Rav Karlitz’s Character


Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Two short stories about Rav Nissim Karlitz, who was laid to rest this week:

  • Silence. The rav, who was 93 years old, managed a beit din, paskened, published books, and educated thousands, but did not leave behind any stirring speeches or sermons. Whatever he said or wrote was done with precision and a minimum of words.
    After Rav Karlitz’s engagement, the father of the bride said to the Chazon Ish, “He’s so quiet. Why do we barely hear anything from this young man?”

“One day,” the Chazon Ish assured him, “the entire world will hear from him.”


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He did not mean that Rav Karlitz would astonish the world with rousing public speeches, but rather that his quiet and measured manner would, in fact, have far more positive influence than any high-decibel chatter could ever have.

“About a word never spoken, there is no need to feel regret,” Rav Karlitz used to say.

For decades, the tens of thousands who accompanied his casket yesterday heard his messages loud and clear, even though he always spoke in “a still faint voice.”

  • Humility. Once his daughter Tzipora came home from school crying. A friend had insulted her. Rav Karlitz wiped away her tears, waited for her to calm down, and then told her to bring him a prayer book. They opened it together and he said: “Look, three times a day at the end of the Shemoneh Esrei each of us requests only this: ‘Let my soul be like dust to everyone.’

We need to pay attention to the meaning of these words. This is not about making peace with every situation or accepting suffering with love. Instead, this is a simple prayer, a request that, no matter what, we should be like dust. Concerns about honor and how to properly respond are irrelevant, and there is never any reason to get excited or upset even when people hurt us.”

This advice, his daughter said, would accompany her from that day forward, and stay with her forever.


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