Sunday, April 26, 2009
Mission: Saving Torah!
A younger Rav Reuven Grozovsky
A friend of Circus Tent made us aware of the current issue of Yeshurun, where a comprehensive biography of Reb Ruven Grozowski has been compiled, and among other things, they discuss the exile of 2 great Litvishe Yeshivos to far away Kremenchug, Ukraine during WWI. The two were the Knesses Yisroel and Knesses Beis Yitzchok Yeshivos of Kovne-Slabodke, and there may have been three others there too. Luminaries like Reb Chaim Brisker and Reb Moshe Bezalel Alter also wandered hundreds and hundreds of miles from home to escape the German armies. Reb Ruven joined the Yeshiva in 5678, and was soon chosen as RBBL's son in law. The parts in Yeshurun leading up to the period of WW1 are all must-reads as well; they discuss his own diligence in Torah, as well as his fight to pry others away from the snatches of the Haskalah. Some of you may not know this but RRG was a mechuten with the Chossid Reb Avrohom Elya Akselrod of Baltimore, and has a Lubavitcher eynikel living in - of all places, Lakewood. It seems like the Eybershter gave him Schar on this world as well....
In the biography of Reb Baruch Ber, zt"l, they mention the fact that Reb Baruch Ber was in Kremenchug with his Yeshiva. He had traveled there after his shver's passing and stayed on, with the possibility that he'd replace his shver as the Misnagdishe Rov. The RBBL book mentions some kind of friction between the Lubavitcher Chassidim and the Litvishe, that the Lubavitchers wanted to know why they came to K'chug. Are you a katzev that you come here,? they supposedly asked RBB. - Kremenchug was a center of Kosher provisions in those days. They make mention of the Kremenchuger Lubavitcher Rov, HaRav Rafolevitch, - they say it was Moshe, I thought it was Yitzchok Yoel - as "gaining the respect" of RBBL and how they would always red in lernen. The Yeshiva remained there until 1921 (!) and was only forced to leave when the Yevseksia yms"h started causing trouble by calling them counter-revolutionaries etc. So for several years the Yeshivah was in a small Chassidic town far, far away from home. I would imagine that some of the Yidden may not have been to happy with their modern dress either, yet something very unique and special happened here.
In his later years
According to this biography, the Jews - קרי חסידי חב"ד - gave away their last pieces of bread to the yeshiva bachurim. Forget not that in the 1920's millions died in the Ukraine due to Stalin's forced famines. Many, many Jews were among the dead. I guess he figured later that it was easier and more convenient to ship them off to Siberia than to starve them to death. To support hundreds of yeshiva bachurim at that time - bachurim with whom you supposedly have strong disagreements with over policy - takes courage and the utmost devotion, wouldn't you say? Here there were no Chassidim or Misnagdim, there were only frum Jews who spoke one language and learned one G-d's Torah. For the Chassidim this was the greatest thing they could do, support Lomdei Torah. Because Torah is what connects you with the Eybershter, and those that are lucky enough to learn full-time - no small feat in those days - were to be respected and fed and housed, so as not to c"v disturb their seder of learning. Which makes you wonder: why were bachurim in Shanghai - aka ShandeChai - that were not part of the Lithuanian Yeshivah cabal not considered Bnei Torah? Why were those in charge in New York being so petty as to belittle other peoples' learning, call them unworthy and not authentic?! The Jews in Kremenchug knew that the mission here was to save Torah, why couldn't those in New York?!