Sunday, November 4, 2012

Changes in marriage:Tragedy of Seridei Aish

I met Rav Nosson Kaminetsky tonight at a chasuna and asked him for some leads regarding changes in the nature of marriage. He reminded me of the following quote regarding the tragic experiences of the Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg that he had written about.


Making of a Gadol by Rav Nosson Kaminetsky page 819:

page 816 - When describing the disaster he entered into, he wrote, "This shiddukh was forced upon me by the Alter of Slabodka and the heads and members of Yeshivath Kneseth Yisrael (emphasis added)./'' An article in ... reveals the background of the misatch between the Chekhanovtzer 'Iluy, R' Weinberg, and the simple, orphaned daughter of the Rav of the small Lithuanian town of Pilvishok. R' Weinberg had been "dabbling with the idea of leaving the yeshiva world for the world of the Haskalah. (R' Finkel) sensed that (R' Weinberg) was at a crossroads and aranged the shiddukh which would bring him the dowry of that town's rabbinic post" and thereby bind him to the Torah world. Weinberg Obituary cites the following from R' Weinberg's letter: "Being young, I submitted to [their guidance], and by that, I ruined the course of my life [...]. During my tenure as the Rav of Pilvishok, the Alter of Slabodka established in Pilvishok a kibbutz of select bahurim in order to enable me forget my pain and my travails through the toil of delivering shai'urim." R' Weinberg's reference to having "ruined... (his) life" goes beyond his personal happiness because, with his talents, he could have developed into the greatest Torah leader of his generation, as discussed in the fourth paragraph of the following excursus.
page 819 - It is possible, too, that the Alter, though expert in understanding what made people, especially the young, tick - in my father's opinion, he understood people better than Freud  - was out of step with the change in the relationship between mates which modem trends had wrought in Jewish society as a whole, even the Torah world, by the time R' Weinberg married. We may speculate that the Alter's own domestic arrangement, which my father from his latter-day perspective described as "terrifying '', could not have endured even among bnei Torah 40 years later. Shades of the generational dichotomy in outlooks on this matter may be found in a report of an exchange between the Alter and R' Weinberg which was reported by R' Shmuel-Hayyim Domb in the name of R' Yehiel-Yankev's talmid R' Pinhas Biberfeld: When the Alter tried to convince R' Weinberg not to separate from his wife, he responded, "Where is the drugstore which sells a potion for love?" It may be assumed that R' Weinberg's purpose in repeating this conversation to his talmid was to convey this very idea - that by making the attempt to get him to stay with his wife, the Alter had demonstrated that he did not grasp what degree of compatibility was expected between couples in the new times. Even the extreme forbearance that the Alter knew R' Weinberg was possessed of could not hold a relatively modem marriage together.
page 826 - Based on what R' Hayyim Sarna heard from his father, the Alter held that R' Weinberg would become the gedol hador (greatest[Torah leader] of [his] generation); "And he would have become that, but for his unfortunate marriage, ,'' R' Sarna said °. He explained: "In Lithuania only teamsters (...) got divorced any person of standing would, as my mother would say, 'eat nails (... [suffer])' and stick it out." [Rachel Sarna used another idiom, viz., "any person of standing would 'bite into the quilt [...,,, (probably meaning, clench one's teeth under the covers, in privacy)]'". The interviewee said further that R'Weinberg "had to leave Lithuania because of the divorce"...

52 comments:

  1. I'm not completely following here. How was Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (the Seridei Aish)'s "life ruined"? I mean, okay, I understand the marriage didn't work out and he got divorced (and I presume he later remarried). But divorce isn't a rare phenominon. It was much less prevelent in those days, but it still happened. How does a divorce cause one to have a "life ruined"? In what way was his "life ruined"?

    Also, did he have children from the first marriage? How did they fare? Did they grow up okay? Did they become rabbonim/rebbitzin's themselves? Did R' Weinberg remarry? Have children with his second wife?

