Of the natives of Kobrin was especially famous in the world of Torah Rabbi Yakov David Wilowski, who was known in the world of Rabbinate and in the circle of Yeshivot as the Ridbaz. Rabbi Yakov David was born in the year 1845 to a simple man by the name of R' Velvel. He was a religious man who also knew a little bit of studies. He lived at the end of town behind Ratner Street. He was a butcher. He bought a calf in the market every Thursday, butchered it and divided the meat among the people of the town. Despite his poverty, R' Velvel sent his son Yakov David to the best teachers, together with the sons of the rich people. He gave of his poor bread to pay the salary of the teachers as if he were one of the honored homeowners. In his youth R' Yakov David studied day and night in the Ratner synagogue and several years hence he became famous as a real and distinct scholar in the neighborhood near and far.
His first position as a Rabbi was in a small town, Izballin (Velkovisk), that was also the first post of Rabbi held by Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan from Kovna. The books that he printed during that era, Migdal David and. Chana David, in the years 1874 and 1876, made him a great name among the district students. He became the Rabbi to the congregation in the town of Bobroisk. He also excelled as a famous preacher and his warm sermons attracted great audiences and he was very much respected in the eyes of his congregation.
At the same time he printed his essay, but it was his answers to some scholarly questions that brought the attention of students of the Torah. But then there was strife between him and the Rabbi of the Chassidim, Rabbi Shmaryahu Noah Shneerson. The quarrel engulfed both congregations, so much so that there were special butcher shops for the Chassidim and others for those who opposed them.
From Brobroisk he left to work in Vilna but even there he did not find peace.
He found a flat in Polotzk and then he took the seat of the Rabbinate in the
city of Slotzk as a deputy to R' Yasha Bear Solovietzik, who was the head of
the Rabbinic court before he became a Rabbi in Brisk D'Lita. In Slotzk he had
already been a Rabbi and the head of the court for several years, but even here
he did not find complete rest. There was a big quarrel between him and the
other local Rabbi, Rabbi Meir Feimer. In the year 1897, he established a great
Yeshiva in Slotzk and he invited Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer from another
Yeshiva to come and be the head of his Yeshiva and its director.
In the year 1899 he created a lot of attention in the world of the Torah with the printing in Jerusalem by the Slotzk Rabbi of the interpretations that were printed before and added to the Jerusalem interpretation. R' Yakov David left for America to distribute his essay there. He stayed there several years and was even for a time a Rabbi in Chicago. In America he printed another essay which was an interpretation of the books of Genesis and Exodus. Also, he wrote an interpretation to another book by Rabbi Israel Prush from Shklov which was dedicated to matters of commandments which had to do with the land.
In the year 1905 he came to settle in the land of Israel and he settled in Safed. There he established a Yeshiva and he was helped with this by his father-in-law Rabbi Joseph Kanvitch. The Ridbaz was naturally a person with a warm heart and whatever he found to be the truth according to his understanding he kept with great passion and zealousness. This trait later caused him to suffer at the hands of those who forbade any work during the year of the Shmita. The zealots of Jerusalem found in him a supporter and a helper to oppose R' Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook.
His scholarly Torah work created attention among the important investigators and researchers. We find mention of his important work in two scholarly books. They are by Professor Levi Ginzburg and Professor Shaul Liberman, both of them teachers of Talmud in the school for Rabbis' named after Schechter in New York in the U.S.A. The first one, in his introduction, New Interpretations in the Yerushalmi wrote about the new additions to the Ridbaz that he is a great debater. Although some of his arguments and debates are not exactly connected in many places his discoveries are not exactly new because they were already mentioned by other people, still there is a lot to be learned from his interpretations.
Rabbi Shaul Liberman wrote in his book about the essay of the Ridbaz, In a
great interpretation of R' Yakov David from Slotzk we found some good and
enlightening interpretations, especially in some sections. The Ridbaz died in
1913 in the town of Safed, and there he was buried. He was eulogized
appropriately in Jewish congregations. The mourning was especially great in his
town of Safed, and also in Jerusalem.
A lot of people attended those assemblies the day he was mourned and seventh day of Tishrei of that year in the great central synagogue in the old city of Jerusalem. This was after a protest assembly of all the Jews of Jerusalem against the blood libel of Mendel Beilis in Russian Kiev. Rabbi Yitzchak Nissenboim wrote about him with the words, With his death our people lost a great genius in the Torah. He was merciful and he appreciated every student with the warmth of his heart.
One of his brothers from Kobrin was Rabbi Chaim Mendel who was older than him
by several years. He already clung to Chassidism. He had excellent talent and
was one of the best Gemara teachers in the city.
When Rabbi Yakov David of Slotzk took the chair of the Rabbinate in Brobroisk there were in town two other Rabbis, R' Shmaria Noah, the Rabbi of the Chassidim, and another Rabbi whom Rabbi Yakov David was not pleased with. Both of the Rabbis would usually come out wearing stremlach (fur-trimmed hats) and Rabbi Yakov David would not wear a stremel. He used to say that there were three traits to the Rabbis of Brobroisk. A Rabbi with a stremel, a Rabbi without a stremel and a stremel without a Rabbi.
When Rabbi Yakov David took the chair of the Rabbinate in Slotzk he was not
pleased with his congregation. He complained to the people of Slotzk that they
were not giving him enough honor and were really causing him grief. Our
Rabbi, the good people of the town asked. If he is not happy with the town,
why does he stay there and not move to another town? And he told them, There
are seven compartments in hell. And why so? Why not just one compartment with
hell tortures to pay the wicked? This is to tell you that when the evil person
gets accustomed to the compartments and to the torture then they are not as
difficult for him to endure. That is why from compartment to compartment there
are new kinds of tortures to make it worse. So the same with me, he said.
Slotzk is hell to me but I am already used to it and to its tortures. With
another town it will be a new hell and new tortures.
Rabbi Yakov David of Slotzk was not only great in the Torah but was also very good in preaching. His mouth produced curls when he spoke in public or mourned a scholar who had died. His words entered the heart and impressed the listener. He talked about the great loss for the generation. He called for weeping and mourning. But the assembly would not even shed one tear. When he finished and left the stage they asked him, Rabbi, why was this mourning not successful? And he said to them, All my power is only in the opening of the barrel, but what can I do if the barrel is empty?
When Rabbi Yakov David was asked to go to Vilna to become the deputy local Rabbi he was still very young. One of his close associates said, Teach us Rabbi: How did you achieve such greatness so early? And why should you be so surprised? said the Rabbi. I wanted to have the crown of the deputy of the local Rabbi in Vilna and if I and my wish are here, everything is here.
Rabbi Yakov David of Slotzk used to say, How many measures of haughtiness this generation received. You ask a person, 'What are you studying?' and he says, 'Bavli'. Well this is not too haughty. If he said, 'Nezikin', well, he has some measure of humility. If he says, 'Baba Kama', I wonder how a person could study all six parts of the Mishna all at once, or even all of one part, or even all of one section. I know that a person should learn one page and then another page, but these who are of inferior heart in this generation cannot but learn the whole six sections together.
A Chassid told R' Yakov David of Slotzk, I was once in the cemetery in Brisk. I came to visit the grave of the Tzadik of Trisk. I looked and I was surprised. The grave of the Tzadik did not have anyone on any side, while the grave of R' Yossi-Bear was surrounded by many graves. This is to teach you, answered Rabbi Yakov David. The difference between the Chassidim and their opponents. The Chassidim, as long as their Rabbi is alive, come close and cling to him. Once he is dead and leaves this world, his grave is holy and nobody approaches it because of respect. Their opponents are the opposite, as long as the Rabbi is alive everybody runs away from him. Once he leaves the world everybody sees it as their right to be buried by him.
There is a story about R' Yossi-Bear from Brisk and Rabbi Yakov David of
Slotzk. They met one another on the road and they used one carriage. During
their travel they talked Torah and argued with one another. R' Yakov David came
out of the carriage canopy and went and sat by the coachman and so they entered
The townspeople saw and were surprised: Two Rabbis in one stagecoach, one sitting inside the canopy and his colleague sitting with the coachman. They greeted the one who sat with the coachman and asked him from where and to where, and who was the Rabbi who was sitting inside the canopy? I am he, said Rabbi Yakov David. Rabbi Yossi-Bear from Brisk and the Rabbi that sits inside the canopy is R' Yakov David from Slotzk because it is not for the honor of R' Yakov David that I should sit with him together so I went and sat on top. Don't believe it, said Rabbi Yossi-Bear, who stuck his head from the canopy. I am Rabbi Yossi-Bear from Brisk and he is Rabbi Yakov David from Slotzk. Our Rabbi said to him, R' Yakov David, all your trying is for naught. Everybody knows our Rabbi and his humility.
When R' Yakov David sat on the chair of the Rabbinate in Slotzk, he had a lot of opponents. The harshest one of all was Shmuel Shemchovitch. One of the best people in town, he was extremely rich and also learned. And the Rabbi said about him, I already announced, in public, that Shmuel does not know the Torah and his pronouncements prove that he is not a scholar. Now all I have to do is announce in public that this gentleman does not have any money either, and he is not even rich.
There is a tale about Rabbi Yakov David being unhappy with the active people in the congregation and refusing to take his salary from the leasing of the meat. They found a couple of landlords to be his sextons. They went every Friday afternoon from door to door and collected money for the Rabbi. One time Rabbi Yakov David had a meeting with Rabbi Nechemia of Luban. They sat and they talked about matters of Torah and current events from this and that. They came to the matter of the Rabbinate and then Rabbi Yakov David said, I'm on my own. I don't need the congregation and its active people. No, said Rabbi Nechemia and smiled. You do need helpers. If you want to be completely on your own you can't help but go yourself from door to door.
In his excellent autobiographical book, The Stories of Man, Ephraim Lisitzki,
who grew up and was educated in Slotzk, gives us this interesting description
of the Rabbi of Kobrin: He was the Prince of the Treasury in the Kingdom of the
The keys to its treasures, the known treasures and the hidden treasures, were in his hand. His knowledge of the Talmud, both the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmud, and all the interpreters early and late, and interpreters of interpreters, were all as if put in a box for him. His sharpness and his knowledge reached deeply into all these issues. The springs of his Torah he distributed in essays that he composed and printed for the masses, the most important of which was an essay about the Jerusalem Talmud. In that gigantic essay he appeared in all his might, his scholarliness and sharpness. He also delved into the secret wisdom.
He was known to have a lot of contradictions in him that prevented him from maintaining a balance, given his wild temper, which would sometimes explode in noise and turmoil and get him involved in conflicts. He was a son to a poor family whose father was a tailor. [This part is not correct, as the old Kobriner Rabbi in Jerusalem told me his father was an honest butcher who loved the Torah]. His feeling of inferiority because of his family lineage changed to a feeling of superiority, of standing on-guard, being very open and sensitive, taking offense before using a defense. In addition, he had a poetic soul, a religious fire bubbling with excitement. In his sermons his excitement showed. His face shown and his eyes were like tortures. The palm of his hands hit one another to accompany his mighty voice. In his discussions with people he sometimes got overly angry and excited.
His dedication to studying the Torah was a dedication without reservation. He sat in his room and studied from early morning until midnight, except for the few hours when he needed to sit Din Torah (court) or to deliberate some important matter that the congregation or a group of the important people in town brought before him. There were some quarrels between him and his opponents, but all these were outside his room and outside of his heart. Inside of his noble world within his room he became the epitome of nobility, as if not of this world. The Rabbi was similar to an angel of God.
As far as his travel to America, we are told in these words: There was a rumor
that he decided to visit his brother in America, to bring them to his place and
to introduce them to the Jerusalem Talmud with his two interpretations that he
started to print and did not finish because he did not have the means. Before
he went to America he stopped in Boston, which was considered a very important
city in Jewish life in America. The arrival of such an important person in
Boston made a big impression. The Rabbis and important people in the city of
Boston and from smaller cities and towns came to the railroad station to meet
him and to accompany him to the house that they had appointed for his stay in
by M. Tzinovitz
Rabbi Zalman Sender Kahana-Shapira was born in the year 1851 in the town of Nishbiz, the county of Minsk, to his father Rabbi Yakov, son of Rabbi Moshe Hakohen, an honest man and a distinct Torah scholar, who for a while was the head of the city Yeshiva in Lida under the supervision of his father R' Moshe Hakohen, who was the head of the religious court there and also the son-in-law of the known Rabbi Chaim from Volozin.
Rabbi Zalman Sender was known since his youth as a distinct scholar. His early Torah education he received from his father and when the knowledge of his father was not enough for him (when he was nine years old he asked his father a very difficult question and his father could not find an answer. He got so excited he started crying. Actually, R' Zalman Sender did not find an answer to this question for the rest of his life.) he was sent to Valozin to enjoy the Torah of his relative the Rabbi Yosha Bear Soleveitshik, who was at the time at the head of a famous yeshiva. He studied there together with the sons of R' Yosha Bear and Rabbi Chaim, who later became an important Rabbi in Israel. He stayed with his Rabbi and friend even after Rabbi Yosha Bear was already the Rabbi of Slotzk.
After he left the yeshiva in Valozin, Rabbi Zalman Sender, who excelled at an
early age as a Talmudic scholar, was taken to be the son-in-law of Rabbi Yosha
Minsk of one of the most important congregations of Kobrin who gave him 3,000
rubles, a great amount in those days, as a dowry, and eternal food at his
table. When he ate at the table of his father-in-law, he became even more
famous and he arranged for Torah lessons with the head of the Rabbinic court
there, Rabbi Merim, who became famous because of his famous book on the
Jerusalem Talmud. There he hosted the known scholar, Rabbi David Vilovski, a
native of Kobrin, who came there often, discussing with him matters of Torah.
This scholar has since become famous as a Talmudic scholar. Among the most
renowned of his compositions is his interpretation of the Jerusalem Talmud.
After a while it became too crowded, too narrow, too limited for Rabbi Zalman Sender in Kobrin from both the spiritual and the material points of view. After his father-in-law died, his economic situation became worse and he thought of himself as inferior in some ways. From the spiritual point of view, he needed to be in a central yeshiva where people who knew the Torah would surround him and where he would influence them with his knowledge.
He found his spiritual satisfaction always in the company of his teacher and Rabbi, Rabbi Yoshi Bear, who was already then the head of the Rabbinic court in Brisk in the neighborhood of Kobrin. Also, he played with the sayings of the Torah with Rabbi Yerucham Yehuda Leib Pearlman, who was then the head of the Rabbinic Court in the neighboring towns of Seltz and Prozani. Rabbi Yerucham Yehuda Leib was very surprised by the Talmudic knowledge of the young man Rabbi Zalman Sender and he started corresponding with him and also visiting him and arguing Torah with him. This closeness did not stop even when this genius became the Rabbi in Minsk and became famous as the great one of Minsk. The great one used to say that from Minsk up all the way to Brisk D'Lita there was none that could come close to Rabbi Zalman Sender of Kobrin in the greatness of the Torah.
In the year 1885 Rabbi Zalman Sender was appointed to be the head of the Rabbinic court in the small town of Maltsh, by the marshes of Polsia. In the year 18 98, the yeshiva Knesset Beit Yitzchak in Slavodka invited those who had started the yeshiva and the inspectors to become the heads of the yeshiva. In connection to that, he stayed one Shabbat day in Slovodka and told them of his interpretations of the Torah. He spoke before the young people who were also Torah scholars. But this did not work out and he went back to Maltsh. As it turned out, the Maltsh congregation implored him not to leave them and he agreed to stay among them as long as they would agree to establish there a yeshiva. And the people of Maltsh agreed to that.
He was helped by his youthful friend Rabbi Chaim Halevi Soloveitshik. He also
arranged for an assembly in Minsk in the house of the rich scholar, Rabbi
Baruch Zeldovitch, and with the Rabbi of Minsk, who at that time was already
his father-in-law, they started a new center for Torah. Although there were
already at that time very famous yeshivas in Lita and in Zamot headed by famous
people, the new yeshiva in Maltsh began to assume a very important position
among those centers of Torah and it became a central yeshiva in the world of
There were only ten students when Rabbi Zalman Sender opened the yeshiva in the summer of the year 1898 and in a few years their number reached 120. These were exceptional students with talent and knowledge who wanted to develop their talent for originality according to the instruction of Rabbi Zalman Sender as well as older students who had already studied in other great yeshivas and who preferred to come and be in the presence of this sharp scholar. Various places were represented here, Brisk and Kobrin, Minsk and Choza, even Zamot in Northern Lita.
In his lessons Rabbi Zalman Sender showed his total spiritual prowess and his excellent scholarship. These lessons of his moved his students to develop new ways of looking at things and instructed them in a true examination of matters. Every matter was comprehended differently according to its internal point and its special roots. Rabbi Zalman Sender was not satisfied just giving the lessons. When he brought up a new Talmudic interpretation, he burst into the house of the yeshiva, grabbed the talented youngsters and preached to them his new interpretation. Rabbi Zalman Sender did not just teach a lesson. He also took care of the spiritual and economic situation of his students. His house was open to them. He took care of them and allowed them self respect. The landlords were cautioned repeatedly not to make light of the honor of those young scholars and not to call them by the name, yeshiva bocher, which was accepted as an insulting designation. Instead they were called, yeshiva man, which is a man of the yeshiva rather than a young man of the yeshiva. He did not deal with them sternly, but softly. As someone with a quick grasp, he always understood the other side, and because of that all the feeling of his students were clear to him.
And the students in the yeshiva of Maltsh themselves, like the students of
Valozin at the same time, were very particular about their external appearance.
They knew how to maintain their honor and even on days of Shabbat and holidays
they did not have a meal at the table of the landlord in town.
In the yeshiva of Maltsh, as in other central yeshivas at the time, there were institutions of mutual help that took care of visiting the sick, helping to alleviate the financial situation of the people and developing the social talents and other organizational talents of the people of the yeshiva. What also helped the economic situation was giving lessons to some students of the yeshiva who needed special assistance. These were the sons of rich people who paid the older yeshiva students a monthly salary for teaching them.
Rabbi Zalman Sender was also a great musician, an innovator in music, and on holidays when the joy was full in the yeshiva house and in the house of the Rabbi, he sang songs by others and himself. So, for instance there spread in all the yeshivas of Lita a composition of Rabbi Zalman Sender about the heartwarming poetry that was known in the towns of Lita in the days of Shabbat between Passover and Shavuot. It went something like, Pretty dove, why do you cry? Your messiah will come. Get up and go. I am your savior and the liberator for whom you are waiting. This composition Rabbi Zalman Sender composed in his youth when he recited it before Rabbi Yoshi Bear, who cried in excitement. Also, he played at vacation time the poem of Rabbi Shlomo Ibn Gabirol: You the bereaved, why do you cry? Has your heart given up waiting? These melodies became famous in all the yeshivas and were repeated on holidays and on other happy occasions. The writer of these lines still remembers that in several yeshivas there were days when they sang special melodies of Rabbi Zalman Sender for a known prayer, repeating the melody several times and attaching to it some moral ideas.
Among the students of the yeshiva of Maltsh who observed the Torah of Rabbi Zalman Sender we should mention the great scholar Rabbi Menachem Maltsher, who died a few years ago in Tel Aviv and was not mourned appropriately; Rabbi Yerachmiel Borgman from Brisk, Rabbi Moshe Eliyahu Rogoznitzki from Nalibuk and Rabbi Alter Mishkovski, the son of the righteous Rabbi, Rabbi Chaim Leib from Stavisk, Rabbi Mordechai Halperin and a few other famous people who are not alive anymore.
Among the students in Maltsh of that period who are still living with us and
active blessedly among the Jewish community in the land of Israel we should
mention especially Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman, who is the chief Rabbi of Tel
Aviv and the region. When he was a young man he joined a group of Brisk people
who traveled to Maltsh to learn Torah from Rabbi Kahana Shapira. The head Rabbi
Unterman, who continued his study later during the era of Rabbi Shimon Shkop,
published a book called the Anniversary Book.
In addition to some interpretations of the Torah, he published a special article that contained an interesting chapter of memories about the yeshiva of Maltsh during those two periods. Several interesting details of the life of Rabbi Zalman Sender in this article were based on memories of Rabbi Unterman who, in spite of his youth, was privileged to be one of the closest people to Rabbi Zalman Sender.
The lessons of Rabbi Zalman Sender were not printed and only some of his teachings were preserved by word of mouth in the yeshiva circles. Something of his innovations were defined in the two books of his two famous sons, Rabbi Yakov and Rabbi Avraham Dover. Rabbi Yakov became famous in the world of the Torah for his essay, Neot Yakov, which contains innovative instructions and interpretations that make him one of the luminaries of his generation. Even more famous in his lifetime was the second son, Rabbi Avraham Dover, who was the head of the Rabbinic court in Smolevitch and Kovna and the author of a book, Dvar Avraham. In those books he brought some Torah innovations of the great one of Minsk, the son-in-law of Rabbi Avraham Dover the Rabbi of Kovna. Those two young sons, Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Chaim, stood by their father in establishing the yeshiva in Maltsh and helping him a lot.
In 1903 Rabbi Zalman Sender was accepted as the head of the Rabbinic court in Krinik, taking the place of Rabbi Baruch Lavski who was the author of Minchat Baruch. Also in Krinik, Rabbi Zalman Sender ran a great yeshiva to which masses came from the counties of Horodna, Bialystock, Lomza and others. Among his students in the period of Krinik there should be mentioned the Rabbi Avraham Yazofin, who was the director of the yeshiva, The House of Joseph in Bialystock.
In 1915 when the front came closer to Krinik, Rabbi Zalman Sender wandered with
his students inside Great Russia and stayed for several years in the town of
Tola. After the war, he never returned to his town of Krinik, which then
belonged to Poland, but immigrated to the land of Israel, where he lived in his
later years, in the quarter of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, the Holy City.
Rabbi Eliezer Yitzchak Sheinboim (Ilanaeh) was born in the year 1855 in Kobrin, the county seat of Grodna, to wealthy parents. His mother, Esther Gittel, was, on the side of her mother, the granddaughter of the Tzadik Alexander Ziskind, the author of the book, The Basis and the Root of Labor. And her father, who was a Rabbi in Kaminitz in Lita, was the son of the great Rabbi R' Yechezkel and the grandson of the great Rabbi R' Simcha, the head of the Rabbinic court in Grodna, a lineage of Rabbis that reaches all the way to Rashi. His father was renowned in the Torah and the interpretations, and in the books of those who investigated, the history of our people since the middle ages. He also knew foreign languages and studied their literature. With all that he was very righteous in his religion, as one of the most pious people. (He left after him an essay in the interpretation of Mikrah and a dictionary between the years 1877 and 1881. He poured his heart out in the saddest part of his life, toward the end, when he lost his wealth and suffered much from having to move from one place to another.)
In the book by Yechezkel Kotik, Minhezo Henoit [My Memories], he was highly praised. We have a description of this excellent man and the way he managed his home. It sheds light on the surroundings in which he grew up and was educated, as well as on the various influences that competed with one another to fill an important role in his development. The house of his father, R' Yosha, was where the Torah and greatness came together: his wife, Esther Gittel, an excellent, active woman; the wise women; the fathers-in-law who were opposites to one another; Eliezer Adelshtein, who was learned but who was still thought of as an apikoros (heretic); and the other one, R' Zalman Sender, another great, wise Torah scholar and a religious person. When Adelshtein married Shinboim's sister, Shinboim was at the time about seven years old, and until he became fourteen, more or less, he came under the influence of this brother-in-law.
His father hired for him the most excellent teachers in town to teach him the
Tanach, grammar and the commentaries. He also hired a teacher to instruct him
in Russian reading and grammar. In a short time the teacher had transferred all
of his meager knowledge to his student, who continued afterwards without the
aid of a teacher to study that language until he knew it well.
The German language he studied with the translation of Mendelssohn, and when he knew both languages well, he learned, with the aid of dictionaries and self-teaching books, French and Polish-After he had acquired the keys to the rich libraries of these languages, the youth gave himself completely to reading everything he could find. The Polish masters, the owners of the estates who came to visit his father's home, brought him books to read. Also, in the house of his brothers-in-law Adelshtein he found many books. He devoted his daylight hours to sacred studies in his room and the night hours to reading secular books.
His father, who himself was a learned man, did not prevent him from reading secular books, until his second brother-in-law, the young Adelshtein, acquired a lot of influence in town. Then there erupted a great war in the house of his father over the soul of the youngster, a conflict between the two brothers-in-law. Both recognized in him great talents and each one wanted to direct his future according to his own point of view. Adelshtein advised his father to send him to the gymnasium, a choice that, in the eyes of the people of Kobrin in those days, meant sending him away from his religion. R' Sender suggested entrusting him with the education of the youngster. He agreed to take it upon himself to teach him from morning to evening all the lessons that he could in the Talmud and other instruction. His father, who himself was completely religious, was not comfortable with the behavior of Adelshtein and he tended to go along with the viewpoint of his younger son-in-law. So the youngster was taken from the cheder and R' Zalman became his teacher. From then on until his eighteenth year, the youngster studied Torah together with his brother-in-law, Shapira, as a colleague student.
The genius of R' Zalman Sender captivated the heart of the youngster and he
became totally devoted to him. His influence upon the youngster was tremendous,
almost hypnotic. Little by little he was captivated by religious opinions
contrary to the same free opinions that he was accustomed up to that time. His
relation with his brother-in-law Adelshtein ceased completely, but his desire
for science and for external books his brother-in-law R' Zalman Sender could
In the five years in which he studied Torah the entire day, he devoted his nights, despite the scolding by R' Zalman Sender, to external studies. He acquired without the aid of a teacher the knowledge of Greek, Latin, Engineering and other studies, according to the program that was then taught in an agricultural gymnasium in Russia. The knowledge that he acquired during the days of his youth were helpful in a practical way when, at the age of forty-nine, he received a matriculation certificate from a great gymnasium. (He needed it because he was offered the position of Rabbi by the government in the town of Moszir, in the county of Minsk).
The idea of giving up the worries of commerce and finding his bread in public work appealed to him a lot, and for this reason he took an exam in the city of Novogrod-Sorsk, after preparing himself for several months, and received the needed certificate. But his thoughts about the Rabbinate did not materialize because when it came to doing it he realized that he could not tear himself from all the business that he became entangled in. Those businesses held onto him firmly despite his wishes.
His relations with R' Zalman Sender ceased after his marriage. He left his brother-in-law and the house of his father when he was twenty-two and moved to the house of his father-in-law, Mr. Bunim Rachmilovitch, the brother of his brother-in-law Tzvi Rachmilovitch, the father-in-law of his oldest sister. The brothers Rachmilovitch were residents of the town of Paritz in the county of Bobroisk. They dealt in forest timber, sending rafts along the River Dnieper to Yekaterinoslav and Charson. They also had a lease in the county of Minsk, a great estate with a wine distillery. In that estate, Shinboim settled and became a partner in the business of his father-in-law.
He was successful and he became more and more involved in various businesses
that consumed all his time, but the spiritual sphere of thought with which he
was surrounded in the house of his father accompanied him despite all his other
business. The contradictory influences that he had experienced in the days of
his youth were still in his head and directed his way of thinking. His soul
yearned for a synthesis that would complete all those thoughts. For the result
of those thoughts we have to look at his book, The Fundamentals of the Reality
and Consciousness, of the year 1913 in Warsaw. An important part of the first
article was printed in Hashelach in 1908. In this book of his we see on hand
a thought giving in to the modern science. A discussion of evolution has been
accepted by the writer totally.
On the other hand, we see in the same way how he believed in personal responsibility and the selection of the people of Israel (the first one is on page 129 and the second on page 190). Altogether the author is trying, in this book of his, to establish the basis of a general spiritual world outlook, and he does not particularly deal with Judaism.
A result of his general approach is his composition about Zionism and materialism, published in Vilna in the 1905 and issued by the Central Committee of the Zionist of Homil. In one place we read the words of the author saying, I believe strongly that if the great dream of the redemption of the people of Israel and its rejuvenation and its power of language and literature will come to be, then it will come to be through its sons in a country where a Hebrew philosophy will serve as a source of spirituality. It could not be otherwise, but real and idyllic or more like voluntary because only this way could it come together with Judaism and see life with it.
For about thirty-five years Shinboim lived in the city of Homil and took a part in its Zionist activity. As recognition for his good work he was elected in the year 1912 in a general assembly of the Zionists of Homil to be an honored member of the local Zionist organization, all of which was written on a parchment with blessings and congratulations. Early in the year 1913, he and his wife visited the land of Israel as tourists and stayed there about seven weeks. Then they decided to go back to Russia for a little while to liquidate their business and come back to the land of Israel to settle there. When they came back to Russia, the war broke out, and afterwards the Soviet Revolution, and he lost all his holdings. His wife died in . Homil and he was appointed to become the director of the library of Graff Paskevitch. In the year 1921, he succeeded in obtaining a license to leave for Lita so he could leave from there to go to the land of Israel. When he came to Kovna he visited the son of his sister who was the local Rabbi of Avraham Dov Shapira. There he found his brother-in-law, R' Zalman Sender, a rabbi of Kovna, who was wondering whether he should go back to Krinki or immigrate to the land of Israel. The opportunity showed itself and made the decision for the two of them, and in the end of the month of Elul both came to their destination.
The religious people in Jerusalem prepared for R' Zalman Sender a marvelous
meeting. Thousands of people came to the train station and a great crowd
accompanied him from the station to the house that was prepared for him, to the
Mr. Shinboim settled in Jerusalem and changed his name officially to Elana A. In the Palestine press we see him several times as a critic for science books that appeared in those years. He wrote a critique on a history of materialism by Langa and a translation by Bartuvia, a critique on a book of the history of philosophy by Vindelband, translated by Dr. Glikson, on Kant in Hebrew, and a list of other articles. Rabbi Eleizer Yitzchak Elana A. was an author with varied and deep knowledge in the ancient and modern literature. He had a delicate and a noble spiritual soul. He was a real treasure of knowledge. His thinking and his surroundings were always pure and very interesting to those who knew him closely. He was a good person, forgiving to everybody, only not to himself. He was always trying to fill the void and also to allow other criticism and to examine whether truly and in good measure he acquired what he was missing. He departed the material to the spiritual, beyond sensualism, (from an introduction to his book, Beyond Sensualism).
(to the memory of R' Moshe of the greatest slonim Chassidim in Kobrin)
by D. Cohen
From Moses of Midian up until Moses Midner, there was none like Moses. So used to say the Chassidim of Slonim at a time when they would humor themselves about R' Moshe Midner, a man of Kobrin. And truly the man was great in the Torah, in thoughts and in good deeds.
I remember one of the days of Hanukkah when the young Chassidim sat around the table of the Rabbi and he distributed among us the leftovers. I received a piece of the neck of the chicken
for which the Rabbi added, Don't be stiff-necked. I understood that I had to
go and talk to him in person. The room where the Rabbi sat was surrounded with
mystery. He was by himself in the room which was furnished simply. Aside from
the made bed, a closed closet, a table and an armchair, there was no other
piece of furniture in the room that was the whole day in the darkness. There
was one tree that could be seen from the window looking into the great garden.
The Rabbi sat by himself. He was short. His beard that had some white in it surrounded his handsome face. His eyes were like two springs that spewed love and charity. The youth stood in front of him, trembling and clinging to the rabbi as a son would cling to his father because there were many doubts in the heart of the youth and his urges confused his thoughts. He asked for help from the Rabbi and the Rabbi spoke slowly and pleasantly. He said, My son, fight the evil inclination get up and travel to Moshe Midner.
A big house without excessive furniture and a talkative woman met the youth with a question, Who sent you here? He answered, He, shall he live. And there came a flood of curses. When the youth retreated and was ready to leave, the angry woman turned into a good mother who cared for her child, saying, Look, look, how hurt he is. What is this? Why are you running? Where are you running? And the youth stayed at home. Sabbath night Moshe was not seen in the Shtiebel at the time of the Sabbath service and the youth were wondering. He was sent for and he could not be found.
After midnight, filled with yearnings, the youth came back to the home of his host and found Moshe sitting by himself at the head of the table. His full face was surrounded by a small and pointy beard. His nose took up half his face. His lips were thick and fleshy. But the eyes of the man showed deep wisdom and limitless love, charity and mercy. To the youth he paid no attention. He was completely immersed in the higher spheres. He sang slowly a song, How Much I Would Want The Pleasure of the Sabbath, and as he sang the world was being extracted to his lips (in Yiddish): Thank you God for the Holy Sabbath. A whole night the youth sat there, his eyes glued to this Moshe who imbued in him the entire Sabbath.
It was Sabbath night in the Shtiebel. The Chassidim were sitting around and in
the center, R' Moshe. A kettle filled with spicy tea boiled in front of him and
he swallowed the boiling tea with excitement. While he drank, he told his
stories. He was an artist, a divinely gifted artist, this man. With very few
words he told about figures, pictures, feelings and experiences. Not one sound,
not a blink of the eye. All the eyes were glued on his white face, and he was
as if uprooted from the place, taking a walk with a magus of Koznitzl. He
listened to R' Mordechai of Lachovitch and bowed his head to receive the
blessing of R' Moshe of Kobrin.
Until midnight the man sat and told his stories and there was in those stories much of the wisdom of life, of the love of Israel, of good measures and of longing for the land of Israel.
Years passed and the youth grew up for a long time. He traveled far away from the house of the Rabbi and from the surrounding of the Chassidim. But here came some trouble. He was arrested by the government. When it seemed there was no hope, he came and stood before the Rabbi, who again met Moshe, this time in his own town, Kobrin. Very little did the Rabbi ask of the youth who came to him to ask for help. He asked to say some chapters of psalms, to sit in the Shtibel and some other. But, the youth who rebelled could not do that. It was against his conscience. Rabbi Moshe came to help. He said in his name those chapters of the Psalms and he said, it in a melody so sweet, so soft, so attractive that the youth did not even notice how he was repeating after him, saying it word by word, verse by verse.
And it was good to sit in the Shtibel together with R' Moshe because the man was a genius. The chapters of the Rambam he knew by heart, and one time when they walked together in the main street of Kobrin he heard from him this saying, It is a sin to dismiss the other, but it is not less of a sin to dismiss one's self in front of the face of the other. Respect the man but do not make little of yourself too. But these things were said when the two of them met with a group of men and women who made fun of the walk of R' Moshe.
The Slonim Chassidim told a story that after the death of Rabbi Avraham the
Chassidim looked to R' Moshe to be their Rabbi. R' Moshe knew the way of the
Chassidim, that whoever was stubborn and did not want to accept upon himself
the crown of the Rabbi the Chassidim would insist on and try to get. So what
did R' Moshe do? He chose a clownish way, making the Rabbi in him to be funny
until the Chassidim were convinced that Rabbi Moshe would not be their Rabbi.
