Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Nissan 5763 - April 9, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








The Adventures of a Mirrer Bochur in Europe

by Rav Dov Eliach

As a bochur, Menachem Manes Moore sailed from his hometown in Northern England carrying a large load of spiritual recording equipment. He had a powerful desire to absorb all he could and a great thirst to charge his batteries with Torah and mussar. Everywhere he went, his head took in the picture laid out before his eyes. He would listen and absorb, look and take "photographs" with his mind's built-in camera.

Yet wherever he roamed his strongest sentiments remained attached to Yeshivas Mir in Poland, the yeshiva he felt bound to and where most of his memories were set. He remained a "Mirrer" all of his life. But along came World War II, cutting short his stay in Mir. In fact when we spoke to Rav Menachem Moore zt'l fifty years later, in Gateshead, he began his story shortly before the war broke out.


Between Tisha B'Av and Rosh Chodesh Elul 5699 (September 1939), as the talmidim of Yeshivas Mir set off for their annual summer break, I travelled to Vilna. Rav Simchah Zissel, the son of Rav Yeruchom Levovitz, had recommended a doctor there who could treat the illness that had struck me on the day of my arrival at Mir.

In the meantime, I sat and learned in the Gra Kloiz in Vilna. It was the only beis knesses in the area with a minyan, and even there I had to lein the Torah because nobody else knew how. At the other shtiebelach surrounding Beis Haknesses Hagodol there were almost no seforim aside from Mishnayos, and of course siddurim and Chumoshim. Only in this shtiebel were all of the seforim available, from sets of Shas to Rishonim and Acharonim.

As a rule these kloizen were very simple affairs. Only the modern Beis Haknesses Hagodol was really nice, and it was large and high-ceilinged. I did not daven there at all. I assume it was only open on Shabbos. All of Vilna was already very weak in Jewish terms. Most of the people were secular. Vilna lay in ruins.

With Gedolei Yisroel in Drozegnik

From Vilna I travelled to Drozegnik, a well-known vacation spot. There I met several leading roshei yeshivos. HaRav Aharon Kotler, for instance, was in the same hotel where I was staying.

Every day Rav Aharon would walk to the forest to meet his colleagues, the other roshei yeshivos. They would be found resting in a hammock tied between two thick trees, and bochurim on vacation would come to speak with them in learning every day. There was also a beach there, but they preferred the forest. This was their dacha. And if I'm not mistaken "dacha" is the Polish or Russian word for "forest."

On Friday I went to the mikveh and when I left, I came across HaRav Shimon Shkop sitting down for a rest after bathing. He called out to me with a hearty "Sholom Aleichem," although I had never seen him before. Then he reached out to shake my hand with a big smile, as if we were old friends. That was the beginning and end of my acquaintance with him, although I did see his yeshiva in Grodno during that same bein hazmanim when I took a side trip to see how a different type of yeshiva looks. I found a very plain building, like in Baranowitz, and like all of the yeshivos, constructed in a simple style, just straight walls, as plain as can be.

HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz was also in Drozegnik at the time, and davened Shacharis with me in the beis knesses. The rov of Suvalk, HaRav D. Lifshitz, was also there, as well as many yeshiva bochurim who, between trips in the surrounding area, would go to talk about their learning, particularly with R' Aharon.

There were also many doctors whose task was to treat the vacationers. There was also a place for solar treatment, and people said it was healthy to lie there; I was also advised to go there for the problem I had. All told I spent two weeks there.

Latvia-Italy-Lithuania, via Telz

A few days after my return to the yeshiva, I received a letter from the British Consulate saying that due to the present political situation I would have to leave the country immediately. They informed me that the British authorities would not be responsible for those who remained. All of the British bochurim received the same letter.

It was already several days into Elul. I wanted to go to Telz in Lithuania, but the border between Poland and Lithuania had been closed since the previous war, so we all went to Riga in Latvia.

There was a small yeshiva there on the second floor of a building. We stayed there and davened there on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, together with the members of the yeshiva. There was a kitchen there and those who didn't have money would receive tzetlach [slips] with which they would get free meals. Those of us from Poland also received them, and this was how we ate during the chagim. For a place to sleep we had to secure quarters nearby.

