Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What happened to Yiddishkeit?

(REV, RAK, RMB in Marienbad)


I realize that R’ Moshe Finestein is credited with bringing R’ Aharon to the USA in the hope that he would be able to establish Yehivos that maintain the European high level of learning. But that does not mean that Reb Moshe had no regrets…

Judaism, for a couple thousand years, was Rav-centric. It was the Rabbonim who dealt with people’s problems – be they Halachic, political or even for advice. What was the role of the Roshei Hayeshivos? For the most part, they studied and taught Torah. That’s not to say that (especially in the Lita) they weren’t vaunted and highly respected by the masses, nor is it to say that they never stepped into personal or political matters, but it was clearly not their area.

No longer is this the case. Anyone paying attention cannot miss the fact that the signers of proclamations are full of Roshei Yeshiva; the same is true when it comes to political/halachic opinions – historically purely rabbinic territory. Just look at the people “appointed” by the establishment for Godol: Rav Shach, Rav Shteinman, the Novominsker… they’re not from the rabbinic ranks – they’re Roshei Yeshiva. Where does this come from? This is the fulfillment of R’ Aharon’s dream.

R’ Moshe didn’t appreciate it – and he in fact was very critical of it. He is said to generally refer to R’ Aharon by his last name only, and had no problem telling R’ Aharon to take a seat at an Asifa when he decided R’ Aharon had said enough. Even though the Aguda/Artscroll white-wash wants us to believe that R’ Moshe & R’ Aharon were close friends and we now carry on their tradition, it was quite clear to the two of them that they were polar opposites, and true ideological enemies. Chassidim were of much less importance, since there was a separation between them anyway, but R’ Aharon & R’ Moshe were swimming in the same general pool.

Much to R’ Moshe’s frustration, R’ Aharon was the victor; in fact, it seems that R’ Ahron has been the winner in most of his battles:
1. He was pretty successful in defeating R’ Moshe and the Rabbonim, redefining the structure of 2000 years of Judaism.

2. He successfully created the (seeming unsustainable) Kolel community and ideal.

3. He successfully won over the Chassidic communities to the yeshiva system, and Litvishe values.

4. He (with help) successfully fathered the movement to re-energize the Misnagdic-Chassidic battle, even ultimately turning the tide somewhat in favor of those who oppose Chassidim.

There were definitely things that helped him: The future rabbonim come through the (his) Yeshiva system… He studied under famous Gedolei Lita and was R’ Isser Zalman’s son-in-law, something even R’ Moshe couldn’t claim… There was no other Reb Moshe to carry the Rabbinic torch… Chassidism has faded with the lack of great leaders… the PR machine is behind him…

But, as a Lubavitcher Chossid I know always tells me: ‘It’s all Hashgocha Protis, man.”


Anonymous said...

Why must you write stuff which is not true regarding R'Ahron and chassidim?
Did you know for example that R'Ahron actually lived in Boro Park, not Lakewood and davened in R'Tsodok Shaingartens(nusach sfard) shtiebel?R'Tsadok recently passed away, he was a Gerer who learned in the Mir, he was close with Lubavitch and one of his sons is a Lubavitcher, even Kfar .Chabad had an article 'bout him.
So to was he close to the Kapishnitzer Rebbe and even said he would be his chosid had he, R'Ahron, been a chosid.There are many others including chasidishe talmidim.He had no part in Chasidic/Misnagdic wars and the results are clear to any unbiased eyes-a large chasidic membership in the Lakewood yeshiva and community and chasidishe shtiebls of many stripes such as :Ger,Skver, Satmar,Vishnitz and many other packed chasidishe shuls.Hey, even Chabad opened up!
What is especially wonderful in Lakewood is 'ot' your critique:A wonderful achdus between the various groups, chasidim, yeshivish and Sefardim.Many kehillos could and should learn from them.(Yes, even Crown Heights!)
I won't dispute the fact that R'Ahron and Lubavitch had a machloikes.Unfortunately we have seen thru the last 150 years that a lot of the machloikes was between various chasidishe groups and very little between misnagdim and chasidim after the intitial short lived machloikes.Lets focus on the positive and Lakewood has a lot of positive good people.If you look for schmutz you''ll find it-Everywhere!