He who said, To be a Rabbi is not one of the difficult things was wrong. It
was difficult to be a Chassid and even more difficult to be a simple Jew. And
he, R' Moshe, was one of the earlier ones, a rabbi, a Hassid and also a simple
Zelkind Yakov Meir was born in Kobrin in the county of Grodna on the 16th of August 1875. His father, Mordechai Yehuda Arie, was an important and learned merchant with a lineage to the Baal Shem Tov and also to the Rabbi Mendele Don Yichia of a known Portuguese family. The mother, Nina, related to the. Rabbi of Lublin, R' Meshulam Zalman Ashkenazi, who had a distinguished lineage. Until his bar mitzvah he studied in Cheder and general studies with a teacher and became famous as a real genius.
Two years he studied in the yeshiva of Volozin and then as an external student he finished pre-gymnasium of six grades. He studied in Berlin, in Munich, in Bern and in Geneva; philology, philosophy, history, literature, and political economy. He devoted himself to the Talmud and to Jewish wisdom. In the year 1904 he received his doctoral degree. He was a linguist in thirty languages, ancient and new. In 1915 he studied, in Glasgow, Natural Sciences and Horticulture.
Since he was imbued with the spirit of enlightenment and the love of Zion from
the time of youth, in his parents home he taught Zionist propaganda among the
Jewish students in Munich. He wanted them to recognize and to be familiar with
the Hebrew literature. In Switzerland he established Zionist organizations,
libraries and Kosher restaurants as an important element, and competing
element, to the influence of the Russian restaurants that were assimilating and
socialist. In Bern, Zelkind established a student organization called Kadima
(which means forward). After the pogrom in Kishinev, he established there a
defense group and taught them firearms and also physical exercises. In London
he was very active on behalf of Zionism and Hebrew education. In 1914 he
traveled to the land of Israel, bought Karkur and Rabia for the London estate
with seventy members that he had established. In 1916 he established the London
Committee for Defense that fought the mobilization of Russian Jews in England.
He opposed Jabotinsky in his legion plan and conducted anti-military
propaganda. In 1920 he joined anarchism, he started writing Hebrew when he was
still a youth and he published his first pieces in 1900 in Hatzfira and in
Yiddish in Der Ahabitsher Zeitung. Since then he printed about one thousand
articles, correspondence, stories, etc. in various Hebrew newspapers, in
Yiddish, in German, in Russian, in English, in French and in Spanish. In 1916
he edited, in London, the weekly Yiddishe Shtime [Yiddish Voice] (thirteen
issues), which appeared also as a daily newspaper (thirty-six issues). The
direction was radically nationalistic and anti-militaristic. Participating in
the paper were A. Vavriake and Dr. A. Margolin (the circulation reached over
From 1920 to 1923, he was the editor of the anarchist communist publication, Der Arbeiterfreund [The Workers' Friend], with the participation of R. Roker Vohlin, Dr. Michael Kahn, Shlomo Ben David, S.H. Linder, W. Robtchinski and others. The circulation reached three thousand. In Yiddish he issued Die Zukunft von Eretz Israel, [The Future of the Land of Israel], translating Professor A. Warburg in London in 1907; The Yiddishe Colonies in Eretz Israel, [The Jewish Colonies in the Land of Israel] (London, 1914) and Anarchism und Organizatzia, [Anarchism and Organization], translating R. Roker in London in 1922. Another one was Kontness Gegen Anarchism [Arguments Against Anarchism] (translated by Medsh Barat in London in 1922), and several others.
In Hebrew he issued the Yitsiot Mitzraim [Coming Out of Egypt], a children's play in London in 1907, a whole line of original children's plays, translations that were performed in schools and in religious schools, and small booklets published by Tushia, By Twos an educational game, in Leipzig in 1922. In German, Dr. Zelkind published the commentary on the Song of Songs in 1905. He translated for Lilenblum Five Minutes in the Life of Moses in Zurich in 1906. There is a great value also to his scientific work, for example, his writing about the story of Jewish printers, Jewish libraries and Jewish publishing businesses. But only three chapters appeared, in a London monthly called Renaissance, in 1920.
Dr. Zelkind edited The Dictionary of Hebrew Jargon, by A. L. Viska, and
devoted many years to translating the Babylonian Talmud into Yiddish. From that
translation there appeared the first volume Brachot that continued the Mishna
and Gemara with the addition of a beneficial and appropriate interpretation for
a beginning student. He mostly followed in the footsteps of Rashi, but also
brought into that volume appropriate interpretations from other sources and
some new remarks by the translator. The translation is precise and close to the
traditional interpretation, although the author allowed some expressions and
words that were not traditional.
The second volume of the translation, the part about seeds, did not appear because of financial difficulties.
Of the important works that did not appear, it is worth mentioning a group of original tales, Bereshitz, a group of plays for children in Hebrew, an historical evaluation of the Yellow Stain. Zalkind translated The Miser of Moliere. He published a Siddur for the schools that also had historical and grammatical explanations and an introduction to the history of the Siddur. He also published a compilation of political tales. In Yiddish he published The Philosophy of Anarchism.
He wrote an essay on the history of censorship by the Church and the Inquisition of Hebrew books. It was based on the great manuscript (more than four hundred pages) that is to be found in the Paris library. (Variations of it are also to be found in Rome and Bologna). The manuscript is by an old French Jewish censor, a student of the late Haari who later became an Apostate. He comments and shows what places should be erased in every book. This manuscript was especially important and interesting because it was not known to the historians of censorship, A. Bartiner and V. Feffer, making their work much less valuable.
Literary pseudonyms of Dr. Zelkind were several: Mibnai Hichla, Miza Jay Amas,
Dr. Salinfanta and others. (From the Encyclopedia of the Pioneers and Builders
by N. Alkon
Dr. Y. M. Zelkind is our guest. He came to visit the town of his birth where he spent his youth. It is worthwhile to get to know the personality of Dr. Zelkind, which is very colorful. He was educated by parents who where well versed in an enlightened and religious education. For a time he studied in Cheders and in a synagogue. After he acquired a good knowledge of the Talmud, he traveled to Volozin and he studied there for several years with Natziv.
Volozin was at that time fulfilling for the Jews the role that was fulfilled by
Pompadita and Naharda in creating the Babylonian Talmud. The yeshiva in Volozin
produced great and famous students such as Micha Yosef Berdichevski. Our
national poet, Ch. N. Bialik, studied for a time at the yeshiva at Volozin. In
his poem, Hamatmid, he describes the life of a yeshiva student and his
struggle when he is seduced by the beauty of the external world.
After Volozin, Dr. Zelkind moved to Switzerland where he studied philosophy and received his doctoral degree. Great Europe and its important culture did not prevent Dr. Zelkind from immersing himself in the light of Judaism, in the eternal ethical values in the Tanach and the Talmud. On the contrary, the European culture served him as another tool for extracting and presenting the treasures of the Hebrew culture to everybody systematically and in stages, so that he created a natural synthesis of Torah and enlightenment. True, the synthesis of Torah and enlightenment was not new, and in this respect I think Dr. Zelkind did not discover anything new. Torah and enlightenment, the early enlightened scholars are Yalag, Smolenskin and others, but with Dr. Zelkind there existed a harmony of Torah and European culture in a completely different manner.
