Rav Nosson Kamenetsky, zt”l

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68 Responses

  1. Raymond says:

    I definitely have something to say about this, but I have to warn the readers here that what I am about to say is controversial. I do not normally try to be at odds with the religious Jewish community, not only because I want to feel accepted by them, but also because it has been my experience for several decades now that the Orthodox Jewish world is almost always right when it comes to just about every life issue.

    Nevertheless, there are times that I disagree with the Orthodox Jewish world, and this is one such case. Here is the thing. I am a huge admirer of President Abraham Lincoln. He is probably my favorite non-Jew of all time, so much so that I wish so much that the apparently false rumors of him being Jewish, would really be true (they aren’t). Reading biographies of him give me immense enjoyment. Well, as good of a human being as he was, he was not perfect, but that is not a bad thing in itself. On the contrary, it humanizes him, it makes it easier to relate to him, and it is inspiring to read how in spite of his imperfections, he nevertheless found a way to overcome his limitations, to become perhaps the greatest man that America has produced.

    I can already anticipate religious Jews reading what I just wrote, and dismissing it since, after all, Abraham Lincoln was not Jewish, as if that matters to the point at hand. Well, the same thing happened to me many years ago, when I heard an Orthodox Rabbi give a lecture on the life of the late, great Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. All of us know Rabbi Kaplan for the towering genius that he was, both as a physicist as well as a great Torah scholar and Kabbalist, and yet he, too, had flaws, and those flaws, too, made him so much more human and easier to relate to. In fact, never in my life do I recall hearing the story of a Rabbi alive our times, who was as fascinating of a person as was Rabbi Kaplan. That lecture kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

    Still not convinced? Well, what about the Torah itself? As we learn about the Torah greats, from Adam to Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to his twelve sons to Moses and Miriam and Aaron and later on to King David and King Solomon, we encounter human beings who were undoubtedly spiritual superstars, and yet not only is every one of them flawed, but the Torah does not hesitate to point those flaws out. And in fact, it is interesting to note what Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says when comparing Joseph to his older brother Yehudah. Joseph is called a tzaddik, basically a perfect human being, while Yehudah is anything but perfect, and in fact starts out seriously flawed. And yet all of us for the last couple of thousand years are called Jews, because virtually all of us Jews still identified as Jews, came from Yehudah, not Joseph. That is because Yehudah repented for his sins, and grew from them, which ultimately made him achieve a far higher spiritual state than his younger, more initially perfect brother, Joseph, ever reached. The Torah tells us about the flaws of our ancestors, not only so that we do not make false G-ds out of them, but also so that in learning how they handled their weaknesses, that we, too, can learn how to become better people ourselves.

    Seen in this light, I just do not agree with the Artscroll biographies that treat our Rabbis as if they are so flawless, such perfect tzadikim, that there is no way that any of us are deserving to even shine their shoes. Such biographies are rather worthless in my mind. Far more effective for making us better people, would be to tell the lives of our great Rabbis in all of their complexity, flaws and all, so that we can admire them and even try to emulate them based on what is actually true about them, rather than imaging them to be completely angelic beings that they never actually were.

    • Yankel says:

      The complaint against him was not that he would not whitewash GEdolim, rather that he often wrote his own understanding and hypothesis around the story, that did not take the greatness of his subjects into account. That is the critical difference between ‘just the honest history’ and בזיון התורה.

    • Uriel Levi says:

      Well said . I think the controversy, as Rabbi Adlerstien alluded to, was that many simplistic people, or people not dedicated to the Penimius of our holy Torah, & whom ,unfortunately there are too many of – in our world, simply didn’t have “the kaylim” or the capacity to understand this concept and may have taken liberty with the apparent “flaws” of Reb Yakkov Z’TL. That is always a consideration in the mind of Chazal & rightfully so.

  2. Saperstein says:

    Right on

  3. Nachum says:

    “This may have been his undoing in writing Making of a Gadol, as parts of the community were not ready for a detailed consideration of some events and personalities in the Torah world.”

    I think that’s called “blaming the victim.” R’ Kaminetsky had nothing but pure motives and he was treated shamefully by what you euphemistcally call “parts of the community.” We know full well who treated him thusly- twice!

    • Yoni samber says:

      I merited meeting him twice, years apart. Both times he was so friendly and easy to speak with. His passing leaves a gaping void in this world.

  4. Natan Slifkin says:

    “His devotion to truth ensured that he refused to walk out of, or distance himself from, the yeshiva world even after some friends let him down, and lesser individuals savaged him in his own neighborhood.”
    I’m a little confused by this sentence. First of all, do Rav Elyashiv et al. fit into the category of “friends who let him down,” or “lesser individuals”? It seems to be downplaying the nature of his detractors. Second, considering the status of his detractors, who are surely a defining characteristic of the charedi world, then surely if someone was devoted to truth, they may well choose to leave a community in which its leadership are so firmly opposed to truth? (I’m not saying that he didn’t have good reasons for staying, especially at his age, just that “devotion to truth” may legitimately lead in the opposite direction.)

