Living Legacy: Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir
The 11th day of Cheshvan marks the 14th yohrtzeit of the ga’on and tzaddik who served Hashem with continued his life of Torah with herculean hasmodoh despite incredible challenges. Compounding the incredible nature of his gadlus b’Torah and avodah was the fact that Rav Nosson Tzvi was an American-born boy from Chicago—and nevertheless grew up to be one of the gedolim of his generation, all through his deep love for Torah.
Rav Nosson Tzvi was born in Chicago in the spring of 1943. His paternal grandfather was Rav Avrohom Shmuel Finkel, a mashgiach in the Chevron Yeshiva, the transplanted yeshiva of Slabodka, of which his father, Rav Nosson Tzvi, was the Rosh Yeshiva. The young boy was named for his great-grandfather, and like him would serve as a great rosh yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel.
As a young boy, he enjoyed playing baseball and basketball, like all other American boys of his era. He went to a local day school, and received extra tutoring after school.
On a trip to Eretz Yisroel in the 1950’s, he visited his great-uncle, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir, who recognized the unique caliber of the young boy. He asked Nosson Tzvi’s parents to allow him to remain in Eretz Yisroel under his tutelage. He remained there for eight months which changed his life.
Returning to Eretz Yisroel after high school, he reentered the Mirer yeshiva, and began learning with incredible hasmodoh. He would learn with many chavrusos for all hours of the day. With Rav Zundel Kroizer, one of his chavrusos, he completed the entire Talmud Bavli every year.
He married his second cousin, Rebbetzin Leah, the daughter of Rav Beinish Finkel, and continued on learning, finishing to learn at 2:00 in the morning each night. So preoccupied was he with his learning that if his children would come to see him in yeshiva. At one point, he began delivering shiurim in the yeshiva.
Upon the passing of his father-in-law, Rav Beinish, he was appointed Rosh Yeshiva—ushering in a new era in the history of the Mirrer Yeshiva.
When he assumed the helm of the yeshiva, it numbered about 1,200 talmidim. At the time of his passing, it would boast 6,000 talmidim and 1,200 avreichim!! It is estimated that Rav Nosson Tzvi raised over $500,000 for the yeshiva over the twenty-five years of his tenure!
In the yeshiva, he was known as a father figure to the talmidim. Countless talmidim from throughout the decades looked to him for guidance and love, and he had many charvrusashafts with talmidim—from extremely diverse backgrounds—all of whom he lifted up with love and concern.
The Rosh Yeshiva was stricken with Parkinsons Disease in the late 1980’s, and overcame this nisoyon in spectacular fashion—continuing to learn without letup, serving as a sterling example to his talmidim in ahavas haTorah, a taste that remains with thousands of talmidim around the world to this day.
Rav Nosson Tzvi was niftar on 11 Cheshvan of the year 5772.