One day we went into the local Lithuanian consulate to request entry visas so we could continue on to Yeshivas Telz. But apparently they were in constant contact with the British Consul. He [the Lithuanian consulate] phoned him and asked if he could give our group visas for Lithuania. "G-d forbid!" exclaimed the Englishman. "Send me their passports and I'll cancel their validity." He did indeed take them to the Ministry of the Interior where the passports were stamped with the word, "Invalid."

The only way left for us to go to England was via the neighboring country of Estonia, which had a port. I didn't want to go to England, but staying in Riga was not for me either. All told there was just a tiny yeshiva in a big, noisy city. So I decided to go to England, but by a different route, via Italy, and I thought that maybe there would be some kind of positive development. I parted from everyone and embarked on a twelve-hour train ride.

On the way I came up with an idea. I would ask the Lithuanian Consulate in Italy for a visa. That's exactly what I did, and I was well-received there. The Consul gave me a one year visa. I then returned to Riga and told my friends about this possibility, and everyone else copied my idea.

We travelled in a group to Telz, where there was no trace of the war. All was completely peaceful, and Torah study carried on as always. This was after the agreement between Russia and Germany [the Hitler-Stalin Pact] in which Germany promised not to invade these three small countries [Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia], which were under Russian protectorate. They sat and learned with great hasmodoh, hardly aware there was a war.

I stayed there until the arrival of the Russians, who at first declared that they would allow the country to carry on as usual and would only govern from above. But little by little they ousted the national leaders, taking over the administration of the state themselves.

At Yeshivas Telz

Telz definitely was a top yeshiva. My roommate at Telz was one of the leading bochurim and knew how to learn well. But overall transition from Yeshivas Mir to Telz was difficult for me. The approach to learning at Telz was like at a yeshiva ketanoh, although there were older bochurim there as well. There were four levels of shiurim -- unlike Mir which was based on one large conglomerate designed for bochurim age 18 and over, automatically creating a more mature atmosphere.

At Telz there were chaburos in Chumash given by HaRav Elyoh Meir Bloch, who would add very nice things from Shiurei Daas, written by his father, HaRav Yosef Yehuda Leib. His brother, the rov of Telz, HaRav Avrohom Yitzchok who was the main rosh yeshiva, was a very prominent figure and gave excellent shiurim. To this day I have a letter of recommendation from him. I stayed at his house for the first two days of Pesach, participating in both of his seders.

I also took part in chaburos given by HaRav Yisroel Ordman, the brother of HaRav Nosson Ordman of London, who was the son-in-law of HaRav Zalman Bloch and served as the yeshiva's mashgiach. I would go to his home with a group of about 20 bochurim to hear his mussar shmuessen. He would also present chidushei halochoh. When HaRav Elyoh Meir Bloch and HaRav Mottel Katz went to America, he was appointed rosh yeshiva.

Unlike all of the yeshivos that moved to Lithuania at the beginning of the War, Yeshivas Telz was originally local and composed mostly of Lithuanian citizens. Therefore the authorities would not allow it to leave and, except for a few foreign bochurim who went home, all of Yeshivas Telz remained [when the Nazis arrived]. One person who pretended to be dead lived to tell the story of [the slaughter] that took place there.

Telz was definitely a very good yeshiva. About 250 talmidim were learning there, with impressive hasmodoh. A few years earlier it had been considered an excellent yeshiva, but by the time I arrived it had declined somewhat. When HaRav Aharon Kotler's Yeshivas Kletsk arrived in the city of Yanuva, about 50 mil [30 miles] from Telz, I decided to go there. I had been at Telz from October 1939 until the summer of 1940.

Communists Supporting Torah

Yanuva was a town of carpenters that provided most of the furniture for all of Lithuania. The majority of its residents were Jewish communists--almost the entire town. Their financial situation was among the best in the country, and they lived even better than the people of Kovna, the capital city in those days.

For example, throughout Lithuania there were no bathtubs in private homes. Even in the public bathhouses where everyone would bathe, there were just simple faucets (unlike in the homes of the very rich). The bathhouse in the big city of Kovna was just like what I had seen in little Mir: a single faucet which everyone would stand in line to use. They would fill up the bucket with water and, using a baizem--a brush of that period--would scrub and clean themselves. This was the technique in Kovna, too.

