שבת ט' בכסלו תשפ"ג 03/12/2022
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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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  • 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

Maran HaGaon HaRav Shach ztz’l

Maran HaGaon Rabbi Elazar Mann Shach ztz’l was unique in his generation, a remnant of the Generation of Knowledge. He led the Lithuanian yeshivah world for many years, and generations of disciples passed through HaRav Shach’s hands; tens of thousands who looked up to him as their Rav followed his bier on its way to his final resting place.

Motti Meringer 03/11/2009 15:14
Maran HaGaon Rabbi Elazar Mann Shach ztz’l was born in a small city named Vaboilnick in the northern part of Lithuania, which at that time was ruled by Russia. He was apparently born in 5658 (1898), but there is some disagreement among historians about the date.

Already as a very young boy HaRav Shach went into exile to a place of Torah and left his home; at the age of seven he was sent to Ponevezh, and at thirteen he joined Yeshivas “Knesses Yisrael” in Slabodka together with the greatest scholars of Europe. The Yeshivah was guided in those days by its founder and the one who gave it its unique appraoch, HaGaon Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel ztz’l – the Alter of Slabodka – and there HaRav Shach acquired his path in Jewish thought and Mussar, based on the overriding principle of “Gadlus Ha-adam,” the majesty of man.

The First World War brought Europe into a state of total collapse and uncertainty, and in 5675 (1915) the district of Kovna was conquered by the Germans. The yeshivah students of Slabodka, located in Kovna, were forced to flee. HaRav Shach left Slabodka and initially returned to his family but then began traveling across Lithuania from town to town, sleeping and eating wherever he could and studying with tremendous diligence in local synagogues, continuing to study Torah "as if there were no war." After much wandering he finally found the place of Torah his heart sought, Yeshivas Slutsk, which was originally a branch of Yeshivas Slabodka. The rosh yeshivah was HaGaon Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer ztz’l, and HaRav Shach became one of his closest disciples. After a number of years HaRav Isser Zalman left Slutsk and opened a new yeshivah in Kletsk; he was followed by his beloved talmidim, which of course included HaRav Shach. In Yeshivas Kletsk HaRav Shach began to deliver shiurim to the younger students.

At the age of twenty-five HaRav Shach became engaged to the niece of HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer ztz’l; HaRav Isser Zalman suggested the shidduch, and HaRav Shach accepted the offer although the young lady was from a poor family and had nothing to offer in terms of a dowry. Later, HaRav Shach related to his talmidim that this saved his life, because before WWII he found it easy to leave Europe, as they had no property or possessions to sell, and thereby was saved from the Holocaust. Jews who were afraid of losing all their property remained and were taken to the concentration camps, Hy’d.

HaRav Shach continued studying in Yeshivas Kletsk for a short while after his marriage, received rabbinical ordination from HaRav Meltzer, and from 1927 to 1932 taught in the Kletsk Yeshiva. He served as rosh yeshivah in Lublin, then taught Talmud at the Novardok yeshiva as well. In Novardok he became close to Maran HaGaon Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzhinsky ztz’l who advised the Admor of Karlin ztz’l to take him as the rosh yeshivah of the Karlin yeshivah in Luninets. However, he soon left because he could not tolerate the students leaving the Yeshivah for a week to be with their Rebbe, the Admor of Karlin, and leaving the yeshivah entirely empty.

On the eve of WWII, Russia conquered half of Poland and HaRav Shach found himself under the dreaded Communist rule, which persecuted religion mercilessly. In 1939, he fled to Vilna, which was soon also conquered by the Russians. There, he stayed with HaGaon Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzhinsky. In early 1940 HaRav Shach decided to leave Lithuania with his family. HaRav Shach's maternal uncle, Rabbi Aron Levitan, helped him and his family receive immigration certificates to Israel and took them in after they arrived at his doorstep, destitute. In Jerusalem, HaRav Meltzer was serving as Rosh Yeshiva at Etz Chaim Yeshivah.

When he arrived in Eretz Yisrael HaRav Shach began to serve as a Rosh Mesivta in the Yeshivah High School “HaYishuv HaChadash” in Tel Aviv. However, after a short time he left this position due to a ruling he received from the Chazon Ish ztz’l. After leaving “HaYishuv” he followed the request of his rav, HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer, and went to teach in Yeshivas HaDarom in Rehovot, which had been founded by HaRav Meltzer’s son – HaGaon Tzvi Yehudah Meltzer ztz’l. Yeshivas HaDarom was founded as a memorial to Yeshivas Kletsk that had been destroyed by the Russians during the Russian revolution, and the founding students were from Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael Hebron, located at this time in Jerusalem. After a number of years in Yeshivas HaDarom, HaRav Shach went to serve as a Rosh Mesivta in Yeshivas Lomzhe in Petach Tikvah, and from there he went to his main and final role as the Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Ponevezh.

It seems that HaGaon Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman ztz’l, the Ponevitcher Rav, chose HaRav Shach as rosh yeshivah after the recommendation of the Chazon Ish. He served together with HaGaon Rabbi Shmuel Rozovsky ztz’l and HaGaon Rabbi David Povarsky ztz’l as Roshei Yeshivah of Ponevezh.
 