    • 1) Not sure I get it. Since no one reasonable or sensible would ever describe Rav Elyashiv zt”l as a “lesser individual,” c”v, it should be obvious that he was part of the former group, not the latter.
      2) Between R. Elyashiv on top and the rock-bottom, there is a good deal of room. No harm in keeping people guessing where the villains of their choice are situated on the continuum. Which, I suspect, is exactly what you find irritating. You would like me to be more explicit and more condemnatory. I’m not convinced that this would have added to a brief hesped for R. Nosson. Not to mention that it would have been entirely out of place.
      3) “Defining characteristics.” Clearly, the two of us have very, very different ideas as to what those characteristics are.
      4) Would devotion to the truth lead a person out of the community, if he found enough compromising of it among some/many of its practitioners? It could. I have always thought that this, in part, is what led to your decision – and I have defended you for it, and continue to do so! Yet, there are other reactions conceivable. Rav Nosson had many more decades of experience with the olam hayeshivos before suffering all sorts of indignities through it. While your explanation of why he might have decided to stay in is possible, my opinion is that this was not the case. Rather, his commitment to the overarching truths that are treasured and advanced by this community – complete fealty to halacha, and the placing of limud Torah on a pedestal of towering height – kept him in. He was willing to suffer the unjust treatment to stay entirely part of its lifestyle.

      • -LFD says:

        I can see Rabbi Slifkin as seeing some parallels. It is your decision to not name specific individuals, especially at this time an in this place. Maybe at some point our community (if you can even call it a community) can find leaders to work on issues. I say “if you can call it a community” because OJ doesn’t seem to fit this definition.”a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” Really?

        Like I saw on Life in Israel today,
        “Quote of the Day

        We are living in a difficult generation. It used to be that there were askanim and rabbonim, the rabbonim would make the decisions of daas torah, and the askanim, the activists, would accept their opinion. Today is a new generation. The askanim have become the rabbonim, and the rabbonim are afraid of the askanim”

        — Rav Moshe Shternbuch, Raavad of the Eida Hachareidis

      • Nachum says:

        Because complete fealty to halacha and placing limud Torah on a pedestal of towering height are the exclusive possession of the “olam hayeshivos”- as, I suppose, is the very concept of a yeshiva?

        I attended a yeshiva that was not in the “olam hayeshivos.” Nor were my rebbeim, all of whom had complete fealty to halacha and placed limmud Torah on a pedestal of towering height.

      • Your supposition, not mine. I actually spend a few hours a day in such a yeshiva, and immensely enjoy it. BH, no one group has a monopoly on those factors. Rav Nosson spent decades in one such a community of those who cherish the Torah, a network that – for all its faults – succeeded in propagating love of Torah across several expanding generations. He could not be persuaded to turn his back on it. The existence of other parallel communities (very much in evidence in the people who came to be menachem aveil today) is irrelevant to his commitment to the Litvishe olam hayeshivos.

      • Mark says:

        It is also that an overwhelmingly huge chunk of R’ Nosson’s conception of truth, and the prism through which he evaluated matters, was the Mesorah he received from his father zt”l, with one of the Maspidim describing that particular Mesorah as a solid chain leading back to the Vilna Gaon. It was utterly inconceivable for him to turn his back on the Mesorah received from a man who had never, in his life, uttered a falsehood.

        Additionally, he knew well that (1) the underhanded machinations of those “zealots” who engineered the ban were nothing new from a historical perspective, and that (2) there were men of very great stature – recognized giants – from within his own circle who supported him without equivocation.

      • Yisrael Asper says:

        The most powerful “revenge” for anyone is the promotion of Shalom and kind words on their behalf. You made the right choice in writing on a positive note on a great person.

  5. Gerry Burk says:

    Remembering Rav Nosson Kamenetsky

    In 1975, I was in ITRI in a small branch behind the Central Bus Stop. That branch was closing down and the students all had to go to another branch. I decided I would move to the Shapell branch for my time remaining in Israel where Rav Nosson was giving the highest shiur.

    On Yom Yerushalayim, several bochurim from Shapell decided to go to the Kotel to daven Shacharis. To my surprise, Rav Nosson came with us. The davening was quite beautiful (I think Rav Nosson daven for the amud). After we finish davening, we all started to dance and sing in our small section by the Kotel. I will never forget the joy I saw on Rav Nosson’s face as we dance and sang together. At that moment, you could tell that Rav Nosson had one foot on the Aretz and the other in Shemayim. It’s an event I will never forget.

  6. Bob Miller says:

    Balance is not only needed in biographies. We’re all aware or semi-aware of areas where we, our communities, and our organizations need improvement. If we insist on making and believing claims to perfection, how do we progress?

