Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hear him Wein



Believing in Hashgochoh Protis is a good thing. Were it not for that I might never have listened to the Berel Wein tape I found in the car my neighbor was nice enough to loan me while mine was in the shop. Much of the conversations on the tape centers on the Jewish of Eastern Europe during the last 3 centuries and what they had to endure, including pogroms, induction into the Czar's army and so on. This may not come as a surprise to many of you, but RBW seems to be straddling the fence when he speaks about life in the shtetl, this despite him being a Rav and frum Jew. He almost seems to apologize for the millions who left the fold at the outset of Communism, Socialism and Haskalah, as if they had all the reason in the world to do so after being sold out by the frum establishment all those years. You may have a wayward youth speak that way, or an amateur student of history that has trouble with some his recent findings, but a Rav?!

Once thing's for sure, the man is open and honest about almost everything he talks about, even if it makes him and his co-Religionists look bad. You might even say that he takes his information directly from secular and anti-Religious books and texts. When he speaks about the Cantonisten he goes as far as blaming the Rabbonim, Shochtim and Roshei HaKohol for sending off the kids of the poor when they were required to furnish the army with an amount of kids from their town. Never would you hear that when growing up and hearing that from your sixth grade Rebbe, they made it sound as if kids were grabbed by soldiers who would burst in to people's homes and grab kids from their mother's arms. Which makes you wonder, if Rabbi Wein is part of the Rabbinic establishment - at least the MO eastablishment - why would he condemn the leaders of yesteryear like that?

But wait! there's more. When speaking about the founding of the great Lithuanian Yeshivos and Reb Chaim Volozhiner he keeps on mentioning the fact that the Yeshivos were founded solely for the elite. Yes, he says, the idea was to save Torah SheLo TishtaKach MiYisroel, but it was only for the elite. At the height of enrollment there were only 450 students from all of Lithuania etc., with the average enrollment somewhere around 300 men. Out of hundreds of thousands of young men 300 were allowed in to those hallowed halls. One might say that they succeeded in saving Torah at the expense of the millions who left, and that it was the right to do it. I'm not here arguing that point and if it was right or wrong, the approach just sounds really elitist and not one you can build generations on. Try telling that to your average student today, or to the descendant of Jews who left the fold, I'm sure he'll be happy to know that his GrandPappy was collateral damage...

32 comments:

quit weining said...

I don't understand this post. Today we criticize the Yeshiva for trying to educate everyone, yet now we are criticizing the Yeshiva of old for not educating everyone. Furthermore, poverty was so rampant in the old country that very few could afford higher schooling. When you were old enough to apprentice, you went to work

AK said...

This is why I always hated the pro-Litvish Anti-Hungarian in the Yeshiva World (Yes, I did learn in the elite Litvishe Yeshivas, and yes my background is Hungarian).

The Litvishe Yeshivas were all elitist Yeshivas, and it was yechidim who learnt in these Yeshivas. There were literally a handful of yeshivas (Mir, Telz, Radin, Branaovitch, Kelm, Navardok, Slobodka, Kaminetz), who probably had combined enrollment under 1000.

Unlike in Hungary were practically everyone learned in some sort of Yeshiva. So much the the Litivshe myth of the supremacy of Torah in Lita.

Triumph of Survival said...

What a coincidence, I also recently listened to his history series which should be required listening for all.

While he states the obvious that Communism, Socialism etc. led to OTD syndrome, I didn't hear him say that the frum establishment "sold them out".

As for his quoting foreign sources, I attribute that to his voracious appetite for the written word, world history, and his willingness to "accept the truth from whomever states it"

As for your charge that rebbeim are 'hiding' the fact that sometimes the poor were taken in place of the rich during the Cantonist decrees, that is simply not true. Many, many rabbonim decried this, and there are plenty of Shaalot Veteshuvot that have been published re: that phenomenon in that sad period in history

Anonymous said...

