Tag Archives: Yeshiva

Jews of the Week: Rav Uziel and the Chofetz Chaim

The Chofetz Chaim

The Chofetz Chaim

Israel Meir Kagan (1839-1933) was born in what is today Belarus to an Orthodox Polish-Jewish family. After his father’s passing when he was just ten years old, the family moved to Vilnius where Kagan continued his Jewish studies. Quickly noted as a great scholar, at the age of 17 he was married and appointed rabbi of the town of Radin. Soon after, he founded the Radin Yeshiva, which would go on to become one of the greatest yeshivas in the Ashkenazi world. Meanwhile, Rabbi Kagan wrote many popular books of wisdom, most notably Chofetz Chaim, a book about the laws of proper speech, the title of which became Rabbi Kagan’s nickname. His Mishna Berura became a standard text of Jewish law, and still used extensively today. He wrote nearly two dozen other books on a wide array of topics. At the same time, the Chofetz Chaim traveled across Europe to inspire Jews to observe the Torah, and to counter the growing secular movement. He was also an important member of Agudath Israel. Click here to see rare footage of the Chofetz Chaim at the First Congress of Agudath Israel in 1923.

Rav Uziel

Rav Uziel

Ben-Zion Meir Chai Uziel (1880-1953) was born in Jerusalem, the son of the president of the city’s Sephardic community. Like the Chofetz Chaim, Uziel was also quickly noted as a great scholar, and by age 20 founded his own yeshiva. By 31, he was the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jaffa, where he worked alongside his Ashkenazi counterpart, Rabbi Kook, bridging the two communities together. During World War I, he worked tirelessly to stop the persecution of Jews, which earned him a sentence of exile in Damascus. In 1923 he returned to Israel as the Chief Rabbi of Tel-Aviv, and in 1939 became the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, a post he held until his passing in 1953. Rabbi Uziel was a founding member of the Jewish Agency, and played a key role in the founding of the State of Israel. Of course, he wrote a great deal of widely-read Torah thought and commentary as well. Rav Uziel and the Chofetz Chaim passed away on the same day, twenty years apart: the 24th of Elul.

Shana Tova! Rosh Hashanah Begins This Sunday

Words of the Week

In Jewish history there are no coincidences.
– Elie Wiesel

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

In Memory of an Outstanding Rabbi

Rabbi Lichtenstein

Rabbi Lichtenstein

Aharon Lichtenstein (1933-2015) was born in Paris, France. His family fled the War in 1941, settling in the U.S., where Lichtenstein grew up. He went on to study at Yeshiva University, earning both a B.A. and rabbinic ordination, and continued his studies at Harvard, graduating with a Ph.D in Literature. He returned to Yeshiva University as a Talmud teacher, and then served as its dean (Rosh Yeshiva). After several years in that post, he made aliyah to Israel in 1971, and headed another Yeshiva, while quickly becoming a famed scholar and the central leader for Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist Jews. He soon became one of the world’s top authorities in Halakha (Jewish law), too. Working with the ‘Takana’ organization, Rabbi Lichtenstein helped to combat harassment within the religious world, while also supporting the cause of women and encouraging women’s Torah studies. His support and outreach efforts spread beyond the religious world, encompassing secular communities, and even non-Jewish communities. Rabbi Lichtenstein also wrote a number of highly-acclaimed texts and commentaries. A noted scholar, he could easily quote both Jewish wisdom and secular philosophy. Last year he was awarded Israel’s highest honour – the Israel Prize. Sadly, Rabbi Lichtenstein passed away last week. Upon news of his passing, religious and political leaders from across the spectrum united to eulogize and honour him, including both Ultra-Orthodox and Reform rabbis, as well as conservative and liberal politicians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described him as a “Zionist leader and Torah scholar of unparalleled stature… He loved the Land of Israel, the people of Israel, and the Torah of Israel.”

Words of the Week

God transcends all definitions, including the definition of “existence”.
Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon)

Jew of the Week: Isaac Herzog

Isaac Herzog

Isaac Herzog

Yitzhak Herzog (b. 1960) was born in Tel Aviv to a father from Ireland and mother from Egypt. His grandfather was once the Chief Rabbi of Ireland, and the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel between 1936 and 1959. His uncle was the great Israeli politician Abba Eban. Meanwhile, Herzog’s father was an IDF general who also served as Israel’s sixth president between 1983 and 1993, as well as Israel’s Representative to the U.N. During his term in the latter position, the family lived in New York, where Isaac went to the Modern Orthodox Yeshivat Ramaz school (as did last week’s Jew of the Week, Ivanka Trump). Herzog also studied at Cornell, New York University, and Tel Aviv University. During his army service, he was an intelligence officer with Unit 8200, the IDF’s largest unit, often compared to the American NSA. Herzog continues to serve in the military as a reservist. After completing his education, he worked in his father’s law firm. His first foray into politics was as a secretary in Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s cabinet between 1999 and 2001. He then chaired Israel’s Anti-Drug Authority until 2003, when he won a seat in the Knesset and was appointed Minister of Housing and Building. Since then, he has held a number of other ministerial posts, including Minister of Tourism, Social Affairs, Diaspora, and Welfare & Social Services. In 2013, he was elected leader of the Labor Party and thus became Leader of the Opposition. One of his first moves was meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and announcing his support for a two-state solution. For yesterday’s elections, Herzog joined his party with Tzipi Livni’s ‘Hatnua’ to form the ‘Zionist Union’. Though hailed by many as being the clear favourite in the elections and unseating Netanyahu, the Zionist Union ended up winning only 24 seats to Likud’s impressive 30. Herzog has stated that he will not be part of the coalition government, and will continue as Leader of the Opposition.

Words of the Week

I don’t speak because I have the power to speak; I speak because I don’t have the power to remain silent.
– Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook