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!

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hirshel
Who is the source for this all CI introduction.
its also interesting that Reb Aron Roth put so much emphasis on Meoras Hmachpalio, I remember the Satmar Rov in his Al Hageula is not a big fan of going to Meoras Hamachpala

Anonymous said...

Anon

Satmar Rav's al hageula came out in 1967 and Rav Roth was gone already almost 2 decades.

As for Reb Aron Roth, the Satmar Rebbe bitterly opposed him and his ways. It was only when his eidem R Avrum Yitzchok became Rebbe that he accepted them, since RAYK was his talmid.

Hirshel
There is a more shocking opposite story. Reb Eliyahu Klatzkin who as rav of Krakow and later in Yerushalayim was from a long line of Chabad Rabbinic family and great geonim still he left chabad and chasidus altogether.

BTW: in the latest edition of Yeshurin there is a interesting fact how the Slabodka Yeshiva with other Litvish yeshivas were in exile during WW1 and stayed in the town of Krmanchuk where the local chabad chasidim gave away their last bread to support the yeshivos with great honor. (in the current bio on Reb Reuvein Grazovsky)

Also there is a letter of RRG where he qoutes the maggid of mezeritch. interesting stuff.

Yosef 718

Anonymous said...

Hope more is coming about this great man. While I have yet to read the new book - his seforim are facinating and contain original chiddushim peppered with a varimkeit quite unusual for a Rosh Yeshivah.
In the past I heard that a chevroner asked the Belzer Rebbe, Reb Ahron about going to learn in a chassidishe yeshiva. Reb Ahron answered him that he should "drei zich" by RAC!

Anonymous said...

Hope more is coming about this great man. While I have yet to read the new book - his seforim are facinating and contain original chiddushim peppered with a varimkeit quite unusual for a Rosh Yeshivah.
In the past I heard that a chevroner asked the Belzer Rebbe, Reb Ahron about going to learn in a chassidishe yeshiva. Reb Ahron answered him that he should "drei zich" by RAC!

schneur said...

1. As to the history of the yeshiva world, the same question can be sked of todya's Chabad people, how many ever heard of Reb Yehuda Ever or of REb Chatze Feigin. Ftankly I have met some new recruits who have neve heard of Reb Shmartahu Gourary forget about his uncle Reb Shmuel Gourary...
2. My mother born near Vilna never saw a Chasid until after World war Two. When I took her to BP in 1978 and we walked out of the subway she asked
me "azeivil rabbonim zaynene do in gegent ?

3. REb Moshe's grandfather was a Koidenover chasid too.

schneur said...

In the 1st edition of Uvda D"Aron the bio of Reb Arele its mentioned that he left Satumar because of the redifes of Oso zaddik, that can only be one zaddik.
I have read a lot about Reb Arele and yes he was an enemy of Zionism but that was not the definition of his movement. In fact Reb Yoelish cared little about Chassiduth , much more on correct political thinking ND RETENTION OF THE MINHOGFIM of the avos.When he Reb Arele was succeded by his son in law that became a major defining point of Toldos Aren. Today Toldes Aron suffers from all the problems any other chassdius suffers from : drop outs, a split in leadership, huge royal families jocking for good shidduchim and ways of avoiding work. confusion about whats important . Its clearly not the revivalist movement that Reb Arele saw as a chevraya as in the days of the BESHT.

Anonymous said...

Is the current Chevron Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Dovid Cohen, related to RAC? If not, how did he become Rosh Yeshiva? What are his family connections?

Anonymous said...

Yosef 718
Klatzkin was never a big Chosid he and his brothers were pro chasidim and davened Nusach Hoari all their life but never identified as a misnaged as for instance Rav Ruderman.

Anonymous said...

Yosef
I heard there is a ksav yad from Klatzkins brother on shas al pi chassidus and he quotes all the Rebiem of Chabad as Kapust, Reshab and Babroisk, they were never too warm in order to become cold

Anonymous said...

Anon,
I knew exactly the the Al Hageula was printed later, my point was, that on 1 hand you see a big inyan by being by the Moras Hmachpaleh while on the other hand the Satmar Rov claims that the pilgrimage to Hebron is problematic, Obviously his motives were political to the core

Anonymous said...

Yosef

I lately saw that Kremenchug had a lot of Rachmistrivker chasidim, Marinovsky write about it, plus I saw in a Rachmistrivker zemiroth about a chosid of theirs that was ?Dayan there.

Maybe A Litvak said...

"Is the current Chevron Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Dovid Cohen, related to RAC? If not, how did he become Rosh Yeshiva? What are his family connections?"

His seforim are really geboyt on Sfas Emes; he just fleshes it out. Rumor has it that he learns nistar; don't know for sure; don't know if he is invited to the by-invitation-only shiur by R'Shapiro on nistar.

Der Chazon Ish, used to daven (with open)bihispayles in private, but would not do it publically. Or maybe he was mikayem 'sheloh shinah'.v'dal
R'Yakov mimicked the alter's tefilos who learnt vee tzu davenin from der Alter fuhn Kelem. When R'Yankev davened for the ahmud in Kelm, the Alter's daughter heard it ans inquired who is tha bachur who davens like the Tateh

schneur said...

Krementchugs Jewish population was comprised of 2 different communities. The native Ukranian Jews who were for the msot part followers of the branches of Chernobil, and the new emigrants (who arrived there after 1840)from Lithuania and White Russia who were Chabad and Misnagdim. The communities tended to have little to do with each other. The same was true in many of the other southern Ukranian cities.

mib said...

Schneur,
Do you have more information on the emigration of these Lithuanian and White Russian Jews> I assume it occurred after the end of the pale?

Joe said...

My great uncle!