This past week saw the unfortunate passing of many of Klal Yisrael's best. Notable atop the list was the Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, Reb Nosson Tzvi Finkel ZTL.
What is most gratifying is that this was a rare occasion where even the most acrimonious blogs had positive things to say.
RNTF had humble origins, growing up as an all-American boy in Chicago. Nevertheless, with perseverance he was able to rise to the prominent position of Rosh Yeshiva of the Yerushalayim Mirrer Yeshiva.
I only met RNTF several times, yet all times his perennial smile adorned his face.
Considering that he suffered constantly from many illnesses during his life, this is remarkable. Yet what I find even more amazing is that he built the Mir Yeshiva into one of the largest, if not the largest Yeshiva in the world. The Yeshiva debt has been estimated in the millions of dollars. This must have weighed heavily on him, as the burden for raising the necessary funds lay squarely on his shoulders. Yet his trademark smile never left his face.
I am reminded of a little known story regarding R' Meir Shapiro and his Yeshiva, Chachmei Lublin. RMS, in addition to creating Daf Yomi had grand ideas to found a Yeshiva which would attract the best Bochurim from all over the world. The entrance fee was to know several hundred Blatt by heart. The Yeshiva rivaled the amenities of the Yeshivos of our day. There was a huge library, dormitory and dining room all housed on the Yeshiva's premises.
Yet while it was difficult to find funds to erect the beautiful edifice, maintaining it proved to be a monumental task. Similar to the Roshei Yeshiva of our day, RMS was frequently forced to travel overseas to collect money for his institution. Perhaps it was the burden of maintaining YCL that eventually led to his demise, at 46 years of age.
In the biography on RMS, titled "A Blaze in the Darkening Gloom", a most fascinating story is told. It seems that the Prudential Insurance Company opened an office in Poland and the local representative figured it would make good business sense to offer a cheap policy to RMS as a publicity stunt. RMS named the Yeshiva as the beneficiary in the event of his death. It was this 50,000 dollars that staved off bankruptcy.
Similarly, RNTF may have been literaly Moser Nefesh for his Yeshiva. Perhaps his demise will be the catalyst for a successful emergency campaign to return the Mir to financial stability.