    This doesn’t even work on the level of public relations. When outsiders see our actual flaws (and don’t just make them up), we do ourselves no favors by smug denial.

  7. dr. bill says:

    I was fortunate to have access to an original unedited version! Rav Nosson ztl was a limited connection to a world that once was.

    The institution that produced Rav Yaacov ztl can no longer be described, and kal ve’homer beno shel kal ve’homer, be allowed to exist. Three elements that were a part of Slabodka:
    1) its commitment to attracting and then developing truly distinguished students,
    2) a tolerance for and active promotion of fundamental creativity and
    3) a respect for diversity, albeit limited,
    are not hallmarks of current hareidi culture.

    I doubt that many a hareidi RY reads the Biur or would admit that several great gedolim did so. Slabodka produced the greatest academic Talmudist of the 20th century who together with his few students revolutionized academic study of Talmud as fundamentally as the Brisker methodology revolutionized traditional study of Talmud and rishonim. It also produced two other academic Talmudists who given a premature death in his early 30’s in one case, and the horrors of the Shoah in the other, were not able to have similar impact. In fact, Rav Yaacov said of the former, that had he lived he would have single handedly impacted the derech ha’limmud.

    And as one should expect, Slabodka produced a fair number of talmidim who went “off the derech.” One, while no longer observant, produced a recollection of the final days of Slabodka, that I read for inspiration every year before YK. As is well known to any student of process design, you do not produce genius in a factory built to turn out volume.

    • Which Lithuanian yeshiva – including those that did not share the three elements you connect to Slabodka – did NOT produce substantial numbers who went off the derech? R. Berel Wein has often observed that in looking back, the question is not how we lost so many European Jews, but how we managed to retain as many as we did

      • dr. bill says:

        I somewhat disagree. Slabodka was unique in that it produced the greatest RY and academic Talmudists as well as those deserving of the title apikores :). All great yeshivot were not finishing/resume required schools. They attracted from the upper echelons both academically and financially and produced a fair number who left traditional life for intellectual reasons. But the overall environment in Lita then was significantly more challenging than today for frum young men. Senior investment bankers were not seen in kippot.

        The only Yeshiva in the modern day that produces traditional and academic scholars and, unfortunately, its share of non-traditionally observant is Har Etzion. A great academic text includes a dedication to RAL ztl with the author stating that he could not have written it without him, though he would hardly approve.

      • DF says:

        R. Wein’s observation is even truer today than it was back then, and retention rates even higher. And yet we still have numerous organizations designed to appeal to at risk youth. Intressante…

      • Mo says:

        The Modern Era has been a challenging time for religion. Not just in Lithuania but just about everywhere. There were heavy losses in Poland, Hungary , Germany, Sephardic areas, etc., etc. Only in revisionist histories were losses limited to areas other than one’s own.

    • Weaver says:

      “It also produced two other academic Talmudists who given a premature death in his early 30’s in one case, and the horrors of the Shoah in the other, were not able to have similar impact. In fact, Rav Yaacov said of the former, that had he lived he would have single handedly impacted the derech ha’limmud.”

      May I ask which two people you are referring to?

      • Nachum says:

        He’s speaking of the last two rectors of the Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin, R’ Avrohom Eliyahu Kaplan and R’ Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, respectively.

        The academic talmudist he refers to is R’ Shaul Lieberman. I don’t know who the off-the-derekh memorist is.

      • dr. bill says:

        RAEK ztl was named for his father who also died in his early thirties. Rav Chaim said that his father was the only person he ever met to whom the appellation Gaon was accurate. The son left little written output. Rumor has it he was going to write an Encyclopedia Talmudit single-handedly. An entry he wrote on alot hashachar was written in a clearer style than his counterparts. Although a topic I thought I knew thoroughly, it was very informative, Another piece of Lita legend tells of his repeating RAK ztl’s complex dvar torah on his engagement to RIZM ztl’s daughter in rhyme that could be much more easily understood, a habit he developed repeating derashot of the Alte ztl.

        I too do not remember the name of the off-the-derech individual, but i recall he lived in France after the war and wrote glowingly about Slabodka. His recollection of events surrounding the Nazis yemach shemom ve’zichrom, arrival in Kovno is beyond riveting.

        one need only consult wikipedia to see what Slabodka meant to the 20th century’s Jewish leadership.

        RNK ztl was perhaps our last second-hand connection to that makom kadosh.

  8. M.K says:

    “It is also that an overwhelmingly huge chunk of R’ Nosson’s conception of truth, and the prism through which he evaluated matters, was the Mesorah he received from his father zt”l, with one of the Maspidim describing that particular Mesorah as a solid chain leading back to the Vilna Gaon. It was utterly inconceivable for him to turn his back on the Mesorah received from a man who had never, in his life, uttered a falsehood.’
    Seeing the mesorah of the olam hayeshivos , especially in EY, and the mesroah of his father ZTL as one is very questionable.
    Rav Yaakov ZTL spoke out often and in very strong terms against the notion of long term (
    or lifetime) learning for the masses as against our mesorah.
    More in line with his father’s mesorah were most, if not all, of the parts of his book that lead to the ban.