    "It may be assumed that R' Weinberg's purpose in repeating this conversation to his talmid was to convey this very idea - that by making the attempt to get him to stay with his wife, the Alter had demonstrated that he did not grasp what degree of compatibility was expected between couples in the new times."

    ...

    "R' Weinberg's reference to having "ruined... (his) life" goes beyond his personal happiness because, with his talents, he could have developed into the greatest Torah leader"


    Are these two paragraphs Nosson Kaminetzky's analysis? Who made this analysis? Perhaps his analysis is wrong; perhaps completely off.

    And doesn't this mean, by definition, that the Seridei Aish was less than the greatest Torah leader? Who says?

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  2. The proof of NK's argument is the rising divorce rate. All sorts of remedies are proposed except more choice and better searches for comparability before marriage.

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  3. Were there other tragic shidduchim suggested by the Alter?

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  4. Recipients and PublicityNovember 5, 2012 at 2:44 AM

    This is fascinating information and so refreshing to hear Rav Noson Kaminetsky's refreshing openness and intellectual honesty.

    There are a few other notorious divorce cases that all seem to have in common that the parties were "pushed into them" solely on the will of the gadol who wanted the shidduch. The most famous in recent times is the divorce between the famous Rav Dov Schwartzman Z"L and the daughter of Rav Aron Kotler Z"L. A match that seems to have been loveless and a shidduch that they were both forced into. Rav Dov Schwartzman also was supposed to have the qualities of a gadol hador in the making. He founded the Philadelphia Yeshiva in America and later the Bais HaTalmud Yeshiva in Israel.

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    1. Israel/American shidduchimNovember 5, 2012 at 10:40 AM

      There were 4 shidduchim arranged by Reb Berel Soloveitchik that all ended in divorce*** (painful&unpleasant). It is evident that the marriage agreement is looked upon differently by these Rabbonim.

      **M. Kotler& Feinstein, Shustal & wife, S. Deutsch & Gorelick, etc.

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    2. That is a drop in the bucket to the number of shidduchim Reb Berel made. Virtually every successful shadchan will have a number of divorces. Four out the many many Reb Berel did is very successful.

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    3. Israel/American shidduchimNovember 5, 2012 at 3:30 PM

      Every Israel/American shidduch that he made failed, since it was a breeding lab of brains, lineage and so-called spiritual purity. NOT for compatibility, friendship and shalom.

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    4. He made a lot of shidduchim, the vast majority of which lasted a lifetime.

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    5. lasting a lifetime isn't necessarily a sign of success if "any person of standing would, as my mother would say, 'eat nails (... [suffer])' and stick it out.".

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    6. you can add r' elya ber wachtfogel and r' moshe shmuel shapiro's daughter to the list of r' berels shidduchim that ended up in divorce

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  5. "We may speculate that the Alter's own domestic arrangement, which my father from his latter-day perspective described as "terrifying '', could not have endured even among bnei Torah 40 years later."

    there is no description here of why it was terrifying but why assume that it could survive even back then, for anyone besides the Alter?

    i've heard other stories of gedolim who had bad marriages.

    to me the only thing that one can learn from this story is that people shouldn't get involved in what they don't understand. being a gadol in torah doesn't make one a marriage counselor.

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    1. The Gemorah speaks of Tannaim or Amoraim who had bad marriages.

      What's new? Some Gedolim, like everyone, had bad marriages throughout history.

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    2. The premise here is that the Alter was more than a gadol in torah. It is that he was a great psychologist as well.
      part of the point of the discussion is that even a great psychologist can be out of touch with modern marriage issues.


      G

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    3. Israel/American shidduchimNovember 5, 2012 5:41 PM

      Alter lived in the yeshiva and returned home only 3 times a year, the marriage is described as difficult.

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  6. Stories like this one should be made public, since they show that rabbonim are not infallible. How many people ask their rabbi before a shidduch and are convinced that if he says it will be OK, it will be OK. This story shows that Rabbonim are human and therefore prone to error.

    Why are these kinds of stories always omitted from "maassey Zaddikim" and biographies? Omission of these stories completely flaws the picture.

