By an anonymous, loving talmid.
The 15th yahrzeit of the Rosh HaYeshiva HoRav Mordechai Gifter, זצוק״ל has arrived (he was niftar on the 23rd of Teves.) I am a Telzer talmid, Baruch Hashem, and it was the only yeshiva where I have !earned for many many years. I want to thank Hashem that I had the merit to learn in this yeshiva and my children as well, B”H.
I came to the yeshiva at the age of 13 years old in the 1960’s. I remember seeing the Rosh HaYeshiva HoRav Gifter, זצוק״ל the very first time. He greeted me with “shalom” and asked my name. From that day on, he embraced me like a father would a son and told me that if I need anything, I should not hesitate to come to the office. One week later, the Rosh HaYeshiva saw me again and he asked me how I was doing!
I remember the Shiurei Daas he used to give. Some times I felt like the walls were coming apart from the Beth Hamedrosh! The Rosh HaYeshiva always demanded that in Torah you should use your own logic. He used to say, ״ זאג מיר א סברה״ (Tell me the logic) in order to demonstrate how one was thinking deeply about the sugya at hand.
I heard in a Shiurei Daas that he was speaking about stretching oneself and the importance of participating in a sport since because helps the mind relax and learn Torah better. After this lesson we began playing baseball in the yeshiva every Friday afternoon. Then he also taught us, “But it also matters how you are playing; how you are holding the bat; how to speak while you are playing.” It was a lesson about the character of a ben Torah. To him, everything was Torah.
I remember when I took the preparation classes at the yeshiva (it is a two year course to be able to be a teacher), and then came the graduation so the Rosh HaYeshiva spoke and he said that a melamed (teacher) became a very embarrassing word to some people. But he said the Pri Megodim was also a melamed dedarekei (a teacher for small children) and from that came out the Pri Megodim that we know of. So we see from this, there is no shame in being a melamed. In fact, this is the only title the Rosh HaYeshiva preferred for himself.
I left the yeshiva and a few months later was married. One year later I was in Israel for a visit so I went to see the Rosh HaYeshiva in Kiryat Telz-Stone. I went to his house and he served me a drink. I was so embarrassed that the Rosh Yeshiva himself is serving me a drink so I told him, “The Rosh Yeshiva doesn't have to do this for me.” He replied, "I am engaged in the mitzvah of serving a guest!”
He used to emphasize the importance of chazarah (reviewing one’s Torah studies). He used to say that, “Review is the success of learning.” And he used to stress the importance of discussing one’s Torah learning with a friend.
When I left the yeshiva I got lot of knowledge in Torah from his sefer Pirkei Torah (which is now available online here). I learned every week on Shabbos and I still do it but now it aches my heart since he is with us no more. When I brought my oldest son to the yeshiva, I went over to greet the Rosh HaYeshiva and I reminded him that I was a talmid of the yeshiva and I wanted that my son should follow in my footsteps. Rav Gifter replied, “That means he is coming to be a TELZER!”
I know the Rosh HaYeshiva wasn't active quite a number of years, but now that he was niftar I feel it much more. It reminds me of a story about the Chofetz Chaim. He was very advanced in age when he went to see Rabbi Chaim Ozer and told him that he is very old and not very active anymore. "I want to move to Eretz Yisroel," said the Chofetz Chaim. So Rabbi Chaim Ozer thought and remembered what he had heard from HoRav Yisroel Salanter: That even when a zeide, who is very old, sits at the table with his family, there is always respect for the zeide. He said to himself, “The same is true of the Chofetz Chaim! Although he is old and not active, he is still living with us here...so there is respect for him! So I have to persuade him not to live in Eretz Yisroel!” It was the same with the Rosh HaYeshiva. Although he was not active for a number of years, he was living with us there and was koved (honor) and derech eretz (respect) for him. But now that he is not with us, we feel the pain of his absence.
The week Rav Gifter was niftar it was parshas Shemos. In that parsha it describes how the daughter of Paroh saved Moshe Rabeinu who was living in Paroh’s palace for a number of years. The question is, what enabled Moshe to remain a tzadik after living in there, where he saw only evil, for so long? The Malbim says Moshe wasn't a selfish person. He cared about his brothers and it hurt him when he saw their pain. Although Moshe had no personal troubles himself, he remained a tzadik through his concern for his brothers and this was one of the reasons that Hashem appointed Moshe to be the leader of the Jewish nation. This is a picture of the Rosh HaYeshiva, זצוק״ל . He didn't care about himself. He always cared for the yeshiva and for the Jewish people.
The only condolence I have is what Chazal say that, “a sage, even if he pases away, is still alive.” In the yeshiva they used to say all their good deeds is a life with us and we constantly learn from them. The neshomo of the Rosh HaYeshiva, HoRav Mordechai Gifter ben Reb Yisroel זצוק״ל should have an aliyah and תהא נשמתו צרורה בצרור החיים.