In contrast, in the bathhouse of the town of Yanuva there were twenty nice bathing rooms with water flowing straight into the bathtub through hot-and cold-water faucets.

The members of Yeshivas Kletsk also benefited from this when they were issued free passes to bathe whenever they pleased. In general those communists received us very amiably, and with respect. Members of the yeshiva would stay at their homes as stantzies and they gave them due respect as Jewish refugees from Poland and as bnei Torah.

Interestingly enough, every Shabbos all the communists would go to the beis knesses for prayers and they would not open their workshops and businesses during Shabbos. Whether they kept Shabbos inside their own homes, I do not know. They may have smoked inside their homes, but they definitely did not desecrate Shabbos in public. During this entire period I saw only one Jew smoke on Shabbos, and in general the whole town was completely at rest every Shabbos.

Once while I was there a fire broke out in the town, and two houses burned down. All of the houses in Yanuva were made of wood. There were no official firefighters, just a volunteer organization of Jews. Many had to come to the rescue to help extinguish the big fire.

I knew the town shochet. He was a very dear Jew. He told me that in the near future, when the Russians arrived, it would be really bad there. He was very concerned over the actions they would take, and his fears came true.

The members of the kehilloh made the local beis knesses available to the yeshiva, which used it for learning and shiurim throughout the week. On Shabbos, since the baalei batim were davening there, we would stay in the ezras noshim. I still remember that the talks given by the mashgiach, HaRav Yosef Leib Nandik Hy'd who had learned at Kelm, were given in the ezras noshim.

The rosh yeshiva, Rav Aharon, provided the yeshiva with a spacious dining room in a large house until the Russians came into the town. They confiscated the house right away for army use and feeding the soldiers. Then we began eating in Rav Aharon's home, a large house he had been given upon his arrival. But after just two weeks the Russians took away his house as well, this time for the army commander in the area. Rav Aharon was forced to move into a small apartment and we were left with no other choice than to eat at boarding houses.

Rav Aharon would send the meat to the housewives, and they would cook it for their boarders. At my boarding house ten bochurim ate by one cook. The yeshiva would pay them for their work with money sent from Vilna by HaRav Chaim Ozer, who steered the yeshiva's course and raised a lot of money from America through the Joint, Ezras Torah and individual Jews.

One day we received a letter from the British Consulate saying they planned to remove British citizens from Russia and all of the countries under its protection, such as Poland, Lithuania, etc., and that we would have to travel to Kovna to obtain a travel visa to pass through Russia. We had to travel there several times and, thinking it was a needless effort and a waste of valuable time to make the journey from Yanuva and back, I decided to end my stay in Kletsk after five months there. I went to Ramigola, to one of the branches of Yeshivas Mir, which had been forced to spread out in four different towns. From there the journey to Kovna was quite short -- just a single bus ride.

At Mir: Golus in Ramigola

The Yomim Noraim of 1940 were approaching when I arrived in the tiny town of Ramigola. Despite its diminutive size I did discover a very large and sophisticated butter factory, where I would go to buy butter every morning. I saw how the sophisticated machines worked. They would put the milk in on one side and butter ready to eat would come out on the other side. The non-Jewish workers there went to special schools to learn the trade and really did run it well.

A short time later the Russians arrived there as well, and as part of efforts to nationalize factories around the country, they appropriated this factory, too. The racket from the factory did not cease, but was transformed: now the rumbling of the machinery had been replaced by the notorious sounds of Russian propaganda. This was how the Russians operated-- nationalizing things the people required for their basic necessities and confusing them with propaganda.

In Ramigola there were about 45 bochurim learning. It was one of the small towns where the talmidim of Yeshivas Mir gathered. Keidan was a large town where the largest group--some 80 talmidim--were concentrated, along with the mashgiach Rav Chatzkel, and the rosh yeshiva HaRav Lazer Yudel. His place of residence was secret so the authorities would not be able to find him, and only at night would he "awake" to perform essential activities, together with people who came to him to discuss financial and other matters. At these meetings telegrams were sent and everything that had to be taken care of was accomplished, all in the middle of the night. This I heard from my friends, but I was never there myself.

