Monday, January 4, 2010
So I'm busy now reading the fairly new Feldheim publication וילכו שניהם יחדיו, which are memoirs by the deceased Rabbi Dov Cohen z"l. Reb Dov (aka Benny) was a kid from Seattle whose mother wanted him to be a yeshiveh bocher. Her father had been an erliche Litvishe Yid, and her zeides were mamesh tzaddikim. The family had moved to America at the turn of the 20th century from Di Litteh to seek their fortune there a few years before he was born, and had been living in Seattle for a while now. Benny's older brother Yaysef (Joe) had been at RIETS in New York and had returned home, saying that he was through with Yeshivah. His mother was devastated. Her dream of having yeshiveh boch'rim as kids was - for now - shattered. There were Rabbonim in Seattle - learned men, alumni of the great Yeshivos in Di Litteh - who eitzeh'd her to go to Israel, then Palestine, and to enroll him in a yeshivah there. A certain Rabbi Winograd, who was a Rov in Seattle but was originally from the Holy Land, and whose father was the Rosh Yeshivah in Yeshivas Toras Chaim HaKlolis in the Old City, told her to enroll her son there. So Mrs. Cohen took her fifteen year-old son one morning, packed him up and took him on a train to New York. Her husband had no idea. She telegramed him from New York (or somewhere along the way) that they were en route to Palestine and Benny didn't see his old man for another 20 years.
When they arrived in the Holy Land four weeks later they soon realized that there some kind of misunderstanding here. Toras Chaim was no place for an American boy who went to Public School and who had private tutors as Gemoroh teachers. It was a yeshivah for Yerushalayimer guys who learned full time, often zeides joining sons, joining grandsons. Until his dying day Reb Dov had no idea what R Winograd was thinking when he sent them there... Needless to say Mrs. Cohen was shattered. (Mr. Cohen is absent from the whole ordeal, one cannot be sure what he thought of the whole idea) She was ready to take him home when she met Reb Meir Berlin, son of the Netziv and uncle of Reb Chaim Brisker, zt"l. RMB had met Mrs. Cohen when he visited Seattle while traveling the world for some Zionist or Mizrachi cause and recognized her, asking her what she was doing her and how he could help. Reb Meir suggested she enroll her son in the Tachkemoni school in Tel Aviv where both his son and Rabbi Zev Gold's (founder of Torah VoDaas in the US) son studied. (RZG had since left New York and made aliyah.) Tachkemoni was not a Yeshivah Kedoshah by any stretch of the imagination, they studied more secular studies than Kodesh, but it had good staff there, and it was better than Public School, so Mrs. Cohen relented, but she stayed in the Holy Land with her son, making sure everything was OK. When Benny's year was up at Tachkemoni she decided that this was not why she journeyed across the Atlantic and decided that she was taking him after all.
I'd like to pause here and discuss what we know up until his his first year was over at Tachkemoni. This may not be very obvious, but other than him and his sister, who married a frum guy named Katzman, it seems like all others left the fold. Which makes Mrs. Cohen's sacrifice that much greater! It seems like once the Cohen's arrived in di goldene medineh they each had different ideas as to how to raise their children. Mrs. Cohen had very choshu've zeides (and a father that died young) and wanted her children to follow in their ancestor's ways. Mister Cohen, on the other hand, was busy making money, Shabbos aher Shabbos ahin, IYKWIM. The whole time all she's worried about - this Litvishe Yiddene - is that her sons grow up to be Talmidei Chachomim. So she sends Joe to RIETS, where he supposedly would become a fine Talmid Chochem, but Joe gets tired of learning and quits. The reader can deduce that there was no way that Mister Cohen would allow his young son to go to Eretz Yisroel, but the wife is not deterred. She packs him up without her husband's knowledge and shleps him 9000 miles away. Such is her Mesiras Nefesh for Teyreh. To call this commendable would be a gross understatement. The only comparable thing I can think of is when Reb Elya Lopian zt"l refused to join his parents when they left Lita for America, saying that "Amerikeh iz a treyfene medineh." He was 9 or 10 years old at the time.
To be continued...