Torah Unity at the Top
By Rabbi Reuven Ungar
This past summer readers of Cross-Currents were priviliged to hear and view parts of the historic Chinuch Atzmai Dinner of 1956 (thanks to Rav Gordimer) and to read the message of Rav Shlomo Berman (a rebbe in Yeshivat Ponovez in Bnei Brak, son in law of the Steipler) to Rav Julius Berman of RIETS and the OU (conveyed by the latter’s nephew, Rav Ari Berman- the credit goes to to Rav Adlerstein).
The Chinuch Atzmai Dinner displayed the tremendous mutual respect and affection between Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik. The message of Rav Shlomo Berman from Bnei Brak to his relative from Queens was that Torah transcends hashkafic differences. No one group “owns” the Torah, let’s learn together.
Is this merely a thing of the past? Do contemporary leaders recognize and accept Torah from others outside of their ideological zones?
This past summer included the passing of Rosh Yeshivat Ohr Elchanan Rav Moshe Mordechai Chodosh, of blessed memory, and of Reb Shmuel Immanuel, of Kibbutz Sha’alvim, of blessed memory.
Rav Chodosh is named after his great-uncle, Rosh Yeshivat Slabodka Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein. He is the son of the legendary mashgiach, Rav Meir Chodosh, a brother of the Mirrer Mashgiach Rav Aharon Chodosh, a brother in law of Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateres Yisrael, and brother in law of Rav Moshe Ganz, a revered alumnus of Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav. On the advice of Rav Shach, Rav Simcha Wasserman appointed Rav Chodosh to lead Yeshivat Ohr Elchanan in memory of Rav Elchanan Wasserman, hyd. What began as a small yeshiva in Jerusalem became a Torah empire with branches throughout the country.
Approximately a decade ago I was on a flight to the US. As usual, the ticket was for economy class. Not as usual, I received an upgrade. This was well-received as I enjoy comfort as much as the next fellow. However, the true upgrade was of a spiritual nature. To my great privilege, I was seated next to Rav Chodosh. I timidly inquired if I was speaking with the Rosh Yeshiva and received a response in the affirmative. Attempting not to “crowd” the rav, we embarked on a variety of topics that included references to the sages of the past, including his great-grandfather, Rav Yosef Zundel Hutner, rav of Eishyshok, Lithuania.
Rav Chadash personified Slabodka. He possessed a refined, dignifed bearing in harmony with warmth and a lively nature. Greatness in Torah & Middot; Gadlut HaAdam.
The Day Yomi cycle at that time was up to Masechet Yoma. In order to gain deeper insight into the Avoda, I had with me Shiurei HaGrid (=Rav Soloveitchik) on Avodat Yom HaKippurim. The first edition was prepared for publication by Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, of blessed memory, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion. The second edition was prepared by Rav Yair Kahn, a rebbe in that yeshiva. In his modest, low-key fashion, Rav Chodosh requested if he may take a look at the sefer. My pleasure, of course.
The rav devoured the sefer.
Rav Chodosh was palpably taken by the insights of the Rov (the topic of the Ketoret held special interest). He remarked what a joy it was to learn from the sefer, mentioning how he would like to obtain a copy. As one “holding” in the world of the yeshivot, he was aware of the author, and of the hesder yeshiva whose leadership prepared the volume for publication.
No matter; Torah is Torah, there is no room for politics in the Beit Midrash.
Reb Shmuel Immanuel was raised on the principles of Torah Im Derech Eretz, and is related to the family of the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Kol Torah, Rav Boruch Kunstadt. His family displayed amazing Mesirut Nefesh in Torah observance during the Shoah. Reb Shmuel survived, and merited to ascend to The Land of Israel. He studied in Yeshivat Kol Torah, raised his family in Kibbutz Sha’alvim and observed 10 Shemitah years in accordance with the directives of the Chazon Ish. He was active in promoting Torah study for young men and women (including being instrumental in the establishment of a leading high school for girls; our daughter in law is a graduate of that school). As mentioned at the moving levaya (on the home front he was an extremely devoted partiarch), the Gedolim stories that he shared with his family focused upon the Chazon Ish and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.
Reb Shmuel maintained a robust schedule of Talmud Torah, including personal study and attendence of many shiurim.
Yeshivat Sha’alvim is frequently priviliged to host Rav Hershel Schachter of Yeshiva University. Many members of the yeshiva community attend, taking the opportunity to hear the illuminating words of Torah that emanate from this great talmid chacham.
But they were not alone. Ascending the hill from the kibbutz to the yeshiva, Reb Shmuel Immanuel- at least a decade older than Rav Schachter- would appear, sit in the front, and join people half and a third of his age in learning Torah from this master. This despite the fact that Rav Schachter represents an institution that projects a different weltanschauung then that of Yeshivat Kol Torah and of Poalei Agudat Yisrael.
No matter. Torah is Torah, there is no room for politics in the Beit Midrash.
May we merit to learn Torat Hashem together, jointly crowning Hashem as The Master of the World, and merit a good & sweet year.
Reuven Ungar is the Director of Alumni Relations of Yeshivat Sha’alvim and resident of Talmon.