The Embrace of Generations

by Reuven Ungar

I The Remnant of the Sages- Pleitat Sofreihem

In his monumental eulogy for Rav Chaim Heller, Rav Soloveitchik relates to the phrase “Pleitat Sofreihem” in the Shemoneh Esreh. Why doesn’t “Sofreihem” suffice; what is the need to mention “Pleitat” as well? The Rov explains that even in the presence of abundant Torah Scholars a living link to the previous generations is necessary to properly convey the Mesorah. A remnant of a previous generation is a crucial element to serve as a bridge to the new generation. Case in point: Serach bat Asher merited a long life which extended to the era of Moshe Rabbeinu. Her personal connection to her grandfather, Yaakov Avinu, mandated her presence in the generation that exited Egypt and received the Torah. As the Rov remarks, the embrace of generations bestows upon future generations the spiritual wealth & strength of the great ancestors. This includes Torah knowledge, Middot Tovot and investing in family- all necessary components of our legacy.

“I have witnessed a built world, a destroyed world, and a built world- and my beard is not yet white”- Rav Yehuda Amital. 

II The Chanukat HaBayit

On the 30th of Nissan in 1964 the Beth Medrash Gevoha (BMG) celebrated the inauguration of a new wing of the yeshiva in Lakewood. Less than two years after the passing of the founding Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Aharon Kotler, his son and successor, Rav Shneur Kotler, presided over the proceedings. Guests at the Chanukat HaBayit included the posek Rav Moshe Feinstein, the rav of Elizabeth, Rav Pinchos Teitz, the young co-Rosh Yeshiva in Philadelphia Rav Elya Svei and Rav Mordechai Gifter of Telz. Representing the Chassidic movement was the Kapischnitzer Rebbe, Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heschel. 

Video footage of that moving & elevated day has recently surfaced. There is no sound. This allows us to conjecture what was said- and thought- on that elevated day in New Jersey nearly half a century ago.

III Reb Yaakov and Reb Dovid

Prominent amongst the speakers at the Chanukat HaBayit were Rosh Yeshiva in Torah Vodaath Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Rosh Yeshiva in RIETS, Rav Dovid Lifshitz. Reb Dovid and Reb Yaakov were older than Rav Shneur; (in fact,  Reb  Yaakov was a chaver of Rav Shneur’s father Rav Aharon going back to their early days in Slabodka). Both were alumni of Mussar yeshivot; Reb Yaakov of Slabodka, Reb Dovid of Grodna and Mir. They were disciples of the leading Roshei Yeshiva and Mashgichim of the era. Reb Dovid a talmid of Rav Shimon Shkop and Rav Yerucham Levovitz; Reb Yaakov of Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein and the Alter of Slabodka. Both served as rabbanim of communities in Lithuania. When the Hitlerian inferno raged in Europe Reb Yaakov had already moved to Toronto; Reb Dovid escaped and arrived in Chicago.  

Both gedolim moved to New York to serve as Roshei Yeshiva in non-family yeshivot (Mr. Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz brought Reb Yaakov to Torah Vodaath; Professor Belkin invited Reb Dovid to Yeshiva University). While free to teach Torah (=not responsible to raise funds) Reb Dovid and Reb Yaakov were involved in communal needs (Ezras Torah and Agudas Yisrael, respectively). On the personal front they demolished the “cold Litvak” stereotype. As has been conveyed in a previous article, the author of these lines personally witnessed and benefited from the amazing warmth of Reb Dovid. While I was not privileged to have met Reb Yaakov, the testimony of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein concerning the concern and genuine interest that Reb Yaakov felt and displayed for each Jew rings loud and clear. These gedolim mastered the art of balance. Despite their robust schedules of learning & teaching Torah, public service and blessing, counseling & guiding individuals, the family domain was tended to with care and dedication. Together with their rebbetzins they raised generations of loyal servants of Hashem with wisdom & warmth. 

It should not be a surprise that Reb Yaakov and Reb Dovid were mechutanim; the sacred foundations of their respective homes invited the bonding of their families. Today, shared and non-shared descendants of these gedolim enlighten the Jewish world from Los Angeles to Connecticut, Philadelphia to Baltimore, Lakewood to New York, and of course in The Land of Israel- from Jerusalem to  the Ayalon Valley, from Chashmonaim to Ramla, from Gush Etzion to Beit Shemesh. (Another mechutan of Reb Dovid was not present at the Chanukat HaBayit for an excellent reason. Former rav of Lakewood, Rav Nissan Waxman had successfully persuaded his chaver Rav Aharon Kotler to bring the yeshiva to Lakewood. By 1964 Rav Waxman had already made aliyah).

