Jewish Personalities

Second Time Around

The Chasam Sofer was the head of the famous yeshivah of Pressburg. The yeshivah followed a five-year cycle of Talmudic study. At the end of every five years, the bachurim would start from the beginning and learn the same masechtos in the same order. The Chasam Sofer would also repeat the same shiurim to his talmidim. Moshe, a talmid in the yeshivah, was an unusually brilliant bachur. One day, before the Chasam Sofer walked in to give his shiur, Moshe had a proposal for his friends: If the bachurim gave him all of their spare change, he would tell them the exact shiur the Chasam Sofer would be saying. He would repeat it word for word, and include all of the gestures and facial expressions the Rosh Yeshivah had used five years previously. His friends loved the idea and handed him all the coins they had in their pockets. Moshe got up in front of everyone and repeated the shiur verbatim, with all the flourishes. As soon as had finished, the Chasam Sofer walked in to say his shiur. It didn’t take long for him to realize that something was amiss. The boys were all smiling and giving each other knowing glances. The Chasam Sofer asked one talmid to tell him what was going on. The bachur explained that Moshe had just given the exact same shiur, and that the reason everyone was smiling was that today’s lesson was identical to what they had just seen and heard. When the Chasam Sofer heard this he closed his Gemara without saying a word and left the room. This sparked a tremendous commotion among the bachurim.


The boys felt terrible that they had hurt their beloved Rosh Yeshivah. Moshe in particular was devastated that he was the cause of the Chasam Sofer’s anguish. He locked himself in his room and refused to eat or drink. The next day there was an announcement in the yeshivah that the Chasam Sofer was giving a drashah. Attendance was mandatory, even for Moshe. After the boys had gathered, the Chasam Sofer stood up and began to speak in a quiet tone. “Usually,” he said, “a rebbe who has such a talmid would be dancing for joy. A student whose memory is so brilliant that he is able to repeat a drashah word for word five years later is certainly reason to celebrate.” Much to the boys’ astonishment, the Chasam Sofer began to weep. “I, however, was not only unhappy, but I failed to show him the proper respect and embarrassed him in public as well.” Looking directly at Moshe he pleaded, “Please forgive me what I have done.” By then Moshe was also crying and replied, “I forgive the Rosh Yeshivah, but the Rosh Yeshivah must also forgive me.” The talmidim who witnessed this scene said that this was one of the most powerful lessons in avodas Hashem that they had ever heard from the Rosh Yeshivah.


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