Many of you are probably wondering where we got the name Kalonymos Kalman from. My son, the rach hanimol, is named after Rabbi Kalonymos Kalman ben Reb Elimelech Shapira, who was the rebbe of Piaseczna before being relocated to the
ghetto during World War Two. Warsaw
For many reasons, I have found Reb Kalonymos Kalman’s writings to be particularly inspiring, and his words resonate within me in a manner that is hard to describe.
Those who are somewhat familiar with Reb Kalonymos Kalman’s story know about his activities in the ghetto, how he sacrificed personal safety for his fellow inhabitants, and gave rousing sermons full of hope and chizuk, which remain with us as a testimony in the sefer Aish Kodesh. Indeed, during the war, he was a shining example of resilience and spiritual resistance in the face of utter horror, the apotheosis of faith in times of crisis.
But there is more to his life - and his greatness - than those years in the ghetto. As his writings display, Reb Kalonymos Kalman had a profoundly sensitive soul, always looking to elevate himself and others in their avodas HaShem. Never complacent, Reb Kalonymos Kalman devoted himself to the search for meaning, feeling, and vitality that is necessary to properly serve the Master of the World. His ideas concerning chinuch and the importance of each individual student’s need for expression had a large impact on my life; they helped me grow as a bachur, and they inform my own approach to parenthood, today…
I did some research into the meaning of the name Kalonymous Kalman, and like all things in Judaism, found a difference of opinions. Kalman is a shortened version of Kalonymos, but what does Kalonymos mean?
According to some opinions, the name is derived from a contraction of two Greek words, “Kallos” and “Nymos” meaning “good” and “name”, respectively. Apparently, this is a translation of the name Shem-Tov.
The mishna in Avos states that there are three crowns – the crown of the Torah, the crown of the priesthood, and the crown of the kingship. The mishna concludes that the “crown of a good name surpasses them all.” Rabbi Shamshon Rephael Hirsch explains that the Keser Shem Tov is attainable by all, without exception – the crown of priesthood is hereditary, in contrast, while the kingship and the Torah are gifts from God; in addition, the other crowns are dependent on the Keser Shem Tov to be of value and to fully actualize their own potential. It seems that we have hit upon another necessary ingredient for the achievement of shleimus, perfection, which the Sefer HaChinuch explains is inherent in the mitzvah of milah, as the pasuk states: “Hishalech lefanai, v’heyei tamim.”
Another source that I saw for the meaning of the name Kalonymous Kalman is that it means “merciful” in Hungarian.
The mishna in Nedarim says “Reb Yishmael said: great is the mitzvah of milah, for thirteen covenants were formed over it.” Rashi explains that the verses that contain the directive of milah contain the word “bris” thirteen times. Rabbi Yaakov Emden explains the significance of these thirteen times as an allusion to the thirteen attributes of Divine mercy; HaShem reveals Himself to us with all of His mercy in merit of our fulfillment of the mitzvah of milah.
This explanation seems especially relevant to us in our times. If we look at the world around us, it is very clear that there is an overwhelming need for Divine mercy. Indeed, our sages tell us that we are living in a time of Ikvus D’Meshicha, on the heels of the Moshiach. I once heard that one of the reasons our generation is referred to in such a way is because the heel is an area of the body that has to support a lot of weight. In order to ensure that there is no pain as a result of the tremendous pressure the heel is thick and callused.
We are following a long period of galus that has been fraught with much pain and hardship; it is only natural that to be able to withstand this enormous heritage that we carry, we have to be a little bit hardened, a little bit calloused. We are also living in a time of such technological advancement. Despite the myriad innovations in communications that effectively shrink our world, we run the risk of becoming more isolated from each other, with people eschewing traditional means of contact with the outside world.
This lack of personal interaction can eventually manifest itself in insensitivity towards others; this callousness is also an aspect of our generation, and has far reaching implications that range from our relationships with others to our service of HaShem. The pasuk says “UMaltem es orlas l’vavechem” – we need to peel away the barrier that surrounds our heart, in a similar spirit of that of the bris milah. In order to do this, we need Divine mercy, in the sense that we leave ourselves vulnerable to a certain degree, by removing this barrier.
It is my fervent hope and prayer that HaShem should continue to bless all of us with abundant mercy, and that we should be able to feel His presence as a reality in our lives, the way that Reb Kalonymos Kalman yearned to feel Him. And in the spirit of his namesake, may the rach hanimol, Kalonymos Kalman merit to wear the keser Shem Tov, and grow in Torah and yiras Shamayim with hisragshus and hislahavus, Amen.