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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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

Harav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch ztz”l

In bitter times when many floundered and left the true path, and the number of those who truly sought the way of Hashem was only diminishing, Rabi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch stood in the breach, exercising his whole might for the defence of the Jewish people and the Torah, to return the glory to Yiddishkeit and return the hearts of Jews to their Father in Heaven, under the banner of “Truth will endure – Falsehood will vanish.”

Barak Sarig 06/11/2009 09:00
Harav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch was born in the year 5568 in Hamburg in Germany. He first learned Torah under Harav Yitzchak Berneis, who was one of his principal teachers, and was also known for his efforts in fighting the nascent Reform movement. When he was twenty years old he made his way to the yeshivah of Rabi Yaakov Etlinger, who was one of the gedolei haTorah of the generation, and during a relatively short time-span of just two and a half years he progressed sufficiently to be granted semichah from the rosh yeshivah. At the age of twenty-two he was appointed to the rabbanus in the Duchy of Oldenburg.

It was during his tenure there he authored the sefer “Chorev” on the reasons underlying the mitzvos, in which he attempted to explain, using logical and scientific methodology, that the mitzvos were not, chalilah, ‘out of date’. He also authored a pamphlet entitled “Igros Tzofon” – Private Letters – in which he presented an exchange of letters between himself and another, who questioned him on the fundamentals of Yiddishkeit. This correspondent was portrayed as a young Jew called Binyomin, who found himself confused with doubts on matters of belief, and his answers were given by ‘Naftali’, who was firmly rooted in emunah. This pamphlet was written under an assumed name, “ben Uziel,” and became immensely popular.

These two compositions were written in the German language, in order that they should be widely read and understood by the youth in Germany, and would achieve their intended result. Hagaon Rabi Chaim Ozer Grodzenski ztz”l commented on these two works that; “These are words from a penetrating gaon ztz”l, who understood the workings of the minds of those of his generation, and dedicated himself to healing them - and he knew how to distill the waters of life, the pure waters, waters of healing, to give to drink for those with illnesses of the soul. And it would be desirable to spread works such as these in our lands as well.”

During the eleven years which he spent in Oldenburg, he was very active in the struggle against the Reform movement, activity that he continued even after leaving Oldenburg for Emdin, where he stayed for three years. At the end of this period of time, he was appointed to serve as the rav of the Merin-Shletzia region in Austria.

In the year 5601 he approached eleven orthodox rabbinic leaders in Frankfurt in order to receive their approval for the formation of a separate kehillah, which was to be called ‘Adas Yeshurun’. The spiritual situation there was sharply declining, due to the influence of the maskilim, who were the majority in that city. Harav Hirsch had previously attempted to establish a beis medrash for rabbonim, but due to obstacles placed in his path, he had been unsuccessful. Now, he decided, to the surprise of all, to leave his prominent rabbinical position for this new, much smaller kehillah.

This ‘Austrittsgemeinde’ as it was called, was the response of Harav Hirsch and the shomrei Torah u’mitzvos of the city to the terrible spiritual situation that then existed in western Europe, particularly in Germany and France. Many kehillos had ceased to concern themselves with the Torah education of the next generation, and the ‘rabbonim’ who did emerge as leaders of their communities were often those who mocked continued observance of Torah and mitzvos. They brought the organ into their batei knesses, others removed the mechitzah between men and women, and they removed all references to the rebuilding of the Beis haMikdash from their order of prayers – and these were just a few of the many terrible alterations they made. The new kehillah of Harav Hirsch began as an independent institution, without any connection whatsoever with the Reform kehillos, and it attracted all those who were truly G-d-fearing in the city – both the wealthy and prominent, together with common people.

This move led to the establishment of similar kehillos in other towns and cities in Germany, including Berlin, whose orthodox kehillah was headed by Harav Ezriel Hildesheimer ztz”l. Harav Hirsch stood at the head of his kehillah for thirty-seven years, during which he formulated his ‘Torah im Derech Eretz’ philosophy, which supported the learning of the sciences and general knowledge as a necessary accommodation to the times, in order to preserve the integrity of the frum community. Despite this concession, as he stressed, he did not desire any connection with the new spirit of the times, and he fought for a decisive separation from the reform congregation which claimed the majority of the Jews of his city.
The crowning achievement of his life was his commentary on the Five Books of the Torah, which he wrote in Frankfurt. Large sections of this commentary were given over in lectures to his talmidim and the congregants of his kehillah. Owing to the influence of the haskalah movement, and as a response to the widespread abandonment of the mesorah, chareidim in Germany began to look more deeply into textual explanations fo the Tanach, providing something of an antidote to the new wave of ‘Bible Criticism,’ which intended to totally undermine and uproot emunas chachomim. Following the example of Harav Hirsch, this new approach developed, involving an in-depth study of the language of the Tanach, and also illustrated the interdependence of the oral and written Laws.

Motivating Harav Hirsch’s endeavours was his determination to act to prevent or at least slow the high attrition rate of the Jewish community in Germany. He hoped that his emphasis on developing a new approach to Jewish education would combat the influence of the spirits of atheism and heresy with which many of those from his generation were infected – resulting in a rise in assimilation, the growth of the Reform movement, an increasing emphasis on materialism and a growing number of converts to Christianity.

“The spirit of the times had changed – the nature of their inquisitiveness was no longer what it had once been. No longer did they learn in order to live, in order to understand the world and their obligations in it. The investigations they made were solely for their own purposes, not for any further goal. They examined the details of the Torah, but omitted to incorporate the fundamentals of Yiddishkeit despite their studies in the Tanach. But this is not the pure way of Torah. Against such practices our holy Sages z”l have always risen up… They only learned Tanach and Shas with reference to the one true central point in the world – their only desires were to learn and teach and preserve and fulfill!”

Harav Hirsch wrote several additional works, but he is renowned chiefly for those already mentioned above, whose aim was primarily to enlighten those who had stumbled in their emunah. He did not desist from this task even in his later years. Harav Hirsch was niftar in the year 5649 at an advanced age. Even as he lay in his sickbed, he did not cease in his concern for the welfare of those around him – he was even careful to ensure that the birds in his window should continue to be provided for. This was a testimony to his exceptional level of concern for all creatures, of which his passionate struggle to ensure the transmission of authentic Yiddishkeit was his most striking example.