Perhaps one can imagine what these gedolim said and thought. They had witnessed and experienced the greatness of pre-WWII Lithuania;  Reb Dovid and Reb Yaakov merited to survive and thrive in a new land and environment. By force of personality they forged ahead in teaching Torah and inspiring  generations.  Yes, their beards were already white in 1964- but they had certainly witnessed and participated in the creation of a new built world. 

The presence of Reb Dovid and Reb Yaakov did not merely enhance the Chanukat HaBayit. It was necessary as they constituted “Pleitat Sofreihem”. The generations embraced. 

IV Father and Son; Uncle and Nephew

Younger than Reb Yaakov and Reb Dovid, Rav Shneur Kotler and  Rav Mordechai Gifter were contemporaries. Born 3 years apart, they both studied Torah with the giants of Lithuania (in Europe and elsewhere). Rav Shneur learned by his father, Rav Aharon,  Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz, his grandfather, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer and  from Rav Soloveitchik. Subsequent to studying with Rav Moshe Aharon Poleyoff and Rav Moshe Soloveitchik in RIETS, Rav Mordechai Gifter embarked to Lithuania to learn by his Rebbe Muvhak, Rav Avrahom Yitzchak Bloch, Rosh Yeshiva and rav of Telz.

Neither Rav Shneur nor Rav Gifter held a rabbinic position in Europe; yet they merited to drink deeply from the old built world, prior to its destruction. They would embark on building a new world as Roshei Yeshiva. 

Let us delve into the Torah monarchies of Kletsk and Telz. 

BMG in Lakewood stems from the yeshiva in Slutsk led by Rav Isser Zalman, who served as rav of that city. After suffering persecution by the Bolsheviks for several years, the yeshiva moved to Kletsk in Poland. Rav Isser Zalman ultimately made aliyah and became the Rosh Yeshiva of Etz Chaim in Jerusalem. The yeshiva In Kletsk was led by his son in law, Rav Aharon Kotler. The leadership of the yeshiva survived; the majority of the students of the yeshiva did not. Following the Shoah, in addition to BMG in Lakewood, a branch of Kletsk existed in Israel, eventually becoming Yeshivat HaDarom in Rechovot. Its faculty included Rav Zvi Yehuda Meltzer (son of Rav Isser Zalman) and his son in law, Rav Yehuda Amital. 

Rav Aharon was a larger than life figure- in Europe before the Churban, and in the United States afterwards. He combined genius with elevated character traits. My rebbe, Rav Aharon Rakeffet tells of an incident that transpired in Lakewood when he studied in BMG. One Shabbat (which the Rosh Yeshiva spent in New York)  a yeshiva employee was responsible for not enabling the students to maximize their time learning Torah. The bochrim exercised self-restraint; instead of protesting they organized a delegation to meet on Sunday with Rav Aharon to convey what happened. Upon hearing the story, Rav Aharon (who zealously learned at every available opportunity) remarked “You are correct, what she did was improper. But there is nothing that I can say or do; she is a widow”. 

Upon the passing of his father, Rav Shneur assumed the leadership of Kletsk/BMG (yes, that includes fundraising). His beard was not yet white and he forged ahead in preserving and enlarging the sacred trust that he had inherited. 

Succeeding his father in law Rav Eliezer Gordon, Rav Yosef Yehudah Bloch (author of “Shiurei Da’at”) served as Rosh Yeshiva and rav of Telz. A master pedagogue, Rav Bloch’s educational vision inclulded focused education for teenagers and young adults, men and women (=Yavneh). His family followed in his footsteps- in times of tranquility and in horror.

Upon the passing of Rav Bloch it was understood that his oldest son, Rav Zalman, would become the Rosh Yeshiva and rav. In an awesome display of humility and greatness, Rav Zalman announced that his brother Rav Avraham Yitzchak would become the Rosh Yeshiva and rav; while he would serve as Mashgiach in yeshiva and dayan of the city. Brother Rav Elya Meir and brother in law Rav Chaim Mordechai (“Mottel”) Katz assisted in the operation of the various branches of this educational empire. 

