Monday, May 11, 2020


I heard from Rabbi Avrohom Braun shlita that he once went to Reb Yaakov Kamenetsky zt"l to discuss an issue he had with the conduct of a certain person. Reb Yaakov responded: "Ehr iz a illui, und a illui hoht dehr recht tzu zein a mishuggener" - "He is an illui, and an illui has the right to be eccentric." (The translation is not precise, but accurate.)

They say about Rabbi Yaakov Ruderman zt"l that in Slabodka [this seems to be my mistake, and the story actually took place in Baltimore - see the comments to this post] he was wont to take long walks, immersed in thought. One day he realized he was lost, and went into a phone booth to call the yeshiva to find out the way back. His friends asked him to step outside the phone booth and tell them at what street corner he was standing. He came back and told them, "I am at the corner of Telephone and Telephone."

I highly doubt the story is true, but they don't tell it about me or you. They tell it about illuyim like Rabbi Ruderman or, say, the Rogatchover zt"l.

Reb Chaim Zimmerman zt"l is said to have said that the greatest illui in America was Reb Yaakov Safsil zt"l, the Vishker Illui, who would walk the streets of the Lower East Side looking like a shlump, muttering to himself clasping a brown paper lunch bag.

They say about Reb Chaim Kanievsky shlita, that he was once at a rabbinic conference with his father, the Steipler zt"l and other rabbonim who were discussing matters of political moment. Reb Chaim stood up and declared, "We must work to bring down Golda Meir, she is terrible." His father responded, "Sit down, she's been dead for years."

Again, I don't know if the story is true... But Reb Chaim is definitely an illui!

The stories in this week's Divrei Si'ach prove this point:

See the boxes on the bottom right and top left.

ומכאן תשובה to all those who are critical of Reb Chaim's comments during the current pandemic. Reb Chaim, as a true illui, is on a different astroplane, in an alternative universe that is כולו תורה. He is not the right person to consult about מילי דהאי עלמא. Those who did consult him were consulting him to further their own agendas.


  1. I don't think they had telephone booths in Slabodka. If the story took place, it would be in Baltimore.

  2. When I learned in Ner Yisrael decades ago, I heard that story as having taken place in Baltimore and the person he called was Rav Neuberger.

    There is a video of Rav Chaim's son in which he says his father once needed to give him a 10 shekel coin and instead gave him one of 10 agurot, and it was clear to the son that it was because his father didn't know the difference between them.

  3. RYGB,


    Suppose a young talmid of yours came to you and said "Rebbe, I'd like to work towards being on a different astroplane to the point of being past מילי דהאי עלמא." What would you tell them? (Assume for argument's sake that they had a legitimate plan, were psychologically stable, and stood a plausible chance of achieving it.)

    1. Either you're born or you're not. You can't make yourself an illui.

    2. Brings to mind Rabbi Dr Tendler's comment that RMF was "a gadol in normalcy." Aren't there illuim like that too? Or do we have different definitions of "illui"?

    3. Not all illuyim are eccentric. But all illuyim are born illuyim.