Friday, May 17, 2013

Making of a Godol: Rav Shimon Shkop stayed at YU in order to emulate Rav Yisroel Salanter

In researching the issue of what the Seridei Aish meant that Mussar was a frum Haskala - Rav Triebetz pointed out a passage in his father-in-laws sefer Making of a Godol. This passage indicates that there was more to the frum haskala then personal spiritual growth and yiras shamayim. page 1100-1101
In fact, R' Shimon shunned the advice of both R' Chaim-Ozer Grodzensky and the Chafetz-Chaim to resign from his 5689 [1929] post as Rosh Yeshiva of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary [RIETS] in New York because he was sure R' Yisrael would have ordered him to keep it. He left the position after half a year only because of family reasons.'" It should be added that when R' Shimon had decided to stay in America, he also did not consider the feelings of his talmidim in Europe, who were heartbroken when they heard that their master would remain in the United States; see Shkop Book  which records R' Yisrael-Zev Gustman's recollection, to wit, "I remember that there were bahurim who sat down on the ground and cried when they heard that R' Shimon was not planning to return to Grodno." R' Shimon obviously intended to emulate what R' Yisrael Salanter did in the last third of his life - that is, to leave the established Torah environment of Russia and function in Western Europe (and relegate visiting Russia to sporadic occasions only). The Salanter had gone to German communities and Paris because, according to Etkes Book o, "he was essentially drawn (there) by the challenge of restoring traditional values and modes of behavior"P. Katz Iq is more dramatic when it writes, "R' Yisrael had a greater design: he was not satisfied with his accom-plishments in Russia. His aspirations encompassed distant worlds and his eyes wandered vast stretches to strengthen Fear of G-d everywhere, and to inject the spirit of Musar, in which he saw the salvation of Judaism, into all corners of the House of Israel. His first glance fell on nearby Germany, where Reform ruled in all its force and swept away every vestige of Judaism. Assimilation was spreading with gigantic steps and soon no remnant of the House of Israel would remain. R' Yisrael moved to Germany and undertook to halt this deterioration and strew the Dew of Resurrection on Judaism [there]." R' Shimon, too, was drawn to the spiritual challenge that America posed in the interwar years . Also cf. The CCL which asserts about the Chafetz-Chaim that "in a certain sense, (he) considered R' Yisrael his mentor and guide in life" - as R' Epstein asserted in regard to R' Shimon Shkop. (R' Mordkhai Karlinsky, who studied under R' Shimon in Yeshivath Rabbenu Yitzhaq Elhanan, related  that R' Shkop, his rosh yeshiva at the time, told him when he left to return to Europe that he considered America the future home of Torah and would gladly have taken a post in another yeshiva had there been one available - at that time, Yeshiva Torah Vodaath consisted of only an elementary level. This is consistent with R' Zelig Epstein's statement that R' Shkop was following a Salanterian stance in remaining in America.


  1. I wonder if anyone can answer the following qn re: the Chofetz Chaim.
    As we see in this story, the CC asked RSS to return to Europe (also on wiki on RSS).
    However, we are also told that the Chofetz Chaim, prophetically or otherwise, predicted that since the Reform had written a "new" Torah or shulchan aruch, so from the same place (Germany) an evil wind will sweep them away. That is a famous quote of the CC, although I have no idea if he really said that. Assuming he did, why was he not telling his followers to leave Europe? There is some evidence that he supported Aliyah to Israel and that Zion would be our refuge, but did he actively urge people to leave,a nd why did he want RSS to come back ?

    1. from Rabbi Walachs's Chofetz Chaim Al Hatorah it would seem that the C"C didn't encourage moving to Amrica because of what he deemed to be rampant ליצנות in the USA.
      He didn't encourage E.Y. (it seems) because of problems with פרנסה.

  2. How do I buy the book? I'd prefer the first version, but I'll take the second. I attended Rav Noson Kamenetsky's lecture at the Borough Park shul. I'm on Rabbi K's side.

  3. The answer is simple... Gedolim do not have a crystal ball. What they do have is a deep understanding of Torah and based on that are able to typically provide better "Torah informed" answers than we can without them. To me this is what "Daas Torah" means. It is not Nevuah, crystal ball nor a guaranty that they are right. There is a famous story, I believe with the Chazon Ish and Reb Chaim, where there was a pogrom.. the Chazon Ish said "Mir hubbin a mesorah az Torah iz meigen", we have a Mesorah that Torah will save us" ie: we should therefore stay put... To that Reb Chaim responded, "Ich hub a mesorah az mishis, lofin", I have a Mesorah that when they shoot, run!

    Who is right? They can't both be... they both had as you would say... "Daas Torah" What it means is that both positions have a place in the Torah view but at the end of the day they must use their own experiences and thought process... no guaranty, but I would certainly lend much weight to their position.

  4. Everyone agrees that Rav Salanter worked with modern people in Western Europe so I see no chiddush in the cited passage. The question is not whether he worked with them but how he worked with them.


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