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  7. @Remark: Stories like this one /were/ made public, in the form of this book. It didn't go so well. But indeed, at least it was published!

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  8. Remark,

    Who should one turn to? To some doofus marriage counselor or psychological adviser? I'll bet their failures are not touted about.

    One needs to use seichel and common sense to determine who to use as an adviser. Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky z"l was known as the pikayach hador in his time. Does this mean he never made a mistake? No, it doesn't but it made much more sense to go to him than any other run of the mill adviser.

    Perhaps it was intended that Rabbi Weinberg z"l should suffer and deal with he nisayon of a difficult wife. Not that I would wish it on anyone, but it is known that the Chazon Ish had a very difficult marriage and had no children. In this case, he was able to totally devote his life to Torah without any worldly concerns. All of Klal Yisroel benefits from the great Torah of the Chazon Ish.

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    1. Pressuring someone to get married to some woman in order to keep said person away from university is not a mistake. It is a gross lapse of judgement at best and complete and flagrant wrongful behavior at worst.

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  9. Israel/American shidduchimNovember 5, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    Alter lived in the yeshiva and returned home only 3 times a year, the marriage is described as difficult.

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  10. Perhaps Dr. Marc Shapiro, having written a biography/study of Rabbi Y.Y. Weinberg, might be able to shed some light on this subject? (I don't know what Dr. Shapiro's post-hurricane situation is.)

    Also: I've heard many first-hand reports of family life before World War I (the generation of my parents' elders). I've many times been struck by how dramatically and monotonically rav-talmid authority has declined in the *Haredi* world in a century, at the "top" no less than at the "bottom". Can anyone corroborate my impressions?

    Rav-talmid authority is observably being replaced by self-authority. How could that *not* transform the system-dynamics of marriage?

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  11. 1. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg had no children from his frst marriage and he never remarried.

    2. The thing the alter was trying to prevent, came to pass, he embraced secular knowledge earning a German PhD in Semitics (iirc) and and enhanced his already great knowledge and went on to become the most prominent rabbinical talmid chacham and posek of the Yekkish world. Had Hitler not obliterated neo-orthodoxy his leadership might have born fruit and produced generations of rabbis who embodied the virtures of Hirschian neo-orthodoxy enriched by the strengths of Litvish lomdus.

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  12. Re divorce, Shaul Stampfer argues based on actual statistics that divorce in Eastern Europe was actually common. In a review of his book, Marc Shapiro urges caution - however, I urge caution about the caution - the point is that there were plenty of divorces and there really is no reason for assuming otherwise except maybe that divorces have risen in our own experiences and lifetimes. Since it is not now the 1940s, 50s, or 60s, it may seem like marriages are less stable than they used to be. But there is little reason for projecting our own experience onto the past and frankly one cannot see from past sources from Eastern Europe that divorce was rare or unusual, so it seems to me that it is simply based on assumption that family was more stable then. Here is Shapiro:

    "People have generally assumed that marriages in Jewish Eastern Europe\ were very stable, with divorce being quite rare. Stampfer, however, provides evidence to demonstrate that divorce was common and not shameful. Based on his evidence, he is fundamentally correct. In addition to citing statistics, Stampfer also refers to memoir literature that mentions divorce. Yet I also think that Stampfer (and ChaeRan Y. Freeze before him) exaggerates the frequency of divorce. For example, one of his statistics of marriage and divorce is from the 1860s in the city of Berdichev where for every three to four marriages, there was one divorce. He cites similar statistics for Odessa (p. 46). Stampfer goes so far as to claim that "it may well be the case that there were thirty divorces for every hundred weddings in the nineteenth century" (p. 128). However, these numbers are certainly skewed for the simple reason that while marriages took place in every town, to obtain a divorce couples had to travel to a larger city where there was a beit din and scribe. Thus, divorces from any one city do not reveal a ratio of marriage to divorce. The situation is identical to what happens today. Couples get married anywhere they want, but must come to a central location for their divorce."

