want to marry Yitzchak, Rashi says that Eliezer was hoping to receive permission for Yitzchak to marry Eliezer's own daughter.
Rashi makes this comment only in the repetition of the story by Eliezer, but not in the original story, although the same point could have been made there. The Kotzker explained: A person a cannot see his own conflict of interest at the time. Only afterwards, in recalling the events, can he sufficiently analyze his own intentions. Thus, Eliezer himself related his own ulterior motivation, as soon as he himself recognized it. (That is, as soon as the woman had accepted, and Eliezer's own plan was no longer possible -- suddenly, he beheld his own inner conflict.)
Yes, the Rebbe relentlessly pursued the absolute truth. Once, a man wanted advice regarding a possible marriage. The Rebbe didn't answer him clearly. The man pressured him greatly. Answered the Rebbe: "Don't think we go up to heaven to read the decree. This is brazenness. When a question is brought before us, we first rise to the level of "geyus" (pride); we then have to destroy the "geyus." Only then, can we look into the Torah and judge according to law and uprightness. To give advice in any other manner is impossible!"
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein -- PC Kollel
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© Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Genesis, '97