Jewish History Soundbites
Wise Man of Hungary: Rav Yehuda Aszod

Wise Man of Hungary: Rav Yehuda Aszod

January 22, 2022

Rav Yehuda Aszod (1796-1866) was one of the architects of the emerging Hungarian Orthodoxy of the 19th century. A student of the Maharam Banet, he went to serve in the rabbinate and as a rosh yeshiva in several towns, the most prominent of which was in Dunaszerdahely in the Austrian Empire. 

Ideologically positioned between neo Orthodoxy as represented by Rav Ezriel Hildesheimer and Hungarian Ultra-Orthodoxy as represented by Rav Hillel Lichtenstein, Rav Yehuda Aszod emerged as a leader of mainstream orthodoxy along with his colleague the Ksav Sofer. For decades he confronted modernist trends, any assault on tradition, and engaged in polemics with assimilationists and reformists alike. In 1864 he headed a delegation which met with Emperor Franz Jozef I in an unsuccessful attempt to block the opening of a reformist rabbinical seminary.

 

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A Dazzling Light: The Life & Impact of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

A Dazzling Light: The Life & Impact of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

January 15, 2022

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (1934-1983) was a dazzling light on the Jewish history scene of the 20th century. With family origins in Thessaloniki, Greece, he was born in the Bronx, and eventually studied at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Returning to the US he became a physicist and then a pulpit rabbi, before entering the world of Jewish outreach.

In his later years he maintained a prodigious literary output, authoring a large amount of works across the gamut of Jewish thought, mysticism, chassidic thought and practical Jewish observance. Much of this was commissioned by NCSY, which is where he did much of his kiruv activities. His tragic passing at the young age of 48 cut short his life work and accomplishments, but his impact continues until today through his many published works. 

 

This episode has been sponsored by NCSY in honor of the republication of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s books. Connect more to Mitzvos and Yiddishkeit with Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Zt”l’s republished and enhanced books. The library of 10 books covers the deeper meaning of some of the most important mitzvos. A project of NCSY in conjunction with Artscroll.

For More Information and to Buy the Books:

https://go.ncsy.org/rVOC

 

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The Czars & The Jews Part I

The Czars & The Jews Part I

January 9, 2022

Following the partitions of Poland in the last quarter of the 18th century, the largest Jewish community in the world found themselves under the rule of the Romanov dynasty in the Russian Empire. Each Czar formulated a distinct policy in regards to the Jewish population, and many of these policies, along with the Jewish community’s reaction, often has ramifications until this very day.

Catherine the Great was czarina during the years of the partition itself, and she commenced her Jewish policy influenced by the ideas of enlightened absolutism. Jews were granted partial emancipation but the beginnings of their confinement to what would become known as the Pale of Settlement began as well. At the turn of the 18th-19th centuries, Alexander I assumed power, and he initially was viewed as a somewhat enlightened ruler, primarily due to the opportunities afforded through his ‘Jew constitution’ promulgated in 1804. 

He was succeeded by Czar Nicholas I, who went down in history as a sworn enemy of the Jews and an evil ruler. It was under his watch that the infamous cantonist decrees took place. He also attempted to meddle with internal Jewish affairs by reforming the educational institutions and by the annulment of the kahal communal structure. 

 

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The Roar of the Lion: The Life of Rav Leib Malin Part I

The Roar of the Lion: The Life of Rav Leib Malin Part I

January 2, 2022

Prewar student of Rav Yerucham Levovitz and the Brisker Rov, leader during the Mir Yeshiva’s wartime escape to Shanghai, and postwar builder of Bais Hatalmud in Brooklyn, Rav Leib Malin (1906-1962) was the ‘Lion of the Mir’. 

In part 1 of examining his life and accomplishments, we examine his family background, leadership role in the escape to Shanghai, and his replanting Torah through his Bais Hatalmud yeshiva in the postwar United States. The unique circumstances of this rebuilding attempt, made his all encompassing vision of what a yeshiva is a historic landmark in the role that the yeshiva institution was to play in revitalizing traditional society. No longer to be limited to an educational role, a yeshiva was to be a lifelong communal affiliation, a revolutionary role which has arguably bore fruit through the contemporary yeshiva community worldwide.

 

This episode has been sponsored by 20 Minute Daf. A daf yomi shiur led by Reb Shaul Greenwald, 20 minute daf is where you feel the geshmak of Daf Yomi. In just a little over 20 minutes, you'll get a clear and thorough explanation of the sugya. Listen to 20 Minute Daf on all podcast platforms, WhatsApp, and at 20minutedaf.com

 

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The Emergence of a Leader: The Life of the Chazon Ish Part III

The Emergence of a Leader: The Life of the Chazon Ish Part III

December 25, 2021

In part 3 of the story of Rav Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz (1878-1953), the Chazon Ish, his path is traced from his relative obscurity to his emergence as a leader. From expressing halachic positions for the Poalei Agudas Yisrael agricultural settlements, to building yeshivos across the new yishuv, the Chazon Ish soon emerged as a well known posek with the psak he issued regarding the International Dateline. 