The main factor that tied Dr. Zelkind to our ancient culture was his folksiness
and his true love for the people, for the masses and, of course, for the Torah.
If Bialik is not allowed by the Shechina with its broken wing to leave the old
Beit Hamidrash (On My Own, a poem), the tailor and the shoemaker allowed
Zelkind to remove himself as if they implored him, Come to us in the evenings
and teach us a paragraph from Ein Yakov, a chapter of Mishnaiot, and tell us a
fairy tale, a tale from early days. That is why his Yiddish translation to the
Mishnaiot became his life's ideal. For years he busied himself with that
translation, but he was still only at the beginning. Meanwhile, he printed not
more than half the section about seeds. The way that he chose was the long way,
almost without an end. That is the way it was before with the great Rambam, but
the folk tradition said about the Rambam, from Moses to Moses, there arose
none like Moses. The idea of his issuing this interpretation of the Talmud was
sympathetic, folksy and democratic, as if with this translation of his he were
going to correct the insult to the working masses that stood in a synagogue and
swallowed their saliva, looking jealously at the more knowledgeable scholars
whose wide foreheads sweated over the great books of the Gemara.
He meant to bring the ideas of Rabbi Yochanan, the shoemaker, R' Yitzchak, Nafcha, Hillel, a day laborer, close to the people, to the masses in their own language. This was his duty, the duty that he took upon himself, Dr. Zelkind, that the Torah of the old sages should be studied by the people and that the sages said before, Be careful of the sons of the poor people because from out of them will come the Torah.
The sage of Vilna, so the tale goes, studied Torah on winter nights in the attic of his house by the moonlight because he could not buy candles.
The interpretation of the Talmud was the most precious idea of Dr. Zelkind, so it is understandable why he was so enthusiastic when talking about the Talmud. He allowed himself to put the sages of the Talmud in a place more important than the prophets of Israel although it is clear that he was wrong about it from the traditional, historical and ethical sides.
If in the story of the Talmud, God said My triumph is my sons, then when the sages said We do not see the voice, this means that God is seen there as merciful, forgiving his sons even when they dare rebel against Him. But he seems completely different in the books of Amos. God there appears in all his royal glory that created worlds that are given to his supervision and rule. The God of the prophets is the expression for the glory in might before whom nations will bow. And the heavens tell the story of God's glory and his deeds. The main idea in the universal God was told by the prophets and only then came the sages of the Talmud and talked about other qualities of the Creator. The tales of the Talmud sang songs to the destruction, to the exile, but the Tanach sang the special song. For the Creator in the Tanach trees will sing, mountains dance like sheep, all in honor of the Creator. The whole of nature will sing songs to the Creator of yore.
In the Halacha (the law also based on the Torah), the verse is the main
building element of the whole progression of ideas in the Talmud. Dr. Zelkind
thought differently, and it is very difficult to agree with his point of view.
With great bitterness and with some naïveté he attacked the current
Zionist leaders. Despite everything, he loved the land of Israel no less than
the most dedicated Zionist in that land. He attacked Jabotinski and his method
and with it he mentioned revisionism as one of the most rational methods in
He attacked the labor parties, even socialism itself. It seems he was peppering so that no one method would be acceptable in his eyes. But one thing is very clear, that his words were the living truth and nothing will stop it. He broke to pieces his own ideals of yesterday, ideals he had bowed to and worshipped. Too, he ended being bold from here and from there, but this is perhaps the tragedy of all of those who have the living truth bubbling inside of them: the truth that the living and creating person is only flesh and blood.
I saw Dr. Zelkind on the Shabbat in the synagogue, speaking before his townspeople. It was not a sermon; nor was it a speech, but a hardy conversation with his friends, with neighbors and good colleagues. As he spoke, his eyes became teary. One after the other the tears fell off of his delicate face. It was a cry of fifty-eight years that said, I was longing to come to the house of your father.
He was so much of the whole world, but here he was again in the synagogue, in
the place where together with his father he had stood and prayed out of one
siddur. The days of childhood disappeared. Will a stone bloom, will Sodom
rise, asked the poet Chernichovski, and that is why perhaps he was crying.
The representative of the weekly, Kobriner Shtime, had a conversation with Dr. Zelkind about his impressions of Kobrin after his absence from the city for thirty-four years. The guest said that after having traveled in the great world for thirty-four years he now found that Kobrin had grown and become prettier in cleanliness and order. There was a new generation, healthy and developing. There was more intelligence, but there was still a lack of originality. What was also missing now was the homeowner who was a scholar in the Torah and gave to charity. Among the religious Jews there was zealotry and politics. There was not the same innocence as before.
The city had become poorer during the years and making a living was not easy anymore.
Dr. Zelkind was impressed that the Jews' roots were widening, that they were
speaking Yiddish and understanding Hebrew, which showed the ties of the people
to their culture, a tie that was missing among the intelligentsia in his time.
A common thread in that time was the distancing of the intelligentsia from
religious life. Dr. Zelkind said that he was an optimist and he hoped that that
too would change, that people who were leaving the main road and wandering
around would eventually find the paved road. In that respect he was not, as Mr.
Alkon said, the last Mohican, but one of the first sparrows of the new era that
he was prophesying and ready to create.
As far as Zionism, there were dangers that most of the Zionists did see. The leaders were attempting to blur the present situation. The patient, the ill person, was in danger because it was difficult to find the correct diagnosis. He always opposed the Balfour Declaration. While everyone was just melting with happiness he walked among the celebrants as someone who is in mourning, which is why he was not so disappointed and desperate as the others. The desperation in Zionism was the result of the exaggerated hopes the leaders and the people had placed in the Balfour Declaration. The main thing was that one had to be dedicated to take care in realistic deed. The English government would then have to take into consideration the creative iron will of the people and its power.
Despite the fact that the land of Israel was still not developed, its citrus fruit could compete in the world and bring profits. The role of the Zionist was to interest tens of thousands of Jews with a warm and beating heart in the building of the land, in its commercial meaning. As an example, he mentioned his own experience in establishing the colony Karkur, twenty of whose farmers were Jews from London and did not cost the Jewish people a penny. Sixty other farmer families also lived there.
Concerning the difficult war of cooperating labor that all the Jewish laborers have to conduct in the Hebrew settlement, Dr. Zelkind said that the new colonists, the English, were of a different character. The Englishman was a pioneer in his own field and he understood and appreciated the role of the Hebrew work.
Concerning the situation of the Jews in the world he said, Everyplace where Jews are threatened with attack there has to be a general Hebrew defense. He himself had participated in Jewish defense.
Concerning his Yiddish interpretation of the Talmud, Dr. Zelkind added, Up to
now there have appeared three books: Brachot, Peah and Dmai. He was now
printing the fourth section, Kilaim. This section would be interesting because
it would contain many diagrams and illustrations in color on the subject of
botany and zoology. It was being published for the first time by a scientific
publisher. The original had vowels and was clean of the mistakes that had been
pervasive during the years, through different printers and copiers. The
interpretation was encyclopedic in its content and its appearance.
It contained the Jerusalem version and relied on eighty interpreters, old ones, ancient ones and new ones, and hundreds of other items that could not be found among the interpreters. For every teacher-interpreter there was a biography, the number of issues he was treating, his opposition interpreter and so on.
