יום רביעי י"ז בשבט תשפ"ב 19/01/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

Rav Yehudah Meir Shapira of Lublin zt’l

The Gaon Rav Yehudah Meir Shapira zt’l was the founder of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, at whose helm he stood. He was also the initiator of the idea of the ‘Daf haYomi’, which brings hundreds of thousands of Jews together from across the whole world. He was niftar in the year 5694 at the young age of forty-eight.

25/10/2009 10:57
The Gaon Rav Yehudah Meir Shapira was born in the year 5646 in the town of Shotz in the Bukovina region of Romania. His family had illustrious roots; he was the direct paternal descendant of Rav Pinchas of Koritz zt’l, and was also descended from the ‘Minchas Shai’ and the baal ‘Tevuos Shor’. Further back in the past Rav Meir’s ancestor was Rav Moshe of Speyer, one of the baalei Tosefos, so called after the name of his hometown, Speyer, one of the three kehillos called ‘Shum’ after the initials of their names; Speyer, Worms and Mayence. The family name Shapira is derived from the name of the town Speyer.

By the time Rav Meir was a young boy of eight he was already renowned for the brilliance of his mind, and was being called the ‘ilui (genius) of Shotz’. When he reached the age of fifteen he was accorded semicha by gedolim from Poland and Galicia, including the Gaon Rav Meir Arik and the Gaon Rav Sholom Mordechai haKohen Shvadron, the Maharsham of Berzan. The Maharsham of Berzan expressed his admiration of Rav Meir, saying; “I saw this exceptional young man, who was born destined for greatness, and my blessing to him was ‘Blessed is the Creator of the luminaries’”, a play on words from the Shacharis service, since the name ‘Meir’ means ‘luminary’.

Rav Meir was taken as a son-in-law by Rav Yaakov Breitman of Tarnipol, and he lived with his father-in-law after his marriage, engrossing himself in his learning. In the year 5669 when he was a young man of just twenty-three he was appointed as rav of the town of Glina in Galicia. Later he served as rav in Sonik, and in the year 5684 he became rav of Piotrkov. It was there that he began his preparations for establishing the Chachmei Lublin yeshiva, and in that year, on Lag b’Omer, he already laid the foundation stone. After six years of strenuous effort, during which Rav Meir travelled extensively around Jewish communities to collect funds and gather exceptional bochurim for the yeshiva, the building of the yeshiva was completed, in the year 5691. Rav Meir then returned to Lublin and was immediately appointed as rav of the city, in addition to serving as Rosh Yeshiva of Chachmei Lublin.

Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin was a revolution in its time, since it was established with the aim of providing for all the physical as well as spiritual needs of its bochurim, under its own roof. This obviated the need of each bochur to find his own place to sleep in town, and to eat his one meal each day with local families, as had been the practice until then. Rav Meir exerted himself tremendously to shoulder the huge financial burden the yeshiva now demanded, and many tales are told of his ingenuity in extracting money from wealthy members of klal Yisrael. Once he described his interactions in such a way:

“Ayy, Zevuluns – are we not partners, equal partners? Why then do you desert us Yissachars and leave us alone in the business? Why do you remain silent even as you watch us bent over under our burden? And the Zevulun replies; our business isn’t going well - it’s not bearing fruit. It’s even about to go bankrupt.” But Rav Meir continues; “you are just making excuses! Don’t tell such long tales! For we are upholding our end of the bargain – we are exerting ourselves over the Rava and Abaye and Rabbeinu Tam – we are not making such crooked excuses!”

Apart from his extensive involvement in Torah, both teaching, collecting funds, and his own personal endeavours, Rav Meir was also actively involved in the service of the community, as he had been instructed by his Rebbe, Rav Yisrael of Tchortkov zt’l. Rav Meir did not rely on his own genius in Torah when making decisions in any sphere of his life, but constantly turned to his Rebbe, Rav Yisrael. It was the Tchortkover Rebbe who had instructed him to take on the mantle of rabbanus, and it was he who now decided that Rav Meir was to serve in the Sejm, the upper house of the Polish parliament, as a delegate of the Agudas Yisrael party.

In addition to his closeness to the Tchortkover Rebbe, Rav Meir was also beloved by the Imrei Emes of Gur zt’l, who saw that Rav Meir was appointed as head of Agudas Yisrael in Poland. Rav Meir had also learned in Vizhnitz in his youth, and therefore he considered these three branches of chassidus influential in his life, expressing his feelings thus; “Torah I learned from Ger, avodah, which is tefilla, in Vizhnitz, and chassidus in Tchortkov.”

Rav Meir was blessed with an exceptionally sweet, melodious and strong voice, which he used in his service of his Creator both in tefilla and the composition of new niggunim. At the first Knesses haGedola of Agudas Yisrael, which took place on the ninth of Ellul in the year 5683, Rav Meir was honoured with the announcement of the twenty-eight resolutions of the ‘Committee on matters of education’. After Rav Meir had finished announcing the committee’s decisions, he continued to speak, adding a request of his own, a personal idea. It was then that Rav Meir first publicly proposed the idea of the Daf haYomi, whereby Jews all the world over would learn together the entire Shas beginning with the first daf of maseches Brochos and ending with the last daf of maseches Niddah, one daf each day. Rav Meir described in vivid language how his new proposal would link Jews the world over, so that a Jew, wherever he might find himself, would instantly have a connection through Torah with other Jews, since all would be involved together in the same sugya at the same time, even though they were otherwise strangers to one another. The program would have the additional advantage, added Rav Meir, that masechtos that had been until then almost entirely neglected, would be learned as part of the cycle of Shas. When Rav Meir finished speaking he was rewarded with resounding applause that lasted several minutes.

The Daf haYomi concept in fact gained much more widespread acceptance when it was adopted and encouraged by gedolei Torah who actively supported it. It is told that one of the greatest boosts to its widespread acceptance was in Ger on Rosh HaShanah, when on the night of the festival in the year 5684 the Admor the Imrei Emes announced to his chassidim in the beis medrash that he was himself about to begin learning the Daf haYomi cycle. Amongst the misnagdim too the idea took hold; when Rav Meir later visited Maran the Chofetz Chaim zt’l in Radin, the Chofetz Chaim girded his strength to welcome his guest, despite his advanced age and great weakness, sitting himself up on his bed and explaining that “it is fitting that I should receive the ‘Rav of Daf haYomi’ with the honour befitting him.”

Rav Meir and his wife were not blessed with offspring, and many times Rav Meir would say that the yeshiva of Chachmei Lublin and the concept of Daf haYomi were like his children. Indeed, the bulk of his wealth and strength were invested in these two projects. In the year 5693, when the Nazis, yimach shemam, took power, and a sharp sword was poised over the heads of European Jewry, collecting sufficient funds to cover the expenses of the yeshiva became an almost-imossible task, and it was then that Rav Meir fell ill with the illness from which he would not recover.

Many doctors were called to his bedside, but all attempted in vain to heal him. On a Thursday morning, the sixth of Marcheshvan, Rav Meir was extremely weak, and asked the assistance of one of his talmidim in order to don his tallis and lay tefillin. Towards evening at the time of the maariv prayer Rav Meir was no longer able to speak, and he simply listened to the voices of the mispallelim in the room with him. After midnight Rav Meir wrote on a piece of paper that he wished to be carried into the the guest room of the yeshiva. As they brought him out, Rav Meir noticed that his wife was sobbing, and he whispered to her; “why tears? Now the true simcha begins.”

In the yeshiva building, surrounded by his beloved talmidim who were like sons to him, Rav Meir requested that they sing a niggun that he had himself composed, and that they dance around his sickbed. When they instead began to cry, Rav Meir wrote the following words on a paper; “Rak besimcha” – only with joy. When they had finished dancing and their voices had died away, Rav Meir lay on his bed quietly and peacefully. At three in the morning, the talmid who had been holding his hand felt that his Rav was no more, and exclaimed to those nearby; “Der Rebbe iz nisht doh” – the Rebbe is no longer with us. All those present broke out in bitter wailing, making the blessing ‘Boruch Dayan haEmes’ with broken hearts. On the morning of the seventh of Cheshvan, in the year 5694, Polish Jewry was stricken, and the entire Jewish world reeled in shock at the tragic news. Rav Meir was buried in Lublin and the yeshiva that he had founded continued to exist until the German invasion.

In the year 5706, after the conclusion of the Second World War, the few remnants of Lublin’s Jews returned, to find that their beloved yeshiva building had been converted into a catholic school of nursing, and that the Jewish cemetery had been razed and destroyed. But to their great wonder and astonishment, they also beheld how, in the very midst of the destruction, the ohel of Rav Meir stood still intact between the smashed matzeivos.

After extensive negotiations with the Polish government, permission was given to transfer the holy body of Rav Meir to Eretz Yisrael. On the twenty-sixth of Ellul in the year 5718 the funeral cortege set out from the Bikur Cholim hospital in Yerushalayim, accompanied by a massive crowd of mourners who had come accord Rav Meir his last honour. Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, the head of the Moetzes Gedolei haTorah, was maspid Rav Meir, and he wept as he recalled the masses who had been present at Rav Meir’s original levayah in Lublin twenty-five years previously, the masses who were no more. After him spoke the president of world Agudas Yisrael, Rav Yitzchok Meir Levin, after which the procession departed, proceeding along the length of Rechov Yaffo until it reached Har haMenuchos.

Rav Meir’s sons, the yeshiva of Chachmei Lublin and the Daf haYomi, merited to survive the great churban of European Jewry and both are flourishing to this very day. Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin was re-established in the Zichron Meir neighbourhood in Bnei Brak, the neighbourhood being itself named for Rav Meir Shapira. And the Daf haYomi is still being learned by ever-increasing numbers of Jews the whole world over.