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    1. Not to forget remarriage after death of one spouse, which was far more common than now: death in childbirth, epidemics, pogroms, warfare, etc... Therefore, there were quite a few patchwork families around in previous centuries...

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  13. This posting is based on Rav Nosson Kamenetzky knowing what he's talking about. Is there any objective evidence that he fits this criteria?

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    1. I know Rav Kamenetzky. He is family through marriage. He is emesdik and doesn't care about being "politically correct."

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  14. Personal narrative: my great-grandfather was known as the iluy of his Hungarian shtetl, so naturally he was married to the daughter of the wealthiest Jew. They had seven children together, and she constantly heckled him to stop learning and to get a job like her father. When he was 52, and they had married off the last of their children, she threw him out of the house. He went to the town's only inn. The innkeeper was beside himself with joy that the resident talmid chacham was staying under his roof. After he heard that his honored guest gave his wife a get, the innkeeper married his 18 year old daughter to my great-grandfather. This was to be my great-grandmother. They had their tenth child together when he was 71. He passed away at 72. The divorce did not hurt any of his 17 children. In fact, one of his sons from his first marriage became a rebbe in his own right, dispensing brochas from his court in Williamsburg (I visited there 16 years ago).
    I know my family history is anecdotal evidence and so it doesn't count as proof that divorce was common, but it does support the theory that it wasn't as shameful as all that.

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  15. A major point is that divorce destroyed his chances of becoming a widely respected gadol. Even in the secular world until recently a divorced person had last chance of major office such as president

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    1. RDE:

      1) What prompts you to say that he wasn't, in fact, a widely respect gadol?

      2) Historically, divorce has not been looked at negatively against men in the Jewish community. (Divorced women were looked at differently.

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    2. "R' Weinberg's reference to having "ruined... (his) life" goes beyond his personal happiness because, with his talents, he could have developed into the greatest Torah leader of his generation, as discussed in the fourth paragraph of the following excursus"

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    3. RDE: That is only Nosson Kaminetzky's analysis and opinion.

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    4. page 826 - Based on what R' Hayyim Sarna heard from his father, the Alter held that R' Weinberg would become the gedol hador (greatest[Torah leader] of [his] generation); "And he would have become that, but for his unfortunate marriage, ,'' R' Sarna said °. He explained: "In Lithuania only teamsters (...) got divorced any person of standing would, as my mother would say, 'eat nails (... [suffer])' and stick it out." [Rachel Sarna used another idiom, viz., "any person of standing would 'bite into the quilt [...,,, (probably meaning, clench one's teeth under the covers, in privacy)]'". The interviewee said further that R'Weinberg "had to leave Lithuania because of the divorce"/

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    5. Recipients and PublicityNovember 6, 2012 at 4:14 AM

      Likewise, Rav Dov Schwartzman, after he divorced Rav Aron Kotler's daughter became "persona non grata" in the Yeshvish world and eventually had to move to Israel to start over again (he did have roots to go back to having grown up in in a rabbinical family in EY).

      But with the divorce from Rav Aron Kotler's daughter the damage was done, and even though he had previously been considered a future gadol hador by Rav Aron Kotler himself, Rav Dov Schwartzman's personal reputation was never the same once he had to live in the shadow of his fallout with the Kotlers.

      In spite of his children from his first marriage turning out well, and having a large family with his second wife with whom he was very happy, it was just not the same, and this is about 50 years after the era of the Alter.

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  16. Hi R' Eidensohn

    Wasn't the book making of a gadol banned by gedolim of our time? If so, how are you allowed to read it or have a copy? I am not trying to attack but ask a question for my own understanding so I can understand the limits of bans etc (for example whether halachically I would be allowed to read this book or Slifkin's books etc)

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    1. Rav Sternbuch is very impressed with the book and says proper procedure for banning the book was not followed. He gave permission for the posters proclaiming the ban to be torn down. He does agree that some of the descriptions in the book are problematic - but doesn't see that the book should have been banned.

