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September 17, 1982 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1982-09-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Reb Elchonon—Life Story of a Rosh Yeshiva

By ALLEN A. WARSEN

The Mesorah Publica-
tions have added to their
Artscroll a "History Series"
that will include history,
biography and "analysis."
Through this new series,
the publishers hope "to pre-
sent an authentically
Jewish view."
To realize it, they inau-
gurated the series with a
volume titled "Reb Elcho-
non" and subtitled "The Life
and Ideals of Rabbi Elcho-
non Bunim Wasserman of
Baranovich." The book was
adapted from Aaron Soras-
ki's Hebrew biography,
"Ohr (light) Elchonon."
The biography begins
with a description of Reb El-
chonon's family. The son of
Reb Naftali Beinush and
Sheina Rachel, Reb Elcho-
non was born in 1875 in
Briz, a town in the province
of Ponovezh, "That was
blessed with scholarly Jews
who relished Torah study."
In 1890, the family
moved to Boisk, Reb Naf-
tali's birthplace. There he
served, like his father be-
fore him, as a shaman _ in a
local synagogue.
The same year, Reb El-
chonon left home for the re-
nowned Telshe Yeshiva.
There he spent seven years
studying Talmud and re-
lated subjects. There, too, he
became known as "Der
Boisker Illuy" (prodigy).
From there he trans-
ferred to the Brisker
Yeshiva where he studied
under the guidance of Rabbi
Chaim Soloveitchik.
At age 24, Reb Elchonon
married Michle, the daugh-
ter of Rabbi Meir Atlas, the
founder of the Telshe
Yeshiva.
In 1902, he became the
rosh yeshiva in Mtsislavl,
Byelorussia. There, "he re-
vealed himself' not only as
a good administrator, but
also as an outstanding
educator "who impressed
his individual mark upon
his many students." Yet, he
refused the request of some
parents to include Russian
in the curriculum, main-
taining, "Anyone who
wants to know Russian can
do so before entering in the
yeshiva or after leaving it."
Reb Elchonon re-
mained in Mtsislavl until
1904 when he was ap-
pointed head of the
Yeshiva Preparatory
School in Brisk, which he
administered until the
outbreak of World War I
in 1914. That year, the
Czarist war lords expel-
led the Jews from Brisk,
suspecting them of being
German spies.
As a result of the expul-
sion, Reb Elchonon and his
family were forced to move
from town to town to find a
place to live. Finally, they
found a location in
Smilovitz. There Reb El-
chonon became the head of
the yeshiva the Chofetz
Chaim had established.
He managed it until 1921.
Then the Bolshevik com-
missars and especially the
Yevsektsia (Jewish section
of the Communist Party)
threatened to deport him

and his students to Siberia
if he did not close the school.
The Yevsekts behavior,
notes the biographer, re-
calls prophet Isaiah's pro-
nouncement: "Thy de-
stroyers and they that made
thee waste shall go forth
from thee."
Not surprisingly, the
Chofetz Chaim consid-
ered the Yevsektsia as
descended from Amalek,
and Leon Trotsky, whom
he excommunicated, as
the emissary of Satan.
Having no alternative,
Reb Elchonon left the Soviet
Union and returned to Po-
land where he settled in
Baranovich on the Polish-
Soviet border. There he
founded the Ohel Torah
Yeshiva which he headed
for 20 years. There, too, he
became known as an author
of talmudic commentaries.
Among others, he authored
"Koveitz Biurim," "Koveitz
Shiurim" and "Koveitz
Heoros."
Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grod-
zensky, the well-known
Torah authority, expressed
these thoughts about the
last "Koveitz": "I have
examined the `Koveitz
Heoros' and have discovered

profound `heoros' (nota-
tions) there, remarks that
are illuminating. He has
brought up pearls from the
hidden recesses of the sea of
the Talmud. Anyone who
studies them intensively
will find . . . powerfully
stimulating thoughts on
many topics from which the
wise may become even
wiser."
In Baranovich,. Reb El-
chonon participated in
communal affairs and was
the leader of the local
Agudath Israel. He,
moreover, became a promi-
nent member of the
"Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah,"
the leading body of the na-
tional Agudath Israel.
There was a close friend-
ship between the Chofetz
Chaim and Reb Elchonon.
According to his biog-
rapher, Reb Elchonon
regarded the Chofetz
Chaim as "a living Sefer
Torah" and was greatly
influenced by his char-
acter and conduct.
As expected, Reb Elcho-
non joined the "Kodashim
Kollel," an organization
founded by the Chofetz
Chaim for the purpose of re-
viving "The study of the

Friday, September 11, 1982 29

Jerry, Lee &. Kim Gurwin

Wish All Their Friends & Customers

sacrificial service and
thereby preparing
Kohanim to serve in the
Temple" should the
Moshiakh (Messiah) come.
The Chofetz Chaim died
in his home town, Radun, in
1933, mourned by world
Jewry.
. His friend, Reb Elchonon,
died eight years later in the
Holocaust.

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