In Ramigola there was no mashgiach, but there was an older bochur who would give various mussar talks. I can't remember his name, but in any case the mashgiach was the one who appointed him to run and direct the local group, and everyone heeded his instructions. The mashgiach himself, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, would come to visit each of the four towns for an hour before heading back.

On Succos we had a decent succah, and in general it was quite nice there. It was a very small town, even smaller than Mir which was also considered a small town. But there were still a few hundred people living in Mir, while here there were only about a hundred Jews in the whole town and a smattering of goyim-- gor a pitzeleh shtetl.

A Glimpse at the World of Kelm

I spent one week in Kelm. My friend, R' Herschel Geneuer o'h, invited me for a week to stay at his istantzia. I used the opportunity to speak with HaRav Doniel Mowshowitz for about a half-hour. This was his practice: people would make a half-hour appointment to speak with him.

The Beis HaTalmud in Kelm at that time numbered only 25 talmidim, sort of a gathering of older bochurim only, ovdei Hashem. In general the gemora learning was like at Yeshivas Mir and all of the other yeshivos. But there was a special emphasis on learning mussar. Every day there was a mussar seder when evening fell, lasting for a whole hour.

The tefilloh lasted a long time, too. Yehei shemei Rabboh, for example, they said very slowly, one word at a time, every time it was recited.

Interestingly enough, my friend from Yeshivas Gateshead, R' Yaakov Goldman, was considered a lively and vivacious bochur while learning at Mir. But when he went to Kelm he changed within one zman. Within six months he became a completely different person. One day he received a letter from his faraway family and, rather than running toward the long awaited letter, I heard him say with Kelmic resolution, "At the end of the seder I'll go fetch it."

By the way, in the end he was killed in the War after he was unable to get up and abandon the Beis HaTalmud of Kelm.

The first time I entered the beis medrash was in the afternoon, before the second seder began. I saw a pair of bochurim sitting and learning, and one of them said to his partner, "I have to smoke a cigarette."

His friend handed him a cigarette and said, "Here, take it," and they continued with their learning session.

Meanwhile the bochur held the cigarette in his hand. Then in came another bochur and said, "Oy, I have to have a cigarette!" The first smoker turned to him and handed him the cigarette he had just received from his friend.

Another friend saw this and told him, "According to the Mabit, you're not allowed to give it to him since you received it solely with intention to use it and not as a regular possession that you can pass on."

This was a typical conversation, which I witnessed the first time I came into Beis HaTalmud in Kelm. And this was the prevailing atmosphere there, stringent adherence to every matter of bein odom lechavero.

There was a special arrangement there in which everybody had a turn to sweep and wash the floor of the entire beis medrash, even if he was fifty years old. Everyone who joined Beis HaTalmud became part of the unique chaburah and, as a member of the chaburah, had to uphold all of its customs and terms.

From Kovna to Vladivostok

Right after Succos we had to leave Ramigola and travelled to Kovna to plan the journey itself. We found out that a special train had been designated for all of the British citizens and it would depart from there straight to Vladivostok, which was on the other end-- the east--of Russia. The British government was paying for the entire journey.

One-hundred-and-eighty passengers were on the train, all of them subjects of the United Kingdom, and of them there were only 16 Jews, all told. Among them was HaRav Dov Silver, who later became a member of Vaad Hayeshivos in Jerusalem, who had been born in England and had married a woman from Kelm. They had three daughters, all of whom were on the train.

Also on the train were HaRav Shmuel Shechter, a talmid at Yeshivas Mir for five years and later at Kelm, and his friend HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, later mashgiach at Yeshivas Lakewood. Both of them were Canadian citizens, but the latter had been born in Russia and therefore he had problems leaving Russia when we got to Vladivostok. With me on the trip were a friend of mine, HaRav Chin of Petach Tikva, who had served as a shochet in Philadelphia, and HaRav Shmuel Bloch, today a prominent figure in the Gateshead kehilloh.

We received the visas in Kovna, whereupon we learned our departure was scheduled for Shabbos Kodesh. We went to ask the rov of the city, the Davar Avrohom Hy'd, who replied inquisitively, "A shailoh?! A vadai darfstu gayen. Dos is pikuach nefesh" ["What kind of a question is this? Of course you have to go. This is pikuach nefesh"].