In my school we were taught that many boys were forcibly taken by the Cossacks, but at times, when they were short of the quota, they forced the town to supply "x" number of boys. Invariably, these boys were usually orphans who had no protectzia.

Anonymous said...

Also, your last paragraph is not clear that you are referring to only one yeshiva, Volozhin. You seem to imply that there were only 450 bachurim in all of Lita learning in "Yeshivos", plural.

Chaim said...

Reading your post why would think that Tomchei Temimim founded about a hundred years after Vlozhin, was open to everyone, while in reality they allowed only the 'elite' in.
But, it you were a truthful person, you would not run this rag of a blog
And you and your ilk would never be accepted in Volozhin or Tomchei Temimim

Hirshel Tzig said...

oh, did I forget to add that? I'm sorry.

Can we stop with the "ilk" over usage, please? It's losing its luster.

snag said...

I feel compelled to address some of the misinformation here.

"When speaking about the founding of the great Lithuanian Yeshivos and Reb Chaim Volozhiner he keeps on mentioning the fact that the Yeshivos were founded solely for the elite. Yes, he says, the idea was to save Torah SheLo TishtaKach MiYisroel, but it was only for the elite."

Not everyone was on the level to be in an advanced Yeshiva. You had to be on a certain level, Volozhin wasn't a cheder for little kids. And funds were limited, the Czarist government didn't give food stamps, section 8 et al. Uncle Ivan was not the same as the great Uncle Sam.

"At the height of enrollment there were only 450 students from all of Lithuania etc., with the average enrollment somewhere around 300 men. Out of hundreds of thousands of young men 300 were allowed in to those hallowed halls."

1) As a previous commenter said, you are talking about Volozhin only, but then you seem to forget about the other Litvishe Yeshivos.

2) Previous commenter made an important point when he wrote that "Furthermore, poverty was so rampant in the old country that very few could afford higher schooling. When you were old enough to apprentice, you went to work".

3) Hundreds of thousands of young men ? How many Jews were there in Lita around 1800 when Volozhin started ? I'm afraid there were less young men there than you seem to think.

4) Re the comments of AK -

"The Litvishe Yeshivas were all elitist Yeshivas, and it was yechidim who learnt in these Yeshivas. There were literally a handful of yeshivas (Mir, Telz, Radin, Branaovitch, Kelm, Navardok, Slobodka, Kaminetz), who probably had combined enrollment under 1000.

Unlike in Hungary were practically everyone learned in some sort of Yeshiva. So much the the Litivshe myth of the supremacy of Torah in Lita."

AK is mistaken here.

There were other Litvishe Yeshivos as well. There were Yeshivos in local places. The chidush of the new type of Litvishe Yeshiva like Volozhin was that it was not usually a local affair. Previously Yeshivas were usually supported by the local town and under the local Rav. The new Yeshivas were more independent of their hometown.

There were other means of learning, whether old-style local Yeshivas not of the new type, shiurim of/for baalei batim, various chevras in Shuls and botei medrosh....

So you can't judge the amount of Litvishe Tayreh learning by just the enrollment numbers of a few prominent Yeshivos.

To illustrate my point, think for a minute, what would you say if someone wrote that since there just a few hundred students in Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, that means that in all Galitzia, only a few hundred people learned Torah ? Same type of mistaken thinking.

Learning Tayreh is not limited to Yeshivas.

AK seems to think everyone in Hungary went to Yeshiva. I doubt that is true. Definitely the Hungarian Jews that went off the derech there didn't all attend.

snag said...

Another point when you are comparing Hungary and Lita, is that Lita was poor compared to Hungary. The Hungarian Jews lived a far more comfortable and affluent existence than the Litvishe Yidden.

I will say that when people make it sound like that there were only Yeshivos in Lita and not elsewhere, that is a distortion that should be corrected. But to mach avek Litvishe Yeshivas and their impact on the world just because there were Yeshivos in Hungary, Germany, Poland and Galitzia as well, is not right either.