It was from this position as the Rosh Yeshivah of Ponevezh that HaRav Shach became the leader of the Lithuanian yeshivah world around the globe. He was very close to the Brisker Rav, HaGaon Rabbi Yitzchak Zeev HaLevi Soloveichik ztz’l. Although the Brisker Rav was of the opinion that Torah Jewry had to be totally isolated from the Zionist movement and the State of Israel, HaRav Shach saw the need to be involved in Israeli politics, in order to prevent the trampling of Jewish values as much as possible and to provide proper representation of chareidi Jewry. Although he was involved in politics, HaRav Shach held of the view of the Brisker Rav and totally disproved of Zionism; he instructed his followers to distance themselves from it as much as possible. 

HaRav Shach was an unwilling member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah beginning in the 1970s. However, he left due to a disagreement about the role of Poelei Agudas Yisrael in the party, and then shortly returned.

He began to take special notice of the situation of Sephardim in Israel, including chareidi Sephardim, who at that time were without any real political representation and generally voted for the Likud or Agudat Israel. In an attempt to give the Sephardim more political influence, HaRav Shach encouraged and guided the formation of the Sephardi Shas party, under the spiritual leadership of HaGaon Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Shas ran for the 11th Knesset in 1984, and HaRav Shach called upon his Lithuanian followers to vote for it in the polls. This led to an unexpected victory for Shas which gained four mandates in the election.

While initially Shas was largely under the aegis of HaRav Shach, the party eventually moved away from HaRav Shach, culminating with Shas' decision to support the Labor party in the 13th Knesset in 1992, something both Degel HaTorah and Agudat Israel opposed.

HaRav Shach was involved in a number of public disputes with HaRav Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson ztz’l, the Rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, from the 1970s through Rav Schneerson's death in 1994. HaRav Shach accused his followers of false Messianism. He objected to HaRav Schneerson's call for "forcing" the Messiah's appearance. When Rav Schneerson's followers identified him as possibly being the Messiah, Rav Shach called for a complete boycott of Chabad, its institutions and projects by its constituents.

Some chassidim interpreted his fight against Chabad as opposition to Chassidus in general. However, HaRav Shach asserted that he was not at all opposed to chassidim and Chassidus; he said he recognized them as "yera'im" and "shlaymim" (God-fearing and wholesome); full of Torah and Mitzvos and fear of heaven.

In 1985 he decided that Lithuanian yeshivah Jewry was not receiving proper coverage in the daily Hamodia under the auspices of Agudat Yisrael, and decided to start a new newspaper for the Lithuanian yeshivah public, called Yated Neeman. The split between the ‘Lithuanians’ and the chassidim widened and before the elections in 1988 HaRav Shach started the Degel HaTorah party to represent the non-Chassidic Ashkenazi chareidim. After contesting in the 1988 elections, where they won two seats in the Knesset, Degel HaTorah agreed in the 1992 elections to work together with Agudat Yisrael under the name of United Torah Judaism, an agreement which has continued until the present.

HaRav Shach was influential in the larger Israeli public as well; for example, his widely publicized 1990 speech in which he lamented tearfully: “Kibbutzniks are breeders of rabbits and pigs, who don’t know what Yom Kippur is. In what way are they Jewish?" His lament that secular Israelis were losing their Jewish identity was broadcast around the world, and created a strong wave of regret among the secular Jews of Israel.

HaRav Shach’s relatively heavy involvement in politics never prevented him from devoting his time to Torah study with incredible diligence. This was the main point of his entire life and held all his interest. He was opposed to spending too much time in iyun (analysis) of the Talmud and never seeing the breadth and scope of the Tractate being studied. He saw the words of the Rishonim as an integral part of the Gemara. He labored extensively on the words of the Rambam, and wrote a work on the Rambam entitled “Avi Ezri”, which merited a rare approbation from the Brisker Rav who said he relied on the sefer and upon its author. After his death, his family published many works based on his words of Torah and Mussar, some written in his own hand and some written by his disciples who heard his talks. Six volumes of letters and talks have also been published by his disciples, entitled “Michtavim u’Maamarim,” which inform us about his outlook on many affairs.

Near the end of his life his health worsened and during these years HaRav Shach removed himself from public affairs, and was hardly ever seen in public. During the last seven years of his life the only public proclamation he made was regarding the High Court’s discussion on drafting yeshivah students into the army, about which he said must be resisted at all costs.
Maran HaGaon Rabbi Elazar Mann Shach ztz’l was called to the Heavenly Yeshivah on 16 Cheshvan 5762 (2001) when he was over one hundred years old. Close to a half a million people accompanied him on his last journey that departed from Yeshivas Ponevezh in Bnei Brak. A caravan of buses stood at the entrance to Bnei Brak and transported people from all over the country who came to give the last honor to one of the gedolei hador who was with us and is no more.

After he passed away a part of his last will and testament was publicized, in which he wrote:

“Therefore, I request of all the talmidim who know that they benefited from me, whether it be in Torah, or in Yiras Hashem, or in middos, that they be kind towards me and learn for the elevation of my neshamah – even one Mishnah, or mussar thought. This will have made it all worth it, for I, too, dedicated myself completely for the sake of your success in learning, and if I will be able to act and to advocate on your behalf, I will do so, bli neder.

I pray that I will merit to stand before Hakadosh Baruch Hu in a state of teshuva sheleima.

Yours,
The one who parts from you, with love,

Elazar Menachem Man Shach.”

May his memory be an inspiration and a blessing.