Monday, June 16, 2008
Freifeld is no more
Pics Courtesy Of Sh'or Yoshuv
Chaim Berlin Tragedy commenting on Circus Tent: Big, Big Man:
"People stop haggling.
It is well known that while Rav Shlomo Freifeld (RSF) always was and remained a 100% loyal and true Rav Yitzchok Hutner's zt"l (RYH) talmid muvhak and chosid until the end, that of all of RYH's greatest talmidim, it was RSF who became the greatest admirer of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, to the great consternation of many of his Yeshiva Chaim Berlin (CB) friends. It would be interesting to know if and when RSF went to have yechidus with the Rebbe, and if anyone has any knowledge about this and of what was discussed between them. In any case, RYH himself had close ties with both the Rebbes, and the last one was his personal friend -- and RIVAL -- so RSF was simply moving along a familiar pathway of his own Rebbe - RYH. The love between RYH and RSF was very great. So much so that when CB left East New York and moved to Far Rockaway in the early 1960s, and when Rav Avigdor Miller ceased to be the mashgiach at CB, it was RSF who became the new mashgiach for a short time, and when CB left Far Rockaway for Flatbush, RSF remained behind and went on to build his own Sh'or Yoshuv yeshiva from scratch. For some reason some CB people were not happy with that, but they have long made peace with it, and now support Shor Yoshuv to the hilt with Rav Naftoli Yeager, RSF's son-in-law, as the rosh yeshiva, while RSF's son was sent into golus to Eretz Yisroel where he has a small Kollel in Yerushalayim.
But RSF in his lifetime was not daunted. He took upon himself to pioneer working with and mekarev'ing people in the tumultuous 1960's, and built the first REAL Baal Tshuva yeshiva for BTs outside of Chabad, way before Ohr Somayach and Aish HaTorah. (Rav Noach Weinberg who established both Ohr Somayach and Aish HaTorah also studied the Chabad mehalech and game plan for Baalei Teshuva very closely and came up with his own successful formulations for mekareving BTs and building up BT institutions. It was based on the way Chabad was doing it, but not to the extent that RSF followed the Chabad model. Rav Weinberg sometimes hints at it on some of his tapes.)
Shor Yoshuv In The Old Days
RSF was also a very close life-long friend from childhood of Rav Aron Shechter (RAS). There is a huge picture of the two beardless friends seated up front in light suits in the recent CB 100 Year journal. Their bond was so close that RSF was one of the few people whom RAS would take tochacha from on matters relating to frustrations and problems with talmidim they had in common. In one case RAS had expelled a talmid and it was RSF who "derlanged" RAS on behalf of that talmid when no one else dared stand up to RAS's known scare tactics. And they can be very scary. One wonders what RSF would have told RAS regarding how Isaac Hersh was treated? Would RSF have "blessed" 16 year old Isaac Hersh being sent to incarceration in far off Jamaica by his BT father? A clear-cut case of how NOT to do kiruv! No doubt RSF's views would have led to RAS getting some more well-deserved tochacha. He is sorely missed. RSF guided his closest talmidim to do like they do in Chabad; encouraging recent Baalei Teshuva to take on changing their levush and put on long reklech on Shabbos and grow beards. (for many of them this was no big deal because they were coming as hippies from the counter-culture with longer beards.) RSF was noheg himself like a Rebbe spending time with the talmidim in yeshiva as much as possible in formal and informal gatherings with the great ruach that he had.
Nowadays, under the new post-RSF hanhala they have long moved away from RSF's derech and have tried to build Shor Yoshuv up as a regular Litvishe yeshiva. It has basically become a yeshiva for bochurim who do not fit the Lakewood or Brooklyn yeshivishe molds, and they are VERY happy over there, because there is still an awareness of the need for good ruach and freilichkeit that RSF exuded and taught. They are still living off the capital of RSF's genuine heilige charisma. RSF maintained positive links with Chabad until his last days, even though he never became a Chabadnik himself and retained his life-long 100% loyalty to his own Rebbe, RYH.
In an interesting final note, unlike other Chaim Berliner Rav Freifeld used to like to tell over that after Rav Hutner had his near fatal stroke and was gravely ill and semi-conscious in bed in Yerushalayim for three weeks fighting for his life before he passed away, he said many things that puzzled his followers at that time, and one of the things that he supposedly said was that the (Lubavitcher) Rebbe was the "Tzadik HaDor," which RSF took in stride and would like to tell it over to a number of people, but the CB people denied it. No matter, RSF has made his mark on Jewish and Torah history in America HIS WAY."