Volume 38 Number 49
                 Produced: Tue Feb  4  6:00:43 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

The Rav & Medinat Yisrael
         [Yisrael and Batya Medad]
Rav and Medinat Yisrael-- Part II
         [Mike Gerver]
Rav Story
         [Lenny Levy]
Schacter and Schachter, Soloveitchik and Soloveichik
         [David Olivestone]


From: Yisrael and Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 00:22:24 +0200
Subject: The Rav & Medinat Yisrael

Further to Mike Gerver's posting on the Rav and Medinat Yisrael-- Part
I, let me briefly mention a personal experience (and if there are any
out there who can add details or correct me, please do).

YU's student council had decided to invite Lord Caradon, the UK UN
representative, to speak at the university in 1968.  The Betar club
opposed this, set up a petition table to collect signatures, an opposing
table of "free speech" popped up next to us and the confrontation was

As a result of the activity, and the fear that YU would be in an
intolerable PR position, we of Betar were invited to confer with the
Rav.  As we were TI boys, our entrance to his office was met by sneers
from his Shi'ur students (they assumed that if not on our way out of the
college, we were in for a tongue-lashing).  About an hour later, we
walked out with the Rav basically committing himself to undue the
invitation (which was accomplished) but with a promise to publicly air
his views on the matter of territorial withdrawal.  He accepted our
reasoning about the situation in that if Caradon came, the scene would
get very messy.

This was causing quite a stir as since the issue of missionaries almost
a decade earlier, the Rav had really never spoken out specifically on a
political (rather than a Mizrachi religious concern) question.  His talk
was broadcast over the university radio and several of his former
students took pains to come.

If I am not mistaken, it was then that he expounded on the parallel of
the doctor being the expert on breaking Shabbat to heal by insisting
that military persons are those one goes to on matters of security.  Of
course, he was not aware of the intense politicization of the IDF (I
presume so for otherwise, why would he set such a parameter) but it was
quite an event (in the 1969 yearbook, p. 31, there's a picture of the
table and a young me).

Yisrael Medad


From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 15:30:50 EST
Subject: Rav and Medinat Yisrael-- Part II

(This is a continuation of my previous e-mail summarizing the talk given
on "The Rav and Medinat Yisrael" by Rabbi J. J. Shachter on motzei
shabbat, Jan.  25, at Lechu Neranana in Raanana.)

[I forgot to mention in Part I that Elie Wiesel's interview with the Rav
appeared in the weekend supplement to Yediot Acharonot, Nov. 13, 1959
(12 Cheshvan 5720). The letter from R. Chaim Soloveitchik to R. Yaakov
Moshe Karpas was published in "Or La-yesharim," Warsaw, 5660. Material
on R.  Velvil's opposition to Zionism is found in "Sefer Uvdot
ve-Hanhagot la-Beit Brisk," by Shimon Yosef Miller, Jerusalem,
5760. Rabbi Shachter also gave a general reference to an article by Dov
Shvartz in "Emunah bi-Zmanim Mishtanim," Jerusalem, 5757, pages

In 1967, not long after the Six Day War, the Rav received a letter from
a Mrs. Miriam Shilo, a teacher in Israel who was teaching her class "Kol
Dodi Dofek." She apparently did not know the Rav personally, but wrote
to him asking why, given the points he makes in "Kol Dodi Dofek," he
didn't make aliyah himself, or at least visit Israel, especially now
after the Six Day War. The Rav's reply to her was published in Hershel
Shachter's "Mipninei HaRav", page 199. Rabbi J. J. Shachter described
this as a very important letter. The Rav apologizes for not writing
sooner, but says that he is still in mourning for his wife, and it is
still very difficult for him to write. He says he agrees with what
Mrs. Shilo wrote and willingly accepts her "tochecha." He says there are
many reasons why he has delayed coming to Israel, but that this is no
excuse, that "I am guilty." Indeed, he writes, he and his wife had
planned to come to Israel for a visit of about six months.  Now, he
says, many of his friends, both in Israel and abroad, have suggested he
should visit Israel. But in his present emotional state, sunk as he is
in mourning, he feels that he cannot go up to Jerusalem.  Also, he has
teaching to do in New York, and that is important too.

In an article that appeared in HaTzofeh, 14 Nisan 5730 (April 20, 1970),
the Rav was said to be planning to come to Israel with 50 students. In
an interview published in Maariv on 16 Cheshvan 5738 (October 28, 1977),
the Rav says that, b'li neder, he will visit Israel the following
summer. But he never visited Israel again.

