I can’t remember a more apolitical yeshiva than the Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. I attended Yeshivas Mir in my late youth and I’ll forever be grateful for that opportunity. The Mir stands out as a Yeshiva that’s sole purpose is learning Torah and nothing else. There is always a positive vibe and a feeling that every Jew, no matter his affiliation, is welcome inside. You want to learn, the door is open, and that’s what makes the Yeshiva so special.
From the many years I spent in the Yeshiva, one day sticks out in my mind. It was the day after an IDF operation went terribly sour. A number of young soldiers were now dead and the country was in mourning. As American bachurim we didn’t really follow the news and on that morning when we showed up for shiur we were not expecting anything different.
On a usual day, the talmidim wait in their chairs until the Maggid shiur shows up. The Rebbe walks in, the talmidim stand up, they sit down and it gets perfectly quiet. Our Rebbe would then open his Gemara and dive right in to the sugya at hand. Nothing ever changed.
Yet on that day our Rebbe sat down but didn’t open his gemara. Instead he told us that he would like to take a few moments of shiur time to discuss something very important. He alerted us to the terrible incident that had occurred and how young Jewish lives had just been snatched away from Klal Yisroel. He looked around the room and pointed out to us how these young soldiers were the same age as we were right now, and while we were just beginning our lives, theirs had ended so suddenly. He tried to make us feel the pain these boys parents and family were feeling at that very moment. He explained to us that while we were not at the funeral we can at least try and empathize with them. It didn’t matter what the boys looked like or what unit they were fighting in, they were Jewish that was all we needed to know. He told us that there is no bigger zchus than one who died al kiddush hashem and that these young soldiers had just given their lives so we Americans can spend time here in Eretz Yisroel and learn in the Yeshiva. He then opened his Gemara and said, “let’s not let their lives be in vain, lets learn in their memory”. With that said, he began shiur like it was any other day.
I can’t say what the rest of the students were thinking, maybe they had a mind to learn but I suspect many like myself were thinking about those soldiers. In fact I know they were because many of us had tears in our eyes.
Our Rebbe could have easily waited till the end of shiur to tell us what happened, this way our minds would be clear to learn, but he didn’t because he felt it was that important for us to feel something for other Jews and to give the proper hakaras hatov for other Jews no matter who they were.
In the years after I left Yeshiva I would often bring my campers to hear divrei torah from the Rosh Yeshiva, R Nosson Tzvi Z”L. Every time I heard him speak I was impressed with his incredible modesty and great love for Am Yisrael.
This is the hashkafa I was brought up with and that’s the Mir I recall. An atmosphere of Torah Learning and Ahavas Yisroel par excellence. Where the way you’re dressed isn’t noticed at all. Where levity and frivolity are left outside the Yeshiva doors. Where the discussion of politics and other trivial ideas are not to be heard. Most importantly its the kind of place that everyone and anyone that wants to learn Torah is welcome inside and treated as an equal. It wouldn’t even surprise me if Yair Lapid himself would walk into a shiur, someone would find him a seat and offer him a sefer to learn.
That’s the Mir Yeshiva I remember and that I believe is the Yeshiva today.