    • Mark says:

      That is merely a question of scale (and anyone with a finger on the pulse of the EY Charedi world knows that the goalposts are quietly being expanded), but not at all a fundamental departure from the mindset and predicates of the olam hayeshivos itself. Regarding R’ Yaakov’s general outlook toward the olam hayeshivos in Eretz Yisrael, one cannot ignore this:

      Translation of Michtavim U’Maamarim (Rav Shach) Vol. 1, pp. 130-131:

      Regarding the matter that we have heard, that a group of people have founded an institution called “Touro College” in our holy land, and it is clear that this matter is a catastrophe and a churban for the chinuch that is handed down from generation to generation.

      The Holy One, blessed is He, in His great mercy left us a small remnant, some pure corner without a hint and intermingling of outlooks and viewpoints that are opposed to the Daas Torah that has been handed down to us from generation to generation, and especially in this generation when the vast majority of the youth are educated without Torah and fear [of Heaven], some people come – even if they are religious and even if they are called “Rabbi,” but their action is in opposition to the viewpoint of our holy Torah, and they suckled their outlooks from external branches of wisdom, and they cause the destruction of the Charedi education, and if we are silent today and they carry out their idea in founding the Touro College, it is “a distortion that cannot be repaired,” for the education of the girls is also the foundation of the existence of our Torah and our nation.

      We have already entreated the heart of the principals, “Please! Spare your souls that there shall not be caused, Heaven forbid, a great destruction of the education handed down to us!” but they did not accept our request.

      Therefore, in our opinion, anyone who can undo it, must come out against it in the full force of his influence and protest against it.

      And we likewise turn to the precious and distinguished girls: “Stay away from their snares and ‘turn away from the Touro College,” purify yourselves and sanctify yourselves to be the mothers of the next generation, and you shall merit to see upright descendants.”

      We hereby affix our signatures, in distress and heartache over having reached this point:

      Elazar Menachem Man Shach
      Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky
      Moshe Feinstein
      Yaakov Kamenetzky

      Now, would he say the same thing in the US? Of course not. But that the singular focus on lifelong commitment to Torah, Torah, and more Torah in the EY system was less than ideal? Absolutely not.

      • M.K says:

        “But that the singular focus on lifelong commitment to Torah, Torah, and more Torah in the EY system was less than ideal? Absolutely not.”
        I’m assuming that you did not know Rav Yaakov. Because if you did?
        You would know that he absolutely would say “much less than ideal”!
        And you probably assume that he would applaud the “progress” made in America with the move closer to Eretz Yisroel with the very long time learning by any “good boy”. He did not.
        He spoke against it in terms that would shock you.
        Re Touro? I’m not convinced that he signed it but am certain he didn’t write it. He did not speak that way and it did not reflect his attitudes.
        In any event, the thrust is against the (perceived) impurity of Touro. Not the creation of an option to learn a way of supporting one’s family.

      • Nachum says:

        I have come across cherems issued against Touro in the US from over the years- one from the 70’s when they first opened, one from a few years later when they were opening their Brooklyn branch, and one from when they tried to open a Monsey branch. I don’t recall who signed, though.

        By the way, the “singular focus on lifelong committment” in Israel dates to 1977 at the earliest.

    • tzippi says:

      I know I should be staying out of this, but I can’t let a certain line stay without comment.
      Rav Yaakov ZTL spoke out often and in very strong terms against the notion of long term (
      or lifetime) learning for the masses as against our mesorah
      .
      I assume you mean full-time learning to the extent of not pursuing outside parnasa. Because I’m sure Rav Yaakov, zt”l, very much encouraged life-long learning, even if only 5-9.

      • MK says:

        I don’t see any reason for you stay out of this!
        You are, of course, correct and I should have been clearer.
        It is lifetime / long term full time learning for the masses that Rav Yaakov and other Gedolim opposed.
        Surely all should make learning an important part of their lives.
        Thank you!

