Saturday, April 4, 2009
Looking for Epes Merrer..... Part I
Reb Aron Cohen was one of three sons in law of Reb Moshe Mordche Epstein, Rov and Rosh Yeshivah in Slabodke. He traveled with the Yeshiva to Chevron and lived the rest of his life in EY. A life of Torah and not much else. A life riddled with pain for the last few years of his life. He died, childless, at the young age of 57. He was Rosh Yeshivah from RMME's passing till his death in 5721. A recent book - הכהן הגדול מאחיו - by Brisker historian שמעון יוסף Meller does a nice job of bringing his story to life. Which reminds me - I'd venture to say that 90% of bachurim in America's Litvishe Yeshivos have no idea who RAC was, but I digress. Then again, most don't read the history of their Gedolim, so how should they know? Reb Aron came from a long line of Prushim in Eishishok and other places, so he was pure Litvish/Misnagdic. HIs zeide once took his father to see Reb Yisroel Salanter when the latter was returning from a long trip to France and Germany to mechazek yiddishkeit. B'kitzur he (RAC) had probably never seen a chossid before arriving in Eretz Yisroel...
Now I see that Reb Aron's father, Reb Avrom Mordche, became a Kaydenover chossid! He befriended the Kovner Shaychet - a chossid, and joined the kat. His family was - needless to say - devastated and tried very hard to deprogram him, but to no avail. His brother stopped talking to him. Only later in life, after seeing that Reb Aron came out of Reb Avrom Mordche, did the brother agree that it could not have been THAT bad, since the result was such a fine son... It's unclear from the book what impact the conversion had on his children - since he sent his son to Slabodka after all, so maybe THAT was the beginning of what happened later on with Reb Aron, the fact that he began to look for what they call "Shleimus," a more satiating way of serving Hashem, one that he didn't find in the halls of Hebron and Jerusalem, even under the guidance of the great Alter. "Gadlus HoAdam", the shitoh taught in Hebron and Slabodka was not what his soul needed, despite his great love of Torah and his position as Rosh Yeshivah. Why would they put that in a book of his life? not to worry, they make sure to assure the readers that it was only to enhance certain aspects, not to chap malochim, and not at the expense of learning Torah, despite him attending Tishen and other such gatherings.
It seems like Reb Aron Cohen first observed Reb Aron HaCohen Roth when the latter visited the Holy Land in 5688 and stayed at the Meoras Hamachpelah from RC Elul till the first day of Selichos. Reb Ahre'le went back to Hungary/Rumania, where he was the butt of many a redifoh, and later traveled back to Eretz Yisroel and remained there. Reb Ahrele - for those who may not know - was the father in law of Reb Avrohom Yitzchok Cohen, who succeeded him as leader of the Chaburah of Shomrei Emunim / Toldos Ahron. Reb Aron Cohen - the great Chevroner Rosh Yeshivah - son in law of Reb Moshe Mordche - saw in Reb Ahrele a great Oved Hashem - one who served Hashem with all his body and soul, one who would "give it all" during davening and was drawn to him and to his ways. It was at the behest of the Chazon Ish that Reb Aron Cohen was told about Reb Ahrele Roth - when the CI was to have told RAC that in Yerushalayim there is a man who serves Hashem through Tefilloh with Mesiras Nefesh, there you can learn how to daven. RAC had spoken to the CI about wanting to improve his davening, and that's what the CI had told him to do!