Friday, November 13, 2009
Photo by HeyU, beChadrei Charedim
ITRI. It's not as flashy a name as Ponovezh, Slabodka or Mir, but most of you know it, have at least heard of it, or may even have learned there or know someone who did. It seems like ITRI is not what it used to be anymore, Machlokes has ripped that place asunder, and a very small group of boys learn there now. Last week the Rosh Yeshiva, Reb Mordche Elefant, passed away, dealing another blow to the Institute. let me preface all this by saying that I know very little about him and the Yeshiva. The observations I'm making are based on what I've seen on forums and what I heard from people this week.
Here's what I heard from some very proud Litvaks(in italics, my comments are in normal scripts)
1) He had the Brisker Rov's (yesh lomar Reb Chaim's) kesovim and boasted about it to everybody that would listen. That means that the Rov never actually gave it to him, he got his hands on it somehow. Sounds to me like a Chassidishe Geneiveh. If he publicized them and let the world learn from it, then Tovoy olov brochoh. Why should the Solovejczyks just hold onto it like it's the most precious thing in the world, and that only they're allowed to see it or learn from it? Many of the kesovim in Chabad today are only available because of Chassidishe Geneivos - geneivos of chassidishe kesovim & chafeytzim. I never understood why one had to shlep to Bene Beraq and knock on the door, begging to buy a set of Kehillas Yaakov. What about bittul Teyreh? what about Kovid haTeyreh of Benei Teyreh? It must've been the chassidisher opshtam; "never trust a gevorener," they always say... Who do they think they are, bringing in all their chassidishe shtick into our communities? The beards and the peyos and the getting married early, and all the other chumros?! This isn't Hornosteipel, ya hear? we did things differently back in the old country!
2) He was the only one who wouldn't walk out backwards when leaving RYH's presence. This was mentioned on another blog without mentioning RYH, for some reason. I think he has some kind of beef with Chaim Berlin and its personnel. Here is another case of copying everything he saw happening in Lubavitch. Why the need to follow others if he was so original? We may never know the answer. RME said that he didn't do it for RAK, so he won't do it for RYH, which is cute, using RAK to belittle RYH. At least for me, it is. Take one look at the picture and you see that even when confined to a wheelchair he took nothing from nobody. You might say he was the last of the independent Litvaks; he did what he wanted to and marched to his own beat. The glasses, the scarf, the velvet on the collar and the cigarette remind you of a bygone era, when bosses ruled the big cities.
L-R: IM Bunim RAK, RME, Reb Aron Cohen of Chevron, RYH, (standing) (L-R) Nochem Herman, ?, Reb Leib Malin, Reb Meir Elefant. (Zaydie Herman was in Israel already.)
3) Zaydie Herman didn't like him at all. RME was a son-in-law of Nochum Dovid, brother to Racoma and Bessie Herman. The only frum people in the Lower East Side, they would have you believe. At least that's the way the book makes it sound. So Zaydie was very frum, so much so that he made life for his poor kids absolutely miserable, and he didn't like what he saw in young ME, no matter what kind of gutte kop he had. You might say s'hut em nit dershmekt. He had a good nose, the old Litvak. I'm not sure what it was he didn't like; maybe he was a little too smooth for him. Not that RPS was any less smooth looking back in the day, but it's hard to tell just from pictures. Why, even Reb Leib looks like a Flatbush Baal HaBuss in the picture, and we all know he wasn't one. Which is interesting, because in America most of the old Europeans changed their Levushim to a more respected hat and frock. But maybe this was still before Reb Leib got married. Maybe one of you can help me out here. The wedding picture was in 1951, was he married yet?
Reb Mordche was seemingly unique in our days that he never got the memo that all Litvishe Gedolim were also Kedoshim Merechem Imom. We know that chassidim believed this to be the case, but in the Olam Hayeshivos diLita this was never the case. So if you came to RME and told him where you're learning or where you learned in the past, he would let go with all the Loshen HoRah he knew about the Rosh Yeshivos. While a mature young man can maybe handle that expose on his Rosh Yeshiva, a 17-year old may find his world caving in after spending some time with him... My customary obligatory double-standard cry would be that he was best buddies with all kinds of irreligious politicians and members of the Israeli elite, but with him it was OK. Not only was it OK, but it was cute and cool. Yet the Rebbe got attacked by the very same zealots for accepting SHaZaR and other such politicians and for giving Hakofes to anti-dati Israeli politicians and such. Reb Mordche nebach had no children and probably died a broken man, seeing how his empire had crumbled these last few years.
zol er hobben a lichtigen gan eden.