Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lech Lecha :|

Noticed a cute coincidence in this week's parsha. I have two seforim, diametrically opposed, whose titles are based in this week's parasha, the Dor Revi'i and the Be'er Lachai Ro'i.

Dor Revii was Rav Moshe Shmuel Glasner, the rav of Klausenberg in the 1920s. Rare among Hungarian rabbis, he was a Zionist, and in 1921 he put his money where his mouth was and made aliyah to Palestine. His book, by that name, is one of the main modern commentaries on Tractate Chullin, the part of the Talmud which deals with Kashrut - the most mundane of Jewish topics.

The book is aptly titled. On the one hand, R' Glasner was the great-grandson of the Chatam Sofer, the patriarch of 19th-century Hungarian Jewry, who set it in opposition to Reform on the one hand and Chasidism on the other. So he was the Dor Revi'i, the Fourth Generation, from the Chatam Sofer. On the other hand, God promises Avraham in Lech Lecha, at the Covenant Between Halves, that while Avraham's descendents will be enslaved, the Dor Revi'i, the Fourth Generation, will return here, to Canaan, later known as Israel, then Palestine, and again today Israel. As R' Glasner was intent on Returning There, he clearly felt himself metaphorically fulfilling the prophecy: the Fourth Generation [from the Chatam Sofer] Will Return Here [to Palestine].

Be'er Lachai Ro'i was Rebbe Tzvi Hirsch Spira of Munkatch. His son and successor, the Minchas Elazar, famously formulated Hungarian resistance to Zionism through explication of the Three Oaths made by the Jews after the destruction of the Temple: Kesuvos (111a) quotes R. Yossi ben R. Hanina: "What are these three oaths? One, that Israel should not rise with (or like) a wall; another, that God had Israel swear not to rebel against the nations; another, that God had the nations swear not to subjugate Israel overmuch." (translation taken from Hirhurim). In other words, they were the arch anti-Zionists, and their view really took hold in Hungary, being most vehemently expressed by the late Satmar Rav, Yoel Teitelbaum.

The book, Be'er Lachai Ro'i, is a clear and lengthy commentary on the Tikkunei Zohar, a part of the fundamental work of Jewish mysticism, from which springs many of the basic concepts that informed Chasidism - that the Universe is part of God, that no place is empty of Him, etc. The commentary makes the obscure clear.

So on the one hand, we have the Zionist rav, expounding the depth and complexity of the most mundane subject, and we have the scion of the anti-Zionist dynasty, explaining and clarifying the deep Zohar, both in Hungary in the 19th-20th centuries, both drawing their titles from the same parasha, that of Lech Lecha, that talks about the earliest foundation of the Jewish nation.

Both widely separate in outlook and subject matter, both drawing from the same part of Torah, both in the same universe of Torah discourse. As God's tefillin allegedly read, "Who is like Your people Israel, One Nation in the Land."

I don't know as much about the Munkatchers, what is the Rebbe's connection to Lech Lecha for the title?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Irony: The Dor Revi'i's Grandson and Granddaughter were married by the Munkatcher Rebbe R' Boruch Rabinowitz.