Anonymous said...

here some fun stuff to know about voloshin.
http://hamercaz.com/hamercaz/pics/database/aoi/205_myFile.pdf

Fred said...

RBW says Chabad eats peanuts on Pesach on that series of tapes.

Arthur said...

I'm shocked that RBW mentions Chabad at all.He barely mentions Chabad in general and specifiably the Rebbi RAYATZ'S pioneering efforts to bring Torah Yidishkiet to the USA with "America iz nisht andersh",in his Art scroll publications.

schneur said...

I do not wish to deliver a lecture in Jewish history in this site.
But some facts need to be stated.
The Volozhiner yeshiva was NOT the 1st yeshiva in Lithuania.
It was the 1st well organized yeshiva whose intention was to serve all of greater Lithuanian Jewry and the Ukraine. As such it recruited students throughout Czarist Russia (Bialik came from the Ukraine) and more importantly had a system of meshulochim fund raising throughout Russia and even in the US in the 19th century.
Rav Shlomo Zalman Kuk father of the rav horoshi was just such a meshulach in the Crimea. Next the yeshiva was involved in the students eating and sleeping even before formal kitchems and dorms were created.In other schools these were the tasks of kohol or the private responsibility of the young scholar. Finally although the yeshiva was in Volozhin it had no shaychus with the kehillo of Volozhin as it was a national yeshiva and hd its own building. Even though Reb Chaim and Reb Itzikel were also the ranbbonim of V their function as rosh was independednt of their task as rav.
Before world war 1 learning and study in a Yeshiva was hardly the only way for a Jew to be frum. In fact most frumme Yidden could hardly learn a blatt gemora (I hate to diappoint my Hungarian friends but hardly all Hungarian jews went to yeshiva cities with huge jewish populations like Pest, Miskolc, Groswardein, had no yeshivas until the Mid 20th centuries. Even a place like Munkatch first got a yeshiva in the late 19th century if my memory serves me correctly.
Until 1914 most frumme Yidden in east Europe davened, said Tillim participated in shiurim kol chad lefum shiure delay and led a frumme life styles as they saw in their parents home and on the street. As was noted most kids went to work at latest by bar Mitzva as the poverty was grinding. Only after WW1 did learning and study in a yeshiva become the major component of a young Jew being frum.
Thus indeed Volozhin, Da Mir , Telz and later Slobodka were for yechidim but these yechidim were chosen on the basis of their brains not their yichus or money. Other students could study in local yeshivos, in Chedorim or by private teachers (like Yitzchak Nachman Steinberg a frumme yiid wh served as Minister of Justice in the govt of Kerensky).Others went to work and studied in Tiffers bachurim groups or in the daily shiurim in the shuls in the town.I doubt the Rashab had the intention for every chabad bachur to study in TTL either. Of course after WW1 it became a davar hechrochi.
Therei smore to write but I am getting tired.

AMSHINOVER said...

shkayach

Twistelton-Twistelton said...

Schneur,

While I don't disagree with any of what you are saying, I will point out that Bialik was an anomoly in Voloshin, as he himself writes in his biography. Some one from Chassidish Ukiraine was NOT the norm.

Anonymous said...

Breaking news.
Amshinover has surfaced.

yehupitz said...

Sorry Tzig.
R Wein is right on both points: Whatever theory one comes up with, I think it absurd to argue that the Rabbis played no role in the vast majority of Jews abandoning Torah and Mitzvos. Yes, the winds of change, yes the ghetto walls coming down etc. But I know that I would see myself bearing responsibility on some real level if 90% of my shul's frum members abandoned Yiddishkeit. You wanted Wein to conceal that because it makes us look bad? We need to recognize the responsibility and learn from it.

Besides, if you want to spin the analysis in our favor, you can argue that we, the frum sheiris hapleita, are descended from the 10% that did it right.