Rav Baruch Sorotzkin (already a member of the family- his mother was a daughter of Rav Gordon) married Rochel, the daughter of Rav Avraham Yitzchak. Rav Gifter became engaged to Shoshana, daughter of Rav Zalman. Miraculously getting out in time, they were married in the United States. 

The majority of Telz- citizens in the town, students of the yeshiva and its faculty (including wives and children) died al Kiddush Hashem. May Hashem avenge their blood.

Rav Elya Meir Bloch and Rav Chaim Mordechai Katz survived. Before they even knew the fate of their families they rebuilt Telz in Cleveland. Upon receiving the bitter truth of the deaths of their families they forged ahead in spreading Torah. Adhering to the tradition of Telz, the Roshei Yeshiva tended to communal matters as well.

The family front was not neglected. In order to find a proper match for his orphaned niece, Naomi (sister of Rebbetzin Shoshana Gifter), Rav Katz traveled to New York to meet with the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva Rav Avraham Kalmanowitz (father in law of Rav Elya Svei). His mission was successful as a shidduch was made with Rav Pesach Stein. 

Following the passing of Rav Bloch in 1955; Rav Katz served as sole Rosh Yeshiva. The 1964 Chanukat HaBayit in Lakewood transpired a few months prior to his passing. At that point Rav Gifter, together with his cousin in law Rav Boruch Sorotzkin assumed the leadership of the yeshiva.The faculty of the yeshiva included Rav Pesach Stein and alumni of Telz in Europe, Rav Chaim Stein (a mechutan of Rav Dovid Lifshitz) and Rav Aizik Ausband (who married Chaya, the daughter of Rav Avraham Yitzchak). The sisters Rebbetzin Rochel Sorotzkin and Rebbezin Chaya Ausband educated generations of young women at Yavneh in Cleveland.

Similar to Kletsk/BMG, the Telz yeshiva was replanted on American soil. In the face of tremendous tragedy both yeshivot grew and continued in their sacred missions. With beards not yet white, Rav Shneur and Rav Gifter continued the work of their respective father and uncle, Rav Aharon and Rav Mottel; Pleitat Sofreihem. 

V Rebbe and Talmid

A prominent faculty member of Kletsk in Europe and Israel must be mentioned. Rav Elazar Menachem Shach married the niece of Rav Isser Zalman, becoming a cousin of Rav Aharon. If anyone qualifies as a remant of the sages, it is he. Rav Shach merited to spend time with the Chafetz Chaim and Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski.  In fact, as the sun set on European Jewry in 1940, Rav Shach and his rebbetzin lost a child while residing in Vilna. Rav Chaim Ozer babysat their young son Ephraim when the parents were in the cemetery. The Gadol HaDor held the child on his lap, telling him that soon his father and mother would come home. 

Rav Shach made aliya, and taught in several yeshivot-including Kletsk in Rechovot. Ultimately he joined the faculty at Ponovez in Bnei Brak, serving as Rosh Yeshiva together with Rav Dovid Povarsky and Rav Shmuel Rozovsky. In addition to teaching Torah, he assumed the leadership of the Lithuanian Chareidi world. Similar to Rav Katz, he cared for his extended family. My Rebbe, Rav Yoel Amital, recalls that Rav Shach was unable to attend his Shabbat bar mitzvah in Rechovot. On a weekday Rav Shach took a bus from Bnei Brak to personally wish the young man (a great-grandson of Rav Isser Zalman) a mazal tov. 

The elevated character traits of Rav Aharon found expression in Rav Shach. While already at an advanced age, Rav Shach felt the need to rebuke a talmid chacham concerning an educational matter. He traveled with his driver to the north where the talmid chacham was vacationing. The wife of the talmid chacham answered the door when Rav Shach arrived. She was overjoyed that the Ponovezher Rosh Yeshiva had honored them with his presence. Refreshements were offered, Divrei Torah and gedolim stories were told. The atmosphere was quite festive. In a quiet moment on the side the driver remarked to Rav Shach that the purpose of the trip was to rebuke….Rav Shach responded that he is not able to rebuke someone in the presence of his wife. 

