Wednesday, August 17, 2011
A Letter from the Zvehiller Rebbe of Boston's Mazkir to Hirshel Tzig (Part I)
הרב יעקב ישראל קארף זצ"ל, אדמו"ר מזוועהיל-מעזיבוז' באסטאן, יע"א (click to enlarge)
Dear Mr. Tzig,
Your blog was recently brought to our attention by someone who told our Rebbe about it and The Rebbe gave me permission to look at it and get in touch to correct some errors in two entries (Saga of an American Rebbe Part I and Part II). We ordinarily are told to just ignore these sorts of things, but The Rebbe was impressed with your blog as being very honest at trying to avoid loshon hora and present only the emes, so I thought I should fill in some blanks and that you would like some clarifications and answers to some of the questions that were raised in the comments. We can see that the mistakes come from Mr. Gass’ website – unfortunately, as you saw clearly and commented in your blog at the beginning, Mr. Gass knows absolutely nothing at all about the chasidishe/rebbeishe side of the family and even gets many of the basic facts wrong. I know that his own mother would be very upset at the inaccuracies and other mistakes he has on the website which are simply wrong and very misleading.
Turning to the facts; the late Rebbe, consistent with his yerushah from the Baal Shem Tov, was at the same time traditional, carefully following the family minhogim and hanhogos at home (he didn’t even allow ‘goyish’, meaning English, to be spoken in his home on Shabbos) but also accepting and welcoming of every Jew even though he did not always approve of their lifestyle or conduct. You are right that he must have had much agmas nefesh from some in his own family, but he focused more on his three sons who were all Rabbonim with Orthodox congregations – Rabbi Shmuel Yitzchok Korff (Cong. Kehillath Jacob and also head of Boston’s Beis Din, Vaad HaRabbonim and Kashrus Commission), Rabbi Boruch Korff (Adath Jacob and known as Nixon’s Rabbi), and Rabbi Menachem Nuchem Korff (Cong. Bnai Jacob, the present Rebbe’s father). He accepted, probably reluctantly but realistically, that in America to relate to the community his sons would be clean-shaven and speak English.
The late Rebbe was born in the Baal Shem Tov’s home in Mezhibuz to his father R’ Mordechai, who was the last Mezhibuzer Rebbe, and then married the daughter of the Zvhiller Rebbe, R’ Michel, who was R’ Shlomke’s older brother. R’ Michel moved to Koritz and turned over the Rebistive to his new son-in-law, who was both Rav and Rebbe. He and R’ Shlomke were very close, and stayed in close contact after The Rebbe moved to Boston and R’ Shlomke went to Yerushalayem. The late Zvil-Mezbuz Rebbe (R’ Yaakov Yisroel) was a big talmid chochum, an ilui who received smicha when he was just a Bar Mitzvah from the Ba’al Oruch Hashulchan. He was one of the first Rebbes in America, and then brought over his cousins the Skverer, the Chernobler, and others, and started the Agudas Admurim. He was respected in both chassidish and in Litvish circles - R’ Aaron Kotler used to ask him shailos.
The comment on your blog about Russian chassideshe rebbes valuing education was correct. He sent two of his sons to YU, not because of YU but to learn with R’ Moshe Soloveitchik in New York. The third son, R’ Nuchem (present Rebbe’s father) he kept in Boston until his Bar Mitzvah and then sent him to live with his uncle, R’ Shlomke Zvhiller, in Yerushalayem, and after that to learn at Torah Voda’ath in New York, where he alternated staying Shabbosim between two uncles, the Boyaner and the Kapishnitzer Rebbes, then returning to Boston to be the Rav of Orthodox Shuls - first in Lawrence, and then in Milton, just outside of Boston.
R’ Nochum raised the present Rebbe (R’ Yitzchok Aaron Korff) consistent with his father’s philosophy that a Rebbe should try to have parnossoh from other things and not from the Rebisteve or keser Torah. (The late Rebbe was supported in Russia by Czar Nicholas II who appointed him Chief Rabbi, although that also made the family a target of the Bolsheviks.) So The Rebbe was given a double education at the same time, starting at Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Boston (Rabbi Ciment, Rabbi Kastel, etc. – the Korffs are eineklach of the Mittler Rebbe – the Lubavitcher Rebbes in America were close to the late Rebbe, and Rabbi Yudel Krinsky, originally from Boston, knew the late Rebbe very well) and then learning privately, and then at Chaim Berlin, while at the same time going to Columbia University and law school and Harvard and diplomacy school. In the early years The Rebbe earned his parnossoh in law and business, while at the same time spent the years as the Rav in various shuls, including a shul that was “Conservative” but which he was able to change to Orthodox. Of course being associated with freier yidden and even a “Conservative” place, and being clean-shaven at the time also led to misunderstandings about The Rebbe being frum or not, but The Rebbe never compromised his frumkeit and everyone who had anything to do with him whether in shuls or in business or in law knew it very well.
(nice pictures in Part II, compliments of the Mazkir.)