  9. Steven Brizel says:

    I was only able to buy the revised edition st the recently closed JLevine and devoured it from cover to cover as slowly as possible. It was a fascinating and inspiring description of how very motivated young men despite great odds sociological and historical upheavals emerged as great Talmidei Chachamim. I also met RNK ZL in his apartment and he graciously described his views in the book the ban and the growth of Torah in the US and why the RY respected RYBS tremendously they did not agree with TUM as a hashkafic ally feasible concept in the post war US A fascinating discussion with a great Talmid Chachamim who I definitely recall having books about WW2 and European history in his library

    • rkz says:

      His father in law was Harav Dovid Lifshitz zt”l, who was a rosh yeshiva in RIETS (see also: Beis Yitzchak 24 5754)

  10. DF says:

    And just what exactly where these sensational revelations, that were so harmful to our way of life that the book needed to be suppressed? That this Rabbi as a boy played chess? That another wrote letters to his fiancé? That teenaged bachurim got into scuffles over the Mussar movement?
    For shame. Because this tells us one of two things about the few individuals (not ” parts of the community”) that pushed the ban through: Either they themselves have a vastly over-inflated perception of the figures portrayed in the book, such that they could be worried such trifling nothings would detract from the latter’s prestige; Or that they think so little of the orthodox book-reading public, that they believe the public’s world would be shattered upon learning even the tiniest nugget that they hadn’t before heard. Either way, it doesn’t speak well of them.

    “Insecurity” is a word often thrown out by opponents of censorship, as in “If you’re secure in your beliefs, why are you afraid of material to the contrary?” It’s an illusory argument in many cases. In the case of Making Of A Godol, however, the opponents were right. The book should never have been banned, and the whole sorry episode was not one the finest moments for the individuals behind it.

    • Yehoshua Duker says:

      It has long been my belief that the ban was not directed against what he wrote in volume I, rather against what he was going to write in Volumes II and III, alluded to in the footnotes. These volumes were going to address much more recent times and controversies.

  11. Bob Miller says:

    How common is it for Gedolim to consider Israel as a special case where all secular education is harmful, while supporting (not just tolerating) some forms of secular education in Jewish communities elsewhere?

    • Nachum says:

      It’s an excuse. They’d never support it elsewhere either. But the excuse goes back to the 1930’s at least, when they tried to move Hildesheimer (which, of course, had no secular studies) to Israel.

      I will never understand why the opponents have the power they do, such as in that case, but they succeeded in stopping it, unfortunately. Israel could have used a Hildesheimer in those years, and beyond.

      • DF says:

        The Hildesheimer Seminary did not move for two main reasons:

        1) The Seminary’s own head, RYY Weinberg, didn’t foresee the utter destruction of German/European Jewry. He thought Hitler just used harsh rhetoric, but didn’t actually intend to do what he said. Thus, he didn’t want to leave Berlin himself, and thought the Seminary would continue functioning as is. In retrospect it was remarkably naïve, but he was far from the only one to think this way, and it wasn’t so long ago that we saw the exact same naiveté among the left concerning Arab rhetoric.

        2) R. Chaim Ozer was strongly against the move, and he enjoyed tremendous prestige and respect across the Jewish spectrum. Letters (to others, not RYY) would eventually emerge in which Reb Chaim used rather disparaging words concerning the Seminary, calling it a “rabbi factory.” Questions would also emerge later as to the real reason for his opposition, and whether it was rooted in his thoughts of the culture in Eretz Yisrael at the time, or more about rabbinical job preservation for products of Litvishe yeshivas. Regardless, at the time his opposition carried a lot of weight.

        There are other, more macro-type reasons, but these are two chief specific reasons the Seminary never moved.

      • rkz says:

        AFAIK, an important part of the opposition to the move was to the rabbinical seminary part, and not to secular studies per se (Maran Harav AYHK zt”l wrote that he supports moving the teachers seminary but not the rabbinical seminary)

      • Nachum says:

        I suppose what I meant is that I don’t get why those not in what would later be called the “charedi” camp cared so much about the opinion of those in that camp. This was true of Religious Zionism throughout much of its history (and to a certain extent even today) as well. I suppose that the lines weren’t so firm back then, or perhaps some people didn’t realize that they were, and the more modern element thought, correctly or not, that those critical of them were still on “their side.”

        I believe the library *was* moved, but I’m not sure where it ended up. Many of the libraries of Europe, such as Strashun, ended up in libraries such as those of Heichal Shlomo, Yeshurun, and Mossad HaRav Kook, but all of those have disappeared under often mysterious circumstances. The National Library is still there, at least.

    • MK says:

      It is not necessarily that Gedolim draw a distinction between Israel and America.
      It’s more that American Gedolim generally had a different haskafa than Israeli Gedolim.

    • dr. bill says:

      in the late 19th century, Rav Dovid karliner ztl published a teshuvah against secular education in Russia, where Jews had no opportunity anyway. wrt Israel he strongly supported secular education, which is obviously necessary if one is to have a viable Jewish state.

      His brilliant logic has IMHO never been cogently addressed; clearly, most hareidim disagree based on something never articulated.

      • Nachum says:

        I think it was R’ Leiman who made this response to those who would say, “Oh, Torah Im Derech Eretz was a hora’at sha’a for Frankfurt in the mid-1800’s.” He points out that even if that’s true (and he doesn’t think it is), whatever circumstances were there and then, they certainly apply in even greater force today.