The lifelong passion of Rav Shach was learning & teaching Torah. In the Rosh Yeshiva’s final years of teaching, an especially close talmid was a young man from overseas. His wedding in Israel was attended by Rav Gifter. This dynamic talmid chacham (whose beard is still black), serves as Rosh Yeshiva in Rishon LeZion at Yeshivat Ateret Shlomo. His name is Rav Chaim Mordechai Ausband, grandson of the Rosh Yeshiva and rav of Telz, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Bloch. He was born not long after the Chanukat HaBayit in Lakewood,  and the passing of his great-uncle, Rav Chaim Mordechai Katz.

And the generations embraced….

Reuven Ungar studied in MTA and is the Director of Alumni Relations of Yeshivat Sha’alvim. He resides with his family in Talmon.  

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21 Responses

  1. DK says:

    Wow! Beautiful article about the world that was!
    Thank you Rabbi Unger for the blast from the past.
    May we merit to Mashiach soon and Techias Hameisim of these Torah giants.

  2. william gewirtz says:

    Rav Chaim Hellerztl was sui generis. When yet a teenager, R. Chaim told his daughter-in-law, the Rav ztl’s mother, that she missed seeing a person who at that young age knew kol ha-torah kuloh. Despite his strong academic credentials (his edition of Rambam’s Sefer Ha-mitzvot drawing praise from R. Chaim), he remained a link to gedolai olam of the past.

    This was the unique character of the Rav’s hespedim, capturing the uniqueness of the individual. That characteristic of the Rav has been lost; hespedim have become standardized, and individuals have lost their individuality.

    Sadly, your article continues that unfortunate tradition. The gedolim you mention had their unique capabilities; none were remotely similar to Rav Chaim Heller.

  3. Bob Miller says:

    This article provides some background on how the named Gedolim related to each other and their successors, and to others, but is that its only message? What story is it telling us?

  4. Reuven Ungar says:

    Thank you DK and Dr. Gewirtz for your thoughtful comments. A tradition exists that the Alter of Slabodka harshly rebuked Rav Yerucham Levovitz for not encouraging his talmidim to develop in accordance with their unique characteristics. Rav Finkel certainly succeeded in fostering the unique growth of his disciples: Rav Yitzchak Hutner and Rav Meir Chadash were not carbon copies. Glancing at the iconic photograph of the Rov’s shiur one sees a wide span of distinct personalities. Many fine contemporary Torah institutions endeavor to foster growth without cloning.
    The common denominators of the gedolim mentioned in the article were not intended to blur individual characteristics. Rather, to highlight that despite their differences the gedolim drew from the past to secure the future- with mastery of Torah, Middot Tovot, communal responsibility and abundant tlc for their extended families.

  5. Reuven Ungar says:

    Bob Miller- that tonight and tomorrow when we mourn the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (and everything that followed) we are consoled, comforted and draw encouragement from the fact that HKBH guarantees our spiritual and physical survival. On the spiritual front we adhere to the lessons of our gedolim- past and present- and especially of Pleitat Sofreihem. On the physical realm thre is room for a different discussion (I identify with the approach of Rav Soloveitchik ztl regarding Yosef and his brothers. Please note Rav Rakeffet’s comprehensive article on the subject that can be found in TorahTidbits online).
    In a nutshell: נצח ישראל לא ישקר- and we are required to perform the requisite hishtadlut. The Chanukat HaBayit in 1964 marked that; and nowadays in The Land of Israel Torah architects such as Rav David Fendel in Sderot and Rav Shalom Ber Sorotzkin of Ateret Shlomo carry the torah- each in their unique way. (Full disclosure: the former and I are mechutanim and the latter is a full-fledged member of the Telzer dynasty).

  6. Mark says:

    This is a very beautiful article and really pulls together the generations nicely.

    Hopefully not a nitpick because this article is too good to nitpick, but perhaps one slight adjustment might be in order. Rav Chaim Mordechai Ausband was a talmid of Harav Shach zt”l for many many years prior to his passing, not just in his final years. Rav Shach loved him like his own son and spoke fondly of him to me at least 12 years before his passing. By then Rav CMA was already married and established as a leading talmid of the R”Y.

  7. Reuven Ungar says:

    Mark- I appreciate the kind words and especially the historical correction- accuracy counts! For sure: all input is welcome, and with the avira of the בית מדרש we are all striving for the truth. Yashar koach

  8. Steven Brizel says:

    Beuatifiul article-Take a look at this link for more details about the memorable Chinuch Atzmai dinner'%20%20Fabian%20Schonfeld.mp3

    • william l gewirtz says:

      Thank you for the recording of Rabbi Schonfeld zl with RAK ztl telling him that the Rav ztl would be greater if he had not spent many years in the university. Clearly, this is a disputed shittah. Would Rambam have been greater had he not studied philosophy, medicine, astronomy etc.? Could the Rav (or anyone) have written Halakhic Man, The Halakhic Mind, the Lonely Man of Faith, etc, without his university education? What’s more, the Rav’s extensions to Brisker categorization are at least arguably the result of his academic training.

