Sunday, August 17, 2008
Who's Looking Elsewhere?
The folks in MatzavLand are excited!
In Israel there's great excitement, especially at the Yeshivah on the Hill in Bnei Beraq. A great scholar is coming from thousands of miles away, and will share his thoughts on the Talmud and its commentaries with the students there. Not that there's been a lack of Torah scholars there; they've had the greatest minds of the last three generations there, toiling in Torah, often forgetting about the physical aspects of life for years, and only focusing on their studies. Giants among men, they've been keeping the flame of the Torah alive there even in times of crisis and war. One might even say that were it not for that lone outpost Torah in its purest form may have been totally forgotten among the People of Israel. Names that are today legend all walked those hallowed halls and disseminated the wellsprings from within that vestige of hope. Harav Yosef Shlome Kahaneman, Harav Shmuel Rozowski, Harav Dovid Powarski and his son Reb Berel, Harav Shlome Berman and others, were it not foe the Harvard of yeshivos we might have never heard of them.
Why then is there a special buzz there these days? Who could create that excitement if all the great ones were there and most novella was already expounded upon there? It's a Chassidishe Rebbe! Yes, my friends the Bobover Rebbe, the "Rebbe the Talmid Chochom" as Rav Chaim Kanievski calls him, is coming to the Yeshivah to give a shiur kloli at the annual Yarchei Kallah tomorrow. In Israel, where everything is historic, they're very excited about it, and a very large crowd is expected to be on hand to see what this man can do. Not since the days of the Vaboylniker Tzaddik, when the great gold Aron Kodesh would somehow give credence to his bombastic, divisive words, has there been this kind of buzz. Truthfully the pressure must be tremendous on Reb Mordche Duvid, being that he somehow represents the entire Chassidishe world since the Baal Shem Tov himself. Somehow he'll vindicate them all and abolish the stereotypes if he aces the test that the once-mighty Ponovezh will put up for him.
We spoke about this last year, When the Satmar Rebbe was called to Lakewood's BMG to give the keynote address at the 25th anniversary of Rav Schneur's yohrtzeit. We thought that it was weird that the best they could do at such an auspicious event was to bring in a Rebbe, albeit a Talmid Chochom, to speak, when they could bring one of hundreds of his Talmidim. We've also discuused how Chassidim in general have this inferiority complex when it comes to learning, and that they always need to prove to the Yeshivishe Velt that they too stress Limud HaTorah and not just food and drink. So they bring in Litvishe Roshei Yeshiva into their yeshivos - often making them change their Levush to conform - and try and make Talmidei Chachomim out of their boys. In some cases it works out, and in some cases - like Reb Gedalia Nadel and Vizhnitz - it doesn't. The Litvak opens their eyes a bit too much and gets them to rethink their belief system a wee much.
But now it seems like the tide has turned just a bit. For the second time in a little over a year a Rebbe has been invited to present a shiur at a very important event, when the eyes of the whole yeshiva are upon it. Many former Talmidim, many of them zeides, come back for a few days of learning. In the Yeshivishe media the Yarchei Kallah is seen as time of policymaking - similar to Shteyedige Torah in Belz - and is widely reported about. What does the fact that they took a Rebbe to deliver the keynote address say about Ponovezh, have they too lost their way? Or is it all about money? did Freshwater pay the Yeshiva for this zechus and they couldn't refuse? Time will tell. But either way, whether it was for lack of anyone better, or for a promise of a couple of bucks, the shiur to be given tomorrow tells us a lot about the situation. Maybe they're tired of the same old shiurim and want to see what a Chassidisher can bring to the table? No matter what, this looks to be a very momentous ocassion, and folks everywhere will be looking forward to this. I just hope the Gabbai knows enough to sit down at the shiur, and not make this into a spectacle by standing there next to him like some Royal bodyguard.