        To a certain extent, this applies in another area as well: The Hirschians were anti-Zionist in Europe. When they came to Israel, they continued Torah Im Derech Eretz but *added* Zionism, because once you’re in Israel, especially after 1948, anti-Zionism becomes academic, or at least should.

        On the other hand, those who made their way to Switzerland, England, and the US kept the anti-Zionism, which may have been a factor in them dropping Torah Im Derech Eretz as well.

      • MK says:

        Rav Bulman ZTL told me that Rav Wolbe ZTL told him that Torah Im Derech Eretz is needed in EY.
        Not (presumably) that it should replace the Chareidi system but that the option was needed.

      • rkz says:

        IIRC, Rav Dovid Karliner ztl did not write anything about a state. He supported secular education in EY as a matter of practical need back then. However, I agree that his p’sak applies kal vachomer wrt the situation in EY today.
        BTW, the main purpose of the teshuva is the negation of the cherem placed on his brother in law, YM Pines.

      • dr. bill says:

        you are correct. prof. leiman addressed it twice. the late prof. katz at the behest of the Breuer family wrote a scholarly take-down of the late rabbi schwab when he returned to Frankfurt in 1934 peddling that viewpoint. prof. katz writes that he regrets the sharpness with which he wrotes; he observes that rav hirsch’s descendants encouraged him to write with such strength. see “through my own eyes.”

  12. lacosta says:

    “Because this tells us one of two things about the few individuals (not ” parts of the community”) that pushed the ban through…”

    —- or, in the ever changing need to redefine down what doxy and praxy is ortho enough , large segments of Moronan vRabonan opt for an ever narrowing path …. [ and blame who knows what for why so many are OTD , outside the shrinking playing field…]

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    As far as Touro is concerned there are and have always been carloads of young women from
    Lakewood who commute because they know that a college degree from Touro is a great asset in finding a shidduch. Any opposition to Touro in the US is purely of historical interest

  14. Shades Gray says:

    I went to hear Rav Nosson speak in 2005 when he was the scholar in residence at the Young Israel of Beth El in Boro Park. Friday night, he spoke about the Lithuanian Torah world and again on Motzoei Shabbos about the “Making of a Ban”. He mentioned that R. Moshe Sternbuch , who read more than once “Making of a Gadol”, shouted out to R. Kamenetsky in his Har Nof shul Shabbos morning after davening when R. Kamenetsky approached to wish him good Shabbos, within the earshot of at least 50 people , “Reb Noson, you keep [on] writing – no one can do as good a job as you!”

    The above story helped restore the sholom bayis of a friend of mine. This person had purchased the second, improved edition. When it was banned as well, he told me that his wife reacted as if he committed a serious moral sin! They both met with their yeshivish rav whose experience was in paskening Shulchan Aruch questions but not in the status of controversial books. My friend called me from the meeting to confirm that R. Sternbuch had indeed ruled that the book was kosher, which I did.

    The rav then used a bit of reasoning from the Fifth Shulchan Aruch: “The Edah Hachareidis usually bans things. If in this case, Rav Sternbuch permits the book, rest assured it’s a kosher book !”

    Yehi zichro baruch.

    • rkz says:

      RNK ztl discussed the story about Rav Shtenbuch shlita in his article about the ban in HaMa’ayan

  15. Mark says:

    I’m assuming that you did not know Rav Yaakov. Because if you did?
    You would know that he absolutely would say “much less than ideal”!
    And you probably assume that he would applaud the “progress” made in America with the move closer to Eretz Yisroel with the very long time learning by any “good boy”. He did not.
    He spoke against it in terms that would shock you.

    You are once again confusing the scale of the phenomenon with its very existence. The question of whether it is the proper mahalach for the rabbim is irrelevant to whether Rav Yaakov would say that the Steipler’s life was less than ideal.

    • MK says:

      I never said that Rav Yaakov said that the Steipler’s life was less than ideal. No one is saying that the Steipler should have gone to Touro!
      The entire issues is whether lifetime full time learning for the masses is correct. And Rav Yaakov absolutely said no.
      I’m also not sure you associate “Torah and more Torah” with the Steipler as opposed to other gedolim, including American like Rav Moshe Feinstein.

      • Mark says:

        The point of discussion here is in terms of identifying with or turning one’s back on the olam hayeshivos in Eretz Yisrael. The idea that because the Chazon Ish and the Brisker Rav and Rav Shach and the Steipler guided it as the mahalach for the masses – and he thought that to be wrong (and even the Chazon Ish and the Steipler meant this as a post-Shoah lifeline) means that he therefore would not view it as part of his broader home is wrongheaded. He critiqued its scale, not its essence. That’s all. He was not against the idea of a “small corner of purity” and may have felt that Touro in EY, as it was being set up and marketed, could at that point threaten its existence rather than its scale. (Of course he did not initiate and, hence, write that ban, but he did sign it, and he would not sign on anything he did not believe in, even if Rav Shach asked him to, as is known from other cases.)

