Sunday, July 1, 2012

Volozhin and a taste of Litvishe Yeshiva History


Wołożyn Voloshin. Little town in Belarus, pre war in Poland. There was located famous yeshiva - (Talmudic seminary), founded in the early 19th century by Rabbi Chaim Volozhin. I just found on Bialystok jewish cemetery grave of Mariashe, wife of the Genius Gaon Reb Nachman Zerach Simchowicz and daughter of HaRav Moshe Fridland Frydland a biblical scholar from the Volozhin Yeshiva.... Interesting coincidence between Bialystok and Wolozhin...

Today we all know Litvishe Yeshiva / Kollel students mainly as "Black Hats". Black suits, black hats (Borsolino) and white shirts. The history of the Litvishe clothing and their Yeshivot, however, was very different from today. Especially until before the Second World War, the Litvishe wore normal hats or even straw hats in the summer. Not everyone wore a black suit and a white shirt but the clothing style represented a regular life style. 

Some time ago, I read the biography of Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, who told that in his Yeshiva days, students had to look and pay for their own accomodation. Yeshivot did neither provide dorms nor food and one was lucky to find a cheap room to rent somewhere nearby. Many Yeshiva students had to take part - time jobs in order to make a living and be able to buy food. Others were starving, as times where tough.

Today, studying at any Yeshiva is very comfortable. Dorms and food are being provided and there are books for everybody. Let alone computers and surfing the Internet.

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