Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Book Review - "Rav Gifter" - Artscroll (Guest Post)
Reading the new book on Rav Gifter got me thinking; I got nostalgic for a Telshe that I only know through those candles they send me a week after Chanukah - with the pictures of boys from the stone age. You see, true a Telsher might be a little stiff/rigid by contemporary standards, he might enunciate his words (diction, syntax) in a way that grates under the skin – but still, you got to give them something. At least a Telsher is a Telsher; is (or was) part of a group, a team, actually had a Rebbe that he prays that his kids should emulate. His Rebbe wasn’t just a guy who knew how to learn better than the next guy, knows a couple of blatt, Shaar Daled if you’re lucky, but nothing else. IOW: his hasogoh and depth of neshamah hasn’t changed much since he sat by Avrum Yishua’s shiur. No, R' Gifter and Telshe b’chlal, whether you believe that Reb Chaim Shtayn was really a ba'al moyphes or not, had depth, nuance, loyalty to a specific mehalach hachaim [not just being mivatel di velt – vedal – even though they did some of that too]. Just take a look at R’ Gifter’s stuff on Chumash, [something that oddly that was sponsored by a graduating eighth grade class in Far Rockaway that donated their ‘yearbook’ money for the cause. VAKM”L] and you will see what I mean. It is not just a regular mussor vort recycled by Malkiel’s underpaid speech writer, if you get my drift.
Oh, yeh, the book. I will not get into if Rabbi Chee-lee Speiro was the right man for the job, particularly with the Telshers with their intellectual bend that will be reading this book. Personally, I think they should have went with Jonathan on this one, and made a book with impressive footnotes (citing which coffee room the maysah was said in) and long paragraphs. From what I understand, Reb Yonasan has his hands full, as he is already working on Artscroll’s bio of the late Philadelphia Rosh Yeshiva Zatzal, hence Rav Speero had his debut as an author of a long story. With regards to the content of the book; it did manage to capture, somewhat of R’ Gifter’s uniqueness of both being a kano'i, and someone who would cry at the sight of some flower, of some sort. It also, conveyed somewhat, that R’ Gifter was very “brayt” and wasn’t ashamed to quote explicitly from Izbitz [Reb Elya Meir, z”l, cited the Sfas Emes publicly] and how he encouraged his congregants of the Chabad of Waterbury to make the trek into Brooklyn for the farbrengens, and how he saved Artscroll gemaras from doom, etc. Yes, the book conveyed some of what Rav Gifter was all about, although it omitted his imitable form of expressing his opinions on many of his contemporaries, kiyoduah.
IMHO, the biggest problem with this book was not just that is (glowingly?) published Rav Gifter’s criticism of hayntigeh yeshivaleit – although he NEVER voiced those critiques to the fargrebteh belly-patting, balhabatim. Or how they made a big deal over some speech he gave in a college that no one heard of, to an interesting crowd…. Whatever… my main problem is simply this: They had a golden opportunity to actually inspire the readers, to grow, and to emulate R’ Gifter in some way, his ameylus, yegioh, something. Oh no, they couldn’t do that; instead they stressed over and over again, that “Max” was already from the greatest in the world in his mere twenties!!! After that, it was just all on auto pilot (or the magnet from that moshol), and no mention of any yegioh from the time he got married on…
An excerpt from the book, courtesy of Artscroll
[Disclaimer: any seeming lack of respect towards Rabbonim, Roshei Yeshiva and Mesivta Rebbis is that of the author of the post, a very strong "Yeshivaman."]