In 1941(?), at an Agudah convention, the Rav gave a hesped for R. Chaim
Ozer Grodzinski. At that time, he was still on the Moetzes Gedolei Torah
of Agudah, which was anti-Zionist. By 1944, he was already associated
with Mizrachi, whose religious Zionist views were so strongly criticized
by his grandfather R. Chaim of Brisk. Why did he change his views? He
explains his reasons in a talk he gave to Mizrachi, published in
"Chamesh Drashot", Jerusalem, 5734, pages 24-25. He says that there was
no one in R. Chaim's generation who loved Eretz Yisrael more than
R. Chaim. No one who did not hear R. Chaim pray "Uvekhen pachadkha" on
Rosh Hashanah, who did not see him, after the avodah on Yom Kippur, say
"Ashrei ayin r'ata kol eleh" can know what real Ahavat Zion is. But
there was no connection between the Ahavat Zion of R. Chaim of Brisk,
and the Zionism of Chaim Weizmann, which R. Chaim denounced in his book
"Masah Uma`as." But in the end, the Rav says, he decided that, like
Yosef in his dispute with his brothers, it is necessary to be engaged
with the world, and Mizrachi's approach is correct.

The Rav's 1956 essay "Kol Dodi Dofek," reprinted in "Fate and Destiny"
(Hoboken, NJ, 2000), pages 22-25, uses the first few psukim of Shir
Hashirim, perek 5, as a taking off point for an argument in a defense of
Zionism. The lover, symbolizing G-d, whom the beloved, symbolizing the
Jewish people, has longed for for many years, unexpectedly knocks on the
door of his beloved's tent in the middle of the night, begging her to
let him in. But she is suddenly too tired to get up and open the
door. When she finally does open the door, it is too late, and he is
gone, and her long years of seeking for him begin again. In "Kol Dodi
Dofek," ["The voice of my beloved knocks"], the Rav uses the knocking on
the door as a metaphor for the unexpected opportunity that Hashem has
granted the Jews to establish the State of Israel.  He describes six
different "knocks on the door" associated with the founding of the
State. One of these "knocks" is the refutation of the Christian idea
that the low status of Jews in the world is a proof that Christianity
has replaced Judaism in G-d's plan for the world. The Rav was frequently
accosted by missionaries in the 1940s, who could see by the way he
dressed that he was a rabbi, trying to make that argument. The first
part of "Kol Dodi Dofek" deals with our response to suffering, and says
that we have to hear G-d knocking, we cannot ignore the plight of

Rabbi Shachter thought that the Rav chose Shir Hashirim as the starting
point for his defense of Zionism in "Kol Dodi Dofek," because a pasuk
from Shir Hashirim, "Hishb`ati etchem banot Yerushalayim ba-tzva'ot o
ba-ayalot ha-sadeh..." in perek 2, was the basis for the "3 oaths" in
Ketubot 111, which was frequently used as an argument against Zionism.

In "Chamesh Drashot" (Jerusalem, 5734), pages 89-90, the Rav discusses
how one should relate halachically to the Israeli flag. Although in
general the Torah does not attach value to such things, the Israeli flag
has acquired kedusha because of the thousands of Jews, religious and
non-religious, who died defending Israel in the War of Independence, and
it must be treated with respect. Just as someone who has died al kiddush
Hashem must be buried in his blood-stained clothes, which have acquired
kedusha as a result of the act of kiddush Hashem, so, kal ve-chomer [all
the more so] the Israeli flag has acquired kedusha.

On page 75 of "Chamesh Drashot," the Rav asks how Orthodox Judaism
should relate to the State of Israel. He says that, answering for
himself at least, the issue is simple: G-d formed the State, so how can
someone who is only flesh and blood oppose it?  The notes Rabbi Shachter
handed out at his talk included also quotes from page 23 and page 109 of
"Chamesh Drashot," and page 69 of "Reflections of the Rav," dealing with
the hashgacha of Hashem that was involved in the State of Israel coming
into existence.

In "Halachic Man" the Rav says that halachic man must be engaged in the
real world, and must bring Torah into the world, and that the State of
Israel is an expression of this.  His brother R. Aaron Soloveitchik zt"l
also said somewhere that, to the Rav, Israel was a concrete example of
Jews' engagement with the world.

