The Mir I Remember

Mirs 2

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.

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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.

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  • Moe Ginsburg

    And that’s the Mir of today as well, your insinuation otherwise notwithstanding. The Mir of yesteryear didn’t stand idly by and accept when Ben-Gurion wanted to draft yeshiva bochorim away from the yeshiva into the army. Nor later such attemps by subsequent governments.

    • DovidTeitelbaum

      I wasnt insinuating that. I apologise if thats how it came accross.

      • Moe Ginsburg

        Thank you for the clarification. I’m sure you will find harsh words emanating from the Mir against earlier government attempts to forcibly draft yeshiva bochorim.

        • DovidTeitelbaum

          I don’t believe that’s true, but I wouldn’t know.

          • R Micha Berger

            You mean, aside from the afternoon the bachurim had off so they could join the Atzeret — of which more than half of the tehillim were requests for G-d to destroy the enemy.

            In any case, I have a feeling the answer is going to be more complex. With RNZF zt”l’s passing, the ship no longer has a single rudder.

          • Moe Ginsburg

            RNZF zt”l had his yeshiva students go to the massive Atzeres against the government about 10 years ago.

          • R Micha Berger

            There is one thing to attend a prayer rally. It is another when the majority of the prayers call for Divine Wrath.

            The choice of Tehillim is very telling: 79, 80, 137, 55, 51, 90, 89, 95, 107, 96 and 86.

            Shefokh Chamaskha (Pour out Your Wrath on the nations who do not know you, and on the governments who do not call out in Your name) is the first, and the tone of the whole pereq 79.

            They also chose Al Naharos Bavel, with “zekhor H’ livnei Edom” etc…
            #55 is also about an enemy, including “Balah A-donoi, palag leshonam” “yashia maves aleimo…”
            From kapitl 89, “you crushed Rahav as a war casualty…”
            And so on…

            It’s not just specific quotes, most of the kapitalakh chosen were appropriate for praying against an enemy as their thesis.

            Which is why the discussion about harsh words has to take participation in this rally into account. The rally wasn’t just protest or prayer, it was also “harsh words”.

          • Moe Ginsburg

            The internal enemies of the Torah community are worse than our external enemies. Better to die at the hand of the Nazis ym’s than to be shmadded by Jews (like the Teimani children were).

          • DovidTeitelbaum

            MG these are your opinions, you don’t speak for the yeshiva. In fact you arent even using a real name so I would appreciate you not commenting any further or Ill delete it.

          • hmaryles

            R’ Dovid:

            This may be the Mir of today… but R’ Nissan Kaplan is too. He is a very popular Magid Shiur and instead of doing what your rebbe did back then he did something quite the opposite.

            TTBOMK there was not anyone in your time who would have said the kinds of things R’ Nissan Kaplan did. Apologies notwithstanding.

            I am not the only only one who feels this way, RYGB expressed this exact sentiment on my blog and on his facebook page.

          • DovidTeitelbaum

            I understand . No argument here.

          • Avi Ganz

            Dovid – first, thank you so much for writing. This was and is my experience too. Problem is that our youth are inundated with sensationalism and therefore they are attracted to it. R’ Nissan’s comments, I believe, disqualify him as a Mechanech. There are many talmidei chachamim in the Mir who use the soapbox to spread politics etc. The Rosh Yeshiva Z’L and YBLC”T the Shmulevitzes, Rav Aharon, are Gedolim in the realist sense. They are Big people. Not lost in pettiness. Not opportunists. Careful with their words and their priorities. I have so many little maiselech from my own 6 year stint. I was drawn to these people like a moth to a light. And with the same force managed to avoid (repel?) many of the others. When I mourned the loss of my Rebbe and Rosh Yeshiva Zichrono L’Vracha, I also stood at the Levya wondering if I am also mourning the Mir Yeshiva. This week’s story with Rav Nissan was very upsettin and made me concerned, as a parent and educator.

          • Tulch

            I learned in the mir for over 3 years and I too share in your sentimental feelings of the love and warmth that emanate from the yeshiva to this very day. May I ask who was your Rebbi who this beautiful story is about?

          • tulch

            My post was meant for Dovid not Avi. Sry

          • DovidTeitelbaum

            I decided not to publish the name but if you email me privately Ill give it you.

          • DovidTeitelbaum

            Same as what I responded to RM. They consider it a prayer rally. And it wasnt a yeshiva event.

          • DovidTeitelbaum

            My only explanation and the one I get when I ask this question is that they are going to a prayer rally. This is how RALS also explained the event. I get that this isnt a good answer but its what it is.

    • DovidTeitelbaum

      I changed the last line to “That’s the Mir I remember and that’s the Mir of today.” just so people shouldnt think I was saying it changed.

  • Chana

    “It is better to die at eh hands of the nazis than to be shmadded by fellow Jews.” Please define the word “Shmad.” Do you honestly believe that any Jew in the Israeli Army is forced to desecrate Shabbat? Forbidden to eat kosher food? Not allowed to perform a bris mila on his son? Forbidden to learn Torah?
    Or, are they simply being asked to put down their books for a minute, and DO what they learnt – as per לא המדרש הוא העיקר , אלא המעשה?