The first of Tishrei is the yahrzeit of Rav Shmuel Schechter (1915-2000). Born in Quebec, his mother died when he was four or five and he was sent to Baltimore to be raised by her brother who was a Torah educator. When he was thirteen his uncle sent him to New York to learn at Yeshivas Rav Yitzchok Elchonan. While there, he joined his fellow Baltimorean Victor Miller and another Canadian bachur named Nosson Wachtfogel in attending a private shiur on Mesilas Yesharim given by Mr. Yaakov Yosef Herman. Mr. Herman convinced the bachurim to travel to Europe and study in the Mir.
Rav Shmuel’s father paid for him to be tutored in order to raise his level to that of the European Mir students. He stayed in the Mir for four years and received semicha from Rav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, the rosh yeshiva. After Rav Yeruchom Levovitz, the mashgiach of the Mir, died in 1936, he and Rav Nosson Wachtfogel returned to the United States. The following year he married Chava Gordon and then returned to Europe to attend Kelm Talmud Torah under the leadership of Rav Daniel Moshovitz. Rav Nosson joined him there.
After war began in Europe Rav Shmuel’s wife and daughter returned to the United States on the last boat to leave France. He wanted to stay in Europe, but some bachurim in the yeshiva formed a beis din which ruled that he and Rav Nosson, and Rav Nosson’s wife, were required to leave. As Canadian citizens they were at that time British subjects and the British government paid for them to go by train across Russia and then by ship from Vladivostok to Australia. The train was leaving on Shabbos and he went to the Dvar Avraham (Rav Avraham Dov Kahana-Shapiro), who was the rav of Kovno, to ask if he was allowed to board the train on Shabbos. The Dvar Avraham made it clear to him that he was shocked that such a shaila would even be asked as the answer was patently obvious: of course yes. The Board of Governors of the Australian Jewish Community was uncomfortable with the arrival of these fervently religious young men and gave them first-class tickets to the United States.
Arriving in the United States, Rav Shmuel and Rav Nosson founded a kollel named Beth Medrash Govoha in White Plains, N.Y. When Rav Aharon Kotler later arrived, they invited him to become rosh yeshiva. He eventually moved the kollel to Lakewood and expanded it greatly. In 1946 Rav Aharon sent Rav Schechter to Europe to work with the Vaad HaHatzalah to assist survivors. In order to keep himself imbued with the spirit of mussar, he went each month to England to spend time with Rav Eliyahu Dessler. In 1947 Rav Shmuel accompanied Rav Dessler as he moved from England to Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. The Ponevezher Rav offered Rav Shmuel a position in the yeshiva leadership, but he had to turn it down as his wife was nervous about moving to Eretz Yisrael when war was expected to break out.
Rav Shmuel asked the Chazon Ish how much pressure he should put on his wife to get her to change her mind. The Chazon Ish told him that pressuring a spouse is never a good idea. When the Chazon Ish saw that he was upset, he assured Rav Shmuel that he would have a different opportunity to move to Israel. Subsequently, he taught in New York and Boston for close to fifty years.
After his retirement, he and his wife moved to Yerushalayim. There he wrote a commentary on the Orchos Chaim L’HaRosh based on the Kelemer derech. He also published a similar pamphlet on Parshas Vayeitzei, intending to expand it to a mussar commentary on the entire Chumash, but that does not appear to have materialized.
In the early 1980s, he and his wife would frequently spend the winter in St. Louis where this author was attending the Yeshiva Gedolah of St Louis. Rabbi Schechter and this author would learn mishnayos Kodshim every day, in the Kelemer mussar style, which was a unique experience.
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The second of Tishrei is the yahrzeit of Glukel of Hameln (1646-1727). Born into a wealthy family in Hamburg, her father was a diamond dealer, and she had five siblings. Her father made sure that she and her sisters received a Jewish education, and when she was twelve, she was betrothed to Chaim of Hameln. Married at fourteen, the young couple initially lived with his parents. They subsequently moved to Hamburg where Chaim became very wealthy.
Together they had fourteen children, thirteen of whom survived to adulthood. Chaim died in 1689 after which Glukel took over the business. She was a rare woman in those times, traveling through Europe on business and to attend to her social affairs. She kept a diary which records travels to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Vienna, Paris and countless other places.
In 1700 she married Cerf Levy, a banker who was a leader of the community in Metz. She felt that remarrying would help protect her children’s future. Unfortunately, he lost his fortune two years later, and hers as well. After his passing in 1712, she struggled on her own for a few years before moving in with one of her daughters.
She began writing her diary shortly after the passing of her first husband and stopped before marrying Cerf Levy. She then started again after the death of her second husband. They are a rare glimpse into Jewish life in the 17th century and discuss historical events, her business dealings, and family life including the challenge of finding matches for her children. They were written in Yiddish and have been published in several languages.