(book review - Part II)
The "Chamsas" on the building were painted by the Arab owner
So I'm reading about Reb Dov Cohen in the book we discussed here a little while back, and these thoughts pop into my head. You know me, not much goes on up there, so it takes a while till a coherent thought comes together. Actually the basic premise was mentioned to me by a reader here who discussed the book with me on Google Talk. Now that I read the book I see it too, very clearly, as a matter of fact. Reb Dov seemingly needs to prove to the reader that he too was "somebody," despite never being a Rosh Yeshivah or having a choshu've Rabbinic shtelle. And often times it's even done at the expense of others who did "make it," maybe even putting them down a wee bit, showing how they too were in his pekkel. After all, someone who learned in Chevroner Yeshiveh for 10 years and got semichah from them should've been good to go as a choshu've Rov or Rosh Yeshiveh/R"M in anybody's book. A similar lament can be seen in the עולמו של אבא, where the protagonist admits to a plaguing thought he had for many years, namely being stuck in a backwoods Rumanian shtetl far, far from his native Oberland with a bunch of Amiratzim Chassidim as his constituents, Hashem Yishmor...
There were many others like Reb Dov. As a matter of fact, most of the names he mentions as being the "Gedolei HaLomdim" in Chevron never made it in the Yeshivah world. Some of them went on to be Rabbonim in the Rabbanut system, yes, but most of them are absolute unknowns in the yeshiva lore that we know today. Yitzchok Meir Ben-Menachem? (married RIZM's daughter but then what?) Aron Brisker? Yitzchok Varshever? (he went out and did it on his won, that's R' Yitzchok Hutner, FYI) How is that?! And countless others, which I do not remember off-hand. Wasn't the Olam HaYeshivos different than the Rebbe branzhe, where it all worked on Protektzia? Wasn't it all about accomplishments rather than pedigree and lineage? My friends, I'm afraid not. You might even say that the yeridas hadoros in the yeshiva world might even be due to this very sad development, where yichus and protektzia took over and scholarship and erlichkeit was ignored. I realize that there weren't enough positions for everybody, but there should've been some sort of merit system, not all just sons and sons-in-law, don't you think? In Reb Dov's case there was an extra "problem," a shortcoming, if you will. He was a Mahkaner, an American. (GASP!)
Reb Chatzkel Sarna, zt"l, SIL of RMM Epstein, zt"l
It's tough for some of you to relate to this, especially when Lakewood is what you consider the epicenter of Torah this side of the Mediterranean, but in those days America was treif. And if you came all the way from Seattle and spent ten years(!) in Yeshivah you're still suspect. This despite Reb Dov shtamming from very fine, erliche LITVISHE Yidden only one generation before. Yet, we can learn alot from RDC. That despite being shut out he usually places the blame at the feet of the Zionist establishment, never at the feet of Chevron... When it comes to explaining why he never climbed the ladder in the Rabbanut he'll usually say how he never was a Zionist, always remained a yeshivah man, and they only gave jobs to party members. R' Dov speaks about his accomplishments in Torah and tikkun HaMidos, I should say that the author of the book uses Reb Dov's diaries and writings to highlight his accomplishments, and how at a very advanced age he was still working on tikkun hamidos. There's mention of the fact that he took Reb Dov Kook - who the kallah's family was very close to - as mesader kiddushin, upsetting the yeshivah brass and the talmidim as well. They went as far as telling him that he was "no longer a talmid haYeshivah! Which makes you think:
Did the Chevroner Yeshivah blacklist Reb Dov as revenge for disrespecting them and not taking the Rosh Yeshivah Reb Chatzkel Sarna as Mesader Kidushin? Sounds far fetched, I know. Maybe in the beginning they did, if they were asked about him. Then again, he does show a letter he has, signed by RCS, where Reb Chatzkel writes that he attended the yeshivah for 10 years, and is a quasi hamlotzoh, so take it as you wish. We also don't have to assume that just because he was in Chevron for ten years meint noch gornisht, veDal, but that they won't tell you in the book... But still, he was a mechaber seforim, (wore a high Litvishe yarmulke) so I would think he could give a shiur in some mesivta somewhere in Israel, despite there not being many yeshivos in Israel in the 40's. Instead we read about activities that befit Chabad shluchim, not that it's a bad thing, c"v, but not what a rosh yeshivah type wants in his resume. And we also hear how it was the coolest thing to be seen in public with an Israeli army uniform of any kind, which is why he wore it in public to all functions, even in the presence of Rabbonim, etc. So that's that. All in all the book makes for great reading, great viewing, i.e. great pictures, and some laughs too.