      I could go one step further. One need only examine the paucity of commentary on Rambam’s Kiddush Ha-Chodesh and the inability to address questions raised against Rambam as demonstrating the need to study at least the sciences and mathematics. Yet more arguable is the role of Rambam’s philosophical training in his ability to categorize and even in his rarely appreciated ability to formulate various principles previously unheard of in Torah literature.

      • Bob Miller says:

        Look at all the disciplines Ramchal had to master to reach his level.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        RFS ZL not only talked the talk but walked the walk about Achdus-RFS ZL raised a community of survivors and liberators , helped many grow or rebuild their committment to Torah observance and emphasized that supporting Torah mosdos should not have a hashkafic litmus test. It was no accident that RAK ZL asked RFS ZL personally to speak with RYBS ZL about supporting and speaking at the Chinuch Atzmai dinner especially during a time period when RYBS ZL had already spoken at numerous Mizrachi supported events. The newly published translated drashos of RYBS ZL contain drashos from 1939 to 1957 is very important volume in understanding RYBS ZL’s views on building Torah in America and on his views on Zionism , the Holocaust, and Israel and its leaders during its first nine years

      • william gewirtz says:

        Steve, listen to the recording of the Rav ztl’s address at the Chinuch Atzmai dinner or read his notes which are the basis for what was published in a collection of the Rav’s Yiddish derashot. The Rav identifies Steven Klein as the principal reason he was there. Rabbi Schonfeld zl, a young man of 30 or so at the time, would hardly have been a great influence on the Rav.

      • Shades of Gray says:

        “Look at all the disciplines Ramchal had to master to reach his level.”

        Fascinatingly, Ramchal attended the University of Padua, according to Dr. David Sclar who has researched his life. Ramchal was at the university for at least three years and matriculated, although he did not earn a degree. Many Jews however, including people to whom the Ramchal was close with, did earn a degree from this university.

        While there had been claims in the past that Ramchal attended University of Padua, Dr. Sclar himself did not discover this when he did archival research. However, Dr. Sclar then mentions that Dr. Debra Glasberg Gail, who has worked on R. Yitzchak Lampronti(author of Pachad Yitzchak), visited the University of Padua archives, and discovered that Ramchal indeed attended for three years.

        See Nachi Weinstein’s Seforimchatter podcast interview of Dr. Sclar below(Minutes 8-9):

      • Steven Brizel says:

        RFS Z:L recalled that he was called personally by RAK ZL and was asked to speak with RYBS ZL about getrting Mizrachi allied Rabbonm and Baalei Batimt to attend the Chinuch Atzmai dinner and then met personally with RYBS to discuss the issue. RFS ZL even in the mid 1950s while aTalmid Neeman of RYBS also had a strong personal relationship with RAK ZL as well despite their differeing views on many issues

  9. mycroft says:

    RAK might have told Rabbi Schoenfeld that the Rav would have been greater if he had not gone to university-but of interest is that the Rav to the end of his active days never agreed with RAK on this. He very close to the end of his active days published Halakhic Mind about 40 years after writing it. He did so fortunately for us despite his awareness that some of his examples might not have reflected some then more recent understandings of quantum mechanics. The Rav always was interested about updates in knowledge and he once being alone with a much younger student asked for an update on Quantum Mechanics since he learned it.
    It is certainly true that there are/were musmachim who the Rav encouraged to pursue grad school education and receive their PhDs. I’m not sure the Ravs basis for who the Rav encouraged- at least a few to pursue a doctorate-but he clearly did.

    • Shades of Gray says:

      “The Rav always was interested about updates in knowledge and he once being alone with a much younger student asked for an update on Quantum Mechanics since he learned it.”

      While of a different hashkafah, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt’l was also interested in physics. In “And From Jerusalem, His Word”(p. 332), R. Hanoch Teller writes that R. Yisrael Meir Lau related that R. Auerbach had a great interest in the world at large, aside from Torah learning. For example, Rav Lau once rode together with RSZA on a bus which was filled with college students reviewing material for a physics exam. Rav Shlomo Zalman craned his neck to try to overhear their discussions, in the hope of picking up a little something that was previously unknown to him.

