Audio Roundup Special: GRA

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by Joel Rich


הרב אליקים קרומביין | הגר”א ותלמידיו |
Food for thought – my impression is that top down networks seem to be more fragile than more distributed ones (think Tzahal vs. Syrian armed forces).  The more unstable the situation, the bigger the disadvantage.  How might this analysis apply to the Jewish community? (as a whole and subgroupings). 
שיעור ראשון
        The GRA was a paradoxical figure combining rationalism and sod.  Why did he have such influence if he was such a hidden figure?  What demand was he responding to? 
        His students viewed him as a historic, maybe supernatural, maayan hamitgaber and tsaddik (me – paradigm shift/inflection point). 
שיעור שני
        The narrative of the GRA’s talmidim was that torah had been on a downward arc and the GRA reversed this trend.  During this time period chassidut was on the rise and was challenging the primacy of talmud torah, which brought on soul searching in the mitnaged community.  Perhaps the elevated GRA narrative, as one who dealt many of the community’s self-perceived shortcomings, was needed to meet this challenge. (me – consciously?)
שיעור שלישי
        The GRA didn’t generally publicize or write down his work but focused on oral transmission to his small group of talented students.  Perhaps he relied on them to disseminate his work/message.  There was no Jewish press so they used hakdamot (Introductions) to their books to tell the public about the GRA and the new era.
שיעור רביעי
        Why didn’t the GRA’s students continue his attacks on chassidut?  They changed tactics and copied some of chassidut’s approaches (e.g. hero worship) in order to better compete.
שיעור חמישי
        How did the GRA’s students deal with the nitkatnu hadorot counter argument to their new era claim?  They said the GRA was representative of a paradigm shift generation (like R’Yehuda Hanasi)
שיעור שישי
        The GRA spent much time “fixing” girsaot.  It was time and he wanted sources to be consistent.
שיעור שביעי
        Menachem Mendel of Shklov (MMS) was a primary student of the GRA and published a corrected text focused on the GRA’s corrections (to emphasize the new paradigm). The GRA’s sons published corrected texts in a more traditional format (to encourage general acceptance).
שיעור שמיני
        The GRA on Shulchan Aruch was his key/unique contribution as it set out a derech halimud from Talmud to S”A.
שיעור תשיעי
        While there was original intent to publish the S”A with only the Magen Avraham and the GRA’s commentary (to further the “new paradigm” narrative), public pressure resulted in the standard commentaries remaining and the GRA being added.
שיעור עשירי
        The book introduction by the sons of the GRA profiled him as a role model of leadership as well as showing the communities of Vilna/Shklov following his lead.
שיעור אחד עשר
        MMS published a number of the GRA’s works but then made aliyah with a group of GRA followers.  Maybe this was due to disappointment with effecting change in Poland (which had a Pre-GRA mesora)
שיעור שניים עשר
        R’Chaim may not have been totally on board with the whole paradigm change movement.
שיעור שלושה עשר
        Rav Chaim didn’t claim the GRA’s mantle when starting the Volozhin Yeshiva.  Perhaps he felt such a claim would not be viewed positively by the publics from which he wanted to attract support.  Then a summary of the series.

About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent wannabee cyberspace lecturer on various Torah topics. A Yerushalmi formerly temporarily living in West Orange, NJ, his former employer and the Social Security administration support his Torah listening habits. He is a recovering consulting actuary.

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