      The whole episode of banning this book is disgusting and give no credit to those associated with the ban - especially since Rav Nosson was promised by Rav Eliashiv a chance to correct the book rather than have it banned.

      As a general rule banning tends to be based on mob mentality and not careful consideration for halachic considerations as well as that of basic human decency. Those signing generally did not read the book or were incapable of reading it since they don't know English. Rav Selig Epstein and other gedolim who did in fact read the book - did not see that the ban was justified!

      If you asked your rav whether to read something and he says not to - then you shouldn't. But if you didn't ask for a psak then you are not bound by the decision to proclaim a ban.

      Would you consider Prof. Leo Levi's book - which has haskomas from the Gerrer Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rav Schwab banned because Rav Shach said it was?

      Bottom line - ask your Rav whether a particular book is off limits for you.

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    2. Excellent and rational response.

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    3. Thank you, Avrohom, for the question, and you, DT, for the careful, thoughtful answer.

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  17. On the other hand read rav aaron feldman's letter on the slifkin ban . He spoke to rav alyashuv who convinced him the ban is proper.
    The letter shows r alyashiv knew all the details , not as claimed by slifkin.

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    1. http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/SLIFKINARTICLE.doc

      It is not clear from Rav Feldman's letter what Rav Eliashiv knew. He makes one argument - the views that Rabbi Slifkin advocates were acceptable but they are not now. This doesn't realy prove that he "knew all the details"

      Furthermore what Rav Feldman states is rather problematic. t. For example both Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky and Rav Yisroel Belsky told me that it is not kefira to say that the universe is old- contrary to what Rav Feldman claims. Is he claiming that these two gedolim are holding views that are kefirah?

      Rav Moshe Feinstein has said that one does not have an obligation to follow the majority view today in halacha - contrary to what Rav Feldman said.

      In general unless there was a gathering of all the gedolim discusssing a specific issue and they voted after hearing all sides - then you would be obligated to follow that view.

      The fact is that Rabbi Slifkin is presenting a view which has clear sources and even though it is not the majority view in the yeshiva world doesn't invalidate it. It just is a minority view as Rav Zev Leff clearly explained.


      Rav Feldman wrote:

      R. Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, a signatory to the ban, was asked: if he considers Slifkin’s approach wrong how could so many earlier authorities have held it? He answered: “They were permitted to hold this opinion; we are not.” In other words, they were authorities in their own right qualified to decide matters of Jewish law. We are not permitted to do so. We are enjoined to follow the majority opinion and our tradition as to how we are to approach Torah.
      Can an individual on his own decide to follow the minority opinion? No more than he is permitted to do so in any matter of Jewish law and certainly not in matters R. Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, a signatory to the ban, was asked: if he considers Slifkin’s approach wrong how could so many earlier authorities have held it? He answered: “They were permitted to hold this opinion; we are not.” In other words, they were authorities in their own right qualified to decide matters of Jewish law. We are not permitted to do so. We are enjoined to follow the majority opinion and our tradition as to how we are to approach Torah.
      Can an individual on his own decide to follow the minority opinion? No more than he is permitted to do so in any matter of Jewish law and certainly not in matters which determine our basic approach to Torah she b’al peh which is the domain of the poskim (recognized decisors of halacha) of the Jewish people.

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    2. In a recent post in which he published letters never before published Slifkin showed how Rav Elyashiv's view was really not as problematic as you state. What he meant was that the view of an old universe is not kefira per se but should be publicly taught.

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    3. Not sure what you are saying that deviates from what I just wrote. Are views that are clearly based on classic sources - without distortion - but which are not the majority view today - to be banned? Are books which teach the geocentric view of the universe to be banned? Please explicate how Rav Eliashiv's views in this matter are "really not as problematic" as I stated. Furthermore please cite sources which explicitly require that one accept the majority contemporary view in hashkofa - despite there clearly being views in Chazal and the Rishonim which differ? I am not aware of any - and I have looked. Even in halacha there is no such thing.