"In any case," added the rov in jest, "the train is higher than 20 tefochim, so there is no problem of techumim." Following our conversation the elderly gaon escorted us on our way.

It turned out that we had to take the chamedan [Russian for "luggage"] with us on Shabbos, and on Shabbos Day we boarded the train. The next Shabbos we were also on the train, which carried us along for eleven days, from Kovna, Lithuania to the port city of Vladivostok, across the entire length of Russia, to the Pacific Ocean.

Vayis'u Vayachanu

In those days, train cars--in England as well--were divided into small compartments with a few passengers in each, unlike today when there is a large open car that can seat sixty. Each of these compartments had a door and on this particular train there were four people in each compartment.

Above the two facing pairs of seats, two opposite the other two, were two bunks. They consisted of thick boards of wood supported by two very large braces and covered with mattresses. Two passengers would sleep on the seats below, one on each side, and two on the bunks above. I slept on one of the upper bunks.

HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel was accompanied by his fiancee who was a citizen of Lithuania, so they could marry in Canada. But in order to secure an exit visa for her as the spouse of a British subject, he had to do kiddushin back in Kovna so that he could receive a marriage certificate from the local rabbinate. Upon boarding the train they were given a private compartment, and HaRav Nosson kept the door open the whole time, because he had not yet done nissuin.

During the entire eleven days of traversing Russia, the people in charge prohibited us from getting off the train at any of the few stops it made, declaring they would not take responsibility for anyone who got off, if the local Russian authorities would not allow him to re-board.

One of the stops was at the well-known commune of Birobidzhan, located near Siberia and often called a Jewish state inside Russia. It was founded by Stalin. All of the signs in the area were written in Yiddish. They had their own unique spelling, but the words themselves were all regular Yiddish. Because of the warning we had been given, for the duration of the stop we stood at the opening of the train to survey the "Jewish state," keeping one hand on the side of the train in case it began to roll out all of a sudden.

The Siberian air was so cold that almost an inch of ice formed on the window on the inside of the train. It was so cold all along the way. Glass absorbs cold, so the entire window was covered on the inside with one big sheet of ice, whereas the wooden walls were free of ice.

[Since there was no kosher food available during the journey,] each of us took along six long chunks of dried salami, which kept for several weeks. And although we kept them on the bunks, where the warmth would have spoiled normal salami very quickly, this salami was covered with just a thin layer of greenish mold and, after cutting it off with a knife, it could be eaten to the heart's content. We also took matzoh, which we ate primarily on Shabbos. We could eat the bread baked on the train too, because back then they baked bread without adding any fat at all. The oven was built of brick and the floor was covered only with bricks, so there was no reason to avoid eating the bread.

The food was provided by the Russians, just as today on every train there is a dining car to serve the passengers. But we Jews ate in our private compartments rather than with everybody else. We took drinking water from a large container set there [in the dining car]. We could also drink their tea. They also gave us cans of sardines, which we opened and ate in the compartment. For the most part we did not lack food.

Throughout the journey we did not break off from Torah learning. We had a regular chaburah at least two hours a day on maseches Makkos, and everyone had a gemora of his own.

To Brisbane, Australia

When we arrived in Vladivostok the authorities notified us we would be unable to continue onward for the time being due to the thick ice on the water. They said in order to open a sea route the ice would have to be broken by an icebreaker boat since the ship chartered for us was quite small, just 3,000 tons.

Meanwhile they took Rav Nosson Wachtfogel for an investigation, because he was a native-born Russian and the flight of citizens from the country upset the authorities. They interrogated him for an entire day and when he came back he was worn thin. They asked him all sorts of questions but in the end he was released without further trouble.

I caught a cold in Vladivostok and felt very sick, so I recall nothing from there. I can't even remember boarding the boat, just the journey itself. It was a British ship and the entire crew was comprised of Chinese sailors. The kitchen and dining hall were situated on the bottom deck and we went down to check how they baked bread.

We found that while they did not add any fat to the dough, they did smear the metal baking pans with fat. Therefore we were careful to cut off the bottom crust and to eat only the upper part.

