After the Mabul (Flood) wiped out mankind and civilization as it were, Hashem spoke to Noach and commanded him to rebuild the world once more. Noach was not simply a “survivor”; he was charged with an awesome task, a responsibility like no other. He must go forth and repopulate, replant, resettle – and basically restart life on this world.
A father and mother once came to the home of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l to discuss issues regarding their 14-year-old son, who was unfortunately mentally unbalanced. As a result, he created trouble for the family and the neighborhood. The mother dearly loved her child and refused to part with him. She did not want to commit him to a mental institution. Rav Shlomo Zalman, speaking softly, convinced the mother to agree to have him committed to a certain institution where he would receive good care. This would benefit the boy, his parents, and the neighborhood.
But then, the Rosh Yeshivah paused. “What does your son think about all this?” he asked the parents.
The parents were amazed at the question. “Why ask his opinion?” they wondered, “since he is mentally disturbed.”
But Rav Shlomo Zalman was considering the boy’s confused outlook. “Since he is going to be confined to an institution, it is not right to give him the impression that he has been thrown out of his parents’ house,” Rav Shlomo Zalman explained. “A way has to be found to make him go willingly to the new home. This will also help restore his psychological equilibrium.”
The parents agreed. “But how are we to do that?” they asked. “How can we give him the desire to leave home?”
Rav Shlomo Zalman said to them, “Bring him in here. I’d like to have a talk with him.”
The parents left the house and returned a short time later with their son.
“What’s your name?” Rav Shlomo Zalman asked the boy. “Menachem.”
“My name is Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and I want to tell you something,” the Rosh Yeshivah said tenderly. “All homes and institutions listen to what I say because I am a big rabbi. Now, there is one institution where they want to appoint a young rabbi to oversee the place. Would you be willing to become the rabbi in that home?” The boy thought for only a moment and then nodded eagerly.
Rav Shlomo Zalman then placed both hands on the boy’s head. “From now on you are my representative. Any problem that comes up, you get in touch with me. I am giving you a very important job and a great responsibility.”
The very next day, the boy happily entered the institution and was delighted to officiate as rabbi. After all, he was filling an appointment he had received from a great rabbi!
After a few weeks, the boy’s parents came to take him home for Shabbos. Incredibly, the boy refused to go. “How can I leave this place?” he said, “Don’t you know that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach made me his deputy rabbi here? Sorry, but I may not leave this place, not even for one Shabbos.”
This story became known during the shiv’ah for Rav Shlomo Zalman. Newspaper correspondents doubted the authenticity of the story, and investigated the boy, the family, and the institution. They interviewed the psychiatrist who headed the institution. He expressed his deep admiration for the phenomenal psychological insight of Rav Shlomo Zalman and told them how dumbfounded he was to see how the Rosh Yeshivah had been able to boost the boy’s morale in just one brief conversation.
The psychiatrist added, “This boy takes pleasure in doing his rabbinical job every day.” He related how the child helps the sick put on t’filin, watches the kashrus, and all the while, his mental health continues to improve from day to day.