In his 95 years, the gaon Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky combined many lives. He was a product of Slabodka and one of the closest disciples of its legendary “Alter,” the master molder of great people. He was a confidant and advisor of leaders many years his senior. He was the leader of kehillos in Europe and America. He was rosh yeshivah of Torah Vodaath. He was the sage, guide, and counselor of American Torah Jewry for half a century, the man his peers called “the wise man of the generation.”
To every question and problem, he had the uncanny ability to marshal the entire breadth of his encyclopedic Torah knowledge, an unusually rich life experience, and a clarity of thought that cut to the heart of the situation.
To revere Reb Yaakov was inevitable; to know him was impossible. He was accessible to everyone -- young and old -- on his or her own level, but there were so many layers to him that as soon as someone thought he knew him, he discovered a new dimension of greatness.
To an astonishing degree, this book presents a fully rounded portrait of Reb Yaakov. The author has drawn from hundreds of interviews and thousands of recollections to fashion a portrait of his life and personality. The reader feels rooted to the soil from which Reb Yaakov grew and at home in the many environments where he flourished. And the reader sees how a man saturated with Torah knowledge and the accumulated wisdom of its sages can relate that rich tapestry to both modern people and emerging dilemmas.
As one turns the pages of this magnificent book, one is riveted to it. On the last page the reader is warmed and elevated by the conviction that “How fortunate we were to have had him among us, and how doubly fortunate that so much of him could be compressed between the covers of a book.”
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