My Rabbi, Tzvi Klayman

22 Tevet 5776 Jerusalem

In honor of the Shloshim

I first met Rabbi Klamen sometime around 5758 (1998). We met at the hospital in Tel HaShomer where Yona Malina was living. Sometimes Rabbi Klamen would offer to drive me back to Jerusalem if we met there on a Friday. I took up his offer sometimes, but eventually stopped, because it was somewhat stressful. Rabbi Klamen would sometimes start to drift into another lane, and then we might be driving down the highway with the traffic line underneath us. He would usually notice after a short while and turn back into lane, for a while. I was amazed how little we got honked at. It seemed to me that perhaps Rabbi Clamen had some guardian angels riding shotgun or outside his vehicle keeping him from colliding with other vehicles. But still it was stressful for me to be there, so I just took the bus. After all, we have a principle of “Don’t rely on the miracle.”

In 5759 I started studying at the Dvar Yerushalayim yeshiva in Har Nof. I studied there for a year, and also went to visit Yona, by which I also often saw Rav Klamen, with whom I had become friends. After a year I had decided to leave the yeshiva in Har Nof. I mentioned it to Rav Klamen once when we were together and he said, “why don’t you come study in Machon Meir? You can be in my shiur.” I had not had a too favorable impression of Machon Meir, in terms of a place where I might want to learn, from when I had visited it some years before, but since then I had met some of the guys from there when I was living in Kiryat Moshe, and I figured that if Rabbi Klamen teaches there it can not be that bad. I had gone to yeshiva the year before after living in the country for five years. It was a reluctant move, because I saw yeshiva as being sort of like “taking off from life”, but at the same time I was frustrated at my not having much time to learn, and thought perhaps taking such time “off” might help me get my life on better track.
After some three days at the Machon I was getting ancy about being in an institution environment, and made up my mind to leave. I think I had some plan to try living in the Jerusalem forest while studying and working. I met Rabbi Klamen on the steps of the yeshiva (the old building, this was before the new bes medrash opened up) and told him of my plans. I don’t remember his exact words but he said something along the lines of that he he did not think it was good for me to go off on some crazy idea, that I should be in the yeshiva environment, and that he was telling me as a friend, not just as a student, that I should stay and give the Machon a chance, that he thought that would be best for me.
So it was that I came to spend four years in Machon Meir.
This relationship of me keep wanting to go off and do my own thing, and Rav Klamen reining me in, continued.
After about a year or so of being in Rav Klamen’s shiur, I felt I was spending too much time studying gemara, at the expense of other things I wanted to learn, so I switched into Rabbi Cohen’s beginner shiur. Though this was basic for me, it gave me the opportunity to devote more time to things I wanted to study afterwards. I was really interested in just doing my own self learning program, dropping in to an occasional class here and there. I knew another student in the Hebrew Dept. who just sat in the bes medrash and did his own thing. I started doing that until I one day felt Rav Klamen’s hand on my shoulder, asking me what I am doing. I told him my new plan. He said he did not think there would be a place for me at Machon Meir if I did not go to a shiur. Now of course this was a big statement since all this time I am studying and living at the Machon and hardly paying a dime, and Rabbi Klaymen is my friend and all he is asking of me is that I go to a gemara shiur. Rabbi Klamen suggested I should move to the Hebrew dept. and go to Rav Krupnik’s shiur. So I moved to that where I would fall asleep each morning.
When I got married for the first time, after four years in the yeshiva, I thought perhaps Rav Klamen would be the mesader kiddushin. But he tells me I should ask Rav Bigun to do it because he is the Rosh Yeshiva, and I have to honor him with it. So I go to Rav Bigun and he says to me, “What about Rav Klamen, he is the head of the English Dept., why doesn’t he do it?” So I, who really would have preferred to have Rav Klayman do it because I was closer to him, say, like a fool, “Well, he said I should ask you to do it!” So Rav Bigun says, “Ok, Ok, just tell me the place and time”, thinking no doubt, “there goes another evening”.
So even if I had this relationship of feeling sometimes misunderstood by Rav Klaymen, it was still a sort of father-son relationship, in the sense that you may think your father is often wrong, but you love him anyway, because you feel he loves you so much.
That was probably what kept me in Machon Meir for so long, longer than I have ever spent in any one education institution, including any one college. I would be sitting in the bes medrash, learning with a havruta (reluctantly perhaps), and Rav Klamen would hobble-saunter over (he walked sort of like he drove) and ask us how we are doing. He might speak to us about the sugya for a while, then he would ask us about our personal lives, what girls we were seeing, etc. We would tell him, he would smile, say, “Im yirtze Hashem!”, pat us on the back and saunter off.
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