        R’ Nosson said, “I adore, nay love, Rav Elyashiv, and would never dream of disobeying him.” (Speech in Beth El, at around 10:00-11:00 or so. ) “I am beholden to Rav Elyashiv” (around 15:00 or so.) So the idea that he should turn his back on the olam hayeshivos in Eretz Yisrael and that this would be in line with his father’s derech would not be correct, despite criticism thereof. (R’ Yaakov had criticisms of the Alter too!)

        I chose the Steipler because he did not even hold a significant paying position.

  16. Bob Miller says:

    MK, do you believe American Gedolim (and/or their communities) have become more deferential to Israeli Gedolim than in the past, even about issues in America?

    • MK says:

      Yes. I do.
      We are starting to introduce the opposite of what Rav Nosson told Rabbi Adlerstein’s son.
      “Do not use your own brain”!
      By definition, asking Israeli Gedolim about complex issues in America is relying on something bordering “Ruach Hakodesh” as on a rational level, they lack the ability to address the question.
      This approach is totally absent in the Lithuanian mesorah which relied on the Gadol’s intellect as sharpened by (not replaced with) a life of Torah learning.

      • Nachum says:

        And I suppose as sharpened with knowledge of the real world. I doubt they would have boasted about the ignorance of their gedolim. A few years back one of the big tzedaka funds was visited by a gadol to give them the stamp of approval. He had no idea how they were taking donations over the phone and didn’t know what a credit card was. The tzedaka wrote of this in a boasting manner: “Look how holy he is! He has no idea what a credit card is!” This leaves two questions:

        -From a moral stance, an someone that far removed from the “real” world ever issue meaningful rulings for the masses, if he has no idea how they really live?

        -From a practical and halakhic stance, can someone that ignorant of modern finance ever issue a p’sak that touches on those issues, if he has no idea how they really work?

  17. Mark says:

    I’ve been asking around, and R’ Yaakov basically didn’t get involved in EY because it had its own Gedolim, and he recognized the army draft as a reason for a difference between EY and the US. So what R’ Yaakov held for the US is essentially irrelevant to EY.

    R’ Nosson, upon moving to EY, accepted upon himself that the Gedolim of the olam hayeshivos in EY would be his guides, which is how R’ Yaakov himself related to EY whether for better or for worse in his own mind. It follows that it was inconceivable for him to turn his back on it, in keeping with his father’s approach vis-a-vis Eretz Yisrael.

    I’ve also discovered Touro at that time was proposed for girls, and RYK apparently signed against it as too academically oriented.

  18. MK says:

    You do show more knowledge of Rav Yaakov than I at first thought.
    That said, I still don’t agree with you.
    “I’ve been asking around, and R’ Yaakov basically didn’t get involved in EY because it had its own Gedolim, and he recognized the army draft as a reason for a difference between EY and the US. So what R’ Yaakov held for the US is essentially irrelevant to EY.”
    Even if what you were told is correct, (which I question) Rav Yaakov would be seeing the system in EY as a “horaas Sha’ah” due to the army, as opposed to many that you mentioned that saw it as the ideal. So his attitude here is very relevant regarding what the ideal in EY should be. I personally think he would have looked for a solution to the problem so that we could back to the ideal.

    “R’ Nosson, upon moving to EY, accepted upon himself that the Gedolim of the olam hayeshivos in EY would be his guides, which is how R’ Yaakov himself related to EY whether for better or for worse in his own mind. It follows that it was inconceivable for him to turn his back on it, in keeping with his father’s approach vis-a-vis Eretz Yisrael.”

    I never said that Rav Nosson should have turned his back on the olam hashehivos or that his father would have advocated that he do so.
    I merely objected to the notion that that world as is, reflects his father’s mesorah.
    I don’t think Rav Nosson accepted the Gedolim of EY as his guide. Rather he defered to them practically , up to a point. He agreed to take the sefer off the market but did not retract what he wrote and did not accept his treatment at the hands of many.
    The entire episode of the sefer illustrates that, as you say, the Kamenetsky family shares the core value of Torah learning but , at the same time, it’s really a different universe!
    “I’ve also discovered Touro at that time was proposed for girls, and RYK apparently signed against it as too academically oriented.”
    I don’t accept that Rav Yaakov held that way. Even if that was the case , that would be in total variance with the tone and substance of the Kol Koreh which blasted Touro as treif. If he did sign it, which I doubt, it could be for various reasons, but he did not agree to the substance of it.

    • DF says:

      RYK did not simply accept the opinion of those in Israel – that’s false. He judged different situations differently. And who’s to say his assessment of the Roshei Yeshivahs in Israel themselves didn’t evolve over time? R. Shach put a ban on Dr Leo (Yehuda) Levi’s book שערי תלמוד תורה a book showing the “big tent” panoply of opinions over the centuries on things like Working and Secular studies (among lesser controversial topics.) RYK however, as well as the Gerrer Rebbeh, gave it their הסכמה.

