Rav Zusha’s Method of Learning Talmud
In Honor of the Yahartzeit of Rav Meshulam Zusha of Anipoli ztz”l – 2 Shevat
Rav Meshulam Zusha, zt”l, joined the disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, zt”l, together with his famous older brother, Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, zt”l. Although Rav Zusha soon proved that he was a profound thinker, he mainly gained the admiration of his fellow students because of his deep yiras Shomayim. Even in his younger years, he showed an intuitive grasp of the inner meaning of the Torah, sometimes at the expense of the plain meaning of the text. Although this would seem to be a disadvantage, the Rama M’Pano, zt”l, writes that even as far back as the time of the Tanaim and Amoraim certain unusual individuals developed first in yiras Shomayim and deeper learning and only afterward acquired a penetrating analysis on the level of nigleh.
In any event, Rav Zusha tried to learn Gemara with various chavrusos, but his unusual approach drove several potential partners away until he finally managed to integrate his deep understanding of Torah with its more revealed aspects.
During one such attempt, Rav Zusha attempted to arrange a chavrusa with Rav Shmelke of Nickolsburg, zt”l, a great Chassidic figure in his own right. When Rav Shmelke arrived at the appointed time, the two sat down and opened up their Gemaras. Rav Shmelke painstakingly began to expound the peshat of the opening Mishnah of Meseches Yevamos: “Fifteen women exempt their Tzaros and their Tzaros Tzaros from Chalitzah and from Yibum. ‘Exempt their Tzaros’ means that if one of them is married to his brother, then both she and any other co-wife to whom the brother is married is exempt from Chalitzah and Yibum.”
Rav Zusha was overcome with emotion and exclaimed, “Who told you that this is peshat? I think it should be read differently! ‘Fifteen’ alludes to the Divine Name that we call Kah (which is a yud =10 and a hei =5). ‘Women,’ ‘Nashim,’ can be read as the abbreviated conjunction of two words—na Shem—as in Ana Hashem, ‘please, Hashem.’”
Filled with fervor, Rav Zusha was nearly weeping, “Ana Hashem, ‘potros tzaroseihen v’tzaros tzaroseihen ad sof haolam!’ Please, Hashem, release the Jewish people from their suffering and from all of its painful aftereffects for all time in the merit of Your holy Name Kah, with which You created this world and the next!”
Courtesy of A Fire Burns in Breslov