Rabbi Shachter quoted Rabbi Walter Wurzberger zt"l as saying that the
Rav's attitude toward Israel was completely opposed to messianism, to
the idea that the founding of the State was an initial step to the geula
[final redemption]. Thus the Rav did not approve of Gush Emunim. He even
opposed, on halachic grounds, saying the tefillah for the State of
Israel in shul on Shabbat morning, which only speaks of the State as
"reishit tzmichat geulateinu" [the beginning of the sprouting of our
redemption]. Rabbi Shachter, knowing this, assumed that the tefillah for
the State of Israel would not be said at the Shabbat morning minyan held
at Maimonides School, a minyan that the Rav started in 1962, and which
generally did things according to his minhag. When Rabbi Shachter was
appointed to his position as director of the Soloveitchik Institute a
couple of years ago, and took over as rabbi of the Maimonides School
Shabbat minyan, he was surprised to find that they were saying the
tefillah for the State of Israel. He asked someone why, and the answer
was interesting. One Shabbat morning, when the Rav was still alive and
in good health, someone started saying the tefillah for the State of
Israel. The Rav turned to someone next to him and said {Rabbi Shachter
imitated the Rav's accent) "You would have thought they would have asked
me!"  That was all. He didn't make any attempt to stop them from saying
the tefillah for the State of Israel, and didn't think it was his place
to ask the congregation not to say it if they wanted to.

There were a few questions from the audience at the end of Rabbi
Shachter's talk.

Q: Was the Rav disillusioned by Israel in his later years?

A: R. Lichtenstein wrote an article railing against people who
interpreted the Rav's opposition to saying Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut as
anti-Zionist. It was strictly a halachic issue. It is true that the Rav
was frequently negative about the Israeli government, especially
Ben-Gurion, and developments in Israel, including the lack of influence
of religious Zionism.  But he clearly separated his opinion of
particular policies from his support of the concept of the State of
Israel, and his relationship to the State of Israel. He felt that the
State was a means to bring Jews closer to Torah.

Q: How did the Rav's philosophy of religious Zionism compare to that of
Rav Kook?

A: The Rav met Rav Kook in 1935. He once wrote in a footnote, "I don't
really understand Rav Kook."  Apparently they had very different
conceptions of religious Zionism.

I have 8 pages of notes that Rabbi Shachter handed out before the talk,
with the various newspaper articles, letters, and essays mentioned in
the talk.  I'm not sure of the best way to distribute them to anyone who
is interested in seeing them. Maybe I should scan them and Avi could
make them available online? Would that cause copyright problems?
Alternatively, if there aren't too many people who want them, I guess I
could xerox them and mail them to people who want them. Many of the
references, of course, are to books that are readily available in
bookstores or in libraries, but that's not true of the book published in
Warsaw in 1900, or the old newspaper articles.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: <LennyLevy@...> (Lenny Levy)
Subject: Rav Story

According to my father A"H the story related by MJ Gerver happened not
in the Rav's shiur but in Rav Shatzkes's Z"L shiur

R' Yussel Wermuth had prepared the shiur every day and each day when the
rebbe asked "Ver zul zuggen dem heintigen shiur" Wermuth volunteered to
say the shiur, but the rebbe always chose someone else

One day Wermuth was unprepared and when the rebbe asked his daily
question, he, of course, didn't volunteer.

Whereupon the rebbe said " zul takeh Wermuth zuggen dem heintige shiur"

Wermuth quickly replied "Rebbe! Wermuth iz nish du heint"

So the rebbe said "den zugt dir"

Lenny Levy


From: David Olivestone <davido@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 21:22:37 -0500
Subject: Schacter and Schachter, Soloveitchik and Soloveichik

In the interests of absolute accuracy, always of concern to the members
of this list, may I point out the following spelling errors in Mike
Gerver's report of a talk in Raanana about Rav Soloveitchik, zt"l:

The Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Institute, in Brookline, MA, is headed
by its dean, Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter. Note that there is no second
"h" in Schacter (unlike in the name of Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rosh
Yeshiva at RIETS). Incidentally, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, who spells his
first name without a "c", should not be confused with Rabbi Dr. Jacob
J. Schacter's father, Rabbi Herschel Schacter, who does use the "c".

Additionally, for reasons which are not clear to me, R. Joseph
B. spelled Soloveitchik with a "t", whereas his brother, R. Ahron, zt"l,
whom Mike quotes, spelled it without the "t" (Soloveichik).

By the way, anyone who would like to hear more of R. Schacter on R.
Soloveitchik can visit www.ou.org to order (either or both) tapes or a
video of the Commemoration of the Rav's 100th birthday and 10th yahrzeit
at the recent OU Convention. Besides R. Schacter, the other speakers
were Julius Berman and Rabbis Hershel Schachter, Kenneth Brander,
Menachem Genack, Aaron Rakeffet, Fabian Schonfeld and Dr. David Shatz.

David Olivestone


End of Volume 38 Issue 49