      In addition who determined what the majority of contemporary gedolim hold on a particular matter? Regarding the age of the universe I was able to find - without great effort - two gedolim who disagreed.

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  18. Rabbi Eidensohn,

    I am surmising that you believe that divorce no longer precludes one being called a gadol. Certainly that is true for the moetzes of Agudah-USA

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    1. My belief has nothing to do with it. The Seridei Aish was clearly a gadol. However his divorced clearly impacted the way he was perceived. It could be today it is different - but the members of the moetzes are not in his league.

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    2. RDE: How wasn't the Seridei Aish in the league of the Moetzes?

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    3. Pat you have it backwards - I said the members of the Moetzes are not in his league.

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    4. RDE: That is contradictory. You previously posted that the tragedy was that the Seridei Aish never became the gadol he could have become since his life was "ruined" and that the talents, "he could have developed into the greatest Torah leader of his generation" but didn't due to marriage. So you earlier said he wasn't in the league of the great gedolim of the generation (although he could have been of it hadn't been ruined by the unfortunate marriage.)

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    5. Pat I don't understand your issue. My reference was that the current Moetzes is not in his league. Yerachmiel Lopin was comparing the situation to current rabbis.

      On the other hand regarding his own contemporaries - he never reached the status in Lita that he would have otherwise. He never developed into the "greatest Torah leader of his generation".

      Apples and Oranges

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  19. I understood the slifkin views on evolutiin are much more contravesial than the age of the universe.

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    1. The question was what was the reason that his books were banned. Rav Eliashiv - according to Rav Feldman - is acknowledging that Rabbi Slifkin's views are based on classic sources - however he claims that since the majority of gedolim don't accept these views they have become kefirah. I simply showed that such a position is problematic - or at least that there clearly are gedolim that disagree with it.

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  20. Have you ever had a discussion on evolution?

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  21. Regarding Rav Dov Schwartzman zt"l

    The Yated reported
    http://www.yated.com/rav-dov-schwartzman-zt.0-497-0.html

    "Throughout the olam hayeshivos of the late 1940s and early 1950s, Rav Dov Schwartzman was spoken about with awe. There are numerous stories and legends of his greatness and of how Rav Aharon Kotler sought out a bochur who was a true gadol baTorah as a son-in-law. What is clear is that when Rav Aharon traveled to Eretz Yisroel and delivered shiurim there, Rav Dov’s incisive questions and insights, and the fiery Torah debates between them, made such a profound impression on Rav Aharon and convinced him that here was the gaon and ilui whom he was seeking."

    I heard the following from Rabbi Rakefet regarding Rav Aharon's decision to have Rav Dov as his son-in-law.

    Rav Ahron gave a shiur at Chevron Yeshiva. All were very attentive to his brilliant Torah analysis - except for one. There was a bachor sitting in the back who seemed bored and inattentive - sitting with his feet propped up. He angrily walked to the back of the room to confront this arrogant young man. [Rav Aharon had a deep impatience with anyone who was not interested in Torah - especially to his own insights which he had worked for hours to understand properly. My brother who learned in Lakewood under Rav Aharon told me that he had a special briefcase to carry his chidusshim. When he was finally given permission to leave communist Russia with minimum belongs - he personally carried that briefcase. At the border he was stopped and the official perused the papers and asked him whether they were state secrets. When Rav Ahron told him it was Torah chiddushim - the guard laughed and told him he could keep the "nonsense" and cross the border to freedom. Rav Ahron was furious and started yelling at the official for his chutzpah and contempt for Torah. Fortunately there were others who quickly got him past the check point - or he problably would have been sent to jail or worse.] Rav Aharon stood over the bachor and demanded to hear what he thought of the shiur. Rav Dov nonchalantly replied, "The Kletzer is a great Torah genius - but his shiur is based on an error. He forgot an explicit mishna." Rav Aharon fainted from the shock and when he recovered said -"that is the one I want as my son-in-law."

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  22. see the new posting on Rav Aharon and Rav Dov


    http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2012/11/how-rav-aharon-picked-his-son-in-law.html

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