Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Speak to your average Litvak, even the upper crust guys, listen to him praise his teachers and the ones he admires, and you'll realize this: He has no shprach, no Osyos for what he's trying to convey. He'll use lots of cliches and catch phrases, like "Kulo Torah," or "ah shtik Torah," but what does that really mean? There are countless hours of interviews that some guy went around to a slew of talmidim of Lakewood until 1962 and got their impressions of their Rosh'shiveh. The conversations are just fine as long as they speak about themselves or can relate anecdotes about the RY. But none of them - and many are Rosh'shives themselves - can put the greatness of their Rosh'shiveh into Osyos. What I find most interesting is that many of these same people have gutte kep when it comes to dissecting a sugya, they're very smart, even in business matters despite never venturing into business themselves, but they cannot put ideas into words. In Reb Borech Ber's name they say "az s'felt in Hasboreh felt in Havoneh," but this is not so clear cut when it comes to identifying greatness, it's just that they lack the terminology, the vernacular, the lexicon; in other words, they lack Osyos.
Case in point: I asked our good friend Mr. Not Brisk, who is a very smart and observant fellow, about a term he used when referring to Yonah Minsker (Karpilov), HY"D, a prize talmid of the Mirrer Yeshivah, and one who was very admired by the late Brisker Rov. He called him "The Great," and I asked him why. He was "a tremendous masmid," he said, "dovuk in torah," he went on to say. "he was maymis atzmoh beOholei shel Torah, it bothered him immensely when he couldn't understand a tosfos," etc. When I asked him how that made him different from hundreds of others like him he began to get defensive and turned his attention to me. He had reached the pinnacle of hasboroh and was rendered speechless by an amateur like myself. He saw my questions as those of a "Lubavitcher who has no chashivus for Teyreh", doesn't appreciate it, has a different chinuch than his, which he says is also "kulo torah," and so on. "A Chabadsker who doesn't think that gadlus beTorah equals gadlus ho'Adam," is what I am, he says. It had to be that the prublem iz in mir, because every guy in Lakewood knows that Yayneh Minsker was great, and if I disagree then I must have no love for Torah. But what he failed to realize is that the chisoren iz in em, nisht in mir; he had failed to make his point, plain and simple. Using catch phrases and cliches only goes so far.
The truth that NB cannot be blamed. Like so many of us he was never taught to think or to elaborate on his thoughts. In many circles all that's needed is the look and the Reyd and you're good to go. As long as you stick to the circles you grew up in you're safe, nobody will ever challenge you to back up the claims you made. This is especially true in his circles, where any thought whatsoever is verboten. It didn't use to be this way, there used to be some Machshovoh in the Torah world, but that was outlawed, seemingly after the mashgichim of yesteryear passed on. The new regime saw any machshovoh as bittul teyreh, I guess. Maybe since so many in those circles are not Yotzei Lita, they have no mesorah of machshovoh, or maybe they're all Briskers, what do I know? Then again; Not Brisk is NOT A BRISKER, he should be able to open Reb Yeruchem's shmuessen and learn to think a bit, despite RY's fear of anything that shmekked a little bit like kabboloh. But maybe this is the only way; maybe the only way to continue in the Torah's ways is to throw away your thinking caps and stick with the gemoroh only, like they did in Marmures, and they had the numbers to prove that it worked like a charm...