by Joel Rich
(Many links are to YouTube videos)
The Rav in Ranana
R’Ziegler discusses his involvement with the Toras Harav texts (only 2/3 of the texts, apparently “the son” has the other 1/3 and will do something different with them?). The Rav never said kabeil daati (do what I say) but demanded his students (he did not want chasidim) make their own decisions – R’Aharon Lichtenstein does the same – helps you think out plus and minus but you must decide.
The Rav was a multifaceted thinker who emphasized particular issues and approaches because of the time and place and audience (me – b’asher hu sham) so don’t take the specific results and apply them blindly but take the process and apply it.
R’Shapiro discusses R’Chaim’s 4 differences between sippur and zchira (see here https://www.torahmusings.com/2013/04/audio-roundup-82/) and adds 2 from The Rav (Hallel must be a bursting out in song type and the sippur has a limud Torah approach). Closes with Tollner Rebbi on the psychological parallel between sippur/zchira and Tisha b’av/daily zecher l’churban mourning for the Temple.
R’Kahn transmits over the Rav’s insights regarding Kiddush at the Seder consisting of elements of the “standard” Kiddush plus elements of the 4 cups as part of the story of the Exodus (ties to whether you can make Kiddush “early” on erev Pesach). Then the Rav’s classic insight “geulateinu” (our redemption as a nation) vs. “pdut nafsheinu” (our individual personal redemption from the mindset of slavery), a slave has no responsibility or control over time; we control our destiny vs. fate, we can make both place and time holy, etc.
R’Adler – personal insights as The Rav’s driver – The Rav raised all his students (anyone can do it for the bright ones!). Why is there a mitzvah on the Shalosh Regalim to see your Rebbi Muvhak? Because the Beit Medrash is like Kodesh Kodashim and Rebbi is like Aron (HKB”H) for his student. Following this analogy, why didn’t they take the badim (staves) off the Aron once it was in its set home? Because a Rabbi must be able to go out of the beit medrash to be with the people.
The Rav didn’t give mussar schmoozes, he believed you work on yourself and you will impact others (as he did R’Adler from just watching how he conducted himself in many situations).
The Brisker allergy towards publishing was based on the feeling that you could always improve the work, so why rush to publish? A poseik must know all the circumstances before giving psak and shouldn’t be lazy (go look at an eruv rather than just hearing about it).
R’HS thinks The Rav originally followed minhag HaGra and didn’t visit graves, but after his wife died, he couldn’t stay away and thus changed.
Good stories about The Rav, Rav Hutner and the Rebbe in Berlin. Books The Rav wrote but we don’t have – electricity (Harold Z – I think he took my position!), Tanya and explaining arrangement of topics in Torah.
Important caveat on third hand stories accuracy (R’HS in his books on The Rav often say “shamati” – I heard).
He was a huge baal tzedaka – 60% of $, even to those who would have boycotted them. What about the prohibition against spending more than 20%? “Guilty as charged” (that should be the worst). If you are looking for chumrah, try Tzedaka and lashon hara.
R’ David discusses Two types of hallel – shirah vs. kriah, spontaneous vs. remembrance. The Rav was complicated – life is complex and he didn’t try to make it black and white.
The Gaon said birchat hagomeil was patterned after 4 things that the Jews went through in Yitziat Mitzraim – Seder is Seudat Mitzvah. The Rav was always in a State of Shirah [song] [of the TSBP?]!
Rabbi Horowitz looks at the elements of “modern Orthodoxy” and the Rav. Trying to recapture the hitlahavus (emotional energy) – The Rav didn’t feel he did a great job of transmitting this to his students. While The Rav was intellectually curious, R’HS says there are limits on what you are allowed to think (mutar /assur applies here as well). Halacha has its own logic and in the beit medrash you don’t use other (academic?) methodology. Then on to his religious Zionism but at the same time focus on strong U.S. community for practical and philosophical reasons (dialectic! surprise!!!).
Rav Bick focuses on the dual role of the wine at the Seder with the additional element of cheirut (freedom – I’m writing this as I read of the passing of Richie Havens) which is knowing we can do better, it’s in our control!
The Rav at YCT
Rabbi Weiss starts with personal reflections on The Rav as a multifaceted genius who could connect with his students.
Rabbi Hain (the younger) gave over The Rav’s approach on sfirah (continuity) and tied it to The Rav’s philosophy on kdushat hazman (our ability to infuse time with holiness).
Rabbi Helfgot provided some interesting historical context on some public policy issues regarding relations with conservative Judaism (it was a very different time). Specific issues were the conservative ketubah (public opposition but private negotiations), negotiations for a joint beit din and acceptability of conservative gittin (were usually written by Orthodox sofrim [cheaper and more available!]. The Rav’s responses were nuanced and he took into account individual circumstances.
Rabbi Strauchler (West Orange product!) introduces the program.
Rabbi A. Berzon spoke of The Rav’s philosophical approach to the balance between focus on the individual vs. the tzibbur (community). He develops it from thoughts on tshuva and the kohain gadol. There are 2 levels of holiness (individual and communal = inherited and your own, sin only impacts the latter) reflected in 2 covenants.
This explains the fault in the logic of korach’s sin, prayer and repentance – each of us has dialectic elements of both; Korach missed that the individual could differentiate himself in the individual element. The tzibbur is more than the sum of its parts. Then some more personal reflections.
Mrs. Tova Lichtenstein, The Rav’s daughter reflects on the Boston experience and what a paradigm shift it must have been. So how did he become the leader? Many others never really “left” Europe but the Rav, bit by bit through his RIETS Shiur and faith in the etrnallity of the Torah, did so. He was tough on his students but they recognized his greatness, his intellectual honesty and (most of all) his passion. He had more of a father relationship with his adherents.
Rabbi Meir Lichtenstein, The Rav’s Grandson states that in Israel The Rav is a literary figure who speaks in unfamiliar philosophical terms. Sometimes we need some distance (time, space?) to appreciate the grand plan (e.g. Yosef going to Egypt, the Rav to Boston). He saw destiny. Halacha was at the center of everything (including philosophy) and he addressed eternal issues. We need to apply his deep feeling of the relevance of traditional Judaism but recognize need to apply his method, not copy results from different circumstances.