While losing much of his family during the Holocaust and suffering other personal challenges during the 1940’s, the decade saw him become an address for many seeking his advice and blessing as his fame began to spread. With the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the Chazon Ish was at the cusp of his final position in the Jewish world - an undisputed leader.

 

Check out the earlier episodes about the Chazon Ish here:

Part 1: https://jsoundbites.podbean.com/e/a-guiding-light-the-life-of-the-chazon-ish-part-i/

Part 2: https://jsoundbites.podbean.com/e/a-guiding-light-the-life-of-the-chazon-ish-part-ii/

 

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Iron Yid: The Story of Zishe Breitbart

Iron Yid: The Story of Zishe Breitbart

December 20, 2021

Zishe or Siegmund Breitbart (1893-1925) was a circus strongman, and a Jewish folk hero of his day. Having grown up in an observant home in Strykov in Poland, his remarkable strength eventually led him to the Busch circus in Germany, where he toured the world, bending iron, and holding incredible weights on his chest, among other feats of strength. 

To the Jewish masses of Eastern Europe, he was a superhero. He was proud of his Jewish identity and never shied away even in the face of anti-Semitism. His generosity to Jewish causes knew no bounds, and he continued to affiliate with his community. At age 32, at the height of his fame, a work accident led to an infection and he passed away in Berlin in 1925. 

 

This episode is sponsored by Genazym Auction House in honor of its upcoming auction on Tuesday, December 28, 2021, 12:00 PM EST. Check out the catalog for the opportunity to own a piece of Jewish history. A tangible piece of our heritage is just a bid away: https://bit.ly/3Fd4T12

 

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The Haflaah: The Life & Legacy of Rav Pinchas Horowitz

The Haflaah: The Life & Legacy of Rav Pinchas Horowitz

December 12, 2021

Rav Pinchas Horowitz (1731-1805), known by his most enduring literary work ‘the Hafla’ah’, was unique in the respect that the varied aspects of his legacy enjoyed a broad consensus across the Jewish world. He served for 33 years at the helm of the Frankfurt rabbinate. His works Hafla’ah, Makneh and others on Shas have become classics in the yeshiva world, while his Torah commentary Panim Yafos enjoys enduring popularity as well. His relationship with the Maggid of Mezritch and the level of Rav Pinchas’s identity as a chassid has been a matter of dispute, and has also come to define his legacy. 

 

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Come on and Ride the Train: Railroads & Jews

Come on and Ride the Train: Railroads & Jews

December 7, 2021

The development of the railroad and the laying of rail track across the Russian Empire in the late 19th century, had a tremendous impact on traditional Jewish life in the Pale of Settlement. The railroad brought economic changes, implosion of communal structures and challenges to traditional norms. It enabled information to travel and for the spread of ideas, and for isolated shtetl’s to have access to wider society. 

Among other things, the development of the railroad in Russia enabled the spread of anti-Semitism and pogroms. It also played a crucial role in facilitating the Great Immigration. Without the railroad, emigrating would be relegated to an unachievable dream for most. With the railroad, the cost and time for travel was significantly reduced. 

 

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Chabad & Zionism Part I: The Rashab

Chabad & Zionism Part I: The Rashab

December 1, 2021

Rav Sholom Dovber Schneerson (1860-1920), better known as the Rashab, as the fifth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, was one of the leaders of Russian Jewry at a time when it confronted many challenges of modernity. One of those challenges was the new Jewish nationalism as expressed in the nascent Zionist movement in the late 1890’s. The Rashab decided to confront what he understood to be a danger to traditional Judaism, by initiating a project which would present a united Orthodox front in opposition to Zionism.

To that end he partnered with Yaakov Lifshitz and the ‘Lishka Hashechora’ in Kovno. In January 1900, a pamphlet entitled Ohr Layesharim was published, which included a letter of the Rashab clarifying his opposition to Zionism. He expressed theological opposition - evoking for the first time the violation of the ‘three oaths’ by attempting to force the redemption prior to Moshiach’s arrival. He also expressed concern regarding the secular nature of the Zionist leadership, and even raised practical challenges the movement would confront which he believed would prevent its goals from being realized.

 

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The Legacy of the Vilna Gaon

The Legacy of the Vilna Gaon

November 25, 2021

The Vilna Gaon, or the Gra, or Hagaon Hachassid, were just several of the titles by which Rav Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman (1720-1797) was known during his lifetime and to posterity. It would be difficult to find many others who had the influence and impact on Jewish life which the Gaon had and continues to have on Jewish society. This episode will examine some of the aspects of the Vilna Gaon’s legacy, both during his own lifetime and through the more than two centuries since his passing. 

 

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