Sunday, April 30, 2006

Unprecedented defection?

In a recent post on Hirhurim, R' Gil correctly challenges the notion that the extent of the phenomenon of defection from the ranks of Torah-true Judaism is unprecedented.

Since the advent of the Emancipation, going off the Derech had become an option, and in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe, the problem was rampant. To illustrate the extent of the phenomenon, let's tell over what Rav Shach's grandson, R' Asher Bergman, relates in the recently published "Maran HaRav Shach":

When Rav Shach was about seventeen years old, he was learning in the Yeshiva in Slutzk under Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer. After a while, R' Isser Zalman became aware of the truly destitute situation of HaRav Shach, who was literally penniless. (He had had his suitcase stolen from him on the way to Slutzk). R' Isser Zalman gave HaRav Shach the responsibility to learn with some of the younger Bochurim. One of these young charges was HaRav Yechiel Michel Feinstein, a nephew of Rav Moshe and future son-in-law of the Brisker Rav.

HaRav Shach related that while R' Yechiel Michel was in his charge he would constantly attempt to convince R' Yechiel Michel to stop smoking. Not for health reasons, which were hardly a consideration at the turn of the century. The reason was this: HaRav Shach knew that Slutzk was rife with Maskilim , and that they had the most talented boys in their crosshairs as the best candidates for their ranks. HaRav Shach thought: "At least if R' Michel doesn't smoke, he won't light up on Shabbos!"

"Happens to the best boys, and in the best families" is nothing new.


Anonymous Shmuel said...

In Rabbi Dr. JJ Shachter's great article on the closing of the Volozhiner Yeshiva and charedi revisionism, he discusses yeshiva boys who would be reading Spence, Butler, Shakespeare, etc. in the evenings after seder. And the maskilim certainly picked off some great ones: Levi Ginsberg from Telz became the great Prof. Louis Ginsberg, later of JTS.

6:46 AM  

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