The next time you're in Jerusalem, come to the holy Western Wall for the vatikin minyan, the group that prays at sunup. The chazan who is leading the prayer is crying out to Hashem from the depths of his soul from the start of the prayer to the finish, never letting up for a single moment, never uttering a single syllable without heartfelt intent. This chazan looks like a strange hybrid of half beggar, half angel. He is neither; he is simply one of the greatest Torah scholars alive – Rabbi Yaakov Addes shlit'a, known as the Divrei Yaakov, the name of his prodigious 32-volume elaboration of Torah.
I almost forgot - Rabbi Yaakov Addes, shlit'a, has authored over forty biographical sefarim about the lives and wisdom of many of our righteous sages, to which he appends his own notes and elucidations.
If you put Encyclopedia Brittanica on one wall, and (vive la difference, as they say in French) the Divrei Yaakov on other wall, you'll find that they're the same size. How can one human being, barely fifty years old, accomplish so much?
This generation is blessed with scholars in Talmud. We also have scholars in Kabbalah. And, there are many who are brilliant Tanach experts. Still, there are those who exceptional teaches of mussar, Jewish ethics. Let's not forget the tzaddikim, the righteous individuals who are living examples of Torah values – humility, purity, and self-sacrifice. It may sound incredible, but Rabbi Yaakov is all of the above.
Of his 32 volumes of Torah commentary and nuance, twenty volumes deal with the Talmud, of all which he knows by heart. Six volumes teach the wisdom of Kabbalah. Another two volumes highlight the Aggadata, the homiletic teachings of Talmud, two more focus on Tanach, one on Jewish thought and ethics, and one elaborates on the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, may it be rebuilt soon, amen! All together, these are the product of the most prolific Torah scholar in contemporary times.
Maybe you're asking, "OK, the quantity is there, but what about the quality?" Good question. Sets of Divrei Yaakov grace the bookshelves of yeshivas and kollelim all over Israel. One Rosh Kollel told me that the Divrei Yaakov is its stunning combination of scope and depth. They're clearly discussed according to classic rabbinical authorities and then enhanced with writings from the more contemporary sources. Rabbi Addes's books have fantastic depth, clarity and penetrating logic.
Could he be the eighth wonder of the world?
Who is this special soul named Rabbi Yaakov Addes?
Born in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yaakov is the son of the renown Rosh Yeshiva and scholar, Rabbi Yehuda Addes, shlit'a. An unusually gifted child, as a toddler not yet three-years old, he mastered the rules of reading Hebrew with vowels in less than 15 minutes of reading a Chumash with his astonished cheder rebbe. In yeshiva, he skipped year after year. Shortly after his Bar Mitzva, the great Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach of blessed and saintly memory personally took charge of young Yaakov's learning by taking him under his wing at the famed Kol Yaacov Yeshiva in Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem.
In addition to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman zatza'l, Rabbi Yaakov's father Rabbi Yehuda has been a tremendous influence on his learning. He often quotes his father’s teachings on a wide variety of Gemara-related topics that he imparts in his public lectures. He also frequently quotes the holy Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri, of blessed and saintly memory, the leading Kabbalist of the modern age, where he discovered and acquired many profound secrets in Kabbalah.
Rabbi Yaakov doesn't live a conventional lifestyle. He has shunned the many rabbinical and Rosh Yeshiva positions offered to him since he doesn't want to detract from his own in-depth, phenomenally diligent learning schedule. It's common knowledge that he sleeps less than 3 hours a night. He also lives a life of utter simplicity, disdaining the amenities of the material world.
People flock to him and seek his blessing. Rabbi Yaakov places great emphasis on the commandments governing man and fellow man; the stories about the favors he has done for people are many. Yet, adamantly refuses to accept payment or monetary gifts in exchange for his prayers and blessings. Indeed, there were times when individuals in great need of salvation offered him exorbitant sums of money in exchange of his prayers and blessings, yet he consistently refuses these bequests.
I don't purport to even scratch the surface of this remarkable personality, but all I can say is that we, the Jewish people, are lucky to have him.