Memory Lane: Harav Meir Shimon Pinsky, zt”l
The “downstairs minyan” in the basement of the Sfardishe Shul was where the old-time European men found their place in the chevrah mishnayos…and heard drashos in Yiddish from the European Rabbanim who served there.
Serving as the Rav of the downstairs minyan from 1933, until his passing in 1967, was Rav Meir Pinsky.
He was born in the early 1890’s, and was raised by his maternal grandfather who was a Gerer chossid. As a child, he learned in the town of Shklov, and later joined the yeshiva of the Alter of Novaradok, which was located in the Russian town of Gomel.
He married the daughter of Rav Aaron Leib Kalmanowitz, a rov of a number of communities in Russia (thus, his brother-in-law Rav Avrohom Kalmanowitz, the Rosh Yeshivah of the Mir).
In 1933, Jewish life in Russia was terrible for the Jews, and Rabbi Pinsky being a Rav was arrested. His wise Rebbetzin insisted that they do everything to leave that place. The combined efforts of her brother, Rav Avrohom Kalmanwitz, coupled with the miracle of being able to smuggle out to Poland, which were blessed with great siyatta diShmaya, the Pinsky’s made it to America.
Rebbetzin Rochel Pessin described her illustrious father thusly:
“There was a very intelligent person who once said about my father, "he possessed an intelligent heart"; his heart and his mind were utterly connected, each informing the other—and this is the way he led his Rabbanus. I had the greatest culture shock of my life when I came to Eretz Yisroel and I needed to make an appointment to see a Rav and ask a she'elah. By my father, the door was never closed…
“There was the time that my father was on his deathbed, and I was with him. He was very sick, and I needed to take his pulse every half hour. Then the phone rang at midnight, and I asked the woman whether this was an emergency, or could it wait till the morning. Suddenly I hear shuffling feet... it's my father. And he admonished me; zolst keinmol nit tohn azah zach, never do such a thing again [to turn away someone who was calling].”
Another time, a woman came and related the following; “I'm a Holocaust survivor, there is no one left from my family or from my entire town. I'm a divorcée, and I met a man who is a kohen. I know that I can keep this from him. But I would really like the Rabbi to give me the go ahead to marry him.”
“Now,” explains Rebbetzin Pessin, “she knew what caliber the Rav was whome she was coming to see, and she surely knew that if she were to get a heter, it would not come from Rabbi Pinsky. But perhaps it was the following words that she was hoping for: "You know that I cannot give you Reb a see that you want, but I can cry with you.” And that is exactly what he did.
More about his intelligent Heart: Rav Aaron (who was a regular in the Shul, having lived around the corner) once stood in the place of Rabbi Pinsky—not knowing the place of the mara d'asrah. For the rest of his life, Rabbi Pinsky avoided davening in the same minyan with the Rosh Yeshivah so Rav Aaron would not know that he had stood in his place.
Yet more: Chilul shabbos was rampant in Boro park of those days—and Rabbi Pinsky would not step into a home where there was chillul Shabbos—even during the week. But that did not stop him from caring: He would stand at the door and inquire about these families.
“And my parents were poor, very poor. We never had an extra penny. And yet, my mother would feed every homeless person—people whom no one would let into their house. She would say, ein bodkin b'mezonos, when someone asks for food, there cannot be any questions. Her kindness extended to everyone. And when my father would do the gittin, she would often try to bring peace between the parties—and often she would succeed. When the Sofer would come, he would ask, is the Rebbetzin in the house? He understood that her presence endangered the get from going through.”
Rabbi Meir Shimon Pinsky left this world in 1967, and is interred in Eretz Yisroel.