As far as Volozhin goes, in my opinion your objection is moot. Factually, he is correct. Volozhin was designed as a taining ground for the elite that would "graduate" and go to lead and teach Kehillos all over Central-Eastern Europe. There is no shame in that.

Fred said...

"Thus indeed Volozhin, Da Mir , Telz and later Slobodka were for yechidim but these yechidim were chosen on the basis of their brains not their yichus or money."

When did this change in the ganze velt to adaraba? post ww-ii?

Fred said...

"I'm shocked that RBW mentions Chabad at all.He barely mentions Chabad in general and specifiably the Rebbi RAYATZ'S pioneering efforts to bring Torah Yidishkiet to the USA with "America iz nisht andersh",in his Art scroll publications."

See or hear ;)

Revolutionary Spirituality: Chabad, Breslov, Kotzk, and Mussar (Audio CD)
by Rabbi Berel Wein (Author)

Anonymous said...

By the way I love his story of him Jogging and meeting Reb Shlomo Zalman in his Jogging outfit,shorts and all and how he says Reb Shlomo Zalman told him if I was able to I would do the Same thing.

snag said...

He wrote that he was in a jogging outfit - that doesn't necessarily mean shorts, R. Wein is not that modern, I understood it as a modest exercise outfit, maybe some dark warmup pants.

Fred said...

as opposed to those Polishes who go to the gym with vest, bekesher, shtreimel (motzei shabbas) AND gartel while on the equipment....probably say "Lshem Kidshei Brich hu" before as well... mitzvah to exercise... gartel when they vote as well against the school and library budgets...

Anonymous said...

Twistle
Eliach of the Hagoan has a long article in the Bechatzros Beis.. to prove that Bialik's chasidishe background was to blame for his frieing out, but not the holy yeshiva of Valozhin

Anonymous said...

Schneur
you omitted a very important point, that most historians believe that the Yeshiva was built to counter the young Chasidic movement

AMSHINOVER said...

RBW's hesber for rabbinic anti-zionism: they (rabunim) would've lost their constituency (kehela) to aliyah (movin' to the holy land).AWESOME

a goood faker said...

my opinion of Wein is that he is an arrogant pompous baal gaavah with really very little of his own toichen.

he pontificates a lot, sticks in his own one sided opinions usually quite negative and I have found most of what he says to be word for word from a history book i will try tomorrow to give you its name.

he literally plagerizes the info from that book - I at least need to give it to him fo the memory he has to qoute so accurately from that book.

The Real McCoy said...

I don't believe what a good faker writes. RBW is a self-made man, a brilliant attorney who gave up a promising law career to become a rabbi. He also led the OU for many years. His interest in history led to his lecture series, which ultimately culminated in his history trilogy. I don't know what you mean about plagiarism. All historians for that matter are plagiarists. None of us were alive 120 years ago, so to write about those events we must rely on the accounts provided by others.

a goood faker said said...

the book is called a pictorial history of the Jewish people by Nathan Ausubel.

Real McCoy, are you berel wein. I can't stand listening to the arrogance in your tone of voice and presentation.


everyone else check out this book and you will find an uncanny resemblace between the two.


its a cheap parroting of a "historian" BW and far from a knowledgable take on the events that has formed and led up to our present existence.

the real mccoy said...

No, I am not. I met him only once or twice about 15 years ago.

I don't know what he ever did to you to deserve such vitriolic commenting.

AMSHINOVER said...

a goood faker said "...(RBW)sticks in his own one sided opinions..."

And a goood faker also said "...I have found most of what he says to be word for word from a history book i will try tomorrow to give you its name".

retard which one is it?

a goood faker said...

amshinover,

are YOU the retard???

his facts are word for word from the book quoted

he talks arrogantly


he puts in his negative arrogant one sided and subjective comments


any tarteh desasreh in what I said or are you a dunce

Chabad Historian said...

He is a historical revisonist. He takes Chabad totally out of the picture.