Jewish History Soundbites
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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Modesty & Majesty: The Tolna Dynasty

Modesty & Majesty: The Tolna Dynasty

November 17, 2021

The Tolna chassidic dynasty is a branch of the Chernobyl dynasty founded in Ukraine in the 19th century. Rav Dovid Twersky of Tolna (1808-1882) was one of the most influential leaders of chassidic Ukraine in the mid 19th century, spreading his influence throughout the Kiev area. He was succeeded by his grandson Rav Menachem Nochum, who in turn was succeeded by his three sons, all of whom immigrated to the United States. 

The prominent Tolna Rebbe of modern times was Rav Yochanan Twersky (1906-1999). Presumably the first active Rebbe in Montreal, he had an impact on Canadian Jewry until his move to Israel in the 1950’s. It was there that he modestly acted as a chassid of the Ger Rebbes, while attempting to stay out of the limelight. Despite his attempts, he gained a significant following, and was a beloved leader to his chassidim. He was succeeded by his grandson Rav Yitzchak Menachem Weinberg, the current Tolna Rebbe and by other descendants. 

 

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Rosh Yeshiva & Rebbe: The Pnei Menachem of Ger

Rosh Yeshiva & Rebbe: The Pnei Menachem of Ger

November 11, 2021

Rav Pinchas Menachem Alter (1926-1996), known as the Pnei Menachem of Ger, led an interesting career in public leadership. Born into prewar Polish chassidic aristocracy, he escaped with his father the Ger Rebbe following the outbreak of the war. He eventually became the rosh yeshiva of the flagship Sfas Emes Yeshiva, and later the head of Agudas Yisroel in Israel. 

In his last years, he served as the Rebbe of Ger for just over three years before his passing in 1996. Renowned for his Torah scholarship, warmth, modesty and accessibility, he was beloved well beyond the confines of the Ger court. 

 

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A House Divided: The Partitions of Poland & the Jews

A House Divided: The Partitions of Poland & the Jews

November 3, 2021

The three partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 & 1795 ended the Polish Kingdom (or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), and divided it between Austria, Russia and Prussia. This had far reaching consequences for the largest Jewish community in the world which had resided within the borders of the kingdom. 

Their new rulers desired a more central authority, and much of the Jewish autonomy was curtailed as a result. The Jewish communities of each empire found themselves under new political entities, new laws, new language and culture, and they now were on a different trajectory than their brethren who were on the other side of an international border.

In the last years of the Polish Kingdom the Four Year Sejm took place between 1788-1792. The reforms which were raised in regards to Jews economic opportunity and political status, would echo through the Jewish communities of partitioned Poland throughout the upcoming 19th century. 

 

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According to Rav Tikochinsky…. The Live of Rav Yechiel Michel Tikochinsky

According to Rav Tikochinsky…. The Live of Rav Yechiel Michel Tikochinsky

October 28, 2021

One of the leaders and influential poskim of the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem, Rav Yechiel Michel Tikochinsky (1871-1955) had an outsized impact on the world of halacha, especially in regards to zmanim-  halachic time. As the long-time administrator of the Eitz Chaim Yeshiva and accompanying institutions, he oversaw its move to the new city in Yerushalayim, where it entered an era of expansion and growth.

He pioneered many areas of halacha, including the laws of mourning, shmittah, the halachic international dateline, laws of Jerusalem and the Bais Hamikdash. Having cultivated both a love as well as a keen understanding of astronomy from a young age, he arrived at formulas for calculating the various zmanim in halacha. In 1905 he initiated the publication of what was to became an incredibly influential calendar where he presented his views on zmanim and customs of Jewish life.

 

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The Chief Rabbi: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

The Chief Rabbi: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

October 23, 2021

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (1948-2020) was one of the great figures of recent Jewish history. As Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991-2013, he was the great spokesman for both British Jewry as well as on the larger Jewish stage.

 

Sponsored in tribute to one of the generation's inspiring Torah luminaries - join a special evening of learning and conversation in memory of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks ztz"l upon the occasion of his first yahrzeit - register to watch on Tuesday, October 26 at 7:00 pm EST at ou.org/rabbisacks 

 

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Great American Jewish Cities #19: Boston Part II

Great American Jewish Cities #19: Boston Part II

October 21, 2021

Boston part II is here, with another foray into the history of the Boston Jewish community. As the Jewish community migrated from the West End to Roxbury, Dorchester and eventually Brookline, new institutions were built to accommodate the needs of the growing community. 

Rav Joseph B. and Tonya Soloveitchik established the Maimonides Hebrew Day School, and hired Rabbi Moses Cohen as the principal. Other early rabbis included Rabbi Rephoel Landau, the Tolna Rebbe Rav Meshulam Zusha Twersky, the Boston Rebbe Rav Levi Yitzchak Horowitz, Rav Shlomo Margolis and out in Chelsea was Rabbi Kalman Lichtenstein. Generations of the Feuerstein supported these institutions with their philanthropy as well being leaders in the hospitality that the Jewish community of Boston became renowned for. 

Rav Soloveitchik maintained a yeshiva in town for several years called Heichal Rabbeinu Chaim Halevi, and in the 1950’s Rav Shlomo Margolis assisted with the establishment of a Lakewood yeshiva headed by Rav Leib Heyman which also lasted for several years.

 

Listen to part I of Jewish Boston here: https://jsoundbites.podbean.com/e/great-american-jewish-cities-season-2-1-worcester-boston/

 

This episode has been generously sponsored by https://www.myjewishlineage.com/

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