Sailing on the Pacific went smoothly and ended at the city of Hong Kong, where the boat docked until morning, leaving us time to disembark to take care of simple errands. I went to get a haircut and the barber asked if perhaps I needed a new suit. I was surprised because to take measurements and tailor a suit takes several days and I had told him we were there only until the morning. "No problem," he said, "the whole family will stay up all night and by morning you'll have yourself a suit." It goes without saying that I had no intentions of obliging him!

Afterwards we went to the local Jewish community and they gave us food and drink. From there we returned to the ship and continued on to Australia. Again we waited several hours in a port and then the ship continued as far as Brisbane, which is the capital of Queensland, a province in the northeast of Australia.

We arrived in Brisbane on a Friday and the reverend [i.e. state-appointed rabbi] in charge of religious matters for the Jewish community accorded us great honor. He brought us into his home and gave us food and provided for all of our other needs. Meanwhile he arranged a place for us to sleep in the beis knesses, sending beds there.

After Shabbos he found us a large apartment where all of us settled in, and the wife of Rav Dov Silver would cook for us. HaRav Dessler's wife was also with us, as well as her twelve- year-old daughter. They were returning from a family visit in Kelm.

"Torah is Destined to Roam to America"

In Australia we began to think about our next step. Rav Nosson Wachtfogel and Rav Shmuel Shechter had Canadian passports and could have sailed right away, without any problem. They only lacked money for passage.

In Sidney there was a special committee called the Board of Guardians that gave financial assistance in special cases--an institution still in existence today in every city in England. Its task is to assist people who encounter unexpected crises by providing financial and other help. They [Rav Wachtfogel and Rav Shechter] called and said they were war refugees and wanted to go home; perhaps they [Board of Guardians] could help purchase tickets? [The Board] was glad to help and indeed they sailed home to Canada.

I was a British citizen but I wanted to go to New York to continue learning Torah at Yeshivas Torah Vodaas. I had a friend, Herschel Geneuer o'h, who was in New York at the time and who was later murdered in Eretz Yisroel -- in 1952 I think. I met him while I was studying at Yeshivas Telz. In any case I wrote him a letter from Australia to New York, asking him to send me the appropriate documents from Yeshivas Torah Vodaas, indicating they were accepting me as a student at their yeshiva.

As soon as he sent what I had asked for I received the longed- for visa and, with the help of the abovementioned committee, I got a ticket and sailed to New York.

A trip to England was out of the question because of the danger, since the Germans were blowing up boats along the route, but even more because I didn't have anything to do there since I wanted to continue studying in yeshiva. I settled down at Torah Vodaas, which was the only yeshiva in New York at the time. As a result of this, a good chaburah framework formed, out of refugees from the yeshivas in Europe.

Later we moved to White Plains, a very nice location outside of New York where we set up a kollel for ourselves. We had a very nice house for our living quarters, and another house like it for a beis medrash and another house that served as a dining room. For a short period the Chofetz Chaim's son-in- law, HaRav Menachem Mendel Zaks, was also with us and his wife would cook our meals. Not only did we get the benefit of having Rav Menachem there, but we also got to eat the cooking of the Chofetz Chaim's daughter!

The rov of Lomzhe, HaRav Moshe Shatzkes, was also with us for a short time. We were there for a total of about nine months -- until HaRav Aharon Kotler arrived in America. As soon as he came he began to work at setting up a yeshiva, which became the famous yeshiva at Lakewood. "There's no time to spare," he would say repeatedly. "We must begin setting up a yeshiva right away."

I, too, joined his yeshiva and moved to Lakewood.

HaGaon Rav Aharon Kotler

Rav Aharon was very quick in his shiurim and would speak very rapidly. When I first came to learn by him, I simply could not hear what he was saying. He spoke so fast it took me three weeks to hear him. Although he did not change, by that time I had grown accustomed to his speech and could catch his words. Even then, since he was surrounded by talmidim during the shiur, I had to stand right next to him or else I had no chance of hearing.

In his great genius, sometimes Rav Aharon would present four different approaches to clarify a certain halocho in the Rambam. I remember, for instance, in Bovo Metzia, for two consecutive shiurim he presented two ways of understanding the Rambam and explained at length the advantages and disadvantages of each one: how approach A would lead to a certain maskonoh, but would create a certain problem, etc.