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


can you answer that?



Anonymous said...


I'd say that Lakewood looks like that today DESPITE the Yeshivah! If it were up to the הנהלת BMG most of the people there would not be there. Am I right?

Anonymous said...


that should be Feinstein, not "Finestein".

MEKUSHOR said...

Thanks Anon,
Sorry for the typo (there are a couple more).

Sorry, I couldn't understand your comment.

Anonymous said...

"Did you know for example that R'Ahron actually lived in Boro Park, not Lakewood and davened in R'Tsodok Shaingartens(nusach sfard) shtiebel?"

R. Aharon commuted between BP and Lakewood. He had a minyan in his apartment at times and davened in various places. He davened nusach Ashkenaz, don't make a it sound like he was a heiser full-time shtibel-goer.

Anonymous said...

HT - you complain about RY's overshadowing Rabbonim, about RY's signing proclamations instead of Rabbonim, and blame it on the 'Litvishe velt'. But what about in the Chassidishe velt, when Chassidishe Rebbes overshadow Rabbonim ? Who signs the proclamations from the Chassidic side ? Rebbes or Rabbonim ? Why are you not complaining about that ? If you're concerned about kovod haRabbonus that should bother you too, no ? Or is it that perhaps some people are just looking to criticize the Litvishe ?

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


we're getting way off track here, how typical of us Jews. The point of the post was not to decide whether or not RAK davened by Rabbi Shaingarten or not.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


it wasn't me it was Berl, but your point is a good one.

At least in Reb Moshe's times it was the Chasidishe Rabbonim who signed the declarations, people like the Satmar Rov, the Krasna, Pupa, Tzeylimer Rabbonim and so on.

Now it's Spinka Rebbe, Bobover Rebbe, Kloizenerger Rebbe, people with no Rabbinic credentials. I'm sure RMF would've been just as upset at that.

The question is who's to "blame" for this?

MEKUSHOR said...

Correction! It was NOT Berl - it was me (I am not Berl, even though I maintain the Berl Yeimi website). Sheesh, what does it take around here?

Now, back to the question. Honestly, a Rebbe is a more traditional rabbinical figure than the Rosh Yeshiva is. I would say that historically a Rebbe did not involve himself in Halacha unless the said Rebbe was also a RAV (DivreiChaim, Minchas Elazar, Baal HaTanya,etc.) and many early Rebbes were the rabbonim in their town (The Berditchover, R' Zusia...). It is a legitimate role of a Rebbe, if not a primary role of a Rebbe to give advise and be involved in leading his community (maybe I’ll post about this a little tomorrow)…

Anonymous said...

On Rebbe & Rov roles - see a letter* from צמח צדק to a משכיל** where - among other issues - he deals with the Chassidim-Misnagdim debate in terms of their respective views of the role of רבנים רוחניים ***. As I remember it, the צמח צדק presents the view of the Chassidim as מקודש עדיף מתדיר .

* I believe it is published in תולדות צ"צ but I am not 100% sure about that.
** Not the Chassidic kind.
*** ולא פוסקי הלכה

Anonymous said...

to lakwewood balabos, just some questions, is it true that reb aron was fighting against a men mikva in lakewood? is it true that you couldn't come to beis hamedrash with a shtriemel? is it true that for years they were using Cholov Akum, empire chicken, just not to use chasidic hashgocha? is it true that he disliked his father in laws reb isser zalmen's freindship and respect for rebbes and chasidim?

Btw I heard from people that reb aron used to daven alot in sephardishe shul on 14th av,

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


stop sounding like the Rogatchover, זיי מסביר וואס דו מיינסט, אזוי האט מען ווייניג פארשטאנען

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I am pressed for time and mentioning this letter from memory is the best I could do.

Anonymous said...

But this much should have been clear -
the main point: there is a letter from the צ"צ on the subject of Rabbonim vs. Rebbes.
secondary point: related to that topic, the letter also addresses the the Chassidim-Misnagdim debate.

Anonymous said...


Why haven't you posted my comment?

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

I see no comment, send it again please.

MEKUSHOR said...

