Friday, March 09, 2007

Introduction to the thought of Rav Mordechai Elon Shli”ta- Part 1

Uniting Our Ideas
Rav Mordechai Elon is considered one of the most charismatic Rabbi today. Old and young, religious and secular, right-wing and left-wing, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, all come to learn Torah from his lips, and the Rav welcomes them all. Thousands of people listened to his shiurim on a weekly basis, in person, on TV, on the radio or on the internet. He related to every person on a deep personal level in a very special way.

To me, Rav Elon is also my rabbi. I have learned so much from his unique approach to Torah! I have thus decided to periodically share some of his Torahs in order for everyone to gain from it. In my old blog, I attempted to organize his Torah in a systematic series of "Introduction to the Thought of Rav Elon". Unfortunately, I am not yet at a level of understanding to really be able to organize it systematically. Rather, I will be sharing random ideas with you which have touched my soul and am sure will touch yours too.

Rav Elon once got all the chutsnikim (people coming to study in Israel from outside of Israel) in his office for a shiur. In that shiur, he started explaining what was the foundation behind his Torah.

Rav Elon brought us back to 4 different rooms, of 4 different guedolim, all in 1946, a few months after the end of the Second World War. These Guedolim were:
Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook
Rav Elazar Menachem Shach
Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Lubavitch
Rav Yossef Dov Soloveitchik

Rav Elon told us that these were 4 torah giants, 4 incredible leaders, who were now faced with the greatest crises which has ever befallen the Jewish People: the Holocaust. How were they to react? What would be the response? Each of them had a different response and Rav Elon detailed each other them.

Rav Tzvi Yehuda Hakohen Kook said: Now, we realize the importance of Eretz Israel! Now we see how important it is for us to be independent as a nation and to work to bring forward the mashiach. Enough with all this waiting now is the time to go back and build ourselves as a nation on our own land. The answer is Eretz Israel.

Rav Shach disagreed, because he would have said: Erets Israel? The Holocaust just happened and you are thinking of Erets Israel? What about Torah! You will go to the army – Bitul Torah. You will work the fields – Bitul Torah. Erets Israel is not the priority.
Rav Tzvi Yehuda would have answered him: This is not bitul torah, it is torat chayim!

The Lubavitcher Rebbe would have asked Rav Tzvi Yehuda: But what about all the Jews who won’t come with you to Erets Israel? What will happen to them? You’re abandoning them? We need to work on them!
Rav Tzvi Yehuda would have answered: If we build Erets Israel and bring the Mashiach, they will come.

This was Rav Tsvi Yehuda’s position.

Rav Elazar Menachem Shach had another response. He said: The destruction which happened in the Holocaust was not only of Jewish People, but also of Torah. How many books were burned? How many talmidei Chachamim were killed? What we need to do is build some Yeshivot in order to rebuild the World of Torah, this is the priority!

Rav Tzvi Yehuda would have asked him: What about Erets Israel? This is such an important principle!
Rav Shach would say: True, it is important, but the priority is Torah. We’ll live in Israel, open our yeshivot there. But learning torah is more important than going to the army for now!

The Lubavitcher Rebbe would have asked him: What about the Jews who do not know Torah? You cannot close yourself up!
Rav Shach would answer him: We cannot teach Torah if we do not know torah. The priority of our generation is Torah!

Rav Soloveitchik would have asked him: What about parnassa? Once generation of survivors in Kollel with 3 kids is ok, but afterwards, if you start the trend, it will become impossible!
Rav Shach would have answered: True, but we cannot think of the future. Today, the World of Torah is destroyed, it must be rebuilt.

This was Rav Shach’s position.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe has another response. He thought: The Holocaust also made us realize the value of every single Jew. I refuse to loose one more Jew, not to the hands of Nazis and not to the hands of Assimilation. The response is Shlichut to every Jew in the world, complete messirut Nefesh for every individual Jew.

Rav Tzvi Yehuda would have asked him: But what about Erets Israel? Why don’t you make Aliyah?
The Lubavircher Rebbe would have answered: If I made Aliyah, all my schlichim would understand the value of Israel. Do you know how hard it is to go on shlichut when you know what Erets Israel is? Its impossible! I need to show the example and be on shlichut myself!

Rav Shach would have asked him: What about Talmud Torah! You send ignorant people to teach torah! They should learn!
The Lubavitcher Rebbe would have answered: True, they are not the biggest Talmidei Chachamim, but they have the biggest ahavat Israel. If they approach Jews, Jews will listen, and this will eventually make for more Talmud Torah!

This was Rav Menachem Mendel Shneerson’s position.
Rav Yosef Dov Solovetchik has a different answer. He realized the important of fitting Jewish Life into the modern world for Judaism to survive. His priority was to get people who could be Shomer Shabbat, and work in a modern world. We need to build Yeshiva University!

Rav Tzvi Yehuda would have asked him: But what about Eretz Israel? Why not build YU in Erets Israel?
Rav Soloveitchik would answer: I love Erets Israel, and I agree with Zionism, but right now, America is the centre of Jewish life so we need YU there. I will tell my student to go live in Israel!

Rav Shach would have asked: What about Talmud Torah?
Rav Soloveitchik would answer: I know, you are right. But what is Talmud Torah without Parnassa? You need to create a realizable balance!

This was Rav Yosef B. Soloveitchik's Response.

Each Rabbi with his own answer. History has shown us that no one was wrong. Rav Shach built the greatest yeshivot. Rav Soloveitchik lead YU. The Lubavitcher Rebbe brought thousands back to teshuva. Rav Tsvi Yehuda created yeshivot hesder where army and yeshiva are combined, settlements where Erets Israel is inhabited etc…

Now, a generation later, Rav Elon told us it is the time to bring all of these ideologies together. For the previous generation, these leaders needed to contrast each other because they felt their responses were urgent. Now, we need to come together to bring out the true torah ideology which is not limited to a response to the Holocaust. It is the time for us to learn the love of Torah from Rav Shach, the messirut nefesh (personal sacrifice) from the Chabad Rebbe, the balance between the secular and religious world from Rav Soloveitchik and the love of Erets Israel from Rav Tsvi Yehuda.

When all these messages come together, the one strong message of Gueoula will be present in the world and we will finally be able to rebuild the Beit Hamikdah.

Bimhera Beyamenu!


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