His shiurim had high suspense so that if he was interrupted by a question he did not approve of, he would let loose a fighting flurry. On more than one occasion he would cast aspersions and state his objections bluntly.

During my time at Lakewood, there was a bochur named R' Moshe Eisemann. He and Rav Eliyohu Svei were the best talmidim at Lakewood back then. R' Eisemann had a very sharp head and during the shiur on many occasions he would pose a kushio to Rav Aharon, who would call him peuer [peasant-farmer].

During the next cycle, about four years later, Rav Aharon would present the same shiur and R' Moshe Eisemann would repeat his kushios and reiterate his arguments. Rav Aharon would again call him a peuer, but he would not back down. He could not be deterred from stating his opinion on the Rosh Yeshiva's innovative chidushim.

By the way, Rav Aharon did repeat his shiurim in the subsequent cycles in order to bring out various additions. I heard the same shiurim, more or less, on Bovo Metzia, Shabbos, Gittin and other masechtos in both cycles.

His tremendous acuity was obvious in each and every shiur, and even in day-to-day affairs. Besides the yeshiva he also dealt with communal matters, which in my time meant primarily the Rescue Committee for European Jewry. Right after the shiur, he had to go to his office to answer phone calls from people all over the world. Meanwhile, talmidim would come into his office wanting to rehash the shiur that had just ended.

In these situations Rav Aharon displayed extraordinary ability, handling both simultaneously. He would take part in the difficult and urgent rescue efforts, while teaching Torah to his talmidim, mamash at the same time. It was moradik!

And as long as we're on the subject of communal matters, the Rosh Yeshiva would also give his talmidim lessons on hashkofoh. We would often hear him speak against Lubavitch, claiming they were innovating an independent religion. Once a newspaper headline announced they were celebrating Chanukah for seven days because of some kind of internal matter of theirs, and Rav Aharon held up the newspaper in front of us saying, "Read this. You see? They're coming up with a Chanukah of their own!"

Second Part: Rav Moore's memories of Mir Yeshiva

A Ben Torah for Life

Rav Chaim of Volozhin reputedly said, "The Torah has to be exiled ten times before the Geulah. First it was exiled to Bovel, then to North Africa, Egypt, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, and it is destined to find shelter in America, the last Torah center."

The story of Rav Menachem Manes Moore--"Monty" as he was known to his friends and acquaintances--supports this assertion. He started his learning at Yeshivas Gateshead, founded in 5691 (1931). Seeking further growth in Torah he picked up and went to Yeshivas Mir in Poland. When the War broke out he transferred to Yeshivas Telz in Lithuania. He also learned at Kletsk, then operating in exile in the town of Yanuva.

After a brief glimpse of the world of Kelm he returned to Yeshivas Mir, which by then had been exiled to Ramigola. When signs of more trouble came he was forced to flee to Australia and from there to the U.S. to Yeshivas Torah Vodaas.

"Why should I return to England?!" he exclaimed. "I wanted to keep growing in Torah!"

With the arrival of HaRav Aharon Kotler to the U.S., Rav Moore was among his first talmidim at the famous Yeshivas Lakewood. His is a concise tale of how Torah roamed in exile until it reached American shores.

Rav Moore's final stop, Gateshead, completed a circle; not just of a man returning to his boyhood town and birthplace, but of a ben yeshiva returning to the yeshiva and kollel benches. Even later as a breadwinner and a distinguished member of the community he continued to earn the title of a ben yeshiva plugging away at his learning, temidim kesidrom until his petiroh.

We encountered him sitting in the beis medrash as usual and came to admire him, a tzurvo meirabonon already past the 70-year mark. He still had the strength to give and take in rischo deOraisa with the same fervor and the same frishkeit as he did as a young bochur at Yeshivas Mir.

Both in his learning and in his tefilloh he would hum pleasantly just as he did at Mir. His words and actions were slow and deliberate, "as if counting money."

"On motzei Shabbos I say Havdoloh just like Rav Chaim Sharshevsky, who would recite Havdoloh every week at Yeshivas Mir," he told us.

A ben Torah in exile, taking the yeshiva with him wherever he roams.


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