Today marks the forty-fourth yahrzeit of HaRav HaGaon Reb Reuven Katz זצ"ל , the chief Rabbi of Petah Tiqva and the Rosh Yeshiva of the Lomza Yeshiva, there. He was, however, much more than that. He was a phenomenal ga'on in Talmud. He was hand chosen to to join Reb Isser Zalman Meltzer in the Yeshivah of Slutzk, and later studied privately with Reb Hayyim Ozer Grodzinsky זצ"ל. He was an awesome posek, and his collection of responsa דגל ראובן and the decisions preserved in the Rabbinate archives attst to that fact. In addition, he was a highly accomplished and incredibly influential leader and repreentative of Orthodoxy. It ws he who led the efforts to convince the Rav זצ"ל to accept the Chief Rabbinate in 1960. At the same time, it was said that , in the Yeshiva World, only Rav Aharon Kotler זצ"ל was on his level.
Though he was physically diminuitive, he was a spell-binding orator and darshan. His collected sermons, דודאי ראובן , are (or ought to be) a work of first reference for any Rabbi or layperson who wants to confront the deeper issues of the Parsha. In his sermons he reveals himself to be the absolute opposite of the cardboard גדול for which people search.
He was heart and soul, root and branch, a member of the Lithuanian Yeshiva World. His passionate orations in praise of and support of the Torah are incredibly inspiring. At the same time, he was passionately devoted to the resettlement of Jews in Eretz Yisrael (as borne out by his eulogy of Rav Kook in שער ראובן), and strove heroically to imprint Judaism on the character of the state in the making.
He cared very much not only about the Haredi world, but about every Jew. He had great faith in the survival capacity of the Jewish People, despite the ravages of the Holocaust.
In one place in Devarim, he says something that I hold on to with both hands. Consider two kings of Judah, in the time of the First Temple: Menashe and Zedekiah. The former was an evil, corrupt idolator, while the latter was a צדיק, a his name attests. Yet, the Temple was not destroyed, despite the depravities worked by Menahe and it was destroyed, despite Zedekiah's piety.
This conundrum disappears, said Rav Katz, when you admit that the people determines its destiny. The Jews in the time of Menashe were moral, upstanding and pious. Their devotion was what protected the people and the Temple. By the time of Zedekiah, though, the people had corrupted itself, and so the piety of the king was of no event.
Powerful words for our time, from one of the truly great gedolim of another era.
תהי נפשו צרורה בצרור החיים ותהא מנוחתו כבוד