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The Churban Of Lithuanian Jewry and Its Impact On The Yeshivah World


It’s been over sixty years since a bright and most holy people were butchered, tortured and almost annihilated. We still feel the impact of what was taken from us, but unfortunately, some do not realize the magnitude of the terrible churban that transpired.

One of the projects that captures some of the splendor that once was is Catching Sacred Letters. Catching Sacred Letters is a multimedia project distributed by Mesorah Publications, and is produced by Kol Rom Media. It consists of three interactive cd’s. The cd’s allow you to listen and see the maggid Rabbi Paysach Krohn’s (noted author and lecturer) speeches. In addition, you can view the lectures of guest speakers such as: R’ Shlomo Brevda, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Chodosh, Rabbi Shmuel Avigdor Feivelson and by Rabbi Krohn’s son Rabbi Avraham Zelig Krohn and view maps of the region, beautiful photography, and video footage.

Rabbi Paysach Krohn speaks magnificently. His explanations and observations are filled with so much emotion. There are moments when you can feel the joy and happiness that once filled these cities and holy places as well as the sadness, destruction, tragedies and atrocities that befell these areas. One cannot help but be moved to tears from the pain, suffering and loss that occurred. The music that accompanies these sites will stir your emotions and enrich your learning experience.

Most of the Yeshivah world that we know of today originated from this location and the Talmedei Chachamim that sprouted from there were a light unto Klal Yisroel.

Volozhin was the father of all Yeshivos since it was the first in that region. After being open for sometime, the Russians threatened to close it if secular studies were not included in the curriculum. When the Yeshiva refused, it was shut down. Although, this was a tragedy for the Yeshiva, it was also a good thing because its closure led to the birth of other great Yeshivos such as Mir, Telz, Slobodka, and Kovno etc.

Slabodka – When people hear of Slabodka one of the first things that usually comes to mind is the Alter of Slabodka. The Alter of Slabodka was none other than Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel. The American Yeshivos today owe a deep Hakros Hatov to this Yeshiva and to Harav Nosson Tzvi Finkel. The Alter produced talmidim such as R’ Ruderman, R’ Kamenetsky, R’ Kotler, R’ Miller, & R’ Hutner.

R’ Ruderman – R’ Ruderman was the founder of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Baltimore. The Yeshiva has thousands of alumni and is currently a strong Makom Torah in Baltimore with hundreds of students presently learning.

R’ Ahron Kotler – R Ahron was the founder of the Yeshiva in Lakewood. The Yeshivah has had a great impact on its surroundings and a Torah community has been built around it. Today the Yeshivah is stronger than ever with its Batei Medrashim filled beyond capacity.

R’ Avigdor Miller – R’ Miller influenced thousands of lives with his books and lectures. R’ Miller’s teachings are attracting those that are disconnected but retain the desire to improve . Not only are people learning more, but they are also engaged in perfecting their character. His novel approach is that everyone is capable of excelling in Torah study.

The Slabodka’s Yeshiva line of thinking was very successful because its idea was to focus and build on the positive. This philosophy layed the foundation of what American Yeshivas are built on today.

Radin – Radin is known for being the home of the Chafetz Chaim. Before World War II a yeshiva existed in Radin, but unfortunately, today the building that housed the Yeshiva is now a theater.

The Yeshiva was built with the klal in mind. In Catching Sacred Letters, R’ Feivelson related that when the Yeshiva was built a wealthy donor wanted to sponsor the complete construction of the Yeshiva. He was told he would only be allowed to donate the Mizrach Vant (eastern wall) because the Chafetz Chaim felt that everyone should have a portion in the Yeshiva’s construction.

Kovno – One has to be in awe of the beauty and majesty that is the Kovno Shul.

Kovno was also the home of R’ Avraham Grodzeski, the last mashgiach of the Slabodka Yeshiva. On the CD-ROM we see the last location where R’ Elchonon Wasserman was before the Lithuanians and Germans took him to his death. It was in this very yard where R’ Elchonon was asked to give a shiur on Kiddush Hashem. At first he was reluctant because he said one needs to have a clear mind. An agreement was made that R’ Elchonon would give shiur and R’ Avrohom would say words of chizuk. Only then did he give shiur to the people who hours later together with R’ elchonon were murdered al Kiddush Hashem in Fort nine.

The CD-ROM’s contain information on many other Yeshivas, additional stories of inspiration and profiles of extraordinary personalities. Hopefully in the future we will have the opportunity to explore other towns such as Vilna, Kelm, Mir etc.

One cannot help and wonder if a handful of talmidim (R’ Ruderman, R’ Kamenetsky, R’ Kotler, R’ Miller, R’ Hutner), that survived the destruction of those Yeshivos were able to build Yeshivos that produced thousands of talmidim, imagine if the Yeshivos in Europe would not have been destroyed and all of those talmidim would have survived. Today there would have been many more Yeshivos. Catching Sacred Letters reminds us of an important lesson from Slobodka – An individual’s power of achievment! If five individuals could change the world and affect thousands upon thousands of lives, then we must utilize the gifts Hashem has given us to inspire others.

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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/scitech/electronics-today/the-churban-of-lithuanian-jewry-and-its-impact-on-the-yeshivah-world-2/2005/11/19/

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