Tuesday, November 23, 2010
At the Kosel, many years ago. Photo courtesy of the LOC.
If you ever read the "Heavenly City" series by Menachem Gerlitz - whether in English, Hebrew or Yiddish - you're surely in the know when it comes to many of the battles that the Yishuv haYoshon in the Holy Land fought. Be it forced conversions, lack of human and property rights or trying to prevent the ideas of Haskoloh and modernity from penetrating their ranks. The way the community is portrayed is basically as one bloc, marching in lock step. All dressed the same, went to the same chadorim and other than the fact that there were Chassidim and Prushim who davened in different shuls and belonged to different "kollelim," were all the same cookie-cutter Jews. More or less. While that may be mostly true there were differences of opinion. In the circles of the Eda HaCharedis they commemorate to this very day the ban that was placed by the Rabbonei Yerushalayim on the teaching of foreign languages. I cannot remember when that ban was imposed, but it may have been as far back as in the times of Reb Shua Leib Diskin. They have this gathering in Kikar HaShabbos and all the chadorim that subscribe to the ban attend en masse. Of course, only Chadorim that are Yiddish only attend that gathering, since Ivrit - I guess - is included in the foreign language list. The French "Alliance" system was an arch nemesis of the frum Yishuv and is widely discussed in those books. They also were likely responsible for the breakdown in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia among our bretheren. Until then most Jews in those countries had no connection to Haskoloh or similar enlightenment.
As we can see from the title of this essay, there was a ban on the teaching of secular studies in Old Jerusalem. [I suppose you can read what Prof. Leyman writes just like I can, but I'll help you out here and give you a synopsis.] Reb Shmuel Salant and Reb Shua Leib Diskin both signed on it, although Prof. Leiman makes it sound like it was the Perushim only that instituted the ban, not the Chassidim, But that could be since there as no strong Chassidic presence in the 1850s in Yerushalayim as of yet. The Chassidim were in Chevron, Tzfas and Tverya then. Then again, it could be my naarishe diyukim in Leiman just the same.. Reb Yechiel Michel Pines was a proponent of educating young children in the Holy City, especially yesomim who didn't have parents to fend for them, and tried to establish secular studies at Orphanages, etc. He was soon put in Ches. It seems like in those days not all Litvaks heard of the term Daas Teyreh. He realized what kind of effect the order of excommunication could have on his plans and knew that he needed some kind of Halachic support, so he went back home, to Di Litteh. It's hard for us to imagine that anybody would publically contradict the two giants of Jerusalem, but this seems to be the case here, albeit not specifically addressed to them, the Tshuveh is still addressed to them.
I bring this to your attention not because I agree with the Tshuveh - not that it matters either. I figure many of you, OK, some of you, would be interested and would appreciate the historical value of it. It also shows us that even an issue like this, that at the time was considered almost as bad as, say, Giyus Banos, there were disagreements among the great ones. You can imply what Leiman does in the essay, basically that Reb Dovid'l Karliner stuck up for his shvogger, and that his opinion was basically for sale, but I have more respect for him than you do. I can see some of you already preparing your comments how "Lubavitch always attacks the learning of Torah B'tahara" and other such nonsense, but I laugh at you. You might say that this issue, which seems so clear cut, goes to show you how issues really aren't that; even among the greats of the time there were major differences. Now mind you, are were those among Chassidim that would question Reb Dovid'l's shittos, especially since we know that as a younger man he was friendly with many of the big "enlightened ones," but that doesn't happen among the Bnei Teyreh. Reb Baruch Ber Leibovitch crossed the bridge into Kovno to catch a glimpse of him in his later life, as did all the bochurim of both Slabodka yeshivos, and I believe many of them made a brocho שחלק מחכמתו when they saw him. In other words RDF was the Gadol HaDor in Di Litteh. So there you have it. Do with it as you wish. I'll post the Tshuveh from Reb Dovid'l separately.