Thursday, January 24, 2008
Trouble in Da Mir
Photo from here
S'iz "Mir" Nisht Gut
(I'll write this piece in piecemeal style; adding bits and pieces as time allows. So check back for updates, please.)
Yes, we're speaking about another secession battle in a Litvishe Yeshivah, but this seems to have a very unique twist, one that goes back many years, maybe Sixty-Plus years. Yes, this all comes out after the passing of Reb Shmuel Berenbaum z"l, but it can be traced all the way back to the founding of the Mirrer Yeshivah on the shores of America in 1946. Much of what's happening now is based on what happened then; who took charge and who was left out in the cold, their history with the Yeshivah not withstanding. Some of you asked why Reb Leib Malin and the Alte Mirrers started their own little Yeshivah in Bensonhurst when he could've joined the existing Mir on Ocean Parkway. Some of you answered that their idea was to start a smaller, more serious operation, not what was going up on Ocean Pkwy. Ocean Pkwy was an affluent neighborhood, and pretty much still is to this very day. That's what Beis HaTalmud became and is to this very day; a small community of Bnei Torah who are Mistapkim BeMuat and lead an exemplary life of Torah and Yiras Shomayim.
The real question is not what happened to the Malins etc. but what happened to "Reb Chatzkel." Any student of Jewish History will tell you that Reb Chatzkel Levenstein spent the Six years that Mir was in Golus Kobe/Shanghai with his Talmidim. He also made the trip to America, as opposed to Reb Lazer Yudel Finkel and Reb Chaim Shmulevitch z"l, who went to Eretz Yisroel. Reb Lazer Yudel and Reb Avrohom Kalmanovitch made it out earlier, and never had the Golus experience that the others had. Today all that remains of Reb Chatzkel in America is his Eynikel R' Lazer Ginsburg; otherwise I'd venture to say that most Mirrer Talmidim don't know that Reb Chatzkel was here in America. (I'm going out a limb here, so don't hold it against me) So if Reb Chatzkel was here in America why didn't he stay? Couldn't he have accomplished more on these shores like many others who stayed accomplished? I was later informed by e-mail of Reb Chatzkel writing in his letters that he couldn't take the materialism of America, and that he couldn't see America as a Mokom Torah. That may be post factum writing; I can't see why he so differed from his contemporaries who all thought it quite possible. Seemingly what's going on today in Mir - namely a very quite yet very apparent battle for the Yeshiva's leadership - has it roots in the very founding of the Yeshivah on these shores. Yet, for some reason, there's a very strange twist that needs to be explored.
Reb Avrohom Kalmanovitch was Rov of Tiktin and President of the Mirrer Yeshivah. He was not Rosh Yeshivah. Yes, he saved the Yeshivah from certain death, but he wasn't Rosh Yeshivah. It seems like in America, once he was here and the Bochurim were arriving he felt that now the Yeshivah is his - President, Menahel, Rosh Yeshivah, it's all the same, the Yeshivah is his. When Reb Chaim and Reb Chatzkel came there were differences of opinion as to who should lead, and Reb Chaim and Reb Chatzkel didn't stay. They say that Reb Lazer Yudel didn't allow his daughter and grandchildren - Reb Chaim's wife and kids - travel to America to join their father/husband, so he went to them. I think the fact that Reb Chatzkel left even the Yerushalayimer Mirrer Yeshivah as soon as Rav Dessler passed away in 5714 - basically at first opportunity - tells us that maybe he wasn't happy with the situation in the Mir anywhere - or maybe they with him....