      • MK says:

        That is correct and Rav Yaakov withstood strong pressure to remove his approbation.
        For the record, Leo Levy is a HUGE Talmid Chacham, Torah Im Derech Eretz at its very best!

      • Bob Miller says:

        Regarding the comment by DF June 17, 2019 at 12:50 pm:
        The translation of Dr Levi’s book published by Feldheim (1990) as “Torah Study” also shows haskamos from these Rabbonim:
        R’ Avraham Farbstein
        R’ Aaron Soloveitchik
        R’ Ovadiah Yosef
        The author said in the foreword that he wrote the book with the encouragement of R’ Joseph Breuer

  19. Kohen says:

    At what point do hilchos lashon harsh get waived when writing history?

  20. Bob Miller says:

    What jumps out from all this detail is the fact that there are differing viewpoints within the advanced Torah world. If would be refreshing if such honest differences could be acknowledged as such and respected more. The Orthodox Jewish public can handle this.

  21. Bob Miller says:

    What jumps out from all this detail is the fact that there are differing viewpoints within the advanced Torah world. It would be refreshing if such honest differences could be acknowledged as such and respected more. The Orthodox Jewish public can handle this.

  22. Mark says:

    I have spoken to a grandson of Rav Yaakov who said that he maintained that in Eretz Yisrael boys should not go to high school because it is a breach in the accepted chinuch system, and he was opposed to Americans making aliyah for that reason – because they would want to go to high school. He was very upset when a certain grandson went to Yishuv Hachadash. This grandson presumes that the Touro ban was for the very same reason – girls going to college was a breach in the accepted system – and he remembers when it came out and that the Americans were upset about it.

    I agree with MK’s distinction, though, between accepting as guides and deference to a point in terms of Rav Nosson.

    • MK says:

      You are definitely doing your due diligence!
      I accept what the grandson said and would only say that Rav Yaakov was very nuanced, something we’re not used to these days. I would not be surprised if he told individuals differently.
      Certainly, he was not opposed to people , on their own, acquiring general knowledge or preparation for a parnasa.
      Rav Shach’s strong opposition to Dr Leo Levy’s sefer was because he saw it as a breach in the accepted system in EY. In that case Rav Yaakov resisted pressure to remove his haskamah.
      Thank you for agreeing with my point re Rav Nosson.
      It’s been a long time since someone agreed with me!

    • Shades of Gray says:

      “I have spoken to a grandson of Rav Yaakov who said that…he was opposed to Americans making aliyah for that reason – because they would want to go to high school. ”

      This agrees with what I remember R. Nisson Wolpin quoting from R. Yaakov a number of years ago at a Friday night lecture series at Bnei Yehuda in Boro Park. When R. Wolpin was first married, both he and his wife wanted to live in Eretz Yisrael. However, Rav Yaakov Kamentesky told them not to go, since he and his wife grew up with and were used to the American chinuch model of secular studies.

      I would add that R. Nisson Wolpin attended public school growing up in Seattle and Talmuld Torah in the late afternoon, before leaving to Torah Vodaath at 15. Despite the above advice of R. Yaakov for the chinuch of his own children, R. Wolpin and the JO presumably defended the Israeli model of high school chinuch. R. Wolpin and his wife eventually moved to Israel in 2010 where some of his children live, soon after the JO stopped publishing.

      • MK says:

        It’s worth noting that the “American Chinuch Model” produced (at least) two members of the Israeli Moetzes, Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch and Rav Yitzchok Scheiner. Past members include Rav Scheinberg and Rav Nossin Tzvi Finkel. I don’t think we need to be ashamed of any of them!
        Same goes for all members of the American Moetzes. All of these share two things. They all went to American elementary and high school. Not a small number of the latter group are / were college educated.

  23. Mark says:

    In response to DF, I did not mean that RYK accepted what the Gedolim in EY said. RYK didn’t “accept” anything from anyone. He accepted that the Gedolim in EY ran the show in EY.

  24. Michoel Halberstam says:

    What really bothers most of your responders in this blog, is that there is a feeling that much of the vitpurative criticism directed against Rabbi Kamenetsky came from groups who cannot deal with the fact that in the recent past where i grew up, there was a strong notion that not everyone needs to be the same to be considered great
    We are afraid to expose I children to such a dangerous concept, because we ourselves don’t want to deal wit it.

    However, as I have said many times, the rise of Eretz Yisroel has created a new reality. There are and there will be numerous acceptable ways to be a Jew, and a Traditional Torah Jew. The Baal Shem Tov is supposed to have said that he came to teach the establishment of his day that things don’t have to be their way.

    In order for this to be a force for good, we have to stop trying to stifle evry new opinion. It won’t work and it will hurt

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