Thanks for the heads-up, I will IY"H look for it.

MEKUSHOR said...

I found a letter in Igreis Keidesh (A”R, M”R & T”T, Vol# 1 -- T”T letter # 9, Page# 335). It is dated circa 5603-1743, apparently as a response to questions by the Russian government. Very quickly, this was the thrust of the letter:

Jewish communities need multiple places of worship due to variant versions of nusach hatfillo & minhagim, and each shul is essentially a different community. Then the letter discusses the need for Jewish communities to have two rabbinical roles to fill:

1) Rav / Moreh Tzeddek to answer questions of issur v’heter and specifics of halacha & Mitzvos.
2) A Maggid to preach words of mussar, etc.

The reason for this: People may know the halacha, but because of their yetzer hara, etc, they need to be strengthened and awakened by someone. Also, there are mitzvos hatluyos b’lev (ahava v’yiras Hashem, ethical behavior, righteousness, recognition of HKB”H, etc.) that require a Maggid to teach, inspire, encourage, etc, to elevate his community.
It is also for this reason that Chazal established the seder hatefillo, where we praise and speak of Hashem’s greatness (and to bring one to love & fear Him). But since many people don’t understand lashon hakodesh, or they don’t pay attention to the words, we need maggidim to bring this home to people.

Now, there are different schools of thought as to how this should be done, even though all Jews have the same Torah, both from a practical standpoint (nogea lemaaseh) as well as from an internal standpoint (chovos halevovos):

The approach of the Misnagdim is that every community needs a Rov and a Maggid, even sometimes 2 or 3 maggidim. Chassidim have a rov in a town, but only one maggid for an entire region. Both approaches are legitimate – having one maggid per region creates a hardship (since people have to travel to him, or he must travel to the people in all communities under his jurisdiction), and people cannot possibly hear him steadily.

On the other hand, to succeed, this maggid must be a paragon of virtue, and there are not many men of such perfection. So, rather than to take people who are not truly virtuous, chassidim find it far better to find the greatest man around, and even if one cannot hear him constantly it is still far better, and accomplishes more, than listening to a far lesser man on a steady basis.

And this reflects the difference of opinion as to Tadir Umkudash eizeh kodom. Chassidim hold kodesh kodom, while misnagdim hold Tadir kodom. And this is also why chassidim emphasize matters of the heart (such as prayer) while misnagdim emphasize the practical applications and details of practical mitzvos.

Then the letter goes on to discuss the patriotism of the Rebbeim, etc, based on the halachos of dina d’malchusa dina, and the halacha lehispallel leshleima shel malchus.

Note: This was a summary based on what I read last night, and some notes that I wrote down. Please read the letter for yourselves!
(Berl, please confirm that this was the letter you had in mind)

Anonymous said...

Mekushor, this all sound rights, but for some reason I remember the very same teichen from a letter addressed to a maskil. Either I am mistaken, or there are two similar letters. But the important thing here is the content, and that sounds exactly as I remember it.

Anonymous said...

mekushor, I read it. That's the letter. Thank you for digging it up. Read the last lines!

MEKUSHOR said...

Yea, I know! It comes down to a simple matter; no theology, no principle, just that base old "green-eyed-monster".
Did you notice, though, the way the T"T refers over there (in those last few lines) to the yeridas hadoros? Interesting.

Editor said...

Very interesting post.

1. But is it possible that the lessened power and influence of Rabbonim is also due to yeridas hadoros in general?
People today simply have no regard for Daas Torah.

2. Are there any oilamishe rabbonim today in America with the potential to lead if they had any customers?

Anonymous said...

This can very quickly become an argument about the chicken or the egg - I believe that the reason things are this way is because R' Aharon won.

People were raised to be the way they are. BTW, (I may have said this before - if so I aplogize:) A fellow I know, while sitting in a certain respectable Litvishe Yeshiva (about 35 odd years ago) was once looking inside a big Shulchan-Aruch, when the Mashgiach came over and told him: "Da kukt men nisht in kein mayse bicher."

Anonymous said...

Its not the PR tools, you fool--Chassidus lost in the battle of ideas.

That lie about how Litvaks hakdoshim view halacha is despicable.