      See also R. Yisrael Meir Lau’s autobiography Al Tishlakh Yadekha El Ha-Na’ar(pp. 155-156), where R. Shlomo Zalman discussed with a young Rabbi Lau his studies for the Bagrut examinations, and he similarly mentions R. Auerbach’s bus interaction with university students regarding physics, as posted by R. Gil Student, linked and excerpted below:

      “…The rabbi was interested in which subjects are tested, and I told him about physics and chemistry, biology and geography, and I explained to him that I am not good in the sciences and prefer the humanities. He opened his mouth in surprise and asked how it is possible not to love physics. Is this not the science that deals with the creation of the world, which is the greatness of the Creator and the greatness of the creation?

      He continued and said excitedly: I take the bus, line 5, with students who are traveling to the university in Terra Sancta. If I have luck, they clear for me a space… I listen to them speaking on the way and exchanging idea in advance of a lecture or test. If I hear something about physics, electricity, water, climate, I listen carefully so that I might absorb something, any interesting new idea. Remember what it says in Isaiah, ch. 40: “Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things.” How is it possible that you do not love physics?”

  10. Reuven Ungar says:

    Thank you Steven Brizel for the warm words and fascinating recording of the interview with Rav Schonfeld of blessed memory. Inspiring how RAK and his sister took care of each other despite very different outlooks. A message for our times?

    • Steven Brizel says:

      We need rabbonim who are hashkafically capable and confident that they can tant at more than one chasunah

  11. Shades of Gray says:

    “A tradition exists that the Alter of Slabodka harshly rebuked Rav Yerucham Levovitz for not encouraging his talmidim to develop in accordance with their unique characteristics”

    In a shiur titled “Conformity vs. Individuality: What is the Healthy Balance?” which was given this past winter, R. Mordechai Willig said that it was the Alter of Kelm and his yeshiva, concerning whom the Alter of Slabodka was upset at, referring to Kelm as he understood it, as being a “Sodom beitel” [the equivalent of a Procrustean bed, as I think of it, SOG], requiring too much conformity and not enough individuality.

    In the world of yeshivos today, YU stands out for perhaps having the least amount of conformity, said R. Willig. Nevertheless, R. Willig was concerned that some talmidim, even in YU, were being overly conformist when these students would be better served by having more individuality, which was why he participated in the session together with R. Michael Rosensweig. See link below(Minutes 23-27):

  12. Shades of Gray says:

    “I have witnessed a built world, a destroyed world, and a built world…”

    R. Yaakov Pasternak zt’l, a Novardok talmid who was exiled to Siberia during WW2 and was later a rav in Brooklyn and a rebbe in a Forest Hills yeshiva, made a similar statement about himself, according to what I once heard from one of his congregants. R. Pasternak compared himself to Noach, concerning whom Midrash Tanchuma(Noach 5:1) comments:

    נח ראה עולם בישובו, וראהו בחרבנו, וחזר וראהו בישובו

    “Why is Noach’s name repeated three times in this single verse? Because he was one of the three men privileged to experience three changes that occurred in the world. The three were Noach, Daniel, and Iyov. Noach saw the world inhabited, he witnessed its destruction, and finally he beheld it reinhabited.”

    Rabbi YY Jacobson likewise applied this Midrash to the generation of Holocaust survivors who needed to reinvent themselves, yet a third time after the war. He extended the metaphor even further, writing:

    “In a far different way, this remains a challenge for many of us, even if in a far more benign way. Many of us, in our own little or big way, experience three worlds, demanding of us to reinvent ourselves again, and again, and yet again. We live not one life, but at least three lives.”

    See link to R. Jacobson’s essay as well as an article about another Novardoker, R. Yehuda Leib Nekritz zt’l, which also mentions some of R. Pasternak’s Siberian experiences referred to above:

  13. Reuven Ungar says:

    Thanks Shades of Grey for the reference to the Alter of Slabodka and the Alter of Kelm as conveyed by Rav Willig. I’m trying to locate where I saw the discussion betwen the Alter of Slabodka and his talmid Rav Yerucham. (Behind the curve, I didn’t buy Making of a Gadol when it was relatively easy to do so, had to borrow. My hunch is that it’s recorded there).

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