The interpretation in Yiddish was clear and it was something that everybody could understand, from an intelligent person who had never studied Talmud to the scholar who did not satisfy himself only in Bartanura and the editions of Yomtov. Bialik became very excited by this interpretation and implored the author that after the fourth section he would start a Hebrew edition, which Bialik would publish.
As far as the reason for his travel to America and what he could tell us about the people from Kobrin who live in America, Dr. Zelkind answered that he had traveled to distribute his books and also to conduct the propaganda to return to the Talmud. He wanted the younger generation to study the Talmud with open and critical eyes. He assured his interviewer that if the younger generation would study the Talmud and our literature not only would its ties to the people of Israel become stronger and tighter but there would be a new light before us which would illuminate its eyes, the new generation in all the social issues.
Dr. Zelkind believed that in the Talmud was a yearning to a social justice and humanity that would solve all the difficulties in life. The laws of the Talmud were an original creation that symbolized the Godly spirit and the genius of Grandfather Israel. The Talmud was not ancient literature which should be of interest only to a historical investigator, but a living organism that would still express a lot to us in the future. The Talmud was not merely a treasury of pretty sayings but a strong structure built of steel on which would be poured and woven more veins and flesh not only of the people of Israel but of other people's nations too.
The law was the highest and loftiest form of life. The scale with which we
measure people and nations, the laws of the Talmud, were the highest
legislative institution. Abraham Gieger once wrote that the Christians have
nothing to be proud of in Jesus because we have Hillel. Professor Dalitcher
answered to this that the two cannot be compared because Jesus gave the world
The Sermon on the Mount and Hillel instructed on the washing
of hands and which youngster is not neglecting today the washing of the hands.
The foolish professor did not understand the value of the washing of the hands. In the Middle Ages the people lived in filth and dirt and every Monday and Thursday there would erupt the plagues that decimated the population. The angel of death stopped for a short while by the gates of the ghetto because here there were no magic or miracles. On the whole, everybody in the Jewish world knew about the washing of hands and that the body should be appropriately washed and cleaned.
Dr. Zelkind's idea was to return the younger generation to the synagogue so
that it would see the light in Judaism. With great happiness he told about his
travels to the land of Israel where he met youth from Kobrin in the forefront
of those who were building the land.
by Y. M. Zelkind
I am sitting here in Rishon Le'Tzion working with all my might. I have left noisy Haifa and closed myself in a quiet colony so as to be able to finish without interruption the work that I have taken upon myself, namely, to prepare the first scientific edition of the Mishna with a modern interpretation. On the table is a pile of books, Babylonian and the Jerusalem, with various new editions and interpretations, questions and answers. Some of them are books on the wisdom of Israel in various languages and I am studying them. Those who know acknowledge the importance of my work and expect it to be really successful. The publisher urges me to have the first volume ready for publication by the end of April and I want the same thing, but it has to be a complete and perfect work in every sense of the word. So, I have to sweat so much that I have no time for anything else.
And so when I was completely invested in my work there came a young man from
Kobrin, from the group whose tents are on the hill opposite me. He brought me
an issue of the Kobriner Wochenblatt [Kobriner Weekly]. A miracle happened. I
rose suddenly from my thoughts in the depth of the sea of the Talmud. I forgot
about the Rambam and the entire wisdom of Israel. What did I care about the
publisher and his problems? Let him rest in peace and leave me alone. Wasn't I
busy? I was reading a newspaper. I was reading the Kobriner Wochenblatt. I
thought that it had passed away from this world to the other world (and I don't
have to add that for a newspaper that place is not fitting). May he have good
health, the nice guest, the young man who brought me the newspaper, and my good
friends who are taking care to see that our darling Kobrin will not stay
without an expression. Let's hope you live long together with your newspaper.
It seems to me that at one time I was proud to tell you that I was the first person from Kobrin who pointed the road to the University, so I want now to proudly tell you that my younger brother, Naftali, was the first person from Kobrin who showed the pioneering road to the land of Israel. That was twenty-five years ago. He was a young student of Agronomy in Leipzig. Suddenly he left everything and immigrated to the land of Israel where he was one of those who conquered the valley. During the days that he stayed in Merchavia his house served as a center to all the people from Kobrin in the Galilee. Now that he is in Rishon there comes to him all the people from Kobrin who are in Judea.
A similar place in Tel Aviv is the home of the dentist, Dr. M. Halperin, who last year came here from New York and because of whom our townspeople lost the excellent communal person, Mrs. Halperin. She was born in Nasvitch but she was in heart and soul a Kobrin person. When I was in America this was during the time that one of your Rabbis collected their money for the yeshiva in Kobrin I thought that all of America was from Kobrin. Now in the land of Israel it seems to me that all the people here are from Kobrin.
Well, what can you say about Tel Aviv? If they wanted to pray, they could erect a big synagogue, but there are enough people from Kobrin, thank God, in every place that you turn in the land of Israel. When I came to Chadera, there old Ukraintz showed me a farm the likes of which I wish everybody from Kobrin could have. When I went by bus to Haifa, the driver must have been a person from Kobrin. Suddenly I saw in Jerusalem a brown shirt and I tried to touch it and a scholar from Kobrin told me that a policeman from Kobrin would arrest me. In Rishon, there was a group of „Hashomer Hatzair" and I am sure that at least a third of it was from the youth of Kobrin. And who will drain the swamps of Tel El Shemem and make it a nice and healthy agricultural settlement by the name of K'Far Yehoshua, if not the son of Benjamin Katz and Abraham Yakov, the grandson of Kartzinals, and tens of other Kobrin people who live there and slowly settle down.
I'm also telling you that we should not be ashamed at all of our Kobrin people in the land of Israel, neither in quantity nor in quality. Quietly they rose who gave the people the nation, the good and the helpful in them, without asking for it anything, and now they are asking that there be others who come and continue their work in conditions that are better and more comfortable than before.
When I read that there were fights at your place for the revisionist and
against them, I wanted to tell you as an older friend and a native of your town
in this language, Slow children. Instead of fighting, why don't you pack
your bags and hurry up here. This is your place. The land of Israel needs more
people from Kobrin and if you absolutely need to have strife and fight for this
slogan or another, you have permission to do it here as much as you want. The
main thing is hurry up and come. Kosher or Traif, what do I care? We need you
here in the land. You will be recognized. This is your place. I can promise you
and for this you will not honor me with a Misheberech and may my father be
cursed (that is if I don't tell you the truth).
The people of Kobrin had the idea to establish in the land of Israel an association of all the people of Kobrin. I wanted to organize something like that in America, to create a Kobrin center that would tie and unite all the natives of our town for the purpose of our spiritual goals and our social goals arid our charity project. But, the presidents'of the various organizations got scared, worried about their presidency, and they put obstacles in the way.
Here we have a very developed element. It will be the first association in the
land of Israel of a town that organized, and I expect that it will be of a lot
of help to those who are already here and to the people of Kobrin who intend to
immigrate. Enough for now. Be healthy and see to it that you don't fall asleep
again. Have a quiet and sweet year. August 1934.
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