Rabbi Avraham Shapira and Rabbi Chaim Druckman
Rabbi Avraham Shapira and Rabbi Chaim DruckmanMordecai Mirsky

As a young kollel student during the period in which Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook was head of Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rabbi Chaim Druckman zts"l's Talmud study partner – chavruta- was Rabbi Eliezer Waldman zts"l.

Rabbi Waldman, also a young married kollel student, worked part time as a counselor at Machon Gold, a Religious Zionist Institute for young adults from the Diaspora who came to Israel for a year, located on Haturim Street near the Geula neighborhood..

The overseas students called their soft-spoken counselor "Eliezer" because he told them to see him as a friend. They were accustomed to seeing another young kollel student, "Chaimke", ride into the yard daily on his motorbike to pick up Eliezer for the ride to a yeshiva named Merkaz Harav (the flagship Religious Zionist yeshiva founded by Israel's iconic first chief rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook), of which they had never heard.

Many years later, when those same study partners became revered names in the Jewish world as Religious Zionist leaders, Knesset members and Roshei Yeshiva (yeshiva deans) - Rabbi Waldman at Yeshivat Kiryat Arba and Rabbi Druckman at Yeshivat Or Etzion - Machon Gold's alumni realized that the self-effacing motorbike rider Chaimke was none other than Rabbi Chaim Druckman!

That unassuming humility was a characteristic of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook's students and the yeshiva deans who followed him. When Rabbi Avraham Shapira zts"l was head of Yeshivat Merkaz Harav, he and Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu zts"l were chosen to be Israel's two chief rabbis. As spiritual heads of the Jewish state, they journeyed to the United States, where Rabbi Shapira gave a shiur (Torah lecture) in the Yeshiva University Beit Midrash/Beit Knesset and Rabbi J.B.Soloveitchik zts"l came to hear him. Rabbi Shapira stepped forward and kissed Rabbi Soloveitchik and when asked why he did so, since kissing even your own child is not allowed in shul, responded: "It is a mitzvah to kiss a Sefer Torah in shul."

Upon the two chief rabbis' return to Israel, waiting to welcome them at the airport was Rabbi Chaim Druckman, by then a renowned Torah leader in his own right, who had brought at least a hundred Merkaz Harav students along with him. And how did Rabbi Shapira respond to that? "Oy", he said, "coming to the airport is bitul Torah (wasting time that must be spent learning Torah)! They will have to make up these hours of learning."

At that point, Rabbi Eliyahu defended Rabbi Druckman, saying "The respect these students show by honoring you, Rabbi Shapira, is in itself a Torah lesson!"

Rabbi Druckman and Rabbi Shapira at the airport
Rabbi Druckman and Rabbi Shapira at the airportMordecai Mirsky

So let us ask ourselves what we can learn from how these Torah luminaries regarded one another. What defined the conversations of these great Torah leaders of Religious Zionism? One called the other "a Sefer Torah," another came all the way to the airport to welcome his rabbinic mentors, and yet another declared that honoring his fellow Chief Rabbi is the embodiment of Torah.

Thus, it is only natural that after Rabbi Shapira and Rabbi Eliyahu's souls rose to the heavens, Rabbi Chaim Druckman, who treated every human being with honor and respect, himself became one of the leading, renowned and revered rabbinic elders of Religious Zionism.

May we succeed in following the path of light they illuminated for us.

This article originally appeared on the Arutz Sheva Hebrew site and was translated by the writer. The Hebrew version mistakenly said that Rabbi Shapira came to hear Rabbi Solovetichik at YU. it was the other way around, of course, the Rav came to the Beit Midrash to honor his guest.

Note: Rabbi Druckman and Rabbi Waldman continued to be chavrutot on a regular basis until the passing of Rabbi Waldman.